In Which I Vociferously Object To Internet Snobs

It isn't exactly breaking news to anyone who's been to Chictopia in the last couple of days, but I was really rather kicked to know that three of the site's users (Karla, Melissa and Linda) had been picked to feature in an American Apparel campaign run in collaboration with Chictopia. I'm not a regular user of the site, but there's no denying that a lot of the girls on it are really incredibly well-dressed, and (as with most personal/streetstyle sites out there) complimentary comments on the outfits invariably follow. And the fact that a lot of bloggers use it as a way to share outfit pictures makes it a fun site to browse- I haven't really see Go Fug Yourself-ish fashion criticism on anyone's pictures. And although American Apparel has more than its fair share of controversy (esp. regarding sexual harassment charges against CEO Dov Charney and their rather, erm, risqué adverts), there's nothing about the Chictopia-collaboration shoot- or what's been seen of it, anyway- that makes me think the images are exploitative, or otherwise suspect.

Which is why I was more than a little surprised to find this post on Jezebel- longtime anti-AA stanceholders, if I remember correctly- with the enlightening caption 'American Apparel Now Sponsoring Bloggers And Porn Stars'. Turns out the 'porn stars' bit of the title referred to some ads run by AA in December, featuring three girls who actually were porn stars, in a rather more advanced state of undress/non-dress than the average American Apparel ad. And I'm not even going into the whole objectification-of-women argument in that particular part of the post, so I'll just (finally) cut to the chase and bang on about why that post irritates me so much.
Simply put, the answer is that it's bloody patronising. Please do tell me if you could read the following lines any other way:

"Chictopia, a fashion social networking site whose genius idea is that users can upload pictures of their outfits for other users to comment on so everyone can feel comfortably supported in her precious online fashion-maven status

"Chictopia is one of those places where the internet telescopes and distends to the extent that being on Chictopia for other people to comment on and rate becomes prima facie evidence of supposed fashion expertise, which supposed fashion expertise becomes a reason to be on Chictopia for other people to comment on and rate. "

"The entire vain and mindless feedback loop was aptly (though unwittingly) summed up by Mashable, which noted newly minted American Apparel
model, Chictopia girl Karla "is a beautiful stylista actively pursuing her passion via Chictopia and creative expression on her own blog." Actively pursuing, people!" "And just as blogging and uploading self-taken pics of your original hipster creations is an ersatz kind of fashion activity.."

"It's unethical to paint this experience as some kind of entrée into fashion modeling. It's just another chance to get your kit off for Dov Charney, only now to even do that, you're expected to be an internet Somebody who can write a gushy post about it."

I suppose the writer really intended to call out American Apparel for exploiting women in its ads (and I can see her point there), but the wording of everything I've placed in italics is just IMO horrible, snobbish and when taken in conjunction with the title, misleading to boot- the post was illustrated with two sets of NSFW photographs of the AA ads featuring porn stars, with no images of the Chictopia shoot- so anyone reading the post could probably assume all the images were like that, if they wanted to. And outfit photo sharing is nothing new- TFS, MyStyleDiary, Modepass and a whole range of sites including personal fashion blogs have long been places for people to do exactly that.

But what really surprised me was the snarking about the Chictopia participants themselves- none of whom were directly quoted (even if someone else's gushy post about Karla was used as evidence that Karla needs to be snarked about, too). That, and the bitchiness about Internet outfit-sharers. Apparently our vain, mindless feedback-loop-stuck wannabe hipster fashion-maven selves (wow, we wear a lot of hats don't we? though I must admit, I'm no outfit sharer) haven't any business engaging in 'ersatz fashion activity', and somehow active pursuit of one's interests via a blog isn't really active pursuit, or any kind of creative expression, at all. By the time I got to the middle of the post (which is where the last line quoted came from), I was wondering just why the writer sounded so bitter- and then I scrolled up and discovered that it was Tatiana, The Anonymous Model, Jezebel's (it's self-explanatory, really) anonymous contributor who is in fact a real-life fashion model.

To be honest, it makes a whole pile of sense that someone who is a professional model would feel annoyed that a bunch of regular girls with nothing more than their cameras and computers, are doing something that resembles her job (posing and making clothes look good) and doing it well enough for a large clothing company to sit up and take notice. Sure, maybe no one's getting a modelling career out of this, as Tatiana pointed out, but it's well and truly possible that no one even assumed that this was going to lead to anything of the sort. And IMO it's rather blindingly obvious that the 'ersatz fashion activity' Tatiana seems to hold in such contempt is intended to stand- at least, so the article seems to imply in direct contrast to Tatiana's own- more legitimate, by inference, given her professional status- 'genuine' fashion activity, the kind girls with cameras don't (and shouldn't, is the feeling coming off this) get to engage in.

I'm all for questioning suspect professional ethics and the objectification of women, and sexual harassment in the workplace is not cool AT ALL. But frankly, Tatiana's post on Jezebel seems to direct more bile at Chictopia and at the bloggers from there who participated in the campaign, than at the murky workings of American Apparel- and I don't buy the bullshit that any of it was somehow cool, or feminist in any way. I've enjoyed many of Tatiana's behind-the-scenes accounts of what it's like to be a model and a girl working in fashion, but this time, really, shame on her, and shame on Jezebel.

picture from Chictopia


Hoods Up

I've always been a big fan of hoods on clothes, and living in a place with next to nothing by way of a proper winter tends not to be a good thing if one is fonder of wearing winter clothes than summer clothes. Hoods have had a bit of a bad name in recent years thanks to their sweatshirt avatars (which I love anyway, so-called chav/other associations notwithstanding), but a slightly structured hood is, IMO, one of the coolest ways to add drama to an outfit while simultaneously letting it be practical. In fact, no one puts it better than Dreamecho, who once said, in response to my drooling over the lovely Prairie Underground hooded jacket she'd showcased on her blog:
"The drama of the hood...where at one moment we can cloak our faces in shadow and at another be visible to all the world."
That pretty much sums it all up, really- it's odd that a simple attachment to a garment has so much potential to look austere (I keep thinking of monks) and relaxed at the same time. And I suspect this dichotomy is what keeps my fascination with hoods going (that and the fact that they saved my ears from freezing off through five successive North Indian winters), and it's unlikely to stop any time soon. Spring might be not too far away, but large chunks of the Northern hemisphere are still cold, and sometimes hats are just too much of a pain to take on and off.
And now, in pictures:
Needs no explanation, really: probably the first character one thinks of when thinking of the word 'hood'.
Though I bet Queen Michelle could kick a wolf's ass: the hood might not have been the main focus of her outfit here, but I do prefer her version of the look for its lack of 'scared little girl' vibe.
Hoods are whimsical, cutely worn, and above all, they look warm.
And dramatic, too (L: by Michelle Lowe-holder, R: by Prairie Underground)
And who says they're for girls/winter only?(Yoshio Kubo SS09)

pictures from: (1: elfwoordart, 2: Kingdom of Style, 3:The Facehunter, 4: pic from Michelle Lowe-Holder via Bored&Beautiful, pic from Prairie Underground via dreamecho, 5: pic from The Imagist).


And Look Who's Back..

LLG returns! I'm grinning like a loon at the thought of one of my all-time favourite bloggers making a comeback to the blogosphere...2009 is awesome :). And if you've read this far, click on the link already!
A string of paper submissions, viva voces, and now exams in quick succession have officially shot my resolution to blog (like, actually blog) more into little bitty pieces, but someday when I'm less tired, I shall blog (and now I understand why Fops and Dandies shut down on heading off to law school, though my law school is nowhere near as taxing as hers).

About Me

My photo
Fondest of upbeat music and brightly coloured sweets.