7.20.2011

96 - I hate it when the fashion industry uses the word "tribal". Gag me with a spoon.

Dress - Thrifted T-Shirt Worn as Dress, Belt - Vintage (Boyfriend's), Boots - Thrifted, Bag - Vintage (Gift), Jewelry - Mostly Konstantino & JFR.SE

This dress is actually a blouse that is about five sizes too large for me (due to the fact that I am freaky child-sized). Lucky me, I'm able to throw a belt 'round it and it's just long enough to be a dress. When the wind blows, it's a bit obscene, but I try not to care about things like that. Once when I was in elementary school, I remember being extremely embarrassed -- I can't even recall why. However, I know that the feeling of embarrassment was so overwhelmingly uncomfortable to me that I vowed to never be embarrassed again. About anything. Ever. And you know what? I haven't been since. I realized that the way to make it through life without experiencing embarrassment is to be 100% comfortable with the things about yourself which you cannot control (cellulite, strange teeth, a grating shrill voice, etc.) and to use every poor choice you make as an opportunity to learn. Also, it helps to have a sense of humor about yourself.

I was wearing this shirt/dress thing, walking to get coffee, and a huge gust of wind came rushing from out of nowhere, blowing the skirt up to my chin, leaving my thong-clad and otherwise-nude buttocks exposed for the whole block to see. Honestly, I think my thighs are, objectively, my least favorite part of my body (we all nitpick ourselves way too much), so this could have been tantamount to a crisis, but I just laughed it off, and you know what? Everyone around me in the street politely laughed, too, and an elderly woman told me I was just like Marilyn Monroe, to which I replied, "Yeah, but I think Marilyn Monroe's underwear were probably a touch less scandalous!" And everyone politely laughed even more. Then I went in and got my coffee, and everything was just fine.

So there's that story. Also, wearing this, I wanted to point out that I hate, hate, hate the word "tribal" used to describe anything fashion-y. It is so western-centric and reductionist and uncomfortably offensive, like when your white great-grandmother uses the word "colored" and you know that she isn't trying to be inappropriate, but you still feel your stomach turn in knots anyway. I could explain why, in specifics, that word upsets me, but last year that brilliant little lady from The Seventeen Magazine Project already touched on it, so I will instead quote her:

"Besides the obvious absurdity of trying to use clothes as a substitute for actual travel experiences... I'm uncomfortable getting behind a trend that seems to lump all non-Western cultures together under the homogenous, inaccurate, and offensive moniker of 'tribal.' [sic] It takes fashion's habit of cultural appropriation one step further by saying, 'Not only are we going to mark elements of your culture as passing trends, but we are going to marginalize them by packaging them together with elements from other unrelated cultures as well.' Simply put, the whole thing sends a message that says, 'Look how adooorable (and marketable) other cultures are!' It reeks of colonialism to me. I'm not opposed to designers taking fashion inspiration from artifacts of other cultures, but I'm opposed to this practice being insensitively marketed as tribal. It creates a distinct 'us' and 'them' dichotomy."
-Jamie Keiles, The Seventeen Magazine Project

With that out of the way,  I will leave you with these three things:


1. I wrote up 5 Thrifting Tips for Chictopia's Everybody is Ugly
2. Life According to Angel did an absolutely lovely interview with me -- she asked the most interesting questions and her website is fantastic!
3. I am thinking of writing a little something about why fashion models are skinny. Everyone will have an opinion, but I hope to provide more than opinions; I hope to provide explanations -- from me, a feminist, even!

45 comments:

  1. I admire both you and the blog you've created so much. I really hope everyone takes the time to read what you write. Your posts are both very well-written and thought-provoking. I agree that "embarrassing" moments can be so frequent, that the feeling or emotion just feels like a waste of time. I've had countless skirt-to-chin moments, and while it might feel obscene, it is actually hilarious. I also know that I've been guilty of using the term "tribal" to describe an item while shopping with someone, and it is an ignorant term. Kudos to you for being culturally aware.

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  2. You look wonderful, and I'm glad you touched upon cultural appropriation. Most fashion bloggers don't even begin to understand the gist of the matter.

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  3. Marilyn prolly wasn't wearing any panties! :)

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  4. That shirt is a bazillion shades of adorable -- and the jewelery works so well with it.

    I admire your rejection to embarrassment.

    Ohh, cultural appropriation. I'm 100% for embracing other cultures and incorporating them into fashion, but I do agree that if it's going to be done, it needs to be accurate and also needs to respect and show awareness to the culture involved -- which is a difficult task sometimes, but if a company doesn't feel like doing the research, then maybe they shouldn't bother at all. (I only just really hate when people who call others out on 'cultural appropriation' 1. end up being more racist than PC, and 2. don't even really know what they're talking about.)

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  5. I totally agree with Indigo. To be honest, I feel totally ignorant because I've used the word "tribal" when talking about a print and not thought twice. I am really a compassionate and peace loving person and I feel really bad now for not taking this into consideration. I love how your blog is as thought provoking as it is pretty to look at. Thank you.

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  6. Oh em gee, I love your braids!! And I cannot believe that is a blouse, looks so perfect on you as a dress. Such a great look. <3

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  7. I use those same thrifting tactics..
    Madeline, I am so happy to read your posts, they are quite inspiring, and as you know I love your style, but it is so nice and refreshing to find someone who really thinks about the world, and addresses issues. Thank you for your honesty and your opinions, they are much appreciated. I enjoy reading all of your posts.

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  8. really like the print and colors on that dress! but that cuff is just unreal!

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  9. I also hate it.
    But I <3 you :) you're stylish and smart AND you blog. FINALLY!

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  10. I just wanna say I friggin LOVE your blog, more and more... your photos draw me in and then your words captivate more! :-)
    I am on the same page about not being embarrassed! But when I do wear shorty stuff i make sure i wear my most ridiculous full-butt undies just in case there is a crazy gust! make it worth the wind's while!

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  11. i agree with you fully! and the dress/shirt is spectacular...i actually have a dress with that same print that my mom gave me. i love it and actually recently cut it to make it asymetrical.

    ♥ thesoundoflace.blogspot.com ♥

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  12. uhhhh!!! i love your blog!! since i cannot find proper words to describe how i feel "uhhh" will have to suffice for now. haha you are my fashion idol and your talks/discussions on each post are truly a treat. i could go on for paragraphs about how i love your blog but ill leave it at this so i dont seem so stalker-creepy!

    DONT EVER STOP THE MAGIC (including your awesome tumblr :D)

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  13. loving the print, and your fish-tail hair. I wish i can pull it off :)

    natalie
    http://lucyandtherunaways.blogspot.com

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  14. that is a seriously stunning outfit! that is just perfect! really love your fashion style,i enjoy reading your posts as well. Your fashion sense is very inspiring. :)

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  15. lovely dress.... like it ;)


    Couture Street: Model MONIKA « JAC » JAGACIAK
    http://magmoiselle.fr

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  16. You look delightful. I also dislike the use of the word 'tribal' when applied to fashion, as well as 'ethnic' and 'African'. (Africa is a too big a place to simplify into a single entity.) And the word 'nude' - it's only nude if you have white skin.

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  17. your so pretty, absolutely love this outfit, your hair looks beautiful also xx

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  18. nice fish tail braid :D great outfit

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  19. More I come on your blog, more I like it ! I love to read your texts, always good :)

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  20. I never really thought about the word 'Tribal' but now that you mention it, it makes a lot of sense.

    That's a lovely shirt-dress!

    xxoo

    http://www.particularlypendurhh.blogspot.com

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  21. lovely robe! your blog is great !!

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  22. As usual, I couldn't agree with you more. "Tribal" isn't and shouldn't be a fashion term, because the geographic it's describing don't wear what they wear for fashion purposes like we do (typically, that is). I guess whatever company feels the urgency to make an item "exotic" so it will sell more? I don't know.

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  23. i thought the exact. same. thing when i read your post title (in regards to the seventeen magazine project). i always thought it odd that american "fashion" lumps all things "foreign" into one single category. it's quite embarrassing.

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  24. Glad to hear "the seventeen magazine project" brought up again. What utter brilliance of a 17 year old. Thanks for using this space to bring up real issues rather than just the lovely trivialities of most personal style blogs.

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  25. LOVE the outfit. There are always perks to being tiny ! This was such a great post touching on great topics.

    xxx
    www.ladyalamode.com

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  26. That is an awesome quote that so succinctly and clearly explains the problem with that term, and with cultural appropriation in fashion in general. To take it further, that broad categorization or "lumping-together" enacts a kind of representational violence in that it eliminates any specificity of experience in the real lives of folks in marginalized positions, and renders them invisible. It bothers me the same way that people using the term "Native-Inspired" to describe jewellery, or wearing headdresses as a fashion accessory does. This is not to say that people shouldn't wear things, or take inspiration, from other cultures, but having an awareness of what that means and who has the power of representation is really important. There's an interesting interview that the woman who runs the Native Appropriations blog did with Al-Jazeera that touches on all this stuff-
    http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2011/07/dont-trend-on-my-culture-also-known-as.html

    Oh, and I always find it so sadly hilarious that there is an "ethnic" section at Value Village (the big monster chain thrift store in Canada) that is just mostly saris and then a bunch of random brightly or "tribal" printed clothes...I would love to have a spy cam to see the person who's job it is to pick out which clothes count as "ethnic"...

    Anyway, sorry for the super long comment, I just really LOVE how you use this blog as a platform to engage in a more critical way with fashion. SO refershing!!!

    Oh and I LOVED Tom Robbins in highschool too! :)

    xo
    ZK
    www.glitter-and-ink.blogspot.com

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  27. Oh, Madeline. I feel like we sorta share a brain. But in that creepy, "never actually met in person" kinda way. This is gonna be an Epic Poem-length comment, btw.
    - Re: the whole cultural appropriation thing. Drives me insane. And the word "Navajo" is sosososo bad, but "Tribal" is worse. Like on Ebay when something is listed like "NEON NAVAJO TRIBAL INDIAN HEADDRESS FEATHERS HIPPIE CROCHET MAXI BOHO".
    - So I just noticed that the above commenter said basically everything else I was gonna say- you're a smart woman, Zoe Kate. But adding on to the whole "Native American Headdress as Fashion" subject, imagine the shitstorm if like, the Pope Hat were suddenly "stylish". Or Mormon undergarments. Glenn Beck + his ilk would be ALL OVER THAT.
    - Why do I not care AT ALL when people wear upside-down crosses? I have big problems with Christianity, but the logic kinda falls apart if I pick and choose which cultures and religions are off-limits. Maybe it's because Christianity has quite the spotty history...(spotty=another VERY KIND euphamism).

    Your hair has been killing it recently.
    What a wonderfully ridiculous comment. But really, I love the hair.

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  28. Beautiful outfit!! I love it *3*
    Kisses from Paris ;)
    Pandore

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  29. I'm looking forward to reading about why fashion models are so skinny. I'm in fashion design school and we're definitely taught to draw stick thin figures or as one of my professor describes it "thin, but toned"

    I'm okay with this because ultimately the runway models are going to look similar to my figures, but a lot of people who are not in fashion design seem to be bugged by it.

    -Catherine

    http://sunnyscones.blogspot.com/

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  30. Crazy that in the post I just made I too am doing the "shirt as a dress," but I had to wear a slip under mine. And I have a very smilar cuff that I've been wearing lately, but yours is shinier/better.

    I love what you and Margaret have to say about "tribal." GYPSY NEON ETHNIC BOHO VINTAGE AFRICAN ART DECO CAFTAN. No. At this point, it just sounds silly and people sound silly when they marginalize like that.

    Gimme those boots!

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  31. I really love that I learn things from your blog. I can say that about almost no other blogs that I read. I, like a couple others who commented, am guilty of the use of "tribal". Which is quite embarrassing, as I've even been careful not to buy things such as dream catchers and other Native American inspired jewelry unless it is directly produced or given to me by First Nations people for the same reasons. I just never thought about the use of the word "tribal", it never crossed my mind. So, thank you for bringing it to my attention, and others' attention as well.
    Also, I would be intrigued to read your thoughts on why fashion models are skinny. Especially from the perspective of someone who is interested in fashion and also considers themselves a feminist :)

    Cad

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  32. Highly impressive dress. If I can give one to my girl friend then she will be more than happy.

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  33. The way you write is really inspirational and unique. Absolutely love your blog and as usual adore your outfit. Perfect.

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  34. i love the print on that shirt dress. its devine
    x

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  35. Mmm Korea Town is the best city as in Architecture in LA?? I thought that was pretty funny. I live in Downtown LA and I find it way more interesting than Korea town. But I suppose everything has their own views on how they see things.

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  36. I loved reading your interview! She asked the best questions. So random, but so right. Your thrifting article is spot on as well. Very well written (as always) :)

    It's so funny you wrote about a "wind blowing up skirt revealing butt moment". It happens to everyone which is awesome. You spot the girl across the street that holds her skirt down in the most casual way possible, but you know what she's going through, and you know in her head she is saying "fuccck i hate wind". In high school was the worst. I would wear short dresses or skirts, and walking through the halls in-between classes would be so hard to try and "keep your cool" if it was windy.

    Everyone needs to see a butt here or there, so thats why girls and short garments were made.

    Lovely post madeline!

    -Jana

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  37. lovely blog, beautiful style, gorgeous girl, great insight.

    glad i found your blog

    xxfashionbater

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  38. Ladies evening belts can make any outfit look gorgeous and get you noticed in a crowd. No mater how simple a dress is; it can look beautiful if you have the right kind of belt to go with it. The more elegant belts can have a silver and gold color but you can also find many sober looking belts. Belts can be worn with any kind of outfit ranging from jeans to evening wear. These accessories can be found in many colors and materials and you can also buy them at any decent store or online too.

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  39. Just thought you may be interested in reading this:
    http://getoffmyinternets.net/2011/08/23/modcloth-encourages-you-to-volunteer-in-africa/

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  40. Hey Madeline, I love your blog. Thank you for bringing up the thought- provoking quote. Then again, on a similar note, isn't it inappropriate to use jewelry crosses and turn them from a religious symbol into a meaningless accessory?

    I have very often thought about this topic and no matter what, I feel bad about designers using elements from other cultures because ultimately it just renders them meaningless fashion items. They are taking advantage of something unusual, unseen and exploiting it for a new style, no matter if marketed "tribal" or not.

    Then again, I don't know if I'm looking at this whole thing too sternly.

    kaji

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  41. Hi Kaji! Thanks for the comment. I actually address my stance on the cross trend, too, here: http://jeangreige.blogspot.com/2011/08/100-woohoo.html!

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