Category Archives: fashion

Writing: Marketing at Cons

Literaryliaison sent me this question:

cosplay, fantasy conventions, fans, SF, marketing writing

Dressing like this might get you the attention of an editor. Creative Commons: Florian Fromentin, Flickr

This year, I will be going to my first con. My sister and I will be dressing up as characters from The Hobbit, but we were wondering if a con is a good place to market fantasy. Have you had a lot of success in the past? Do you dress up as one of your characters? We thought that might be a creative idea.

I thought I’d actually write a post about cons and marketing your writing. First, there are three “world” cons. There is World Fantasy Con, World Horror Con and Worldcon. All three move from city to city and sometimes country to country. The first two are what is called a professional con. These conventions are mainly for the publishing industry. The industry is composed of writers, editors, artists, agents and publishers. Therefore your percentage of professionals to fans ratio is very different than Worldcon or any other fan cons. While fans may attend WFC or WHC, they are small in number. But yet, there are still fans but in this case those fans are writers of differing degrees, from the new writer with a first story to sell to the seasoned pros who come to mingle, be on panels, check in with their agents and publishers in person.

Professional cons tend to not have any fan tracks. There will be no gaming, no movies going on, no costume contest, etc. Therefore, there will be no costumes. What has been a somewhat snobbish view in the publishing industry is that if you show up at a pro con in costume you’re just a fan and not really a writer. I don’t agree with this and it’s my pet peeve that WFC is held around Hallowe’en every year and they don’t do costumes. Except last year, in Brighton. I’m also not all knowledgeable in this and it could be attitudes are changing. Those of us that go to the pro cons might affect weird contact lenses, flamboyant clothing and jewellery. I’ve been known to wear a pink brocade tricorn hat. It’s not a costume; it’s my clothing. 😉 It’s sort of a subtle way of circumventing the costume rule.

Now I should say I’ve only attended one Worldcon and that there are other very large conventions in various cities, such as Dragon Con in Georgia or Comic Con. The last, while more comic oriented is huge, filled with media stars and people wearing cosplay. I don’t know what writing/pro tracks they have but the norm is costuming.

fantasy authors, writers, professional conventions, World Fantasy Con

Do you think George R.R. Martin cares what you’re wearing? No. But he might not buy your novel either. Creative Commons: dravecky

You could always do a combo at the cons. Definitely dress up, have fun and, if you can manage it, do go as one of your characters. While agents or editors might look askance, or be drawn to your outfit, the other fans will eventually be your reading audience and they count. Writers won’t care. Maybe editors won’t care, especially if you’re wearing one of the skintight outfits of female superheros, or the bare-chested brawny male hero version. Also if they have panels to do with writing and marketing fiction, attend them, even in costume. These panels can give you a wealth of info and you might get a chance to talk to an editor or agent and see what they want. Sometimes there are publisher parties. Another good place to chat with editors and find out what they’re looking for.

If you’re self-publishing, use every gimmick you have to spread the word. Bookmarks, free giveaways and dressing as one of your characters is a good way to make people aware. These days, there are thousands of books and authors, and not everyone who is successful writes great works. Some have good publishers, agents and marketing. Marketing matters, even for people with large publishing firms.

I’ve not dressed up as one of my characters but then I haven’t written a character that I look like at all, but it’s a great idea. If you do happen to go to World Horror or World Fantasy, you might tone down the costuming because you’ll stick out like a sore thumb but with all other cons, you’ll be part of the fun. I do hope though that a good editor or agent would not miss the opportunity to find a great writer just because of a costume. Good luck!

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The Devil Reads Prada

Prada, fashion, writing contest, Prada fiction contest, taking moral rights, devil, satan

This is a tarot card, but maybe the devil is saying, if you don’t wear Prada, you wear nothing.

You know the movie, the one where sweet Anne Hathaway is sucked into the world of high snobbery and is Meryl Streep’s minion at a fashion magazine. The world where it’s backstabbing and anorexia but somewhere in amongst the fashionistas true wuv takes root? Yeah that one.

Well, besides making clothing and creating a fashion magazine, it seems Prada really does want to lash out with that forked tail and snare artists of all flavors. They don’t just do magazines and sunglasses and backpacks and clothing and fragrances and boat races. No, they want to capture the creative essence of other artists. “Prada, in keeping with the brand’s innovative spirit, launches a literary contest in cooperation with Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore.” They have something called the journal project which includes a writing contest. The crucial statement when considering what to write is: “What are the realities that our eyes give back to us? And how are these realities filtered through lenses?” Obviously they would like to tie it into to their sunglasses line.www.prada.com/journal

As I read the rather long and convoluted contest rules (the English translation is a bit off), I thought €5,000! Well, yes, I will definitely enter that. Oh but wait, should you win the contest then you give up all moral rights, which means your name will stay with the piece but they own it in all forms and media, can print it on clothing or put in books or chop up the sentences and stick them wherever, in perpetuity. You lose all rights to read your story, put it in a collection of your writing or do anything else with it.

writing, Canadian anthology, Steve Vernon, Colleen Anderson, Tesseracts 17, Edge Publications

Get writing but don’t sell your soul.

That’s not the true deal with the devil though it gets close. As I read on it turns out that while there would only be one monetary winner Prada reserves the right to create other categories and choose winners on the spot. But those winners receive no prize and lose all rights to their stories as well. This pretty much amounts to theft even if they have you acknowledge you’re selling your soul to the devil but don’t get anything out of it except perhaps some bit of elusive fame. Or perhaps we should just call this exploitation. It’s not like Prada is hurting for money.

To make sure it just wasn’t some misinterpretation that happened in the translation, I wrote to Prada.

Dear Madam,

The winners of the Contest, if any, will receive the amount of Euro 5.000, while the winner of the thematic prizes, if established by Prada and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (it is not sure that such thematic prizes will be established), will not receive this amount. But in both such events the authorship of the short stories will remain with the winners in accordance with the applicable law in the copyright field.

In fact, PRADA and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli shall have the right to use the short stories as per the provisions of the “T&C” of the Contest and on the basis of the rights granted by the winners to Prada and Feltrinelli  as specified in such “T&C “: “(the Winner) he/she grants exclusively to PRADA and Feltrinelli any and all right to use, reproduce, publish, edit, distribute and divulge the selected Short Story(ies), on its(their) own, in full or in part, or in a collection book, at PRADA and Feltrinelli’s discretion in perpetuity and at a worldwide level for any uses either commercial or promotional, in any language or version, and in any print and/or digital and/or multimedia materials and media, including Internet, now known or hereafter invented. Moreover, You acknowledge and agree that PRADA and Feltrinelli will be entitled to edit and to adapt the Short Story(ies) at its(their) sole discretion and to reproduce the very same in its(their) edited and/or adapted version in any print and/or digital material and/or multimedia materials and media, including Internet, and for whatsoever purposes to the extend permitted by law”.

Should you have any further query, please do not hesitate to contact us.

My advice would be to save your soul, and your writing and not enter the contest on the off chance you’ll get the grand prize. The devil, you know, is in the details.

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Body Adornment or Modification

body adoarnment, body modification, piercing, tattoos, body ornaments, fetish,

This image shows to types of body decoration, neither permanent: jewelery and mehndi. Creative Commons: Henna Designs

I’ve had some interesting comments on the post about genital bleaching. Some people defend it as just another way of decorating ourselves, such as having tattoos or piercings. This is actually inaccurate. While a tattoo or a piercing is a body modification, it is also body adornment or decoration. True, there are some piercings that veer from being only decoration (and used for enhancement of sensations or fetishism–bondage, humiliation, etc.) but for the majority it is about decorating the body in some way.

This is extreme body adornment and modification. Creative Commons Boing Boing

This is extreme body adornment and modification. Creative Commons Boing Boing

It’s true that humanity has been doing this as long as we’ve been building shelters and making things. Stuff…adornments, decorations, artifacts are what define civilizations. It’s an inherent part of our nature. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a vibrant fashion industry, laws and rules throughout the ages regulating clothing and dyes and styles, nor many types of jewellery. So, yes humans have been decorating themselves forever and continue to do so except for those religions that try to suppress human nature.

But a pure body modification is not necessarily adornment. Sometimes it’s a medical necessity, such as a disfigurement that is painful or limiting of a person’s movement. It might be surgery after an illness, disease or accident that requires a modification. Or it might be for decoration. Obviously, piercings modify the body’s structure to some degree. Any piercing you can see is one of decoration, though it can mean more. Those that you can’t see, such as breasts, genitalia or the subcutaneous implants might be body adornment as well. Like I said, some people do these piercings for ritualistic or fetishistic reasons. It may give them a sexual thrill, indicate they are into some form of fetishistic situation such as domination or submission, be a form of emotional catharsis, or be part of a religious practice.

I suppose anal bleaching could be religious. I certainly don’t know all of the spiritual practices out there. However, it seems that unless you’re a porn star where your butthole is displayed on screen that in fact it’s not decoration, so comparing a pierced ear or a tattooed arm to a bleached anus is not the same thing at all. I’d be happy to hear arguments that indicate this falls under decorating the body as opposed to modifying. Yes, both could be seen as forms of beautification and can definitely fall under fetish, or body modification. In this case when one has a nose job, a scar removed, a circumcision, a breast implant, or the genitalia bleached, it is body modification, whether it is for health reasons or vanity. I will still maintain that a person who worries that their labia isn’t pretty enough or their butthole of the right shade, has got their priorities mixed up.

skin bleaching, vanity, body modification, adornment, skin, blemishes

Skin whitening can be done to remove discolorations caused by sun or birthmarks but do you really need it where the sun don’t shine? Creative Commons: Tribune

This sort of worry is what creates a society where anorexia runs rampant, where we’re stuck on any flaw or imperfection as bad because we watch movies or look at magazines where people are lit, done up in make up and airbrushed to godlike proportions. Relationships become harder to maintain because they’re based on superficial forms of attraction. This isn’t about being confident; it’s about lacking confidence so much that you worry about what anyone will think of every aspect of your body.

We’re losing perspective. Personality and being human is what really matters, and going down the road of worrying about the shade of your genitalia, how your pubic hair curls, whether your toenails grow the right thickness and if your neck is long enough is trying to change how we were born. It’s an unending battle and a slippery slope. Michael Jackson is a fine example of someone who couldn’t stop trying to be someone else, to the point of having extreme cosmetic surgery and bleaching his skin so he looked less black. His talent was in his voice and his musical skills. His downfall was in his quest to be someone else.

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Evolution of the Tie

ties, neckties, neckwear, scarves, fashion, clothing, accessories, men's fashion


A myriad of modern ties. From GQ.com

Ever wonder where the tie came from, that rather useless modicum of clothing that has become the standard of business attire? It actually has a long evolution from a functional item to what it is today. The tie began its life in a very different form. Imagine a frog’s egg that becomes a tadpole and eventually a frog, or a caterpillar that builds its chrysalis and turns into a butterfly. That is the range from which the tie has evolved.

In the early days of civilization and human invention, people had to discover and puzzle out everything. When they finally moved from wearing furs, skins and large leaves, they began to figure out how to make threads from plants and weave them. The first looms were not large and like looms to this day, made rectangles of fabric. Once the weaver had their rectangle of fabric, they wrapped it around themselves. Pins and stitching developed, and because making fabric was time consuming and expensive, no piece was wasted. Early clothing was made by rectangular construction, meaning that rectangles from those looms were piece together. Sometimes the fabric was cut and piece but rectangles, squares and triangles were as inventive as early clothing got.

This is a simplification, and there are areas where sophistication in patterning was more advanced. But

tie, cravat, scarf, necktie, fashion, history, clothing, accessories

Ye old cravat from the early 1800s.

let’s get back to the tie’s birth. It actually starts with the outwear that people needed to protect themselves from the elements. The earliest forms were called mantles and were rectangles of fabric, sheepskin or furs. I’m talking mostly about European origins and these were closed with large pins and clasps. The mantle developed into the cloak, with piecing of rectangles. However, hats and hoods were made separately because the ability to put the two together was not yet there.

The hoods had an overlap and sat atop the cloak. The point or tail of the hood could be different lengths and was sometimes quite long so that it could be wrapped around the neck of the hood to keep the wind and rain out. The long tail was called a liripipe and eventually that hood was worn in different ways. Plopped on top of the head with the tail wrapped to hold up the dagged edge in a cockscomb way, the fashion changed away.

ties, cravat, neckwear, fashion, clothing, history

This cravat is more of an Ascot tie.

Collars came about and had been used in other countries for a while, such as with the Chinese and Mongols. A scarf or kerchief was used selectively, such as with the Roman army, but as an actual dress item it was a slower process. But the wrapping around the throat of extra fabric came about in the 1600s. Croatian soldiers in France wore red kerchiefs around their necks and the French decided this was a cool and wonderful thing. They adopted it into fashion and the word cravat comes from Croat.

The cravat was usually white and often an elaborate affair of frills and ruffs tied in various ways. Here is where something to keep the neck warm changed to something to adorn the neck. There was also the stock in the 1700s, a piece of fabric wound around the throat. In some weird way it might have been a very shrunken version of the ruff, which was popular in the early 1600s. A long separate piece of fabric, like the scarf, was not common until the 1800s. But that cravat got a workout from the Baroque to the Rococo and beyond.

By the 1800s you have scarves and ties, and the ties begin to morph in size and shape. There’s the Ascot tie, the bow tie, the long tie and the most essentially inane tie ever, the bolo tie, created in the 1940s. Ties became part of formal dress that hasn’t changed much since Victorian times. They’ve been long and short, narrow and wide, dull and paisley, and a variety of colors. Considering the conservatism of men’s clothing I imagine we’ll have another century of ties, and while some formal dress no longer requires the tie, it seems it will stick around as male fabric adornment for a while yet.

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Miss Universe Should Be Miss Trophy Wife

jenna tacklokova, sexism, women, beauty pageants

Jenna Tacklokova walks the razor’s edge between equality and sexism. Photo: Model Mayhem. com

Jenna Talackova, Vancouver’s representative for the Miss Universe Canada pageant has made headlines recently because she was disqualified as not being genetically female. Genetically, some women will be more female or male than others, as will men. And while her gene pool designated her as male at birth she obviously never felt or believed she was male. Could you tell whether my female friend or I was more genetically female? And really,  why did it matter what she was born as if she is a woman today?

Because the veneer of depth to any beauty pageant is as thin as the fact that these are set up as a shopping mall for rich men. What? You think this isn’t true? Have you looked at what they’re judged on? At least they call it a beauty pageant. Just check out the wiki entry, which outlines that you’re judged on poise in a bathing suit and in an evening gown. Why not business attire and casual clothes? They added in a tough question or two that contestants have to answer on goals, dreams, ethics, maybe favorite fruit, but that’s supposed to give some depth while trends indicate the organizers have dropped the emphasis in recent years. So really, it’s about the prettiest flower in the bouquet. Even if most of these women are intelligent and achieving great things in their own right, such a pageant put greater emphasis on the coating than on the interior.

beauty pageant, miss universe, sexual exploitation, sexism, miss universe canada

A beauty pageant of a different sort. This one’s for perfect spines, but they still used women. Life photo archive–Wallace Kirkland 1956

sexism, beauty pageants, exploitation, bigotry, beauty

Beauty pageants like to keep women in their place, as ornaments and chattel. Creative Commons

Is it so wrong to be judged on beauty? I guess it depends. I’ve already commented on the severe wrongness of the toddler beauty pageants; at least these people are adults, even if they have to jump through hoops. We all like beautiful things and are drawn to the good looking people or animals or resorts or dinners. And while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the beholden tend towards certain standards. The Mr. Universe “pageant” seems to just be about body building so one could say it’s all about the body as well. But let’s get back to the transgendered Jenna. Originally she was disqualified because she wasn’t female enough. Why on earth would it matter when she looks like a woman and has all the body parts of a woman? You can’t be Miss Universe if you have children or are married, either. Oh heck, here’s what the site says: They must not have ever been married, not had a marriage annulled nor given birth to, or parented, a child. The titleholders are also required to remain single throughout their reign. Now why might these restrictions make a difference to the title of Miss Universe? Well, if you’re pregnant you might have to drop out of your one-year tour of duty. But married, divorced or having a boyfriend/girlfriend (they don’t mention that you must be straight)–well gosh, if you had a relationship, then all those RICH MEN might not think that you can be theirs. And all those men would FREAK OUT if they thought they were chatting up a potential trophy wife who might once have had the same tackle as what dangles between their legs.

I don’t think we should make this equal and start parading men for their body parts either. I believe that Vancouver once moved away in the past from teen beauty pageants and then just had youth ambassadors, who could be any gender. That makes more sense. Judge people as a whole, not on that thin veneer that will wrinkle and age like anyone else’s. Your merits, intelligence and demeanor can last longer than ephemeral beauty.

Miss Bala, beauty pageant, sexism, female exploitation, womens rights

Miss Bala was a movie about a fixed beauty pageant and how a woman gets victimized as the winner and is a drug lord’s mule.

Miss Bala was a gritty movie about a woman who wins a fixed contest because the winner is nothing more than a sex and drug puppet for the local drug lord. On one hand I give Ms Talackova kudos for slapping the Miss Universe (and Donald Trump) organizers upside the head. On the other, I ask why she’s bowing to these exploitative conventions, except that life can be very hard for transgendered people and there is a lot of prejudice out there, so if she can get some money and positive attention, that could make a big difference. When the organizers disqualified her for not being female enough I wonder if they also looked at those who have botox, breast implants, any sort of reductions or cosmetic surgery, false eyelashes or even makeup. After all, what’s true beauty? It’s what resides within that matters most.

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Fluevog Shoes: The Good, the Bad, the Dangerous?

slingback, pump, shoe, designer shoes, Fluevog, fashion, footwear

An early Fluevog shoe with the square heel similar to the witch boots.

John Fluevog is a local name in Vancouver. He began designing shoes in the early 70s and has gone on to international fame for avant garde designs. I used to own an early pair (80s) of Fluevog boots that I bought second hand. I called them my witch boots. They had a heel that sloped out to a square, a squared off pointy toe, a turnover cuff, and a big silver buckle on the front. Made of black suede with a thin, hard plastic sole, they weren’t the most comfortable or well made boots, and were actually a size too big but they were fun. I eventually passed them on. I also had (and still have) some Peter Fox shoes, and originally Fox and Fluevog was the name of the shoe store the two men opened up.

I’ve often gone by the Fluevog store and looked at the crazy designs. Sometimes they don’t appeal, sometimes they do but they’re not cheap shoes. You’re looking at an average price of over $200 for a shoe. I would say  a “basic shoe” but there is no such thing in Fluevogs. From sandals to boots, there are dressy and casual but always unique. I needed a new pair of boots last fall so I checked out Fluevog. Boots are never cheap and because I have large calves not easy to find ones that go above the ankle, and I hate boots that stop at the ankle.

I have bought lace up boots for years and Fluevog had a range. Unfortunately many are just too narrow for my calves. I covet tall boots but they’re rare to find. I’ve been thinking of getting into steampunk too and tried on the Monday boot. The looked great. At $299 they couldn’t be less so I bought them.

I have problem feet. They are extremely wide and I need orthotics, which never work that well. Although I have dress shoe orthotics I gave up on getting them to ever work in boots. So I wanted something that would be comfortable for a reasonable length of time. The soles on these boots are leather, with not a lot of extra padding but fairly thick as it is. The top is brushed suede with decorative silver stitching. The lower boot is of a matte style leather, slightly rough, a bit shiny.

I started wearing the boots right away and within two months the laces were being chewed to pieces by the grommet holes on the boot. While metal grommets will wear on laces eventually, these were rough enough to destroy the lace rather quickly. On top of that, putting on the boot one day, there was something bunching around the toe. The leather insole that covers the nails and stitching had come loose. Fluevog fixed this as there is an 8-month warranty, but I was still surprised it happened. On top of that, the moment you polish the boot that rough matte look tamps down to shiny black. As well, the heel has a hard plastic bottom. I have found when walking on an incline of wet pavement that this slips. I haven’t fallen yet but I have to walk carefully, putting my foot down firmly so I don’t slide. That is dangerous.

boots, lace up boots, shoe, designer shoes, John Fluevog, fashion

Made of suede and leather, the inside says “Another Day with Hope.”

The good thing about these boots is that they are extremely comfortable, even more than I expected for feet that get sore. I haven’t had any boot or shoe in years that is so well balanced that the weight is distributed along the entire foot. The weight doesn’t rest on the ball of the foot alone (the cause of my orthotics) but is carried also by the heel. This is why stilettos can be very hard to wear. Tiny pencil heels and a small sole area increase the pounds-per-square-inch pressure that your feet carry. So kudos to Fluevog for being the only shoe designer out there who seems to get it.

When I bought the boots I had tried on some not so flattering shoes and some, like the Wonder Ayers, were very cute. They came in black and olive green. I could not afford two pairs of Fluevogs and the boots were more a necessity. But I thought of the shoes for two months and when I took the boots in to be fixed they had this pinky purple color. One thing my friends know about me is that I love color. I’d just finished a freelance job and couldn’t resist. Three hundred dollars later, I had the Ayers shoe, which was not too tall in the heel and turned up at the toe. I love ankle straps and this pair has two. How could I lose? They’re also well balanced at distributing the weight and centering it along the foot.

Wonder Ayers shoe, Fluevogs, shoes, fashion, designer shoes, leather

The Wonder Ayers, fun and stylish

I didn’t wear these for the first month as it was too cold and rainy. I wore them a bit at a time to break them in and stretch them. In the first month I slipped twice on linoleum floors and went down so fast I couldn’t break the fall. Luckily my heel slipped sideways and I went down along my leg and knee, bruising the knee one time. The same material is on this heel, and the side of the plastic is actually edged to a corner halfway up the side. This is the plastic piece on the heel that protects the shoe itself from wear.

I started to get scuffs on the toes because of the style and while that’s expected I found out Fluevog does not carry the polish to match these shoes, so I’m stuck. Even the polish they gave the shoes when I took them in for repairs doesn’t quite match the original color, not to mention it would be hard to polish around the white stitching. Neither of these are the biggest problems with this shoe. At less than three months old, with less than two months of wear I noticed the leather sole pulling away from the shoe, and then I saw the leather was ripping along the inner side at the top where the shoe bends. When I took them in Fluevog should have given me a new pair, considering price and age, but they sent them off for repair. The leather soles have been replaced with Topy soles and they’ve put a fairly invisible patch on the inside of the shoe to stop the tearing.  But I’m not happy.

For comfort and style and innovation, Fluevog gets a 9-10. For customer service, a 7–each time they’ve said, oh this hasn’t happened before, so am I buying the only bad pairs out there? For materials and support items (polish) they get a 5. The colors are good, the stitching well done, the leather feels good, but rough grommet holes, hard plastic heels that are dangerous, soles the pull away and leather that splits brings Fluevog’s score down. While the materials are better than those early pair, Fluevog still has room for improvement, especially when the shoes are so pricey.  That’s 72% for shoes that should be 85% and above.

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Vanity Gone Too Far: Genital Bleaching

skin bleaching, anus, anal bleaching, health, skin lightening

Perhaps a strategically placed flashlight would work just as well. From: newspitter.com

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re worrying about bleaching parts of your nether regions then you need to get your head out of those areas and go smell the flowers. And I mean that literally. Some of you might be wondering what I’m talking about.

There has been a prevalence in recent years for some people to bleach their anuses. Yes, truly. It seems it was something that porn stars did to enhance an overall skin tone  for the camera. Where else are you going to have bright lights shining down upon your genitalia, except maybe in the doctor’s office? But somehow, some vapid, silly people got it into their heads that human beings should be of one even color, even the places where the light don’t shine. They think everyone comes airbrushed like Playboy model pictures, porn stars and people in the movies who are lit, pomaded and dressed to look perfect.

We can of course blame media, the internet and the hyper sexualization for this offense. Why yes, I hope to be judged on the color of my butthole because obviously my intelligence matters least of all, then my personality, then my face. Yes yes, let’s prove who is the biggest ass; it’s those who worry about the color of their skin to the most minute degree. I would say that only white people do this because otherwise it would be a bright and shining star in a very odd place, but guess what? Other races or people of darker skin tones worry about lightening all of their skin. They want to be of a lighter tone. Michael Jackson was a fine example of taking the removal of skin pigmentation too far. If you’re bleaching your butthole, there are more things wrong with you than skin tone, unless you plan on being a porn star.

genital bleaching, skin lightening, culture, self-image, unhealthy fascination, narcissism

Because black people want to be white? What's wrong with this beautiful woman's skin tone? Nothing. From: blackskinlightening.com

Have I mentioned that anal whitening has also spread to the vagina? Oh yes, we want our labia bleached perfectly too. People might get certain skin conditions such as varicose veins or the redness of rosacea taken care of. That’s one thing and those conditions have other complications. But a human’s skin tone is not a condition; it’s part of nature’s pattern. Seriously, I have heard fewer things more ludicrous than bleaching genitalia, and any person who is more concerned about the color and tone of my genitals and anus is more of an ass than I care to talk to. I wont even get into the dangers of bleaching areas of such delicate nature. Clearly the people doing this have no idea that humans are made of varying textures and tones of skin, wrinkles, creases, dimples, beauty marks and birthmarks, moles and other differences. We are a landscape, not a blank canvas.

Once upon a time we worried about a good fit with someone as a partner. We also tried to fight racism and judging someone based on the color of their skin. We used to contemplate our navels. Now we’re contemplating asses.

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Evolution of the Platform Shoe

shoes, fashion, high heels, sex appeal, platform shoes

We used to call these FM pumps (f**k me) because they weren’t meant to be walked in. Creative Commons: by extraitaly flickr phil sidek gallery.

I’ve been noticing the ultra high heels that are in fashion now; stiletto heels, with a platform front. Because I spent far too many years in four-inch heels or higher I now have to watch what I wear, though with smart shopping and choosing the time to wear my shoe I can get away with a heel if not quite that high. So, obviously the current fashion has decided women need to be uber tall or that they need to be uber sexy on super spiky heels but because many women would feel a little unbalanced, the platform has been added which takes down the overall height from your heel to your toe.

shoes, medieval shoe, heels, fashion, style, footwear

The medieval shoe never had much of a heel, except for doubled layers of leather. From: feastgarb.tumblr.com

While the hyper sexualization of our society is partly to blame for everyone having to wear FM pumps now, these are not in fact the tallest shoes in history. The history of the platform shoe begins centuries ago. Japan of course had the geta or wooden sandals but if we look at Europe, there is a wealth of information there.

pattens, platform shoes, medieval shoes, fashion, shoe evolution, footwear

This is a reproduction of the medieval shoe, with pattens. From: The Art Room Plant

To understand how a wood-based or platformed shoe came about one must  understand that early shoes throughout Europe were only made of leather. As the technology and understanding of patternmaking progressed shoes had firmer and thicker soles, usually made up of several pieces of thick leather and might also have been boiled leather, a process of penetrating the leather with liquid beeswax, which not only hardens the leather but also makes it waterproof. Remember that lanes and paths would only be of mother earth and slowly developed into wood planks and cobblestones. Even walking in Europe last year with rubber-soled shoes, I found some of those cobblestones rather hard to walk upon.

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The chopine, still made for a shoe or slipper to fit into it. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

No matter how well you waterproof something, if you’re walking through sucking mud and rain a lot your shoes are going to get ruined, and unlike people today, buying a new pair from a cobbler might be a year’s worth of spare change. People preserved their clothing and wore them out, often reusing parts in a new piece. One of the answers to uncomfortable cobblestones and mud was to use the patten. This was a wooden base that you slipped the leather shoe into. Shoes would eventually develop a heel made of wood.

Fashion always played  a part and as you can see by the red shoes, color and shape were important. The points of shoes got to ridiculous lengths and had to be gartered to the calf. And of course they rose to a silly height.

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Chopines of the Venetian bent. From the Bata shoe museum.

Enter the Renaissance, those crazy kids who loved color and men in tights and other fun stuff like Machiavelli. The Italians invented the chopines. They didn’t just look at the utilitarian aspects of keeping out of the mud; they looked at the prestige of being able to tower over your neighbor. Consider platforms that are 30 inches tall! Yes, one could show off their wealth by walking around on these mini stilts, with the help of two assistants.

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1940 platform shoes were modest. From: the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute

Sanity and shoe heights leveled out after that but the first 20th century platform was the peekaboo toe shoe of the 1940s (my favorite). This was a shoe with a heel and a modest platform of an inch at most. Of course the Renaissance was revisited in the 1970s with the blocky platform sandal and pretty much from there we have seen every evolution of the platform (platform sports shoes) since then. Except…no one has gone back to the towering heights of the chopine, probably because in this litigious society shoe companies would be sued out of existence.

Except maybe Alexander McQueen’s frightening horse hoof shoes. They’re insanely tall (though not quite 30 inches) and are the equivalent of monster trucks for people. I can’t say I’ve seen these catch on with anyone yet, and probably with good reason. Maybe next we’ll have pogo platforms. What fun those will be.

shoe, footwear, high heels, platform shoe, alexander mcqueen, fashion

The snake had indigestion. Possibly the ugliest platform in creation, Alexander McQueen’s creation.

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How to Wear Skirts and Man-Skirts

The art of wearing a skirt well is not as easy as tossing it on and just walking. In fact, different lengths have different issues.

SHORT SKIRTS

fashion, clothing, how to sit in a miniskirt, miniskirt, skirts

Be careful of the Bermuda Triangle when you sit in a miniskirt. Creative Commons: Macleans.ca

A short, micro or miniskirt takes a certain degree of elegance if you want to maintain decorum and not look like a tart. Learn how to pick something up from the floor or a table without revealing all of your underpinnings. If you have to pick up something it’s best to bend at the knees and go straight down. Bending at the waist is sure to be revealing. Oh, and wearing underwear is an absolute must with short skirts. Make sure that if a chance unveiling happens that you are okay with what’s revealed, both in flesh and in material.

Some miniskirts are fairly form fitting. If you’re buying one, trying walking around in it first and see if it rides up or pouches at the belly. The other thing to check that not many of us think about is sitting in a skirt. The butt will widen and can cause constrictions or riding up. As well, there is that triangle of revelation between skirt and legs that can introduce any viewer at the same level or lower than you to an eyeful. Think Basic Instinct here. If your skirt is that short, you may have to cross your legs or place your hands or purse in a strategic position to keep the Bermuda Triangle hidden.

Short but full skirts are better at covering the Triangle but have the same problems for bending over. And of course, you have to watch the wind. A Marilyn moment in a short flouncy skirt is going to display more than your thighs. Many women now opt for dark tights with short skirts but that’s not always going to be a choice in the summer. You definitely don’t want to be lifting boxes in this length of skirt.

MID-LENGTH SKIRTS

skirts, midi, micro, walking in skirts, tight skirts, fashion

These midlength skirts are narrow enough you might need to hitch them to walk up stairs. Creative Commons Marc Jacobs

I consider any skirt from just above the knee to mid-calf to be a mid-length skirt. You don’t have to contend with displaying intimate details as you do with the short skirt but there are other issues. The tube or stovepipe skirt can be so tight that walking becomes an art. If you try to walk or stride you’ll either rip the material or fall over. Many of these skirts have an open slit in the back that facilitates walking, but you many still have to take delicate half-steps. Think of the kimono and how Japanese women mince along on the wooden sandals, called geta. To sit in a skirt this tight (if it is not stretchy material) means you might have to hike it up and you probably don’t want to cross your legs, even if there is room to do so. It would be quite constricting. If your skirt is particularly binding, you might find it difficult to bend your knees enough to mount the stairs. In this case you actually have to hitch your hip up to accommodate, or hike your skirt to give your knees room to bend.

A full skirt gives you ease of walking, but has other issues. If it’s really full it can tend to gather between your legs until you feel like you’re wearing a diaper, not to mention it doesn’t look that great. One way to deal with this is to gather a little bit in you hands to hold it out. The other is to wear a slip. Not only does this stop the transparent effects of the sun (or particular types of artificial lighting), but it will decrease the gathering of fabric. Slips are rarely as voluminous as a skirt, unless you’re dealing with the full circle where a full and ruffled slip is required to hold it out, which also stops it from going between the legs. And again, the fuller the skirt, the more you have to watch the wind, which really loves to play with fabric. The only thing with sitting that you have to watch with this length and style  is that it doesn’t end up with someone sitting on  part of it. Sometimes wearing a coat over top with a purse can cause a skirt to ride up. You might want to test that because it could show more than you’re anticipating.

FLOOR OR ANKLE-LENGTH SKIRTS

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This length might mean you have to develop the kick-step, depending on fabric and flow. Creative Commons: Michael Kors

Not all of these are evening gowns and I wear some ankle-length skirts from time to time. It’s rare to find fitted ones this long unless there is a slit, but a fishtail or tulip style may be fitted to the knees, then flare out. Again, you’ll probably have to practice walking elegantly. More common will be an A-line or fuller skirt. If the skirt actually touches the floor you’ll have to work out a kick-step that lets you kick the fabric out before stepping forward so you’re not tripping yourself. Going up stairs requires you to gather the fabric in a hand, but you might want to do this going down the stairs as well. Steps are strewn with garbage, or just wet, and a long skirt will trail behind. As well, anyone walking behind you might step on your skirt, resulting in tearing or worse, a fall.

Shoes and long skirts can make a dangerous combination. If you’re wearing heels, watch out. I’ve had my heel catch in the hem of a skirt that had slightly stretchy material and almost topple me down the stairs. If you’re on a chair with roller wheels, be careful that your skirt doesn’t get wound around the wheels. This has happened to me a few times.

MAN-SKIRTS OR KILTS

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Fashion gone wrong. Jean Paul Gaultier’s version of a manly man skirt.

Some men like to wear skirts and they’re not all gay. Others feel more comfortable calling these kilts, and the Utilikilt has gained great popularity amongst the male set. It’s a modern version made of heavyweight canvas and lacking the plaid of yesteryear’s kilt. Whether wearing a skirt or a kilt, men especially need to learn the art of wearing the skirt. Most of these are midlength so walking isn’t an issue but sitting can be a man’s undoing. Men often sit with their legs apart and if you happen to be going regimental (naked) beneath your kilt you better keep an eye on the capricious wind. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of sitting on the ground when I guy in a kilt came up and squatted in front of me. Ding dong, I saw far too much dangling. Guys, anyone at eye level and below can see a lot and it ain’t pretty. So, men, learn to either cross your ankles, close your knees, put your hands in your lap or use a pouch. That’s what the historical sporran was for besides storing valuables; it protected and hid the family jewels.

If you’re not sure how you’re going to look walking or sitting in any skirt or kilt, practice. Get a friend to give you hints but please, keep the treasures buried except for your special someone.

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The Skinny On Models

fashion, anorexia, bulimia, eating disorders, plus sizes, health

In the fashion industry, this is a normal size. Creative Commons: scrapetv.com

I’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Back many years ago when I was in the throes of my eating disorder, classified as bulimia, I attended some group counseling sessions. Now my bulimia was not the normal one, where you gorge and vomit. I didn’t vomit. I starved myself, then gorged and then my bodily functions did a bit of a natural purge, but it was an uncontrolled desperate, self-hating way of eating and never on healthy foods. People with eating disorders never gorge on carrots or celery.

Now this counseling group was in the evenings at the psychiatrist’s home. I was the ugly duckling amongst the swans, but those swans were emaciated, walking sticks. Pretty much all of them were models dealing with anorexia. I remember the doctor asking once, “How many people have known someone who died from an eating disorder?” I didn’t but probably 80% of those models had known someone who starved themselves to death. The video below shows Isabelle Caro who died a few years after this was made at the age of 28. She looks 60.

And yet, twenty years later, we still see that the modeling, acting, dancing  and gymnastic sports industries have a prevalence toward the ultra thin person. Ultra thin to the point of sickeningly unhealthy. When I hear that models are considered plus size from size 8 and up I get angry. What does plus mean with sizing? Well, it means more than normal or average. Plus sizing when I was a kid was for truly large ladies, like sizes 18 and up.

anorexia, eating disorders, models, fashion industry, plus sizes, modeling, fashion, health, starvation

What astounds me is that this woman, by her dress, feels she's still beautiful. Creative Commons: evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com

Being classified as a plus size 8 means that you’re going to think you’re bigger than average, that there’s something wrong and abnormal about you. The fashion industry is probably the worst, with the movie industry coming in second. Seriously, these people should be smacked severely for causing needless deaths and psychoses. When children of six are worrying about their weight or being too fat, there is a lot wrong with the world. Albeit, as a pudgy child I didn’t have it easy and children are notoriously cruel, but our culture shapes what they consider aberrant.

I have Amazonian friends. They’re nearly six feet tall. Some are slimmer than others, because nature makes us differently, but none are fat. You can bet that by height alone they’re all going to be over 150 pounds and they’re going to be considered plus size. For that matter, maybe all of my friends (except one who is tiny and has size 5 feet but still has a bit of a tummy) would be plus size by modeling standards.

Hanging clothes on living skeletons who are lit and pomaded to look partially healthy gives no one the hope of looking the same in such an outfit. The pictures here are the extremes but models are often far underweight and on their way to an early death. Actors are told they’ll be fired from their roles if they put on so much as 10 lbs. Unless you’re a comedian; they’re allowed to be fat because fat is funny. And these supposedly normal size models…they stand a high chance of suffering throughout their lives, should they live that long. They’re not just missing fat, they’re missing muscle mass, not to mention nutrition to run a healthy body. Telling someone they’re fat doesn’t make them healthier if they starve themselves into nonexistence.

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From Plus Model Magazine: Katya Zharkova next to the fashion industry's ideal.

There is  the beginning of a backlash in the fashion industry but obviously it’s slow when Twiggy (who was 110 lbs) would now be considered plus size. The clothing store Le Chateau perpetuates the skinny myth, where you’ll be hard pressed to find L, but you’ll find S, XS, XXS and XXXS. Shame on you, Le Chateau.  Plus Model Magazine embraces lush, curvy models, and the magazine looks a lot at unhealthy body image. This last image indicates the difference between the skeletal model preferred by the fashion industry and the body ideal that is more common for all women. There are very few women, a small percentage, who could be healthy and skinny enough to be a model without starving themselves.

So, don’t believe what you see in fashion and in the movies. Those aren’t real people sizes. If you’re wearing a size 12, that’s not a plus size. That’s average. And, mothers, don’t let your daughters grow up to be models.

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