Pjs, Pockets, and Purses

I spend a great deal of my time in front of my computer in my pyjamas. Thus I wear pyjamas more than I wear any other clothing. They are my work uniform. All my novels have been written while I was wearing pjs. I think about pyjamas a lot.

I like mine to have three pockets, two on the pants, as well as a breast pocket. I like them to be soft and loose fitting, and deliciously comfortable. It’s a bonus if they can also have goofy, gorgeous or gelid1 patterns on them.

I mentioned on Twitter that most women’s pjs do not have pockets and the sadness this fills me with. How I am forced to mostly wear men’s pyjamas which typically do not have as interesting prints as women’s. Soon we were in a discussion about the paucity of pockets in women’s clothing, the awesomeness of pockets, and of pjs, and there was much bonding.

Though there was also some who made distinctions between kinds of pjs. For them pjs are what you wear to bed and lounging pjs are what you wear to write in. Okay . . . sounds very Katherine Hepburn-y, and I love her, so I’ll go with it. But I do not make such a distinction. Then there was mention of “house dresses” which I’d only ever heard of in ye olde Hollywood movies. Must be a thing of the USA.

But there was also a distinct minority who questioned the need for pockets in pjs. I admit to being bewildered by the question but it swiftly became apparent that there are people who only wear pjs to sleep in.

I know. I was shocked too.

Then it turned out that there are people who don’t like pockets. Who don’t want pockets on any of their clothing. There was talk of pockets always having holes, ruining the lines of clothing, making people look fat (!).

I must confess at that point I fainted from shock.

Where do they put their phone? Their keys? Their sekrit decoder ring (when not in the company of people where it can be worn freely)? I don’t understand!

The answer was in their bags (or purses as those from the USA call them). Don’t get me wrong. I have handbags, I have backpacks. I use them. I even have some I love dearly but in my heart of hearts I wish everything I needed when I left the house would fit into my pockets. That I could be unencumbered by bags.

For bags weigh me down, pulling on one shoulder, or the other, or both in the case of backpacks. I am always inadvertently whacking into things with bags or being whacked with them. They are little violent, destructive beasts.

Worst of all bags eat my stuff.

I know the only pen I’ve ever liked is in the bag I bought in Rome many, many years ago. The first fancy bag I ever bought myself. And Italian bag! My Italian bag. I still have that bag though it is faded and frayed and somewhat less fabulous than it once was. The pen should be in there. But can I find it? No, I cannot. That stupid Italian bag ate my favourite pen. I have never found a pen like it since. I no longer like pens. All because of that bag.

In conclusion: Pyjamas are the best WITH pockets. Purses (bags) are the devil. The end.

  1. They only need be gelid in summer. In winter I prefer warmer patterns. []

Baby Clothes

Pretty much everyone I know is having babies. Or has them. Or is about to have more. Anyways there are babies everywhere in my life right now and I am often buying presents for people with babies. This has turned out to be a problem.

I don’t know if you have noticed but the clothes available for babies and littlies are AWFUL. As one friend said, “If I see another onesie with yellow ducks or blue boats I will scream!” And they’re almost always pastel. I HATE PASTELS. Or white. Or grey. Grey? What are they? Little prisoners in a dystopia? (Maybe. Don’t answer that.) Then there’s the whole girl clothes are mostly pink and boy clothes mostly blue thing. SERIOUSLY? What century is this?

So I am begging you, my faithful readers, do you know of anywhere that sells bold coloured onesies/rompers/whatever you call those little suits for babies in your culture? Where do I find Goth baby clothes? Anarchist baby clothes? Surreal baby clothes? Fun baby clothes? Hip baby clothes? Cool baby clothes? NOT PASTEL baby clothes?

I will be eternally in your debt.

Thank you!

Girls Who Hates Girls

In yesterday’s post Roxanna mentioned her dislike of YA protags who don’t like other girls. Oh, yes. What she said, indeed.

The women I have met who proclaim their dislike of women are, well, um, not my kind of people. So every time a protag proclaims that? I’m done with that book.1

Here’s why. I have no time for anyone, who on the basis of a poor experience with a very small sample size, declares that all women are dreadful. Ditto if they say it about all men, all black people, all Japanese people. All any kind of people.

Could be the correct conclusion is that this group of people are awful. Or it could be it’s the protag who’s the awful one. I know what I’d put my money on.

These women who hate women always have a long list of how women are: they all wear make up, they all gossip too much, all they care about are boys, they all chew gum. Etc. etc.

No matter what is on that list, I’m sitting there thinking of all the women I know who don’t wear make up, who don’t gossip, are lesbians and/or asexual and/or otherwise not much interested in boys, and don’t chew gum.

Your so-called statements of fact, Stupid Protag? They are not facts!

There are very few statements that are true of all women. Yes, including biological ones. There are women without breasts, wombs, ovaries. There are women without two X chromosomes.

The last time a woman said that to me I called her on it:

Me: “Last time I checked I was a woman. Are you saying you don’t like me?”

Woman-hater: “Oh, I didn’t mean you. You’re not like that at all. I meant all those other women.”

Me: “So I’m one of the blessed, few, not-horrible women? Gosh, thanks.”

Woman-hater: *silence*

As a teenager I didn’t know that many girls who were into all those so-called feminine things. Admittedly I went to an alternative school. But the girls I did know who were closest to the boy-obsessed, clothes-obsessed, make-up-wearing, girlie-music-listening stereotype? They were absolutely lovely. So were the boys who were like that. In fact, I knew more boys who fit that stereotype than girls. C’mon anyone who doesn’t like ABBA is dead on the inside.2

Besides which gossip and make up can be fun. They are neither a marker of shallowness nor of depth. No more than liking opera, skate boarding, or drinking tea are.

I am very uninterested in reading books with such stereotyped, boring representations of the much more interesting world we all live in. Any book that draws characters so crudely is unlikely to be any good.

The girl who says she hates girls is telling us a lot more about herself than she is about other girls. So a book that begins with the protag declaring that, which then supports her contention: uggh.

But a book that then proceeds to undercut her absurd claim? Where she turns out to be a very unreliable narrator with a limited view of the world that the book skewers?3

Or where the girl who hates girls does so as part of her rejection of the rigidly enforced femininity at her school and community and learns not to blame the other girls for that but the larger culture. And learns, too, ways to subvert or, at least, escape her community?

Now those are the kind of books I can get behind.

I was going to end this post there but then I realised I hadn’t explicitly said the most important thing in all of this: women who hate women do not emerge out of nowhere. They are no accident.

Girls are taught that they are inferior to boys from day one. Once people know whether the baby in the pram is a girl the majority speak to her totally differently than they do to a little boy. They say how gorgeous she is. How sweet. How delicate. The tiny baby boy who is every bit as gorgeous, sweet and delicate as the baby girl is complimented on the strength of his grip and how active he is. Even when sound asleep.

I heard a midwife say, when told the expected baby was a girl, that the baby would be born wearing a skirt. It is to vomit.

Being “girly” is not good. “Throwing like a girl” means you’re crap at throwing. “You’re such a girl” is a widespread insult. “Be a man” on the other hand is an admonition to be strong and assertive. Boys are taught to eschew anything with even the faintest hint of girliness. They soon learn to hate pink, books by women, wearing dresses, dressing up, dancing, netball, sparkles and Taylor Swift.

Most of the boys who stubbornly stick to pink and other girlish things—gay and straight—have the crap beaten out of them. Some don’t survive adolescent. Many of my favourite men are girly. Most of them are tough as nails. You have to be to survive. Being a man and walking down the street in Australia and the USA wearing a skirt—particularly away from the major cities? Now that’s courage.

This relentless gender stereotyping hurts us all, men, women, and anyone who is uncomfortable in either of those categories.

The girls who eschew pink and Taylor Swift have a more mixed reception. Some are accused of being dykes—whether they are or not—and are likewise beaten down. Others get approval. They sometimes become “one of the boys.” They are told over and over again: “you’re not like those other girls.” They sometimes become women who hate women.

But most girls, girly or not, learn that boys are where the action is. Boys are the ones who get to be assertive, not bitchy. They’re the ones who can be strong and play sport4 without having their sexuality questioned. They’re the ones who are mostly listened to and encouraged—if they’re being proper boys that is—way more than most girls.

Is it any wonder that some women are down on their gender? Why wouldn’t they be? Everyone else is.

They’re still completely wrong, but. Let’s fill the world with a million books and movies and television shows that proves it to them.

  1. Unless people I really really really trust tell me it’s worth persevering. Maybe the book turns out to be a critique of that stance. []
  2. I’m not against judging. I’m just against inaccurate judgeiness. []
  3. Gone With The Wind is appallingly racist but one thing it does well is skewer its woman-hating protag. Scarlett is so awful she doesn’t even notice until Melanie is dying that Melanie is the one who loves Scarlett best and never does her a single wrong. Why Melanie is so loyal to such a narcissistic psychopath is a whole other question. My theory is that owning slaves breaks everyone’s brains, not just their ethics and morality. []
  4. Other than gymnastics, dressage, netball and other girly sports. []

In Which I Opine About Bubble Skirts

Because Nalo Hopkinson wants me to. What Nalo wants Nalo gets.

In principle I don’t believe any particular item of clothing is per se hideous. On the whole I don’t like one-sleeved dresses but there’s always a gorgeous example that makes me rethink that stance. I even saw a pair of formal shorts that did not make me want to gouge my eyes out. I have seen the occasional pregnant dress on a non-pregnant person that was not a complete sartorial disaster.

Bubble skirt from büdi resurrected. Some of their other dresses are lovely.

I admit that before Nalo asked I had not given the bubble skirt much thought. I wasn’t even entirely clear what it was. So my first step was to keep an open mind and goggle image the item in question.

Oh, my. Oh, no. OH, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP NOW. Aaaaaarrrrrggghhh!!!! Mine eyes! They burn! The eighties was a horrible time for fashion! DO NOT BRING ANY OF IT BACK!!!

So, um, I hate them all. How do you walk in them? What is the point of that excess of fabric? Are the wearers storing their phones and laptops and babies in the bubble? If so how do they access it? Seems awkward and uncomfortable. Wouldn’t it all start to weigh too much? Wouldn’t the fabric drag? If not fall off you completely? That would not go well.

Unless you’ve got tiny attack quokkas or squirrels or numbats or something stored under there. Ready for when the zombie apocalypse starts and you can raise your skirts and yell RELEASE THE ATTACK QUOKKAS/SQUIRRELS/NUMBATS/WHATEVERS!!! GO EAT BRAINS, MY PRETTIES!!!

That would be extremely cool.

But if they are not being used in that extremely useful way? Then, no. I condemn them. Get thee gone from this world, bubble skirts. And do it NOW.

Anyone else got any fashion queries? I am on my rest between first draft and second draft of sekrit project novel. I am ready, willing and able to weigh in on all your fashion dilemmas.

What are my qualifications, you ask? Click on the fashion category and you will see that I love clothes and am fascinated by the fashion industry. I have spent a lifetime staring at people and figuring out how to describe them and what they’re wearing. Plus I am really, really, really opinionated.

July: Blogging A Lot Month (Updated)

I have decided to put this here voice recognition software to the test in the month of July by blogging every day.1 Yes, I will blog every single day of July 2012.

Tell Me What To Blog

If there’s anything you would like me to blog about please let me know! The comments are below in the manner of most blogs.2

I’ve had a few suggestions on Twitter:

@SirTessa wants me to write a complete post without correcting any of the voice recognition software mistakes. I WILL DEFINITELY DO THAT.

@WanderinDreamr wants me to write about Australian slang “the rest of the world is confused by”. My problem with that is, well, how am I supposed to know? Australian slang does not confuse me. Though I do love many of the words that are unique to these fine shores so I may just write about my favourite ones.

@ben_rosenbaum suggested I blog tongue twisters on account of the voice recognition software. I am ignoring him.

@nalohopkinson wanted me to “opine on bubble skirts”. How could I resist writing a horrors & joys of fashion post? Oh, bubble skirt, I shall SO opine about you.

I also recently got into a discussion on twitter—inspired by this Jennifer Crusie post—about the extent to which an editor can rewrite their authors. I think NOT AT ALL. Turns out that people mean different things by “rewriting”. I spluttered about on twitter in a way that I think was mostly confusing. A post is in order to clarify my thoughts. @pmattessi requested that I “mention things like whether eds should be credited? And also your thoughts on Carver’s editor.” He comes from the tv side of the writing world, which operates very differently from novel writing. I suspect my post will be about the writer/editor relationship with a little touch of the thankless work of the copyeditor.

Another interesting discussion concerned the way English-speaking cultures are so full of hatred for children & teenagers and how that is not the case in places like Spain, Italy, and Thailand.3

Many years ago I promised a post about writing dialogue. If any of you still want such a post I may attempt to finish it. It’s just that it’s hard because I’m not really sure how I write dialogue. You know, other than I type it and make sure there are quote marks around it. (And sometimes I use italics if it’s dialogue that’s not being directly said.)

Is challenging voice recognition software the only reason for blogging every day of July?

Nope. I really miss blogging. Not blogging hardly at all for such a long time has left me with many pent up THOUGHTS and FEELINGS that do not fit on twitter. I miss sharing them with you. But mostly I miss the wonderful crew of commenters who once hung out here. I miss your wit and your wisdom and your snark and your sincerity and your sarcasm and your silliness. I am hoping some of you will return. Even though blogs are so beginning-of-this-century and everyone’s on twitter and tumblr these days. I don’t care. I’m an old-fashioned girl. I still love them.

Also my newest book, Team Human, written with Sarah Rees Brennan, will be published on 2 July in Australia and New Zealand and 3 July in Canada and the USA. This means I will be doing a fair number of interviews and the like about said book all over the internets. But while I love TH dearly and am very proud of it and over the moon with joy that the early responses to the book have been so positive the idea of talking about it non-stop for a month makes me feel a bit tired. This will be my online respite.

A Digression

It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it, that by the time a book is published and it’s time to publicise it we authors have spent so much time with the book that it’s the last thing in the world we want to talk about. When I’m really itching to talk about my books is during the drive towards the finish of the first draft—when I know I’m going to finish it and talking about it won’t jinx it and the book becomes the only thing in the world I want to talk about. And—most of all—during the first few rewrites when it has become the only thing in the world I can talk about.

Unfortunately that is when very few people have read it and they’re all bored with me asking them questions about what they thought of the world building or the main characters and whether they think I should get rid of the gilded-wings subplot or expand the diabolic-exploding-hairclip subplot. They are so over my book and, by extension me, in fact, that if I ring them they no longer pick up. And my emails to them start to bounce. Waaaaaahhhh!!!!!!!

Fortunately there’s Scott and my lovely agent Jill and my editor who are always happy to talk endlessly about my book during these times. Bless them!

In Conclusion

In July I will blog a lot.

Update: @Marrije has also requested via Twitter that I “do a post on How To Find The Good Food In Any City? Isn’t this your superpower? Can you teach us?”

@MalindaLo has requested: “I blog about twitter etiquette: the good, the bad, the ugly.”

  1. Except weekends. Cause, come on, no one is on the intramanets on the weekend. Scientific fact. []
  2. I thought about having them above but my web designer said no. []
  3. And I’m sure in many other places I’ve not been to. []

Twain Thwacks Cooper

Last night Scott read to me Mark Twain’s essay on Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. I’m sure most of you are familiar with it but I was not. Dear readers, I laughed. A lot.

Mr Twain, it seems, was unfond of Cooper’s writing. In one of the bits that made me laugh the hardest, Twain sets out the “nineteen rules governing literary art in the domain of romantic fiction,” and exactly how Cooper violated them. The fifth of these rules requires that

when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of the “Deerslayer” tale to the end of it

Excuse me. I am rolling about laughing all over again. As it happens, I have attempted to read Copper (The Last of the Mohicans) and was completely unable to finish it and the insanely ridiculous dialogue was a big part of that. Also I just finished reading a book that violated this rule just as outrageously as Cooper did.

Bless you, Mr Twain. This almost makes up for your insane blindness on the subject of Jane Austen. Almost.

Of course, I do hope Mr Cooper was dead when the article was published. I’d feel awful if he ever read that essay. I mean, yes, I know, criticism is part of this business but still. Vicious. (Even if completely true.)

I do find this kind of savage (but accurate) criticism a pleasure to read. (When done well.) But on the other hand I always feel dreadful for the writer and/or book it’s aimed at. Because it really is mean. And yet . . .

I have a similar discomfort with Go Fug Yourself. I love that site. I adore laughing at dreadful clothes. I figure as they only take aim at celebrities it’s okay. Laughing at people with more social status is very different from the other way around.

But I also can’t help thinking that celebrities, no matter how annoying, are people too, and wondering how I’d feel having my favourite outfit so mercilessly mocked. Then I feel less good for laughing at their lime green formal pants teamed with black fishnet stockings, tan spike-heeled pumps, a pastel pink Bonds singlet and a white fedora worn backwards. But seriously, how could anyone not mock such a combination?

Hmmmm.

In the meantime, the Twain essay on Cooper is still making me laugh.

Feel Free to Hate Antelopes

Why do so many people read any statement, no matter how innocuous, as being about them? For example, I have mentioned my dislike of chocolate and people have gotten cranky. As if my chocolate hatred will somehow deprive them of it. Huh?

Every time I talk about my love of fashion someone says, “I just want comfortable clothes! Give me jeans and t-shirts!” Which always strikes me as deeply bizarre because a) no one has said a word against jeans and t-shirts, b) t-shirts and jeans are items of fashion, c) having a desire for a ballgown does not mean that person doesn’t also wear jeans and t-shirts. (For the record I am wearing jeans and a New York Liberty t-shirt as I type this. Though I wish I were in my even-more-comfortable pjs, but guests are arriving shortly.)

Colour me puzzled.

I thought everyone understood that people are not all the same. We have different tastes and interests and desires. And hallelujah for that—if we were all the same the world would be a truly boring place.

Why do people keep being affronted by other people caring about something they don’t care about? If it doesn’t interest you, don’t engage. Why the need to tell the world that you hate and/or are bored by it? Why do people read a long post in which someone sets forth their love of antelopes as saying that everyone must like antelopes. You are free to hate antelopes! Go forth and hate antelopes!1 But, you know, don’t bore the person who just spent time and energy waxing eloquent about their love of antelopes. You can take it as read that their interest in your antelope hatred is zero.

I love a good ballgown. I would never make anyone else wear a ballgown.2 I truly loathe chocolate. I have given chocolate as a present to many people. I have even made chocolate cake for a friend. I don’t get why they like it since it tastes like death to me but, you know, it seems to make them happy so good for them.

I suspect that what I’m really asking is why do so many people think everything is about them? I know the ego is a powerful thing. Hey, I’ve got one too. And yet . . .

Let me put this in terms of writing: if you’re unable to empathise or understand people who are not like you, who have different tastes and aspirations, it’s going to be really hard for you to write about anyone but yourself. Only writing about yourself is going to limit the appeal of your writing considerably.3

Thus endeth the rant.

I’d be really interested to hear your theories on this perplexing matter.4

  1. Poor antelopes. []
  2. Except for John Scalzi and only because it would make me laugh. []
  3. Though it seems to have worked out really well for a handful of writers I won’t name out of fear. []
  4. Unless you’re one of those crazy chocolate loving people. Just kidding. Some of my best friends love chocolate. I even married a chocolate lover. []

Alexander McQueen

As some of you know Alexander McQueen committed suicide earlier this year. He was one of my favourite living designers. I own a shirt, two jackets and a skirt of his. I have gotten a great deal of wear out of them and yet they still look new. They’re gorgeous, exquisitely cut, not to mention comfortable. When I wear them I feel taller and stronger and more stylish. They make me happy.

It’s hard to explain to people with zero interest in fashion why designers like McQueen have such loyal followers. Why his death made me cry. It’s even harder to explain it to people who actively hate fashion. But I want to try.

Clothes like the ones Alexander McQueen made are both something you can wear and what’s more fundamental than clothing? Food, water, shelter, clothing. Those are the basics for keeping us alive. Everyone has some kind of stake in clothing whether they give a damn about their appearance or not. Now, obviously, very few people are buying McQueen just to say warm. His clothes are expensive in the extreme. But the point is that they are wearable. Their performance as clothing is spot on.1

But McQueen’s clothes are also art.2


This is one of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever seen.

McQueen’s clothes at their best are jaw droppingly beautiful. I have the same visceral response to them that I do to any other art that moves me: great paintings, sculpture, music, writing. It’s the same feeling that overwhelms me when I see a truly gorgeous sunset or a spectacular view.

The fact that its wearable art just makes it more extraordinary.

I love the sweep of McQueen’s clothes, the use of so many vibrant beautiful colours. I love me a designer unafraid of colour. But as you can see from the first image above and the first one below he could also rock black and white and grey. I love his attention to detail. When you see these clothes up close you see the care that’s taken at every level, the buttons, the lining, and the fabric. Like Issey Miyake, McQueen’s fabrics were right at the technological cutting edge. Many of the clothes in McQueen’s final collection are printed with digitised images from European art over several centuries. Scott has a shirt of McQueens’ which is a digitised pattern of a baroque jacket. It’s exquisite. Photos of that shirt do not do it justice. As I’m sure these photos don’t come anywhere close to showing just how beautiful McQueen’s final collection was.

I love that McQueen was greatly influenced by fashion of the twenties, thirties and forties. (My favourite fashion decades of the 20th century.) I love that his influences went broader than that. I love how truly inventive he was.

All my McQueen pieces were bought on sale. If I’d been able to, I’d have bought many many more pieces of his, but most of his work was well out of my price range (as they are well out of the reach of the vast majority of the world’s population). One of the major objections to high fashion is that it is obscenely expensive. Who can afford a $10-$1000k (or more) dress? Very few of us. But then who can afford to have an original Modigliani on the wall or have Zaha Hadid design their home?

An artist’s impact is not just in their original art. It is in the light they cast, the inspiration they give, the effect that their work’s existence has on the world. I understand clothing and textiles differently because of Alexander McQueen’s work. More to the point so do other designers and makers of clothes at every level of the fashion industry from Haute Couture through to the High Street.

His influence on my understanding of fashion was strong long before I was lucky enough to buy a few of his pieces. I loved gorgeous fashion long before I could afford to buy any. I adore the work of Vionnet. I own nothing by her. Her clothes, on the rare occasions they’re available, are prohibitevely expensive. They’re often purchased by museums, which I wholeheartedly support. If they’re in private collectors’ hands my and your odds of seeing them drop exponentially. But museums are open to everyone.3

Back to Alexander McQueen. He was a great artist and he will be missed.

I’ll leave you with the last look of his collection. Apparently it made people in the audience cry. I’m with them.

  1. Trust me, some designers do not manage that. []
  2. All the images in this post are from his final collection. []
  3. With enough money to afford the entrance fee. []

Hair Stories Redux

Thank you so much for all the wonderful, moving, scary, funny stories about hair.

I wanted to highlight this comment from Wonders of Maybe because it underlines how hair and fashion and politics and identity (self and imposed from the outside) co-exist:

Hmm — I’m multiracial (Black/Native American/White) and very, very light-skinned with extremely thick, curly hair. I’m talking spirals on “good” days and fluffy frizz on “bad” days! When I was young I wanted to straighten my hair because of how much I got hassled but once I turned 12, I was intent upon my hair staying natural. With such light skin, I feel it’s an honest indicator of what I am and who I am since I so often am mistaken for being Latino or Italian or Jewish or “something.”

Have you all heard of the “pencil test”? I learned about it as a child and it was, apparently, used in apartheid South Africa. If a pencil was stuck in your hair and it fell out, you could be counted as white (or coloured, if you were darker skinned). If it didn’t fall through, if the pencil simply stayed right in your hair, well, you were coloured or black. As a youngster, I was obsessed with learning about the various tests governments, leagues and clubs had through out history to determine someone’s background based on their hair. Interesting hobby, kid!

So for me, taking care of my natural hair is part a matter of respecting my history, as much as it is part of trying to look nice.

I remember my friend, the wonderful South African writer, Yvette Christianse, telling me about the pencil test. Like everything about Apartheid it was hard for me to get comprehend. A person’s race was reclassified, they were made to move, to lose their jobs—sometimes their lives—because of how a pencil sat in their hair.

Of course, as Susan, points out people are still being discriminated against because of their hair. Though, it’s hard not to wonder if it’s really only hair we’re talking about. How often in the US do racist commentators go after a black person’s hair and then claim they’re not being racist because they’re just talking about hair? Answer: too often.

The other thing Wonders of Maybe touches on is the “good” hair versus the “bad” hair debate. Frizz seems to be a key indication of badness. And as someone with straight hair, I can attest that sometimes the short, new, flyaway hair sticking up everywhere causes me despair. Lay flat, damn you.

So, why do we hate frizz? There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with frizz. I think we’re taught to see it as “bad” hair. I think years and years of ads and movies and tv shows full of women with “controllable” hair has shaped how we see hair and what we expect of it. It’s even worse now when the vast majority of hair product ads are photoshopped into shiny, unfrizzy, unmoving or moving-in-a-really-weird-way, impossible-to-achieve hair.

About ten years ago, an acquaintance with very tight curls left the house without doing anything to her hair as an experiment. It was a ball of frizzy fuzz haloing her head. It looked amazing. I wish I had photos to show you how great it looked. Many people commented. Most were very positive, but she abandoned the experiment because she couldn’t handle everyone staring at her and everyone commenting. Bad enough, she said, when it was in its usual state of curliness.

Her chief pleasure in straightening her hair is that, other than people who know her, it’s the only time her hair is what she thinks of as “neutral.” People don’t comment, people don’t ask to touch her hair. She isn’t seen through the lens of her hair in quite the same way.

To bring this back to writing,1 I think what goes wrong in many books is that writers give their characters traits to distinguish them, such as curly hair, without thinking about how that would shape who the character is and their experience of the world. Not to mention how long they spend doing their hair. So, you know, don’t do that.

Thanks again for all your responses.

  1. I’ve had a few complaints that I’m not devoting January to answering questions about writng like I did last year. []

Curly Versus Straight (updated)

I have always loved curly hair. I myself have straight hair so my preference for curly is usually ascribed to the fact that I don’t have it. My hairdresser says all the straight-haired girls want curly hair and all the curly-haired girls want straight hair. When I press him on this, however, he admits that it’s not entirely true. That many of his clients are quite happy with their hair. I, too, am quite happy with my hair. But I do get bored and I’m glad that I know how to make it wavy without too much effort. A change, they say, is as good as a holiday. To which I’d say depends on the change and depends on the holiday. I once went to [redacted] for a holiday and let me tell you . . . *heh hem* I digress.

I don’t actually think my love of non-straight hair—it’s not just curly hair, any kind of non-straight, textured hair fills my heart with joy: kinky, curly, wavy, nappy, twists, locs etc. all looks good to me—is because I don’t myself have such hair. I think it’s because I like curves. Aesthetically I always choose a curve over a straight line. I don’t like hard edges or Modernism, I love Art Noveau and Art Deco. I love Gaudi and Zaha Hadid.

I’m not saying straight hair is ugly. I’m just saying that when people rave about the beauty of, say, Megan Fox’s hair, I don’t see it. I mean it doesn’t look bad, it’s shiny and that, but I can’t get excited. It certainly doesn’t look beautiful to me the way that Nicole Kidman’s hair was before she straightened it and nuked it blonde, or Gina Torres’, or Tawny Cypress’. I could go on for a week listing women with gorgeous hair.

It could be that part of my curly hair love is from being a kid in the 1980s in Australia when curly was the thing. Yes, I had a disastrous perm when I was wee. I used to think all perms left you with fried hair that smelled bad for months, but then I met a rich girl in my first year of uni, who had gorgeous corkscrew hair down to the small of her back, that you would swear was natural. It was not. She got it done once a week. I had never met anyone who went to the hairdresser once a week before. Well, not other than the ladies with their weekly sets. But I’m betting those sets did not cost $200 a pop. I did mention she was rich, right?

So that might be part of my curly hair love, but I don’t think it accounts for all of it, because I have been a lover of curls and curves and waves and spirals and twists, not just in hair, but in art, in buildings, in plots, in nature, in pretty much everything my entire life. And, frankly, I’m not particularly convinced by the grass is greener argument. That’s too easy and it’s certainly not the main reason so many people with curly hair want straight hair. Most of the curly-haired women I know were taught to hate their hair. They endured a lifetime of being told that the way their hair grows out of their head is messy and out of control and somehow wrong. I have curly, kinky and nappy-haired friends who’ve been knocked back from jobs because of their hair.

Most of those women have grown to love their hair. And in their professions—writers, journalists, musicians, academics—they’re able to wear their hair however they please. But I still know plenty of women who keep their hair straight for a variety of reasons, including being taken seriously in the work place and looking “professional”. If Michelle Obama were to appear in public with natural hair many, many people would say, What has she done to her hair.1

My straight hair has never cost me anything. When I make my hair wavy it doesn’t cost me anything either.2 No one has ever commented on the professionalism of my hair.

I’ve never lost a job over my hair. I’ve never had to deal with the politics of hair per se. I’m white, with straight hair. I’m not a politician, neither is my husband. But even without those huge pressures, I have spent lots of time and money and angst (I found my first grey hair when I was fourteen & thought that was the beginning of The End) over this stuff that grows out of my head. It’s a multi-billion industry world-wide and I’m throwing my money at much product and hours-long visits to the hairdresser every four weeks. I have to admit that sometimes I do find myself wondering why?3

Care to share your hair stories?

Update: You can find some of my additional thoughts on this fascinating subject here.

  1. See the crazy responses to Malia Obama’s gorgeous twists. No, I’m not going to link, makes me too cranky. []
  2. Well, except for the product involved. []
  3. Other times I’m just giddy at the new colour and waviness of my salon hair. []

I got my blog back!

Sorry about the on-again-off-again-ness of this blog today. We were moving hosts. And now are safely ensconsed in new home. Yay! Thank you, Tempest, for all your hard work!

I discovered that a few hours without my blog turns me into a jittery mess. Thank Elvis, for Twitter. Though those who follow my Twitter feed are probably bitter about my excessive spamage today. Sorry!

In other news I saw a jewelled propeller gorget hat thingie:


Thought to be designed by Valentina from around 1950. (Was a bit tricky to photograph, being black on black, and me only having crappy phone camera. Just peer closely.)

When I get my ballgown this is what I’m wearing with it.

Ballgowns

I still don’t have a ballgown.

My regular readers may remember that I contemplated getting one to wear when I was one of the guests of honour at ConFusion 2008. It did not happen.

Don’t get me wrong. I frocked up for ConFusion. I mean, what am I a farmer? But I didn’t ballgown up. And until I do I feel my life is not complete.

I have decided that the perfect ballgown really ought to have sleeves. Tragically that much reduces my options. But there are some choices. If by “choice” I mean that I can a) go back in time to when these collections were actually available or b) track down those who have these dresses in their collection in my size who are willing to sell c) have the gazillions of dollars necessary to make options a) or b) possible.

First one from the glorious Alexander McQueen:

I am not a pastel girl so these colours don’t work for me. But given that the idea of ever wearing this gown is entirely imaginary I believe I’m allowed to imagine it in jewel colours.

And then there are not one, not two, but THREE options from one of my fave designers of all time, the divine Vivienne Westwood via amescheng:

Here’s a closer detail:

I love the see-through sleeves.

And another:

Strictly speaking these are not long sleeves. But I figure there’s so much going on at the shoulder that it has the effect of a long sleeve. Sort of. Not that I would ever wear yellow.

Sadly, I have not been able to find a better photo anywhere of the gorgeous puce gown on the right above. *sadness* I suspect that’s the gown I want. Vivienne, call me!

What’s your pick? Or better still can you give me a link to other long-sleeved ballgowns. No, they does not have to be within realms of possibility. Please! See above.

Hair frivolity

Went shopping today with my friend Alaya who knows where to buy good, cheap hair accessories in New York City. I made out like a bandit:

Thanks, Alaya! (Happy birthday for Monday!)

2009 Project: Learn to tie a double (or full) windsor

And to tie that windsor really well. Here’s what I’m learning from:

Haven’t actually attempted it with an actual tie yet.1 I figure I’ll watch the vid several times first. Observe. Then try.

When I get it right I’ll post evidence here.2

  1. That’s too many “actually”s, isn’t it? Whatever. []
  2. You can read lack of evidence here (by the end of this year) as an admission of failure. []

Another lovely event + worst oscar dress (updated)

The event at North Melbourne library was fabulous. Lots of excellent quessies and best of all I got to tell a vomit story. Thank you for asking, Aimee! And thank you so much for organising the event. Was lovely to chat with such knowledgeable YA readers. Yes, Twilight was discussed.

So, the Oscars. What do we think was the worst dress? Please to include link to it. I’m still spluttering over Miley Cryus’s explosion.

And what did we think of Our Hugh Jackman’s effort? No expletives please!

Update: I am very much enjoying all your comments here and on the romcom/vomcom thread. I agree with those below who love Queen Latifah and Marisa Tomei‘s dresses. Not entirely sure about the colour of the Tomei dress, and I’d have preferred it to have two straps, but the structure is awesome. For those of your criticising Tilda Swinton: stop immediately! She can do no wrong. And, yes, Sarah Jessica Parker‘s dress was a mistake. Looks like her boobs are about to explode, which would be VERY painful.

Clothes question

Jenny Davidson asked:

I am not a clothes person—I see why nice ones are nice, but I hate shopping and really I just wear jeans and a cotton shirt every day. BUT your description in the opening pages of Magic or Madness of the pants that Tom makes for Reason is so good (and the pants are so much what I would like for myself!) that I cannot resist asking you—yes, I know that really they are the creation of his magic talent . . . —BUT do you think there is a store I could go to in New York where I could get an approximation of those pants?!?

Good question. Cargo pants with lots of pockets. There was a point in the 1990s/early 2000s when they were everywhere. But I have not seen them in such quantities for awhile. I had a pair that I bought online cause they were featured on boingboing (sorry can’t find link). But I wouldn’t recommend them. While I loved them, and they were way cool, they fell apart after not many wears. There was sadness. Plus those were men’s pants, which for me is often a better fit than women’s (I really hate low waists) but not so for most women.

Google cargo pants many pockets and you’ll find a range of them. Though I have to say that after going through a page I found none that I liked. There was this pair. Not many pockets, but. Not a great colour. Also way low waist. *Shudder*

That search pulled up many many pages so you might find something. Plus I am extremely fussy.

Do any of my dear readers have any suggestions? Know of a great online or NYC shop that has a tonnes of many-pocketed cargo pants?

Fashion hates

I see that I have not ranted about any of my fashion hates since the dawn of time! That is not right and must be fixed immediately.

What, you ask, am I hating on right now? Here are two words that should never go together:

“Roman” and “sandals”

They’re also known as gladiator sandals and Greek sandals. They are abominations. And I’ve been seeing them everywhere here in sunny Sydney. They are an affront to my eyes!

And, I suspect, an affront to the person who’s wearing them’s calves. Seriously, look at how many spots there are for chafing and blisters. It’s been in the high 20s and low thirties for a while now and a bit humid.1 In short, it’s the kind of weather that makes you sweat and when you sweat wearing those things? I see a world of pain in your future.

They do not make you look sexy. They make you look like a galumphing gladiator. And the constant adjustments they call for—when you lean over and rearrange and hoick and twist and push at them—also not sexy.

Please to throw your pair away immediately, or remake them into a bridle, or something, I don’t care what just get them out of my line of vision!

Thank you!

What are youse lot hating right now in the land of fashion?

  1. Yes, I know, not nearly as hot as Melbourne and Adelaide. I do not complain. This is my favourite kind of weather. []

Some questions

Why does Pat Buchanan yell all the time?

Also where does he find his ties?

How come the majority of people are incapable of replacing an empty toilet roll with a full one?

Is there anyone more charming than Rachel Maddow?

Is this election ever going to end?

And, um, what am I going to do with myself when it’s over?

Am I the only one who doesn’t think the money spent on Palin and family’s clothes, hair, and make up is that big a deal?1

I’ve been living in NYC too long, haven’t I?

Don’t answer that!

I have never spent 150k on clothes. I’d kind of like to. Yes, I know it’s wrong. I’ve just always wanted a Vivienne Westwood ballgown . . .

  1. Ask me what I think of the Alaskan governor’s policy on wolves. That I think is a VERY big deal. []

I don’t mean you!

I am getting some upset responses from people who love their shrugs/leggings/formal shorts etc. and want to know how I dare to impugn them. I’m even being sent photos of said people in said fashion atrocities to prove their non-ugliness.

Clearly, I don’t mean you! Not any of you!

You are the one person in the world who can truly rock that look. And even in the unlikely event that you aren’t rocking it, well, if it makes you happy to wear said ballet flats/ugg boots/espadrilles then by all means wear them!

I have any number of fashion atrocities that I love dearly and wear often. I know that they are ugly. I know that other people think they are ugly, but they make me happy, so wear them I will. Mock away! As you all know I will feel no compunction about mocking your ugly clothing in turn.

So what is your favourite makes-you-happy hideous thing in your wardrobe?

Some would say I’ve already shared mine. Fie! I say. They are the most beautiful boots in the world.1

Mine was my possum slippers that fell to pieces I wore them so much. Right now it’s probably this indescribably ugly con T-shirt.2 It’s the most comfortable and ugliest T-shirt on the planet. Wearing it makes me happy.

And you?

  1. Shockingly I have several friends who consider western boots to be as ugly as ugg boots! Who would have credited it? []
  2. I will not say which con. []

Gypsy skirts. C’mon, you know you hate them.

I can’t believe no one’s voted against gypsy skirts either. Mis-matched flaps of coloured cotton (or worse synthethic) piled layer on top of layer in an unholy mess. What’s to like, people?

Also the next person who writes to me defending their hideous taste in liking ballet flats/espadrilles/formal shorts/shrugs/other fashion atrocity will be hit with a bad fashion curse. That’s right I will hex you so you never look good in clothes again. EVER.

Though, come to think of it, perhaps you’re all writing to me to defend these fashion atrocities because you’ve already been hit with the bad fashion curse. Hmmm. I will have to think further on a better punishment . . .

And for those who seem unable to find the poll: It’s to your right. In the sidebar. See? Where it says “Polls”. You’re welcome.

Little round up

Firstly, the polls: I thought you all should know that the result of the poll was that Nevada is our chosen smoking state of the US of A. Closely followed by Wyoming. Hope you’re happy, Mr Williams!

The new poll is on fashion atrocities. I’m a bit cross that no one has voted for espadrilles yet. Oh, how I HATE them! Soles of shoes are not supposed to be made of rope! It’s UGLY, people! Are you all blind?! (Poll is to your right.)

Matter the second, the word count discussion has been interesting and enlightening. In fact, it made me realise more fully the why of my word count dislike. I do not care to share my day-by-day process. Don’t get me wrong I adore talking about process. But I like to talk about it overall: here’s some thoughts on rewriting, here’s a very silly set of suggestions for writing a novel, here’s how I wrote this book, here’s how I find looking at other people’s writing incredibly useful and so on and so forth.

But posting daily on my struggles or successes in the writing coal mine? Nah. Too close to the bone. I feel like I’ll come across as a massive whinger (Oh my Elvis writing this book is killing me! Why are leopard ballet sequence so bloody difficult?! What was I thinking?! I’m a hack! A talentless hack!!) or the most conceited self-satisfied writer in the universe (Wow, I am a genius! I am the Lord Barham of writing! Look at these pearls of unspeakable genius that I crafted today! How could perfection such as the crystalline words that coruscate from my fingers exist in this oh so imperfect world?! It astonishes me!). So I confine such thoughts to myself.

Oh, hang on—wooops!

Look over there: Leopards dancing! Flying giant woolly squirrels playing badminton with quokkas!

There is no matter the third.

As you were.

Time to bitch about clothes again

I see that it’s more than a year since I last ranted about clothes. That’s ridiculous! It’s well past time that I ranted again!

Except that, well, on my European travels I didn’t see many clothes that offended me. Shocking but true.

I’ll admit that I’m not wild about ballet flats or kitten heels. But I can’t really get up into a frothing rage about them.

Low riders seem to have disappeared altogether. Formal shorts are getting very rare. There are no neon or pastel coloured clothes. Though some of the clothes I’ve been seeing bore me—none of them appal me. I know! I can’t believe it either.

Fortunately last night at the opera I saw some shocking numbers. One girl was wearing a black sack with a draw-string waist that barely covered her girly bits. Coupled with black spike heels so high that every step forward was an exercise in tottery danger. And she was not as hideously attired as the woman in the skin-tight leopard print dress with the black tulle layer over the top which she matched with white pumps. I do not lie.

What clothes fill you with horror right now? Share! You know you want to.

Thing that remains a mystery

As detailed in my previous post I have learnt much on this trip, but one thing remains a mystery:

How do women get around in high heels on cobble stone streets without destroying their ankles?

Every European city we’ve visited has had much cobble-stoneage and yet almost all the women are in high heels. It is bewildering. I have gone over on my ankles wearing the most comfortable and supportive of footwear. No harm was done because my beloved boots have non-ankle-spraining super powers. Yay boots!

I saw one woman get her heel stuck between stones. She came to a sudden and whip-lash looking halt, before bouncing about, trying to extricate herself. She was promptly rescued by a kind gentleman (who unlike me didn’t stand their giggling helplessly) and tottered off on her way as if nothing had happened. But that’s the only mishap I’ve seen. I suspect there are high-heels-on-cobble-stones training camps all over Europe.

Paris continues to be fabulous. Even without cobble stone related accidents. I don’t want to go home.

Clothes in the 1930s

I’ve been toying with writing a novel set in the 1930s and without fail when I mention this I get the following response:

“Why? The clothes were so drab then! Set it in the 1920s!”

Everyone I’ve spoken to seems to think that the Depresssion meant no good clothes were made or worn for an entire decade. I blame Carnivale. My friends have visions of women in faded print dresses and men in worn suits covered in dust.

High fashion in the 1930s was the very opposite of drab. Think of the 1930s movies of Kate Hepburn, Greta Garbo and Carole Lombard. Think about the clothes they wore. Gorgeous! Insane! Over the top!

Yes, most people couldn’t afford those clothes, but that was true in the 1920s, too. Photos of NYC street scenes in the 1920s were just as grey as those of the 1930s.1 And, really, at what point in history have the majority of people worn haute couture?

One of the reasons I want to set my book in the 1930s is because of the sharp contrast between the very rich and everyone else. The clothes speak volumes.

Also the 1930s was the heyday of Madeleine Vionnet who invented the bias cut and totally shaped the look of the 1930s with her (mostly, but not always) slinky clothes. Vionnet is one of my favourite designers.2 She was a genius, who created some of the most beautiful clothes I’ve ever seen.


Photo by Ilan Rubin

This Vionnet dress is from 1938 and according to the New York Times is “made from silk tulle, panne velvet and horsehair with a silver lamé underdress and Lesage embroidery.” I’m betting it was not made in a day.

There were good clothes in the 1930s, okay?

  1. And, no, not just because they’re in black and white. []
  2. Also a really good boss who paid her workers above average wages (unlike, say, Coco Chanel) and covered their healthcare and training. []

The story of my boots

Is like this: I have always wanted cowboy boots ever since I saw my first pair on the feet of indigenous stockmen in the Northern Territory of Australia. Those boots were beaten up and weathered like you wouldn’t believe and I’d never seen such cool boots in my entire life. Want!

They were plain though. My fancy western boot lust didn’t develop until I saw my first rodeo. It wasn’t any of the performers who were wearing them but two women in the audience had on full cowgirl regalia and shiny, shiny boots. I am magpie. Shiny fills my heart with lust.

Over the years, I have tried on many pairs of fancy western boots and they have never been quite right. Not shiny enough. Not shiny in the ways I want them to be. Too high-heeled. Too pointy. Too pink. Too hurty on the feet. Or perfect and way out of my price range.

A few years back I heard that you could get cowboy boots handmade special to fit your feet and that you could have whatever design you wanted. I cannot tell you the joy in my heart when I learned of this possibility. Oh, bliss! Oh, joy! The family coat of arms on my very own boots! Want!

Then last year Penguin sent me and Scott to San Antonio for the TLA conference.1 San Antonio just happens to be the home of Little’s Boots, one of the best makers of western boots in all of the US of A. Clearly, it was time for me to have the boots my little heart pined for.

So, I set up an appointment and early last April I went in for my fitting, clutching a printout of the Larbalestier coat of arms. In Old French my surname means the crossbower, ie the one who uses a crossbow. “L” is the, “arbalest” is crossbow, and “ier” is er. Hence the great big crossbow on the coat of arms. I have no idea what the thistles are for. Because we are a prickly lot?

At the appointment I was asked a zillion questions. What kind of design did I want? I waved the printout of the crossbow. You want just that? In what colours? You don’t want any other design elements? Oh, I said. Look around the shop, they told me. I did. My eyes bugged out. I made many design decisions. Scott kept vetoing my more shiny desires.2 After about an hour the design was settled.

Then they started asking me about what kind of heel and toe I wanted. What ears? How high up my calf did I want the boots to go? What did I want the top of the boots to look like? Straight or with a little v? What kind of leather did I want? Some were out of the question—you don’t use crocodile or alligator or eel for fancy boots. So my choice was between calf and kangaroo. I tried on many different boots to make my decision. Walked around the shop feeling like a rodeo queen.3

After almost two hours of exhausting decision making, Dave Little started measuring my foot. I had not realised how many dimensions feet and calves have. This also took some time and involved Dave mocking my socks more than somewhat. (They’re cut to fit left and right feet and thus are way more comfortable than normal socks. They are also labelled with a little R and L, leaving Dave to suppose that we Australians are left and right impaired.)

Finally, we gave them a deposit of half the total. A very big total. These boots are not only the most expensive boots I have ever owned, they are the most expensive item of clothing I have ever owned. Six months later, Dave promised, my boots would arrive. And then, because he’s such a lovely bloke, he gave us a lift back to the hotel because we were running late for our next TLA appointment. Texas hospitality is no lie.

Dave was four months off on the arrival time. But the boots are even better than I imagined. They are the most comfortable footwear I’ve ever known. All other footwear are devices of torture in comparison. I may never take these boots off again. In fact, if it weren’t for Scott’s objections,4 I’d've slept in them last night.

I love my boots.

Now all I need is a Vivienne Westwood ballgown and my life will be complete . . .

  1. Which was the best fun ever! []
  2. Yes, the boots I wound up with are way more tasteful than they would have been had I been alone. []
  3. Justine, they name is camp. []
  4. He feared for his shins. []

The other options

Some are saying that the poll is rigged because I’m only showing pictures of dresses. So in the interests of fairness here are what the other High Voltage ConFusion clothing options look like:

The mighty zoot suit
Who can not love it’s exaggerated shoulders? The lurid colours? The delicious saxophone wail that you are sure to hear everywhere you go?

I will admit that this is not the best example of the zoot, but I am trying to get books written, you know! I have a vivid memory of Kid Creole (of Kid Creole & the Coconuts fame) attired in a lime green and black one. Exquisite!

The purple jump suit

Because what other colour could a jump suit possibly be? Plus can double as pyjamas. Who would not look adorable wearing it?


Elvis’s gold lame suit

Do I even need to explain why this is the best suit of all time? A billion Elvis fans cannot be wrong.

I do have a sneaking suspicion, however, that it only truly looks good on Elvis himself and that anyone else wearing it will be a bit trag. But then I don’t think anyone but Elvis is allowed to sing “Suspicious Minds”. Mmmm . . . Elvis.

Skirt and top

In theory, far less exciting than a ball gown, and, yet, look what Vivienne Westwood does with it! Splendificerly wondrous fabulosity! Imagine the grand entrance you’d make swishing into a con dressed in this ensemble? Those boots! Those colours! That fabric! Does anything beat silk taffeta? Westwood doesn’t think so. She says you can wear it straight from your suitcase. No need to hang it. I just question how big the suitcase would need to be . . .

How to choose between them all?

Don’t forget the dress piccies here and here.

Mmm . . . clothes.

It’s heartening that you are all so solidly behind my going out and being a conspicuous consumer. Fortunately most of these outfits are not available new and must be purchased from vintage clothing providores, or, you know, stolen from museums . . . (Not that I would do that, because stealing is wrong.) So, it’s really recycling and very environmentally sound and not conspicuous consumption at all!

What a good world citizen I am. Oh, hush!

Or this one?

The voting says I should definitely get a new dress. Take that, Scott!

The first dress is here. But how about this one:


Marc Audibet for Vionnet

Or maybe this (look! black gloves!):


John Galliano for Christian Dior

Thinking about dresses is something else that’s much much easier than writing . . .

Because Scalzi made us do it

Next weekend Scott Westerfeld and yours truly will be guests of honour at the 2008 High Voltage ConFusion science fiction convention. It’s our very first time being guests of honour and we are stoked. TOTALLY stoked. In fact I’m so very stoked I’m thinking of celebrating with the purchase of a new dress. Surely, being guest of honour requires new clothes, right? I gotta look pretty, don’t I? If you have an opinion on this Very Important Matter please to express it in the poll to your right.

I’m thinking this one, though with black gloves not white:


Vivienne Westwood’s Watteau ball gown

Here’s Scott and mine’s schedule. Because we are joint guests of honour we are doing everything together:

FRIDAY 18 JANUARY:

1900 Den 1 Interview: Author GoHs by John Scalzi
Tee hee! Mr Scalzi will ask us questions and we will plead the fifth and get away with it because we know where he buried the bodies. I suspect zombies will be mentioned.

2000 Salon FGH Opening Ceremonies
We will say a few words but there won’t be an actual speech speech. Some of my words will be “quokka”, “zombie”, and “oscillate”, or maybe not. Depends.

2100 Salon FGH Dessert Reception
Where we eat dessert and natter with folks what want to natter.

2200 Den 1 Originality is Overrated
There’s this idea that writers work entirely alone and create their work out of whole cloth. That’s rubbish. If a work were wholly original no one would be able to read it. All writers are influenced by those who came before them. Most writers talk to other writers. Many are in writers’ groups and even those that aren’t frequently read and comment on each other’s work. Let’s talk about the influence and community that writers share. Even when they don’t know each other. Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld (M), Patrick Nielsen Hayden, John Scalzi, Patrick Rothfuss and Doselle Young.

I confess that I wrote this description on account of it’s something that drives me crazy and I’m looking forward to talking about it with such esteemed and smart companions. Especially Doselle. Everything is better if Doselle is involved.

SATURDAY 19 JANUARY:

1100 Den 1 Fantastic Sports
Organized sports are a vital part almost every culture on the globe. But sf and fantasy novels tend to overlook this key aspect of world-building. We examine what sports are and what they tell us about a culture, and dig up some good examples in sf and fantasy. Justine Larbalestier (M), Scott Westerfeld, Steve Ainsworth, Dave Klecha and Catherine Shaffer.

Mmmm . . . sport. If I weren’t moderator I would just spend the session teaching USians cricket.

1300 Salon G Juvenilia
Writers dust off the storage trunks, turn off the shame meter, and read from their 5th- through 12th-grade works of unalloyed proto-genius. A great way for young writers in the audience to feel much better about their own efforts. Justine Larbalestier (M), Scott Westerfeld, Merrie Haskell, K. Tempest Bradford and Marcy Italiano.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that Scalzi is not on this panel. Laughing at his early writing efforts was the whole reason I agreed to go to ConFusion!

1400 Den 1 SF Is Not Dead
More sf is written and consumed these days than every before, in the form of manga, video games, rpgs, and YA lit. Yet our beloved field constantly bemoans its own demise, while ignoring those 100,000 crazy kids down the road at Comicon. How do we connect these two worlds of sf? Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld (M), Anne Harris, Jim Frenkel and Peter Halasz.

Because me and Scott are sick to death of hearing the folks in the old sf people’s home whingeing about the death of sf. It ain’t dead! It’s doing just fine, thanks.

1500 Den 1 Golden Age of Young Adult Lit
Some argue that the YA books being published now are some of the best the field has ever seen. There are more of them, the quality is better, and the authors are being paid more. Is now the Golden Age of Young Adult Literature? And if so what does that mean for the next generation of readers? Justine Larbalestier (M), Scott Westerfeld, Steve Climer, Suzanne Church and Peter Halasz.

I think it is. I also think it’s just going to get better and better and better.

1700 All-Author Autographing Session
If you have books you want strange author types to scribble on here’s your chance.

2100 Concierge Literary Beer
The only thing we’re doing that you have to sign up for. It’ll be me and Scott sitting around with a smallish group of interested folks and answering their questions while we all drink beer (or water or whatever you wish to drink. I wish to drink Krug—I hope the ConCom is on top of that!).

SUNDAY 20 JANUARY:

1100 Salon H Gluten-Free Fantasy
Most medieval cultures didn’t have chainmail, swords, horses, or wheat. Yet the overwhelming majority of medieval cultures in fantasy do. What do we stand to gain by breaking the bonds of Europe on our collective imagination? And what’s so scary about bolas, sled-dogs, and rice? Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld, John Scalzi, Karl Schroeder, Jim Frenkel.

This panel is also something me and Scott came up with. It has a backstory. Way back in the dark ages we were on a panel together about fantasy where we panelists suggested that there were other settings for high fantasy other than mediaeval Europe. Scott went as far as to say that wheat is not essential to high fantasy.

The audience turned on him. “We LOVE wheat!” they proclaimed. “We hate fantasy that isn’t set in mediaevel Europe. We hate wanky literary fantasy. In fact, we hate you writers on the panel who are trying to take away our wheat!”

Scalzi was in the audience along with the wonderful Karen Meisner and they both say it was one of the most extraordinary things they have ever seen. Karen even sent Scott a Canadian license plate wth a beautiful picture of wheat on it. Scott still contends that we were caught in the wave of an Atkin’s diet backlash.

Here’s the con’s full schedule.

Hope to see some of you there! I mean if this wussy Aussie girl can brave the dead of winter in Detroit. Surely some of you can?

A queue for . . . what?!

I cannot tell you how bizarre and funny I find this:

ugg.jpg

The picture does not capture how insanely long the queue was. As I walked past I was wondering what rare and amazing thing they were lining up for. Concert tickets? The best chocolate in the world? Gold statues of quokkas?

Nope. They was in line for ugg boots. Ugg boots! Who in their right mind would queue up to buy Ugg boots?

I shake my head in disbelief.

Do-rags (updated)

I’ve been thinking about do-rags of late. Until I came to the US of A I’d never even heard the term before. I’m not even sure what I used to call them anymore.

Anyways what I’ve been thinking is how come when some people put on a do-rag they look like a gangsta, or a pirate, or a gangsta pirate, or just cool? Yes, I’m looking at you, Holly Black! And when other people put them on they look like a peasant or a cleaning lady?

I fall into the latter category, which I’ve decided is fitting as I’m definitely from peasant stock on both sides of the family, and I once worked as a cleaning lady. Twas one of my many jobs while I was an undergraduate. To be honest I liked it heaps better than being a receptionist or a waitress. It paid better too.

I comfort myself by thinking that with my do-rag on I look like a kind of cool cleaning lady, but I suspect I’m deluding myself.

Update: Thanks to Scalzi, I have just learned that Noah and the other builders of the ark all wore do-rags. I’m trying to decide if they look like gangstas, pirates, or cleaning ladies.

No, not those either, but yes to these

Now I’m being asked if formal shorts are okay. I love that you’re writing me for fashion advice! Yay! Cause I have the requisite strong opinions, but can you do a little research first? I’ve been over this one before.

Formal shorts are an abomination. They are worse even than footless tights.

You know what isn’t an abomination?

Awesome hand-made T-shirts like this one. I wish Scott had taken a photo of Liset’s face as well because she also had the coolest make up and hair, but he’s been scared off by all those schools that have no-photo policies.1 For the record: We always ask when we take photos and if it’s also okay to post them.

What other clothing are you guys loving right now? Share!

I saw a woman at Seattle airport who had gold strands woven into her hair and the whole thing was pulled up into the most amazing do. I wish I’d taken a photograph. She looked like a goddess. And her hair perfectly matched the rest of her outfit which was also black and gold. Hmmm, it prolly sounds a bit dire, but, trust me, she was turning heads in a really good way.

  1. Often for very good reasons. []

an urgent question

Kadie-Wa needs to know the answer to this question:

I’m still wondering about gathering the extra part of your shirt up at your side. would that look good, or weird? i mean, when you take your shirt, and pull it over to your side and pull if off with a rubber band/pony tail. okay, or not? thax!

Personally, I think it’s a DREADFUL idea, but I am deeply conservative about clothing that reeks in any way of the 1980s. I did it as a teen and it was not pretty.

What do the rest of you think?

Maybe, Cecil Castellucci, who actually thinks footless tights are a good idea (!) is down with it?

Footless tights

To the person who got to my site by googling “is it bad to wear a long t-shirt with footless tights”:

Yes! It is very very very bad indeed. Burn those footless tights immediately. And long T-shirts should only be worn to bed. Not out on the streets! What were you thinking?

Jacket monkey

I am a jacket monkey which totally works for me as those are two of my favourite things. I love beautiful jackets and I love monkeys. What could be better than putting them together? (If I weren’t pressed for time there would a picture of a monkey wearing a jacket here. You’ll just have to imagine it.)

Today me and Nicola from Nicola’s books in Ann Arbor opened many many copies of Extras to the signing page for Scott to scribble all over. We were his jacket monkeys. I want a Jacket Monkey t-shirt. I’ve already earned it. So many copies! So many jackets! So many pages!

In other news I am regretting that I learned on an earlier trip never to travel with manga because just before we left I read the first two volumes of Naruto and Hana-Kimi and R.O.D. and I am desperate to read more. Sadly it only takes half an hour to read one manga. To meet my reading needs on this trip I would need a truckload. They’re heavy. No more manga for almost three weeks. Waaaah!!!

Turns out that two of our writer friends are here: John Scalzi and Elizabeth Gilbert. Yay! The first we learned when Scalzi tackled Scott in the middle of a cocktail party. We authors are so well behaved . . .

It’s 12:20AM in Chicago. But that’s really 1:20AM in NYC. And past my bedtime on account of waking up before the sun rose. Erk!

I sleep now.

Leggings

If you were to ask I would tell you that I am not a fan of leggings. I think they look pretty revolting under skirts, capris, long jumpers (that’s sweaters to you Usians) or whatever you choose to pair them with. They’re ugly and enhance nothing.

Of course, I’d change my tune in a heartbeat if by leggings you meant these incredible Balenciaga robot-leg creations. Leggings like these I can embrace. Or, you know, wear. Is that totally Metropolis or what?

Unfortunately, the fabulous Lauren McLaughlin who told me about these beauties says they cost about the same as a house, or at least, a very expensive car. Le sigh. Have to wait for the cheaper knock offs I guess. And how comfortable would they be? Though for something that cool I think a bit of comfort could be sacrificed, don’t you?

RW3: the quick ones

Little Willow asks:

Have you heard the song Reasons Why by Nickel Creek?

No. Please to point me to a link where I may listen.

Roger asks:

Your favourite cricketers, m’dear, and why. Whence the Keith Miller obsession?

Still living: Shoab Akhtar, Makhaya Ntini, Daniel Vettori, Shane Warne and Andrew Symonds.

Because they entertain me.

I have explained my Keith Miller infatuation here. Basically, I think he was a dropdead spunk plus he generated ace anecdotes. And there was the whole cricket thing too.

Jenny D asks that I say something about

the fiction of Ellen Kushner

It is completely wonderful in every way and you should all read her!

Jenny D also ask that I detail

some of your more unfortunate past fashion choices—with pictures!

And I refuse and threaten dire consequences to anyone who posts such photos of me ever.

Chris McLaren asks for

Convention horror stories and other juicy gossip.

This too I refuse. What happens at a convention stays at the convention.

Simon Sherlock would

like to see you write about why the England cricket team is far, far better than the Australian one (even though they choose not to show it) :)

I did say I would lie for you all, but it turns out that this I just can’t do it. Especially after yesterday’s performance against New Zealand.

All I can say is that I’m sure they’re much better at enduring cold wet weather than the Australian cricket team and that is not a skill to be sniffed at.

A lurker wants to know

Your thoughts on harry potter. and jkrowling. just curious.

I really enjoy the books though have found the last few a tad too long. I wish they’d been a bit tighter edited. Am really looking forward to the next one.

I worship J. K. Rowling. Without her my career wouldn’t be possible. All children’s and YA writers owe her hugely. Thank you for everything, J. K.!

Robyn Hook would

like to hear about your jeans shopping expedition with Ron!

Twas fabulous. All things done with Ron are a million times more fabulous than they otherwise would be. Ron is a goddess. I can no longer go shopping with anyone else. This is a bit of a problem given that I only see him once or twice a year . . . I’m reduced to wearing rags!

I’m still taking requests. Just add yours here. I cross ‘em off as I complete ‘em.

Thanks everyone for all the requests. This is fun! I may never come up with an idea of my own for the blog ever again.

What not to wear*

My friend Tempest is running into some trouble for dissing the wearing of ill-fitting corsets. People are rightly saying that they can wear whatever they bloody well please. And Tempest is rightly saying that she can rant about whatever she bloody well pleases.

While it’s incredibly rude to lecture people to their faces1 about the inappropriateness or ill-fittedness or ugliness or general appallingness of what they’re wearing, it is perfectly fine to hold forth about it on your blog, or with your friends, as long as you’re not naming anyone (unless they’re famous2), or posting photos (again doesn’t apply to the famous).

That’s freedom folks: you can do whatever you want so long as it doesn’t break laws, and people are free to bitch about you doing whatever you want. Cause, you know, what do we live for but to make sport of our neighbours?

I really enjoy dissing other people’s clothes and I really enjoy hearing other people do the same. I know that makes me a bad person, but there you have it.

I am not sartorially perfect. I have worn many things in the past that I wish I hadn’t.3 I’m sure that I will also wear embarrassing things in the future. Hopefully less than in the past, but who knows when my attraction to bright, shiny, glittery things will next overturn my judgement? Feel free to bitch about what I wear. Just don’t tell me about it.

I am currently bitching about the following clothes:

    Formal shorts—An abomination! On men or women—knees are not to be displayed on formal occasions. I don’t care how hot it is!

    Micro mini skirts—They don’t look good on anyone because to wear one is to be in constant terror of revealing your gyno bits to the universe

    Gypsy skirts—What can I say? I was traumatised by Stevie Nicks at an early age

    Too tight stove pipe pants—Is it so wrong of me not to want to see the outline of boys’ reproductive bits?

    Lowriders—Will they ever go away? Your date is not for sharing with the world. You don’t like it from plumbers, why do you think it’s okay for you?

    Espadrilles—In the last year I’ve seen them on four different continents and they never once looked good. Make them go away already!

What are your most hated items of clothing that the cruel cruel cruel world keeps subjecting you to? Bitch away!


*The original UK “What Not to Wear” is one of my favourite shows ever. Much bitching about fashion and taste plus nasty sublimated class warfare. What is not to love? I also adore that the two arbiters of taste sometimes wear truly appalling clothes. Bliss!

  1. Yes, even if you’re their parent. Especially if you’re their parent! []
  2. Which is why we have the joys of gofugyourself. []
  3. Exhibit A: A 1980s ill-fitting blue satin jacket. Ill-fitting because I made it myself. Should not have been worn because I made it myself. Would probably still have been hideous if someone competent had made it. []

Shopping with the Shoe Goddess (updated)

I have shoe issues. Or rather recalcitrant ankle issues. High heels are forbidden me. It’s not like I ever wore high heels that much, but that’s not the point! I have been condemned to a life of boring, not-fun shoes in the hopes of preventing further ankle injury and thus averting surgery. I know, I know. It’s all too tedious for words. And makes shoe shopping a chore where I look at all the flats and low-heeled boots and my heart sinks. Gah! I hates them all.

Unfortunately, I cannot get about in sneakers, blunnies or kleenex boxes all the time on account of the increasing number of appearances and other formalish events I do. These require that I dress up in outfits that are not typically improved by said sneakers, blunnies and kleenex boxes.

The lovely Anne Ishii came to my rescue by telling me about her fabulous friend Meghan Cleary, the shoe goddess. Miss Meghan has written a book about shoes, The Perfect Fit, does appearances all over the US of A advising women about shoes as well as going on a million and one TV shows talking about the same. I defy you to find someone who knows more about shoes than Meghan.

On Friday Meghan took me shopping. She showed up in fabulous pale python cowboy boots (want!), jeans and a gorgeous deep green top that looked like she’d stolen it from a very hip elf (double want!). We liked each other instantly and started gas bagging, joshing, and generally having the best time in the world, gossiping happily about all the people we know in common, as well as those we don’t (poor Gwyneth and Tom—their ears musta been aburnin’).

Then she gave me a divine little show bag1 full of natty things that make your shoes more comfortable and stop them from giving you blisters. Today I put the insoles with gel shock absorbers into my years-old blunnies and they became even more comfie than they already were. It’s like magic. Why did no one tell me about comfie insoles before? Do you all want my feet to fall off?

Did you know that jewellery for shoes exists? They’re called shoe clips. I had no idea! Again, people, what’s with the holding out on me? Meghan had these gorgeous little diamante ones that she put on a pair of simple black pointy-toed flats and whooosh! they became a whole other pair of shoes. Admittedly, shoes that my sister would mock me for wearing, but I defy her! I can be girlie if I want to!

Check out the shoe clips at Aliza Dark. Her range pushes me very close to considering bows despite having alway hated them, but I suspect I will probably try one of the stone shoe clips first. I especially like the tiger’s eye. Absolutely Audrey also has a fabbie range. I am covetting quite a few of the antique clips.

Meghan took me into big department stores and walked around pulling shoes off shelves and describing them as she presented them to me. “Would you do lavender metallic pointy-toed ballet flats fit for a science fiction princess? Soft brown leather polo boots? How about these cute little mary-janes? No, I’ve changed my mind. Too mumsie.”

The vast majority of shoes I’ve owned in my life have been black or brown, but Meghan made me try on shoes I would never in a million years have considered if she weren’t there. Purply glittery shoes with tiny bows that looked almost exactly like Dorothy’s no-place-like-home shoes! And yet they looked really cute on and I almost bought them. Dark green alligator skin past-your-knees boots! Ditto. Maroon and black Manolo Blahniks! I swore I would never ever try a pair of Manolos on. Fortunately a) they were uncomfortable and b) they looked bad on me. Phew!

The shoe goddess showed me all sorts of divine shoes, but tragically too many times the salesperson would shake their heads and smile sadly. “I’m sorry. They’re all sold out.” Apparently if you are between size 7 and 10 and you do not go shoe shopping the first week the cool shoes appear, you’re doomed. They’re all gone. If you want winter shoes in NYC you have to hit the shops in July. If you want spring shoes you need to be there in December. You have been told.

I wound up with two pairs of the same simple-but-elegant flats. One in brown and one in black. Yes, I know that doesn’t exactly push me out into startlingly new-and-different shoe territory, but they didn’t have those ones in my size or price range, okay?

Besides, the immediate spoils are not the point. Meghan calls what she does with folks like me “shoe therapy” and my several hours with here were mucho therapeutic. She taught me way more about figuring out if a shoe is comfortable or not, how to customise them to make them even more comfie, and how to turn an ordinary daytime shoe into something sparkling and fabbie for the night, not to mention giving me the courage to be considerably more adventerous in my choice of shoes.

Thank you, shoe goddess!

NOTE: All shoe pictures were swiped from shoewama.com.

UPDATE: They were swiped to show a variety of flats, NOT because I think they are fabulous. Some of them are hideous in the extreme.

  1. As a Sydney girl I have been permanently warped by the Royal Easter show into thinking show bags are the most desirable thing in the entire universe even if they’ve got nothing in them but yukky chocolate, coffee and licorice. []

Tell me stuff (updated)

You are correct that I have not been blogging much or responding to comments like I usually do or even responding to email a whole lot.

The reason is that I’m on a deadline (yes, the same one, yes, it was moved again, yes I really have to meet this one) and am working my arse off. (Oh, how I miss my arse!)

In the meantime I think you lot should entertain me. Here are some questions:

  1. Does anyone have any recs for best brunch place in NYC?
  2. Who’s going to be the first Australian to win the Tour de France (no, it doesn’t have to be this year)?
  3. What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
  4. I just read Out by Natuso Kirino. Loved it. Can anyone recommend a recent crime novel that’s sort of like? I don’t like mysteries—that is I prefer crime books where you know who done it and it’s the whys that are the thing. So I want something all psychologicy. (My fave crime writers are Patricia Highsmith and Jim Thompson.)
  5. Where do I go to buy buttons in NYC? (Yes, that’s right I still haven’t gotten them.) (Oh, and by “buttons” I mean those things that can fasten clothes.)
  6. Is anyone else following the New York Liberty this year? Testing times, eh?
  7. Apparently I need some kind of formal wear, you know, like a dress. Anyone got any recs for cool interesting designery shops in NYC?
  8. What’s your favourite Elvis song and why?
  9. Without googling explain the difference between the Australian and New Zealand flags. Which is lamer?
  10. What new-to-DVD movie should I get to reward myself when I finally meet the deadline?

Thanks! Hope you’re all having a fab weekend (what’s left of it), that all your deadlines are being met and you don’t look at Monday morning with too much dread. As soon as my deadline is finished I promise to be a good blogger again.

Update: bonus question:

Riemannia‘s question here reminds me that I’ve been wondering what you call those metal door thingies that you see all the time here in the footpaths of NYC. You know, that when you open them reveal stairs that lead down into the basement of shops and restaurants and bars. Do they have a name? They aren’t grates so what are they?

Hating Cities

I will never understand all the Melbournites who despise Sydney, some of them folks who’ve never even been here. Seriously, I’ve met Melbournites who sneer with disdain at the mere thought of stepping foot in Sydney. The horror they say!

Me, I’m from Sydney. I love it, but I also have a whole lot of time for Melbourne. Melbourne has better licensing laws and thus better bars than Sydney, a better art and live music scene, and (mostly) better clothes shopping. Melbourne has trams. And what is not to love about trams? But Melbourne has little of Sydney’s breath-taking physical beauty, doesn’t have her beaches, or national parks, or fairies, er, I mean ferries, actually I mean both. It doesn’t have the wonderful bike path all the way from Newtown to the beach. Melbourne is, well, kind of dreary looking and its winter is unendurable. Nor does it have many of my favourite restaurants in the world the way Sydney does but, hey, the food is plenty fine in Melbourne too. And, please, do not give me the sacred MCG thing. There’s only one truly beautiful test-hosting cricket oval in Australia and it’s in Adelaide. And anyways my heart belongs to the SCG.

But who am I kidding? I was born here. I’ve spent the majority of my life here. I am completely biased about Sydney.

I’m not asking Melbournites to start loving Sydney. I’m just asking them to be a little reasonable about their over-the-top hatred. There are other cities out there that are actually worth hating (like, you know, um, another Oz city that I will not name because I have friends who live there what will be offended). Sydney ain’t one of them. And while I’m at it, Adelaiders, quit hating Melbourne, okay? You’re just being silly and why hate them when their MCG is ugly and your Adelaide Oval beautimous? You should pity them.

For me to work up a real forth of city hating, it has to be either a) a city I spent a miserable few years of my childhood in, or b) a city where you can’t get around if you don’t drive. Where the public transport and pedestrian access sucks. For this reason I perfectly understand why so many folks in the US of A loathe Los Angeles. Without a car in L.A. you are totally buggered. You have to beg rides from all your friends and are reduced to the status of a helpless child. But you know what? That’s true of almost every city in the USA, which is one of the reason I love NYC and San Francisco so much, they’re perfectly navigable by public transport and in Manhattan you can go wherever you want by shank’s pony. Plus, you know, there are so many places in both cities you’d want to go.

I used to hate London, because every time I’d visited the food was vile and expensive, it was gray, cold and raining (even in “summer”), and the people were obnoxious and rude. On my most recent trip the food was still expensive but it was excellent, the weather was endurable, and I only had one rude encounter, so now London’s in my good books. It certainly passes with flying colours the good public transport and pedestrian getaroundability rule. (Thanks to Niki, Lauren and Andrew for showing me the non-sucky London.)

Cities are who you know. The people who take you in and show you their town. I’ve had wonderful times in Dallas and Austin, Texas neither of them pedestrian friendly. I adore Toronto and it sure ain’t pretty. I’ve enjoyed Brisbane, Rome, Madrid, Bangkok, Jakarta, Dunedin, San Miguel de Allende, Davis and Lisbon—all of them because the people there were amazing and went out of their way to show their town to me. I imagine that even L.A. with the right people in the right light could be kind of okay. And now that my sister‘s moved there I guess I’m going to find out.

Or maybe not. There’s still that bloody car thing.

Things I Don’t Understand

1. Why the exact same brand toothpaste has radically different packaging in different countries.

2. Why everyone thinks King Kong is the best movie ever.

3. Why no one told me that Lost is excellent genre TV.

4. Why whenever you buy chips in an Oz pub they always come served in a plastic fake-wood bowl.

5. Why cricket isn’t the dominant sport in every country in the world.

6. How anyone could wear gold sandals and not be ironic.

Beautiful Clothes

All this talk of fashion and clothes and why some of us love ‘em compelled me to head to Lisa Stack’s shop, Helix (conveniently located in Surry Hills where me and Scott now live). The shop is on Bourke St in what once would have been a corner shop dispensing lollies and milk and newspapers. Now it is filled with gorgeous dresses, skirts, trousers, tops in the most fabulous colours, with luscious prints. No vile pastels or lollipop colours, none of the hippy dippy crap that’s filling most of the shops hereabouts. I wound up buying two of Lisa’s tops and a pair of her silk japanese fisherman’s pants (so very very comfortable—I don’t think I’ll ever take them off again). And a circle skirt by Theresa Jackson made of embossed cotton. It’s shiny and makes me feel like a 1950s goth African fairy princess. Sigh. Much clothes happiness.

Here’s what I love most about Lisa’s shop, not just that her clothes are inventive and beautiful and comfortable, but that I don’t feel like a fool for walking in. In many botique shops I only fit into the largest sizes, and—you’re just going to have to trust me on this—I’m not that big. I’m not particularly tall or fat, and yet in cool shop after cool shop I barely squeeze into the largest sizes. Huh? And the shop assistants make out like this is somehow my fault. Does that make for shopping pleasure? No, it does not.

While I was at Helix three other women tried on clothes. Two of them much older than me, one much younger. One larger than me, two smaller. And here’s the thing: we all looked really good in her clothes. We had fun trying them on. We gossiped and offered opinions on what looked best on each other. It was a gas. I don’t remember the last time I had such a good time in a clothes shop.

And even better, Lisa’s clothes aren’t insanely expensive, are very well made, and last a very long time. What could be better?

Fashion = good, complex, interesting

Lauren McLaughlin in praise of fashion. Sing it, Lauren!

Regarding fashion being shallow. This is a prejudice I find maddeningly overrepresented in the spec fic community. Fashion is an art form and the wearing of fashion is something everyone does every day (unless you’re a nudist). Even people who think they don’t care about fashion make choices about what they wear. Fashionistas (a term often used derogatorily) are merely people who take pleasure in the clothing choices that others skim over, much as foodies take a greater interest in what they eat.

This reminds me of a friend of mine being (verbally) attacked by an earnest young man (e.y.m.) at a party. She was (and is) gorgeous and has always enjoyed playing with fashion, is always well attired, with fabulous make-up and hair. He accused her of dressing to please men. How long, he wanted to know did she spend on such a high-maintenance look? Shouldn’t she be doing better things with her time? Why was it so important to her to have men admire her? Weren’t there more important things in life?

Reader, my friend demolished him. She smiled and pointed out to the e.y.m. that his look wasn’t exactly low maintenance. How long did it take him to shave his head? He opened his mouth, goggled, closed it again. If he cared so little about fashion, she continued, why was he wearing fashionable jeans and a black T-shirt? And trendy workman’s boots? Clearly he was dressing to pick up inner-city chicks. He stammered some more, claimed he chose them because they were comfortable. She countered that if he truly gave no thought to clothes or his appearance he would simply buy whatever was closest and cheapest. She happened to know the jeans he was wearing were only availlable at two different shops and were not exactly cheap. Why not wear no-name brand jeans?

As Lauren says most everyone thinks about clothes and what they’re wearing and what other people will think of them because of their choices. Fashion is a very big deal. Often people can tell how rich or poor you are from what you wear, they form an opinion of your education and politics (though they can be very very wrong), they can decide not to let you into a club, or talk to you, or give you a job because of what you’re wearing. Fashion is a deadly serious (and excellently entertaining) and far-reaching part of all our lives. It is definitely not a trivial matter to write or think about.