Sunday, September 21, 2014

Women In Clothes - It's About The Stories

Last year I received an email from a friend with the link to a survey for a project called Women in Clothes.  The survey consisted of about 40 or so questions, such as:

When do you feel the most attractive?
What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you? 

Needless to say, I was intrigued, so I answered the questions as thoughtfully as I could and returned the survey.   Fast forward to September 2014....

we have the book!!

People who submitted surveys received emails updating them on the status of the book, and in July I received an email with the release date and a list of book launch events, one of which was happening in Toronto.  Of course I had to go, as this was the first book I had been a part of (I am quoted on page 464), and as it turns out, it's a wonderful book. 

Editors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton (who are all published authors) have put together a collection of essays, illustrations, photos, and interviews that address why women wear what they wear.  It's not a style guide; there is no section on fashion trends, what not to wear, where to shop, or how to dress your body.  There are no photos of the women who are featured in the book, which keep the focus on the stories.... and what wonderful stories they are.  Each of us - young, old, rich, poor, living in India, Iceland, Texas, or Montreal, make conscious or unconscious decisions when we get dressed in the morning.  The book gives us a peek at the thought processes, emotions, and inspirations of several hundred women as they decide how to clothe their bodies.   Some of the contributors are famous - musician Kim Gordon, blogger Tavi Gevinson, writer and actor Lena Dunham, artist Miranda July, etc., but most of them are women living their lives under the radar all over the world.  The stories are funny, sad, inspiring, entertaining and reassuring.  The book makes clothing into something that unites us all as women, instead of something that divides us into categories of "fashionable", "conservative", etc. and I felt a connection to the other women in the book while I was reading it.  The reviews have almost all been extremely positive, but one reviewer complained that there is not enough ethnic diversity represented by the women featured in the book.  While it is possible (and probably likely) that the majority of the surveys were completed by white women living in Canada and the United States, the editors include stories and interviews with women from Korea, Egypt, Laos, Cambodia, Israel, Croatia, and Poland, to name a few.

To me, one of the most moving sections in the book was titled "Mothers as Others".  Participants were asked to submit a photo of their mother before she became a mother and give their impressions of the woman they saw in the photo.  Many of the photos showed young, carefree women having fun, and I realized that I have no such photos of my mother, which made me feel rather sad.


The Launch Party....


The Toronto book launch party was held on Thursday, September 8th at gravitypope, on Queen Street West.  I had never been to the store, but had heard about their jaw-dropping selection of beautiful (albeit expensive) shoes.  I invited two other bloggers, Megan and Suzanne, to join me.  Suzanne and I spent the afternoon together (more about that in another post), and Megan joined us  for dinner before we went to the party. 

The event had been all over social media, and the editors had been interviewed that morning on CBC by Jian Ghomeshi so I was not surprised to see that the store was packed with people, with a lineup outside.  It was rather claustrophobic and I found myself seeking out any little unoccupied corner of space I could find.

The Wall of Shoes (there were two other smaller ones as well as several tables full of men's and women's footwear)

I swooned a little over these studded brogues in the men's section.  These would go with so many of my fall and winter outfits....

 The other pair of shoes that almost sent me into cardiac arrest were these metallic blue Trippens

All the staff at gravitypope are quite stylish, but this young man caught my attention with his simple tunic and pants set off by great accessories.  The ring!  Those shoes!

The three editors, (left to right) Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton, were interviewed on the store's staircase.

All of the book launch parties feature a clothing swap, and Suzanne and I brought some items to add to the mix.  It was rather satisfying to see that the three items I brought were scooped up fairly quickly.

The editors asked that women attach their name, and a story about the item, to each item they brought.  Suzanne pointed out this skirt to me, and while I was drawn to the happy mix of colours, it was the story that compelled me to take it home.

I also selected this made-in-India jacket and skirt, which had been previous owned by Annette, who, according to the tag attached to the outfit, is in her mid 50's, has three sons, and sells vintage clothing online.

Suzanne (r) chatted with a woman who used to own a funky clothing store in London, Ontario back in the day and now lives in Toronto.  It was a pleasant surprise to run into her.

The editors settled themselves on one of the couches to sign copies of the book.

This woman was in the line to get her copy of the book signed so I seized the opportunity to get a photo of her cool t-shirt.

Great glasses, cool hair, and a bold print

A young woman from shedoesthecity was wearing this cute pendant

I didn't bring my copy of the book with me to get signed, but I managed to exchange a few words with Sheila Heti as she took a break from signing.  She was very charming and personable, and I wish I could have had an opportunity to chat with all three editors.  Unfortunately, the photo shows the least interesting part of my outfit;  I also wore a flouncy vintage slip that hung below my dress, black and white tights and my pink "Krista Cons".

The crowd started to thin out around 8:30 pm so I was able to get a photo that showed more of the store.  The second floor is dedicated to cool (and, of course, expensive) clothing.

Now, a treat -  I have a copy of Women In Clothes to give away to one of my readers!  Unfortunately, as it is a rather heavy book (515 pages), I can only ship within Canada and the United States.  If you would like to have your name included in the draw for the book, please leave a comment, include your email address (if I don't have it already) and the answer to the following question:

"Tell us about something in your closet that you keep but never wear.  What is it, why don't you wear it, and why do you keep it?"

The winner will be announced on Monday, October 6th.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Paintings and Photographs and Comics, Oh My!!

It was an art-full weekend here for me, beginning with the Friday night opening of two exhibits at the McIntosh Gallery, located on the campus of Western University.  The idea of going back to the place where I work on a Friday night was not particularly appealing, but sometimes one makes sacrifices in the name of art.   The gallery was packed with art fans and at times the noise level was deafening, so I didn't spend as much time as I would have liked examining the art, but I did get some photos of my favourites pieces.

The smaller gallery space housed a three-decade survey of photographs taken by London-based photographer Rob Nelson, who has had a successful, and influential career in portrait and fashion photography, shooting for magazines like Saturday Night, Interview, Flare, Toronto Life, and Chatelaine. Nelson uses a minimum of equipment, and prefers to shoot in natural light.

 (Left)  Nelson shot the photo above of Canadian author Margaret Atwood at a lumberyard after spending the day with her driving to her cottage in northern Ontario  (Right) I liked this photo because it had the feel of a casual street style shot.  A friend who was also looking at it said she had taken a photograph when she was in New York this summer with the same drug store in the background.  There is a timeless quality to the photo; it could have been taken yesterday, it could have been taken 30 years ago.

The exhibit in the larger space, titled "Another Perfect Day" featured a selection of large paintings by Montreal artist Janet Werner

Werner, who teaches in Concordia University's Faculty of Fine Art, next to her painting "Bunnyhead"

"Mile Ender", above, was one of my favourite paintings in the show

Left:  Girl in Brown Suit  Right:  Bear

I was intrigued by Werner's play with proportion and the choice of colour palette in her fictional portraits.  The large paintings are a fascinating mix of the beautiful and the grotesque, and the size gives a monumental feel to the subjects.

Rob Nelson: Photographs 1977 - 2014 and Janet Werner: Another Perfect Day continue at the McIntosh Gallery until November 1

A new exhibit, "Illustrated Story Tellers",  opened at Back to The Fuchsia on Sunday night.  The exhibit features the work of Drew Rausch, Josh Deck, Owen Mackinder, Sarah Legault, Aaron Alexovich. Lovern Kindzierski, and Christina Deljanov, who excel at creating art for the comic book industry.

Store/Gallery owner Mary Hinton was sporting a bold new hair colour, and a cool jacket

My new camera was doing a few crazy things with light metering, and I ended up with this wildly overexposed shot of exhibition curator Sarah Legault, goofing around with a light fixture she was coveting from Mary's store.  I actually love the effect - it looks like a painting instead of a photograph.

 I've known John, in the photo above, for probably 25 years, and he has always been one of the most consistently best-dressed men I've ever met.  

Clockwise from top left:  "Vincent and Dore" by Sarah Legault, a page from Legault's first comic book publication, "Vincent P. Usher"; "Hellboy" by Josh Deck;  "Artificial Beauty Standards" by Christina Deljanov

"Pregnant Moment" by Lovern Kindzierski, an original illustration from the story Morella, by E. A. Poe
"Horror Show Unleashed" by Drew Rausch

Left: Artist Owen MacKinder (r) talks to a fan at the opening Right: "Puppy Wizard Pt. 2", a page from the webcomic series "Disappointing Monsters" created by Daniel Bradford and Owen Mackinder.  I read through a number of pages from the webcomic, about the adventures of a boy named Gilbert and his imaginary zombie friend, Edison, and it's a whole lot of fun.

On my out the door, I stopped to admire the impressive Wall of Jesus in the store.  The exhibit "Illustrated Story Tellers" continues at Back to the Fuchsia until October 12th.  The hours are posted on their Facebook page.

In between these two exhibits, I saw the acclaimed documentary Finding Vivian Maier, about a Chicago nanny who shot hundreds of thousands of amazing photographs that no one ever saw, until a young photographer, John Maloff, discovered her negatives at an auction house in 2007.  It is a fascinating portrait of an enigmatic, damaged woman who was also a brilliant street photographer.  If it comes to a theatre near you, I urge you to see it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Home Is Where The He(Art) Is....

I was inspired by Suzanne Carillo's tour of blogger Anja's art-filled apartment to post some photos of some of the quirky and colourful corners of my home.  Every apartment I've moved into has had beige walls, but in the last two, I have been fortunate to have landlords that allowed me to paint the walls the colours of my choice.  I've seen homes where all the walls are white and they've looked very modern and bright, but I feel better when I'm surrounded by colour....and art....and toys...and books, etc. etc.  To me, anything can be art - a doll, a vintage purse, a bowl of sea shells; as long as it gives you pleasure when you look at it.   Some people are taken aback by the sheer amount of stuff in my apartment, but a friend once said they enjoy visiting me because it's like going to a museum - there are so many things to look at.  I supposed you could say that it's The Museum of Shelley.

The warm-toned walls of my living room make it feel very cozy, especially in the winter when it's cold and stormy outside.  Clockwise from left:  A painting by London artist Tom Hilborn hangs above a 1950's glass bowl of seashells and rocks, a funky angel and a postcard featuring a Henry Moore etching;  Curious George shares a shelf with my Day of the Dead Skull collection; a pencil drawing by my friend Brian Lambert keeps company with two dolls made by Anwen Sutherland of Humble Home, a bill bissett painting and a print made by a WWII veteran at Parkwood Hospital.

The living room is home to my collection of ethnic dolls...

....while the Barbies live on top of my kitchen cupboards

A large shelving unit  I found at one of my neighbourhood secondhand stores is the home to most of my vintage toys, knick knacks and travel souvenirs.  The lace fan came from Spain, the china mice from Jackpot Vintage, and I found the beautiful satin 40's shoes at a Goodwill many years ago.  I think I did wear them once, as they are my size.

I worked in a couple of record stores (remember those?) back in the 1980's and the company reps would bring posters featuring musicians and album cover art for us to display in the store.  Sometimes the staff could put "dibs" on a poster of our choice when it came down off the wall, and  I was lucky to snag this giant one featuring Cyndi Lauper (it's at least 3' x 4').  I re-discovered it when I moved into my current apartment two years ago and figured it was time to show it off.    I've never seen this particular image on a poster, or any other advertisement since.

Bottom left:  Bettie Page checks her stockings in my bathroom, which is also home to some mermaids and a nude 1920's chorus line.  Top:  A few of my 1960's canvas bucket bags by Enid Collins hang on my kitchen wall.  Some of her bags are quite collectible, depending on the condition, but I purchased them for their kitschy and colourful designs.   Bottom Right:  A small painting by Luke Chueh titled "I Asked For Scrambled" makes me smile every time I see it, and the fairy collage came from Dear Thelma Love Louise.

My bedroom is a rather soothing grey-ish purple, and the colour makes a great background for my  purses, jewellery, hats, and whatever else I feel like hanging on the wall.  The flowered straw bag is a recent find from Faye's Finds Consignment Store at the Western Fair Farmers' and Artisans' Market.  It may be my summer carry-all next year, or, I may just leave it hanging on my wall!

Does your living space reflect your personality?

Monday, September 1, 2014

VOGOFF - The September Issue!!!

It's here, it's here, it's here!!!  Let the bells ring out and the banners fly!  Melanie has been busting her butt to get the latest issue of VOGOFF on the virtual newstands, and now, the wait is over....

I can't figure out how to get a larger photo of the cover on here, so you'll just have to click on this link to scroll through a version of the magazine on Melanie's blog, or this link to see the giant-sized version (the photos get kind of pixelated at this size).  There is also a link in my sidebar.  It does contain a submission from me, as well as those from a dozen other talented, creative women, with whom I'm pleased as punch to share the pages.  Once again, Melanie's done a stellar job at editing the magazine, and I am, as always, in awe of her ability to inspire us to take a giant step out of our comfort zones and be part of something weird and wonderful.

As the issue's gone public, I can share this out-take with you from my photo session for my submission.   I discovered that if you get too close to a link fence while wearing a bunch of pipe cleaners on your head, there's a good chance you'll get stuck.   This is also the only photo from the shoot where I'm smiling.