Ekaterina Sedia's Blog, page 7

February 1, 2012

I meant to do this post for a while now. Refinery29 recently did a post on seven emerging European designers, and among them they mentioned Sasha Kanevski. Ignoring their strange wording ("it's the fusion of the modern feminist meeting the ultra-hip Eastern European cousin" -- what is wrong with this sentence?!), I was really glad to see his name. While his esthetic is a bit too youthful for my middle-aged self, I do admire a lot of his clothes, especially knits:

A tad Alexander Wang with a more avant-garde/military sensibility, well cut and clean-lined.

However, Kanevski is only the tip of the iceberg. In recent years, Ukrainian design really has been emerging as a great force, with many tending toward avant-garde but with frequent nods to classic cuts, with feminine estehtic that still managed to skew away from overtly sexualized. In other words, gorgeous stuff.

So I wanted to mention a few of my favorites. First, Fedor Vozianov. Talk about Scandinavian minimalism/clean-lined avant garde that still manages to stay wearable and dare I say pretty?

Yeah, I do. And of course I do especially dig the grey, white and black palette with occasional corals and yellows. And the shoes shaped like paws. Oh heck, just everything!

Then there are Natalia Kamenskaya and Olesya Kononova, the designers of Kamenskaya-Kononova. Their designs are more traditionally ladylike, with rich and sophisticated colors, refined midi silhouettes, and shredding.

Then there are vivid colors of Nadya Dzyak:

Small unexpected details and interesting colorblocking make this traditionally drapey silhoette not quite so.

And last but not least, Liliya Litkovskaya. I just am so enamored of her severe and beautiful esthetic.

I am so impressed with this group of designers. I hope that for some of you this is new info. There is really nothing more I like than introducing people to creative minds I admire. Now, if I could only get Tilda Swinton to wear Vozianov and Litkovskaya!
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Published on February 01, 2012 13:56 • 36 views
I am extremely pleased to announce the project that's been under wraps so far: I am editing an anthology for Constable&Robinson, WILFUL IMPROPRIETY: 13 Tales of Society and Scandal (to be published in the US by Running Press). I will post the cover as soon as it is available, but for now, enjoy the ToC:

Introduction by Ekaterina Sedia

THE DANCING MASTER by Genevieve Valentine


AT WILL by Leanna Renee Hieber



RESURRECTION by Tiffany Trent



FALSE COLOURS by Marie Brennan



MERCURY RETROGRADE by Mary Robinette Kowal

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Caroline Stevermer

I am really pleased about this one, even though YA is not something I do a lot of. But here's an excerpt from my intro anyway!

"Recently we saw a great rise in both Victorian and Young
Adult categories of fiction, and to me these two go hand in
hand. If being a teenager is about disobedience, the notion of
Victoriana (at least the way it is perceived by a modern reader)
is often centered around propriety and convention, rigid social
structures, and impermeable class, race and gender barriers.
Yet, where there is convention, there is also defiance, and the
opposite side of this Victorian coin is the realization that as long
as there are barriers and conventions, there will be those who
will rise up against them."
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Published on February 01, 2012 08:32 • 31 views

January 30, 2012

Semester, that is. Oh, who am I kidding: I haven't been around internet much, and when I have been, it was all on Facebook and Twitter. But there're posts fermenting. At the moment I'm noodling about:

1) Ukrainian fashion design;
2) Obligation of beauty;
3) Some other random stuff that makes me angry.

So all of this will happen. For now, here's an image from topic 1: a look by Fedor Vozianov, a fashion designer with a degree in linguistics.

I am a bit obsessed with his work at the moment. Go ahead, check out his website. Tons of interesting minimal, sculptural, and almost Scandinavian avant garde. More forthcoming.
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Published on January 30, 2012 20:11 • 31 views

January 18, 2012

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Published on January 18, 2012 08:02 • 49 views

November 26, 2011

(From Vogue Italia 2009, picturing Nina Ricci's famous heelless shoes)I am currently reading submissions for Bloody Fabulous, and as happens with every new anthology, there is always a new set of issues. To be fair, I anticipated the majority of what is happening this time around: namely, people are trying to fake knowing about fashion. And it shows.

Firstly, fashion is not about labels. There is a reason a person dressed in a bunch of labels without rhyme or reason is called a fashion victim. Fashion is an industry that doesn't sell you beauty or sexiness or any of those things; fashion industry sells you change and the promise of self-reinvention and your new, better self emerging from the ashes; it's a promise of shapeshifting, of drag, of disguise and escape. And every successful fashion house knows it, and their label tells you what they are selling -- which disguise. It's a language, and you can fake it no more than you can fake speaking French. If you just throw a bunch of label names on the page, it looks off -- as if you blurted random foreign words and expected people to understand you. So: what labels your character wears should tell us something about the character. The fewer labels the better, since it allows for a better definition without too much product placement. There is a reason it's called The Devil Wears Prada, and not The Devil Wears Tom Ford's Gucci.

Speaking of: yes, we all saw that movie. So the chances of me accepting a story about a fashion editor who is super mean to her assistant are close to zero. Chances of me accepting more than one of those stories are actually zero.

Secondly, fashion and style are not the same although they are related. Style is all about how a person puts together their guise. To paraphrase Ru Paul, we all wear drag: we put together our clothing in such a way as to tell other people what we envision ourselves to be, what image we want to present to the world. Style is being fluent in this language -- that is, knowing how to put together a persona, as well as being sure of WHAT persona to present, whether to keep it fluid or to develop a uniform. People who do not care about fashion and style are not fluent (and that is fine, not every form of expression is mandatory); they dress for comfort and don't give it a second thought. But when you're writing about fashion, you are talking about people who are at the very least interested in style -- that is, they know which persona they cultivate. And this part is not about labels as much as it is about the lines of clothing and the silhouettes.

So when writing about people who are (or try to be) stylish as well as fashionable, it makes sense to give some thought about how image is put together. Not the labels, but the lines -- is it nipped in, girly, foofy, masculine, androgynous, eclectic, avant guard, approachable, forbidding, tailored, flowy? Knowing what selves your characters present to the world is knowing their aspirational self, or their armor. And if you set up a contrast between the true self and the projected self -- well, that's conflict right there.

And finally, it helps to know how fashion industry works if you choose it as your topic. As in, where do the models come from? Who makes runway samples? What are tailoring vs store samples? Where fabrics are sourced? Who are buyers? etc etc. Of course, not every story is about fashion industry -- there are many about people of personal style, of significant clothing, of disguises. But for all that is sacred, if you write about the fashion industry, do your research in the same way you would research history or science or any other industry -- thoroughly. If you think it's too trivial to research, or that no one will notice, you do your story no favors.
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Published on November 26, 2011 18:46 • 65 views
And once again, I find my post among this week's Links a la Mode. Thanks, IFB!
[image error]Getting Into The Spirit
Edited by Taylor Davies

Thanksgiving is now officially behind us, so it's time to start looking ahead to the coming holidays and all the fan-fair that comes along with them. From Black Friday shopping to holiday parties to festive DIY projects, there's a lot of inspiration in this week's Links a la Mode selections.
Along with all this inspiration, a few of our bloggers tackled some tough issues, from finding the balance between sexy and frumpy dressing in the workplace, vanity sizing, recession dressing and improving your blog posts. I thought these were important and critical to include for this week's round up, because even as the holiday season gets into full swing, and we're overcome with twinkling lights, festive parties and sequins galore - the same problems and difficulties we face the rest of the year will be here.

33 Avenue Miquelon: Has Black Friday Jumped The Shark?Bon Vivant + A Budget: A Good Sweater Is Hard To FindClothes: Pepe Jeans To Launch Tru-Blu Jeans To Sustainable Fashion MarketCosmolawlitan: Benetton Ads Spark Controversy but Embody Fashion SpiritFashion Is Evolution: How To Make A Book ClutchFish Monkey's Writing Stuff: Not-Sexy DressingForever Amber: Size Zero, My AssIn Her Glam: Glam Feature Jill AllisonKoi Story: Hair Tutorial v2: BeehiveOh To Be A Muse: Make Up and Muses: The Eyes Have ItOranges & Apples: My Relationship With Make UpOut Of Order: Easy DIY Bow BeltPaperdoll Vintage: My Top Ten Online Vintage ShopsPaper + Cloth: 10 Crosby Is HereRoses et Epines: Is The Most Exciting Industry In The World Turning Boring?Semi: DIY Fringe BeltTansuann: Versace For H&M TimelineThe Style Confessions: Fashion For The RecessionThe Window Shopper: Your Christmas Party Survival GuideStatements in Fashion: How To Write Better Blog Posts
Holiday Sale at Shopbop: Rachel Roy, Anya Hindmarch, Rachel Zoe Bags, Coated Denim, Vix, Paige Jeans, Boots, Alexander Wang Purses, Sonia Rykiel, Tory Burch Bags, Vince Tops, Marc Jacobs Bags & Shoes.

If you would like to submit your link for next week's Links à la Mode, please register first , then post your links HERE . The HTML code for this week will be found in the Links a la Mode group will be published later today. ~Jennine

And on a different note: yesterday I caught some Project Runway reruns (Season 4), and one of the challenges was to revive a hopelessly outdated and "out" trend. Which included fringe, cutouts, poodle skirts, neon, baggy sweaters, underwear as outerwear, dancewear, shoulder pads and seventies silhouettes -- that is, all those things that are all over current runways and stores. And sure, yes, fashion changes, trends come and go, that's obvious. My delight came primarily from watching Nina Garcia and Michael Kors four years ago ridiculing things they are enthusiastically shilling now. So trends don't only come and go, but with them they bring massive paradigm shifts, so that people can see something they used to think was ugly as beautiful, without experiencing cognitive dissonance.

Or is it that social psychologists are right, and extrinsic reward (gobs and gobs of money) is in itself enough to reduce the feelings of the dissonance, and the enthusiasm with which fashion mags offer us seventies silhouettes they thought were HIDEOUS just a few years back is genuine, because they certainly make enough cash to offset the feeling of inner conflict? I sure hope so. But I wonder how do the consumers of fashion -- that is, people who do not get paid -- reduce these feelings. I mean, we are contradicting ourselves, and are doing it for no reward. Is cognitive dissonance the engine that drives the consumption engine? Do we buy stuff to just shut up that dissatisfied voice inside that tries telling us that there is no reason to like stuff now if we hated it last year?

Oh Project Runway. You make me ask so many questions.
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Published on November 26, 2011 12:20 • 47 views

November 16, 2011

This week's topic for Feminist Fashion Bloggers group post is sexuality, but ofcourse I am going to cheat and talk about something slightly different: theimpossibility for a woman to dress in a sexually neutral manner. We live in thesociety where a guy can put on a pair of slacks, a shirt and a tie, and betotally work-appropriate and professional, without inviting judgment of hissexual life. For a woman, it is not so simple – striving for an attractive orfitted look tends to lower one's perceived status (sexy secretary, anyone?),and forgoing sexiness in favor of more somber, looser clothes spellsfrumpville. So it's sexy or frumpy, with a very narrow ledge in between. Thewidth of the ledge varies depending on the workplace, the observer, and thewoman's age and attractiveness. Talk about running a gauntlet.
And this is the thing: I love clothes. I like being dressedprofessionally and put together at work. What I don't love is that while Iintend my clothes to be a message about my abilities, being a lady, I cannottake out any perceptions of sex. I really am not interested in seeing people Iinteract with at work as sexual objects; it seems only fair that women as wellas men should be allowed this opportunity. I am here to do my job, and to looklike I can do it well and be awesome while doing it.
What Not To Wear is an interesting case: they often implorewomen to look "sexy", with Stacy asking emphatically, "What's wrong with lookingsexy?" And my answer is, of course nothing, if that's what one wants to looklike. But there ought to be alternatives other than hassled sad woman who gaveup on herself forever, you know?
 In academia, one isalready looked down upon if one shows interest in fashion – and part of, it, Ithink is the conflation of fashion with sexualized image of women. It doesn'thave to be, of course, but sadly we live in the world of binaries: sexy orfrumpy, slut or blue stocking, etc etc. So the shortcut goes from well-dressedto fashiony to sexy to vapid. The opposite is of course the stereotypicalfemale academic who takes her work too seriously to spend even a minutethinking about clothing – and those are perceived as sex-hostile and/ormannish. Being respected and perceived as competent becomes almost impossiblewithout personal style becoming a statement of self-denial. And we need thisthird thing.
You know, the thing that men have, the way of dressing thatsays, I am here to be presentable and to do my job, and not to be evaluated interms of my perceived sexuality. The thing that doesn't make people think, "Gee,she spends so much time/money/effort on dressing, she must be really vapid."The thing where wearing low heels and masculine clothing doesn't invite peopleto automatically assume that one's a lesbian or, at the very least, "has givenup" (whatever that means.) But women as a sex class are denied theseopportunities. We can confine ourselves to different castes of this class, butwe cannot escape it. So we can certainly talk about how women have more choicesthan men when it comes to clothing and workwear, but until these choicesinclude the possibility of presentation entirely outside of the sexual dimension,the variety is not really signifying anything but profits for the fashionindustry.
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Published on November 16, 2011 03:00 • 82 views

October 19, 2011

(This post is for Feminist Fashion Bloggers. This month's theme: Youth and Aging.) [image error](Image: Tilda Swinton wearing Haider Ackerman, in Toronto 2011)My grandmother had a number of weird and funny sayings, as grandmothers do. This is the one I've been remembering lately: "If a woman doesn't look good in her twenties, it is her misfortune. If she doesn't look good in her forties, it is her fault."

I know, I know. Quite a few assumptions here, but what I would like to focus on is the positives: the idea that as we age we not only acquire control over how we present ourselves to the world, but we also get to redefine what "looking good" is. Most of all, with all the built in assumptions, this saying resonates with me because I like getting older.

There was that thing about being young: I was unsure. I was easy to sway, I looked for male approval before female one, I fluctuated in my presentation to the world, I didn't know what I was. It is not uncommon for young people to waver as they try to discover themselves. And the issue of approval is I think germane to how we express ourselves via dressing.

Dressing for men is something women are encouraged to do: we constantly hear women's clothes being criticized as unflattering or unsexy, or what was she thinking, and she should show more skin, show off her waist etc etc. Anything to project an image desirable to a man. This is why I rarely have interest in clothes designed by straight male designers: they too often design for the male gaze, and I'm just not impressed. This is why I crack up at design competitors who break out "I bring a straight male perspective to clothing!" argument. This rare, precious commodity -- the straight male view!

There is another saying about women who dress primarily for other women. This is at least what I hear mentioned by the way of explanation of the harem pant-wearing, waist-concealing, sack-dressing fashion forward individuals. While (some) other women surely can appreciate such styling better than (most) straight men, this isn't all of the story either. Dressing in a way that is pleasing to oneself is important, sure; but so is sending a signal of "I do not dress for men". So that this dressing for other women thing? I think it often gets misconstrued as competitive, trying to impress each other. For me, I take it as a signal of "I do not value male attraction above all else." And as I get older, I see these women, and I want to be friends with them. Dressing for oneself OR for other women is a rebellion, since male gaze is such a default.

Now yes, there are plenty of young women who dress in interesting ways. But age does give one a few advantages in this area: first, there's knowing what you like after four decades of trial and error. Personal style evolves, at least for those of us who are interested in that sort of thing, and any evolution takes time. I know what I like now, and unlike when I was in my twenties, it is hard to persuade me to like things because everyone else does (not that I never change my mind, but.) Then there is an issue of income or at least patience: it is easier for me to save for high quality pieces I want rather than spend it all on shiny disposable trends. I do want to dress as a grown up, which for me translates into tailored, high quality garments. (If I ever have enough of vintage silk blouses and woolen blazers, I'll let you know.)

And finally, there is an issue of visibility. It's an old chestnut that women after forty become invisible in our culture. But invisibility also comes with lessening of the scrutiny female bodies are subjected to. Women over forty are often freer to experiment with personal style -- and many of the most amazing fashion icons, from Irene Apfel to Tilda Swinton to Helen Bonham Carter to Helen Mirren fall into this group. The social penalty for failing to cater to male gaze is lessened, since male gaze glosses right over women of a certain age, and... it's okay. After all, most of us spent most of our lives railing against the patriarchy. Now we get to do it from a different place -- from the place of strength and assurance, where our confidence is supported by a lifetime of achievement unrelated to our physical appearance, where our self-worth is unquestionable.

And I like it here, with the fabulously dressed women and timeless clothing. There is such a joy and freedom in finally knowing who you are, what you want, and what to tell those who don't like it. No longer at the whim of outside influence, we can find peace with ourselves -- and it is our doing.
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Published on October 19, 2011 14:18 • 128 views

August 18, 2011

(Image: December 2008 cover of Russian Vogue)

A few months ago, a fashion blog, Fashionable Academics (which since then seems to have gone private readership) hosted a blog conference called "This is What a Feminist Looks Like". Many fashion bloggers contributed with pictures of themselves in their best Banana Republic business casual (seriously, what's with academic fashion blogs BR shill?), with big smiles on their white attractive faces. The whole point of that (as was pointed out by an anon commenter) is to convince the casual observer that the feminists are not hairy man-hating beasts but actually very nice white middle-class attractive ladies. That is, we take an unfairly maligned category and make it more palatable to the mainstream by distancing ourselves from the fringe (in this case, hairy man-hating beasts). We can call it Gloria Steinem syndrome.

And it struck me recently how much do we do that. Spokespeople for pretty much any cause will present the most mainstream face possible -- and from Bono to Gaga, celebrities often give their face to causes associated with groups that "general public" (whatever that is) might find less relatable than those white celebs. And... I really do have a problem with that.

Recently, that horrid Lifetime show, Russian Dolls aired. As you can guess by the name, it is about Russian immigrants (in Brighton Beach, of course), and something something struggles something weird makeup haha look at how they dress all funny something show. I wrote before of this tendency to diminish the sartorial other; in TV, we have shows like Jerseylicious which really serve little other purpose than ridiculing a group of people for the way they dress, so in that regard Russian Dolls is not terribly surprising. What was surprising is the number of people who asked me if it was really like that.

I found my reaction interesting: first, there is a legitimate degree of annoyance that people expect the experience of Russian immigrants to be the same, regardless of the time immigration has occurred, whether or not they live in ethnic enclaves a la Brighton Beach, whether their entire families have immigrated with them etc etc. Clearly, individual experiences of individual people will produce vastly different results, and yet the desire to categorize and assume the uniformity of the other is overwhelming, even in intelligent people. The other aspect, however, surprised me: I wanted to distance myself from those Brighton Beach people. I wanted to appear more mainstream, which is a legitimate self-preservation instinct. Yet, I was surprised at the accompanying impulse to downplay those who are flamboyantly not fitting in, those fringe others -- with their blinged-out Versaceism and all that.

This is not to say that I'm suddenly all right with the representations of Russians in contemporary American entertainment -- au contraire. The representation is terribly one-sided and negative. I don't want all Russians on TV to be hookers or criminals; I just want some positive representation. Yet, my own desire to see and to show only the acceptable misses the mark too. The point is, we are people, with a variety of experiences. And unless we start representing the range rather than only one end of the spectrum, there is no hope to actually recognizing the other as legitimately human and deserving of being treated as such, regardless of their sartorial choices, level of attractiveness, or place of residence.
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Published on August 18, 2011 17:46 • 128 views

August 13, 2011

Yes, I said all sorts of horrible things about Project Runway judges, and how they pander to the lowest common denominator as they imagine it to be. And no, I am not taking this back. Because this week's challenge was great, in theory -- outfits for stilt walkers! Crazy proportions! Circus! Open air runway! Exciting guest judge! (Well, I lied about the last one.)

Instead, designs were criticized for being too costumey. The biggest compliment Michael Kors gave was that the outfit would look just as good on someone not wearing the stilts -- which is the opposite of the point of this challenge! It's like having a couture challenge and then praising the winning design because it would totally fit at Talbot's.

Thankfully, there was plenty of drama. Fallene got bossed around by the baby-faced Bryce who kept hissing at her because her bodice was not cut on grain. Fallene is fragile, so she cried and complained of the black cloud hanging over her.

In fact, the black cloud was the awful tutu Bryce made. See?

So Fallene cried, and we all knew it was over for her, because even though she made a quirky feather fascinator, it was abundantly clear that she is not cut out for reality TV. I hope she opens an Etsy shop real soon, because I do dig her designs. Just not this:


Then we had Anya and Olivier, who were adorable and made a mediocre but not particularly offensive outfit, and were waved through:

The menswearish bodice had potential, but the outfit was meh. Anya and Olivier actually collaborated though, which is so rare in these team challenges. So thumbs up, carry on with your adorable selves.

In less adorable, there was Viktor, who was a snot, and Bert, who was insufferable. Last week he declared that he has immunity and doesn't care, and sent a half-assed outfit down the runway. This week, he was once again above the challenge but no immunity, so he acted even worse than Viktor. So Viktor discovered Simon Doonan's rule of flattering adjacency. That is, if you want to be a snot and yet come across as a decent human being, stand next to Bert.

No flattering adjacency could save this though:

Actually, I take it back. The guest judge, Kim Kardashian, had this to say about this look: "It reminds me of the movie The Sound of Music, where they had to cut curtains to make their clothes... like something in Marie Antoinette times." Suddenly, the dress looked more refined.

Then there was something for the business casual stilt-walker:

This is by Danielle and Cecilia, both my early picks. They can tailor, and the blouse is actually lovely. The pants are well-made. It's just such a conservative look -- I would totally wear this to work if pants were wool. For a stilt-walker, I expect something with a little pizazz:

This is by Julie and Joshua. The proportion is weird, because of the tiny cape which makes the model look like she has T.rex arms. But really, a bigger cape, and you have a great matador/circus look! Totally appropriate for someone on stilts! The judges hated it for being too costumey. I... don't even.

There was one costumey look they did like:

This was by Kim and Becky. They worked well together -- without drama! They just assessed their strength, split the work, and did it, like actual adults. Kim impressed me with her mad tailoring skills (she made the pants). Becky FINALLY showed what I've seen in her portfolio: sharp tailoring, nice jacket. Nina of course complained about the collar being too circusy. I didn't mind it -- in fact, it channeled Vivienne Westwood and reminded me a tad of Seth Aaron, without being a knockoff of these too. It is possible!

Someone tell Anthony Ryan, because after he knocked off McQueen's collar dress last week, this week he went for Gucci Fall 2011.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B (Gucci):

Nina Garcia politely called him "referential". Still, it won -- actually, he graciously gave the win to Laura, which was sweet.

I'm still pleased with Cecilia and Danielle, really happy that Becky started to show what she can do with tailoring, and now I'm impressed with Kim's sewing. She flew under the radar so far, but this week, I liked her a lot.

Also, next week's challenge? Designing for Nina Garcia! This is one challenge where sharp tailoring will pay off, and taste levels will be questioned. Bryce, Joshua, or Viktor -- who will be aufed?
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Published on August 13, 2011 17:55 • 173 views

Ekaterina Sedia's Blog

Ekaterina Sedia
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