Thursday, September 12, 2013
Just wanted to document a few changes The Corner Apartment is making. This will be my last post on Blogger. I have switched to Wordpress, finally, and with wonderful results. Currently, the domain is under thecornerapartmentblog.com, although soon it will be back to thecornerapartment.com. Thank you all, and I hope you'll still follow along.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
In-person vs. online
A few weeks ago, I had a most traumatic and contradictory experience: I went to a mall and I hated it.
To start, let me say that I've always found my excitement for shopping, in any duration, to be similar to my excitement for a holiday. If I had to name my top five holidays, including shopping, from top to bottom, it would be as follows: my birthday, Christmas, shopping, Thanksgiving, New Years.
I've prided myself on being an excellent, if long-winded, shopper. I'm not often deterred by crowds (although I'll never brave Black Friday in person) and have excellent stamina – perfect for rifling through racks, slipping into outfits and spending 90% of the day standing.
I've tried to examine my unfortunate experience from multiple angles. Maybe I wasn't in the mood. Maybe it was the post-Fourth of July weekend sales that brought entirely too many people to the mall, bringing about that dull headache of annoyance every time you realize you'll have to wait in a line for the dressing rooms, then the checkout.
But I was in the mood. And, like I said, crowds don't generally bother me. It seems every year I'm out shopping in the brief week between Christmas day and New Years. (And that, my friends, takes patience.)
So what was it?
My blissful veil of ignorance was pulled back, revealing a number of things that have perhaps changed my view of in-person shopping forever. Going to a mall reminds me of everything that is wrong America: that we are fat, terribly dressed and like to blatantly disregard rules (since when has it become acceptable to walk on the wrong side of the supposed shopping-street, cut in line or indefinitely block off that one section of the rack I'd like to have a look at?).
My (and many others', I presume) preferred method of consumption has now, and possibly forever, shifted to the ever-massive plunders of the World Wide Web. I've always been a huge fan of online shopping, because what's more fun that sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, quickly converting your bank account into incoming packages filled with personally picked presents?
It can be argued that shipping costs and the possibility of something not fitting or not looking as it did in an online picture are deterrents for shopping online. I agree with that. What must be realized is there's a tradeoff that must be made, and it's that convenience has a price (usually, $7.99).
Fortunately, most websites offer free returns, and many free shipping (shout out to Shopbop, Piperlime, Zappos and Nordstrom). Another plus: if Neiman's doesn't have your desired size in that Equipment blouse you've been staring through the screen at for weeks, just hop on over to Saks, Bergdorf, Bloomingdales, Net-A-Porter or Nordstrom. You're bound to find it somewhere.
I'm sure you've experienced the harried excitement while awaiting a package to land on your doorstep. Not much is more satisfactory than tracking your package from "origin scan" to "out for delivery." (Random facts: Gilt ships from Louisville, Kentucky, J.Crew ships from Roanoke, Virginia and Shopbop ships from Middleton, Wisconsin.) And once it's out for delivery, there's almost nothing that gets me home from work or class faster.
Our entire lives are being transferred to the Internet. Friendships, correspondence, photo albums, money management, ordering food, watching movies and TV shows, reading newspapers and magazines and any kind of shopping you could think of. I hate the word literally, but we literally do not have to leave our homes (or couches) to do anything.
So please. Sit back, relax and join me while I online shop.
Photo: Interview Magazine, March 2013
Photo: Interview Magazine, March 2013
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Having a déjà vu moment
In many cases, imitation is the best form of flattery. This is often true in fashion: how nice it must feel to be the mind behind a trend that launched lookalikes (or, in simpler words, a trendsetter). Surely the Olivia Palermos, Mary Kate and Ashley Oslens and Karl Lagerfelds of the world take at least some pride in their sartorial creations that spread like wildfire.
Although as far as product creation and design goes, while copying an idea might be flattering, it also infringes on certain creative rights. Intellectual property, copyrights, patents–it's all about protecting what's yours. Is it fair that another piggybacks off your success? I recently listened to a This American Life podcast about the inner workings of patents. It's an interesting institution, to say the least, although I'm not going to venture into that realm of discussion because a. it hurts my head, b. it has little to do with fashion and more to do with business and tech and c. because there is entirely too much legal jargon involved (hence head-hurting).
It's not a secret that trends move from the runways down to mainstream stores. How would us mere mortals be able to take part in the graphic black and white, peplum, pointed-shoe trends without that? In part, I think that's one of the functions of high fashion: to inspire mass-produced brands to follow suit.
Often, there are cases that go past this norm, which leads to what appears to be utterly complete imitation.
I think I was first affected by this phenomenon with J.Crew's bubble necklaces. A few years ago, they were, as I've heard from a friend, brought back on the market by the company, and became a huge hit. They were everywhere, and everyone wanted them. Despite that J.Crew is known for affordability, the necklace rang in at about $150–a price I thought was a little steep for a necklace made of metal and plastic, even if it was gold-plated.
Naturally, some clever product designer came up with the idea to create a similar necklace– so similar as to not solicit a difference from its original "designer" necklace– at a price the general people could afford. What does that sound like? A lot of business.
I know this isn't a new idea. In the food and drug industries (for clarity: not the illegal kinds of drugs), cheaper generic brands are the norm. I almost always buy the generic brand of Claritin, but that's because it's chemically exactly the same as the real thing. When it comes to potato chips, though, I'll never buy the generic, because, in my opinion, it's simply not as good. (Food is very important to me.)
I've done a bit of research, and have found three non-J.Crew necklaces (pictured on the right side) that have an eerily similar appearance to those from J.Crew (pictured on the left side). Am I defending J.Crew because I have an unabashed love for the Blythe blouse and everything Jenna Lyons does? Well, maybe. At the end of the day, discounting competitiveness, it must feel good to be a J.Crew jewelry designer.
The blatant copying of things really creates a catch-22 type situation. On one hand, as I've said above, I'm all for brands staying true to their creative integrity, and only creating things that stem from original designs. On the other hand, my snarky inner self wouldn't mind paying less for something that looks exactly the same. If I'm being dramatic, I'd say it's a battle of my conscience vs. bank account.
With the Internet, particularly Pinterest, it's easy to be "inspired" by something. People throw the world "inspiration" around all the time, but what does it really mean? It could mean "I like this," "I want to do something like this," "This idea brings me to a new idea" or "I want to do something exactly like this." It's a slippery, slippery slope, being inspired by something versus duplicating it.
Everyone is guilty of copying (or at least really, really wanting to) a good idea. I know I am. What the heart of this piece is getting at principally comes down to this: where has creativity gone?
"Believe in who you are, and do what you love. Do not try to copycat people. You can be influenced by people, but do not do a photocopy of someone else's work. There is no limit to imagination, you just have to let it grow. That's the important thing—that's what people see at the end of the day, when you're true to yourself. If you're just a big copy, you can please [when it comes to] marketing and money and blah blah blah, but you can't stay for a long time when you're not being dictated by what you love deeply."
-Christian Louboutin on the Coveteur
Image credits: Top, John Rawlings for Vogue in March 1956; jewelry images on left from J.Crew
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Thoughts on the tell-all Internet culture
Social media is a creepy thing.
Like an intimate look into your bedroom window, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Vine allow others to get a good glimpse at what it's like to be you. I don't want to alarm anyone or talk about how unsafe broadcasting yourself across the Web is, because "How to Catch a Predator" aggressively did that. But, it's crazy to think how much our perspectives on online presence have changed in less than a decade.
I remember in seventh grade when I first embarked on my social media adventure. MySpace was my first conquest, and I loved it. As a shy private school girl, I stalked all the wild older high school kids – a world I was about to enter. I commented on my friend's pages (it sounds weird not to say "wall") constantly: writing about inside jokes, plans for the weekend and filled out questionnaires, signed with a charming (and ingenious, I thought) "LOVElizabeth."
My glory days on Myspace were short-lived. My parents quickly discovered my profile, and while they weren't going to force me to delete it, I was so embarrassed that I did anyway. How could I think it was O.K. to upload information and pictures of myself for the entire Internet audience to see?
My hours of crafting the perfect profile page were ruined: compiling the perfect list of favorite musical artists, choosing my "top eight," agonizing over the appropriate words for my "about me" section, selecting a few of my best photos to create an exact brand of myself. (Question: how much did everyone hate the "top eight" feature? The act of publicly declaring and un-declaring your best friends always seemed wrong to me.)
I eventually recreated my Myspace profile, although quickly graduated to Facebook once high school hit. (I recently logged on to my long lost Myspace account, and insist you do the same as soon as you can. Nostalgia and self-loathing in its best form.)
Nowadays online, anything goes. Headed to the beach? Tweet about it. Got a new haircut? Cue Instagram selfie. Not happy with the latest results on The Voice? It's time for a Facebook status. Gone to a concert? Vine it.
It's terrifying, really. All it takes to learn the details of your everyday life is a quick Google search of your name in quotations. My results include my profiles for LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Etsy, numerous articles from my local newspaper where I'm mentioned, the student newspaper I work at, a camp I attended years ago, Ladies' Home Journal from when I contributed a photo and a couple random websites.
To avoid being hypocritical, I will say that I'm not at all in favor of abandoning widespread sharing on social media. It's the way of the times, and to ignore it would be archaic. As both participant in and observer of the "social media age," it's necessary to note the change in personal censorship over the last five years.
"The idea of social media–having an audience and taking pictures for people to see–that's a scary thing. When I was young, things were simpler."
-Sofia Coppola to W Magazine, June/July 2013 issue
Image: collage by Moshekwa Langa
Thursday, June 6, 2013
What goes around, comes around
Fast fashion is great in that it allows for a quick succession of trends to parade by in a given season. It's (often) cheap, easily replaced and, just a few years later, perhaps regretted by its previous owner. Don't lie – you know you've stalked yourself on Facebook pre-2010 and wondered: "What, of all things, was I thinking? Wearing?
Fast fashion is fun, but the classic article will always reign supreme in my mind. I'm not sure why, but I've always had a thought of my future children and grandchildren rummaging through my old clothes, shoes and accessories, pulling out pieces that were, and still are, remarkably wearable. Maybe it's that I'm hoping to be a cool mom or grandma. Maybe it's a secret incentive for me to buy nice things that will last forever. Or maybe, it's the notion that there's something special about things that never go out of style.
And here we are: Jean Shrimpton in a '60s Vogue UK shoot, wearing a lushly printed floral shirt, simple white skirt and low-slung pointed heels. Recalling recent runway shows, in comparison, sparks a reverse deja vu. Pointed shoes are boldly back – in flats, low heels and higher (Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton). Florals, while not presently new, are nonetheless here again. And a white skirt – whether pencil or mini – will never be gone.
Photo: Jean Shrimpton in Vogue UK, April 1965 by David Bailey
Floral print top, Clover Canyon (on sale!); Quilted skirt, Topshop; Mary Jane mid heels, Marc Jacobs
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
On indulging oneself
As a college student, it's important for me to pay careful attention to my spending habits. My parents pay for my tuition and apartment, give me a monthly stipend and I do make a bit on my own, but money certainly isn't falling from the sky (and what a shame!).
Often, I become fixated on a certain thing, whether it be a pair of shoes, a beauty product or a specific colored Sharpie Pen, and think about it a little too much until I finally get it. (It's true, I couldn't stop daydreaming about the tropical-hued Sharpie Pens until I finally found them at Target a few weeks ago.) Unsurprisingly, my wallet cannot keep up, and these fixations soon turn into lists.
There are two categories of my mental material lists: attainables and unattainables. Attainables include things like a new Bauble Bar necklace, a silk blouse from J. Crew, a coffee table book, a refill of my favorite Philosophy lotion–affordable things that don't put a dent in my sad, sad bank account. Unatainables on my list are a Chanel 2.55 bag, a pair of black Christian Louboutin pumps and another David Yurman bangle.
O.K., yes, these lists are vastly contrasting. In other terms, attainables can be purchased multiple times a month, and unnatainables can be purchased about once a year. Impulse vs. calculated, affordable vs. expensive, and depending on who you ask, smart vs. stupid.
I think we all battle with the urge to buy. The advent of online shopping is certainly no help. I'll admit I look at Gilt, Hautelook and Shopbop every single day, although rarely buy anything. I often try to reason with myself: How many times will I wear it? What can I wear it with? How much use will I get out of it? It it classic? Will it hold up over time? There are so many considerations when making a purchase. I have to say that my shopping habits are quite calculated.
But what if I want something "just because?" If it makes me happy, isn't it worth it?
Not long ago, I discovered that I really wanted a Moleskine notebook to make lists and take notes in for my university's student newspaper, which I work for. Hemingway used Moleskines, so naturally, I needed one. A hot pink one.
For the uninitiated, Moleskine notebooks are leather-bound, usually small notebooks, sketchpads, journals and what-have-you that are often found in the possession of writers and artists. Since they're made of leather, it shouldn't come to a surprise that they're more expensive than your typical Five-Star notebook. This new friend was going to set me back about $20–hardly anything in the scheme of things, but my more sensible side was trying to convince me otherwise. After moments of inner argument, the hot pink leather notebook was mine.
The moment after I bought it, I thought, "Well, that was dumb. Here I am, a poor and hungry college student, spending $20 on a silly notebook." I was fortunate to have a friend with me who replied, "So what? You wanted it."
She was right. I did want it. And there's nothing wrong with wanting things, to buy things because it makes you happy and not only out of necessity. Besides, if I hadn't bought it, I would have ended up spending the rest of my life wondering what it would be like to own a hot pink leather notebook.
So the answer, wholeheartedly, is yes. Happiness from simple pleasures is indeed worth it.
Photo: Cher Horowitz, "Clueless"
Monday, May 20, 2013
A dramatic retelling of a personal debacle
I'm very much a supporter of plans. I make plans to make plans. So of course, crisis management has never been a strong suit for me. Welcome surprises are just fine, but the unexpected has me much out of sorts.
It was quite an unwelcome surprise when I opened my awaited package (I stalk them via tracking numbers online many times per day until arrival) to find not only the wrong size in my ordered dress, but the wrong color as well. My younger sister's debutante presentation was the next day – a full-day family affair and the apex of my hometown's high society. I ordered the dress months in advance (Rent the Runway, yes), and was looking forward to wearing it since it was different than what I usually go for. Any woman can tell you how wonderful it feels to wear a beautiful cocktail dress. Of course, just as your aren't allowed to upstage the bride, I knew I couldn't upstage my sister. (Although, I had little chance of doing so. She was wearing a heavy satin Ulla-Maija gown.)
Nevertheless, I put it on the dress I was sent and felt like a Las Vegas call girl. A little tight, a little short. I've always thought I look good in red, with my fair skin and dark brown hair. I had never felt more wrong.
Here starts the small town shopping scramble.
Don't get me wrong. I love where I grew up, mainly in that there's plenty of Tex-Mex restaurants and that my cats live there. The shopping, though, is marginal. Sub-marginal. Our mall is terrifying, and what boutiques we do have offer slim pickings and high possibility that someone you are related to owns the exact same dress you just purchased.
I quickly exhausted my few retail options later that night and the morning of, thoroughly put out by the lack of competence in whoever was in charge of my dress' shipping and that Smalltown, USA had nothing to offer me in terms of acceptable sartorial options. I was utterly helpless, wandering around my least favorite department stores, looping around again and again because there had to be something.
Like a soundtrack to a terrible movie, "I've Got a Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas was playing in Dillard's, and when I got in the car – and this is not a joke – Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" was on the radio.
I was being dramatic, but for valid reasons. I like to think one of my few redeeming qualities is my innate ability to shop – and with razor sharp focus. Historically, I'm ruthless in the retail realm, scanning racks and fighting the crowds like it's an everyday thing (which, it nearly is). It was embarrassing.
At this point, you've got to be worried. Was I going to be stuck wearing a hideous dress in the face of my judgmental hometown and as the subject of at least a good third of the 1,000 photos my aunt took? (As the only family member with a Nikon, my aunt was the unofficial photographer for the day. She did take around 1,000 photos that day. No, she did not charge an hourly fee.) Or worse, would I have to re-wear a dress from a previous event? As ridiculous as it may be, I'm staunchly against outfit repeating, as I like to call it. (Think what you want. I consider it a fun challenge.)
Alas, my reputation was spared. Hanging in the back of my old room's closet was a satin strapless BCBGMaxAzria dress. Tags on. Never been worn. A beautiful sight for the sorest of eyes and the weariest of hearts.
My dear, dear sister had been hoarding a collection of dresses the past year in anticipation of the flurry of events this spring, her final semester of high school. Apparently, she had one too many – a most happy accident.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Photo sources: top, Marc Jacobs for Diet Coke campaign; middle, Karl Lagerfeld for Diet Coke launch; bottom: Jean Paul Gaultier for Diet Coke bottles, Karl Lagerfeld for Diet Coke bottles, Diane von Furstenberg for Diet Coke bottles, Marc Jacobs for Diet Coke cans
Friday, March 1, 2013
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Years ago, before I really had any artistic appreciation for fashion, I had a love-hate relationship with magazines. I've always been a reader, so I loved the articles, the interviews, the photography. What I didn't understand were the editorial shoots. Impossibly skinny models with a hair style that likely took hours and expertise, garish makeup–but that wasn't the most puzzling. It was the clothes. A shirt with a sweater and a jacket and a coat and tights and socks with a mismatched skirt and an armful of jewelry? Would anyone in their right mind ever wear that?
With a few exceptions, the answer is no, and for a number of reasons. The first is the impracticality of dressing like a fabulous, fabulous clown. So few can pull off an over embellished and strikingly on-trend ensemble. The second deals with budget. It's not rational for any given person's everyday outfits to add up to a ballpark total of $10,000. (This would exclude jewelry.) I think there are very few people in this world that can wear head-to-toe Chanel, Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton on a daily basis.
So these editorials, they are works of art. They're not meant to be taken literally. Yes, if you wear that exact outfit on the street, people will stare at you and take your picture. (Yet, if you want to, you certainly can.) They're a launching point for an outfit, for a purchase.
The same can be said of runway shows. The looks aren't necessarily meant to be worn all together, at the same time.
Joe Zee, the creative director at Elle magazine, is frank about the disconnect. “Is every single look that you see going to be accessible and wearable? No, but that’s not the point. I would like to think that our readers are smarter than that. We’re the thinking woman’s fashion magazine. No one is going to rip out that page and re-create the outfit exactly as shown. Instead, the image will provide a point of reference.”
Photos: All courtesy of Women's Wear Daily
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Yet, here I am, another curiosity, another question: Who decided that it was aesthetically pleasing to paint a glossy coat of varnish on one's nails?
Thus, here we are: nail polish, a brief history.
Babylonia, 3200 B.C.: a treasure trove for historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and now beauty enthusiasts. Manicures made from kohl were first spotted in ancient royal tombs, worn by males in colors with accordance to social class.
Around the same time, the Chinese also used nail color as a sense of self-expression and class definition. Their methods of coloring the nails were quite different than ours of today; they used egg whites, beeswax, Arabic gum and flower petals to soak their nails for hours to get the desired hue.
The ancient Egyptians, too, were advocates of nail color, staining them with henna. Lore has it that Nefertiti and Cleopatra wore shades of red, which is only fitting.
Jump forward to 1920, France. Michelle Menard adapted the enamel used to paint cars to a less high-tech and permanent version for nails, which was popular among flappers. Menard came to America, where she perfected her formula, which became part of a company later called Revlon.
Thanks to Technicolor television and the immense popularity of glamorous actresses like Bette Davis (left), nail polish became an essential in the realm of high fashion. To no surprise, red was the most in vogue, as popularized by Rita Hayworth (right).
In 1976, the French manicure debuted on the runways in Paris and was an immediate hit. The market begged for a more versatile style, and the natural look fit the bill.
In the '70s, '80s and '90s, black nail polish was popular among the rock and punk band set, evoking their gritty style and music.
Today, it seems anything goes. Ombre, color blocking, glitter, caviar. Nail art mimics the trends of the runway. There are dozens of blogs and websites dedicated to decking out nails. You've no doubt seen the "signature" nail art pose: a freshly painted manicure energetically gripping the new color's bottle. You can go high or low, O.P.I or Deborah Lippman, China Glaze or Dior.
As a female, getting or giving oneself a manicure is a rite of passage. Painted nails can be seen on a three year old or an 80 year old, the effect is the same. Think about it: how many times have your nails been painted in your life?
Sources: Illustrated polish, Chinese, Egyptian, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Dior
Sources: Illustrated polish, Chinese, Egyptian, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Dior
Saturday, January 19, 2013
How happy I was to see that Kate Spade's theme for the month of January was "a pop of color," kicking off their overarching 2013 mantra of "things we love." I'm all about Kate Spade and all about color, so those two things alone were enough to get my heart racing. But what's more is that yet again, Deborah Lloyd, Brad Goreski and crew continue to amaze.
They take the idea of "pop" to a deeper cultural level, not only using the word to express the bold use of color, but to reference American pop art.
Pop art, short for–you guessed it– "popular art," was dominant in the United States in the 1960s. Subject matter featured primarily common household products and other products of mass consumption (example: Andy Warhol's Campbell's soup can). The overall movement was about creating art by using objects that were recognizable to the masses and through commercial techniques like silk-screening. These tactics of familiarity bluntly rejected the historical and classical subjects of traditional art.
The most particular influence in a number of accessories comes from Roy Lichtenstein, an American pop artist who lived from 1923-1997. His most recognizable works are his paintings that resemble comic strips from newspapers. Both his subject matter and technique mimic the iconic comic style: he creates cartoon-like figures and characters, uses a basic color palette and constructs his pictures from Ben-Day dots.
His use of found, mass-produced subjects serves to make a bold statement to and about society. He managed to bring a newfound youthful and ironic feel to the art world by introducing commercial sources as fine art, perhaps to say that we need not take ourselves too seriously.