Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Boy, when you shoot, shoot the one you love

Chambray Shirt - J. Crew / Skirt - Forever 21 / Bike shorts - Aritzia
Belt - Gap / Sunglasses - Ray Ban / Shoes - Chanel

Here I present an outfit that I totally ripped off from a picture I saw in the summer 2010 issue of i-D magazine.  (The original was 100% D&G.)  Usually copying an outfit from a magazine or another blog makes me feel like a bad person, like I'm really uninspired, but the mood of this outfit was just right.  I was headed down to San Jose for one last time to see my parents before they left town and drop off my car (eek, I'm a real city girl now).  Did I mention it's 85+ degrees in San Jose right now?  Quite a change from the blustery weather we've been having up in San Francisco, so I used the opportunity to wear something summery, girly, and a little fashion forward.  Looking back at the photos, I think I look a bit like Annie Oakley in this outfit.  I just need a good wide brimmed hat and a shotgun and I'm there!

In the mood for some thoughts on fashion theory and semiology?  Continue reading after the jump for some meaningful analysis of this here outfit.

I was originally going to use this outfit as a springboard for a discussion about meaning in garments, outfits, and contexts, but I quickly realized what an overwhelming topic that could be!  So I'm going to try to explain one level of meaning with each outfit I post up here and maybe we can eventually get to a more cohesive picture of what I talk about when I talk about meaning.  (That is, please bear with me as this is difficult to talk about and I'm just starting to learn the language.  This is some exploratory writing on meaning.)

To commemorate my final picture in my parent's backyard, let's discuss location and context.  Leaving my apartment in the Haight, an outfit like this de(/con)notes some basic things: 1) I wasn't too worried about the weather, or at least I didn't let it affect my fashion choices--it was 55 degrees when I left my apartment in this number, 2) I'm going to some relatively casual function, not conservatively dressed but obviously attempting to craft a specific image/feeling, and 3) while trying to assert my individuality and originality, I'm still conscious of and participating in more widespread trends.

Upon my arrival in San Jose one hour later, surrounded by (primarily male) community college students and people who work from my favorite coffee shop in the area, the outfit has a whole different set of meanings.  A different social group has different expectations and different negotiations of what means what and what the acceptable messages are.  Without going into much analysis about what about the culture/attitudes shape these differences, let's break down what the outfit means out there: 1) I didn't plan very well for the weather because I was wearing a long sleeve shirt in 85 degree weather, 2) the level of formality of my dress indicates that I must be on my way to work or some fashionable event (you're generally hard pressed to find people not wearing jeans and a t-shirt in San Jo), and 3) I must see myself as a fashion leader and trend setter as there is little evidence of these trends through the area; I inevitably stand out from the crowd.

And of course, though not quite locations in the sense that cities are, Chictopia and this blog add their own layers of meaning to the outfit.  For instance, on the internet you can see from my descriptions that this outfit is a rip-off.  It may have something to do with how I perceive my own image, but it has little to do with my creativity or originality or my desire to align myself with either of those qualities. (Isn't having a personal blog emphasis enough on how original I am?  you are sitting here reading about my life.)  And while readers may be apt to guess where I'm going and what I'm doing, there is no metric of appropriateness of the outfit.  The only social context is the aesthetic.  Also, while most people on the street probably didn't notice that I was wearing Chanel ballet flats, this is a prominently highlighted detail of the text of the outfit.  I know that a brand like that has a multitude of connotations for people that I won't get into now, but I don't have many pairs of designer shoes and I love these ones dearly.

I have to say, the fashion enthusiast in me does prefer getting dressed for a day in San Francisco (or planning an outfit to go up here that I may never wear out in public).  But this difference in local attitudes makes me wonder how other fashion bloggers experience their communities, and how their communities experience them.  There seems to be several distinct schools of blogging styles (the whimsically postmodern, the die-hard vintage fans, model off duty, etc.), and with a few exceptions, these schools of thought don't seem to be location specific.  So, if you've found this post and have managed to stick with me to this point, then what do you think about when you plan your outfits?  Do you work or go to school with a community that guides your fashion choices?  Are you influenced by magazines and media with supposedly ideal images?  Do you dress for a fashion-conscious blogging community and say to hell with people around you that don't get it?  What level of location and context specific meaning matters to you?  How do you think technology affects the publicity, creation, manipulation and transmission of meaning?

For further reading on meaning in fashion:

Barnard, Malcom.  Fashion as Communication.  Routledge: New York, 2002.


  1. ohmygosh! I LOVE when people post pics of their direct outfit inspiration! i love this! great blog :D


  2. Beautiful outfit, i love the skirt!

  3. love the dress, its soo pretty

    come follow the first ever fashion blog from a Guys POV, let He know what you think


  4. The skirt is so playful, I want one just like it!

    I definitely think a place influences your outfits. I've lived in New York and my style was more relaxed, grungey, dark... And then I moved here (San Francisco) and as much as I wanted to wear denim shorts and ripped tights.... it's too cold. I started layering and now my style is more feminine than I like it so now I'm actually trying to fight the influence. It's just truthfully rather difficult not to wear cardigans... which annoys me. I definitely notice that women in general here are much more feminine than in NY. In NY, the women dress more aggressively. I think bloggers are a whole different animal because we're all influenced by each other, online, rather than solely by our cities. Anyway, that's my two cents!! Haha.

  5. Like your skirt!

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  6. I can't help thinking "Will my daughter be proud of my fashion choice!" I'm lucky to have a daughter with great style that helps to keep me from looking like an old lady in mom jeans! Mwah! Love ya, Mom

  7. Trends don't really influence me...except when I'm buying clothes and there is a lot of one style and I happen to like it. I tend to go through my own phases, I guess. I kind of don't care what other people think of my outfits, but I do take into account place/time. For example, I wear something more "costumey" or "ridiculous" on a special occassion to see a concert or something. I mostly wear cotton skirts because I hate the way that pants feel on my crotch and in my hips, so I've had to figure out things to do in cooler weather. When I go back home to visit my family, I tend to dress more conservatively. Often, practicality impedes on my fashion choices: I have to wear Vans or Docs if I'm going to be walking around school all day. If I'm going to a fancy restaurant, I definitely tone it down and dress "ladylike". If I'm staying home or just running errands, I dress however the fuck I want! Yay! Today I wore a black and white striped tank top with no bra confining my ridiculous 34DD's, and grey and white striped panties. Haha, no pants!

  8. Hey! Thanks for the comment! I wasn't at the blogger meet-up you mentioned... in fact I never even heard about it! But if there are ever meet ups and you want an SF friend to go with you, just let me know! I'm a bit of a homebody but always looking for an excuse to meet people in real life@!!

    And I'll take you up on your mention of selling clothes at Crossroads on Irving. I've done it once at a blogger party set up by Enid & everyone was really cool. I'll have to try it again. I usually go to Buffalo on Valencia just because it's my old 'hood and they are always so good to me there. Irving St IS closer!