Thursday, September 30, 2010

Summer Stats

Bare arms -- yes, our summer has finally arrived, after we'd all pretty much given up on it. Over the weekend it was in the 90's in San Francisco, a rarity indeed. It has since cooled down a bit, but there's still no way I'm complaining. In general San Francisco's best weather is in the fall, but usually it would've arrived before now and the months leading up to it wouldn't have been quite so frigid, except maybe over at the beach and up by the wharf, where all the tourists go in their shorts and sandals to freeze. 
It's been a bad year for getting much use out of my sandals, which I'm beginning to realize were fairly foolish purchases. A quick scan of my "summer" outfits shows that I wore sandals only twice (one of those was with tights!), bare legs just 3 times, bare toes 3 times, and bare arms 11 times. On the other hand I sported tights or long socks 29 times, boots 28 times, a sweater or jacket 23 times, and even a pair of leather pants once. My summer stats make it seem like I live in Siberia.

Cardigan: Hale Bob
Shirt: thrifted
Belt: a gift from Mom
Boots: Bata

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I'm behind on uploading my most recent outfit photos, so I thought I'd point you to the recent feature that Mark's belts and harnesses got in Auxiliary Magazine and on their blog. The feature starts on page 45 of the online magazine and features Mark's work as well as a few other designers. I was especially pleased to see a couple of harnesses worn by a guy; it gives them a whole different look over a button-down shirt and on a man's frame.

I'll be back tomorrow with another outfit post. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the gorgeous weather that has finally arrived in San Francisco. Look for bare arms and legs to be showing up soon!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rock 'n Roll

I decided to do my outfit photo from out on our balcony for this one, since Mark had leather pieces spread out all over the floor in my usual spot. Note the pot of nasturtiums on the right; I'm growing those specifically to feed to our little flower-eating dinosaur.

I wore this outfit for a Girl's Night Out the week before last; Laura and I went to see The Cult over at the Warfield Theater. It was quite a flashback to my old high school rock n' roll days; I even caught a drumstick! This outfit was pretty toned down from what I would've worn back in the 80's, mainly because I value comfort a lot more now than I did in my teens.

What I found funny was that the keyboard player in the opening act (Aussie band The Black Ryder) had the exact hairstyle I had at age 16: long, shaggy, and shaved off on one side, like half a mohawk only bigger and with a lot more hairspray (although hers could've been slicked back rather than shaved; it was hard to tell). It was a kick to see that style again; it was actually quite an imaginative haircut for the time, though I consider it one of the worst I've ever sported. It was after that phase that I moved on from rock 'n roll to punk, and wisely chopped off the rest of that long hair, which was never very flattering on me.

Shirt: All Saints
Cardigan: Express, a gift from my aunt
Harness: Audra Jean
Jeans: Acne
Boots: Bronx

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stars and Stripes

I found this little tunic at Goodwill just before we left for Burning Man. Out on the playa I wore it as a super-short minidress, with just a bikini bottom underneath. Back in the real world though, it's relegated to the role of tunic, and will be worn strictly over skirts or pants. The starry scarf came with the tunic and is actually designed to be used as a belt, but for this outfit I wanted the contrast of a black belt, so I swapped in one of Mark's designs and wore the original belt as a scarf.

One thing I noticed about this tunic is that while it's really comfortable for normal wearing, the sleeves are a little too tight for the hunched-over position required for riding a mountain bike. Which reminds me that I really hate riding mountain bikes. So if this tunic goes back to the playa again, it'll either be with cut-off sleeves or, preferably, I'll be riding a cruiser bike instead.

Burning Man bikes are a whole phenomenon in and of themselves. First of all, the alkaline playa dust is highly corrosive, which means you really don't want to take a nice expensive bike out there. And then, with the thousands of bikes scattered all over the playa, it's important to be able to readily identify yours, as well as light it up thoroughly for nighttime visibility. So what you'll see out there is an amazing assortment of lavishly decorated, incredibly beat up and rusty bikes, many wrapped with EL-wire, which can be used to create all sorts of spectacular effects against the black background of the desert. Every year as August approaches, beater bikes become a hot commodity in and around San Francisco, which is good to know if you're looking to unload an old rusty bike.

Shirt: Target
Tunic: thrifted
Belt: Audra Jean
Jeans: Acne
Boots: All Black

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Suffer for Fashion

The original kernel of inspiration for this outfit was, "shorts with an oversized blazer," which ended up being a great starting point for building this look. I'm sure I got the idea from somebody's blog but at the moment my head is too wrapped up in other things to remember which one, so if it was yours, please stop in and take credit.

I love the fact that you could pretty much swap this whole outfit (maybe minus the tights) onto a boy and it would look equally good. And while we're on the subject, why can't boys wear tights, anyway? If they want to wear shorts on cooler days they just have to freeze, and that hardly seems fair. Oftentimes for the men photographed by the Sartorialist, even socks seem to be out of the question. Those poor guys, with their frozen legs and blistered, sweaty feet. And people say that women suffer for fashion.

Jacket: Nanette Lepore, thrifted
Shirt: J. Crew, thrifted
Waistcoat: Last Kiss
Shorts: Mango
Tights: Falke
Boots: Doc Martens

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Deliciously Comfortable

I bought this little jersey dress to wear at Burning Man, because just before we left I decided I needed another item with long sleeves for the cold nights. As it turned out, this proved to be an ideal dress for the cool early mornings, because it's easy to throw on to head down to the porta-potties or over to the common area to make coffee just after getting up.

Normally I'd never even think to try on one of these dresses with the stretchy band around the bottom hem, but this one looked so cute on the mannequin in the shop that I gave it a shot. I'm glad I did, because it's actually quite flattering, not to mention deliciously comfortable. The dress is gathered all along the curved line where the tie dye pattern runs, giving it shaping that this type of dress typically doesn't have.

On the playa I wore this dress with just boots and bare legs, but it's scandalously short to wear it that way for work, so for this outfit I added my tulle-embellished vintage slip and let it peek out underneath. For a nighttime outfit on the playa I added leggings (the same ones I've got on here) and the silver harness I showed you the other day. That proved to be a good combination, so one of these days I'll pair this dress with the harness again.

Dress: from local import shop P-kok
Vest: Forever 21
Slip/skirt: Glam Garb by Gunlis
Leggings: Foot Traffic
Boots: Bronx

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Go The Distance

My mom gave me this adorable top for my birthday. At first glance I couldn't tell if it was more lilac or pale blue, so I decided to create an outfit that mixed the two. First I layered two of my Noa Noa tulle skirts; you can just see the blue one peeking out from under the dusty purple. The blue skirt is just a single layer and is meant to be worn like a slip, so it didn't make the outfit too warm.

For the top half, I decided to punch up the contrast since all the other colors are fairly washed-out. Once again I chose a Noa Noa item; this fuchsia cropped cardigan. I like the blend of soft and bright colors, and how each shade is different but they all work together.

The shoes actually weren't my first choice for this outfit, and I think the dark brown ones I originally chose would've looked better, but on this day I was going straight from work to meeting Fawn for cocktails, so I needed a pair of shoes that could really go the distance. These don't have quite the contrast I was looking for, but they're wearable for a long day and into the evening, including a lot of walking, so they won out.

Cardigan, skirts, tights: Noa Noa
Top: Inspired, a gift from mom (thanks Mom!)
Shoes: John Fluevog

Monday, September 20, 2010

Over The Edge

I'm still behind on my blog reading, and in following up on the comments made to this blog while I was away at Burning Man. I'm trying to make some headway, but if you stopped by with a question a couple weeks ago and I still haven't gotten to it, you might want to give me a gentle reminder in the comments. I'm not trying to ignore you, I swear! It's just hard for me to determine at this point which I've responded to and which I haven't, without sorting through all my posts again.

I'm not even quite sure how this outfit came together. Which is odd, because there's a whole hell of a lot going on here, isn't there? But sometimes these things just happen, and if it's in the morning when I'm tired I'm unlikely to remember where the original inspiration came from.

I do recall that once I put together all the main pieces, I knew I needed fairly neutral tights so the outfit didn't go over the edge in terms of color. But I didn't think brown or gray would make much sense, so I chose olive tights, because there is actually a small amount of olive in the floral pattern of the dress. The olive sort of tones the color down while still making sense with the overall color scheme. Plus it was a great excuse to try out Tealive again.

Top: a gift from Sal
Dress: a 90's romper, altered to become a dress
Skirt: LA Made
Obi belt: Sunhee Moon
Tights: Foot Traffic
Boots: Miz Mooz

Friday, September 17, 2010

Burning Man: The Fashion

 + 1 week = 

Today I'll focus on the fashion of Burning Man, which is really just another discussion of the culture from a slightly different angle. Because in the end Burning Man is all about culture and community, and fashion is merely one aspect of how that community interacts and how its members express themselves. The weather and the dusty environment also play a large part in the discussion of Burning Man fashion, which you might have already guessed by looking at the photos above. And no, I did not wash those socks before I wore them again. There would have been no point.

In many ways, the fashion of Burning Man is deeply practical at its core. Want your friends to be able to find you easily in a place where cell phones don't work? Wear something outrageous and eye-catching. Want to stay cool under the scorching desert sun? Wear something scanty or simply go nude. Want to keep your feet from drying and cracking in the alkaline playa dust? Wear chunky, insulating boots. Want to avoid getting run down by a bike or a mutant vehicle in the pitch-black desert night? Wear plenty of things that glow. Want to stay warm at night and still look stylish? Try wearing something furry.

Tutus and Utilikilts; two Burning Man fashion staples.

But obviously in a place where there are no rules about how to dress, or even if you have to dress at all, there's a whole lot of leeway for personal expression. For many people, Burning Man is a place to push their own boundaries and even create a whole new persona that they've always wanted to explore. Many people find that going nude or partially so really isn't as scary as they imagined it would be, and in this they can find a new acceptance of their own bodies and a way to conquer fears. At Burning Man nudity is just a normal part of life, and whether you're old or young, skinny or ample, no one is really going to look twice if you're naked or topless or a "shirt cocker" (although the latter is really quite an unfortunate look, to be honest -- so much so that some camps have set up 'pants cannons' to fire at pantsless passersby). Many people shower right out in the open because setting up an enclosed shower structure can be such a pain, and when the water truck goes by to spray the roads (it keeps the dust down), people will just whip off their clothes and run behind it to cool off.

A couple of my daytime looks. Note the cup attached to my belt in the first photo; most places that serve drinks ask you to bring your own cup, so it's important to have one on hand at all times. This is one of the things that makes harnesses and belts such handy accessories; they give you a place to attach all your stuff.

There are a few common themes that emerge in the clothing of Burning Man; you'll see the "playa bunnies" done up with lots of fluffy fake fur, the rugged, Mad Max-meets Marilyn Manson looks, the ravers with their glow sticks and colorful wigs, and dashes of goth, steampunk, bondage-inspired, and plenty of hippie tie dye. You'll also see a lot of costumes and costume accessories -- bunny ears, weird contact lenses, masks, crazy wigs, and lots and lots of fishnet, in the form of stockings, gloves, shirts, you name it. Sadly, come Thursday night you'll also see a lot of the douchebag frat boy bro types rolling in, wearing their backwards baseball caps and shitty flip flops, with their sole purpose in life being to swill brewskies and listen to awful aggro metal music. This is my least favorite element of Burning Man, and frankly I wish the entrance gates would close on Wednesday so that people can't just come to 'party' for the weekend. Thankfully, the douchey bros and and vapid club girls make up a fairly small minority of the overall population.

A couple of interesting looks seen at Center Camp, the best spot for people watching on the whole playa.

Of course the weather has an influence on the fashion, being generally hot during the day and sometimes bitterly cold at night, but more importantly there's also the omnipresent dust. If you're worried about being dirty at Burning Man, you're going to be spending a lot of your time worrying. OK, all of your time. Because there's really no getting clean at Burning Man, there's only the temporary illusion of clean that you get when you rinse off your hands or wipe your face with a wet washcloth (which will inevitably be inpregnated with dust anyway). If you really want to enjoy yourself fully, you just have to embrace the dust, because by the end of the week everyone and everything is pretty much covered with it.

By the end of the week my "playa hair" had gone full-on spiky mop, and our boots were all playa-colored. I also discovered why dreadlocks are such a practical hair style out there.

As I mentioned on Monday, the only time I've really felt out of place at Burning Man was when I showed up in my boring, unimaginative street clothes (literally jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers, that I wore because they were comfortable to travel in). In a place where anything goes, it's not about fitting in so much as it's about putting yourself out there and contributing something to the community. And whether you go in drag or dress up as a one-eyed purple kangaroo or just go naked, you're revealing something about yourself, something that can be shared. And with an outfit that you clearly put zero effort or thought into, there's nothing there to be shared, nothing to contribute to the experience of Burning Man. Because in the end, the Burning Man experience is comprised solely of what the attendees collectively put into it.

Dressing up at Burning Man is fun, but for me it isn't really the focus, because I already feel very confident in expressing myself through style even when I'm back home. But for many people it's the fashion element that is so transformative; they cast off their inhibitions and experiment with style in ways they never thought they could. And I think this leads a lot of people to wonder what they're so scared of in regular life, and how they might bring a little of that freedom back home with them. Like I said before, Burning Man can be a life-changing experience, and this is just one of the many aspects of your life it can change.

I hope you've enjoyed my series on Burning Man; for Parts 1 and 2, please see my posts from Monday and Wednesday.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

All Out

This was an outfit I wore last week, and since it happened to by my birthday that day, I figured that a harness, some wild leggings, and a pair of giant platform shoes was really not too much at all. If you can't go all out on your birthday, when can you?

As it turned out, the adorable open-front black cardigan, a birthday present from my aunt, had just arrived the day before and this ended up being the perfect outfit to pair it with. The cardigan is soft and lightweight, but added just enough warmth for the chilly day. It also brought some more black into the top half of the outfit, balancing out those big bulky shoes. The leggings are a pair I picked up a couple weeks ago; this is their first wearing and I absolutely love 'em.

Mark made this harness for me just before we left for Burning Man, and it got quite a bit of use on the playa. This is the Ryder style done in a gunmetal gray metallic leather, and it has proven to be quite a versatile piece, as well as being really comfortable. I have to say though, that the leather is a bear to work with; since it's not dyed all the way through, the edges must be blackened by hand once the pieces are all cut out. I did that part of the process myself, and it took ages to finish. These specialty leathers can be difficult to find, especially at prices that aren't prohibitively expensive, but I'll be making it my quest to find a suitable alternative to this leather, because I'd like to introduce more items to the shop in a similar finish.

After I got home from work I changed up the outfit a little, since Mark and I were going out to dinner with Laura and I needed a pair of shoes that's more suited to walking. So I swapped the black boots for my comfy brown ones and adjusted the rest of the outfit accordingly, trading the gray harness for my brown one and the tie-dye leggings for solid gray.

Dress: Red Dress Shoppe
Cardigan: Express (thanks auntie!)
Harnesses: Audra Jean
Black Boots: Jeffrey Campbell
Brown Boots: Bata
Tie dye leggings: local import shop P-kok
Gray tights: MP, via Sock Dreams

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Burning Man: The Art

A giant double helix: an obvious draw for a bio nerd like myself.

For the first part of my Burning Man series, please see Monday's post. Today I'll discuss the art, which can take on just about as many forms as you can think of, from immense static installations to mutant vehicles to music to dance performance, and so much more. My photos don't begin to cover the vast array of art we saw, and that's because sometimes at Burning Man it's important to put the camera aside and just live the moment. This can be hard to do if you're a photo buff, but there's something liberating about absorbing all the details of an experience, taking in the sights and sounds and smells and cementing it in your memory alone. The interesting thing about such moments is that you never know when some future thing will trigger the memory; in some ways the recollection of these experiences can be more powerful than the ones where an image is brought back home with you, stripping away many of the other important elements of the moment.

One such unphotographed experience was the Marching Band March Off, which we saw both in 2008 (by happy accident) and again this year (on purpose). Five marching bands competed at Center Camp for the distinguished honor of holding for one year the coveted winged trophy provided by emcee extraordinaire Raspa (for a photo of Raspa and the trophy, as well as some excellent commentary on this year's burn, see this blog entry).

In describing the marching band competition, I really need to begin with Center Camp, the heart of Black Rock City. Center Camp is the downtown of the metropolis, and holds the distinction of being one of only 2 places in the entire city where your money is any good; at Center Camp you can use it to buy coffee or tea, and at a couple of other locations on the playa you can use it to buy ice.

The entrance to Center Camp.

It's generally always lively at Center Camp, day or night. Not only is there a lot to see and experience (including the aforementioned coffee), but there are also plenty of places to relax.

It's important, though, to make sure your bunny ears are still securely in place
should you decide to take a nap. You'd hate to be seen without your costume!

By night, Center Camp can take on an otherworldly quality, making it an ideal spot to watch performances or hear music. The night of the marching band competition it was abuzz with activity, and by the final performances the place was packed and everyone was really into it. The bands were judged on several different criteria, including stamina, cleanliness (which points were deducted for), audience response, and the mystery category, "that certain je ne sais quoi." The bands, of course, were no ordinary marching bands; some had exotic percussion instruments or percussion only, some had dancers and stilt walkers, and one used a full-sized bomb casing as a prop. The winning band was the Titanium Sporkestra from Seattle, and coming in a close second was the winner from 2008, the Bay Area's own Loyd Family Players. The Marching Band March Off was one of our favorite events of this year's burn.

Center Camp by night in a dust storm. The dust hangs in the air and gives everything a mysterious glow. On this particular evening they were playing a CD by Chance's End, an excellent local violin-based electronica act. No music could have fit the atmosphere more perfectly.

The Minaret, outside the main entrance to Center Camp, at dusk.

The art piece everyone was talking about this year was the stunning Bliss Dance. Never have I seen a more perfect tribute to the female form; using steel beams and a steel mesh "skin," a 40-foot nude, dancing woman came to life in the middle of the playa. She's not sexualized at all, in fact she gives the impression that she's dancing for no other audience than herself. According to the Burning Man Earth website, "She celebrates humanity and shows the feminine beauty, power and strength that emerges when women are safe and free to be themselves."

This piece drew a crowd day and night. There were no events happening there per se (unless a mutant vehicle happened to pull up playing music), but the sheer beauty of this piece just made people want to go out there and BE with it. At night she was lit both from the outside and the inside, creating some interesting visual effects.

Much of the art at Burning Man is highly interactive; you can climb on it, you can write on it, you can work the control panel. And at the end of the week most anything made of wood is burned.

Including, obviously, this guy.

Whereas the Man burn on Saturday night is a huge party, the Temple burn is a solemn, reverent affair that happens on Sunday, after most of the party crowd is gone. People go the the Temple all week to leave memorials to loved ones who have died, or write wishes or prayers, all of which is sent up to the heavens in a massive ball of flame and smoke.

Oh, and did I mention the fireworks? There were LOTS of fireworks at the Man burn.

As I mentioned on Monday, many art installations incorporate fire into their very design. This makes them cozy places to hang out on a chilly evening.

Some pieces suggest spirituality...

...some make a statement...

...and some are just plain silly.

This year's artwork was really spectacular, and as I mentioned my photos don't begin to capture it all. But I hope this gives you a flavor of the sheer variety that the playa can hold. Every day, at any hour, there is something new to be experienced, and that, I think, is what keeps people coming back year after year.