(not so) random links

-what we choose to wear is symbolic, no? arguably, we have intentions behind what we choose to wear, and we seek to express and say different things with our clothing and other complimentary accoutrements (i touched upon this a great deal in my why do we wear what we wear? post).

sometimes, though, we may think we’re expressing and intend to express something with our clothing, but what we wear can and is, at times, interpreted quite differently by the world at large, or by small subsets of the world at large, depending upon their beliefs or perspective. such is the case with a scarf donned by food network and pop culture star rachael ray in a recent dunkin donuts commercial. said scarf was allegedly merely adorned with a black and white paisley pattern, but some folks of a more reactionary bent felt the scarf in question looked a little too much like the black and white woven keffiyeh scarves favored by arab men, which (according to/quoting conservative commentator michelle malkin and others like her): “[have] come to symbolize murderous palestinian jihad.”

caving to pressure from conservative camps who share malkin’s viewpoint, dunkin donuts pulled the ad in question, fearing a backlash or boycott of their products. (via the huffington post)

in conjunction with this keffiyeh kerfuffle, malkin was quoted as saying the following on her blog:

“fashion statements may seem insignificant, but when they lead to the mainstreaming of violence — unintentionally or not — they matter. ignorance is no longer an excuse.”

upon hearing about said kerfuffle, i started thinking about all those hipster kids who wear actual keffiyeh scarves these days (or at least they did in recently past days…are they still popular?). do all of those hipster kids know what such scarves might represent or symbolize, to palestinians, or to other opposing camps? are they even aware of their country of origin? has the symbolism of the scarves to palestinians (whether intended to be incendiary or mererly culturally referential and benign) been lost on said hipster kids because they are ignorant of their deeper meaning or provenance, as they may just be focusing on the wearing of such to follow a trend or because they merely like the colors or the pattern on said scarves? or do those hipster kids just see them purely as a fashion item?

i’d venture to say that the same goes for a lot of items when they make the transition from one culture or country to another…many times, the original meaning or symbolism or source of a textile or garment is forgotten, ignored, or destroyed when such pieces make a transition from one culture to another. something is lost in the translation.

in reference to malkin’s statement about fashion statements, is ignorance no longer an excuse when it comes to fashion and what we wear? are we, as a wearer of whatever, responsible for knowing the potential meanings or sources of all the things we choose to wear? is it even possible to track the meaning of everything we don?

do we have to take a stance when we wear something, or know the stances of others on said items, or at least be aware of their stances? or is it okay to just wear something “because you like it”, or because it “looks good to you” (aka, appeals to your sense of aesthetics), even though it’s significance might be different in the context of another culture? are we especially responsible for knowing the meaning of something if it’s questionable or political in it’s meaning?


-what do you think of the notion of “trying too hard” when it comes to getting dressed? is such a statement simply subjective, a potentially pejorative judgement made by a critical outside observer? do some people actually factually “try too hard”?

but…is trying too hard a bad thing? can it be a REALLY GOOD THING when it comes to self-expression via dress? can the idea “trying too hard” perhaps imply a feeling of and love for the experimental?

is “trying too hard” hard for some to stomach because the idea trying implies risk, which some more conservative folks are loathe to toy with, out of fear of public ridicule (for starters)?

some of such is the subject of a recent post by disney roller girl…which was also expounded upon and linked to by the imitible susie of style bubble.


also, relatedly, what’s so wrong with the ugly? do you embrace the ugly, and find the declasse worthy of championing? can ‘ugly’ actually be ‘beautiful’? (via kingdom of style) to reiterate the line of questioning queen michelle employs, when is ugly truly ugly? are there limits and strict definitions of beauty, of ugliness?

or consider this: is there any other statement that so clearly expresses the idea that the notion of beauty and style and aesthetics is exceedingly subjective and extremely personal?


-what say you on the subject of bodysnarking? does the internet facilitate and perhaps make it “okay” culturally to comment negatively on the bodies of others, famous folks, or otherwise? what about the internet perpetuates this behavior? is it the inherent anonymity of the web?

are we all a little too concerned with what we look like, or what others look like? is this only getting more acute?

the last few months or year has seen what seems to me to be to be an explosive proliferation of street style/personal style/fashion blogs.

and, just in the past year or even past few months, there has also been a launch of a myriad of fashion-sharing sites. many of the fashion/style sharing sites have an element of rating (or rating systems)…i.e., users are encouraged not to simply celebrate, but to criticize.

snark is in…and the people seem to love it. reading it, participating in it. but is this good? does it ever go too far?

if we post a picture of ourselves on the internet, should we be prepared for and expect the comments that might ensue, both positive or negative in nature? do those comments matter in scheme of things? are they ‘real’? do they hurt less or mean more because they are sourced via the internet?


and the (sometimes not so) quick and dirty!

heads up san francisco/bay area people: modern printmaking maven lotta jansdotter is putting on a free print party this coming saturday, june 7th from 5-8 pm at the craft gym, here in san francisco, to promote her new printmaking book, lotta prints, which was recently published by chronicle. lotta will be demo-ing some of the techniques she illustrates in the book, like rubber and potato stamping, and observers will be able to join in the fun and take said techniques for a spin themselves. the craft gym is at 1452 bush street (between van ness & polk). i heard there shall be drinks and snacks there as well. i’m going to try and make to this event if i can! why don’t you, too?

also for the san franciscans, particularly those into hats and millinery: local milliner de anna gibbons of brimming over millinery is offering hat-making classes/workshops through the summer and fall. see her site for more details on these classes.

and one more for you SF’ers!: built by wendy san francisco is having a spring sample sale this coming weekend (june 6th and 7th) here in SF. more details here.

-the new issue of NEET magazine (june 2008) is out, on zee web. apparently there’s an article in this new issue which has quotes from wardrobe_remix(ers) on the topic of ethics and fashion, culled at least partially from this discussion here in the wardrobe_remix discussion forums.

-in the month of may, sewing blog sew mama sew had a big old series of posts and projects that addressed important/useful sewing techniques, in honor of women’s clothing month. check out the archive of said posts here.

-via fine little day, i stumbled upon a cool online design mag called blanket magazine. said mag (in their own words) “is a free PDF online magazine that is aimed at uncovering (excuse the pun!) art + design + photography from the talented people who create it”. the most recent available issue is the ‘recycled’ issue. neat!

decor8 has a round-up of indie textile designers that can be found on etsy. why not use the handiwork of one of them for your next sewing project?


  1. Ally

    I used to wear a kaffiya in the early 90’s to express my solidarity with the Palestinian people. And then I lost it– I was really happy to see them available again in so many colours, and I have several. One person saw me wearing an olive green one (which I actually found on a tube platform) and he insisted it was actually military surplus from, in his words, “Special Ops” which I thought was pretty hilarious.

  2. tricia

    ally: interesting you say you wore your keffiyeh to express solidarity with the palestinians and their cause. a palestinian friend i was talking with yesterday told me that’s what she assumes when she sees people wearing them. but as i was saying above, how many of the young folks who wear them now do so b/c they support the palestinians? i’m more likely to believe many of them have no clue about the meaning behind the scarves, their source or the reasons why others might choose to wear them. two other friends didn’t even know what they were and had no idea about their source or meaning to whatever camp or culture…and i think they are probably representative of the perspective of most people.

  3. laurel

    i think the issue of whether or not the wearing of a keffiyeh is expresses solidarity with the palestinian people or can stand alone as an apolitical fashion statement is an interesting issue, though an altogether separate one from all the fuss over rachel ray in the dunkin donuts ad. for crying out loud, i saw the ad in question, and she’s clearly wearing a women’s scarf, not a traditional desert headdress. how can i tell? well, it’s, um, paisley. and it’s draped around her neck.

    it’s a scarf with fringe, and i’ve seen a hundred like it this season. debate the questionable merits of that scarf with that top, or of dunkin donuts iced coffee [bleaaahhh] if you must, but i don’t believe there are any political ramifications, subtle or otherwise, at work in this ad. 😉

  4. Maven

    Laurel, no kidding–the most idiotic thing was Michelle Malkin calling Rachael Ray’s scarf “jihadi chic,” like such a thing even exists, and as though that’s the reason all the hipster kids wear keffiyehs or keffiyeh-like scarves. Yeesh. I wonder if Michelle Malkin knows where all her clothes came from, and can verify that nothing she owns was made in a sweatshop or by an illegal immigrant. Ignorance is no excuse, after all.

    Now regarding bodysnarking: I think it’s a hugely damaging crock of crap that needs to be shut down right now.

  5. Ruby

    When Urban Outfitters first started selling keffiyehs, they called them simply Peace Scarves, which was some of the worst catalog whitewashing I’d ever seen (and I write catalogs, so I know all about the “well, just gloss over that child labor/sweat shop/cultural warfare thing” kind of directive).

    People who choose to wear one, whether they mean to be political or provocative or just say screw it, I like the design, should at least know where it comes from. But when the people mass-marketing it to them don’t even seem to know… ignorance IS no excuse, but this is one case where I can’t *entirely* fault the hipsters for that ignorance. (I can’t believe I said that. ;))

  6. pamela

    Wow, what a lot of interesting thoughts.

    As for the keffiyehs, we’re really sort of talking about “appropriation” aren’t we? I mean, if you’re taking something out of it’s social context, ans wearing it just because you like the look of it, that’s “appropriating” it for your own self-expression. The thing I don’t particularly understand is why some forms of “borrowing” are okay, like kilts which are a classic wardrobe choice for everyone of any heritage here in the states. At one point I was sick of my hair, and so (grey haired, and white as I am) I briefly entertained the idea of dreadlocks. In researching how to go about matting my hair, I ran across a discussion of how white folks wearing dreads is considered by some to be “appropriation.” Add caftans, clogs, and tartans aren’t appropriating, but dreadlocks and keffiyehs may be; what’s the difference. BTW, my hair is still its naturally wavy self, and shall remain so.

    Bodysnarking disgusts me. Last summer there was an actress who was photographed wearing a bikini; suddenly everyone on the internet felt free to dump on the poor woman because her body wasn’t in “bikini shape.” As if, just because she’s a celeb, she ought to have a “perfect” body, or otherwise not blight the beaches with her presence. And yet on the other side there is bodysnarking if an actress gets too thin. Leave the poor people alone! Just because they have – as Johnny Depp puts it – an unusual career, does not mean that we own them.

    And what goes for celebs ought to go just as well for you average Jane on the street, er, ‘net. We’ve got so rude. And it’s rude to comment on someone’s body size. There was a day *shakes cane* when it was even considered rude to compliment someone you did not know well in a personal fashion. A long long ago day, before the internet.

    And as for “trying too hard,” I suppose it’s in the eye of the beholder. Fashion should be fun, I think, and never serious. There are certaintly people who think way too much about it. I think you linked a NY Times article a few months back about people who dress in only one color; that’s definetly “trying to hard” in my book. Fashion never cured diseases, nor will it ever end world poverty or war. (Actually, not sure about that last one.) When you look at the greater scheme of things, putting too much thought/time/expense into one’s look seems rather selfish. Hope you don’t mind if I quote a little Bible here: “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:” Matthew 6:28. Having said all that, I’m not above trying a little too hard myself, from time to time.

    Darn, why do I have to go to a wedding on Saturday??? I’d so much rather be at that Lotta Jansdotter workshop! Oh, shoot! What am I going to wear??? *frets*

  7. Casey

    As usual, loads of “food for thought” for me to chew on here! I really have mixed feelings about the issue concerning appropriating other culture’s garments that have symbolic/political/social connotations (such as a Westerner wearing a keffiyeh). On one hand, we’ve (using this term as a collective, cultural “we”), have drawn inspiration and used garment styles freely from other cultures. In a way, I think it reflects the curiosity the West has always had about other countries and societies that do not reflect the European way of life. I for one love other culture’s garments like kimonos and the bold headscarves that African women sport (though I can’t pull them off at all! ;). But do we cross the line when we borrow something that may have religious/political meanings? For instance, wouldn’t it be somewhat ignorant of the fashion industry if suddenly dressing in bright robes like Buddist monks do, became popular (far-fetched example, but you get the drift…)?

    I think in the case of the hipster scarves, it belies a greater ignorance, particularly on the part of my generation, in seeing or even seeking subtext in their choices. A generation that was told to “let it all hang out” and “do what feels right”, does no longer have the tools necessary to plunge deeper into even their most mundane fashion choices to understand what they might be conveying via their clothes. I think this is particularly critical when borrowing from other societies’ garments. In the case of the keffiyeh, whether or not you support the Palestinians, it creates a political statement to others that they pick up on.

    Body nit-picking… ugh, I’m so over it! I think if I see another tabloid cover with “Worst Bikini Bodies” on it, I might scream. Since when do movie stars have to look like models (isn’t that what a model is paid for, anyway?)??? Seriously: I think more attention should be paid to encouraging them in their acting careers than whether they have a saggy butt or arm flab. 😉 lol. Some of my favorite actors and actresses don’t have “perfect” bods anyway.

    Thanks for the great post!!

  8. Sal

    I adore these posts, Tricia. And what a fabulous conversation y’all have going here! I’m especially intrigued by Pamela’s comments about the fine line between appropriation and borrowing. What IS the difference? And who decides? Seems to me that it all hinges on whether the group being appropriated/borrowed from gets hacked off or not.

    My husband mentioned Rachel Ray-gate to me, and I immediately thought, wow, someone REALLY wanted some free press and media attention to make such a bizarre and incendiary accusation. Rachel Ray may be a little sparkletastic sometimes and get on my last nerve, but I have full confidence that she is not harboring a terrorist agenda. Even if she does wear controversial scarves which, as we’ve established, she does not.

    Like many of you, I’ve got mixed feelings about cultivating absolute awareness of how our style choices might affect others. It’s hard to know what might offend everyone at all times. And yet, certain items so clearly bear a cultural mark you feel like people should just KNOW, or at least, know to ask. I recently posted about appropriating logograms as tattoos, and I feel this is a little more cut-and-dried: if you don’t speak/read the language, you may not know the full meaning of the symbol, so just don’t go there. But with clothing, it’s considerably more hazy.

    I will admit to indulging in bodysnarking occasionally, but having read this, I realize the error of my ways. I know, I know, it shouldn’t take a conversation like this for me to acknowledge the negativity I’m creating. But I can honestly say that my main motivation is frustration with people who haven’t put any effort into learning what flatters them. Folks who wear the trends NO MATTER WHAT or sport outrageously ill-fitting clothes bring out the worst in me. I look at them and think, “Irresponsible! Learn to see yourself, and dress your body so you look as awesome as you really are!” But it’s totally true that snarking about any of that feeds a culture of criticism and body-based judgment. Don’t condone either of those things. I vow to knock it the hell off.

    I try too hard every damn day, and proud of it. This is me: http://www.nataliedee.com/100806/matchy-matchy.jpg (Props to Natalie Dee for my all-time favorite fashion comic.) And I loved disneyrollergirl’s post. LOVED.

  9. Mimi

    I teach a gender and women’s studies course on the politics of fashion, and we often discuss the question of appropriation –especially because my syllabus focuses on transnational circuits of images and goods– which I try to get them to rethink as a question of alienation instead. Instead of thinking about culture as a matter of property and ownership, I try to reframe culture as a struggle for power/knowledge about others, about ourselves. Generally, it’s difficult at first for students to let go the idea of ownership (which seems a much more stable concept for making claims of violation under capitalism) to think instead about power/knowledge (granted, it’s a fancy Foucauldian concept too), about persons becoming alienated from their histories, aesthetic practices, or whatever, but hopefully by the end it makes more sense to them.

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