No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Etsy's Awesome

So, I've been quite focused on dressing with androgny for the last couple of years.

News flash (insert flashing red letters here): I have boobs, and hips, and bootay too, so it barely works on me.

Still, I've liked, and still do, wearing clothes that are literally from a menswear collection, and that have that more vertical line that mens clothes tend to offer, in comparison to the tendency seen in a lot of women's clothes to include things like FRILL! LACE! oh my god FLORAL PRINT! oh oh cute cute PINK! etc.

It turns out though I also like the effect of vintage nipped-at-the-waist women's clothes, and I seem to be turning back towards incorporating such an aesthetic in how I dress.

Thinking on how I could appreciate both "looks" it occurs to me that dressing wholeheartedly with either offers a kind of not-among-the-rest-of-us effect that I might be reaching for. I happen to be a person that wants a bit of buffering between me and people that might too-readily want to "pick me up" or "become my best friend." It isn't that I want to avoid something like "dates" or having close friends. It's just that I don't want any of that sort of thing to happen too easily or too often either. I think relations (of whatever sort) with others are something to be slowed down with and appreciated, so there is a sense in which I don't want to come off as too available, even if I also want the openness to make contact with people.

What does any of that have to do with me starting by talking about clothing aesthetics? Well, quite simply, I think that the clothing we wear reflects these kinds of attitudes.

How we dress, I believe, reflects a combination and varied-mix of the following things: (a) how we're feeling, (b) how we want to feel, (c) what we take for granted in terms of social interactions (clothing is a way of playing on and reflecting social norms, after all), (d) where we come from (see the social norms bit again), (e) how we want to imagine ourselves, and (f) sometimes (though I think less often then people often assume) how we want others to take us. So, whether we're thinking about how we dress or not, we're communicating all kinds of things to others by how we dress.

For that matter, I think this kind of social-norm-aesthetic-complexity plays out not just in how we dress, but also in how we put together the space we live within. So that how we decorate, arrange, or take care of our home ends up being a way of affecting how we feel, what we imagine for ourselves, what we take for granted, and what we want others to see in us too.

The point of any of this though is actually to bring up something else entirely. Except, not something else entirely because the reason I bring it up is that this something else ends up being an awesome way to explore this expressive-feeling-norm-driven-imaginative-comfort-driven self too.

Okay, here it is: I love exploring

There I said it. Phew! It's an enormous wealth of a website for everything ranging from bath treats, to jewelry, to clothing, to art prints, mostly handmade, and some vintage, and some found objects too. With that in mind, it's a great resource for re-imagining yourself either in how you dress, or how you dress your home (or your bicycle or automobile even, for that matter).

You'll notice too I've got an etsy widget in my blog sidebar. To be clear: this isn't any kind of profit driven thing. I don't have a connection to any of the shops or shop items I happen to post in that widget. I just think etsy is a really great way for people that like crafting things to be able to sell those crafts to the rest of us. So, I added the etsy widget as a way to remind the rest of us to check it out.

For those of you that don't know: etsy is a huge site that primarily includes the opportunity for most anyone to open up an online retail shop selling handmade goods and vintage items. The site, however, also includes discussion forums where people can talk through anything from diy projects, to sales tips, to supply needs. There is also a blog feature, and a featured shops feature both of which showcase etsy happenings. It's quite an online community really, and a lot of fun to look through.

Here's just a few things on etsy that I've come upon and enjoyed recently. Let me know what kinds of things you enjoy finding on etsy, and especially let me know if you end up investigating these three shops, or buying something from them.

1. Mountain Bike Tire Belt

from julienjaborska $30

Um, ohmygod, hi! I love the texture and very clear 3-dimensionality of a belt like this. Not to mention it's a found object, homemade, bad-ass combination. I'm curious about how wearing rubber of this sort might mark ones clothing, but otherwise I'm all for this, and am considering getting it. Julienjaborska's shop includes belts made out of other, less-nubby tires too, and some household goods, like coasters, all made out of bicycle parts. Awesome.

A belt like this says, "Look, man. I've got ingenuity, ruggedness, am surprising, and down to earth, all at the same time. You can see by how I dress that if while out biking my pants explode, I'm ready to sacrifice my transportation to cover my ass, so to speak. But, if we're out walking around and your bike tire falls off, I'm also wearing backup. Dig on."

2. Reclaimed Oak Bath Caddy

from PegandAwl $100

Growing up I was completely into taking baths. It always frustrated me though that I wanted to take my whole world of stuffed animal, book, journal, juice drink, etc to the bath with me and there was no good way to keep all those things from just ending up floating (or sinking) into the water destroyed. At some point I figured out that the plastic and metal t.v. dinner tray we owned could be suspended over the tub to offer a kind of half-bath caddy. The legs side of the dinner tray left a huge gapping hole, but the tray side did succeed at holding some of my things above the water.

This oak bath caddy seems to me a better, and quite appealing option. Not to mention that it immediately sets you up to remember how frickin' romantic and rejuvenating a little time in the water with your own sweet self can be. Nothing like oak suspended over the water to make you feel all loving with yourself and a good book. The bath caddy is a nice way to transform your bathroom into a world of potential. Heck. You can scribe a full novel by keeping paper and a pen out of the water on this thing. You'll have to sacrifice yourself to prune shaped skin to do it. But, thanks to the oak, it could be done. PegandAwl's shop also offers other handmade household goods. Check them out.

3. Half-and-half Leather Look Leggings

from BabooshkaBoutique $65

Months and months ago I started this blog with the statement, "I've developed a problem with rubber." Then more recently I confessed to saying I have a problem with leather too. It turns out I like dark, tight, matte-with-a-touch-of-sheen accoutrement. The problem I'd developed with rubber included buying a pair of thigh-high rubber stockings that, truth be told, I still have yet to wear, though I think they're fabulous. I just refuse to fall into the obviousness that something like a "rubber stocking" would hold, and finding a way to work against types readily offered up by clothing (that whole clothing reflects social norms thing) can be a challenge, even when it's the kind of thing we think about much of the time.

To explain, I also like wearing leather pants, and in fact own three pairs (go ahead and insert, "dear lord, why do you need THREE?" here. Some other time I'll explain exactly why a person would 'need' three pairs. Because, dang it, a person would!). But the thing about wearing leather pants is you've gotta find a way to wear them that that isn't just screaming all the things we could associate with leather pants. That is, put them on and put together an outfit such that you don't immediately just call up any of the following: (1) biker, (2) slut.

So, the problem with rubber leggings is that it's pretty hard to figure out how to wear them without your outfit quickly going to the obvious implications of: (1) weird, (2) fetish, (3) slut. I'm all for some slight implications of the obvious being present. The challenge is in insuring your outfit isn't taken simply and only to reflect the obvious.

So, to get back to the point: I really like these leggings. They're odd, and cool at the same time. You'll have to put some thought into how to wear them, but not too much thought. And if we're going to talk about the implications they call up, that you'd have to find ways to work with and work against, both, the following: these leggings make it look like you're a living doll with a very slight fetish attraction, whose legs have been dipped into the same stuff plier handles are dipped in. How often do any of get to make a clothing claim like that?


  1. Love this post Elaine!

    Probably because of the season of life I am in, I do not get to enjoy clothes like this at all, or explore the nuances and layers (literally and figuratively) they add to our lives. Even in my chosen profession (sign language interpreting), it's "dark solids and nothing distracting at all please", not even my wedding ring! That will never change, and my wardrobe is evidence of this!

    I used to get only one outlet, and that was watching my kids choose their clothing; often Jacob goes out in his worked up tunic w/ a sword, which awards him many compliments from sweet old ladies, and Audge...she can work up an outfit I tell you, and she LOVES the way she looks/feels in her layers, patterns and daddy's pageboy hat! It makes me smile.

    And now I get to enjoy your posts and pictures and insight. It's amazing what one can communicate to others when they simply care about how they look and how it represents them, and not in a narcissistic way, but in the same way we cook someone a great meal, write poetry or decorate the world around us.

    I think you should link this post in an etsy forum. It's a wonderful tribute to a great community!!

  2. I appreciate your description of how the ways we dress communicate all sorts of things about who we are an who we want to be. The way I'm dressed today is screaming, "I had too much champagne last night". A non-fashion moment, of sorts.