Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Transitioning to Summer

With my "change of heart" toward winter a few years ago (see previous post), I found my love for the summer months fading away. I attributed this to the rising levels of street harassment I found myself having to navigate after moving to New York City, but I know this happens everywhere and the bottom line is that street harassers need to CHANGE THEIR WAYS.

From a clothing/footwear perspective, I've found it challenging to find comfortable footwear that can withstand miles of city pavement. I also grew tired of ironing cotton shirts and dresses, but the summer heat makes it tough to wear anything other than light fabrics.

This summer, I'm determined to be prepared. I've invested in comfortable Mary Janes, pencil skirts, and queerly cut t-shirts that are all iron-free. This style is surprisingly versatile; accessories can dress it up when desired. But the best part of this look is that these items are easy to find within a range of budgets.

I'm heading into the soupy summer months feeling positive. I'll be comfy in my smart shoes and soft tees. And this will free up some energy to tell the street harassers exactly what I think of their shitty remarks!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Warming Up to Winter

I've had such a delightful change of heart toward the colder seasons because of tall, flat, lace-up boots. One thing I managed to forget about in the past few years of mild winters is how crucial it is to stay warm and dry in the snow.

Now comes the hunt for a pair of affordable, flat-soled, waterproof, warmly lined, lace-up boots that can be worn with skirts and dresses and don't look bulky or casual-sporty.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Skirt the PIGS, Brooklyn!

Following a series of sexual assaults in Brooklyn, the NYPD is warning women not to wear skirts or dresses. Instead of telling people to “change” to accommodate misogyny & violence, their message ought to be ZERO TOLERANCE FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT IN OUR COMMUNITIES.

This FB page was created to encourage anyone across the gender spectrum to wear skirts and dresses in protest of the NYPD’s current message. We have the right to wear what we want, stay vigilant and safe, and demand respect. It’s time to stop misogynist ideologies and address what’s really gone wrong.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

“Qajar” by Shadi Ghadirian

This photo project is truly amazing. So many insightful intersections: Muslim women, fashion, commerce, functionality... Please have a look:


Thursday, August 4, 2011

"temporal drag"

My friend Kate just wrote me this note: “I came across a term in a book that I read recently that is a fascinating combination of your scholarly work and my scholarly work. The term? ‘Temporal drag.’ Elizabeth Freeman describes it as ‘a countergenealogical practice of archiving culture’s throwaway objects, including outmoded masculinities and femininities from which usable pasts may be extracted.’ If you apply this also to a culture’s throwaway fashions as well, then it gets even more interesting, I think. Someday, there could be a collaborative project here for us.”

This term is definitely something that needs to be explored in relation to fashion politics and representation, and I think it’s especially useful to my research on queer femininity and performances of retro style. The first thing that leaps to mind is my love for the 1950s housewife artifice performed and (re)appropriated by tough contemporary femmes…

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Although I plan to continue using this blog for longer essay-like entries, I've started a Tumblr, which I update on a more regular basis:


and I'm still tweeting at:


And thanks to all of you who've sent me comments and feedback recently. I love hearing from you. I should also add a big thanks to The Cupcake for helping me design my sassy Tumblr.

Monday, June 27, 2011

'Staches and Stripes


Last week, I was interviewed by an East Village fashion blogger about my choice to wear horizontal stripes. One of the questions the interviewer asked was how I felt about the common depiction of horizontal stripes as "unflattering." I gave her an earful about how WE LIVE IN A FATPHOBIC SOCIETY where so many women’s fashion choices are demonized, and that HORIZONTAL STRIPES CAN BE STRIKING AND LOVELY, and that IT WOULD BE REVOLUTIONARY if people of ALL GENDERS FELT FREE TO WEAR WHAT MADE THEM FEEL GOOD instead of what made them feel “thinner,” and that I recognize my own PRIVILEGE as a small-bodied woman and the ease with which I can make such declarations…

At this point in the interview I had already had a somewhat lengthy chat with the interviewer, and so when the voice recorder went off I thanked her for asking me that last question where I got to assert my political view on sizeism. Although I knew her editor would likely have the final say on what got included in the piece, I told her I hoped that she would try adding at least some of my response since this was an underrepresented perspective and one that was deeply important to me. As it turns out (and probably in no way the fault of the interviewer), NONE of my statement was included. Not surprising, but still disappointing. So here we go again, even with street fashion, upholding the status quo (here’s a link to the piece):



I've been seeing this guy's work around the city subway station for months (follow link below), and although I LOVE a great mustache, I wasn’t particularly compelled by his efforts… until this morning. I heard on the news he’d been caught after an ongoing search. What a remarkable waste of time, money, and “expertise” on something so seemingly innocuous. If anything, this should reignite questions about the reclamation of “public” space, but for now I’d settle for questions about this artist’s choice to “stache-ify” celebrities of all genders, ages, etc. I’d also settle for consumers’ responses as to whether they found this playful, subversive, comedic, daft… I guess we’ll see what conversations emerge.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

What's Up (in three bits and bites)

Bit I:
I dressed like a Buttercup on Tuesday - I wore a yellow dress with a short-sleeved cream coloured cardi. It was summery and bright and I think this daisy/banana/daffodil colour combo might be my heart throb in the hot months to come.

Bit II:
My students and I discussed legal intervention (and interference) in one's freedom to dress as desired. It was a rousing, dynamic conversation! My favourite moment took place after one student had just finished expressing her view that women in "professional" settings ought to dress "decently"; another student responded by pointing out that the very notion of "professional" attire reveals one's ethnocentric conditioning. She argued that some cultures perceive the body as art rather than solely an object of sexual desire, and so, why shouldn't women sit topless in a park or wear "cleave-y" tops to the office?

Answer: because regulation and control of bodily expression upholds the nation state (or at least I hope we'll get to that answer in the next class period).

Bit III:
Lots of cute skirts flitting around Brooklyn in this heat wave. It's a queer femme utopia and I am dying to know where all these lovely ladies shop.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Small Talk Ain't Sweet Talk and That's for Fuckin' Sure

Every year I think of the bit from "When Harry Met Sally" where Harry says, "boy the holidays are rough," and Sally responds dryly, "lots of suicides." Heh.

NYC sure seems to love/hate the holidays. And it's that constant duelistic tension that creates a sense of manic panic in the air. I've witnessed a multigenerational family breakdown in the underwear section of Target, a marriage meltdown at the Border's in LaGuardia, stray, screaming children in Walgreen's toilet paper aisle...

And somehow, the holiday's aren't really getting on my nerves as they usually do. I even voluntarily watched the Charlie Brown X-mas Special on Hulu while grading papers last week, and though it's easy to love those Peanuts, I usually skip the end where Charlie Brown gets over his blues and blahs. This time I let it play all the way through.

My primary grievance this year is the stupid holiday party small talk I've had to deal with. The theme this time is "no, where are you really from." "You're Indian right?" "You look like you're South Asian." What happened to the usual inane shit like "I like those boots," or "where did you get that dress?" I'll tell you what happened: I didn't get a new dress. In an effort to save money I'm still rockin' my 2004-2009 collection. And my boots? Well, everyone and their dog has great boots in Brooklyn. Well, of course not everyone, but there are enough of them stomping around that no one needs to give a crap.

So what's left to talk about with total strangers? My brownness. Indeed. What's that line from "Hannah and Her Sisters"... something like "if Jesus really did exist, and if he ever did come back, he'd never stop throwing up." Amen to that and to all a goodnight.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Workin' Femme

I just took a practical inventory of my wardrobe, making many decisions about what I want to wear to my new job this fall, what can be repurposed, and what can be donated. This recession seems like a good time to donate clothing given that many donation centers are urging the public to send more goods their way.

In my work breaks I’ve taken to browsing online selections of women’s clothing – mostly just to see what’s out there in terms of trends this fall. I’m also trying to be careful about the pieces I buy; from my inventory I’ve learned that I have many skirts I still love to wear but no “working” tops to match. I’m using the term “working” in calculated avoidance of “work-appropriate” because the very notion of “appropriateness” is a) subjective and b) used to uphold sexist, racist, classist expectations about so-called professional settings.

Through my searches and shops I’ve learned that grey is the new black, ruff is the new puff, and tatts are the new tits on the streets of Brooklyn:

1. Three of the dresses I just bought (and love) are all grey. Grey is not my favourite colour, but the style (and affordable price!) of all three dresses just couldn’t be resisted. I deliberated for a long time over the second and third grey dresses, but justified them by convincing myself that I’ve never hesitated to own multiple items in black so why not grey? That said, what is with all the grey dresses out there? The great thing is that I can pair these dresses with different styles and colours of tights/cardigans to give each a unique look. We’ll see what happens.

2. Someone, please bring back the slightly puffed-sleeves on dress shirts! I’m not over this yet. It adds such a wonderful feminine detail to boring button-downs, but apparently ruffle is the new puff. There are ruffles pouring out of collars, rippling over bust-lines, trimming sleeves… I’m not a fan, perhaps because the ruffles I’m seeing are over the top (so to speak). I tried to broaden my horizons and try on a few. I looked clown-y, pirate-like (not that there’s anything wrong with the latter). Worse yet, the over-zealous ruffles made my head look very disproportionately small. Please, how do you wear these tops? I’m baffled but I’m going to stay open to this look. In the meantime, I want lady tuxedo shirts back!

3. I’ve been searching for “summer sweaters”: short-sleeved cardies and boleros. A lot of it has to do with the unwanted, unwarranted attention I keep getting on the streets, and in many instances this has come in the form of comments about my tattoos. My desire to cover them is deeply complicated; I don’t mean to suggested that we should have to adapt and resign ourselves to those who gross-ify the streets. And even with my tattoos covered I’ve noticed a lot of this bullshit continues to happen. I think I’m just overwhelmed right now trying to get my bearings in a new city, and the “hey baby let me see your tatts” bullcrap disrupts my efforts.

Of course there are a million other things I could do, and covering up is not really an answer. In fact, “covering” to deflect attention in many ways undermines the feminist beliefs I’ve come to hold PARTICULARLY as someone who has felt conflicted about my Muslim upbringing and the countless veiling debates I’ve encountered. Ultimately, to argue that covering my skin will help ward off sexist remarks and general assholery is also to argue that it is my skin that solicits the sexist asshole’s gaze. I know this argument is untrue; it misplaces responsibility and excuses the ones who should own up. But if boleros do indeed offer me any reprieve, perhaps the best I can do is remain mindful of what’s “under” it?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Want to be a Part of It!

Part I: Draggin' Me Down

My friends and I tried to go to a drag show during my first couple of weeks living in Brooklyn. The show was scheduled to take place at a little coffee shop in Bed Stuy - it seemed low key and unassuming. We didn't stay. The cafe staff person (when explaining the cover charge for the show) made it known that had we come in drag we'd have received a discount. Our initial response was "if only we'd known," but my reaction that followed led me to ask what counts as drag. I was after all "dolled up" for the night out... "Doesn't femme count as a form of drag?" The answer was a self-assured "no."

To be clear, I was not opposed to paying the full cover charge, but I didn't stay. It's disappointing and painful to find myself in seemingly queer spaces that have rigid and anti-queer perceptions of gender. Let me say I completely understand that MY material realities of being a feminine-presenting, female-bodied individual are vastly different from many other (or Othered) bodies performing other/Other genders, and I in no way want to lay claim to experiences/oppressions that I have not known. But I'd really like to know how the definition of drag was policed as audience members arrived at that event... was there a genital check, and if so, what could THAT even determine? We are a community of queers aren't we?

I'm not sure the staff person we spoke to was in any way affiliated with the show or the individuals lined up to perform that night; I have no idea what connections and communications were established between the venue and performers. I do know that I expected more from this space, and it's bringing up a lot of ongoing questions for me about community and queerness and even Brooklyn. Not trying to write anything off, not to make generalizations... just to let the questions I have surface until I can make better sense of it all.

Part II: Pro Queer Femme, A Double Entendre

Well, I guess I'm a pro now: a "professional" if you will. I landed a big-girl job, and that makes me wanna wear grownup clothes without stamping out my queer femininity, the rough seams, and renegade updos. Now I need suggestions for where to shop in NYC. I have yet to learn this city, and more importantly, the "my-kind-of-places" in the city.

I still have my heart set on buying second-hand clothes, though I have recently perused Macy's in downtown Brooklyn (without much to show for it) and modcloth.com (a higher tally here). Help me out folks.

To add to my "laundry" list of preferences, I love bargains, which makes my NY shopping experience thus far seem like I'm seriously missing something. Should I give Century 21 another try? Where are some good second hand/thrift stores that might have the pro-queer-femme goods I'm seeking? "Pro-queer-femme goods"...a triple entendre, indeed.

Part III: Coney Loves Chachi

Dudes, what, what, what do you not understand? It's 8:16 AM, I'm on my way to the train station, you're at a red light, hanging out your fucking truck window, telling me how much you love me, whistling, clicking your stupid mouth, clapping, snapping... and I AM NOT LOOKING AT YOU. I do not want your attention much less to get in your fucking car. You are violating my space, my quiet, my right to get where I need to go unharassed. These streets are mine too, so fucking share them, don't take up all this space. You are gross. And disrespectful. And my biggest question for you is "DOES THIS EVER EVEN WORK?"

There are millions of women walking alone on the streets of NY. How do you pick who to harass? Or do you just indiscriminately harass every lady you think you see. Have you ever accidentally harassed your mother? Your sister? Your nana? Was it really an accident or do you just treat them like this too? Where do you get the energy? Doesn't your stupid face get tired of making all that noise? I'm tired just from being tired of you. You pollute the streets. Be gone.

In a city where exterminators are aplenty, I wish there was a service that exterminated these pesky little fuckers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Six Sleeps 'til NYC!

I move to Brooklyn, NY on Saturday! There's a lot involved with this transition but I'm so thrilled about moving to the city (finally!) and I hope to make more time for this dear, neglected blog. Stay tuned for reports on mad hot street fashion, queer thrifts, and transit-takin' femme couture!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Daddies" Know Best

Here's a really great observation and critique of the "resident gays" that are called upon to discuss celebrity fashion with mainstream audiences.

Checking In

Things are crazy busy right now and I'm sad to say I've had to neglect this blog. I think about it all the time, though, and look forward to writing more regular posts once my time frees up a bit.

I've been scribbling down lots of ideas for future posts so stay tuned. One thing that's been on mind is the apparent critiques a certain celebrity couple have received for "dressing" their daughter in "boyish" clothes.



I haven't followed the buzz about all of this, but I do find it interesting that this "story" has been taken up as a newsworthy item, exposing (again) hatred and fear about gender non-normativity (IF we can even call this non-normative). Keep up the good work, phobes.

Another thing I've been trying to read more about is the politics of denim. A big piece of this is how jeans have come to be an emblem of comfort. Jeans comfortable? I've never thought so. And for the longest time I thought I held this perspective in isolation. Not so! It turns out there are other people writing about varied perceptions of "comfort" when it comes to jeans. This is definitely a topic I plan to explore in much more detail. Let me know if this stirs any initial responses.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Polyamorous Thrifter and Epicure

After my heartbreaking realization last summer that Disgraceland (Chicago) had closed its doors, I am thrilled to have found a new love in resale: Second Time Around. I stumbled upon this store in downtown Philly earlier this week, and treated myself to a heap of "new" clothes for decent prices. My purchases included a gorgeous red winter coat, two sassy dresses, and cute tops that fit great in the chest and shoulders. I left Philly a very happy lady.

The salespeople at Second Time Around were friendly and they sent me off with a punch card that can be used at all of their locations (there's one in Chicago too!). The person who rang up my purchases had terrific hair.

I loved Philly, and walking around in the city reminded me of how well I am fed--literally and metaphorically--by urban, cosmopolitan epicenters. I need to move! The Reading Terminal Market across from the Marriott Downtown was exquisite. I ate there three times and had a dolma platter (pretty good), dal, rice and samosas from Nanee's Kitchen (AMAZING), and a vegetarian hoagie with sides of "tuna" and "chicken" salad from the vegetarian deli stand (DIVINE). Some fast city fortune led us to a restaurant on 13th called Zavino where they were hosting a friends and family night and invited us to dine. I cannot believe the complementary feast we had including two varieties of beets and (get ready for this!) a ricotta-kale ravioli. I wrote in my comment card that as a kale prostitute, I loved that the ricotta did not overpower or compromise the subtleties kale offers in the way of flavor. I meant it too. The cab and pinot were like a key party in my mouth.

The last thing I want to say is this: Black Truffle Guacamole. Had it at El Vez restaurant.
The combination was so fucking amazing it knocked me up, changed me forever, brought tears to my eyes. Some people call it the city of brotherly love but to steal Kate's words, I'll call it the city of sisterly orgasm.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Femme Clothing Swap '09

It was a success. There was a vast range of sizes. Piles of clothes, shoes, and accessories made the rounds, and all the remaining items will be taken to a donation center. Mimosas were served, and we opened our rooms for people to try things on as they "shopped." I think making this a twice-a-year event would be terrific.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Multiple Modes of Entry

Lady A. and I just saw this sign posted on the window of a TJ Max:

I said: Don't mind if I do! MT thinks we should put a sticker over fashionista that reads "FATshionista." A fabulous idea.

And while I'm on the subject of stickers, Lady A. and I have made it our "mission" this holiday season to drop our homemade stickers that read: "This is Homophobic" in the Salvation Army collection jars hijacking the entrances of local businesses. Gotta keep doing our queer part, I guess.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Got Brolly?

I think there's something aesthetically sweet about umbrellas. For years I lived on a mountainside in Japan, and I loved the sight of umbrellas bobbing up and down, dotting the green slopes through the rain. There was also an intuitive etiquette to passing people with umbrellas on narrow, winding streets (you just tilt the umbrella in opposite directions). Ladies carried parasols on hot summer days to shade their skin from the sun, and although I never carried one, I liked how the assorted fabrics, frills, and patterns girl-ified the commercial, neon streets. One friend of mine had several parasols to coordinate with her outfits. High glam.

And this is where the recording of sweet nostalgia squeaks to a frozen frame. I spent piles of money on umbrellas in Japan, either because they broke in typhoon-speed gusts (work didn't stop for weather) or because they got accidentally swiped when I left them in the umbrella parking stands outside of restaurants, shops, financial institutions, lobbies of hotels, bars, schools...everyone had a strategy for dealing with umbrella chaos. I really do believe the lost brollies were the result of accidental mix-ups, but I never had the heart to just take someone else's in its place, which meant I often got drenched. I was savvy enough to buy a travel-sized umbrella to store my purse, but it just couldn't withstand the severe winds that tore through the city. Oh and if you ever went somewhere that didn't have an umbrella stand you were expected to wrap your brolly in what I always called "the umbrella condom," a long, thin, plastic bag designed to keep you from leaving umbrella puddles indoors. The cool thing about the condom dispensers was how they auto-wrapped your umbrella (another Japanese miracle of technology), but the unfortunate side of this was the plastic waste they encouraged.

Cut to the present: I love rain when I'm not stuck in it, and with all the public transportation-ing I tend to do, melting in the rain is par for the course. Sick of umbrellas that flip up in the wind leaving me soggy and streaky-faced for the rest of the day, I recently decided to buy a fancier, sportier umbrella from a camping co-op. This product promised to be wind tunnel tested, sturdy, and easy to fold to a transportable size. I ordered a large one (big IS beautiful and in this case practical) to increase coverage from the rain. The umbrella sucked, it flipped open within five minutes of use on a moderately windy day. I exchanged it for a smaller version that had great reviews, also holding the promise of resisting high winds (one reviewer claims to have used it with success in a Japanese typhoon). I have yet to test this one out...

I would never have thought to spend more than a few bucks on an umbrella, but getting to work drenched really got to me this fall and so, I gave myself this little present (Agent Cooper says to give yourself a present everyday). In my quest for this item of luxury, though, I came across blogs and rants and all kinds of forums about American umbrella etiquette. Just google it, you'll see. Some people have even come up with precise equations for "matching" umbrella diameter to the owner's height. Apparently it's rude and entirely unnecessary to carry a large "golf-size" umbrella if you're less than six feet tall. Other people vented about NYC umbrella feuds, scolding those who (again, apparently) use umbrellas to stake out more personal territory on busy sidewalks.

I even saw a demo of one person's invention: the "polite umbrella" (I think it was called). It comes with a cord you pull to make the umbrella do a droopy-shrinky thing if you're passing another umbrella on a narrow sidewalk, so as to avoid bumping brollies. This all sounds deliciously perverse, I know. Many people criticized the need to carry an umbrella in the first place, bragging about their own ability to get by with just a raincoat. Some cried, "it's only rain!" and chastised those of us who use umbrellas in anything but torrential downpour. I just had no idea umbrellas could cause such a stir.

I have my own practical reasons for using an umbrella. I don't like sloshing around in my shoes or having cold, wet skin and hair all day, especially in air conditioned buildings. Privileged? Sure. Weak? I don't think so. But beyond all of that I remain astonished that we have the technology to launch rockets into space while finding a sturdy, portable umbrella has turned out to be such a feat.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Looking for My Next Sugar Rush and a Sovereign Fashionation

I recently watched the entire two seasons of the British TV series "Sugar Rush" (thanks for the introduction, Kate!). The main character, Kim, had some terrific outerwear. Her best friend, Sugar, pulled off the glam-queen look in every scene, invoking nostalgia for my old drag days. The character, Saint, knocked me out with her fashion...I think about her whenever I go to dress myself now.

In my attempt to repurpose and thrift more clothes this fall, I've been raking through my closet for some sweet treasure. I've found a few exciting pieces, and as I ponder how to rework my old clothes I come back to the images of the characters on "Sugar Rush" that have sparked my imagination and new lusty lady crushes; I want to borrow Saint's clothes AND date her at the same time. This experience is bringing me back to the exciting admire-desire spectrum I have so often embodied in my femme life.

It's no surprise that all this creative fashion energy and inspiration comes tangled with the amazing lady-music featured in the show. I've been thirsting for new music and I think I've finally found some. Watching this show was a great investment of my time.

Now that I'm done, though, I'm eagerly anticipating my next queer femme inspiration... any ideas?