Friday, February 19, 2010

on NPR!

http://berlinstories.org/2010/02/12/april-lamm-on-picturing-america-from-afar/

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Failed Fashionista No. 3 (Watch Out)

Watch Out
By April Lamm

What could be sexier than sporting an accessoire still spotted on the wrists of Hungarian businessmen in mauve? I’m talking about the digital watch. Trendsetters could be seen sporting them years ago –see Prada’s brown Bakelite version, Spring 2005 -- but we have yet to witness the blockbuster comeback of the digital watch.

In the era of the handheld databank gizmo and its accompanying motion – the two-finger swoop – wearing a watch is like wearing a monocle. But the digital watch is what makes others watch you. It sets you apart from the complicated crowd of swoopers with apps. You know where the next bookstore is because a friend told you. Leave your handy cell behind. It will only make you late. And let this be a plea for the importance of being on time.

I remember the heyday of the digital watch, how awed we were that we could tell time, the exact time, in the dark. The favored form was a flattened octagon, quasi-Buck Minister Fuller prĂȘt-a-porter, solar powered, and if you were lucky it was equipped with a melody to sound the alarm. It was shock resistant and perhaps even featured a world map (!). Even the names were sexy: G-shock sounded like an overheated G-spot; Texas Instruments, like a handsome nerdy scientist; Citizen bore an air of timeless cosmopolitanism, and Seiko was the least sexy of the lot, but also unknowingly my very first Japanese word – which translates into either “exquisite,” “minute,” or “success.” Knowing that now makes the phrase “I like your Seiko” a very nice one indeed.

Three thirty-three. The digital watch era also marked the time when we began to speak outside of the rounded 10s or more exact 5s, the squareness of a half past, quarter past, quarter til. Four twelve: time began to sound like a hotel room. Digital time made us sound anal to be sure, brutally truthful, seemingly less subjective, at times, conveying the feeling of being right (and at worst besserwisserisch).

I happened upon a Tiffany ad in an old issue of The New Yorker featuring their line of digital watches from 1975 called the Concord. The watches had been arranged on the page in a Boogie-Woogie Mondrian grid against an all red background. A Bermuda triangle of speed, London, Paris, New York, the Concord, the digital Concord, let it comeback, please.

END

Failed Fashionista No. 2 (Recession Wear: Perks of the Nudes)

Wasting Away – or rather, Waist, go away! – in Repression Era Wear
By April Lamm

So there’s wasted and there’s waisted, and I cannot get enough of the high-waisted looks from those shops of others’ “waste.” I’m shopping primarily secondhand these days and what could be less wasteful and more ecologically sound than hoarding what would only fill the landfill. Shopping for high-waisted pants, you see, represents the ultimate optimism and the ultimate do-gooding. What fashion signaled the end of the Great Depression? The high-waisted roaring 40s. What’s more, you don’t have to do credit crunches to fit into them. That is, your core bank account – the piggy bank – supports your addiction to these $3.99 Goodwill goodies.

Ok, so truth be told, the idea of wearing recycled pants gives me the heebeegeebees. And though it’s never been a street name that’s sounded anything less than mangy, my pant collection is pure high street, Mulackstrasse. It’s what I pair up with them that’s yesterday’s goods. Recently, I found three “new” tops in my new favorite shops, used, yes, vintage, no. Silk-imitation polyester tops, wash and go – at the risk of sounding like a shampoo commercial, we’re talking about more time for travel and leisure. RTW, no ifs, ands, or buts, and if someone backs into you and your cocktail, you can always convert the goodwill shirt into a holy holed Balmain by cutting the stain out. These tops deviate from the normal button-up with flattering pleats at the collar bones and blousy arms cinched at the wrist. No removal of the shoulder pads necessary, though I’m still unsure of the comeback of the Pad. All three are in hues of nude, and though it’s tempting to say that nude is the new black, it’s not. Black is the new black, red is the new black, and nude is just an interesting side dish I’ll never tire of, like mashed sweet potatoes. Furthermore, this rosy nude evokes the era of taupe. I don’t mean to digress into a diatribe on color in the midst of my push for recession-wear, but… remember that color? It’s not one of your 64 crayons, but connotes rather the tone of a lady who means business, Rosie the Riveter business. Roll-up-your-sleeves business, yes, but just let them blush to think that you’re nude while you’re doing it.

END

Failed Fashionista No. 1 (Immortal Spandex)

Immortal Spandex

Spandex is immortal. I know it. I speak from a place of wisdom, from the Planet of the Unitarded. (For earthlings unfamiliar with this futuristic state of mind, think of the tortuous medieval costume once known as a pee-prohibitor.)

With that image in mind, let us argue the contrary to prove the point: if spandex were mortal, it would be found in mounds of those musty depositories of the faded unwanted, the garment industry’s graveyard, the Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc. But contrary to what you might conjecture, spandex is conspicuously missing from any of these second-hand shops on Earth. Of late, in order to cope with the discrepancies between my addiction to more and the crisis of less, I began to do what I did so often in the 80s: thrift. Hence, after much field research, I have come to the conclusion that every lycra-legged lady out there is hogging their old spandex. Give ‘em up, I say, I want some hand-me-down spandex! Vintage spandex, what could be better?

I jest, of course.

Sure, it’s chemical, artificial, made mostly of polyurethane, which sounds like something you do to your floors to make them shiny. Polyurethane used to be used as an anesthetic, numbing any feelings you might have. It clads the hard-bodied bottoms of superheroes galore, sure, but on the other hand, it also sounds highly flammable.

Let’s face it. Shopping for pants is a form of mental torture. On top, one remains relatively uniform. Tit size remains a constant where as the bottom is an elastic that expands with the increasingly lost resistance to every cookie that crosses your path. Our nether regions are non-heroic.

Historically, the original era of spandex culminated with the original era of disco, that is, the era when we used to dance … a lot. In the 1970s, Patricia Fields claims to have invented the modern day legging as we know and love it today. And while it might have been Jane Fonda who transformed the verb “workout” into a noun in 1982, contrary to my memory, Fonda was not wearing the shiny spandex I was seeking, but rather a dull striped cottony variation thereof. The disco roller rink muse Olivia Newton John wasn’t wearing it either in Xanadu in 1980, but she did wear it in her bad girl gear in the culminating scene of Grease back in 1978. In her black shiny spandex, she morphed from a conservative Pink Lady into a slinky one dipped in ink. That’s how she got her guy.

There’s just something irresistible about a material that is simultaneously historic and of the hereafter. And it is one of the few items where you can reliably order a generic subjective S-M-L-XL. Spandex is, or so I learned, a material that stretches 500 times its “relaxed state.” No stress. It’s not snake proof, though. But on the other hand, it’s a good retainer of heat.

My own personally hogged spandex collection was once reserved for the annual dance recital. In my jazz flats, leggings and matching spandex silver sequined bandeau, I performed on a stage for a crowd of 50 mothers, and came as close as I’ll ever come to becoming Madonna. Earth, Wind, and Fire and … spandex, immortal spandex: since the discovery of sugar, no better material had ever been found.