American Poet Maxine Kumin wrote this poem in 1974, after the suicide of her friend, the poet Anne Sexton. During their lives, the poets often exchanged title ideas, manuscripts and clothing. ‘One of the joys of our relationship was the ease with which we traded dresses back and forth, and shoes, and pocketbooks, and coats,’ Kumin has said.
Dressmaker Lizzie Morrin made waistcoats and jackets with hidden pockets so guns and weapons could be smuggled unobtrusively. Catherine Byrne was praised for her ingenuity when she rolled a note into her bun to avoid being caught. To the men involved, these women blended in because of these everyday roles and outfits, so much so, that they became quite literally invisible. Which explains why Marie Perolz, having dressed her little niece up in a velvet coat and bonnet, was able to fulfil her secret tasks unnoticed, despite the fact that she was also carrying a basket full of revolvers.
Ms. Fen, a wholesaler, has glossy black hair and nails. She is twenty-eight years old. When we meet, she pulls up in a white Aston Martin, pristine except for a crack on the right rearview mirror. She is wearing an assortment of beautiful clothes: distressed jeans, a négligée tank, a forest-green Chanel bag. She’s aware of what this all conveys. ‘People see me and feel envy. But they don’t know what I went through to get here.’
When you order a silicone sex doll online, a giant, coffin-like box arrives. Inside, a headless doll lays naked, skin gleaming and perky breasts pointing upward. Her head is likely to be wrapped up in styrofoam, cushioned gently in between her knees. To the average person she appears corpse-like, an immobile piece of human-like plastic teetering just beyond the uncanny valley. But to iDollators, doll owners with an imagination, she’s a blank canvas for a fantasy world.
Flagging is a way of communicating basic information without needing to speak. Bandanas are soft introductions. They are self-labelling devices, material imbued with meaning, intended to provide enough information for cruising parties to determine the likelihood of an erotic match. In many cases, they provide a way of making an initial connection. Like any system of underground communication, it is community specific, and does not travel well. Where do you wear them and what does that mean? Subcultural meaning stays local.
In the new millennium, fashion can no longer be credibly characterised as a mere hobby for aristocratic women with little else to do; fashion is now a multi-billion-dollar industry with countless stakeholders. But even where the economic stakes in fashion-related cases are too great for a court to simply ‘opt out,’ as many of the above-mentioned judges did, federal judges presiding over such cases still make their distaste for the subject matter clear (even, and maybe especially, female judges).
Even while the current zeitgeist relentlessly schills artisanal, organic, authentic, handmade, crafted, made-with-love, ethical products to clothe ourselves and our lives, and even as we rejoice, repost and embrace these values, they are in the majority in contradistinction to our actual lived existence. There is a disconnect between what we post and what we are, between what we say and what we do. Adler’s positivist theories of reinvention were genuine in their quest for socialist cohesion; millennial social justice mediated from behind the isolating glow of a personal screen can never match up. We are counterfeit selves, but not always because of what we wear.
In the last few years, the word ‘feminism’ has gained a new currency in the fashion industry. Emblematically written on a white T-shirt, the phrase sounds like a manifesto, yet it arguably fails to dialogue with the long history of feminism, the women’s liberation movement, and their intersections with the history of fashion. For Rosa Genoni, her work in fashion; her ideological commitment to the workers’ and women’s struggle; and her all out opposition to war and fascism were all overlapping and intersecting activities.
It is incredible the way our heritage is denied us. I never studied about Amazons in school. Information isn’t readily available, and what is available is mystified, obscured and held by men who don’t want to part with their precious knowledge. Information Imperialism! We should have learned about our Amazon foremothers before we learned about George Washington. Every book that mentions Amazons says they were a mythological race of women. Men cannot stand the idea that women preferred to live without them.
The sari challenges Western notions of innovation, for the diverse range of possibilities for draping a seemingly simple, standard swath of fabric. It’s a supremely engineered garment, and a marvel of design, for the sheer fact that it affects countless, workable iterations. For centuries, dozens of drapes have allowed women to engage in various types of labour and in other activities: farming; fishing; house- and office-work; childrearing; sleeping. The practical need for a well-designed garment that moves with the wearer is of the utmost importance, and its utility, convenience and adaptability, combined with a sari’s gracefulness, are precisely how the garment will take on new iterations.
‘They’ decide everything. ‘They’ know whether it is to be pink or green this fall, whether it’s to be short skirts, whether you can wear mink. For years everyone who thinks has gone around at one time or another trying to find out in a desultory sort of way who ‘they’ are. One of the most fascinating things about the world of fashion is that practically no one knows who inhabits it or why it exists. There are a few people who know how it works, but they won’t tell. So it just goes on, getting in deeper and deeper, until something like a war or depression slows it up from time to time. But once the war or the depression lets up, off again goes fashion on its mad way.
Prison literature and theory often focuses on the oppressiveness of the system, the callous discipline enforced on the prisoner, the strict rules which often seem arbitrary in their focus and the often patronising attitude of the authorities. We often assume that prison is an environment so infused with control and discipline that the inmates have no choice but to bow to the authorities. This is of course not the case. Prison life is full of upturned collars and resentful squints, as well as a myriad of other ways to subvert the rules, however slightly.