Controversial Opinions Post

by Haley Mlotek
I have this ~controversial~ opinion—you probably already know what it is since I will absolutely never shut up about it—that the best fashion writing almost never comes from fashion writers, and only very rarely from traditional mainstream fashion publications. The fashion writing I’m interested in happens, I guess, on the margins of other topics: class, gender, race, labor, wealth, politics, film. That’s where writers often let down their “no clothes are dumb gross why would I write about clothes” guards and share something personal, or meaningful, or even just some unusual or unexpected opinion.

This means that finding the best fashion writing often feels like a pretty fun and only occasionally frustrating treasure hunt. Here are a few jewels I found over the weekend:

1. Social Issues: A Woman In Uniform

The uniform is kinder to men than women. The vest fills men out, broadens their chests. Women are cocooned, squeezed, flattened, we become square and graceless, Lego figures come to life. A homemade poster in my first locker room showed a picture of a particularly short cop. “WANTED,” it read, “For Criminal Impersonation of a Mailbox.” It should make me feel sexless and maybe it would, if female cops weren’t fetishized so often and so blatantly.

This one is hard; “complicated” is the easy way to categorize the piece. I’m glad I read it but still don’t know how I feel about it.

2. Underneath It All

Lingerie will always live in paradox. Susurrations of satin, of lace, of boning, of silk, and of net, these garments hold our private parts; they are the garments meant to suggest but not announce, meant to seduce but not destroy, meant to support but not withhold, meant to define but not distort, meant to display but not expose. A beautiful set of lingerie can an exquisite thing. It’s also hideously expensive, usually hard to remove, and often pointlessly delicate. I have, for example, a gorgeous Mimi Holliday black lace bra; it cost $80 on sale and now sports a hole the size of a fingertip from ungentle removal. A beautiful set of lingerie is like nothing so much as a hymen: largely symbolic, uniquely female, and easily rent. “Rent” as in torn; no one wants to let other’s underwear.

This one is beautiful; “soft” isn’t the right word, but I’ve been reading a lot of Chelsea‘s writing lately and maybe I would categorize it as having a kind of padded texture. This brief essay on the history of lingerie paired with Chelsea’s own excavation of the concept is…plush, let’s say.

3. The Sixties, Jenny Diski

She was the most perfect age I could imagine, and all the more worthy of worship because she was dressed incomprehensibly from head to foot in black—her hair-enclosing snood, short dress, thick tights, skating books and gloves were all relentlessly black. I finally got up the courage to ask her at the end of one of her spins why she was all in black. She looked down at me for a moment with a wonderfully melancholic expression, and told me solemn-faced, “I am in mourning for my life.” I was far too young to recognize the adolescent melodrama of her dress or the existentially induced world-weary self-description. She was the most magnificent, most mysteriously glamorous create I had ever seen…

…Growing up is partly about trying on superficial looks to match how people want to see you, and how you want to see yourself. Controlling how people literally view you is a way of learning to construct a sense of self, until you become confident enough to proceed the other way around. Everyone does it, from the moment they look into a mirror and realize that they can see themselves and therefore other people can see then, and that they have a body which, with a bit of effort, can be brought under the mind’s control. It is in the nature of youth to play with style in an effort to come to terms to substance. Easy enough, too, to get stuck there.

Have you noticed that my obsession with Jenny Diski has only grown in recent weeks? She’s just the best at everything, and never better than when she’s describing her favorite clothes and the aesthetics of the sixties. True story: I loved this book so much that I read it in a single sitting (the plane ride from New York to Toronto) and made a little note to myself to use this paragraph in this very post you’re reading! And I as disembarked the plane I was so smug, thinking ha ha, I have this post all sorted out, I’m so glad I made a productive use of my time on this flight, and then I realized I had left the book on the plane. What a charming example of my flighty irresponsible tendencies, right? o____O. Anyway, you should read all of these things.


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