Ekaterina Sedia's Blog, page 10

March 2, 2011


(Photo of Ataui Deng by Oroma Elewa)

This is the first of a number of group posts from the Fashionable Feminist Bloggers community. This group, begun a few weeks ago by a number of fascinating bloggers, examines the intersection of fashion and feminism. If you're interested in becoming part of the group, request an invitation at the Google group linked above. Our first topic is on Fashionable Feminist icons: each of us was asked to write about a woman who, to us, is a personal feminist/fashion icon (which could be, for example a feminist with great style, a fashion person who also works on behalf of women).

I love fashion editors: Diana Vreeland, who was the subject I first intended to write about, was a fashion icon and a free spirit, a person of contradiction and taste. But there's much written about Vreeland and her rouged earlobes, so instead I wanted to talk about a much younger, newer editor: Oroma Elewa of Pop'Africana. I was super excited about this magazine because of the representations of Africa in the West are severely lacking. In the world of fashion industry, they are either non-existent or limited to shameless appropriation of "tribal" esthetics (and boy, I can talk a lot about the awful "tribal" trend and its ontological cousin, the animal print - so African! So exotic!)

Thankfully Pop'Africana has an online presence, and it is edited by a woman of Nigerian extraction, who not only edits but blogs eloquently about her world in fashion and her personal history: "When my mother is happy or playing with me, she calls me by my full name - O r o m a m a y a t u n a h i a - it means my mother's home cannot be bought in the market. My grandmother, her mother truly gave meaning to this name because her love, her spirit and her home can never be bought Period."

Fashion industry in the West often has an exclusionary air about it -- a shortcoming, I feel, too often shared by Western feminism, when most of the world is ignored, and they're concerns and problems are overlooked. To many westerners, Africa is a large monolith of Third World (a term too problematic in itself) suffering, and they only look to it for "inspiration" -- that is, stealing textiles and esthetic movements, appropriating them without giving back, focusing on how these experiences are beneficial for Westerners' individual growth and enrichment. (I already spoke a bit about one-sidedness of African representations in literature here.) Women's issues are similarly ignored, under the assumption that the generic Western feminism IS about all women, even despite its continuing failure to engage with issues other than those of white and middle-class western women. Meanwhile the role of Africa and African diaspora as movers of fashion and feminism rather than its passive objects is rarely discussed.

Well, Oroma Elewa is editing Pop'Africana to affect a change. Her photography is beautifully idiosyncratic, her articles are incisive, whether she is talking about music or fashion or deconstructs representations of Africa. Her role as an editor of such a forward yet fashion centered magazine assures her role as a fashion icon; but what about feminism?

I believe that the third wave feminism with its focus on intersectionality of oppressions -- that is, the complex and non-linear interactions between gender, class, race, nationality etc. -- was meant to remedy the unfairness of focusing exclusively on Western issues. Voices like Elewa's are necessary, and hers is clear and assured. Rather than speaking for people who can speak perfectly well for themselves, we need to listen and to pay attention. Oh, and buy an issue or two -- Pop'Africana is an amazingly vibrant magazine, with a great editorial hand.
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Published on March 02, 2011 11:22 • 52 views

February 26, 2011

Exhibit A: "Christian Dior has an unequivocal zero-tolerance policy regarding anti-Semitism and racism."

Exhibit B
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Published on February 26, 2011 13:17 • 38 views

February 14, 2011

From Johnny Weir and Elise Overland

I hope you have a really lovely one.
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Published on February 14, 2011 08:39 • 53 views

February 1, 2011

 Thanks to a recent nudge, I realized that I meant to review some Ella Lai pieces -- since this is where most of my clothing budget for the last few months went. The lapse was entirely due to my failure to actually photograph some of the detailing I meant to talk about, because while some pieces are quite self-explanatory, others require additional deconstruction.

Anyway, I have her white shirt, which is really the most amazing shirt I own -- after all my complaining about the impossibility of finding a good white shirt, Ella made me one.  Beautifully tailored, no gaping, stiff collar -- what else can you possibly want in a shirt? Also, the darting on it as such that it is clearly shaped for a female body, and yet avoids that typical fitted nipped-in at the waist look -- it looks like a dress shirt, and fits well.

Also, since I live in cropped wool pants, I got these -- also perfectly fitted, in thin stretchy wool. I love them to death -- also notice that the bottom of the pant leg is lined in black silk, so they can be rolled up and look like you meant it. The leather belt is also fun, and it is tied rather than buckled, giving it unusual (and jaunty!) look.

For more detailed review however, I will talk about three pieces that won me over by unique detailing. First up, this dress.It is very fitted, and what I especially love about it is the high horizontal seam below the bust and open pleat at the bust:

As you can imagine, it makes for a very good fit, without bagging or blousing or being too tight. The dress is fully lined in what feels like blended silk in a very pretty steel-gray color, with a kick pleat in the back -- so it's fitted, and yet plenty comfortable. ALso, notice that my version doesn't have the puffed sleeve. Customization!

Then there are these pants. They are awesomely slouchy, the bottom of the leg is lined in gray silk for nonchalant rolling (and I really do love that, because rolled pants CAN look like the wearer was just too lazy to hem; not so with beautiful silk lining!) Anyway, I love them:

(This is me at a conference in Atlanta, where I was wearing the hell out of these pants.) Not only they look good and are comfy, but they also have the best closure ever: two buttons. No zippers, nothing but two buttons:


And last but not least: my favorite jacket. Ella was kind enough to significantly modify a much longer gray jacket, to make mine camel, pure wool, shrunken, and perfect. The collar is lined in shantung silk, and can be worn up or down:

Of course, it is lined in blended silk, and as you can see from seaming and pocket detail, it is really well built. So my wool and silk uniform has been updated with some key pieces, all of which are classic and yet so originally and wittily constructed that they are never boring and really stand apart from all others.

And here's the thing. These pieces all run between $50 and $100, which might seem high if you're used to Target and Old Navy. But these items are designed by someone who cares deeply about her work and takes pride in her craftsmanship -- the attention to detail, the seam quality, the fabric selection (that's some nice wool on that jacket). Not to mention, these are made for your measurements. And considering this, these pieces are not at all expensive. I can email the person who is making them, we can discuss color swatches, she can change length or a sleeve shape or the neckline if I ask her to. The interaction with the person who makes your clothes is important: it gets one thinking about the practices in mass manufactured clothing, and the human rights and environmental abuses become more difficult to ignore.

And I get the usual argument of "$50 bucks will buy me 10 shirts in Walmart/Target/ON", I really do. I'd be a liar if I said that I don't own any ethically suspect pieces myself. And it takes experiences like this for me to realize that I like knowing where my clothes come from. I like knowing that were not made using child labor or that the manufacturer didn't completely ignore local environmental laws. It's the issue of price and cost, really: every cheap piece of clothing has a cost associated with it. Ten bucks is the price, but what is the cost in lost jobs in the US, in the exploited workers overseas, in the environmental damage -- herbicide pollution from cheap cotton production, eutrophication of lakes, desertification, salinization of soils... This is the sort of thing we all are paying for -- be it in increased medical cost, or lost wages, or decreased bargaining power as international conglomerates continue to increase their political influence. They call it externalization: for every sweatshop they build, they are the ones getting the profit, and we are left with splitting the cost and thinking that we somehow got the better of the bargain, because hey, a dress for the price of a latte!

So I'm trying really hard to ditch the mass-produced and stick to thrifted and handmade, with a dash of off-the-rack items from companies and designers who at least claim to care about ethics. And I don't think true quality is possible without it.

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Published on February 01, 2011 10:24 • 30 views

January 31, 2011

World SF blog was kind enough to ask me to participate in their brand new "Author week" feature. Basically, each day there's new content -- an interview, the latest book review, a short story reprint, guest post, giveaways... all good stuff. Today we have an interview with me by Charles Tan, and I talk excessively about House of Discarded Dreams and some upcoming projects. It also has a picture of the very mysterious Tait, credited with a large chunk of House of Discarded Dreams.

Since it's the first time they're doing it, I hope it's a success. So please comment, enter giveaways, make scenes. And spread the word, should you feel so inclined.

(Your fashion natterings will resume shortly).
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Published on January 31, 2011 06:39 • 27 views

January 25, 2011

"End of White" sold to Shotguns v. Cthulhu, an anthology from brand-new fiction imprint of Pelgrane, Stone Skin Press.

Here's the beginning: "Coronet Kovalevsky had never expected to find that land was finite. It seemed so abundant to him when he was younger, something you could never possibly run out of – or run off of – that the very suggestion seemed ludicrous. Yet there he was in the summer of 1919, teetering on the precipice of the Crimean peninsula, with very little idea of what to do after the Wrangel's inevitable defeat and his own presumed tumble into the Black Sea. He had decided that he would not join the Bolsheviks – not so much out of any deeply held belief but rather because of his inherent disposition to avoid any large amounts of soul-overhauling work."

Who can guess which Lovecraftian entity manifests here?
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Published on January 25, 2011 12:29 • 42 views

January 20, 2011

And once again, Independent Fashion Bloggers' Links a la Mode -- tons of good, fun stuff. Enjoy!

links a la mode

"I have confidence that spring will come again, Besides which you see I have confidence in me"

Edited by Florrie Clarke of Intrinsically Florrie

Within  this week's links I kept noticing a resounding honestly in the  heartfelt posts. When we blog or choose an outfit we are putting  ourselves out there for all to judge, and it's not surprising that doing  the activity can have an affect on our confidence for better or for  worse, especially when feedback starts coming in.
There's also been a  sense of rebellion in the air: from the emergence of the punk style to  controversy over Vogue, and in the week that saw the spectacle which is  the Golden Globes rises a questioning of what the red carpet is all  about.

Links à la Mode: January 20th
A la Modest Drawing inspiration from Kabukis, Rainbow Brite, Ladytron, and Padmé Amidala while on TatooineAntares: Alfa Scorpii Fashion without mercy: do I have to choose between fashion and my beliefs? By Anika Who gets to label me and my worth? I do! An honest account from this  curvy fashionista who fiercely supports all of our rights to label,  embrace and love our fashionable selves, what ever our size. City of Glitter To Cover-up or Not To Cover-up? A post exploring foundation and its role in our self-esteem.Crimson Rosella Blogging: A Self-confidence booster?Depict This The challenge of wearing vintage clothing in the real worldElle Enchanted My take on what bloggers need to consider before accepting a sponsor.Fashezine Inspired by Jennine Jacob's post on how fashion blogs will evolve in 2011, I thought I'd try my hand at a video.Fashion Limbo Online Christmas Shopping, the Aftermath - on lost packages, refunds and independent retailers.Fuyume The demise of the kimono industry. Fish Monkey's Writing Stuff Why I don't think that red carpets have any relevance to fashion.Independent Fashion Bloggers: 5 Tips for Taking Better Photos of YourselfIntrinsically Florrie The fashion show that's made me impatient for summer. Karma-Style Blog Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj have 'FoF' - Fearlessness of Fashion. Do you?My Heart Blogged Falling head over flats. My flats collections, and why you don't see me wearing heels.Scarlet Letter Style Why is the fashion world so critical? I have an idea on how to fix itThe Column of Samantha Tyler Of Punks and their influence on FashionThe Fashion Pawn The fourth part of The B.O.B Series discusses all "About You:" Tips for your About You Page.The-Loud Mouth Sometimes, garbage piles up: Fashion blogging isn't just a hobby. For some, it can be an emotional release.The Taxonomy Of My Wardrobe Three Strikes Vogue - You're Out! Three examples of how the fashion  bible is inexcusably out of touch with readers and losing relevance in  today's worldThe Simply Luxorious Life Why Not . . . Create Your Own Signature Style?

New@Shopbop: Bassike, Shakuhachi, Nissa, Minnetonkas, FreePeople, Tibi, AIKO, Bird, Myne, Black Halo, Kova&T, Hanii Y

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Published on January 20, 2011 12:20 • 66 views

January 17, 2011


A few people asked me why don't I ever say anything about Red Carpet fashion, or celebrity fashion in general; and the reasoning is probably deserving of its own post, since Golden Globes just happened, and we had a thorough media coverage of all the pretty dresses worn by nice enough ladies. And I just don't consider that fashion -- or rather, this is such an explicit shill that I just can't bring myself to care. Basically, there are two issues at play: first, the designers who give away their dresses for free (to some of the very few people who could afford them), in order to make them into walking, occasionally talking, super-expensive billboards (it's not a secret to anyone that actresses do often get paid to wear certain designers, right? Right.) Billboards selling shit to us, people who cannot afford the dresses, in hopes that we'll remember the designer's name shopping for nail polishes, scarves, perfume and other revenue generators for luxury manufacturers. It's the tiny aspirational purchases that drive their profits, and it's the actors who help ignite the aspiring flame in us. So yeah, not interested.

The second aspect is what some call the Joan Rivers effect - the tendency to dress blandly and prettily and in the strictest conformity to heteronormative paradigm in order to avoid ridicule and being placed on worst dressed list and having Guiliana Rancic, as Tina Fey so eloquently put it last year, take a steaming dump on them. (Guiliana Rancic aside: I don't watch her show, so I have no idea of what that was in reference to, but in one of the show's promos, crying Guiliana says something to the effect, "But we're good people! Why are we being punished?!" Disclaimer: I neither wish harm on Guiliana Rancic nor do I believe that anyone is ever 'punished' in some vast cosmic justice sense, or deserves to be. However, a person who made a career out of ridiculing other women's bodies and dedicated herself to most fervent enforcing of patriarchal paradigm is NOT good people. Just saying. Anyway, long aside!)

So. Celebrities are so terrified that any hint of originality, personality or daring self-expression will lead to extensive media mockery (a justified fear, I may add, as Jessica Simpson and so many others well know), that their fashion choices tend toward safe. They hire stylists for fear that some uncontrollable bit of idiosyncratic taste will break through and spoil their otherwise unoffensive look. I mean, stylists only exists because there are so many grown wealthy women who cannot dress themselves, even with all the free designer swag thrown at them because they're worried that Fashion Police will take issue with the size of their earrings or unorthodox shoe choices.

So we're pretty much left with Tilda Swinton (pictured above), who is seemingly the only person left in Hollywood who knows she is awesome enough not to care, and Helena Bonham Carter who has the whole crazy avant-garde look down (her dress choices are routinely described as 'wacky' by people who seem to think it's a bad thing. She also wears Vivienne Westwood a lot, and can I just say how jealous I am?) Both of these actors routinely end up on various fashion faux-pas watchdog lists; I just hope that they will continue not to care. Wake me up when the rest of celebrities stop caring and fire all their stylists; meanwhile, I'll be perusing fashion editorials and street style blogs, because red carpet to fashion is like a burger joint to a petting zoo. Fashion is about self-expression, something that simply doesn't exist here.
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Published on January 17, 2011 20:56 • 52 views

January 10, 2011

I never make New Year resolutions. I'm a big believer in fixing a problem as soon as I notice it exists rather than waiting for January; and am generally suspicious of set dates for anything. (Like NaNoWriMo – for me, it makes sense to write when I have a desire to write a novel and not write when I don't.)
I also know that other people aren't me and many DO like set dates – and hey, whatever works; but I can't help but to get all judgey when your New Year resolutions affect my gym time. Like, right now. As every gym rat will be happy to tell you, January is the worst. You have to find new times to work out because there's a gazillion people waiting for an elliptical. Lifting becomes an annoyance since neophytes can't be bothered to read the signs asking everyone to put back the weights and wipe the machines after use, and don't know any better than to sit on a leg extension machine for good half an hour, texting or just spacing out. And all of this would be a lot less annoying if these people were there to stay and gradually learned the etiquette – but they don't. 90% will disappear within 2 weeks, while another 5% will eke it out til Valentine's Day and then disappear too. They will come back next year though, just as clueless.
An additional perk is getting to listen to conversations of those resolutioners. It is shocking to me how many are there to lose weight they gained during the Holidays. How many view physical exercise as a temporary thing, a quick solution to a problem – to exercise 2 weeks and then not do it again until next year. And I am terrified at how the notion of exercise became tied into the whole weight loss industry: instead of exercising consistently because it's the sort of thing that's good for you, REGARDLESS of weight loss, it becomes the means, while the weight loss itself became a signifier of health. That's so backwards it makes my eyes cross.
And this is not just people at the gym, you know: perfectly respectable personal trainers to the stars and Victoria's Secret models advocate only working out with small weights and avoiding resistance on the elliptical because it will make your muscles bigger. But hey, it's all about health! Physical fitness experts sell cleanses which make you lose weight fast (and we all know that starvation diets permanently lower your metabolic rate, but hey, that's an acceptable price for thinness! We mean health.) Jillian Michaels, the terrifying trainer of the Biggest Loser, advocates dehydration and starvation diet as means of quick weight loss for an important event. But hey, she just wants fatties to be healthy. Even on supposedly pro-women internet forums, questions about exercise quickly devolve into weight loss tips. (I especially love the advocates of circuit training – which is awesome, don't get me wrong – making fun of those of us who spend an hour on the elliptical. "It's not necessary," they say, "circuit training makes you lose weight faster." Sure, and aerobic training builds endurance and has tons of other health benefits. But silly me, I thought we were talking about health.)
And you know, I understand why people might choose not to exercise. I understand that being healthy might not be a priority, or the opportunities might be lacking, or whatever. But if health is a priority, I'd say ditch the resolutions and a New Year, and start an exercise program when it suits you, with long-term goals in mind rather than viewing it as a quick fix for a month of overeating. After all, health at every size (HAES) means that your weight is not the main factor in your health – thin people need good diet and exercise too. And if you're a regular, I won't give you a stink-eye for hogging the elliptical.
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Published on January 10, 2011 06:24 • 40 views

January 8, 2011

Queries has been addressed, contributors confirmed, and BEWERE THE NIGHT has a ToC. The order might change, but otherwise this is the lineup:

"The Thief of Precious Things" A.C. Wise
"Poison Eaters" Holly Black   
"Go Home Stranger" Justin Howe   
"The Heavy" Cherie Priest   
"Tusk and Skin" Marissa Lingen   
"A Song to the Moon" Richard Bowes   
"In the Seeonee Hills" Erica Hildebrand   
"The Sinews of His Heart" Melissa Yuan-Innes
"(Nothing but) Flowers" Nick Mamatas   
"The Coldest Game" Maria V. Snyder
"Red on Red" Jen White   
"Extra Credit" Seth Cadin   
"Thirst" Vandana Singh
"Grotesque Angels" Gwendolyn Clare   
"Blue Joe" Stephanie Burgis   
"The Werewizard of Oz" Lavie Tidhar   
"Seven Year Itch" Leah Cutter   
"An Unnatural History of Scarecrows" Mario Milosevic   
"The Gaze Dogs of Nine Waterfall" Kaaron Warren   
"Snow on Sugar Mountain" Elizabeth Hand   
"The Aphotic Ghost" Carlos Hernandez   
"The Fowler's Daughter" Michelle Muenzler    
"Moonlight and Bleach" Sandra MacDonald   
"She Drives the Men to Crimes of Passion!" Genevieve Valentine   
"Coyotaje" Marie Brennan   
"Swear Not by the Moon" Renee Carter Hall   
"Infested" Nadia Bulkin   
"Watchmen" Aaron Sterns   
"And Neither Have I Wings to Fly" Carrie Laben   

Preorder at Amazon.
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Published on January 08, 2011 20:33 • 37 views

Ekaterina Sedia's Blog

Ekaterina Sedia
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