Friday, July 30, 2010

PR: Fashion Crimes' Order of Magnitude

Imagine you're the judge in two cases of burglary. In one, the thief was dressed up as the Hamburglar, and made off with 1000 bucks from the bank. In the other, the burglar was dressed like an average man, and made off with 1000 bucks from the bank. Whom do you punish more harshly?
It's a trick question, of course. The way the crime was carried out doesn't matter--the actual damage done is equal. Would you give a lesser penalty to the Hamburglar man because he was zany, and you think he might be a fun guy out on the streets? No. He's a criminal, and all must be treated equally by the law.
It doesn't work that way in reality TV, of course, and I'll bet some of you spotted in this week's Project Runway judging comments a definite acknowledgment of "voting for TV"--keeping people on just for personality, even if their fashion crimes were far more egregious than those of someone who was auf'd. This is why McKell was sent home, and Jason and Casanova were kept, even though their fashion crimes were more unforgivable than hers (in my own opinion, naturally.)

I did do a little homework pre-show, and checked out the portfolios on mylifetime's PR website. Portfolios I liked: Gretchen, Ivy. Portfolios I didn't like: Casanova, Mondo. Then, as the show began, I could see personalities and aesthetics emerging, many that I instantly responded to, positively and negatively. Ivy's conceit was obvious, for instance (though of course they were setting up a fall for her in the editing). I also wondered if Casanova might actually be a bit of an idiot--when Project Runway tells you to take a garment out of your bag right before a challenge, wouldn't you assume it's going to be ripped up? Why choose D & G pants? Was he going to be okay with destroying them himself?

We see some changes in the workspace. I'm not sure how I feel about the Touchpads. I was glad to see some designers eschewing them; did anyone notice that the sketches some were doing on the Touchpads seemed, I don't know, soulless? They weren't as human, personable, or beautiful, and in fact struck me as generic. I'm all for advances in technology, but I'm not sure if this is really going to be a good value for some designers. I'm also curious as to how the Mood annex works, and how it was set up. If anyone has seen any discussion of this anywhere, please let me know.

Beyond this, it's business as usual.
AJ--80s goth and tinsel. That's not a bad thing, it just didn't strike me as all that special. Safely wearable, however.
Andy--The shoulders of Andy's garment reminded me of a PhD graduation gown. In fact, the whole cape was like "graduates gone wild." The back of the top was a nice surprise, though.
April--Gracious. Messy in a distracting, Mad Max way. Sometimes deconstructed is just destroyed. While I hated hearing so many of them playing the time card, I am actually interested to see if April is too much into one thing or if she has a bag of tricks ready.
Casanova--Speaking of disaster. This is my WTF dress of the week. It has a beachy quality to it, but when he said it wasn't vulgar, I did a double take. Really? But if you look in his portfolio, you'll see this is kind of par for hiscourse. Funny story--once, my dance friends and I wore Renaissanceish dresses, and M. had one with a jewel at the end of a V bodice. We called it the "pubic zirconia." And, looking at the photo of Casanova's garment, I can't help thinking the same thing. Anyway. I was intrigued with the translations going on with Nina Garcia. That was nice, I thought--but then Casanova's response was so insipid it seemed like he still didn't understand. How bad is his English really, I wonder?
Christopher--I'm not a big fan of halter dresses, which are severely overexposed right now, but I also thought the fabric here looked like drapes. I really didn't care for this look.
Gretchen--I was a little surprised that Gretchen won. I thought her top was a touch too blousy, and the neckline a bit dull, but at the same time I admired the drape and movement of the dress and I liked her little sleeve choice. Someone in the comments of Rate the Runway identified it as sophisticated, and that it was; I think it ultimately won for polish. I was actually glad to see a garment like this win--not short or tawdry, no cleavage, but still feminine.
Ivy--I liked Ivy's blouse; it was too short, yes, and not quite the right shape, but I completely disagreed with Kors' comment about it looking mangled. I enjoyed the structure of those ruffles. The pants though. I never did see the original pants, but I do concur that the pants were not fashion-forward.
Jason--Jason should have gone home. I didn't have a WTF moment with his dress because I could see where he was going from the get-go, and ultimately it just looked like a trash bag. No No NO. I totally agreed with the judges about this garment, but was astounded that they didn't find this criminal enough to oust. And he wasn't even that interesting. I am completely baffled, and I cry foul.
Kristin--I had a hard time seeing Kristin's garment, because her model's walk was crazy. But now, looking at the picture, I still don't understand it. Seriously. Someone explain this garment to me.
McKell--Poor McKell. I think she got kind of blindsided by the judges. When I first saw this garment, I thought it had a cute bottom half, and contrary to her opinion, I thought a fuller skirt was better for so short a garment. When I got a better look at it, I didn't like the denim top, finding the fabric to be cheap- and retro-looking (which was exacerbated by the hair). I thought Heidi overplayed it, though--the dress was not butt-ugly, and I can't really call this a fashion crime. Nor, it seems, can the commenters, and Tim. No one will ever be able to justify the judges' decision to me.
Michael C--Boring is the only thing I wrote on my notes. The pink blousy top and pleather skirt actually seemed kind of tarty to me.
Michael D--If you know anything about me at all, you can probably guess that I liked this satiny, blousy wrap dress in earthy shades. This was actually my favorite garment, though it wasn't as sophisticated as Gretchen's. It looked super comfy, and I would totally wear that.
Mondo--I hated this garment. I can't exactly explain why, and I didn't see what he originally had to work with, but in generaly I just don't like Mondo's aesthetic. It's garish and actually makes me feel unhappy to look at it.
Nicholas--I didn't realize until the judging commenced that the top of the gown was ribbing. That's when I said, "Oh dear." The shape of the gown had glamour, but the whole thing didn't move well and I had a flashback to someone's gown last season. The fit of the bodice was not well-constructed, and it looked a bit like he'd used heavy home decor fabric instead of occasional wear taffeta or whatever.
Peach--I thought this garment was kind of cute and simple, though I also thought there was too much going on with that knot in the back. I am a little concerned about Peach's fabric choices; I can see her going a little too chintzy. Her portfolio shows many cute little dresses, and I also wonder about her range. Her work looks a little homesewn (though since I'm a homesewer, I have a hard time using that as an epithet).
Sarah--I wrote down, "Garage couture." Exactly like an America's Next Top Model mechanic's outfit. Where would a real person wear this? It looked well constructed (and the collar looked like brocade, which I support), but it didn't look like a real person's garment. At the same time, I'm not sure that's an important consideration.
Valerie--I noticed fit issues with Valerie's outfit. It was also garish and rumpled.

As I said, poor McKell. Her dress was not a winner, but I was glad to hear Tim tacitly calling out the judges for their bad decision (unfortunately, mylifetime seems to have gone with video of Tim's critiques rather than having him blog--certainly hope they reconsider that, since his reaction to the judging is always interesting). I did wonder, if Casanova had been ousted, would it not have been his worst day ever, getting cut, and losing his expensive pants? But then, I also thought, anyone who spends over a thousand bucks on pants does NOT need money from PR to make a fashion line (a sentiment echoed by Nick Verreos--I swear I wrote it down first!). That's not a good investment for them. One final note, from Laura Bennett's blog: "Styling is the new sewing."

And while we're at it, let's talk about Austin and Santino--I hope you looked in your TV Guides and decided to DVR this, or stuck around to watch it. This is the type of realilty show I usually hate, except that it's about sewing, and it's more funny than dramatic. This episode was hilarious and involved a mercantile. How can you not love it? The mom's hair alone was worth the whole half hour. Oh, Texas.
Quick--without thinking, tell me who Austin Scarlett reminds me of. Especially with his precious hand gestures at the beginning. I can't figure it out.
I love Santino's laugh, and I have to say he looks well--not so gaunt as he once did.
The family seemed really accepting of the designers, as flamboyant as they are. It was nice to see Austin and Santino being so gracious. The show had a feel-good vibe that I appreciate. Fashionwise, I liked Austin's starter look better; his innovation of the lace combind with the straps was intriguing, and I'd have loved to see that finished look. For Santino's gingham look, well, the top looked messy, too unfinished, and the bottom a bit too poofy. That being said, the girl looked happy, and the dress was event-appropriate. Maybe a little too gimmicky? But appropriate.
I am definitely looking forward to this show, almost more than PR itself. I hope they can keep it up.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


It's been a busy couple of days in Avaciousland.

I went home to spend a few days with my folks and go to a wedding. I traveled late at night Thursday, trying to get through a gauntlet of storms. We'd already had tornado sirens in BG, and contrary to usual form, I actually went to watch the clouds, and I distinctly saw some rotation. There was no thunder or lightning, just what my sister compares to The Neverending Story's The Nothing. Swirling black clouds. By the time I left town for Michigan, it had quieted down, and most of my trip was very peaceful in the dark.

At home, I made a few brief shopping trips and hung out with my folks, met the nice student who is working on home repair with my dad, had quite a chat with our neighbor, and sunbathed. I rode in my dad's new aerial lift, and my parents and I watched two railway-related films (through coincidence, not intention) and Sunday's Poirot, which we'd actually all seen before.

On Saturday, we went to my cousin Jim's wedding; it was a nice ceremony, not very long, and then the reception was at the University Club on campus at MSU. We sat at a table with a family with four children, and enjoyed their experience of the party. I made friends with the boy who sat next to me, and he presented me with two of his Silly Bandz, which actually complemented my dress, though I'm sure if I'd told him that he would have taken them right back. Their daughter and I share a first name, so we were instant friends, and there was also a set of twins. The wedding colors were white and red with pink accents, and, best of all, I could eat the dinner--salad, chicken, potatoes, and rolls, in a serving size that allowed one to leave room for cake. The bride and groom were very happy.

I got back in to BG on Monday, and made a decision. I'm a little impulsive sometimes about buying things, but at least this one will help me (maybe): Heretofore, my fabrics have been in boxes, baskets, and even plastic bags. The baskets have been in the closet, which seemed like a good place until I realized I can't see the fabrics, and the baskets are hard to pull out, thus I hardly ever see what I have. Meanwhile, they'd run out of space anyway, and other items pile up around the apartment. So, I bought some Cubeicals shelving units and plan to put the fabric in them, and put a nice drape over the front. This unit will go right out in the apartment, so I can see my fabric whenever I want. The other stuff that has been piling up, but that I don't need to see often, will go in the closet.

The problem with this excellent plan became evident when I pulled out the bottom basket, which is full of fabrics I've used before and smaller scraps. Some of the fabrics I've used I still have a substantial amount of, and some are just little scraps. I'm having to evaluate my system of keeping fabric scraps, and trying to decide what on earth I'd use them for. Some have prints I'm not sure I'd use again. Yet, if it's a silky fabric, it might be nice as a lining for a bag or something. I'm trying to find ways to use up fabric scraps, because it's really hard for me to throw away fabric.

Some fabrics I look at and wonder why I even bought them. One in particular I did actually make a shirt out of, which I wore once and can't bring myself to wear again. As I was looking at it, though, I thought it might be interesting to challenge myself to try to make something sculptural out of it--it's a rather boring and cheap-looking gray knit. I have some ideas about a pencil skirt with horizontally pleated panels.

Anyway, there is fabric absolutely strewn all over the floor in my apartment, waiting to be divided into stacks and refolded to be in uniform chunks. This is going to be a fairly big undertaking, and is keeping me from getting other things done, like reading the giant numbers of books I have strewn about the other apartment! Or actually doing sewing projects.

The funniest part about the trip out to Target to get the shelving was that there is a new TJ Maxx right next to the Target in Rossford. Oops. I stopped in there first and came out with two pairs of shoes and an interesting shawl collar cardigan, the collar of which is actually stand-up pleats that sort of curve to the neck's shape. I tried it on and even with a T-shirt and jeans it looked nice, but it will be great for professional clothes. Then, in Target, I wandered around and picked up a bunch of other bits and pieces. Honestly. Why do I shop so much? What is happening to me?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Slow it down, summer.

As much as I enjoy having the Naiad frock as the first thing you see, I can't leave it there forever.

Couple of things: Ladies and gents, start your fashionable engines. Project Runway starts on Lifetime on July 29 at 9 pm. I can't wait to see what this season's contestants will bring to the table. I hope they aren't as snarky or self-centered as this season's Top Cheftestants. And that goes for the judges, too. Last season's favoring of sound byte insults over constructive and thoughtful critique was a total drag. I want to see clothes, people.

If you're like me, your bosom size has gone up and down over your lifetime, and you may also, like me, have some poor bra choices in your past, bras you never wear and probably never will. I was looking up things to do with gently used or unused bras, and came upon this website: Bra Recyclers. There's a form you have to fill out, but you can ship them any of your clean bras that are in good condition. Consider this a plug to search through your bras and see if there are any a lady who can't afford proper support, or even fun support, might enjoy. Or, if you're feeling the need to give at a bigger level, consider hosting a bra drive. I was also thinking it might be fun to go to one of Victoria's Secrets big semi-annual sales and search through the clearance bins for bras to send. Maybe with a bunch of friends, where everyone picks three bras to send.

Finally, remember my red leather shoes? The awesome ones? Today I bought a trunk that is the same color leather. I've been needing a trunk for a while, to store presents that I buy fairly far in advance. Hobby Lobby always has cool trunks, and as I traipsed through the store, I saw 50 % off signs in that aisle. My eye was immediately captured by the red leather trunk, which I think is new--it wasn't there last week. At the checkout, the girl (who was very sweet) tried to tell me that the trunk, as a furniture item, was 30 % off. They were indeed 30 % off last week, but the blaring red signs said 50 % off decorative storage, and they were in the trunk aisle, which contains nothing BUT trunks. The signs didn't differentiate between "decor" and "furniture." I tried to explain to her, as gently as I could, that this was misleading, and suggested they move the signs, if they don't apply to anything in the aisle, though I acknowledged that I'd buy the trunk regardless because it is awesome. As I hauled the thing into my car I looked at my receipt and saw she'd given me the 50 % off.
I felt a little bad, like I'd bullied her, and I honestly would have bought the trunk full price. I'd tried to be polite about it, and explain why I was convinced they were half off. But I guess that's passive aggressive bullying. Anyway, I love Hobby Lobby, always finding something fun in there, and I'm not sorry I argued about it. I'm still not sure who was right. For all I know, she was mistaken. Regardless, the trunk is delightful.

In the rest of my world, I'm sewing a dress and knitting a sweater, and trying to finish up the seaQuest dvds by tomorrow, when they're due back. I'm not going to be able to finish a book that is due, and I don't think I can renew it. I've just overbooked my leisure activities in an effort to keep busy, even while I have a bunch of ideas in my head I have no time to work through. I just don't seem to be very good at planning my life right now!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Naiad Frock Grosgrain Giveaway

The Naiad Frock Grosgrain Giveaway

I want this!
I secretly hope it's so unusual that not as many people will post links and I have a better shot of winning!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


I wanted to take a few minutes to air a view that is unfashionable but of deep concern to me. Feel free to skip.
Tom Colicchio, in an interview on CNN about hunger, said this:
"There's a school of thought, this was about fifteen years ago, where kids are the clients coming into the school lunchroom, so let's make this look like a fast food line. That's what they tried to mimic and that's what the kids get. My feeling is yeah, the kids want that, but my seventeen year old will sit in front of the X-Box and not take a shower if I let him. We're adults. We're the ones who should teach the kids what's good to eat. "
This struck me because it is exactly how I feel about a lot of things concerning young people. Food, yes, but also student behavior and education.
In a way, I can compare what Colicchio said to my feelings on underage drinking. I hate, hate, hate it when parents say to their teens, "I don't want you to drink, but I know you'll do it anyway, careful." Parents don't want to be caught out being permissive, but that's exactly what they're doing. They are conveying that they don't really care about the law and they don't actually care if their kids drink. I'd rather my message be clear and unequivocal for my kids: Don't do it. If they disobey me, it's a problem. These parents are making it so the kids can't actually disobey them no matter what they do.
But what really gets me is how the attitude conveyed above reaches our educational system. For instance, universities now are treating students like clients also, and trying to give them bells and whistles because it's what they want. Schools are adopting for themselves a permissive parenting style.
Sure, students are adults, and they deserve SOME of the privileges normally accorded to adults. But the law also views them as restricted adults, adults who do not in fact have ALL the rights and responsibilities of our culture. No drinking, no renting cars, etc. That means that they are still adults that are being nurtured by people with more experience of the world. It's our job to mentor these brand-new adults, and continue to give them discipline and limits as well as benefits and goals.
Colicchio puts his finger on what is beginning to bother me about education, not just at the college level but at all levels. We're trying to cram in all this new gadgetry and trying to make our lessons match the expectations of kids raised on World of Warcraft and reality TV. In essense, we're bringing our teaching to their attention spans, rather than the other way around. Whether it fits our personal teaching style or not, whether it suits the lesson material or not, I have been getting the message, albeit subtly, that kids, our clients, have to have their demands met.
Here's the thing: I don't believe all of this is best for the students. I see some of the changes being made, and I don't agree that all of them are wise. We're giving away our responsibility of determining, as educators, what is best. And when we give that away, we're not going to be able to get it back so easily; we'll lose our credibility to say, "No, that runs counter to what I know will help my students." We're also making the (documented) problems worse by refusing to address them and reverse them.
If students are coming into a university situation with a poor attention span and inability to focus on academic material, it seems wrong to me to sex up my teaching and make it more like this supposed learning style, as opposed to helping this student broaden his spectrum of learning and find the ability to learn in more than one way, in addition to correcting his attention span. I do believe that students learn in different ways, and that we should teach in a variety of methods to bring everybody in. But I also believe that some of the "styles" we are seeing now are actually disabilities, and we should be working to bring students up to par as learners, not just as information holders.
Universities right now are bending over backward to create new initiatives and special programs to bring in the student dollars. I understand the need to make money. I also admire many of these programs--learning communities, for instance. But I also perceive that these initiatives are beginning to crowd out the actual business of learning. If everything is special, nothing is. For now, the majority of classes are still taking place in a simple classroom with pen and paper work, lecturing combined with interaction, and perhaps a computer or two. But that's not the monetary emphasis any longer. Students come in expecting something much different, and they aren't prepared for the prosaic reality--a reality, I might add, that gets results. On the other side of that coin, student expectations are leading to this simpler form of classwork becoming more and more disrespected and replaced by the aforementioned bells and whistles. In effect, we're letting students determine what they should learn and how, rather than taking command as educated adults and researchers and determining that ourselves.
I will be the first to acknowledge that students-as-clients isn't all bad. I also recognize the drift of the economy that has put many schools in market-based binds. It's the trend that alarms me more than anything--that curious something-in-the-air that suggests a direction I can't get behind. The United States continues to fall further behind in education, despite spending more and more per student. It seems logical to me to wonder if we are forgetting about the educatioon part of education. It also makes me wonder if we are keeping students from feeling gratitude that they are even able to get educated at all, but that, the study of entitlement, is a whole other entry.
And I may be wrong; perhaps things will turn out for the best. But right now, I feel like we are letting students tell us our jobs, and that is wrong wrong wrong. Just as the parents are the adults who should be determing what goes in school lunches, so are teachers the adults with the expertise to determine how students should be shaped and how they should learn. It isn't the students' fault. We've given them that power. I think it's time we stop being "permissive educators" and take it back.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

All according to (another) plan

I do have one more Twilight entry I want to do, but I've been doing a whole host of other things and haven't had time to get to it.

I'm the type of person who functions best when interested in a variety of somethings all at once. Maybe even mildly obsessed by those things. This is why I do so badly on vacation, and why my solo trips tend to involve a breakneck pace, like three major museums or hotspots in a day. It's not that I can't be quiet, but that my mind prefers to be seriously engaged while I am quiet, even if that isn't very restful. Finally, FINALLY, I got there in the last couple of days. So much so, though, that my well laid-out yesterday did not go at all like I thought it would.

I meant to go to Kroger, Goodwill, home, Ben Franklin, the post office, the library, the farmer's market, possibly Video Spectrum, and home yesterday. I ended up spending more time at Goodwill than I meant to. Then, my trip to Ben Franklin (where I went to buy a length of ribbon and an envelope) ended up in an hour's cavalcade, where I also bought eight skeins of yarn, knitting patterns, and more ribbon. By this time I was considerably laden down, so after my stop at the post office, I went to the farmer's market and the video store, had to go home to drop stuff off, and didn't get to the library until 6. It was a happy mess.

I had to laugh at myself because I'd arranged my carry bags to suit the order of the day, and ended up carrying heavy things I didn't need all day. Oh, well. What mattered more was that I was enjoying the day and keeping busy with good tasks. So what if I bought an apron and a cookie at the market instead of vegetables? So what if I walked out of the library with five books instead of the two I went in for? So what if I didn't actually watch the dvd I rented as I was finishing up my new dress, instead taking in some of my regular TV shows? It was a good day.

The dress I finished, as pictured, is one I'll really enjoy if I can find places to wear it. It is not as shiny as pictured, and neither am I. I had to take, like, 24 pictures with the timer to even come up with this one. I don't photograph well at midnight in my little apartment. My sister is much better at getting good fashion shots of herself.

I wish I could show you what the yarn I got looks like; it's sort of a peachy pink color, very delicate, and I think I found a sweater pattern that will work. I'm not convinced I understand the pattern, and there's part of it I want to change, but I have been planning this project for a while and was awaiting the right yarn and pattern. I'm a slow and unskilled knitter, but I do love yarn much the way I love fabric. If I like it, I'll buy it, regardless of any planned purpose.

I'm also doing quite a bit of research for a few other projects, and so things have been a little frenetic. Just the way I like 'em. Even so, I think I might devote much of this weekend to reading books in my sky chair, if it's not too hot. I'm a little overboard on books, so it seems like I should catch up a bit. I finally started Son of a Witch, for instance, the sequel to Wicked. I've had it since it came out...when I saw that there was a third part at the bookstore, I bought it and realized how far behind I am on Gregory Maguire. I also have a Dick Francis, a Miss Marple, the most recent David Sedaris, the herbal PDR, and three books on writing mysteries. And a Charlaine Harris belonging to my mother. And lots of other books I want to read. If you need me, I'll be with a cup of tea in some nook.