What We Talk About When We Talk About Fashion

Illustration for article titled What We Talk About When We Talk About Fashion

Sitting down to write my "goodbye" post to you all was really tricky: What to say? What is there to say? I found no easy answers. But the last time I tried to do some meaning-making about my time at Jezebel, I didn't have the opportunity to share it with you all, so I thought I would take this opportunity now to do just that. Back in late March I was invited to speak at my alma mater, Tufts University, as part of a symposium they were hosting on the topic "Fashion And Its Discontents." My talk was, primarily, about you all, our readers, and what I think are the questions we have tried to ask — in particularly about how we choose to dress ourselves — together and what that process has led me to conclude. Starting below, I've posted excerpts from my speech (which was, I hope you will be proud to know, entitled: "'Victoria Motherfucking Beckham Is Here' And Other Stories I Never Thought I Would Write.' I was told by the symposium's organizer, a former professor of mine, that I am the first person to have used the word "motherfucking" in an academic lecture on the Tufts campus). I hope that maybe some parts of it will ring true for you, and that you will continue to share your feedback with me. It's you all who have made this experience so wildly unique and wildly incredible.

Illustration for article titled What We Talk About When We Talk About Fashion

I like to think that [my time at Jezebel] is a natural extension of my time [in college], where I spent my time trying to have something to say about the way in which language registers trauma, the way in which Virginia Woolf posited an imagined apocalypse, the way in which James Joyce's Molly Bloom was able to engage in time travel through remembering kisses. Fashion, like literature, like language, is about interpreting a narrative. And being a fashion blogger is about finding what's interesting and what's substantive about this medium, and being unafraid to occasionally remark, "Sorry, but I think this is bullshit." (Which is a statement frequently incurred when presented with...anything, like a bad novel, without a point of view.)...

[T]he really helpful thing, I think, that I got out of my education in the humanities was an awareness of restrictions and liberations afforded by subjectivity. All day long, I write about what I think is "good" and "bad" in regards to that most heinous of phrases, "personal style." But what I'm always trying to remind my readers is that these are just my opinions. I don't really know any more than they do about these things. I just know what I like and what I don't like, and they should be unafraid to have opinions about how they dress themselves too. The unusual thing about covering fashion for a blog as opposed to a print publication is that my readers interact with me in real time. The moment I post something, they're off commenting. In a five minute window I will be told by people I don't [personally] know...that I should quite my job, move to L.A. and become a celebrity stylist, stealing the reigns from Rachel Zoe, and then hear from someone else that I have the worst taste of anyone "ever" and that I should never leave my house. Occasionally, this leaves me amused; frequently this leaves me paranoid.

The internet is still the renegade medium of the publishing world, and oddly even more so of the fashion world, a community that, of all things, prides itself in being more forward thinking, inventive, and creative than the rest of the poor mortals inhabiting the earth. I suspect that part of the resistance is that fashion community has longed thrived on its insular nature, the fact that only the so-called elite who work in it are privy to its ups and downs and changes. The Internet is all about accessibility, which, in my opinion, is what the fashion industry should be about, too. Fashion is fun; It's silly and a little frivolous, sure, but it is also about self-expression and one of the most direct and palpable manifestations of the culture and politics of our age. It's impossible to not see a connection between current events and the way in which 'lady-ism' and prim and proper hyper-feminine silhouettes emerged on the runways following September 11th, showing a desire, perhaps, for older, more conservative and debatably safer times. For Spring 2008 Marc Jacobs...took these dainty lady looks and shredded them to pieces, doing granny suits in sheer fabrics, or with entire panels cut out of the sides and backs. The shoes he showed hand an inverted heel: Though many critics hated the style Jacobs showed, I admired it. To me, it was one of the most vocal cries against conforming to the current political agenda - this desire for the costuming of "safety' and nostalgia - I have seen to date. Getting dressed might not be rocking the vote, exactly, but fashion is a form of art and powerful tool for messages of revolution and rebellion.

Victoria Beckham, however, is not. But the most-trafficked article I ever wrote was, in fact, titled "Victoria Motherfucking Beckham Is Here." It was the liveblog I did from my little Blackberry chronicling each and every second of the Project Runway finale this season...but I really am a great admirer of Ms. Beckham's. She is probably the most influential face in fashion right now which is hilarious because all she ever did, really, was be the worst singer in a cheesy manufactured pop girl group, marry a soccer star, and spend lots and lots of money on clothes. But I think the way she has been championed by the big name fashion magazines and the tabloids alike is, in a perverse way, a good sign for where things are going in the fashion community. Beckham is, really, a sort of everywoman: She is an average girl who made her something into something "important," if you will, essentially though dress. To me, she represents how things ought to be: Any of us can be something more, or at least different, through how we choose to present ourselves through our wardrobe. And Beckham gets this: She knows she's just a front and I respect that, because, really, that's all that fashion is, too. It is only representation.

Thank you for questioning representation with me. This blog, as we have discussed time and time again, would not exist without the people who read it. It would also not exist, of course, without the other people who write it and I cannot speak highly enough or bestow enough praise upon Anna, Dodai, Moe, Tracie, Jessica, and Maria. They are phenomenal individuals, all, and every day I learn something from each of them. (And how graciously they have tolerated my own distasteful penchants for "expensive shit," Broadway musicals, and French psychoanalytic literary theory alike.) I know that these women will always be a part of my life.

I also think I have the world's best "people" (my "actual" family and those who are like family to me), all of whom allow me to love what I do because they are a part of my life. (If you are reading this and nodding, you are one of those people, btw.) In particular, I have to thank Matt, who always asked for/feared a post about himself; my parents, who put up with all my mishegas; and Jason, the world's wisest younger brother, who can accomplish anything he sets out to do.



Wow, SO succinctly put re: ladylike silhouettes & the post-9/11 American political landscape. And a very compelling arg about the Marc Jacobs 2008 collections. Will be very sad to lose that insight. Hope we cross paths (virtually or literally) again someday.