Men’s Cologne

DREAMLIFE: A collection of women’s dreams, recorded and then translated here as part of the Female Background metabolism. A way in, a way out.

I was married to some man who was, I don’t know, powerful in some way and we were having a romantic dinner outside somewhere and all of a sudden   a big , like stretch-limo type of car drove up with this whole militia force, it was an African militia force all African men and the leader came out and my husband handed me over to him as some kind of payment or bribe or something like that and this man was carrying me and I was trying to figure out whether I should to escape or whether I should try to make myself friendly to him so he wouldn’t hurt me, umm, and he was kind of talking about how finally, like, how I was his, stuff like that. I did finally manage to escape and snuck into, umm, a house, and in that house there were two kids who had been kind of left behind by their parents in some way. And I crawled into the bed and there was a little boy, a young boy, I don’t know probably 3 or 4 years old, in the bed, and I told him to be quiet because people were looking for him and we needed to hide, but he didn’t stay very long, he got out of the bed because he had to go to the bathroom; he was peeing his pants.

Non-Concordance

DREAMLIFE: A collection of women’s dreams, recorded and then translated here as part of the Female Background metabolism. A way in, a way out.

 

A group of us were finishing our theses. We were supposed to deliver a talk in front of an audience. It was to be in a school gym and the audience would sit on the bleachers. We were going to talk about black-lives-matter and the #metoo movement. I was running late. I was running around doing errands and I was late. But my colleagues did a good job of covering for me. They talked and stalled and then I arrived and was able to give my presentation. I did not remember what I said. I kind of blacked out while I was speaking, but the presentation was recorded. I was so embarrassed by my lateness, but everyone said I did a good job. I was asking my advisors how I did and they said I’d done well. We watched the footage and I could see myself speaking. I was embarrassed because I knew I had procrastinated. I knew I wasn’t well prepared. We were all sitting down trying to watch it.

I was in my house, you know, it was a multi-unit rental and my neighbors weren’t paying their rent and I was having some leaking problems with the roof and I had this guy Lenny who helps me with the house and he came over and we were looking at this barn section of the house and I found parts of the house I had never seen before. I often find parts. These barn sections of the house. In my own house there are spaces I haven’t seen before. In looking for these problems, there were really old sections of the barn I’d never seen. Then Lenny and I went outside and I thought we were having a normal conversation and then he gets closer to me and says “I wonder how this would feel” and he leans in to kiss me and I wonder do I actually want this do I actually want to say yes to this do I just kiss him and not say yes?

I was feeling arousal but my mind was saying this is not a good idea. And I knew from science that happens. So that’s a real experience. We have genital non-concordance that our genitals might react to something but our minds might not be into what’s happening. And then some of my tenants that were renting from me came down in these big trucks and were going off-roading and we hopped in the trucks with them. And umm, like he was inviting me on a date, Lenny. He was excited to be hanging out with me in a dating kind of way.

We were driving along and eventually we were driving through this kind of interior hallway space with these big trucks with these kind of Maine, kind of red-neck types, hick-type folks who seemed nice but kind of an odd group of people and we were driving through this hallway and we came across this really feminine woman who’s dressed in high-heel white go-go boots but also had bondage, and a white mini-dress, but bondage gear, like a leather type of vest thing and a collar and leash with a fake pink gun and she was looking into a security camera, like her dom, her dom is watching her through this camera. She seems fine but like her dom has told her to hold this gun to her head. And we keep driving along

When Did My Style Become My Identity?

An Interview with Maura and Abigail of the Rational Dress Society

Maura Brewer and Abigail Glaum-Lathbury, of the Rational Dress Society, were in New York City for a workshop at MOMA at the same time I was writing a post for a popular women’s lifestyle blog. When I wrote topically and in the blog’s signature style everything seemed to walk a line between Christopher-Guest-styled parody and political critique of the very elements for which I was purporting enthusiasm.  After all, I chose to speak with these two artists, who have for years worn little else but their ungendered monogarment, for a decidedly cynicism-free, what-does-she-wear-in-a-week column.

It’s of course not that the perspective of these women is irrelevant, the opposite in fact. However, their perspective is self-conscious of the lifestyle blogs’ implicit principle that identity resides awfully close, or at the very least, is expressed by the ever-elusive personal style:  . . .my clothes weren’t a distraction or a shield, but a mirror instead — a mirror held up to reflect me, just as I am.   In another iteration: I love being the colors girl. Sometimes the correspondence between identity and commodification is made explicit: “. . . people start to develop personal brands – and brands try to become more human.Albeit this certain genre of women’s lifestyle blog has a liberal, enlightened, and self-determined affect: When I find clothes that fit well, I feel more comfortable and confident . . . when someone looks at me now, I know they’re seeing the version of me I chose. Not the only version I had access to. They duly take stock of the environment, sustainable manufacturing, avant-garde design, small business ownership, support-local, and support-women. Often items are thrifted, or a mix of high and low (which usually feels to me like a nod to a barely-latent class issue.) Finally, they don’t forget to keep at least one eye on all of the gazes (call me Man Repeller!)  They deftly keep their blog-heads above intersectional waters, while still garnering tangible support from sponsors.

They are not wrong. I, too, believe critical enthusiasm for self-styling has implications for identity and one’s psychic life. As one who has not fully given herself over to the monogarment (although I highly endorse it), I know (thank you Stacy London and Clinton Kelly) that what I wear reflects something to someone no matter how I might protest or repress. In a market driven culture not-choosing and choosing are not only effectively the same, but bear a startlingly similar relationship to our awareness of that choice.  (Just think of the billions of dollars in marketing aimed at making those choices for you, while chanting “freedom” in its various forms: free market! free will! Don’t read it here, instead become a comrade in Rational Dress.)

If the dichotomy is false between mind and body then surely, by extension, it is also false between mind, body, clothes, and everything. Why else does a haircut or parting ways with an item of clothing have the capacity for causing pain like a phantom limb?

Believing that costuming oneself for daily life, as it were, is a worthy task, or at the least, an unavoidable one, it’s therefore deserving of our full political engagement and even our informed consent. I follow these lifestyle blogs for their thoughtful musings on the subject. After submitting my application, I left the interview with Maura and Abigail parked in google drive.  Until this week when I read two articles on Man Repeller about finding identity through clothes. (There is a murky ontological area in respect to whether identity sits waiting to be discovered through our material choices or something to be created by them – but that point seems less of a concern so long as identity is won in time for cocktail hour.) The quest for distinction, for getting to wear something that expresses how you feel as a person” allowing that you “never look exactly like someone elsestarts to chafe.  One thought in particular from Maura on choosing clothing everyday has since become the gadfly’s voice: “I wasn’t getting a huge amount of creative satisfaction out of picking out my outfits every single day because I have other stuff that I do.” It gives me pause to consider my life as a style. The world of “other stuff that I do” suddenly expands as it passes through the finite and myopic threshold of individuation.  

I offer their interview here:

A Week of Outfits: Maura and Abigail

Designer Abigail Glaum-Lathbury and artist Maura Brewer

Designer Abigail Glaum-Lathbury and artist Maura Brewer happened to be in town leading a workshop at MoMA as I was compiling writing samples to send to a women’s lifestyle blog. As I re-read posts from my favorite “A Week of Outfits” series, I became curious about interviewing them. After all, who better to ask about outfits than these Rational Dress Society collaborators who not only co-founded Jumpsuit, but who have worn the “ungendered, multi-use monogarment” every day for the past three years. They’ve gotten plenty of press on the critical, humorous, and political nature of their activism. Their timely  “Make America Rational Again” campaign collects gently used and “emphatically discarded” Ivanka Trump-branded garments in order to transform them into jumpsuits sold to support fair labor practices in the United States. However, I wanted to find out what it actually feels like to wear the same outfit every day. What happens to the self-revelation and identity forged in a woman’s closet? Maura and Abigail joined artist Cameron Crawford (a comrade in rational dress and jumpsuit wearing) and I for lunch on a bomb-cyclone-cold day to talk about rejecting choice.

             Maura and Abigail

MB: It’s great. I love wearing a jumpsuit everyday. It’s super easy. I don’t think about what I’m wearing. But I think we’re also creative professionally and so I wasn’t getting a huge amount of creative satisfaction out of picking out my outfits every single day because I have other stuff that I do. You know that thing where you wake up and you feel like none of your clothes fit? And whatever hole there is you’re trying to fill, it’s still empty. You try on like seven things before you go out? That hasn’t happened to me in three years. It’s a big relief.

AG-L: I thought I would miss it. Miss clothes. Because I’m a fashion designer! I love clothes. I just love clothes. You know? It’s not about not loving clothes.

MB: Yeah. That’s exactly right. It’s just you don’t have to consider it everyday.

 

Getting married in white Jumpsuits

 

AG-L: The only time I had anxiety about wearing a jumpsuit was when there was a couple we know that was getting married in jumpsuits and I thought, what do I wear to the wedding? I wore a polka dot jumpsuit! I wouldn’t have thought about it if it weren’t a wedding. Now I sort of think, how beautiful? In another 13 years if Dave and I ever decide to get married, (26 is going to be our number), I mean how beautiful would it be if there were an entire room full of people wearing the same jumpsuit? That’s lovely. That’s beautiful. I like that idea.

MB: I hate doing laundry. I really hate doing laundry. I have a bunch of jumpsuits. But it’s just one garment. I mean how many t-shirts and jeans do you go through in a week? You can just hang them and shake them (she says stinking!) You don’t really have to wash them that much. The people I know that wear jumpsuits everyday, I think they have three or four.

 

Abigail with student at the Jil Sander Showroom, Chicago

MB: There’s less anxiety. As an artist, a lot of times, what you’re going to wear to an opening or to a dinner is a difficult question because you don’t have any money and so many people do. And so it eliminates that problem totally.

AG-L: The jumpsuit is a chameleon. The current one is really basic. It’s very intentional that it walks a line between casual and formal. It’s supposed to not be flashy. I can teach in it and then go to an opening. People don’t really respond unless they already know what it is. A bunch of my colleagues have them and my students will come bursting into the classroom saying so-and-so is wearing your jumpsuit and they’re so excited!

MB: Sometimes people come up to us and ask if it’s a “Jumpsuit” jumpsuit. Generally people are really nice. It’s lovely. People are really sweet.

AG-L: Social interactions are typically so awkward and if I’m introduced as Abigail-who-makes-jumpsuits and I’m a wearing one, it’s almost rehearsed, it’s an easy thing. There’s something nice and easy about it. It actually puts everybody at ease. People are very positive. Dave gets more compliments when he wears his than I do. But I get compliments, too.

 

Maura with two members of the Rational Dress Society

CC: I get negative comments. There’s the person who said: “What is he wearing that for, he’s never worked a day in his life.”

AG-L: Wow.

MB: Really?

CC: Because they think I’m wearing coveralls, but like I don’t work hard enough to wear coveralls, or I’m wearing them with dress shoes or something like that.

MB: In what context?

CC: On the street.

AG-L: I feel like men’s fashion is way less permissive. I feel like you guys police each other more.

Maura reading from Ivanka Trump’s Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success

AG-L: I would have thought I’d get into really accessories. Jewelry, brooches. I like to get my glasses from Lab Rabbit Optical in Chicago, and Fabulous Fanny’s or Surreal Optical in New York. I have two pairs that are in regular rotation. We both have a deep love for Fabulous Fanny’s.

MB: I got my glasses at Society of the Spectacle in Los Angeles.

AG-L: Neither of us really wears lipstick on a regular basis, but we do have matching tubes of this stuff in bright orange. We both thought we were going to get more into accessories than we have.

MB: It’s the opposite. Yeah. Don’t care. We do spend a lot of time talking to each other about haircuts, though.

AG-L: We do. We do.

CC: I remember that day we went to five stores to find the right black bucket hat for you.

MB: That’s right. That was a good day. I still have that hat. That’s a good hat. But you have to go to five stores. You’re not just grabbing anything. It becomes more important.

AG-L: Sweaters are the thing I have to think about. Because the jumpsuit has a structured sleeve so it has to fit over the sleeve.

MB: We love nice looking things; we’re artists. I’m a totally acquisitive materialistic person. It’s not about pretending that doesn’t exist. It’s just about eliminating a major element of it and it feels more manageable. It’s also way cheaper.

AG-L: It’s incredible actually. You save a lot of money. Especially in my line of work! In my line of work the clothes aren’t just clothes; they’re expensive clothes and I don’t have that.

 

The official Rational Dress Society patterns for JUMPSUIT are currently being digitized and will be available to download as an open source document in the coming months.

MB: Women’s garments aren’t made to fit them. Almost ever. Abigail did all of this work. She’s really super talented. So much mastery and technical facility. She looked at real sizing data, from the government, from NASA, from uniform companies, anthropometric studies. If you look at people’s body measurements it doesn’t make sense to have male/female measurements.

 

                 

Comrades in the Rational Dress Society

AG-L: The way the patterns work it’s a ratio between your chest, waist, and hips. Jumpsuit embraces the physiological differences between bodies, tall and short, round and narrow. The  patterns fit the individual while still maintaining visual uniformity. It’s just practical for having a garment that fits you. It’s a truly well-fitting garment, customized to the individual form. It’s really available to all, regardless of body type. So the first jumpsuit I made, the crotch was too low, and I made it shorter and thought it was beautiful; then I went to get on a bicycle, and so it turned out it was just a beautiful “stand” suit.

 

Photos courtesy of the artists.

P.S. (What is the difference between rejecting choice and having no choice?)

 

There was a war.

DREAMLIFE: A collection of women’s dreams, recorded and then translated here as part of the Female Background metabolism. A way in, a way out.

 

I had some things to do before I could let it overcome me, stop me with its indifferent, tidal forces, rhythms of carnival activity, parades and acrobatics. I had so much to carry and I noticed others were in groups and sometimes had carts or sleds to help with their loads, but I struggled, making multiple trips, and also hiding. They would kill me, the war was advanced enough for that.

An older woman dressed in many layers, her lips bright red and eyes lined darkly, offered to paint my face, with “just the right highlight on the cheekbones”. This was her job and she was quite skilled, the best in fact. I thought it was about time to stop imagining that beauty might be different from craft, or to consider that honesty does not bear relation to fact or truth as we commonly suppose. The body has no natural state. The face has no natural state. And so I accepted her offer.

I found an old cart, I thought I might use this cart, like the others did, to escape the city more expeditiously. It was neglected, rusty, and one wheel looked askew. I had seen a woman using a sled, under her own power, and wanted this cart to be similar, but it was intended for oxen. I imagined that I could pull or push it just the same, even if it was not ideal. The large warehouse required some disguise if I were to enter. It was heavily attended by soldiers, a maze of rooms and floors, leaking. I abandoned that approach. I found a road out, out through a manicured lawn where people lounged as if collegiate. A woman I knew from years ago came smiling towards the lawn, her once-distinctively long hair, now short. She wore a colored leotard. She was an acrobat in the circus. This was a powerful position. Perhaps that’s why she headed in so freely. More people were coming in as I was leaving, so many people. A brigade of women holding signs, signs having to do with women – white with black hand-written letters. They were wearing orange leotards, orange hair, and with silver batons. They were in formation, quite choreographed. Leading the array were old acquaintances; they had maintained their friendships through these years, the same two that shared the ocean front condominium and swam in the rip tide, and now they were en pointe with colorful ribbons and high-kicks, moving quickly, smiling, towards war. I hurried past, disguised, recognizing old friends among the faces in the eager crowd.

I continued down the long dirt road. It was lined with grand marble government buildings each with tall columns and surrounded by green lawn. Gradually, this population of advancing people and the white buildings gave way to open fields and finally, to a still lake surrounded by trees. I began to feel relief. I saw the flocks of birds at the far end of the lake and they flew, in formation, in escalating manifestations. They began softly black, fluttering flocks in the distance, but then began to take on silvery and mechanized attributes, like sharply folded paper airplanes. Until they turned and with increasing aggression flew like arrows towards my place on the shore; I dropped to the ground and lay flat. I tried to run between the onslaughts, but that time shortened to nothing and I would have to crawl away.

He lived in the house my grandfather built.

When it was my grandmother’s house, I told him as we sat at the kitchen table in the half-lit morning, she used to keep blueberry muffins in the freezer. The refrigerator was black, she always liked to keep a black refrigerator and the freezer was at the bottom; the muffins tasted like cake. Now the refrigerator was also black but had the look of shiny and dark wooden planks. I doubt it is a coincidence that this good friend now lives in my grandmother’s house, but on the other hand, no one could have made it happen that way.

Perhaps because there were no muffins I decided to go to Wal Mart. There were people filling the parking lot under tents, as if there were a fair or festival of some sort. I realized that many were protesting and many were defending the store. I wondered how committed they were to defense; they were mostly the elderly and wearing red smocks over their elasticized jeans. They were angry at the thought that their jobs might be threatened by these protests, creating a barely suppressed violent tension. I considered the ease and pleasure even, of physically harming these defenders and simultaneously the rhetorical futility and political banality.

I found her in one tent; I realized it was the tent passing out the pamphlets, inciting revolution. One woman had long, grey-ish hair; she was smiling and calm. She seemed kind, her kindness bearing no direct relation to the moment, in the way of kindness.

He wrote his name on a scrap of paper.

I thought maybe he would help me find my way around this desolate part of Nebraska. Or wherever it was. His hair was wispy and blond and maybe thinning, although he wasn’t old. He wrote “Andrew Closer” but the last name kept disappearing as he wrote it, or rather, transforming. It transformed into icons and I was afraid I would not be able to remember if the letters did not stay intact, but also found it remarkable that his name was Andrew, the same name as a friend of mine, and also was his last name “closer” as in, someone who ends something or was it instead a spatial relationship, was is someone near, or more near.  I knew that I probably wouldn’t see him again despite the fact that he’d helped us get away even at his own risk.  I think he boss owned an autobody shop of some sort, something seedy with dusty venetian blinds and flat carpeting. We were in the offices at night and gathering ourselves for the next part, although I don’t know what was next but this seemed to help us prepare none-the-less. It was done at night and in the dark and quietly to evade notice and Nebraska seemed flat and white and dusty and plantless.

It was some relief to end up in the other house in Washington state because of the foliage, even though the house itself was most likely rotting from moisture and the family had five children all traversing the flights of stairs to the small rooms on the different levels all nestled in the trees like a haunted story book and I was uneasy, but the trees were better than flat white space and at least gave the impression that there was more to it all perhaps because you couldn’t just see it all laid bare in front of you and there were corners around which you might at least hold out hope for something else and mystery is important even if it is horrible. Maybe this family lived in a tree house, but I suspect the house was older than they even suspected and also that they’d not been in all the rooms. I tried to follow all of the staircases and look at the different wallpapers.

I drove the white van into the white compact Honda in the bright sunlight as if I were dreaming, or had known all of this before.

You were with me in the passenger seat and I knew, as you did, that you were impervious to automobile accidents, perhaps because you were already dead, but so was I, I just didn’t know it yet. We were breaking up, which felt more difficult than dying. I felt as though I were trying to convince you to stay close by until I actually died, it would be soon.

The streets were so beautiful that day, sunny and treelined with red bricks and houses nestled together. They had been there for a long time and one could tell because the landscaping was lush and mature. Perhaps there was something about the proportions and the scale of houses to houses and houses to streets and pathways that suggested it had not been built for automobiles, although there was no particular problem accommodating them now.  There is something about the sun in my eyes that changes the state of things, from waking to sleep or from life to death.

The officers came to pull me out of the car. I felt as though I would be fine to walk, although my legs felt weak and I knew that even if I could walk it did not signify living or dying. You were already out of the car, organizing things. The white Honda that had driven towards and into the front of my white van was apparently driven by someone who was already dead. The officer said there was a dead man in the car, but that he had already died before the accident, implying perhaps that his being dead was the cause of the accident.

I heard many birds, the way I like to, and I waited for what came next.