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Outrageously Subtle Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by goprogressgo on September 10, 2010

As the show began you could tell we were going to be in for a right show. The looks shown exploited mesh and sheer. A bustier with a slouchy pant was one of my favorite looks, as was a polka dot dress that exposed both shoulders. There were 13 models in total; 10 women and 3 men. There was one item in particular, a backpack that donned the word “Paris”, that I thought was extraordinarily inspired. I had asked Alysse if she would dare divulge as to where she, Kirsten, Matt and Benjamin obtained such treasures and she declined to comment on such whereabouts. It was one of the smartest displays I had seen that night but I could definitely tell these people had something I like to call thrift store mojo. It is a gift given to you by the elephant-headed vintage gods that does not come lightly. As an atheist, I believe in science and style above all things and if there was a god, it showed up on that runway Friday night. The models also sported leather pieces which are pretty difficult to find and expensive to clean. That showed a lot of dedication. The makeup was fairly simple save for blue eyebrows that added a pop of color in the basking glow of neutrality. It seemed to call for a second look and was at all times wonderful.

There were 24 looks in total and at the end, as in every fashion show, all the models walked out in the last look that they were in and took one last collective walk down the runway. Then the four masons of this artful science we call vintage appeared to a roaring fanfare from the audience of style mavens, friends, family and the vintage curious. They explained that all the pieces shown were available for purchase which is by far a very rare thing to find at a fashion show. However, this was no ordinary showing.

In the back there was a turquoise painted room with a bed and a vanity where the models and stylists made themselves up before and down afterward. As I went backstage I ran into Matt Kasin. I asked him how he thought the show went and he said that Alysse and him “were backstage doing the quick change” so he didn’t get to see it but he hopes that “a video will surface” of it. The reactions from the audience were massive and I asked him what he thought of it. ““Some of the guys were wearing no pants. Obviously I don’t want to wear pants so I didn’t put them in pants and they were like, ‘Everybody loved it! Everybody loved it!,’ so, I’m just going off their reaction”

I came to ask him how he thought this faired well for The Gaudy God and his answer was defiantly priceless:

“I think it solidifies that I’ve been here a year and that I’m here to stay and that I mean business and I’m not wearing pants! Even come fall! Fuck pants!”

He wore a blazer courtesy of The Sometimes Store (if that isn’t camaraderie, I don’t know what is). Along with the act of solidarity he wore a speedo and his “grandfather’s air force boots from the army,” he assumed. I asked him how old they were and he said he wasn’t sure. “I actually want to say their my grandfather’s uncle’s, I don’t know what that is, but yes: old. They’ve been resold a couple of times and I live in them all winter and now they’ve come into summer.”

I sat down with Kirsten on the bed to ask her opinion on how it went. She explained that she “could only guess how well it well it went based on the reviews of everyone.”

“I didn’t get to watch the show at all. [We] didn’t get to do a run-through, [so] I can only gage how well it went off of everyone’s cheering”

She described what she wore: “boots from the future; some bootleg YSL. They’re platform wedge heels. I‘m wearing sheer tights that I found in my dresser. I probably hadn‘t worn them in a year. [A] nude leather skirt that Rhianna [our intern found] and I cut half of it off. This 100% silk beige, cream, tan, nude top. [I] got this [fur stole] that was porbably ripped off of an ugly coat that was unflattering! I don‘t know if it‘s real or not.”

I inquired on her second statemnet piece, next to the orphaned fur, a giant wide black chapeau: “well, my hat was a last minute addition. I couldn’t decide if I was going to go simple or if I was going to go extravagant. [I] saw all the looks on the models and I was like, ‘no, no, no’ I need to dress this up. [Wearing the hat] I feel like my cosmetology teacher, Krystal, in church and it’s actually a borrowed hat. [It was] brought just in case someone needed a hat to complete their look and I threw it on [be]cause I felt like I looked very plain”

After the consecutive interviews, I worked the room and had such a blast. I met Isa who’s blog is about street fashion. She commented that she was wearing a Sometimes Store dress and gushed on how I looked which made me feel vindicated since I absolutely love her blog and admire her style greatly.

Well, corazones, I think that about covers it. Until next week:

Don’t be a stranger, but do be stranger.

Special thanks (like, duh) to Matt Kasin, Kirsten Kilponen, Alysse Dalessandro and Benjamin Bradshaw

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Outrageously Subtle Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by goprogressgo on September 10, 2010

The warm anticipation filled the air. Hansol, my photographer, expressed her disappointment in the lack of A/C and I, wiping the sweat off my forehead, agreed. However, as the minutes passed there was an acquired sense of coolness. It wasn’t resulting from any sort of breeze but from the hip sophistication that buzzed around us like moths around light fixtures. The music was bouncy, electric and definitely ’90s. There was a Grandma’s attic feel to the space with different chairs and couches lining the runways as seats for the guests. Alysse Dalessandro explained that when Benjamin Bradshaw (of Sisterman) was looking for the space he wanted it to be “homey. So how perfect to have a couch and to have [a] hodge-podge of chairs!”

The audience provided a mélange of the androgynous character and it all mirrored early Pedro Almodovar film. The DIY sensibility and defiant mood totally resonated with the Pepi, Luci, Bom crowd, albeit significantly less crude than the movie but nonetheless as inventive as the time it represented.

The look of pride on Alysse’s mother face was definitely a highlight of the evening. She told me that one of the goals on Alysse’s proverbial bucket list was to own and operate a vintage store. Look at her now. She was so grateful that Gozamos was there to cover her daughter’s event that she insisted on buying Hansol and I a glass of wine, even though I already had one in hand.

Before the show, I talked to Alysse and Ben about what exactly I should prepare myself for. Alysse told me it was the first fashion show that The Sometimes Store, The Gaudy God and Sisterman had put on. She wore a black shirt that she “decided was a dress” because she was short enough, with a black vintage hat with veil, and gravity-defying seven inch nude heels. She also expressed to me that the idea for the minimalist neutral look was something that came from observation. “It was just something that we [kept] noticing, [what] we were wearing personally and [that] also kept showing up at our store so we were all noticing this trend; of the nude and black and all these different things. [We] were seeing it and then we envision a show called ‘Maximalism’ which is taking minimalism to the max.”

However, don’t start to yawn yet. She also mentioned that in conjunction with your basic whites, blacks, and nudes, some patterns were also thrown into the mix. “There’s patterns: there’s polka dots, there’s leather, there’s lace. [It’s] under-garments as outer wear, it’s kind of a real mix of neutrals but, again, to the max.” It was more of a deconstruction of the neutral joined with minimalism. The styled outfits had simple tones and patterns. The lack of loud colors allowed you to focus on the architecture of the outfit, what was being said with the silhouette, and how it all came together in a very sleek and clean fashion. Alysse also stated that many of the vintage items were donated by the mother’s themselves.

Sisterman’s obviously busy benefactor Ben found time to sit down with me and answer a few questions pre-show. As always, his transparent thick rimmed spectacles and slicked back dirty blonde hair gave him a Warholian vibe. I asked him to tell me a bit about what he was wearing and he stipulated the he “wanted to wear all black“ which is, in fact, his aesthetic. “All of my stuff [in the show] is black. I don’t have any nude and I don’t have any white.” He also noted that his fringe midriff top was actually being worn backwards in order to get a glimpse of the top’s caption: ‘J.Lo.’ “This is actually new, the funny thing is is that I‘m not wearing vintage today,” which he said was not “an oversight.” He also wore black boots and accessorized with an embellished cross.

“A lot of our stuff isn’t meant to look like you’re wearing vintage, it’s just meant to look like you’re cute or you’re different or you have [a] unique aesthetic,” Ben explained. He went on to describe the fashion show we were about to see as “outrageously subtle.” “You’re seeing, basically, one or two colors the entire time but you’re seeing it in sheer and in mesh and [in] weird cuts and different waistlines.”

I asked him if he was excited about the evening and he answered with an emphatic “Of course! We’ve been spending the last month getting ready for this, we have all of our friends and family riled together helping us. We wondering if there was going to be anyone in the audience!”

I’d ask you to not be a stranger, but do be stranger as always. . . but this isn’t over yet. Next comes the after party and an interview with Kirsten Kilponen, the second half of The Sometimes Store and Matt Kasin of The Gaudy God.

THE INDUMENTARIAN 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by goprogressgo on September 7, 2010

this is the first ad for The Indumentarian:

THE INDUMENTARIAN 2010

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Facing the Burka Part 2: Curtains and Honor

Posted in Uncategorized by goprogressgo on August 30, 2010

Do not think this ban is something delegated to the west. In 2010, Syria banned the use of the niqab and the burka in Syrian Universities. The hijab as is the abaya (sans face veil) are still permitted, but it is all tantamount to the fact that resentment for the divide between women and men in Islam is growing. The further west the east becomes and vice versa, it blends ideologies, not so much cultures. In my research I have found that in all actuality, the massive event that is the use of this garment stems from the Muslim practice of Purdah and the concept Namus. Purdah is the face-veil portion and is translated from the Persian as “curtain,” while Numas is often translated as meaning “honor”. I begin to ask myself what manner of honor forces women to protect themselves from the hidden evil of men’s eyes by enveloping themselves? Have those men no honor? Perhaps they have too much of it.

Purdah is the prevention of women being able to be seen by men. It is a practice that takes on many forms all around the Islamic world and among Hindu women in parts of India. It employs two major functions: first the sexual segregation of men and women which is followed by the covering up of a woman’s body and face. It becomes of itself a separate entity, that not only are they women, they are fabric and then women. Seeing as though it severely limits her interactions outside of the home in an all encompassing fashion (personal, social and economic), purdah requires women to stay indoors. It is not something that is strictly implemented, but how can a person navigate the social or geographic paths that are found when interacting in the public forum while constrained? However, there are disturbingly specific limitations and restrictions that are required to be abided by when leaving said home. For example, the veiled woman in question should be accompanied by mahram or a close male relative if it should take more than three days and nights. This includes the distance walking or on an animal and taking the usual pit stops. The Ulama or the authorities of shari‘a law, stipulate that this distance is approximately 48 miles. Who knows after that. Secondly and most obviously she should be covered and may or may not expose her eyes. Lastly, she should keep to her mahram and not associate or have any sort of contact with men who are unrelated to her. Even in the home or in public buildings, segregation exists to a point where there are separate chambers for men and women (Mardana and Zenana, respectively). A number of different devices are used in the attempt to separate the sexes, and they include screens, curtains and in certain instances even walls.

So ancient is the practice that the Greco Roman historian Plutarch, when referring to the wives of the rulers of Persia during the Achaemenid Empire, long before the advent of Islam, mentioned the practice of hiding women. This practice was not necessarily exclusive to the Persian. Greek and Byzantine women of the upper echelons of society were also kept for clandestine eyes. In fact, the whole notion of this seems to stem from a cultural practice rather than a religious one. Before Rezā Shāh’s ban of the purdah in Iran, it was consistently utilized. His reign was one of modernization and conflicts with clergy members which resulted in a backlash that eventually turned into the Islamic Republic of Iran, not before the Imperial State of Iran. This subsequently further fueled the need for a return to the practice of purdah which was a symbol of the traditions left behind in the tempest that was European rule. However, in Saudi Arabia, it is seen as purely cultural, yet in Afghanistan it is viewed as political, cultural and religious under the Taliban. In other regions, it is only observed during religious ceremonies. There does exist a difference between purdah and hijab. Hijab is indeed a religious tradition that is based on physical and psychological morality, while purdah does not conform to the religious teachings as people mostly associate it with. In effect, people who implement and force purdah are nothing more than evangelical Muslims who manipulate their own views and opinions onto the Quran.

Namus, which is literally translated as “virtue,” is a concept of ethics in West Asian patriarchal character. It is the foundation for the intensely gender-specific culture that has arisen in the familial relations of the societies in question. This is absolutely not something religious; it is purely cultural, and in fact predates Islam and the Judeo-Christian beliefs and is without support or mention in any religious text. This is something that is defined as a man and his family. The concept is strongly based on the ownership of the name which the man has given his wife and the children she bears to him. In essence he has a strong say in many aspects of the lives of the people who live in his house and when it comes to his wife, it could include even the most personal aspect of herself and her integrity; more often than not, it is a sexual matter. This possession severely disregards a woman’s worth in and out of the home. A woman’s worth is her ability to produce a family and her virginity before marriage is a very important factor which can determine her future. “Proof of Virginity” tests such as blood on the sheets are required in some cultures to prove an adequately successful wedding night. It is a culture of obedience, modesty, faithfulness and something called “appropriateness”. Violations of names often involve the practice of honor killings which can be supported by the most flippant of evidence. Forensic evidence takes a backseat to gossip and rumors which in turn promote the femicide of the section of the populace most vulnerable to accusation and ultimate punishment.

This all lends itself to the archaic prejudices of patriarchal societies. However, in lieu of a full ban by men and women who are not and cannot understand, perhaps something else should happen. These cultural practices are not something to be taken lightly and have been going on for ages, albeit interrupted at times. What needs to change is reaching out to women to help them them see the value of themselves beyond what their uterus can encompass, to see that the brain holds the best path to a fulfilling future and that the family can mean many things. The men must see that a person cannot be acquired and much less the functions that that body performs. The burqa ban is in many ways like the recent Arizona legislation against immigration. It isn’t the best thing to do, perhaps not even the correct thing to do, but it has got people talking. It’s begun the conversation that has so been delayed. We have bit the bullet and now can get past being uncomfortable for under all that fabric, those women in France, Syria and beyond don’t seem to be very comfortable at all, indeed.

Facing the Burka Part 1: France’s Attempt

Posted in Uncategorized by goprogressgo on August 30, 2010

It’s always been a struggle for an immigrant population to assimilate to its new found host country. Different cultures invite themselves to differences in cultural opinions, laws, religious practices and overall traditions that make a culture what it is. However, these differences also contribute to the mélange of cultural and national variety that exist in the more metropolitan areas of this earth. Since these conflicts exist, violence erupts and often on a very broad and random scale. Terrorism is the early century’s criminal buzzword. From overzealous airport security measures to the loss of rights under the Bush administration’s Patriot Act, the overall sense of helplessness that the North American world has been faced with against the “evil” of Islam fundamentalism invites an oft xenophobic approach when it comes to national security. In this country, Arabs of all religious backgrounds have been attacked, demonized or targeted for around nine years in an effort to weed out the bad seeds from the good ones. However, racial profiling is a very fickle and dangerous thing that a “secular” society could bring itself to do. It is almost akin to the Salem Witch Trials. Like that river test, Guantanamo Bay also served its purpose like a double-edged sword of proof. Either be dunked in a body of water (or detained and sent to a naval prison in Cuba) and if you float you must be a witch (terrorist) and if you sink, you die a good Christian death (or spend a ridiculous amount of time detained).

Many conservative minds wonder how else they could retain the safety that they had relished in before. In reality, the world is a fucked-up place whenever, and that tiny American Belle Epoque known as the 90s was not so Belle anywhere else. Conservatives, at least those of recent memory, always seem to ruin things in their quest for monetary dominance, and it more often than not comes crashing down, and then so-called liberals get in there and try to fix the mess only to be blamed for it or for not doing a steadfastly enough job.The basic need for a scapegoat is a characteristic that conservative minds across the globe exploit and use in order to manipulate the voting populace. This is not a modern invention. Humanity has always looked to point the finger of blame, and it has infamously been wrong. The rich and powerful prey on the poor and stupid, and they pray that they will have the same collective fear: the fear of change and that which is different.

France recently outlawed the use of the Burka in public places. This might be a call for assimilation or it might be xenophobia, but it is law. The fact that the French parliament under Nicolas Sarkozy, a product of immigrant parents himself, were so quick to support this bill is something that is telling of French society. In this bill’s quest to appropriate the secular, it has opened doors that extremely give invite to religious extremism and the verb that acts out because of it. The fact that the French sentiment is to think twice when it comes to these women bathed in fabric, should attest to what these social mores really come down to. That is, the humility of women, the security that comes with their supposed beauty and the collective “choice” that these women are faced to make against pressure from those men in their communities. Granted, you are no stranger to what “tradition” means. Hispanic or Latina women are forced to abide behind the culture of silencio, of passive gifts and opinions given to them by their male counterparts. In all actuality, society de habla hispana, are very much the same with the exception of the fact that they should be “protected” from the men that they share cultural and ethnic ties to shall, well, rape them is absurd. In fact, the whole notion of the covering of their faces became only prevalent during the fifties. These are archaic notions of what women mean to that particular society and what came about after the mass independence of that region from European rule. It brought upon the popular stance of defiance against imperialism. Taking that into account, it reveals more about the recent politics behind the burka than the religious connotations behind it. The argument could be made that the reason behind what to most, would seem to be an excessive practice is a direct affirmation to what made that culture what it was. It does not reflect what it is or what it could have been. What made up the current culture, was the daily struggle after Europe abandoned the shackles of their previously dominant and oppressive shadow. After that and once independence was made, they could then leave off where they left behind. However, what they left behind was something even more depressing.

France is not to blame; it is the fabric that wrinkles all over international society as a whole. One cannot argue that France is a tyrannical state because it is not. It is looking out for the best of its citizens and for that, I praise them. However, in their quest to open doors for all, regardless of genitalia, the employed tactics that shut that door on chauvinistic approaches also shut the door on the most vulnerable sectors of that citizenry–women.

Cloud 9: Taiwanese Snow Ice

Posted in Uncategorized by goprogressgo on August 30, 2010

Although it might be too light for some over stimulated palettes, xue-hua-bing or Taiwanese snow ice is a refreshingly clean and natural alternative to the usual dairy-heavy and processed treats we as Americans and in a broader sense the Western world are accustomed to. A trend for years now on the West Coast, snow ice tastes exactly how it sounds. The snack sized bowl goes for around $5 and it is nothing short of a more than generous heap of curvy rippled mountain top. For an extra 69¢ the finely shaven ice is complimented with your choice of drizzles and pieces of fruit and other Asian regulars (such as red beans) that give the treat authenticity interwoven with healthfulness.

Though most people might take offense to the extremely subtle sensibilities present in the flavor of this traditionally Asian confectionery, this extremely economic frozen treat parlor delights the aesthetic senses. From the colorfully domed lights, to the biodegradable cutlery, the place screams of youthful, pop-arty relevance.

I went with a friend around 8 p.m., taking advantage of their later hours. Not only were the staff helpful and excited, they were still awake. What really did it in for me was their incredible customer service. When living in the common decency desert, strange politeness seems like a refreshing lifesaver. Once I drank the life-giving drink of genuine consideration, I had the mango ice with a sweet condensed milk drizzle and pieces of kiwi. The whole thing was under $7 and for someone who doesn’t really have a sweet tooth, it was delicious.

The thing is, in the summer when you indulge yourself with two scoops of say strawberry ice cream in a waffle cone or dive into a Choco-Taco, it leaves some stomachs feeling queasy. For example, I tend to feel like there is sugar coating lining my stomach. For people who are lactose intolerant or can’t stand dairy in the heat this place is perfect. Also, people with combative digestion can benefit from not feeling like that heavy aching feeling. The cumulus texture of this whisper-like diminutive dessert will calm your stomach and your sweaty forehead, as the sun beats down at you from the unforgiving Chicagoan heavens.
Cloud 9

http://www.cloud9chicago.com
604 West Belmont Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 857-1255

Feet Fiesta and Flip Flop Funeral

Posted in Uncategorized by goprogressgo on August 30, 2010

Listen, summer is officially here and there are certain things that just get my goat. One of those goat-getters is sloppy footwear. Why in the hell are flip-flops deemed reasonable public fare? It’s absolutely disgusting. I don’t need to see your feet but more importantly, nobody else does either. It’s a testament to how lazy we have become as a society. We would rather walk around half barefoot than wear proper shoes. You wouldn’t go out without a shirt on, but if you do (and you know who you are), it’s time to put your clothes back on like an adult and stop sweating all over everything. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that, “oh, but it’s the summer, I’m entitled to some breathable footwear,” in that high, shrilling voice of yours. If that is the case, then stop reading now. If I am alienating some people, grow a pair. . . of shoes. You can’t live your life as if you’re wearing house clothes. Flip-flops are akin to slippers and, yes, there is such a thing as clothes you only wear in your house and clothes you wear outside of it. It’s a sad thing that we as Americans have such low discipline and self respect that we choose to let ourselves go (along with our posture, apparently). It’s just sick and I don’t like it. Now, you might be asking yourself, “Well genius, what the hell do you suppose I wear on my feet?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Now lose the ‘tude, turd and don’t become the flat foot of a joke.

Oxfords
Oxfords look and feel sleek and important. I have a pair of brown oxfordesque shoes that I got from Banana Republic around six years ago. I never wore them then because I didn’t like the way my feet looked in them but now I have definitely come around with the classic look of these shoes. They do the job of luxing up any extremely casual look. For men, try wearing them with some denim cut off shorts (the length is up to you, but for most men it‘s a little either above the knee or a little below), a white t-shirt and a black leather jacket. Beware of all white oxfords though, you don’t want to look like an imperialist. For women, try pairing your oxford kicks (brown, black, or two-toned) with a tank dress. Women might be able to get away with white ones a bit better than guys but, I would only recommend it to the truly daring.

Chelsea/Beetle Boots
I have literally gone through two pairs of Chelsea boots and I continue to fall in love with the look. In the same ankle bootie trend that has swept chic feet for about three years, I first got the idea from the Pedro Almodovar classic “La Flor de mi Secreto” (The Flower of my Secret). In the film, Leo, played by Marisa Paredes, seeks out her friend’s help to remove some Chelsea boots given to her by her husband because they pinch her feet (much like their marriage). The look would be for daring dudes: a pair of loose khakis, rolled up to expose black Chelsea boots or suede Beetle boots, a striped t-shirt, and vest. The shirt should be tucked in and belted by a pilgrim buckle. For go-get-em girls, a flowy floral shirt-dress in the ’90s tradition, and white socks paired with any kind of color boot. Beetle boots might require a little more deconstruction, perhaps a black or grey legging with a bustier and vest.

Platforms
Now, when I say platforms, I mean the quintessential chunky heeled shoe not the sky-high airplane platform kind of shoe of recent times. Wear them simply, in either black leather or brown suede. Here’s the kicker: I’m talking about the unisex participation in this anticipatory trend. Now, I know you might be calling my bluff, but in the ’70s men wore platform shoes and they looked expletively cool. Granted, we can leave the gold medallions and chest hair in the past, but we can keep the bell bottoms. For muchachos, I think a subtly flared pant paired with a short sleeve button down with an exaggerated collar and you’ll be positively fresh. For the ladies-who-funk, overalls that are cut off with a sleeveless undershirt underneath would complete a “sundae girl” look as sweet and cold as ice cream.

I understand certain people will think, “what about my sweating, aching feet?” To that I say: gross. Look, I know these shoes aren’t exactly what people think of when they think of sun, sand, and saliva but if you’re taking the effort to go out, at least dress the part. Keep your flip-flops and man-dals in a bag and save them for the beach. When it comes to sweating, there’s this miracle product called baby powder: use it, stupid. Also, aren’t ankle socks still in the picture? You wear them in the winter yet in the most plausible season they aren’t anywhere to be found. We are adults, it’s high time we start dressing the part.

Coming out of El Armario

Posted in Uncategorized by goprogressgo on August 30, 2010

What does it mean to be Latino/Hispanic? Strong pride, faith, and tradition above all else. But what happens when a significant group of us do not fit into that classic description? Well, what happens is strength, fear, submission, masquerade, fear, hate, misunderstanding. For a collective culture known for its forwardness and its defiance, there is a lack of acceptance for those who do not fit antiquated requirements. We live in a world where horizons have been opened, but the panoramic remains the same. The lack of support toward Latino LGBTQ invites itself to approach these oft unmentioned issues that are at the forefront of significant movements. This regular column will give a voice to those who have often been silenced. It will stress unity by inclusiveness and acceptance–not just by tolerance. We need as many voices as we can get, not only the LGBTQ but also the Latino/Hispanic. Perhaps, it isn’t that some Latino/Hispanics are homophobic; it might be that they are just not listening.

My own coming-out story began years ago. It was during the second year of my puberty (thanks to the hormone-induced chicken we were forced to eat), when two monumental things happened that would change the course of history for this country and for my life. 9/11 was for many a defining split between eras, that which was before and after that singular event. At school, it was picture day and in the horrified smiles of the eighth grade class, you could see the decibels of change grow ever louder, almost deafening with every minute that passed. In my black cardigan with my awkward and pale semi-smile, I could sense that I had had enough the charade. Now, that the world was surely ending, I felt something like an epiphany. Perhaps I should divulge my secret, I thought. After what we had just seen, we had grown up sufficiently. Looking up at the clear blue sky, I had a vision of the future and it was not pretty. The whole day culminated while hanging out in a friend’s basement with another girl friend. It was a simple thing that ignited the fire. The phone rang, and my friend’s voice suddenly went from stentorian to gentle. I wondered aloud why girls always seemed to soften their voice when they answered the phone. The three of us then realized that I, too, subscribe to that same syndrome. My friends then asked me if I was gay, and they reassured me that it wouldn’t change our eight-year friendship. I had always figured that they weren’t ready to know the truth since they couldn’t possibly understand and definitely didn’t want to. So I denied it, but I did so for the last time. I quickly retracted my statement and felt liberated. That moment was one of the best moments in my life, and I too can define it as the split of eras, before and after that singular and seminal event.

The following year I began high school as an out person. I felt different and special, and I enjoyed it when a boy in my advisory class was dared to ask me, in front of everyone, if I was gay. “Yes, I am,” I said and reveled in the shocked expressions that my audacity had caused. I became something of a novelty but also was singled out. I didn’t find true friends until I was about fifteen. I had found myself before I found my place, which I think is a universal characteristic of coming out at a young age. While I had lived for almost two years as an out teenager, I had yet to divulge it to my family. The year after I first came out in that basement, I had come out to my sister. At the time, we were yet to begin renovations in a new house we were in and had been forced to share a room for the first time in about ten years. She praised my decision and had her doubts laid to rest as she had wondered since we used to watch late-night Roseanne reruns. I had always been Darlene and she Becky, and the sheer nature of these comparisons definitely informed her opinion of me and frankly, to me too. Yet she knew I wouldn’t be a commodity or steer from my intellectual sensibilities in favor of empty top 40 hits and sexual gratification. It was my sophomore year, and my parents still didn’t know. It was when Roseanne began showing on Nick at Nite that I was called into my parents’ room. I was never one to engage in family time, instead favoring to read or write on my Xanga (remember those?). They asked, point blank, if I was gay. The episode they and my sister were watching was when David accidentally sleeps over at Darlene’s, and her parents don’t believe that they didn’t have sex. My parents often didn’t believe me when I told them I wasn’t gay. This time, for some reason, I felt I was ready and that they were ready. I braced myself and told the truth. After about two minutes of staring, my father calmly and with a bit of a chuckle remarked “I knew it,” then proceeded to change the channel to Spanish news. I was taken aback and speechless, and even though my mother remained a bit tense, it seemed not to bother her. Obviously this isn’t something most parents want for their child, much less their Mexican-American child, much less their son. But I’ve got to think that they knew it wasn’t something they did or something I chose–it was something I was. My parents figured that if I was happy and content and true to myself, they couldn’t ask for more. However, I remain unhappy and discontent, but that might just be the Darlene in me.

Street Fashion: Rumble in the Concrete Jungle

Posted in Uncategorized by goprogressgo on August 30, 2010

Gee whiz, am I tired.

Of what, you might ask? Well, it is more than simple. Thank your god that the ’00s (the zeroes, the naughts, whatever you had named that crap decade) ended and now, in the advent of this ultimate year of that decade, we can focus on the rest of and upcoming decade. During my formative teenage years, I realized something that shouldn’t surprise anyone with a pulse: fashion repeats itself every twenty years. In those years of my youth, I tried to emulate that which was the ’80s. Shoulder pads, belts around the waist, day glo; I did it all (and confidently claimed to be the first to do so). I even sported some preppy, Alex P. Keaton looks in the earliest of that decade.

I figured out the formula to stay chic in an ever evolving world. The secret is reference. At the root of every fad, there is always some older trend that is being referenced. This past decade brought us not only rehashed versions of the ’60s, ’70s, but also the most relevant fads of the ’80s (for this self deprecating hipster, at least). As this year comes to a characteristic rapid finish, there are certain distinctive memories that a child of the ’90s must respect. Like the fact that that decade had a name and also, how comfortable and sloppy it became.

But that shouldn’t mean I’ve given up on our youth culture’s taste, far from it. There were some gems that agreed with me (at least when it came to clothes) and I commend their forwardness. Looking ahead I feel something like a weight being lifted, a time to start anew. In the advent of this decade, I feel optimistic, I feel cleansed and I still feel that style is out there and alive, even after the horrific train wreck it suffered 2000-2009.

Instead of becoming one of those complaining, inactive critics who just judge and sit on their high horse, I will go out on the street to congratulate those who carry on the dominant fashion gene, and avoid those who have the recessive. This regular column will focus on substance over vacancy and the battle against the bulge. No longer shall I just lean back and judge, no! I shall move forward and explain myself to you, relive the moments of glory and analyze those of shame. I’d like to start off with the trend of this eleventh hour. It’s hippie meets soap, an introduction to urban hiking gear. A look I like to call environmentalist.

It’s just that the environmentalist look sums up this moment quite accurately. Style isn’t just about looking good. So much of it is the appropriate attire to cover yourself from the elements. Last summer, Chicago had a mostly wet, cold summer but there were pockets of brilliance and heat. Those moments of sunshine sent people in a mad fury, flocking outside as if they had been held hostage by the elements. When I say “environmentalist”, I mean early ’90s pre-grunge, granola bar commercial sort of rugged elegance. There is a lot to be said about denim shorts and anoraks. We could take it one step further and add to the boxy silhouette with a hockey jersey (a timely and appropriate piece to own right now). Another unisex closet staple is a pair of chunky boots. Whether they be hiking or Chelsea, they really add to the out-of-my-way vibe one should feel while cutting into stalks of high grass or pushing through loads of sidewalk hogging people. The heaviness of the boots should contrast with the billowiness of your top. This look is actually practical and specific to our climatic needs as Midwestern summers tend to disappoint (whether it be British summer or a valley on Mars). To conclude, dress like your hitting the prairie in 1991 and remember: the looser the better when it comes to silhouettes.

Now comes the fun part. A photographer and I will be in the Logan Square area, Saturday afternoon, from 12-3 pm, looking for those of us with not only one fashion sense but the full five. I’m looking for those individuals who possess that poise or confidence or understanding that covers the scope of that which is most important of all: expression. Show us your mid-spring duds on Saturday, we’ll be by the Logan Square blue line stop and we’ll be blue if we can’t find en vogue, en masse.

Brazil Fashion isn’t Just Biknis

Posted in Uncategorized by goprogressgo on August 30, 2010

Brazilian fashion isn’t just bikinis and speedos. The world of fashion has stepped off the runways of New York, Milan, Paris and London. As with everything else in this world, fashion has globalized itself to fit the ever wrinkling fabric of society. One of those countries enjoying a well deserved respect from this oft moody community is Brazil.

For one, the face (and body) of fashion and beauty at the moment is none other than Giselle Bündchen. Having been discovered at a mall at the tender age of 14, she didn’t immediately take the world by storm. Now, some fifteen years later, she’s one of the most recognizable faces in the world and according to Forbe’s in 2007, was named sixteenth out of the twenty richest women on the planet. Not only did Giselle change the face of fashion, she also changed the identity. Since her arrival, there has been a wave of models of Brazilian descent: Raquel Zimmerman, Ana Hickman, Adriana Lima, Isabeli Fontana, I mean, gee whiz, I really could go on.

Brazil’s impact on current fashion trends doesn’t stop at models. There are evermore fantastic designers who not only make a splash in this hemisphere but in all others. Here are three that truly have stood the test of time and will continue to do so.

Alexandre Herchcovitch
Perhaps the most exciting and innovative Brazilian designer of recent times, Alexandre Herchcovitch is not afraid to push the limit. Within his whimsically biased and terrifyingly complicated hemlines, attention grabbing silhouettes, and eccentric accessories, you can find a lot of down-to-earth qualities. Herchcovitch made a name for himself in the mid ’90s using a trademark skull that became something of a badge to be worn by stylish juventude. In the years that followed, his fame mounted as he rose to iconic status. His interest in fashion began with his mother Regina who exposed him to the basics of modeling and sewing at his prepubescent request. Herchcovitch has made it something of a mission to deconstruct, a verb that always set apart the designers from the inventors. In my opinion, he not only is Brazil’s answer to a John Galliano or Alexander Mcqueen †, but in the same fashion boat as these like-minded couturiers. His high flying imagination exceeds the normal realm of boring, cookie cutter styles and he transforms ready-to-wear into ready-to-swoon. When it comes to modern classics, Herchcovitch has and will become the destroyer of the bland.

Rosa Chá
Obviously when you talk of Brazilian fashion, it would just be a crime not to mention swimwear. Even more of a crime would be not to mention Rosa Chá, Brazil’s foremost swimwear line. Fronted by Amir Slama, Brazilian born of Romanian and Iraqi Jewish descent (Iraqi Jews are more common then you think. I mean: Charles Saatchi?), the beachwear line is one of the freshest and coolest of the two-a-penny bathing suit set. Slama, who on his own began Rosa Chá after a brief stint as a history professor was the recipient of Brazil’s Best Designer of the Year award in 2002 and has been editorialized in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, W Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Cosmopolitan. He became friends with Naomi Campbell when she visited his São Paulo flagship store and she has since walked down the runway for many of his collections. His eye for shape and contrast has been celebrated by many. He can meet sexy and comfortable all in one because he knows that it’s the wo/man that makes the clothes (and it does help if the woman’s boobs are hanging out).

Carlos Tufvesson
Carlos Tufvesson is not only a renowned fashion designer but he is also a well know gay rights activists taking up the causes of HIV/AIDS and equality of marriage. Philanthropy aside, the clothes he makes are meant to be swayed about in the throws of passionate dancing, meant to be sweat on during warm and balmy nights in downtown Rio or on a balcony in São Paulo. Tufvesson brings new meaning to the phrase “cocktail dress”. No longer is it a stuffy, mean spirited sort of frock, but one that takes fashion as an expression of life, fun, and has a sense of humor. If there were a candidate to design a Brazilian national costume, Tufvesson would be way up there on that list. His use of color is mesmerizing. It isn’t pretentious or distracting as many others tend to create. It’s a vibrancy, a buoyancy and a seduction that typifies the Brazilian attitudes. And in the lunacy of his recent ripped stockings and big, curly hair collections, it seems to be the truest and most accessible look of the three.