Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer Fashion Obsessions

Although I am not what one would call a sports fan, unless you count Miss Universe as a sport, I found plenty of interest at the 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremonies. The ceremonies themselves require their own post, but I will have to leave time for that later. Although it pains me to say this, I think France was the most elegant country, along with Ghana, whose uniforms for some reason are impossible to find on the internet. Ditto Palestine, whose outfits were made of the same cloths they wear as scarves or head-dresses, fierce! Going for that retro Chariots of Fire, summer in Cannes look, the French kept cool in the humid miserable heat while looking fresh and stylish.

Turkmenistan gets my vote if only for their originanlity, I especially loved the olive/chartreuse-y color and the fact that the ruler of their country designed the outfits. As my friend put it, the people of the 'Stans are the Puerto Ricans of Europe- they love color!

The Russians looked like stewards/stewardesses at a used car convention in Iowa. 

I love my country and yet find it hard to defend the red and yellow uniforms they wore. Of course, we are hampered by the awkward colors of our flag, but given the amazing designers we have, such as Adolfo Dominguez, we could have come up with something better than a 1980s airline stewardess look. 

Canada, my favorite North American country, why did you fail us? Is it because for 3/4 of the year your citizens are clad in long underwear, shapeless wool garments, and coats that resemble down blankets? Thus, you have little experience in selecting actual clothes? I can forgive you. But just this once.

Team USA. Ralph Lauren fucks up yet again in his unstinting effort to pursue his WASP mimicry. As many have commented, these clothes look cheaply made. The fabrication appears to be polyester blend of some sort. The little caps look very old Puerto Rican man circa 1978, not that there's anything wrong with that, but it doesn't really match with the uber-Hamptons look I think he was trying to achieve. The Polo logo, which seems to be getting larger and larger, much like US citizens' waists, overshadows the Olympic logo. Apparently he was going for a "Chariots of Fire" retro look. France succeeded and Polo failed (see above). 

And now for something completely different (but related? since we are talking about "national uniforms"): a shop called Zachary's Smile has rolled out a series of dresses fabricated from Ivory Coast textiles. I first noticed them at Anthropologie, for 298$. Soon, I became obsessed by the 1960s tailoring with the colorful intricate designs, the girly flounces with the vibrant and strong patterns, the Europe meets Africa combination, the exquisite tailoring. Finally, I tried one on. Big mistake. Miraculously tailored to fit an hourglass figure, the dress looked like it was custom-made. I have been stalking Antrhopologie, calling each week to see if they are on sale. Finally, I found the store that makes them, Zachary's Smile. They were extremely friendly and told me that they do Lay-Away, a practice I associated with sectional sofas and flat-screen TV's, and that they have a whole shipment of Winter clothing also in the Cote d'Ivoire fabrics. 

Then I began reading blog posts critiquing the line for promoting Western appropriation of African looks, similarly to those of us that wear Mandarin collar shirts, Chinoiserie prints or Quipaos (guilty, guilty, and guilty as charged). Would I feel offended if I saw White people wearing guayaberas? Flamenco dresses? Manila shawls? I admit a certain smug disdain might rear its ugly head - so am I a hyppocrite? Is there room to admire another culture's aesthetics without being labeled an exoticizing appropriator? Is it OK for me to wear clothing made from African textiles since I am not quite White? Would it be OK if it was an African-descent designer selling these gorgeous things to us in the USA? What about the mark-up? How much of the profits are the amazing tailors getting? One of the joys of traveling is getting clothes from other countries, my Spanish friends come here and buy GAP jeans, I buy Adolfo Dominguez. On the creepy globalization front, I have heard that places like the Salvation Army sell the surplus donations we give here in the US to African countries, so you see people over there wearing tees that say "Naples High School Cheerleading Squad."

Political-angst aside, these are probably the loveliest dresses I have ever seen, and I may just go over there and sign up for my very first Lay-away transaction!


AK said...

My dad always wears guayaberas cause of the four pocket convenience they offer.

Something about these dresses remind me of Yinka Shonibare inverted.

Petite Maoiste said...

Yinka Shonibare - genious!

Yes, there is nothing quite like the guayabera - sunglasses, cigars, house and car keys, pens, you have it all right there where you want it. Unlike women, who, as Margo Gomez used to say, don't seem to deserve any pockets.

Anonymous said...

That they do lay-away?! I've seen these dresses a month ago as well and fell in love instantly!

Petite maoiste, this is a great posting. I love your brand of incisive inquiry, entertainment, and frivolousness. I've asked myself these questions about appropriation many times as I'm a fan of fashion and textiles as well, and often find myself opting for the "exotic look." but exotic for whom?

I have to see I love my German father-in-law and my Swiss husband wearing their guayaberas. Might that be the secret joy of inverted colonialism?

Petite Maoiste said...

Inverted colonialism -love it!!!!
According to the politically correct logic of the USA, I think if one is non-White (or part non-white) then one gets a "get out of jail free" card in terms of "exotic" garb since we are also Other, at least I hope so because I love all kinds of fashion, and I get a thrill from those Austrian loden jackets and madras shorts too, so why can't I rock the WASP or Euro clothes ironically? (wink wink)

Anonymous said...

Olé, tía! right on. Eeeessssoooo!