Category Archives: Music

Adventures Down Secret Stairways (or how to accessorize for cold weather wearing a sun dress)

Everyone should have at least one red lit in the dark photo portrait. Thanks, Evan.

This post was called “Winter Bohemian” but then it turned Spring. In L.A. we are still having some cool evenings so I am thinking a post about dressing warm in a sun dress is still relevant, right? I mean, this is an issue for me. I tend towards being cold unless I am doing yoga at least six days a week — when my circulation is really at top performance (ooh, such techy talk — “performance”!). Makes me feel like a baby having to be all bundled up in pants and a coat while all these people run around with nothing on their legs or shoulders, no goosebumps, sandals, hair up, looking so carefree and breezy . Another outstanding fwp.

We followed the directions.

About the secret staircase, though. I love the magical hidden among the mundane. That’s why I love magical businesses and headquarters that are right in front of your eyes, but that mere muggles do not detect. l also love The Borrowers for this reason and portals like the one Alice comes across in Through the Looking Glass…. So, that is where we went this cold and starry night. I was going to let my love go alone to China Town to check out a musical project of someone he kinda knew online, but once he showed me the instructions to get there, I HAD to accompany him. I was definitely not disappointed. Betalevel is a cool spot to check out music “projects”. It’s experimental. People sit in chairs and really listen to/watch performances. It is an intimate experience which took me back to the early 90’s when we used to go to all kinds of funky coffee houses to check out music and art.

Oooh, my hair looks so long and thick. Optical illusion I love.

Back to the outfit… to use a popular phrase which I do love, this is a cold weather dressing “hack”. So, here is a list of six things that can help you, too wear a sun dress in cold* weather.

•Long dress! Well, duh. And this one is longer in the back which gives it the illusion of being more breezy and light.

•Not cotton. This one is acrylic, but I also have a wool sundress. Seriously. It’s from the early 60’s. I don’t understand its existence, but how lucky am I? Anyway, if the sun dress is not cotton that really helps.

•Warm accessories. Like this acrylic, thick, super long scarf I made. I have also worn hats for warmth. In my opinion, if you put it together in a cool way in terms of size, color, shape, texture you can sneak warmers in!

•Boots. Obsessed. So, of course. Need I say more? The ones pictured are great because they are short clog boots so they go along with the illusion of not too wrapped up looking. I also love this socks with sandals thing that is popular right now. I tend to collect an array of colorful socks, so that style really works for me. My sandals are pretty flashy as well.

•Secretly warm sweater. A long sweater that is thick and edged with faux fur can be so cozy and not heavy looking. I was so excited to find how well this works. Make sure, though that the sweater has a tight weave so those icy winds don’t creep through.

•Layers. This is the most obvious hack, right? Everyone knows this one. But… it’s all about nice colors, shape, textures that go with the sun dress at hand. The layers compliment the dress. Here, I wear a thin, but warm long sleeve t shirt that wishes it was Patagonia. Also, tights. Gotta have those. Good, thick ones.

Back to the music… Here is some k-blamo music featuring a photo from this shoot. Yes, we have a youtube channel you can subscribe to now! Just click on “subscribe” and you will get an email whenever we (k-blamo) post a video.

*When I say cold, I mean it is lower than the 70’s. I know it’s funny, but come on. Lower than 70’s fahrenheit in the evening is not sun dress weather!

Dress label was removed (friend’s closet clean out!). Sweater by 21 up. Scarf homemade. T shirt by Uniqlo. Boots by Hanna Anderson.

All photos by Evan Hartzell

New Music Merch Equals New Purse

        I’ve mentioned before on Clothes Stories that I speak many languages. One of those languages is music. k-blamo is a music project I do with Evan Hartzell, and I always say that it sounds like music from another planet. At least that is how it sounds to me. This makes me sound like a juggler of many hats or however you say it, but really I’m not. Evan does all the music, says, “Can we record vocals tonight?”, “Hmmm… I don’t know, ” I say (an embarrassment of riches, I tell you) or maybe I say, “Yeah, that sounds good.” and then maybe it still doesn’t happen. Eventually, though, I say, “Let’s do this!” Then, all I have to do is grab a notebook, the appropriate writing tool (more on THAT later) sit in the most comfortable, paint splattered, leather chair, and listen to the track. As I listen, I see things, and I let the words flow out on to the paper. Finish that, and boom; we hit record on that mic. Melody or spoken word, I just go with whatever I hear. Not thinking is key. I think enough with other languages I speak. Then, Evan does all that cool stuff with his machines to make it an actual song. Then, I get to enjoy the listening of that.

So, we got a new EP coming out April 25th called neptune. EP means five songs, and I’m really excited about the way these songs all go together. I think neptune is a perfect name (credit goes to Evan on that one) for this set of tunes — ha, ha; just noticed that — because like I said, it sounds like a transmission from a far off land be it in the deep sea or a mysterious planet. As it goes with new music, the “merch” as they call the merchandise related to the tour or record in the music industry, lands before the actual music. In this case, the merch is now my new purse. It’ s actually smaller in person. The bag is about 13″ x 13″, kind of squishy, and I love how the image appears to wrap around it. Nice photo on the bag, Evan! You might recognize the outfit on the bag from this post — a great example of connecting those different languages. You can order one here. There’s also t shirts!  I’ll be posting a link to the actual music when it drops, but for now if you are k-blamo curious you can check out past recordings, short films here.

For now, let’s look inside my bag. I don’t know about you, but I love when people show us what is in their bag that they carry around. It is like a mini portrait of the inside of their life/head/heart or something. You can learn so much about a person. Learn something about one of my favorite writers here.

Sweater by Costco (no, I’m serious. It’s says, “Kirkland” on it), jeans by Levi’s, shoes vintage

All photos by Evan Hartzell

Bladerunner Teen D.J.

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Plastic stars in lantern nights,

The blue and white and neon lights,

Liquid in the flowing pipes,

Mist my eyes the sounds are loud,

Cold the air my hands withstand,

I yearn,

I yearn to be,

I see the signs,

See the signs and dream,

When the music makes my ears,

The sky,

Darker white then the early morning,

Fear to touch,

Touch the ground,

For I might,

Pick up to have found,

A thing a fear of past steps there,

And smile not upon their sight,

For shadowed face and pocket hands,

They keep me safe,

I wish for sand,

Oh I may live to breath the air,

Air of sea that the sun dearly loves,

And find to me that I am to be loved,

Streaking lights and dizzy stars,

On a day there shall be,

A shining star.

-Aristotle Hartzell, 2017

Is he the teen d.j. for the 1984 original or for the 2017 sequel? And what music will he spin? For the original it would surely be this, whereas for the sequel it may be this.

All photos by Evan Hartzell.

Suit jacket by Topman, customized by Aristotle. Wind breaker by Patagonia. Cords by Old Navy. Socks by Uniqlo. Shoes by Fashion.

Viva Italia

I last worked on the following post October 29, 2016. I got busy with other stuff, and then the election happened. I thought about scrapping the whole post, starting over with a different perspective. Honestly, I even thought about never doing another Clothes Story again. But, those feelings were all part of the grieving process, and now I have a renewed belief in the power of sharing our stories. I also have a renewed appreciation for stepping outside of our bubbles and for being in community. Oh, and the exploration of fantasy and illusion in the film, 8 1/2 is something that’s come up repeatedly in this post truth moment in history. So, without further ado…

One early October morning “certain parents” made the mistake of telling their teen that “Ha, ha, ha, the truth is we don’t know what we are doing!” as they dropped him off for an over night camping trip. Don’t do that. Teenagers’ hormones are trouble enough, and they don’t need their parents sharing their  existential crises – or at least displaying such a dark humor about it. They need their parents to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and smoothies and tell them everything is going to be okay.

Early Fall of 2016 I waded into a midlife crises – I’m being dramatic, of course – and in such a dramatic state I started to fantasize about remaking the film, 8 1/2.

From a female artist’s point of view.

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Back up. Midlife crises? Why now? Maybe because I had come off a summer where I did things I had previously been afraid to do. That always shakes things up, doesn’t it? I had fallen into a tiny acting role on a friend’s movie – an exhilarating experience. I had also started playing shows with k-blamo on which I do vocals. Another exhilarating experience. Oh, that golden chakra. And the turquoise one, for that matter! Fall meant “back to work”. Even though I had taught all summer, the boys going back to school meant it was time to buckle down in the studio. Buckle down? I didn’t want to buckle down. Like Guido in 8 1/2 I wanted to break out of that traffic-trapped car and float up, up, and away. Something had changed within me, and I needed to explore it further.

In Federico Fellini’s 1963 black and white film, 8 1/2, the main character is an artist as well. He is film director, Guido, just off one production and now being hounded to give his vision for his next film – a science fiction piece, no less. Guido starts out at some sort of healing spa, and ends up swimming in a sea of his own memories and dreams. Marcello Mastroianni, at the height of his cool style quotient, plays Guido.

So, here I am. A female artist wandering the west side of Los Angeles that no movie crew is really looking for. No mistress is showing up – unless she is represented by social media distractions. Instead, my co-conspirator is patiently taking filming direction from me by the bus depot. The bus depot matches my skirt.

Big Blue Bus blue.

Big Blue Bus blue.

Like Guido, the film director character in 8 1/2, I avoid my artistic project’s completion (in this case, a graphic novel that is so long it makes me want to cry) by wandering the city in a beautiful outfit and revisiting my entire life’s story. I even start my journey in my own spa – my childhood bathtub full of healing salts where I end up talking to my mother as if I was ten again, and to the moon outside the window – a window that is no longer there. Fellini talks to his dead parents in a sunny graveyard, suddenly dressed as a priest. Dream sequences, heavy symbols, Jungian imagery that 8 1/2 is known for? Check. Like Fellini, I need a note attached to the camera reminding me that this is a comedy – that life is a comedy. Eventually, Guido contemplates the idea of the “ideal woman” in an actress he wants to cast. I contemplate who I strive to be, as my own “ideal woman”.

How did I get to deciding that a piece of Italian cinema so illustrated my crises? The seed was planted with a wander into an Italian menswear shop. One thing led to another, and through a series of cappuccinos, a visit from Tuscan friends, and on-the-street filming, I ended up at 8 1/2.

Brioni

I like portals, and the Brioni store in Beverly Hills is a portal to the elegant, gorgeous Italian bespoke shops of the 1940’s and 50’s. The Artist and I wandered into this epicenter of fine fabrics and spectacular stylings of fine men’s tailoring one lovely Fall afternoon.

It was the red velvet that beckoned us initially. What is it about velvet suits that grabs us? It’s decadent, luxurious, and oh, so soft. It conjures up falcons, estates, and silver goblets. Three out of four people in my immediate family love velvet suits. My husband even contemplated a velvet suit for our wedding in 1993. One of my favorite moments from a trip to Florence, Italy in 1997 was taking a photo of a business man in a blue velvet suit, standing in a plaza chatting with his friends at lunch time. Casual. No big deal. I performed with a band in a velvet jumpsuit around the same time. Now, The Artist wears a similar, red velvet jacket to the one in the top photo. Velvet is back.

Once inside the store, the atmosphere was all mirrors, gold, and black. I felt like I was inside an Italian race car with bouquets of roses everywhere. We were greeted by Sheila, who because of our enthusiasm (and probably our outfits!) treated us like we were museum goers, and she was the knowledgeable docent.

Clothing can be art to me, especially when they are so well made. Once Sheila told me about the attention and work that went into each suit, handmade in Italy, we bonded about the scene in Valentino, the Last Emperor that shows the handful of seamstresses making one of his incredible dresses. I love that scene – the intricate craftiness of it all. I grew up starting Saturday afternoons at the fabric store with my mom and then going home, each of us with a project at hand, cutting and sewing at the machine. Now, The Artist is pretty skilled himself, manipulating suit jackets with silver thread, vintage buttons, and yes, even adding Rushmore patches like you see on his jacket above.

If the Fall was the filming of my 8 1/2, then Brioni was a trip to the wardrobe department.

Caffe 8 and Half

If there’s catering on this movie set, then for me it would be  Caffe 8 1/2 in Santa Monica which I started getting into this past Fall as well. It’s kind of hidden, but oh so good. EVERYTHING is good here. I kind of went overboard on the sugar last time (Two words: Nutella. Pie.), but I do not dissuade you from completely giving in to the whole experience. Any cafe that has a Fellini theme and a Marcello Mastroianni photo mural wins me over easy. Next time I am trying a panini, for sure. Getting ideas from Yelp at the moment where the reviews are all glowing.img_1318

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Wait, are these photos of my OUTFIT at Caffe 8 and a Half? Why, yes they are.

The owner, Gaetano makes your visit to Caffé 8 1/2 even more special.

The owner, Gaetano makes your visit to Caffé 8 1/2 even more special.

Which brings us back to Brioni because…

On the Brioni website we see some red carpet photos of people wearing their suits, and one of them is of Chiara Mastroianni (French-Italian actress and singer) who is the daughter of Marcello Mastroianni (AND Catherine Deneuve… but that’s a whole other post. Wait, I already did that one). I don’t usually get stars in my eyes, but I swoon for the European art house cinema stars of my youth – my youth of seeing the films back in college, I mean. Marcello actually wears Brioni in this film. His look created a desire for a lighter suit, a more modern, on the go presence that reached all the way across the Atlantic.

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Oh. My. Goodness.

Under a Tuscan Sun

Lastly, there was Tuscany. I had one of those rare, sleepy afternoons this Fall where I curled up with a blanket and a self-indulgent movie. The “airplane” movie was something I found on Netflix called Under the Tuscan Sun. I’m not even going to talk about this movie in the same post as I mention Fellini – but, then again there is a whole character in this film who is obsessed with her past relationship with the great director. She even acts out a scene from one of his movies. Didn’t see that coming. I just wanted an escapist hour and a half, and I am back on set! Besides the always charismatic Diane Lane, the film’s other star is the location of Cortona in the Tuscan province of Arezzo.

Now, here’s the crazy thing. Next thing you know, in the last days of October we were so happy to hook up with our friends visiting from Italy. He was originally one of our good British friends from our year in Leeds, UK. She was the wonderful Italian woman he met while camping in Spain, and lucky us, they brought along their six year old daughter who taught me a bit of Italian. And where do they live? In that same Tuscan province of Arezzo! A highlight of the visit was the little girl trying her first skateboard on the Venice boardwalk. They brought with them a bit of child like curiosity from the village which I so needed.

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Italy was everywhere, and it was guiding me through a Fall of transitions. I entered through a suit shop, took to the streets making a handful of haiku like music videos in support of a new EP, and was infused with fresh energy by our Italian visitors. The summer had already been a gateway to embracing my love of performance, as my partner and I performed music and spoken word at a couple of Los Angeles events (with plans for more!). Like Guido in 8 1/2, I realized a film crew was in fact following me. In this case, the crew turned out to be the world that constantly encourages me to produce, that promises to eat up whatever I make. So, I ordered a new business card… and splattered them all with hot pink acrylic. The circus-like ending to 8 1/2? Maybe that’s what 2017 needs. The artists, the dreamers, the lovers, the activated… dancing in the new year across what looks like a barren landscape, still hoping to make the world sing.

Sade in my Day

  

        So, like I said in my last post, I’ve been space clearing. I don’t mean just going through a pile of papers or one box of photos or a closet. This is a whole house. It’s all going down at my childhood home where I grew up – the only house I grew up in, the house with an attic, the house with a closet under the stairs, that once had whole bedrooms devoted to storage, with endless forgotten kitchen cabinets and the house with a deck full of tarp covered boxes.

Although it is emotionally exhausting going through your whole life history, there is a ton of benefits. For example, revisiting different chapters of your own style through photographs, letters, sketches, music and maybe even a few articles of clothing can teach us a lot about ourselves. One such chapter I revisited with enthusiasm was the Sade chapter.

In terms of music appreciation, there is no Sade chapter. She has been my favorite vocalist since I discovered her in the 80’s. With no other artist would I read every word of every song she wrote before putting the new vinyl on the turntable for the first time. Her lyrics are just as important to me as her delivery, her vocal sound, and the band’s musical collaboration with her. In 1987, as I completed my Tess chapter over the summer, I entered college ready to embrace the Sade chapter of style.

While the Tess chapter was a country bath full of lavender flowers that washed away all of the glitz of eighties blue eyeshadow and Wham U.K. day glow, the Sade chapter was about growing up into an artist with classic and sophisticated style that was at the same time European and embraced diversity. Sade represented a simplicity that spoke of strength and individuality. I felt like I had a lot in common with her at the time. She was born in Nigeria, grew up in England, went to art school where she studied fashion, and afterwards when she helped out some friends who needed backup vocals, found her love of writing songs. I also felt like I was bicultural growing up in Southern California with a firm grounding in all things Mexican. I got into fashion school, made a detour to an art major, where I also “helped out” some friends who needed vocals for their electronic music class. Lyrics also came to be one of my favorite parts of the music process as well.

My Sade chapter of style really took off when I decided to be her for Halloween in 1987. Of course, I doubt anyone knew who I was channeling at the time. I continued with this inspiration on and off for at least a year. Hair pulled back, red lipstick, gold hooped earrings, with a lot of denim, black and white. At one point, I even found it necessary to invest in a black bolero hat. The best word to describe what I thought of her style at that time would have to be “cool”. Just like her approach to creating and her approach to life, her style expressed integrity, brevity, a sense of being comfortable in her own skin. For a woman of color who was expanding her “languages”, it was a whole collection of qualities that could help me make this transition from girlhood to adulthood.

Pulling a black dress from the way back of my closet, which I wouldn’t normally wear these days, as I am so addicted to color, I paired it with a white shirt that was a recent thrift store find. Black and white? What was I doing? So unlike me these days. And then it hit me. The Sade style chapter was making an appearance – a result of all this unearthing of the past. The gold hoop earrings are updated. One side of my head is now pretty short as it’s pulled back. Red lipstick? That hasn’t gone anywhere. Some things just stick.

I like the idea that time is a circle. My synesthesia lets me see this moment as a spinning wheel, each spoke in the wheel a different moment – past, present, with inklings of the future. As they spin together, they become a beautiful blur, the miracle of our evolution.

Dress by Patagonia, shirt by American Eagle (boyfriend fit) – thrift store find, shoes by Dansko, earrings by Mingle, necklace by Evan Hartzell. All photos of outfit by Evan Hartzell.

Some of my favorite Sade style moments.

Some of my favorite Sade style moments.

Wear Your Art Collection

 

         

If you know me, you know that I am a non stop celebration of the Hundred Languages. Why just last night I was celebrating the language of food. I invented a Dutch goat cheese, peach, and honey quesadilla. Yes, corn tortilla. I know you were wondering. I was speaking food, and the invention perfectly fit my mood of wanting a dessert, but wanting a bit of savory as well. My family was very receptive to this spontaneous expression. It sounds like I am digressing from the above photos, but it is just that I think my synesthesia is breaking down the walls in my brain between food and fashion.

Both the artist, Copious Harvey Smith and I enjoy breaking down the walls between languages. We also both understand that each language has it’s own qualities that bring out a different aspect of the same idea. For me, my characters and stories have outfits, soundtracks and painted “storyboards”. For Copious I see how her messages of healing cross into her music, paintings, writing, and now fashion. With Lucid Designs, Copious allows art collectors to wear what they would usually collect as one of her canvases or sculptures. Artists collaborating with fashion designers has become common, but usually it is a highly literal application of the artist’s “visual quotes” onto a textile design. Instead, Copious is using the human body as a canvas for her messages. Each piece involves the thoughtful placement of symbols and words in meaningful colors. More than a message t shirt, each shirt or hoodie becomes a talisman, a healing stone, or a power animal when someone chooses the piece they need.

Gaining a quality from what you are wearing? Now we’re talking my language. Let’s just look at this one hoodie. Copious says the actual hood with the words “light” and “dark” is about “the recovery of self through claiming all parts of us in ourselves and in turn offering a reflection of either our dark or light shadows.” On the front pocket, “The bird flying represents the freedom of claiming our whole selves, and no longer being triggered by the parts of ourselves that we reject or suppress.” Oh my goodness. I’m feeling this! Reminds me of my talks with Lissa about Persephone. Seriously happy Copious speaks so many languages.

Collect one of these pieces now and benefit a great cause. See the full gallery of wearable art here!