The reading matter: part 1 – Art and inspo

The second part = The reading matter: part 2 – Save and sustain

My information diet is almost as lean as my closet: I have unfollowed everybody except my mother, my partner and some pages on Facebook, I don’t read press, I don’t use Twitter as a source of reading matter… I watch a Spanish late-night comedy show to keep up with the local news, Stephen Colbert to keep up with the American news and have my feeds to keep me warm. C did a search for a new RSS feed organizer when Google killed it’s Reader and found Feedly. It’s not perfect (very few things are, ugh), but does its job of bringing my news to me instead of me having to go after them. I really don’t get the ‘check my latest post’ logic on Instagram – if I like your content, I already have it in my reader, thank you very much!

So I’ll show you my reading lists… only the fashion and sustainability related folders, though, if you want recommendations for recipe blogs, illustrated sex toy reviews or my favorite academic journals, just ask. Keep in mind that while I might be critical (see the ‘nothing’s perfect’ note above), this is the content I enjoy.

Folder 1 – Art + inspo:
These are the pretty picture blogs that don’t care about sustainability or minimalism.
Also, a lot of illustration.

A Clothes Horse: breathtaking photography, orange hair, great style. I think I re-pin Rebecca’s photos the most. While she is neither into sustainability nor minimalism and a lot of content is sponsored, this is real style inspo for me.

A Curious Fancy: Indian, plus size, into all things cute. Think lace tights, thoughtful accessorizing, and very nice photography + an occasional essay on bodies, like this one.

A Robot Heart: Polish, sews some garments, occasional post-soviet anthropological references. Lately a lot of sponsored content, but time by time a styling gem like this session appears there.

African Prints in Fashion: I really tried to find some African fashion blogs with an aesthetic that resonated with me after I came back from Cape Town in late 2017 (oh, the amount of ’10 African fashion bloggers that are slaying it’ articles with broken links that I went through). This is one of the few satisfactory ones I found.

All You Need is a Wall: illustrations by Alexandra Dvornikova. If Clarissa Pinkola Estés would have been born Russian and more recently, this is what she’d be doing.

Edits All the Way: the classiest moodboards on Tumblr.

Cupcake’s Clothes (defunct): I’m so sad Georgina stopped curating her blog! It was the perfect over-the-top sweet plus size hybrid. And when C thought that the cat ear headband was too much, I threatened him with getting one of Georgina’s antler creations from her Etsy shop.

Gemma Correll’s illustrations on her Blogspot, Tumblr and Facebook page. She is great, dedicated to feminism, introverts and animals, so I find her merch so hard to resist.

Annya Marttinen’s Tumblr – her work is a lighter, more childish version of Dvornikova’s ‘she lives in a dark forest and runs with the wolves‘ vibe.

Taryn Knight’s work: What can I do, I love me some nice drawings… and hers are excellent.

Johanna Öst’s art and occasional dark pin-up outfit – Oh, when people live their art!

Kate Tokley’s blog: I came across this via #FashRev, I think. She crochets, she deals with anxiety, tries out capsule wardrobes. It resonates, I don’t know why.

Pauline aka Punziella who went viral with her casual Disney princesses. So much talent, so cute!

Madison Ross: again, a lot of wild women art I find hard not to buy.

Martha Anne illustrations. Defined borders, clear colors, female characters, and food! What’s not to love?

Miss Pandora: Oh, Louise! Elaborated editorials, background in art history and all that in French only. Rarely truly my aesthetic (too much heels and make-up to start with), but so undeniably cool.

Nancy Zhang: or when fashion blog meets illustration. Move over, Garance, this is the real deal!

Olga Valeska: Her photos, paintings, collages, etc. etc. are so stunning I don’t even care for her religiosity, and that’s rare! Truly breathtaking and makes my 19th century Russian-aesthetics-loving heart rejoice.

Pagnifik: another source of ‘wax hollandais‘ magic.

Serina Kitazono’s illustrations.

Zuzana Èupová’s aka Suwi’s illustrations.

Third local: a Ugandan now in France, urban, mostly pants and very cool. And a side of beautiful photography to go with it.

And just for fun in the same folder also Pusheen and Heart & Brain live.

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What are your favorite feeds for pretty pictures? Whom am I missing in my list? Suggestions more than welcome.

Fashion, sustainability and tidying books I read in 2017

For the second year in row I’ve had the ambition to read more books than there are weeks in a year, and for the second year in row I’m failing miserably. I ended 2016 at 42/52, so 81%. At the moment I’m at 37/52, so 71%. Disappointing! However, 12 of those 2017 books were blog-related either touching the whys (sustainability, climate change, consumerism), hows (sustainable fashion) and aesthetic pleasures (style!). Here’s the list in the order I read them:

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Tuite, Rebecca C. 2014. Seven Sisters Style: The All-American Preppy Look.

A pretty look-book explaining the rise of the preppy look which I’ll always eagerly repin despite the class bias. The funniest part is that styles that we now associate with arrogance and careful selection to “look the part”, was born out of quest for comfort and were seen as highly inappropriate and rebellious at their time. What can I say, give me a mix of nice knits and emancipation of women any time!

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Black, Sandy. 2008. Eco-chic: The Fashion Paradox.

A bit outdated and avant-garde focused sustainable fashion book. A reminder that less than ten years ago sustainable fashion was an artsy fringe activity nobody expected to become relevant to the mainstream.

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Carson, Rachel. 1962 [2005]. Silent Spring.

Yes, I hadn’t read the seminal book that launched the environmentalism. And now I have. It still is a very powerful reminder of the arrogant recklessness of the industrial management of nature (that tends to bring unintended consequences of colossal scale). Although the pesticides of today are not exactly as horrible as the organochlorine pesticides that Carson was focusing on, we have more than enough toxic messes around the world continuing the proud tradition of human hubris.

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Sontag, Susan. 1977 [1979]. On Photography.

Aha, another classic that I finally read this year! While not neatly fitting in the overarching theme, a recommended read to everybody taking daily selfies. Somehow I do feel relieved that Sontag did not live to see Instagram… Diagnosis? We are all sick, but that won’t stop us from documenting the illness.

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Gilman, Charlotte P. 1915 [2002]. The Dress of Women: A Critical Introduction to the Symbolism and Sociology of Clothing.

Oh, this was such a treat! Gilman, the ultra-rational feminist hero – read her What Diantha Did for a 1910 (!) answer to the still-relevant housework issue! – charging against the stupidity of fashion. Early social scientists just wrote what they thought, interpreting their participant observations from the armchair (OK, like Bauman and other theorists of postmodernity still do / did until they left us). You cannot trust them as describing a representative reality, but they surely reflect certain stirrings of their time. This one is fascinating! I already mentioned this book here and here.

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Corn, Wanda M. 2017. Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern.

I got this gem thanks to Marina who was willing to cater to my “see an exciting book in a museum shop, decide later” whims. For me this book was just the right mix of art and personal style without entering personal life. Bravo! The argument is very convincing, and more so with O’Keeffe than with others: if the artists has spent decades carefully curating (and making) her wardrobe and surroundings, it makes perfect sense to analyze them alongside her paintings.

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Fletcher, Kate and Lynda Grose. 2012. Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change.

Another sustainable fashion textbook, better than Black’s, worse than revised 2014 Fletcher below. In 2017 I was eager to build up an adequate knowledge base to start with, now I think I’m good, thanks! But I have to agree that in the last decade the sustainable fashion industry has moved with an incredible speed.

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Fletcher, Kate. 2008 [2014]. Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journey.

For a still-relevant overview of the sustainable fashion industry from the point of view of design (and lots of optimistic hope about the designer’s power to be an influence for good), read this one! Fletcher is the fashion philosopher of NOW (of, the notion of “craft of use” is irresistible), but if you have other favorites, let me know in the comments.

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And then I went on a Marie Kondo binge you can read about here

Kondo, Marie. 2010 [2014]. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

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Kondo, Marie. 2017. Spark Joy.

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Kondo, Marie and Yuko Uramoto. 2017. The Life-changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story.

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Monbiot, George. 2006 [2007]. Heat: How Can We Stop the Planet Burning.

I read Heat for the first time in 2008, and it was a game-changer for me. I took several small, individual steps to reduce my carbon footprint but didn’t stop flying (bad, bad me…). Not being a home- or business-owner, those were really tiny, but the book cemented my convictions that (1) climate change is happening (I know that in the USA “climate change” is understood to be the doubting term vs. much stronger “global warming”; however, assuming that words have meaning, not only spin, the shit storm that has already started goes beyond warming and is changing the climate in a multitude of ways, for example, when the Gulf stream stops, we won’t see much warming happening)  and we made it happen, obviously; (2) we have enough knowledge since long ago about the causes, so in principle we could have stopped it; (3) but we are shitty animals, our brains cannot deal with gradual and impersonal danger, so deserve to die and leave it to lizard-people to build the next civilization. That third part is not Monbiot’s, he really tries to be optimistic about the whole thing, but re-reading ten years later and knowing that we are even more fucked now, oh, well! Monbiot’s book started my climate change education and nothing has changed my climate pessimism since I read it for the first time.

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What were your sources of wisdom and brain-food in 2017? Do you have any information-consumption goals for 2018? How about less screens and more books?

The Pink Post: Instrumental and subversive uses of the traditionally feminine

Yes, pink, florals, and pearls look good on me!

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I hadn’t though much about the significance that might me ascribed to the aesthetics of my style until I came across (via the amazing illustrator Ezra W. Smith!) this post (in Russian!) that apparently shook Russian internets to their core.

Long story short: the article is called “My armour: How I learnt to love pink (and myself with it)” and filed under “Experiment” label. There journalist and pundit Dasha Evans-Radova describes how she realized that pink was a color she had been (unconsciously) ignoring in her life due to the derogatory significance assigned to it (infantile, too sweet, too feminine, stupid), and set up to analyze this lack and integrate pink in her life. The results can be seen here, and I got thinking…

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Trying to be true to third wave feminist notion of individualism and cross-sectionality that could be sloganized as “you do you”, I haven’t wrote much about my aesthetic preferences. The focus of this blog is ethics of fashion and not looks – while my #wiw posts do show a set of clear preferences in case you are interested – and so it will stay. However, #grownuppinkroutine in combination with Kate Fletcher book I’m reading made me wonder about the signals my wardrobe is sending to passers-by (and my acquaintances and co-workers who have unfollowed me on social media since I started this blog). One of many points that Fletcher makes is how sustainable fashion, having been traumatized by unbleached and shapeless eco-chic of the 90s, now often looks exactly the same as conventional one, hence being invisible as social phenomenon. And this is even more so with second-hand and hand-me-down items. If you are saving fast fashion from the landfill by wearing it, nobody will know that you are not earnestly embracing it. And your conscious investment pieces might look exactly like the newest HnM collection. Yes, shit happens!

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With aesthetics it is easier to signal that your choices are ironic and intended to be transgressions. Mixing and misplacing – think of the now classical combination of floral dresses and work boots (that’s a fashion advice that Caitilin Moran gives in her How to Be a Woman as looking nice on everybody) or how people dress up funny for marathons – is an easy way to signal lightheartedness about the attire. Yet, if you are all in on classical “flattering” cuts, New Look, Mad Men wardrobes, minis, maxis, florals, bodycons, and pearls… Ooops! You might be part of a play you never rehearsed for.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with the hue, cut, or pattern as such. Fashion is a symbols’ game and too much get hoisted upon innocent colors and textiles… but as the basic maxim of sociology would have “if [people] define situations as real, they are real in their consequence“. And, as far as these common notions are internalized, shapes and cuts affect behavior and body language. You are not supposed to feel and act the same way in boyfriend jeans and in a non-elastic super-mini. In this way fashion is a form of social ingeneering that we have consented to (not always, of course, and there have been fashion liberation movements such as Rational dress movement when harem pants were revolutionary).

Donna Mae Mims in action, via classicdriver.com.

The practice that is the most interesting to me – and the one I’ve been semi-consciously practicing more and more – is that of traditionally feminine as camouflage. A good example of this (that I learnt about via Dasha’s original post) is Donna Mae Mims, the first woman to win a Sports Car Club of America national championship. While known as the Pink Lady for her pink cars, helmets, overalls, and described in press as “a delightful blonde with an intriguing smile, well-shaped figure and a laughing sense of humor […] and much like most other members of her sex, she delights in leading men a merry chase”, there’s another side of the story. Mims has described her racing as follows:

“I psych myself. I remove all my makeup. I think stern. I bristle. I don’t talk to anybody. You cannot think nice. Chivalry is dead on the racetrack. You’re out there only for one thing. To win. Nobody remembers second place. […] A lot of the male drivers think I’m out there to prove that I can beat them because they’re men. That isn’t so. They claim that I sometimes charge into the corners, cutting them off. I don’t mean to. I’m just trying to win.”

Boom! You see it, right? Embracing her love for pink and knowing that the feminine appearance will help her navigate the ultra-macho world of racing. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but makes sense to me: if you know that your words or actions go against the grain of patriarchy, it might be useful to ease into it via instrumental use of traditional femininity. That’s working behind enemy lines: everybody let their guard down and then you kill them! Yes, it is unfair for those who have never been interested in pretty dresses and might be attracted to aesthetics with negative social dividends. And I have no honest advice for that, apart from suggesting to bring down capitalism and patriarchy.

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I don’t really care about pink, it’s here, it’s queer, and I like it. The only colors I treat with suspicion are neon (because of class prejudice) and crisp whites (for practical reasons and class prejudice). Beige and grays are not my favorites either, but somehow they always find their way into my wardrobe. Here are some of the other pinks happening in my life:



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What are your relationships with the traditionally feminine and pink? Do you feel the social pressures attached to colors and cuts, or are you oblivious to them? And how do you deal with them?