Story N˚ 23: The Disappearing Act

The #metoo movement has inspired me to think of my own history of being sexually abused and harassed. Fortunately, I haven’t encountered it blatantly as an adult; I think because I mainly work with women and gay men. I understand that abuses occur with women and gay men too, but I have been fortunate in my surroundings. Or I have learned to fly under the radar of straight men…

What I want to connect to sexual harassment, assault, rape, etc. is what I see as a result of said abuses: the disappearing act that occurs in some girls and women. There is a disconnect from our bodies. Maybe we put on weight, and then start wearing large, shapeless clothing, usually black, to hide.  Clearly, not all girls wearing black, slouchy clothes have been abused, but some of us who have will do anything to make ourselves invisible.

My sex abuse/harassment history started when I was very young. The most memorable event was a playground scene, when I was 10 years old, that still makes me bristle. My friends and I were playing in the middle of the yard surrounded by the swings and jungle gym. Suddenly, a boy in my class, Bruce, started running at me from across the field. He hit into me full force and grabbed me between the legs. I pushed him away and he dashed off to do it again and again, hitting me full force with his body and clamping his hand on my crotch. I couldn’t believe what was happening. My classmates had all stopped to look on, and I could hear them making comments to each other. I was hysterical with shame and panic. Finally, our teacher called us over. I don’t know that she saw what happened, because she made us sit side by side on the picnic bench in front of her and yelled at both of us for bad behavior. I remember the feeling of having no one on my side to protect me or stand up for me.  I think this is when I started to disappear rather than suffer humiliation. As more harassment occurred in my school years, I tried more and more to recede into the background. By high school, I was wearing black, baggy clothes and doing my best to play invisible.

I love fashion and dream up outfits in my head all the time, but what I actually put on is considerably pared down by comparison. Too much shut-down training, too much beauty ideal stress. I mean, why look sexy if I will just be harassed?  It’s complicated.

I found this entry in my journal from early December:

“Sister Jones has on a cream-colored, ankle-length fur coat. I think she’s Gladys Knight for a moment because someone runs to get a photo with her. I watch her, can’t break my awe. People who are good at disappearing don’t trifle with such elegance, we don’t even play at it.”

A photo will appear in this post eventually. Maybe of my teenage self, maybe a foray into elegance… Until then, #metoo.

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Story N˚ 22: Autumn’s Summer’s Day

As I write, this warm day ends beautifully in shell-pink light.  But it’s one week into October in New York City.  Since summer seems to be outstaying its welcome, I took the liberty of wearing a pair of white pants and sandals out on a date last night.  The beauty of it is not that it’s warm enough to wear such clothes.  In fact, I’m craving the crisp air that makes me want to cozy up to a hot bowl of soup.  (I cooked three such soups today, but the cat and I just sweat through it uncomfortably.  I will squirrel them away for cooler days.) 

No, the joy of these pants is that they fit me!  I have held on to them for at least 6 years, have worn them a total of once in that time.  I confess to hoarding more than a few items in my closet for that future day when I can wear them.  Happily, those future days are becoming today for all the right reasons- exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep, and giving up (gulp) sugar.  There is no secret formula, no magic ingredient.  Me doing the work is the magic, the key, the secret. And a half marathon challenge around the corner is really helping out.

Back to these pants:  I used to work at Sea World in the Costume Shop.  We provided wardrobe for the various performers, except Shamu.  One of the venues was the pearl diver area where you could see sexy male and female swimmers dive gracefully into the water to collect oysters from the sandy bottom.  We outfitted all of them in black speedos, and had a cast of hostesses waterside to guide people from the viewing area to the gift shop, because, of course, beautiful women help sell merchandise, such as pearls in the setting of your choice.  The hostesses had a summer outfit and a different winter outfit, but both were in cream and white to fit the idea of dressing for a Grecian coastal landscape.  We prepped and maintained all the costumes for these lovely and talented women.  As I remember, at one point there was a huge change in costuming or in cast sizing (I’m not sure if the pearl diving is still a feature) and we still had lots of used and new inventory:  sweaters, pants, etc.  As too often happens, good quality clothing was going to get thrown out, or boxed away in storage to be thrown out eventually.  So in the changes, I scored a pair of almost-new creamy white trousers.  All I had to do was take in the waist and take up the hem, the usual alterations for my physique. 

I think I try these pants on each year and then pack them away again.  This year, even though the season is supposed to be over, and there’s that breakable rule: no white after Labor Day; I’m happy to rock these, even if my date didn’t feel the need to dress up (another story altogether…)

Story N˚ 21: The End of an Era

My first “puffy” coat-

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Not fashionable, but functional!
  • was purchased for $35 at Monk’s in Williamsburg around the time it was getting too cold to put off buying my first ever winter coat.
  • was in no way a fashion statement, but allowed me to experience Northern winters in a civilized, rational way.
  • was my shield on long, lonely and very necessary walks through the gloom of Winter 2013.
  • allowed me to enjoy my first snowshoe outing at Mohonk Mountain House (a sparkling day).
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On top of the world at Mohonk
  • cushioned me at the ice skating rink.
  • paired well with woolen sweaters and a down vest for extra cold days (not cause it looked great, but it did the warmth trick).
  • became a sort of blanket for my Christmas Day beach visits (yes, this Floridian goes to the beach every Christmas Day possible, and a coat like this makes it possible).
  • also made it possible to bike through a few winters (not sure what I was trying to prove).
  • five NYC winters later, will be fondly and appreciatively remembered.
  • the next winter coat, TBD
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The final resting place for my puffy coat

Story N˚18: A Dress in 3 Acts

Act 1:  2008. Woman in her mid thirties visits NYC with her husband. She enters a bohemian boutique in Manhattan and finds a subtle, well-draped dress in a watery Japanese print.  It’s on the sale rack, so it’s worth a try in the fitting room.  A little snug through the shoulders, but it’s so different, so beautifully grey and blue, and affordably priced.  She takes it back to Florida where it gets compliments and stains in the armpits because of the heat, and the fact that it’s snug through the shoulders.

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Act 2:  2010, Florida. Woman wears the beautiful dress to her estranged husband’s BFA  show at the university they both attend.  She wants to look good.  Her hair hangs long down her back. She puts on orange peep-toe platforms to create some pop with the grey tones of the dress.  She is feeling confident and happy.  Her husband really wants her to be there, so he said.  All of their friends, her in-laws and classmates are there to support him in his exhibition, including a professor they both took classes with.  The professor looks very dressed up in make up, an open-back dress and heels. Her hair is also hanging long down her back.  The Woman notices the professor looks nervous. 

Act 3:  2012, New York City, a rented room.  It is only a few months since her divorce. The Woman found out that the professor and her husband were sleeping together.  The Woman found out that she and her husband want different things in life.  She is feeling lonely and sorry for herself, and decides to go out.  She puts on that grey dress and a little make up.  She runs her hand over her head that is now a cropped lawn of hair.  She shaved her head in mourning after the divorce, and as a way to start anew.  The Woman goes to an open gallery night in the Lower East Side.  She looks at art and boutique goods; she sees beautiful things.  She sees people struggling on the streets.  She eats a slice of pizza and watches people go by.  She knows she has it good; she goes home contented and ready for her new life alone…

-Emily

Story N˚15: Yellow September

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A few years ago, I worked at a boutique that carries ethical fashion. The owner said she had to often avoid buying yellow colors when selecting styles. Even if the clothes looked really good, she had trouble selling them. Perhaps many women don’t think they look good in yellow.

I don’t know if I look good in yellow, but I enjoy wearing it. I also notice that yellow really catches my eye when I see someone else wearing it. It’s brave to wear such a bold, attractive color. The yellow may be ochre or soft; I still think it’s bold and beautiful to wear.

This time of year is a yellow color for me- this transition from summer to autumn. The light has softened from bright white to yellow. The tree-top greens become yellowed, then golden. Some of the first leaves to change are bright yellow. The tulip tree and silver linden. (I notice that Spring happens the same way: one of the first colors to pop is yellow- forsythia, daffodils, etc.)

I like to pull out a certain outfit around this time of year. A pale ochre dress I bought at the above mentioned shop. It was designed and made here in NYC by two artists who created a line (recently put to rest) called Feral Childe. I love everything they designed, because each piece spoke to the dreamer in me. I pair this dress with an Afghani cotton scarf I got from a friend who was stationed there in the military. I think the patterns look so good together.

I hope you’ll look for and enjoy all the yellow…

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Feral Childe dress from 2013 with Afghani cotton scarf

Story N˚ 13: My MANIFESTO

‘As a clothes maker and textile artist, I commit to living and applying practices that take into consideration the well-being of my community, both local and global, as well as my planet.  I believe that what I choose to consume has an impact on many levels, and that this impact matters. 

I care about the people and families who are working in all areas of manufacturing; I care about the resources and beauty of my planet.   I believe that there are choices I can make that lessen environmental damage, and that can improve economic conditions around the world, such as using sustainable, natural textiles and reclaiming existing clothing and textiles.  Recycling, reusing items, reducing my consumption, choosing ethically produced fashion and products that are made to last:  these are and should be a given in our society at this point.  I commit to implementing these practices, to being conscientious about with whom and for whom I choose to work, and to educating others through word, action and product.  

To borrow a saying, “beauty is as beauty does”.  In fashion, and in my life, beauty matters:  what I say, do, choose, consume, create, matters!’

_________

I wrote the first draft of this in February 2013 while taking an ethical fashion course at FIT.  I consider it to be a fluid statement that continues to evolve throughout my journey.    Since moving to NYC, I have added ethically produced fashion to my wardrobe, as well as thrift finds that I have upcycled.

Case in point:  Today I am wearing a skirt I made from an oversized dress I found at Beacons Closet.  It’s kind of perfect for St Patrick’s Day.  I wish I could tote around the Irish daffodils as well…

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Story N˚ 12: A Dress for Valentine’s Day

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Today’s dress comes from my fabric stash, rather than my closet.  I have yards of fabric that I’ve collected over the years.  Every time I went into a fabric store (which was often),  I would leave with something in hand and an idea of what to make with it.  Almost always, it would go on the “some-day project” pile, which gradually became the fabric stash.  I got so good at this, that I eventually organized my fabrics by season or craft.  So, I have a box for fall/winter designs, a box for spring/summer designs, and a few boxes for craft ideas and scraps.  The scraps box is the most prolific.  I’m careful not to keep adding to my fabric stash, but I have a very hard time throwing away scrap fabric. I will use it one day, I tell myself…

I decided to make a Valentine’s Day dress to celebrate today, and to challenge myself to design and use up my fabric stash. Even though I am single and not dating, I still love Valentine’s Day.  I enjoy the treats and love wishes that are shared.  And luckily, V Day fell on Sunday, so I had all of Saturday to create this. 

Design, pattern and finished dress by Yours Truly with love!