Thursday, August 26, 2010

Comfort Levels


eyeglasses (Kate Spade)
silver toned watch (Fossil)
black safari style rolled sleeve shirt (via sister's closet)
jeans (store at which I no longer shop)
mustard slice wedges (Nine West)

This outfit ushered me through a long day of "professional development" on campus, or, as I've been calling it for years, "When teachers act like students."  We arrive late, we sit in the back, we speak to one another in hushed tones, we send texts with our hands under the desks, and we count the minutes until we're dismissed (thus, the watch).  As a new instructor at this institution, I actually found the day quite helpful, but I planned my outfit with comfort in mind.  I've been eying this shirt in Vickie's closet since she wore it shortly before she left for the summer, but I didn't put it on until yesterday because I didn't want to fade it by washing it multiple times.

When I returned home from my day of development, I was thus quite interested to read Anne-Marie and Katie's exchange that elaborated on my earlier celebration of new fabric technologies.  Katie suggested, and Anne-Marie agreed, that one of the unfortunate results of the availability of less expensive (and less restrictive) clothing is that it is often made from lower quality materials.  This nicely facilitates the desire of these discount manufacturers to keep us buying new items all the time.  This is something I certainly had not considered when I originally touted new fabrics as pro-feminist, though this great shirt remained in my sister's closet precisely because I didn't want to ruin it in her absence.

As I posed for these photos, I was also trying to show off how great my curls have been looking for the past few days.  Thanks to a fresh haircut, a confidence boost from you guys, and a new styling product suggested by a friend/reader, I'm more comfortable than ever with my natural hair texture.  This also made me reflect back on an exchange I had with my mom after my no shopping post.  She suggested that, though we younger ladies were celebrating the "comfort" of new clothing technologies, my 96 year old Gramma is so "comfortable" in her girdle that she refuses to consider my mom's suggestion that she stop wearing it.  I responded to suggest that Gramma's "comfort" in a girdle is likely "a reaction to societal pressures put on a woman (especially of Gramma's generation) to fit the norms of beauty or femininity endorsed by that society."  Easy for me to say, right?

What I want to acknowledge, though, is that I'm fully aware that my flatiron has been functioning in much the same way as Gramma's girdle.  It is decidedly not comfortable to spend ten minutes blowing my hair dry and ten minutes or more straightening it with a flat iron, though I have in the past felt more comfortable with my hair after undergoing this process.  Why?  Because I've bought into the suggestion that straight hair looks healthier and is more professional because curly hair is unruly.  And because in the past my natural hair has always looked, um, not neat, and I like everything about me to look neat.  These are the very mental handcuffs from which I was trying to break free when I stopped my daily hair routine several months ago.

I don't know if anyone cares about all of that, but what I really wanted to say was that this has been a great week for me on this blog for these reasons.  When we started posting, Katie, AM and I wanted to open up these conversations we have about clothes, societal expectations, and the like to other like-minded individuals in hopes that it would generate a larger conversation.  The existence of the blog keeps the three of us talking and gives us a space to have these conversations, and the participation of all you who read the blog enriches those conversations and encourages us all to think about ourselves and our habits in new ways.  I enjoy all of the posts the girls write, and all of your comments, but I did want to stop and acknowledge that this week, especially, it feels like conversations are developing naturally out of one another and ending up in really interesting places.  Anne-Marie is encouraging us to think about our closets in new waysKatie is encouraging us to feel empowered in clothing that has a different back story than the new narrative of female empowerment she's writing.  And I'm finally getting comfortable with curly hair. 

Though we're good friends, and we encourage each other as best we can, it's really those of you who read and comment who have, I think, pushed us to these points.  Thanks for making the blog feel so worthwhile!

  • I don't know quite what to ask you guys today.  I just wanted to say thanks.  : )  And now I'm off to do some reading before I meet my new PhD cohort for lunch.  Yippee!!  (And you better believe I'll be looking fierce!)


E-Jo said...

Your mom's comment about your grandma is interesting as we have a tendency to imagine "progress" as proceeding in a straight line. Our takes on 1960s era clothing is characterized by more modern fabrics, the different social roles women are able to take on. Yet in the 1960s some of these same things were true. The fabrics used were new and man-made, lowering prices and making them machine-washable. Plus, I suspect, viewed as more comfortable and less constricting than earlier iterations of women's clothing.

This is not to suggest that there haven't been real social gains since the 1960s but I think it's probably useful to remember that every time more or less thinks of itself as the most progressive & evolved. This is to say, then, that there is work still to be done and conversations like this one you three have started up are important for making transparent the way old ideologies have never really left.

Also, good luck with your new Ph.D. cohort! I'm sure you'll look fantastic!

Katie, Interrobangs Anonymous said...

Interestingly, as soon as you mentioned your Grandma, her girdle, and "comfort," I immediately thought of discussions I've had with smaller-chested girlfriends about bras. I've noticed that most of my friends with less on top claim to feel much more comfortable not wearing bras, while I feel incredibly uncomfortable when I'm not wearing one. It's interesting to wonder how much of this is social expectations/pressures vs what you're used to vs actual levels of comfort, but there it is.

There's also the idea of donning your armor, be it straight hair, a girdle, a good bra, a fabulous pair of shoes, etc. What do we put on that makes us more ready to face the world?

Have great fun being a PhD (or "Fuud," as I call The Rocket Scientist). Your hair looks gorgeous, and I'm loving the phantom Oscar in the second picture!

Scholar Style Guide said...

This is just to say, your curls are having a moment!


Scholar Style Guide said...

I love your curls! I have the same issue with my hair, though it is less curly than yours. I only started wearing it wavy in the last year of college (I've never had to use a straightening iron; a blow dryer and brush is enough to get it straight). My friends were stunned. They had no idea my hair wasn't naturally straight.

And you did look fierce :)


Vickie said...

You're hair looks great, and so does my shirt.

I think a new label is in order- sister's closet- that way I can track what people think of my wardrobe before I decide what to wear each day :)

La Historiadora de Moda said...

I typed up a comment yesterday, but it didn't go through.... :(

What I said was more or less this:

You're hair looks especially fabulous in these pictures. Do you use the Aveda Be Curly line? Both AUH and I really recommend it for "taming" curls.

I echo a number of Katie's sentiments about bras. Perhaps because I do a lot of running and cycling and can experience discomfort if not wearing a bra that provides sufficient support, I associate not wearing a bra with feeling uncomfortable. I do wonder, though, when I'm just sitting around and writing or reading if I might not actually be more comfortable without one, but have social hang-ups, too.

Scholar Style Guide said...

E-Jo, I think the points you make here are important ones to remember, so thanks for sharing them. On the most general level, I do appreciate that I've been encouraged to question life's so-called "truths" more than my mother was or her mother before her was. But I certainly agree that the notion of "positive progress" is an extremely problematic one, so while it is useful to acknowledge ways in which we think we've "advanced," it's also important to do that with adequate context.

IA Katie and LHdM, I feel the same way about bras. (In fact, I used to have to double up on sports bras when I ran.) I know the history of the bra is a conflicted and controversial one, but most of the time, I also find it very uncomfortable to have the girls hanging down, and I'd call all of my bras "comfortable." (Relating back to my earlier point, though, I wonder if I'd feel this way if there was no such thing as stretch fabric.)

Thanks for the hair compliments, all. I started using a curl creme made by the Living Proof No Frizz line. I've also been combing/parting my hair under the shower head instead of after I've wrung it out, and that helps a lot with curl definition, I'm finding.

And I also believe the idea of "putting on one's armour" can be an empowering one, Katie. I often feel that way about my clothes. But when it came to straightening my hair, it was more of a compulsion ("I canNOT go out of the house with messy hair!") than a source of empowerment, so the habit needed to be dealt with.

Sorry to hear about the dropped comment, too. I hope that isn't a regular occurrence.


Rad_in_Broolyn said...

I really like your hair curly! So fun and pretty. My hair is somewhat wavy, and I've fought my mother and a host of well meaning Korean friends/relatives who want me to get a straight perf (they're prety popular in Japan and Korea).
Congrats on starting with the professional development. I don't find that sort of thing enjoyable, but I do like beginnings.

Scholar Style Guide said...

Thanks Rad! For some reason, for all my heat abuse, I've never been tempted to try chemical processes (maybe I'm afraid they'll be too permanent). I'm jealous of people with your hair texture who can cultivate that slightly tousled look with (what looks to me like) ease. I guess it's the old 'always want what we don't have' thing.

I normally despise "professional development" because it's so often a misnomer, but since this is my first time teaching here, I actually learned a few things.