Monthly Archives: January 2015

Portal to Barcelona

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Looking at these photos a few days ago, I had several ideas as to what the Clothes Story is. Gluten and sugar free experimenting? Reminds me of my obsession with this Spaniard’s Pinterest board about his favorite shops and cafes? There are still artists living in Venice? (Great interview with the artist, Diana Garcia, who did the wheat pasted mural here. Check out more of her art here.) My favorite food on Abbott Kinney? Dressing for texture? Can we take a vote, here?

Okay, I’ve tallied up the votes and the winner is… Barcelona!

Wait, Barcelona wasn’t even on the list. How did that happen? 

Well, I did have the word, Spaniard on the list, so…

Yeah, but a Spaniard-made Pinterest board is very different from the city of Barcelona. I want to see the math. Who voted, anyhow?

Who am I talking to, by the way?  Hello?  Hello? Oh, I hate it when that happens. A perfectly nice inner dialogue disconnected because I asked too many questions. Again.

So… Barcelona. The city with the same Mediterranean climate as Southern California. Home of a Picasso museum and Gaudi sculptures and La Familia Sagrada. Where they speak Catalonian by the sea side and sip a cortado.  I have clearly dressed to go back to Barcelona, where I am clearly from… okay, maybe in another life. But this post is really about something deeper – acceptance.

As a Los Angeles-based artist, I have made my peace with identity and belonging. It took years, but these delicate processes always take longer in a city where there is increasingly more and more traffic, no? Growing up in the O.C., of course I wanted to fit in, but I was still wacky (insert crazy outfit here) and proud of my Mexican roots. I learned pretty quick that I was never going to look like the Miss OP Pro or whatever that was. The splits didn’t work out for drill team try outs (It was all about the outfit, and luckily I made the cut to wear a kilt on the field hockey team). Even though I was one hundred percent Mexicana, every trip to visit relatives in deep Mexico was met with people telling me I was Americana. I’d even buy my clothes there and wear them, but it didn’t matter. My cousin said it was how I did my make up and the way I walked. Fascinating.

In college I was met with “I can’t believe your Mexican.” or “What is your background?” at the Westwood ice cream shop on trips to LA. I joined MECHA, took Spanish for Spanish Speakers, and even played in a cumbia band a little bit. My “gringo” boyfriend got me in because he was the drummer and having grown up in Venice, was in some ways more Chicano than me. That’s a whole other story…

After college, the Chicano art scene was supreme in Los Angeles, and I found other wanna-be Chicano artists – gente that grew up in Mexico and were addicted to low-riders and La Virgen de Guadalupe. I met Chicano art scholars that sounded like me and didn’t speak Spanish at all. I met Jewish Mexican artists, artists that spoke Spanish, French and English, and Spanish speaking painters from the Caribbean. I learned about living in the border, where you don’t really fit in on either side. That idea right there did it for me.

Eventually, I found my tribe, and it continues to expand as I meet more amazing, diverse, and creative people. Even now, my beautiful friend of only a few years, Byron is half Hungarian/Euro mix, half Latina. She listened to a recording of me singing in Spanish, and asked, “What is that accent?” “What accent?” I replied, innocently. We finally figured it out. It was ORANGE COUNTY-accented Spanish. When we go order tacos together, Byron with her limited Spanish, has a gorgeous accent and gets all this Spanish thrown back at her. I order completely in Spanish and all I get is English back. It continues…

So, I’m good. But, Barcelona. If I ever wanted a moment where I was completely and easily accepted, if I ever wanted to know what that felt like… it was in Barcelona. I traveled with my Euro American boyfriend around Europe in college. In England, they thought he was Irish. In Germany they asked him for directions. Austria? Check. In Italy, I think he got by as Italian. France? No problem. He could swing some local conversation anywhere it seemed. Me? No directions asked. No one knew what to do with me. No one… until we got to Barcelona.

The moment we got close to Barcelona, coming from Italy on Euro Rail, something started to happen. My boyfriend said something first. “Everyone looks like you.” “They do!” I said, my eyes growing wide. It was awesome. We got off the train. “I” was everywhere. It was like a good Twilight Zone, in a way. We had the same complexion, facial features, hair, and height. We walked the same. We did our makeup the same. We had a similar STYLE. “Oh. My. Goodness,” I thought. “I’ve come home. I’m surrounded by family. We’re simpatico. I BLEND IN.” And I GOT ASKED FOR DIRECTIONS.

I still day dream about Barcelona sometimes, even though it was so many years ago. I day dream that I am walking around… and Barcelona, she envelopes me in her embrace, and I feel I am just a part of her. I am a missing piece of her puzzle that has come home. I realize that the trip happened at an important moment. I was only 21, and at that age I think some of us are still desiring to belong in that longing, urgent, adolescent way. We are still thinking, “Who am I?”, you know? Although since then I have realized I am so much more than Barcelona – and am happy with my individuality – it was an act of encouragement and acceptance. So, thanks, Barcelona.

Photos by Evan Hartzell.

Hat from Fedora Primo Hat Merchants, Skirt by J.Jill, Blouse by Marc by Marc Jacobs, Sweater by Moda, Boots by Teva, Bag vintage

 

 

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London, Waiting for the Night Bus.

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 photos by Laura E. Alvarez
Lucky. Lucky, I tell you.

The quest for the coat had spanned thirteen months (at least I think that is when we started watching Sherlock), and several continents (via Ebay). I had little hope of finding it, to be quite honest. Little hope. First of all, it needed to be wool, but not too heavy. This is Los Angeles after all. Second of all, it needed to fit a lean, but not short 13 year old. “Ha!” you laugh, “It could never be done.” And lastly, it had to have attitude. “Oh, no. Now that’s really, really, really asking too, too much.” Yes, it is. I agree… but the Artist, he persisted in his quest. He entered giant Good Wills, and not-nice-smelling Salvation Armies, he withstood Ebay after Ebay disappointment across the Atlantic and back, he fingered impossibly large coats everywhere, and scoffed at sad cotton coats I tried to persuade him to be happy with. He even considered moving to a colder climate where he might have more of a chance to come across said coat.

It was on one of those searching days that we ended up at a National Council of Jewish Women Thrift Shop. The moment we walked in, the Artist expressed that he felt aligned with this establishment. On top of the love we felt, the expert curation, the aesthetically pleasing gray walls, and organization by color, the prices were wonderful. But still, after a time the expansiveness of the store made our eyes grow tired. Our arms could not pull another coat off a rack. Ready to abandon the site, suddenly, it appeared… the perfect coat… and, one hundred percent finest Merino wool, no less. Here, I ask the Artist some questions about his purchase.

Clothes Stories:  Can you tell me what drove you to embark on a search for such a coat? What are you inspired by?

The Artist:  I was inspired by the BBC show, Sherlock, and the coat Sherlock Holmes wears in the show. It represents him.

CS:  What are you capable of while wearing this coat?

The Artist: I am capable of being very warm… obviously. Look at it. I’m in L.A. for goodness sake.  I am capable of trying to act like Sherlock Holmes, trying to do the Matrix, being very serious, being a wizard, being an OP wizard, and uh, being a time lord.

CS:  What do these photographs evoke for you?

The Artist: It makes me feel like the person in the picture is waiting for something like the Night Bus or perhaps the Tardis to take him away on an adventure. Also, it makes me feel like the pocket watch is magic. I mean it’s got all that bloody writing on it. It must be special. Also, it makes it feel like the character is very serious when he needs to be. He’s an OP wizard.

CS:  Does this outfit have any special powers?

The Artist: Ah, yes, yes. Um, uh, let’s see. It’s bullet proof. It’s spell proof, too just in case I get hit by any of them. It makes my invisibility spells more powerful when I magic them at myself. The cane is like a light saber. It blocks spells and can perform spells. The pocket watch can tell me the time in any time zone I want it to tell me, and also I can store my powers in it and become mortal if I want to. When I throw my top hat it can cut unfriendly demon’s heads off. The top of it flattens and the brim lets out blades, so I can throw it like a frisbee.

CS:  What is your favorite detail of this outfit?

The Artist: I like the pocket watch because it has that amazing Gallifreyan writing on it, and also because it lights up in the dark when you need to tell the time. And also because the photograph of it is my favorite shot in this post. I really like it.

CS:  If this coat belonged in a particular city, which city would it live in?

The Artist: Ah, let me think. Ah, somewhere in England. Yes, London.

Look out for two more posts about the two other coats purchased by the Artist on that same day at the NCJW Thrift Shop.
Coat by Calvin Klein, belt by Levi’s, pocket watch by Dr. Who, cane & top hat – EBay.

Russian Fairy Tale

Illustrations by Ivan Bilibin from the book, Russian Fairy Tales

First, there was this book. It was a gift from a friend to the boys when they were younger. We read all of the Russian fairy tales to each other on the way to New Mexico one summer and back. You know, red desert landscapes, cold Russian forests. It’s only logical. The stories are scary and fantastic, the illustrations are art nouveau. I had not really had any exposure to Russian fairy tales before this book. I was hooked with the whole aesthetic and dark dreamy environment. I loved the animals that were really people, the three sisters where the youngest is always the heroine, the three brothers where the youngest is also the hero, and the discovery of salt. Salt? Yes, that’s a real gem of a story. Makes you appreciate salt in a whole new way.

 

Firebird by unknown Russian artist and photo by Kareva Margarita

The rich patterning on the textiles in the illustrations was what really attracted me. There seemed to be a mix of nature originating in the early Russian pagan beliefs and the richness of embroidery and attention to detail that became even more elaborate with the introduction of the culture of the Byzantine Empire to Russia. But before we get too Byzantine, let us just check out the nature influence…

     

All images: © Bryan & Cherry Alexander Photography / ArcticPhoto except bunny – can’t find a photo credit for the cute bunny!

The people above are all Russian Siberians. Looking pretty fairy tale to me. Hanna, anyone? Oh, and the Slavic pagan roots are so wonderful. Full of worshipping rivers, Goddesses of the grain (Marzanna) and of the winter solstice (Koliada), God of the moon who marries Dazbog and they have lots of little baby stars together, wind gods, and circle dances, and Easter eggs, and how women conserve the pagan rituals because they are excluded from real participation in Christianity. So fascinating!

Okay, now turn it up a little bit… Russian folk printed dress from Etsy (see the Mexican folk dress connection?) and image on right photographed by Andrey Yakovlev Art-director: Lili Aleeva Models: Ekaterina Soboleva, Julia Galimova Hair Style: Oxana Zavarzina Make-up: Zhanna Bilalova.

And now, it comes to this. Viennese designer, but you see the connection. Can barely talk about it. Don’t click on the link unless you have like a spare hour today. I warned you.

And now we come to the present present. Yes, I am going to be so latest runway shows here. I think Pre Fall 2015 is feeling pretty Russian fairy tale. What do you think?? This is Marchesa. Just stop me from posting every. single. dress. I’m a kid that wants to dress up like a princess at heart… a Russian fairy tale princess!

She will star in a Russian fairy tale any day. Alice + Olivia, pre-Fall 2015.

Always have to look at Valentino, when considering a current Russian Fairy Tale look. This is also Pre Fall 2015. Am I ruining the surprise? I hope not. You can still forget all about it and be surprised when you go buy your back to school wardrobe in August. Hee hee.

For more of my Russian fairy tale inspirations, check out my Pinterest board here. Follow me! If you are ever sad, you can just go look at the endless, decadent, rich, mossy images and you will feel happy again.

Tea in Fairy Tale Land

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What is in that cup of mine? I did a whole blog post highlighting the beautiful way in which modern Snow White drinks her tea and coffee. Well, I thought I would share this little recipe for one of my favorite tea drinks – a homemade yerba mate latte. I make mine with soy or almond milk. It really froths up with soy. Whenever I make my own froth I feel like a kid getting away with making her own cotton candy! Yerba mate is a wonderful caffeine alternative to coffee, green or black tea.  It has a slightly bitter, astringent taste. The dark roast that I like to drink has more of a full body flavor. Sometimes the acid in coffee can bother me if I drink more than one espresso in the morning, so this is a nice, delicious taste of South American bliss for me later in the morning or day. You can search Yerba Mate’s benefits on the internet, but here is one place to get a general idea. When I am not ordering one at Venice Grind, I am making one at home with the French press, and here’s how to do it…

What you need:

One medium to large French press

1/4 cup loose yerba mate tea (I use Mate Factor organic, dark roast)

1/3 cup milk per cup of tea

a few drops of agave

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Place the loose tea in your French press. Warm up about a quart of water to hot, not boiling.

IMG_5135.JPGPour hot water over tea and fill press to the top metal line.

IMG_5136.JPGWatch tea and water interact. You don’t have to do this, but it’s really pretty. I should have taken a video! Let steep for 3-5 minutes.IMG_5137.JPGI like to wrap my press in a little cocoon of kitchen towels to keep it hot. You can do this, too! Someday I am going to sew a little French press jacket to keep it warm. Maybe I’ll find fabric with French handwriting on it!

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Now is the really fun part. I got this milk frother at Ikea. Froth up your hot milk, be it cow, goat, soy, almond… Soy froths really well. Just saying.

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If it’s been 3-5 minutes, you get to push your press down slowly, pour yourself half a cup of tea, add a little agave if you like, and pour some frothed milk on top of that. You might even have to use a spoon to heave that thick froth on top. Decadent!

Your welcome. 😉

 

 

Once Upon a Time…

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Left to right: Modern Snow White, Fairy Tale Snow White

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Once upon a time, I was looking for a show on Netflix with my thirteen year old that we might want to watch together. Netflix kept pushing Marco Polo. “If you like historical dramas, you’ll LOVE Marco Polo... If you like action, you’ll get ADDICTED to Marco Polo… If you liked Black Adder, you’ll positively ADORE Marco Polo!” So, finally we tried Marco Polo, and you kind of know after ten seconds if you are going to like a show or not – at least we both do. Another suggestion lurking around was Once Upon a Time. Not a masterpiece (It’s hard for me to watch a series after the U.K.’s Sherlock or a good Korean soap opera), but it held our attention from the get-go because there were castles, an evil queen, a brave young prince, a resourceful princess outcast… and MAGIC (the most important ingredient). The dialogue and acting was less than brilliant, but the story was pleasingly complex. And the costumes? They sealed the deal.Every costume in the “flashback” sections that take place in fairy tale land is completely intoxicating. Lush fabrics for cloaked princesses, perfectly structured leather huntsmen outfits, and evil queen gowns with such sharp stand up collars that they are dangerous in themselves.

On the other hand, the modern day Snow White’s wardrobe is colored in wintery whites, blues, with the occasional deep red. She wears 20’s hats and shoes, thin belts, and gathered skirts with tiny nature prints. Her lovely wool coats need a blog post all their own. She seems to always wear a different one, and they steal the scene every time.

So, this outfit came after a winter break Once Upon a Time binge (four episodes in one night). It’s a take on the modern Snow who lives in our present day world. She is fond of coffee and tea and educates youngsters. She obviously cares about clothes, because she is clearly the best dressed character in the modern day part of this series. See, we have a lot in common… clothes, education, coffee.  Ah, but her tea/coffee drinking! Besides her dreamy apartment, modern Snow’s cups, mugs, and tea pots are documented and collected all over the internet. Thus, the prop in these photos. My props go to the prop person! Sorry, could not help it.

The addition of the hoodie, belt, and knitted scarf, is like modern Snow  having a deja vu of sorts. See, every person in this town is a fairy tale character, but they don’t remember. It’s all part of the curse! See what I mean by a complex story… and don’t we all want to secretly be a royal outcast heroine in another parallel universe? Might as well dress the part.

scarf by Gucci, chemise by American Apparel, crocheted top vintage find, skirt homemade, boots by Teva, hoodie vintage, knitted scarf homemade, amber necklace vintage, earrings by Jodi Pantuck
“Spring Snow” photos by Aristotle and “Winter Snow” photos by Ysidro