Wardrobe Architect week #2

The Wardrobe Architect

By Emily

What styles feel like me?
Historically, I am most drawn to the 1930s. The sinuous lines, the drape of the fabric, the new freedom of clothing with shorter hems and pants, the glamorous details of collars, cuffs, buttons, and the hats. And the hair. And the makeup.

How do I feel in my favorite clothes?
I feel confident. Happy. Colorful. Striking.

How do I feel in something not right?
Itchy, like a tag that needs to be cut out. Uncomfortable, as if I had forgotten an important detail.

Who are my style icons and why?
Schiaparelli, for her quirky sense of humor and practicality. Audrey Hepburn, for her classic elegance.

What styles do I like in theory and why are they not for me?
I love the idea of preppy clothes, or classic styles, like Jackie O. But they are too structured for me. Too formal.

15 words that sum up my answers from week #1:
1. Purple
2. Comfortable
3. Costume/dress up
4. Stylish
5. Casual
6. Colorful
7. Striking
8. Flowing
9. Drapery
10. Layers
11. Statement pieces
12. Costume jewelry
13. Happy
14. Skirts
15. Elegant

Other words I would use to describe me:
Creative, edgy, open minded, artistic

3-5 words that define ME:
1. Colorful/purple
2. Stylish
3. Comfortable/casual
4. Elegant
5. Creative

Stay tuned: up next will be a minor detour as I lay out the most common style names and definitions. Hopefully it will help with searching for images.

The Princess and the Prime Minister

By Emily & Lydia*

This blog is co-written by my sister and I. My sister and me.

Emily: Let’s be honest. Little kids are weird. Some are real weird. We were really, REALLY weird. Other kids might have had invisible friends. We had invisible worlds, cities, houses, palaces, hierarchies, servants, pets…. And siblings (you know, because the 9 we had just didn’t make the cut).

Lydia: The main one I played was princess. I know, I know, a lot of little girls play princess. But my princess fantasy was really messed up. Some girls spend hours on Barbie’s Malibu mansion. I spent hours designing a torture chamber for my enemies. Some girls try on their mom’s makeup. I spray-painted my bike black and pretended it was a black steed, the Bucephalus to my Alexander. My princess was very into world dominating.
I bribed my little brother to behave better by promising a throne at my side as prince. My younger sister could be a (minor) princess if she let me play with her toys. My older sister? I made her my Prime Minister.

The weirdest part was that she accepted the role.

Emily: And I counted myself lucky to hold such a high ranking role.

Lydia: We were laughing the other day about how I used to play that I was the heir to a throne and she was my prime minister, but then we realized how odd that is.

Emily: No shit, Sherlock.

Lydia: Why was I such a dick? And why were you okay with that?

Emily: Because you were a dick and being on the same side as a high ranking official who held a modicum of power was better than being thrown in your imaginary dungeon?

Lydia: And that dungeon had chains all ready for you. I recall I informed you of this on a regular basis.

Emily: Yes. Yes you did.

Lydia: The more interesting question is what this rich fantasy life meant to us and about us. All kids tell themselves stories, create fantasies to inhabit in a way that helps them figure out who they are, or who they want to be. So who were we? Who did we want to be?

What do our fantasies say about us that we might be reluctant to admit?

Emily: Or did we let our fantasies shape who we would become? And if we wanted to…could we change our fantasies? Could we change who we are today?
Over the next couple weeks we will explore what these fantasies say about us, and think about how we can learn from the stories we tell ourselves…and maybe rewrite them. And also, to just entertain you, our gentle reader, with the bizarre and crazy imaginings of two crazy kids.

*you can read more of Lydia’s writing here https://lydiarcooper.wordpress.com

Wardrobe Architect #1

By Emily

The Wardrobe Architect

History: how has personal history informed my dress? When did my tastes crystallize? How have they changed?
When I was four, my favorite dress was purple gingham with purple rosettes. Today I have purple hair. Purple still ignites a passion in me. It makes me happy. (Hence, the purple hair!) I also spent all of my formative years in skirts and avoiding pants. I spent a number of years in high school and college trying to both fit in and wear what I wanted. Fortunately, today’s styles of maxi skirts, leggings with tunics, etc, fits the bill as far as I am concerned.

Philosophy: how does philosophy, spirituality or religion affect aesthetics & buying habits?
Errr… I don’t wear nylons to church if I can help it ever since my friends mom yelled at us for not wearing nylons to church when we were in our early teens. Hehe. Otherwise, I can’t really think of anything that has shaped my style philosophically or spiritually.

Culture: how has cultural background shape they way I look? How did the aesthetics & values from growing up affect my taste today?
There was a great deal of dressing up, pretending to be from a different era. It instilled a sense of stealing the best of whatever era I like best.

Community: how does community affect me, including friends, family or other communities?
I teach sewing and drawing and do fittings often. I want to find a happy medium between comfortable enough to sit on the floor, and still stylish. I am lucky in that most of my activities call for outfits that fall in similar dressy-casual ranges. I rarely need an outfit that is excessively formal or excessively casual. Although I do fall in the evil mom trap of yoga pants. But I’m trying to stop that habit. Not that I think yoga pants are bad. I just think they should be saved for yoga class. Just like I really don’t wear swimsuits unless I’m planning on getting wet.

Activities: how do my daily activities influence my choices?
Well, I’m a mom. I have a 3.5 and 1.5 year old boys. I’m lucky to get through breakfast without being covered in yogurt. Need I say more?

Location: how does location & climate factor in?
Winters are cooooolllllld around here. And summers are warm, but the temperature changes can be drastic for air conditioning to outdoors. Layering is very important for all seasons. I’m trying to find and layer pieces that can cross over multiple seasons. Like a medium to lightweight cardigan that could be worn over a tank for summer, or over a long sleeve shirt and tank for a winter day.

Body: what clothes make me feel good about my body? What clothes make me feel uncomfortable or alienated from my body?
Clothes that move well, flowy, drapey, or have a nice hand (i.e., the fabric feels nice) make me feel beautiful. Picking one amazing statement piece (shoes, earrings, jewelry, etc) makes me feel sexy, but not over the top. Short skirts and shorts make me self-conscious, and I feel like I am suffocating if I wear a turtleneck.

Ok, there is my homework. Anyone else complete week one? Did anything jump,out at you as you thought through the questions? I would love to hear your thoughts if you want to share.

Again, I am following the Wardrobe Architect project here: http://www.coletterie.com/wardrobe-architect/week-1-making-style-more-personal

Week #1 assignment is right here: http://media.coletterie.com/projects/wardrobe-architect-worksheet-01.pdf

And the bride wore…. Blue?

By Emily

I so often hear brides tell me: “I know I should wear a white wedding dress, but white just isn’t very flattering on me.” Or my other favorite: “What color should I wear for my wedding, since I’m really not that…pure?” (Pandora: People actually say this?! Emily: I’ve had someone say it to me. Sad.) Because as we all know, white is the universal symbol of purity…right? Wrong!

Historically, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, blue has been the color of purity and faithfulness. In America, we have morphed the color blue to mean loyalty (e.g., true-blue American). So it should come as no surprise that blue was often a first pick for wedding finery (something old, new, borrowed and blue, anyone?). When you couldn’t run out to Target to grab a new outfit, or have the expendable income to spend on a lavish wedding, women would wear their best dress to get married in, with favored colors being blue, gold, and/or silver. White was incredible expensive. Because fibers were natural, they were actually closer to ivory, so the process to create white fabrics was both labor and cost intensive. In addition, white was horribly impractical. Life and white clothing are NOT friends, even today.

Engraving of Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert, February 10, 1840

Engraving of Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert, February 10, 1840

We can really thank big business, the inustrial revolution, and the media for white wedding dresses. About 150 years ago, Queen Victoria rocked the western world by wearing a white dress for her wedding. (She’s not the first! I actually found a reference to Queen Mary of Scots wearing a white trimmed gown with grey fur, but that was a bit more political perhaps. She was marrying into French royalty and at the time in France, white was the color of mourning. Although she claimed it was her favorite color.) Ok, back to 1840. The industrial revolution was in full swing, and Victoria decided to be a responsible regent, and promote handmade arts. She chose to use handmade lace on her skirt, and lots of it. White was chosen to compliment the lace. Then, the media published an engraving of her wedding (this was big news, kind of like Prince Charles & Diana’s televised wedding).

So, here is the most powerful woman in the world, wearing the most impractical, and one of the most expensive colors at the time. And, thanks to the growing media, everyone could see it for themselves. White became a highly prized color for weddings, not to show purity, but to show how wealthy you were, that you could afford a “throw away” dress, a dress that would only see one or two uses. The color waxed and waned in popularity for wedding apparel through out second half of the 19th century. With the emergence of the wedding industry in the first half of the 20th century, white became more de rigueur.

So, if you want a “traditional” (traditional here meaning a tradition of conspicuous consumption about 100 years old), wear white. If you want a sign of purity, you could always try using your bloody bed sheets as a banner on your house. That is a much older tradition. Personally, I find the conspicuous consumption white dress to be less offensive, though!

Wardrobe Architect Project

Perhaps it’s my education*, perhaps it’s just me. It seems like once every couple years, I do a major overhaul on my closet, hyper analyzing everything I own. Then I try for a dramatically “new” look, which seems to be a variation on the last wardrobe, with different colors.

So, now I’m trying something new. Instead of overhauling and fixing what isn’t broke, I’m actually going to try to define my own style. I’m following the lead of this lady over here: http://www.coletterie.com/wardrobe-architect/wardrobe-architect-2015. She has a fabulous blog (especially if you like to sew). She did the wardrobe architect project last year, and I looked at it then. But I felt too overwhelmed/tired/unmotivated to do anything about it. This year, she added a twist: a challenge to make your own clothes.

At this point, I’m sure you have tuned me out. What the…? Did she say MAKE her own clothes? How much free time does she think she has?

Well, not much. But I have been thinking so much about how much of our lives rest on the backs of the less fortunate in third world countries. That cute top you got for $30? Someone just got paid pennies to make it, and some rich dude put $29 in his pocket (give or take. I’m no accountant.) Granted, if I’m buying fabric, someone (probably in a third world country) made that. But I don’t see myself growing cotton, raising sheep, and learning to spin and weave. But I can sew.

Now, I have no intention of making 30-some articles of clothing for myself. But I can make some statement pieces that I may not be able to find in a store. And I want to be more conscientious about what I do buy. I’m sure I will be buying stuff, but I am hoping for it to be minimal (tank tops, under garments, jeans, all the stuff I HATE sewing) And maybe I can be more conscientious about where I shop. If my goal is to only purchase a few random pieces, maybe I can afford to pay a bit more, and get it more ethically.** As for the sewing projects, my goal is to either repurpose stuff I don’t like, or alter stuff that doesn’t fit (if it’s at all reasonable), and then maybe sew one or two big statement pieces each season.

So, that’s the plan. The first step is to organize my thoughts in regards to what my style really is. Then, weed through my current wardrobe and see what fits, what fits my style, and what has to go. Then, I will plan out where my wardrobe is lacking, and what pieces I might need. Anyone care to join me? I’d love company on this journey.***

*I went to Kent State University Fashion School for my bachelors. I did part of my masters in theatre costume. I can (and have) sewn all kinds of crazy shit.

**this presupposes that I have done the research on where to purchase things more ethically. I haven’t. And I don’t really know where to start with that. So if you have a good idea, let me know!!!!

***YOU don’t have to sew if you want to join me on this journey. Unless you want to. But I would challenge you to think about reusing, repurposing, altering, or thrift store shopping if you can. Or see the note about, and do the research on where to buy ethical clothes.

Why we call ourselves Christian: Two for the price of one

Today’s post is actually two posts on the same topic, specifically, why we choose to be Christian. So, we combined them to be one post. So, without any further ado…

Is Religion my Crutch?
By Pandora

Am I a Christian because I am afraid of meaninglessness? I am afraid of meaninglessness. I can barely think about it. The whole concept of the meaning of life is so overwhelming to me that the thought of it makes me want to stop what I am doing wherever I am, lie down, and start crying. I have what is popularly termed, “Existential Angst.” I’m very proud of it and it makes me feel very smart. But also sad. And anxious.

Am I a Christian because it provides an easy solution to the answer of the meaning of life? I remember my catechism. The answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?” is “To glorify God.” Isn’t it great to have such a snappy answer? No! It’s not great! It’s torture! How can the answer be so simple? It can’t be that simple. The meaning of life should be mysterious and unknowable. Anybody who tells me the answer is easy, clearly hasn’t lived long enough or experienced enough pain.

I had a friend in college who called my religion a crutch. I had no idea what that meant. I think I was too afraid to think about what that would mean. I had a lot of blind faith back then. I had been brainwashed pretty effectively by the evangelical church to think that I wasn’t brainwashed, but I didn’t have enough distance to properly self-evaluate. I majored in philosophy though which is weird. I guess I suspected a weakness in my faith and wanted to explore. I really struggled with my faith during those four years, but continued to cling to it. I constantly tried to defend it and justify it, but I don’t think that was the appropriate context. A secular institution is not the place to gain a religious education. I was very arrogant and naive. I feel bad for my professors now. I was a pain. Ironically, my senior year, I received an award from the history department for my “curiosity about life.” They were extremely kind.

I have done a lot of research on my religion and continue to search. I feel confident in my belief in the Bible, but I am still exploring my decision to commit to Christianity. Have I made my decision based on pure motives or based on a selfish fear of oblivion? Am I a Christian because I want to serve Jesus Christ, or because I want to save my ass? I’m a little embarrassed to say it might be the latter. If that’s the case, then am I really a Christian? Thus the anxiety begins anew.

Don’t Pee in Your Shoe
By Emily

I am on the planning committee for the ladies tea at our church. This year, due to scheduling issues, I have needed to take both boys with me to the planning meetings. For the most part, this works well. Last week, my oldest discovered the amazing restroom. You have to go through the lobby, past the kitchen, and down a dark corridor with several doors, before you get to the one door with the restroom label. After 3 trips to the restroom, I decided he was just enjoying the adventure, and when he asked AGAIN at the close of the meeting, not even 5 minutes after returning from a potty break, I told him to wait. A moment later, a women lets out a horrified scream, and I turn around to find my son neatly peeing in his shoe. In. His. Shoe.

Awesome.

Needless to say, he got in trouble. (Did I mention the part where he PEED IN HIS SHOE?) His response? “But why is it bad? I didn’t pee on the floor or anything.” In his little microcosmic world, life revolves around his desires and needs. He couldn’t care less whether his behavior is socially unacceptable. But as his mother, I refuse to let him grow up to be the type of man who pees in his shoes when he needs a restroom. Sometimes, I deny my son candy, and make him eat his protein or vegetable instead. Sometimes I make him go to bed right in the middle of…well, in his world, absolutely everything is better than going to bed.

In his world, this makes me a mean mother at times. He can’t see the big picture to understand why these rules are necessary. But I want him to be a better person. And someday, when his teeth don’t rot out and his kids don’t die of embarrassment when he pulls out the “pee shoe”, he will thank me. So will his kids.

And this is my understanding of God: I would like him to be the parent my son wants me to be. I want him to give me things I want, and take the shortcuts to make my life easier, but I often don’t get the things I want, and life sure as hell ain’t easy.

In fact sometimes life sucks.

My pastor once told me, “God is the ultimate recycler. He doesn’t waste suffering.” And there you have it. I don’t want to admit that all the crap I have survived is for no use. I want my pain to be meaningful. Perhaps, if there is some ultimate meaning, if there is some use behind my pain, then it makes a better. I want all the lessons I’ve learned mean that I’m becoming a better human.

I do believe there is a God. Which means that I believe He lets me experience crappy and painful things. But I also believe that he will somehow re-use my suffering. His purpose for my pain and suffering, seems to be his way of teaching me to be a better me. Suffering is God teaching you not to pee in your shoe.

Just Friends, or Why I Hate Being Called an Ally

By Emily

I have a dear friend who is a lesbian. Although she is probably cringing reading this, since she hates that label. But since she is the one that termed me an “ally”, I think we are all fair now.

Perhaps I need to make an aside comment defining the meaning of the term “ally”. (Pandora: It depends on your audience. I assume all my friends know that word, but maybe some Christians don’t, couldn’t hurt.) An ally is someone who confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexual and genderstraight privilege in themselves and others; a concern for the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people; and a belief that heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are social justice issues. (Borrowed from http://www.lgbt.ucla.edu/documents/LGBTTerminology.pdf)

There are two issues here: one is being labeled, the other is the label itself. Skinny. Fatso. Nerd. Jock. Weirdo. Hottie. Gay. Straight. (Pandora: Asian. I spend my first 10 years of school being called Asian. Kind of weird because there were no other Asians in my school and I don’t know why kids thought that was an insult. P.S. I’m a little bit Native American.) They are all little boxes. And good or bad, it kind of sucks to be stuck in a box. We all want to be our own person, and known and loved for that, not some definition someone hands us. At some point we have all been put in a box. What was your box? (Pandora: It was my own box. How’s that for deep? Emily: ha!!) How did people treat you? Not fun, was it?

What about being called an ally made me so mad? (Pandora: The problem is not the label, the problem is the need for this type of label.) In my mind, an ally is someone who lobbies, and protests, and basically, is very active in the fight for social equality. I don’t do that. An ally should be someone who belongs to LGBTQ organizations. I don’t do that. I don’t do anything. All I do is be a friend. When my friend is sad, it makes me cry. When my friend is happy, I’m happy. When someone hurts my friend, I’m angry. When my friend wants to talk, I listen. When I want to talk, my friend listens. I. Don’t. Do. ANYTHING. And yet, being a friend makes me an ally. I hate that. I hate that there is a need for allies. I hate that being a friend means that I am an anomaly that needs a label. (Pandora: I have so much to say about this, it could be its own post! When I hear the word “ally,” I think of war. The LGBTQ struggle is a war for equality and love. When you, a straight person, from a hetero-normative, conservative, evangelical, privileged background openly befriend a lesbian, you are entering a battleground. It is sad and horrible that something so simple as love has been turned into something so dramatic. But I guess love is never really simple. We just wish it was.)

In our conversation, my fun, outgoing, personable friend who has thousands – possibly millions – of friends, could only list two or three people (I was one of those 2-3) who she would term an ally. She chose that label because she said she knew her other friends loved her and cared about her, but there were so many parts of her life she could never talk about. She knew that at some level, the other friends would judge her, and condemn her. Excuse me?? How is that the definition of a friend? That sounds more like my Greek mother-in-law. Folks, you are not being a friend if you are offering that friendship conditionally. (Pandora: Wow. But how many of our “friendships” are actually conditional? A lot.) If someone has to measure up, and attain your ideal moral, social, sexual, ethical and political standards, you have set your self as judge and jury. That’s not friendship.

Jesus sums it all up rather nicely in The Message: “If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, GROW UP. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5:46-48 (Pandora: Thus the answer to your “ally” problem. Many people think LGBTQ people are unlovable, but you love nonetheless. Nobody would call me unlovable, thus your friendship with me does not achieve ally status. Emily: Nope. I’m not your ally! Just your friend.)

Beneath our skin, we all are people. We all have heartache, and loneliness, and fear. We all have joys, and triumphs, and dreams. And sometimes, we are all selfish, despicable, nasty people. But we all just want to be loved, or even just liked. If someone loves you, if someone gives you the gift of friendship, congratulations. Now, go give that gift to someone else. Your friendship could make a world of difference to someone who needs an ally. (Pandora: Calling myself an ally is how I announce to others that I recognize the struggle of the LGBTQ experience and I will speak up for anyone whose voice is oppressed, even if that means something as simple as calling them my friend.)

I hate to be called an ally. Because I’m just a friend.