'revelation was lacking'


Ursula K. Le Guin, The Word for World is Forest. Found thanks to Phoebe Cummings.

imaginary outfit: lost and found





A week or so ago, the tool I've used for years and years to make every imaginary outfit on my blog was bought by another company, who shut the whole thing down. Every one of my imaginary outfits disappeared. 

I thought, well, here is an opportunity to practice my detachment from fleeting earthly things. They were creations of a moment, and now the dark and unpredictable jaws of the digital void have snapped, and that's that. 

And anyway, the safety of blogging, for me at least, was the idea that somehow everything was ephemeral, provisional. A sketchbook, not the finished work. And when I began blogging, ten years ago this month, I was hopeful that would somehow prove true, that I'd find something more, that all this energy would find a less flimsy outlet. 

So the years passed, and I blogged, and the posts grew: dry leaves added to a pile, prettily arranged in shifting patterns, held together by intention and whim. I stacked them up without much looking back. And nothing bigger came. I was not an artist, I was not a poet. I was not an entrepreneur. I was not a writer-with-a-capital-W, pitching and polishing and refining, earning bylines or making books. And as blogging became more of a business and less of a strange hobby shared by interesting people with various obsessions, I felt weirder about doing it at all, like the person who hadn't got the memo that everything had changed. But I kept on, anyway, because I liked it and it was fun. 

I'm one of those people who love watching Antiques Roadshow. The weird tin toys, the ugly ceramics, the dark and heavy furniture no one in the family ever liked, all hauled in for expert eyes to appraise by people who want to be told their thing is somehow worth something. The best parts of the show are when someone brings in something ostensibly worthless that is revealed to be a treasure, but it is all a matter of timing. The show has been on so long there are now episodes looking back through the years at so-called treasures that are less of a treasure now. 

Attaching a value to something is hard; it feels safer to err on the low side, given fluctuating markets. I do that with my own work, and I know many of my friends (women, mostly) do, too, which is bad: you undervalue yourself, everyone takes you at your word. But after I had some time to feel bad about the fact that I felt bad at all over something so inconsequential as losing a bunch of pretend outfits when we live in a world that's gone crazy, I decided they were worth saving after all. Flimsy or funny or too serious or boring (I do love a sweater and clog combo), they were mine.

I found that nearly all were saved on Pinterest or other corners of the internet (thank you, friends) and I eventually did get a download of nearly all of them, so they are all more-or-less uploaded, back in the archives, for whoever wants to find them. I was shocked to find I'd created more than 180 in ten years; a slant-wise diary of my life in wishful dressing and attempts to write things. 

I don't know how much value they hold. Were they worth re-uploading? Worth however many words I've written here? Probably not, and yet, maybe. To me, yes.

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I am sad the outfits have lost all the links to the things inside them; in the spirit of true imagining, I hated to add a bunch of links at the end of a post, in case anyone thought I was trying to sell anything more than an idea. But it cuts against the principle I've always tried to follow online of giving credit where credit is due. This outfit is one I made and never published. The jacket is past-season Acne, the denim shirt Madewell, the shoes Ceri Hoover, the watch Shinola and the bag Etienne Angier. The bracelet (I think) is antique, and the earrings may be Melissa Joy Manning.  The jeans could be anything, but that's always been the point of these: to act as more of a template, and less of a shopping list.

stories left behind







From top:

1. Agnes Richter's jacket, in the collection of the Prinzhorn Collection at the Universitaetsklinik Heidelbergdiscovered via #WOMENSART

Richter, a seamstress, was confined to an Austrian asylum in the 1800s. She made the jacket from the materials available there, and embroidered it with her story. Per Wikipedia, '[f]ragments of text from Richter's jacket have been deciphered though their significance and meaning remains unclear (e.g., I am not big, I wish to read, I plunge headlong into disaster).' I wasn't able to find anything online that felt reliable and human (save me from anyone who finds phallic significance in the act of sewing) but this paper mentions that Richter made sure her patient number appeared on the garment, so that it could be traced to her. It also has sweatmarks, so presumably she wore it.

This blog post connects it to a contemporary piece made by Rosalind Wyatt using an 18th century silk bodice and text from 19th century love letters from her husband's family, who were active at that time as reformers advocating for the humane treatment of the mentally ill.

2. A page from Olga Ranitskaya's diary. The left-hand title is in Latin, and reads “Free us from love.' Photo by James Hill for The New York Times.

Ranitskaya was arrested in Stalin's Great Purge of 1937, falsely accused of spying for Poland. She drew cartoons of a character called the "Little Weather Devil" that obliquely recorded her experience of being imprisoned in the gulag; it's believed to be the only diary kept inside the camps to survive (if she'd been caught, she could have been executed). The New York Times ran a piece on the story of how the diary was preserved, how Ranitskaya was identified after years of research, and the outline of the sorrows that shaped her life. 

3. Textile heart left with a foundling as a memento, mid-eighteenth century, in the collection of The Foundling Museum, London. 
... a small heart, carefully woven in red thread ... one of the tokens left by mothers who handed their children over to the Foundling Hospital in the mid-eighteenth century: a swatch of material, a coin, a piece of jewelry—mementos to identify a foundling if relatives changed their mind. Originally these objects were attached to the admission papers, but in the mid-nineteenth century the Secretary, John Brownlow, removed them to put them on display and raise funds, thus separating the token from the child. Painstaking research has linked many together again, but the baby whose mother left the little heart has never been identified—just a child without a name.

Jenny Uglow, 'The Art of the Abandoned.' NYRB Daily, 6/4/2016.

odds and ends / 3.23.2018













From top:


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Bourke de Vries: Memory vessel/Southampton 6, 2013. 19th century English creamware ale jug and glass. 

Collaborating with ...  a manufacturer of custom laboratory glass, de Vries selected damaged pieces of ceramics and created glass vessels, using the original shape of the broken object. These ‘ghost’ vessels hold the fragments of the original pieces and create a conversation about the history, value, and beauty in something that could be perceived as worthless.

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My dream outfit for early spring: Caron Callahan's quilted flower-print jacket + cropped check pants; Brother Vellies shearling loafers.

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"our hotel is here..."

Postcard from Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson to Eva Hesse, July 10, 1967, via the Moon Lists.

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Detail from a calendar page by Tézzo Suzuki (found thanks to Letterform Archive's Instagram).


Abigail and her partner in counter-fashion, Maura Brewer, have been wearing only jumpsuits for the past three years—to weddings, to job interviews, to teach their classes at art school, and to visit their families over Thanksgiving. Their closets are nearly empty: they each have three jumpsuits, a few jumpsuit-compatible sweaters, workout clothes, pajamas, and underthings—that’s it. They don’t have to buy new clothes or wonder how they’ll look in the culottes that have recently come into fashion. They never have to choose a new outfit because they’ve already picked the one they’ll wear forever.

Heather Radke, 'The Jumpsuit That Will Replace All Clothes Forever.' The Paris Review, 3/21/2018.

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'The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.'

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This kind of joy is superfluous and therefore absolutely necessary. It is the deep meaning of revelry and play, as the historian Johan Huizinga wrote in his masterpiece Homo Ludens. Culture itself “arises in the form of play.” “Play cannot be denied. You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play.”

Jay Griffiths, 'Skate Fever.' Lapham's Quarterly.

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New rules: 'Get news. Not too quickly. Avoid social.'

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Heather Abel's essay on writing and motherhood is so terribly, terribly good: 'When I see The Baby Book at bookstores, I want to snatch the copies off the shelves and dump them in the baby’s bathwater.' (YES.)

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(If you, like me, get terribly anxious and emotional in crowds, but feel compelled to be one of the number, here's what I do: stay on the edges. Having a little room to breathe can make all the difference. Looking up helps, too. The sky is always there.)

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