Friday, 19 October 2012

One skirt four way-out ways

I had just polished off a tin of Helga von Trollop's wonderful Arsebiscuits (which she is about to licence to the Girl Guides) when I had an epiphany. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I haven't been able to paint big lately, so I decided to channel that spectrum of energy into Abstract Expressionist Styling. I immediately called Miz Bagg (who always assists with comedy and critique) to join in this gorgefest of colour, form, and texture.

Questions
How far-out can I stretch a central piece stylistically with limited other pieces?
What defines the limits of what we would wear in public?

Materials
Ground: neon lemon maxi skirt, aka the Circus Skirt (worn several times in the summer, posted here)
Main palette: thrifted ballerina dress, thrifted black sequin tank top, thrifted black 3/4 sleeve top, black tights, lilac platform shoes
Accents: patterned keyhole stretch top with suspenders, thrifted hot pink peignoir, and black and white cloth belt

Below are some of my favourite Miz Bagg stylings from this session. I also took some "normal" stylings during the session, which I'll post before this skirt flies off around the world.

Look 1: Marie Antoinette (or "Oh Please Let Me Eat Cake")


I'm either beseeching the universe to rain cake down upon me or pausing mid-step at a Tim Burton ball for Louis XVI.

Look 2: Lemon Meringue Wood Elf (or "I am not a Conehead")


Inspired by Judith at Style Crone, I wound the skirt around my towering red hat. The end result was very tipsy; I should have used my belt to secure it. 

Look 3: Ace of Lemon Spades (or "Don't Ask me to Walk")


This piece comes with a skateboard with a rope attached for towing purposes in case I actually have to move. Too bad the belt tied around my knees was not elasticized. I love the balloon effect of the skirt cinched under the tutu. Veeery tricky snapping this photo using a timer walking in baby steps.

Look 4: Triple Sudden Impact (or Miz Air-Bagg)


This look features three attractive air bags formed by pouching the skirt through the armholes and keyhole of this top worn as a skirt and secured with suspenders. It's an attractive silhouette, don't you think?

Conclusions
This exercise was not an adequate painting substitute, but it will do for now. "There is no such thing as mistakes" was my mantra  - just as it is in painting, which is what made the shoot so enjoyable. While it would be easy to see these outfits as costumes or fashion designs, these works sprang from the neon lemon skirt, not from the need to clothe a scripted character or sell a clothing brand. I also think there is much more I could have done here. 

I would not wear any of these outfits as everyday wear. Why not? How do we instinctively know what's "too far"? I know that the boundaries of my "too far" have certainly shifted in recent years and the "too fars" of other bloggers vary wildly. I think there's more to it than just being comfortable in something because I felt comfortable in these outfits, although I probably wouldn't feel the same without the mask of bow lips and rouge and the context of experimentation which gave me permission to dress like this. Another question: What is it about "too far" clothing that some people find so upsetting on the sidewalk but perfectly palatable in a magazine?

Intellectually, I think that individual styling is a small political act, the assertion of an independent will that may not necessarily embrace prevailing trends in politics, fashion, or art. I love the fact that if I wanted, theoretically I COULD wear these ensembles out for coffee, but for me they are still "too far".

What do YOU think?


It's been a frantic week of big words and bad sound so I haven't been able to comment much. I have squeezed in peeks when I could and sometimes scribbled a few words. 

Also, thanks to my new followers for joining!!

37 comments:

Lynn Dylan said...

Oooo, I love these outfits! Yes, I think an attractive silhouette you make, and yes I think that silhouette is important. As far as crossing over a line, I personally don't feel comfortable going TOO far out of what is considered normal, but I also consider myself a bit cavalier in terms of dress. As for these outfits, the colors are stunning! Your eyes are so blue!! The first impression is magnificent! I love 'em!

xoxo
Lynn

WendyB said...

OMG -- I heart you.

Misfits Vintage said...

I love each iteration of this wondrous outfit. Number three is my favourite, hands down, though I do also adore the towering yellow conehead look. You are an exquisite creature! I try not to think of boundaries when I'm dressing - though of course that is a big pile of wank. Let me try again... I try not to consider words such as 'normal' or 'too far' or think about what other people like... if I feel confident/happy/sexy/fabulous in an outfit, then I wear it - and suffer the consequences. Sarah xxx

Melanie said...

I know what you mean. Regarding "normal" and "far out," I struggled to find words for this application. I would love to wear No. 1 or 3 for coffee - but, as I said, I feel I would need the makeup mask and an excuse like a photo shoot to do it. I suppose I'm afraid of reaction. Damn, I said it!! Give me a few years to grow my IDGAF armour. xxx

Sheila said...

You're just astounding, Melanie! I love the third look so much - you look like something Salvador Dali would dream up. Those shoes...

It's so very fun to be dressed up in public, but there's such a fine line between pushing the boundaries and crashing through them - at least for most people.

Young at Heart said...

too fabulous.....how wonderful to discover you....am in love with the brilliant shoes!!

edie pop said...

I'm totally in love with each one of these avant gard outfits!! Probabily, I wouldn't wear them at 7 a.m. to take my kids to school or at some boring birthday parties where I'm already the more noticeable, other moms wear sport suits, but as a painter, I'd really like to dress like you at one of my future exhibitions even if I really can't decide a favourite between Marie Antoniette and the Lemon Meringue Elf!
You are wonderful!
Love

thorne garnet said...

All are awesome. Shows you what can be done with a couple of pieces. Love the shoes

Vix said...

You are art personified. Even though you've been limited with your painting this week I love how you've used your body as a canvas and created some absolute masterpieces.
It's interesting how you describe your make-up as a "mask of bow lips & rouge", if anything the paint enhances your natural beauty and stunning bone structure rather than disguises you.
"Too far" doesn't exist in my vocabulary, dressing up, however wildly, rarely causes negative reaction in others.
You are absolutely fabulous! xxx

Joni said...

You are so freakin' creative Mel. I especially love the Ace of Lemon Spades here. Dressing is definitely a fun creative outlet. Taking it to the max is a little risky but at my age I figure I'm not out there trying to make more friends...so why not? ;) Still, I don't take my own advice because I'm always playing it safe for the most part. I can say it's because I don't like to attract attention to myself, but secretly I really do want to be noticed as creative and different. Just a bit.

Melanie said...

I can't imagine anyone getting upset by how you dress, Vix. You bring light wherever you go. It's not just the clothes but your fantastic positive attitude. When I'm pushing my edge and feel fantastic, I don't get negative responses, or if I do I ignore them/am obvious to them because I don't care. Probably the sense of costume or not feeling genuine at the moment, however, would make me more on edge or skittish so others would be too as a result. I don't know where this all leads.

Melanie said...

Joni, you absolutely shine in your style and when you walk by people must say, there's goes an artist, in the best possible way. I love how you take it to your max. What is safe? Does safe mean comfortable? Geniune? Every extreme must feel safe to feel real. Whatever it is, it's working for you!

Melanie said...

I would love to see the School staff's faces if you pull up in an Ace of Spades. How long would it take to be summoned to a parent/teacher interview...? LOL

Low Couture said...

loving this utter fierceness // chic!

pao said...

Luv your series Melanie and those shoes are wild, baby! I didn't realize your yellow maxi skirt had embroidery on it when we saw it the first time. I must say my absolute favs are #3 and #4. I would definitely wear 3 out and about if you used elastic as the gathering devise so you could walk - perhaps minus the makeup. And even #4, it has a Japanese flavor to it that I like so I would wear that too, probably minus the hat.

It depends on where I'm going and how I'm getting there on how far out I would dress. If I'm taking public trans I'm much more low key. If its for a class or workshop I'm doing, them I'm out there.

Connie said...

Well, yellow there! As I was looking at these photos I kept singing "I'm a little teapot..." Don't know why. You are definitely not short and stout! I live next to a playground and I am obsessed with the outfits on some of the children. Whimsical and completely practical. I mean, they have to be able to climb up the slide and eat a cookie at the same time and still look like a kitty princess super hero! I've been tempted to take pictures of a few of these kids but I'm afraid their parents would call the police! Why can't we dress like that as grown ups? Their parents are usually dressed in some sort of drab denim thing. It really is confusing. Love these looks Melanie! Meet me at the playground and we can play on the swings. I'll be the one with vodka in my juice box.
Connie*

Forest City Fashionista said...

I just love when you combine your creativity as an artist with having fun with your clothes!! I love the shapes you've created here, expecially the third--if I could find a skirt shaped like that with an elasticized cinch around the knees so I could walk I would love to wear it.

As for the "how far is too far" question, it's hard to say. For some people my "normal" is their "too far". I don't know if I've found my "too far" yet. It does depend on where I'm going and how much mobility I require. I have found that I feel much more comfortable with dressing up since I started my blog, and have the daily inspiration of wonderful women like you!

DearHelenHartman said...

I love idea that personal style is a political statement. You look adorable no matter how far you go!

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

Juicy!! I love the freedom to experiment, as you've clearly done here, no holds barred. A work of ephemeral art. Runway vs reality? For me it comes down to how I connect with other people. If I'm uncomfortable and feel as though this particular expression will be so off-putting that I won't be able to connect comfortably, I will usually choose a "milder" expression. But as you say, everyone's comfort zone is different. I adore people who are so "big" in their expression that they will wear things way beyond my zone, and be themselves.

I was thinking today that life would be more fun if every day were Halloween. I admire the Helgas and Desirees of the world, for just that reason. But I also adore the Judiths and Melanies who make other choices based on their aesthetic sensibilities.

Bottom line, have fun!! XXOO

Terri said...

Number three is my favorite, but even more I like the question(s) these stylings have raised. i don't push the boundaries in my work attire, but i am perfectly willing to wear what i like at home or on the blog. In fact, I often think that the world has grown so utilitarian in its dress that more of us NEED to push the boundaries more often.

So this skirt is going to go around the world?

Miss Maple said...

Completely fancy and crazy! Wonderful colour combination! I like best the second outfit. Hugs from Miss Maple

Anne @ The Frump Factor said...

You raise such an interesting question! It intrigues me, particularly, because I think I'm one who dresses to blend in rather than to stand out, yet I love everything you do.

These outfits do look more experimental than what you usually wear. Even though your more "everyday" looks would seem wild on me, they seem perfectly cohesive and appropriate on you. Whereas these look more like you are experimenting or dressing up. So I do think there is a line SOMEWHERE.....but there is probably no absolute way to determine where it is.

And I laughed out loud at your words, "I am not a conehead." Thanks for that! Keep doing what you do -- we love it.

Amber of Butane Anvil said...

Miz Bagg rides again, hooray!!! All of these skirt-inspirred incarnations are totally fantastic, and I swoon over your stylings, postures, and expressions. These outfits are far and away the best I have ever seen on the JF Munsters, and each has such a special place in my heart I wouldn't be able to choose a favourite. They are all my favourite!

Fascinating line of inquiry and experimentation - when and how does costume become Costume. I see dressing as a performance much like gender (and yes, absolutely political) - entirely a social / cultural construct which can challenge and / or embrace our human need for belonging and acceptance, and around which we have varying degrees of choice and privilege depending on the resulting range of possible sanctions - employment f'rinstance. My position is that given that we have to wear clothes, it should be as fun and feel as good as possible without compromising our roles and inter-relationships with others.

Connie said...

I love, love, love your humor . . . Great post!
Your blogging sister, Connie :)

Mrs. D said...

This is an awesome post! I really like all the versions, but the Ace of Lemon Spades is my favourite. That red hat of yours is absolutely fantastic!

The subject matter is very interesting as well. When I lived in Lisbon, what was acceptable in public was quite limited. People there tend to rudely stare and sometimes even hurl insults at me - clown being one of the favourites. So the limits of experimentation have always depended on what mood I was in, some days you just want to be left alone, isn't it? I find that ever since I moved to England and even though very constricted by the fact that this is a small town and it does sometimes make me tone down on my sartorial choices, the fact that people no longer stare or call me names has made me feel a lot more liberated. This week I wore silver jeans, leopard boots, a furry jacket and my turban hat to work and it felt great. I told my friends I was practising for London! :)

pastcaring said...

SO SO SO much to say that Mshall have to rein myself in for fear of appearing abnormally verbose. Which I am.
First - the looks you have created are joyous playful masterpieces! Like quite a few others, Ace of Lemon Spades is my favourite. I wonder if it is possible to recreate it in a way which doesn't mean you have to take baby steps?
Second - functionality. If you can't actually move in an outfit, or the cone head is in danger of collapse at any moment, or the airbags mean you can't fit a coat on or the braces mean you can't go to the loo - well, maybe they are for fun creative blogs posts rather than out'n'about wear.
Third - What is "normal" or "too far" is a value judgment, which differs between individuals, and within the individual themselves. It changes depending on our mood, confidence, self-esteem. On occasion and place. Maybe over time/age. I dress in what is comparatively conservative clothes, given that I wear recognisable items in conventional ways. Nothing upside down, back-to-front, hats on my head, skirts over my legs, that kind of normal. I am apparently "out there" within my community for the choices I make regarding which skirt/hat/dress I wear, apparently because they are often colourful, clashing and old.
I love your dress up posts, as I love it when I do my wig-and-frilly bloomer posts. No, I wouldn't do the school run in it, but I like to play and share it with my sisters on the blog! Far out, baby, and keep on going!
Oops. Said I would rein myself in.... Failed! xxxxxxx

kaffesoester said...

So great to see the yellow skirt again! I can't choose one outfit over the other, they're all fantastic. The shoes are just awesome! I'm not joking, I've been searching everywhere for shoes like those. And the question of boundaries adds a very serious aspect to these incredible photos. I haven't yet had people yelling at me in the street, they just stare - a lot!

You may have heard of the Danish Law of Jante. It's a concept created by a Danish author, based on how he saw Scandinavians behave as a group, towards individuals. All the rules state how you're much less worth than the rest of us.

Of course people are not really like that, all the way through... But to a certain degree the general attitude is that you should comply to the uniformity that everyone else live by. I don't exactly do that.

The Style Crone said...

This post of stunning creativity confirms the opinion that I have that you are a brilliant artist in many areas. Thank you so much for the mention and I absolutely love how you wound the lemon skirt around your towering hat. Your make-up is exquisite for this post of profound self expression.

A thought provoking question - 'what is too far?' And I do agree that self expression is a political act. I find myself pushing the boundaries and I know it, when I feel it, that I've gone 'too far.' Allowing myself visibility as I age could be seen as an act of defiance. I've become comfortable with my form of self expression and my friends accept and now expect me to dress however I choose. Outside of this circle there is more ambivalence, I think. But I do it anyway!

Miss Simmonds Says said...

Wow, you've been denied painting but you've turned yourself into art. I love these avant garde looks, reminiscent of 1950s vogue editorials. When are you going to go to the 40+ model agency? Everything you do has a cheeky humour to it that makes me love it more. I think blogging is pushing me to be more experiemental in public, all due to the encouragement of you and my other blogger friends xxxxx

Ben Liu said...

My best is the No.3:D

But actually they could be a team:)
would like to see four of them go on the street.

http://bendabenda.blogspot.ca

Style Higher™ said...

Those air bags... CRACK UP! You are so creative with bow lips! Too far... it is personal. For me it is when someone doesn't understand appropriate dress in certain places and situations. Example, I don't think it is okay to offend people with dress or speech, especially in sensitive places. Take religious services for example. I think it is inappropriate to wear an exposed garter belt, stockings and bra top that would cause others to stare and wonder why you forgot to put on your dress before you left the house. :-)

Style Higher™ said...

Oh those shoes, love them!!!!!

Krista said...

I love the humor in these three outfits so distinct and different in each. I think for me I still want to look stylish and not just crazy, sometimes that is a fine line and only you determine if you have crossed it. I once wore this outfit that I really liked until I saw a picture of me wearing it, I looked like an ostrich.

Helga! said...

1: I am stoked you enjoyed those arsebiscuits!
2:YOU ARE DAZZLING!!!
3:I love all these looks,and am staggered by your creativity!The conehead definetly call out to me....
4: How far is too far? Well, just far enough, I think! I'm a fan of going too far, I have to say.If it's worth doing,it's worth overdoing! And YOU, my dear, are WORTH DOING!
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Melanie said...

Oh, I am so glad I didn't offend you by eating your arsebiscuits without your permission!! I do think that if you made them for real, people would buy them. You are always a constant inspiration, a true Valkyrie of style.

Lynne DeVenny said...

Melanie, I think you could wear any of these outfits to the Costume Institute's Party of the Year, and not only fit in on the red carpet, but blow everyone else out of the water. And sure, you could wear any of them out in public - but not the law office :P You don't know how much I envy your spirited and wildy beautiful style palette.

Lynne DeVenny said...

Now I'm deathly curious about arsebiscuits!

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