March 21, 2015

Beauty or the Beast?

"Can any fashion item be worn with the right styling, or are there things people just shouldn't wear?"

That was a question a friend of mine broached while eyeing a blouse that regrettably resembled a hospital gown.  I'm ashamed to admit the question gave me pause. I've been critiquing fashion for years now, yet I don't have a neatly packaged answer for what makes fashion...ugly?  I half-blurted, half-mumbled some poorly articulated answer:

"It's not about the piece itself.  It's all about fit, quality,, yeah, fit and quality."

Shameful.  Despite being a writer, I'm actually really, really horrible at articulating myself in real life. But pushing aside my fumbling answer, I do think I was on the right track.  I started pondering the idea again when my friend messaged me lamenting the return of high-waisted pants.  I, on the other hand, welcomed the trend, and it made me wonder why there was a difference in how we both perceived the attractiveness of those waist-defining (and crotch-lengthening) bottoms.  How do we get away with critiquing fashion and giving it our "yes" or "no" seal of approval?  Can we really call something unflattering when it's all in the eye of the beholder?

To begin, there are certain things I look for when I discern whether fashion is ugly or not:

1) Fit

If something doesn't fit, there's a much higher chance you don't look good in it.  It doesn't mean the item has to be skintight (and following the oversized trend doesn't mean you can go baggy as baggy goes), but that the seams and cutting hit where they're supposed to hit.

2) Quality

I've seen so many outfits that look good from afar, yet once I venture closer, the pilling fabric, unraveling stitching, and lack of structure make the outfits exceedingly average. That strange, curved shoulder jacket may be the most unflattering thing you've seen, but at least it's well-made - and that is something worth admiring.  Being a broke university student, I know how difficult finding quality pieces at reasonable prices can be, so my trick is to go for pieces that look expensive but don't necessarily leave a massive dent in your bank account (stores like H&M or Joe Fresh, and any killer clearance sales are my saviours).

3) Design

Design and quality work hand in hand. A basic white tee might not have much in terms of design, but the quality of its construction is what makes it special. Nonetheless, a garment that has some element of original thought put into it deserves appreciation.  For example, I own a Prada sweater that looks like any simple V-neck grey sweater, but on closer inspection, one notices there is slight ruching along the shoulders done with exposed black stitching.  It adds just that extra bit of depth to the top, and it's something unique, even if it's something only I know about.

But overall, what makes fashion look good is something that goes beyond the specifics into a more holistic perspective that, ultimately, makes it all subjective.  Because no matter what one person may call ugly, I know I'll find keen street stylers who pull it off like they're wearing Dior Couture. And so that brings me to a fourth point:

4) Confidence

The final, most important ingredient.  This is the one element that trumps all.  If you feel great in that hospital gown blouse, and you walk out there holding your head high, then no question, that blouse looks good.  Anyone can wear anything.  The right styling and awareness of one's body shape definitely helps, but it's confidence and daring that wows me, not "good" style.

At the end of the day, every fashion item/trend/look has the potential to be flattering, as long as the wearer first and foremost believes in it.  Everything works.  Nothing's ugly. Unfortunately, a lot of the "ugly" slander gets thrown at high fashion, runway looks. Understand that what goes down the runway is not necessarily meant to be worn as is on the streets.  Runway looks are exaggerated, meant to give us a good show, and designed to speak to our wildest creative fantasies. The runway acts as a conduit for trends, ideas, and sociopolitical messages.  Tell me, can you really call that ugly?

Image Source: Photo1, 2

March 18, 2015

My Top 3 Favourite Films

So I finally saw Interstellar last night, and now here I am, inspired to have a chat about my top 3 favourite films. As I mentioned in And...Action!, I really only started watching and appreciating films four years ago. I certainly don't claim to be a movie critic; I'm just a girl who loves a good story.

3. Doubt

It's a shame this movie didn't get more exposure, because it's quite the hidden gem. This film is not about awing you with theatrics; the strength of the script and the formidable performances by Meryl Streep (one of my favourites), the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams were the driving forces behind this film.  Doubt had me gripped from beginning to end with a very simple question: "Did he or didn't he?" Doubt is a powerful emotion - it is a relentless feeling that slowly, sometimes painfully, chips away at our most sacred trust in others. When placed within the context of religion, this tension becomes an even more potent and perplexing force. Doubt kept me thinking long after the credits rolled, and the more I re-watch the film, the more nuances I uncover.

2. All Christopher Nolan films

This is a bit of a cheat because I am grouping all Christopher Nolan films together, but I truly cannot pick a favourite among them. Nolan is hands-down the greatest filmmaker of our time, and I am honestly so grateful for his existence. Everything he touches is gold. 

Nonetheless, Interstellar was the film that compelled me to compile this list, and so here are my thoughts on it:

In classic Nolan fashion, Interstellar was a cerebral journey, elevated by a rousing score, a smart script, an admirable cast, and flawless cinematography. As usual, the story was a circular one, where the end provided the puzzle pieces necessary to understand the beginning. Nolan is a master at suspense, and I found myself literally gripping the edge of my seat and holding my breath on multiple occasions. Many people commented on the heavy science in the film, believing one must love science in order to truly enjoy the film. While I don't purport to be overly intelligent, I did not find the science to be at all obstructive to my ability to follow the storyline. The science was undoubtedly complex, but the implications of those scientific concepts were made exceptionally clear. Not once did I lose my understanding of the film simply because I could not understand the science. Even if the science eluded you, the underlying story of the film was a rather emotional one. Interstellar is as much about the power of love transcending time and space as it is about celestial exploration. Which is why this was the first Nolan film - and film in general - to have made me cry so deeply. His portrayal of intense emotion set against the thought-provoking gravity of interstellar travel created a surreal experience in which I found myself moved both emotionally and mentally.

1. Cloud Atlas

As much as Nolan's films leave me breathless, I must say my #1 spot still goes out to Cloud Atlas. This film was slaughtered by critics, but I was profoundly touched by its incredible beauty. It was certainly more graphic than I usually prefer, but it used violence very strategically to tease out sentiment. What astonished me about this film was how it told six stories at once. The stories were like strings of thread that each had their own beginning and end - and yet once woven in and out of each other, became a stunning tapestry. During the span of 3 hours, I went on a rollercoaster of shock, laughter, disgust, joy, and sadness. Emotionally wrecking, but perfect in every sense possible. The cinematography was achingly artistic, the editing phenomenal and suspenseful, the acting tender and raw, the score majestic, and the makeup unbelievable. But most remarkable was the script. It was the script that thumbed my heart-strings. Cloud Atlas was beautifully written - its words were lyrical and poetic. Each line of dialogue crushed me beneath its weight, and I came away absolutely devoured by how emotional yet intelligent the film was.

You may be able to see I have a particular taste when it comes to films, but there are still many movies beyond my top 3 that I would recommend (among them August: Osage County, The Avengers, The Imitation Game, Shutter Island, The Theory of Everything, Predestination, Peacock, Her, Captain Phillips, Still Alice,...). Nonetheless, I gravitate towards films that make me think. I have yet to see a comedy or romantic-comedy I like, and I don't tend to watch animated films (although WALL-E did impress me).  I want thoughtful humour and genuine characters, not cheap laughs and cheesy dialogue. I want to be tested during a film because confusion is what makes the ultimate dawning of understanding that much more impactful. 

Image Source: Doubt, Interstellar, Cloud Atlas

March 6, 2015

6 Teenage Trends I'd Rather Forget

Looking through some old photos one day, I was confronted with how much our fashion sense changes as we age. Everyone has those moments when they look back at their questionable fashion choices and wonder what great unknown force compelled them to dress the way they did. Of course a lot of what we wore (and continue to wear) was influenced by peer pressure and popular trends at the time, but sometimes I wish I had the same confidence in my personal style back then as I do now (something I talk about in I am Not Fashionable). Perhaps then there wouldn't be so many cringe-worthy moments from my awkward years captured for eternity on camera. But hey, we were kids, and growing up is all about finding yourself through trial and error. So as a toast to growing up, I look back at some of the biggest fashion trends (ie. mistakes) from my not-so-distant preteen and teenage years:

1) Flared jeans

The first time someone complimented me on my clothes was in grade 7 when I wore a pair of flared jeans. Back then, the more your pant legs covered your shoes, the cooler you were. A proper pair of flared jeans would inevitably be torn to shreds and perpetually dirty near the heel of the foot - but we wore those ripped hems like a badge of honour. In junior high, all the popular girls were buying their flared jeans from Garage, and in early high school, the clique upgraded to brands like True Religion and Rock & Republic. Thick, white stitching and diagonal seams were markers of wealth and style. For me, as much as I tried, I could never find the perfect pair of flared jeans. Garage jeans were always too long on me. To satisfy my style cravings, my mom would fold the hems and stitch them in place loosely with needle and thread. While I am deeply grateful to my mother for painstakingly altering all my jeans, I will forever remember the tell-tale line around my shins from the folded hem and how the stiffness of my flare would never compete with the girls whose jeans fit them perfectly. Let's just say I'm glad skinny jeans took over.

2) Sneakers

When I was a kid, sneakers were all anyone ever knew in life. We literally wore the same pair of sneakers year round because there were no such things as stylish flats or sandals. I remember pining so desperately for a pair of Lacoste Intrigue sneakers (because colourful velcro straps were "in"), but had to settle for a similar, cheaper pair from Wanted (a random brand from The Bay no one had ever heard of).  I did receive a compliment on that pair of sneakers, and do recall seeing another girl in my grade with the same pair, so I guess I played the shoe game right for a while. Near the end of junior high, flip flops began to replace sneakers, and so I set off once again to fulfill the next hottest trend. Flip flops proved to be a painful journey (I'm never wearing those atrocities ever again), and as high school rolled around, ballet flats took over. Cue another couple years of awful blisters and shoes with no arch support. Fast forward to today, and stylish shoes continue to come with the price of pain. It looks like I'll never be able to go back to my childhood years of comfortable, frumpy shoes - I'll admit, my vanity won't allow it.

3) Hoodies

First it was zip-up sweaters from Garage, then colorful hoodies from TNA, and finally, thick, warm hoodies from Lululemon. Apparently at that age, nothing existed except for tank tops, t-shirts and hoodies. Girls used to have entire conversations about which colour hoodie they were going to buy from TNA. I remember bursting with joy the first time I bought a Garage zip-up, and likewise when I was later gifted my first TNA and Lululemon hoodies. Similar to the ruined hems of flared jeans, a wavy, puckered zipper and worn out elbows were signs you were dressed properly. Now that I've grown up, I hate wearing hoodies. My hair always ends up looking like a mess with the hood in the back, and I feel perpetually underdressed for, well, life in general. The only time I'll wear hoodies now is when I'm at home slaving over schoolwork.

4) Jelly bracelets

Charm bracelets were incredibly popular in junior high, but the fad that stands out most prominently in my mind is jelly bracelets. I had two: a dark blue one, and a sparkly light blue one. I loved how there were so many different colours available, and how the flexibility of the jelly offered numerous ways to wear the bracelets. People often wore a stack of them on their wrist, or had two bracelets intertwined into a cuff. Not quite sure if I'm so keen anymore on having silicon straps around my wrists, but if you think about it, this trend is still alive - bangles are essentially grown-up jelly bracelets.

5) Jeans under skirts

This one may not have been a widespread trend, but it was certainly a staple of my teenage style. There was a period in junior high when I wore ruffled skirts over flared jeans, and I can only imagine it came from the struggle between my desire to appear more feminine and the self-consciousness I had felt about my scrawny legs. In high school, I remember doing the exact same thing with tunics and leggings. I do not look too fondly upon the memories of how ridiculous I must have looked, but it wasn't until early university that I finally felt comfortable showing bare legs.

6) Long-sleeved t-shirts

It's a long-sleeved shirt! It's a t-shirt!  Nope, it's just some spawn of both that a designer somewhere, somehow thought looked cool.  But hey, I got tricked into thinking it looked cool too. Shirts like these are really no longer appropriate after elementary school, but for some reason, I still had one in junior high. I remember being so excited when I bought the shirt, but after wearing it a maximum of three times, I ended up realizing how childish I looked. Perhaps, like the skirt and jeans combo, it was just another way for me to wear a t-shirt without having to bare my bony arms.  Come to think of it, there wasn't a single part of my body I wasn't self-conscious of at that age, so no wonder I had an interesting array of fashion choices back then.

We were all prey to the pressure to fit in when we were younger, but no matter how much I cringe going down memory lane, I don't think I would have finally discovered confidence in my personal style without having failed so many times before. 

March 1, 2015

Meet You at the Junction

For the fourth year in a row, I attended my university fashion club's annual fashion show. If you missed it, I blogged about my previous year's outfit in Live. Laugh. Love.. This year's show was titled JUNCTION, and showcased minimalist, monochromatic tones that spoke to our modern era of dressing.  As proof the runway looks were exceedingly relevant, I was incredibly amused by how many stylish members of the audience were dressed as mirror images of the models.  As for myself, however, I threw caution in the wind and went with a leopard print dress:

Dress: Forever21 | Shoes: Ardene | Hangbag: Unknown | Belt: Garage | Watch: Zellers | Earrings: Unknown

What's funny about this outfit is that it's broadly quite similar to a look I wore over the summer to attend a wedding (see: Blossoming Love), except that it's a fast-fashion version of the former's higher quality pieces. This just goes to show it doesn't matter how much money you spend on clothing; what matters is buying with a discerning eye and wearing with unparalleled confidence.

I had picked this dress up at a clothing swap two years ago, but initially, I had a pretty rocky relationship with it. First of all, it was a size M.  It practically drowned me in puddles of fabric. Second of all, it was very sheer and had excessively large arm holes, and I could not for the life of me think of what to wear underneath. Yet fast forward two years, and now you will find me wearing it liberally to work during particularly hot summer days. I must have grown in the past couple years because this dress now fits me much better than it did before. It also helped that my mom sewed the arm holes smaller, and dug up a wonderful slip dress for me to wear underneath.  All of a sudden, this dress became entirely wearable.

The leopard print is a fantastic statement - people notice it and, I'll be honest, that's what every fashion fanatic lives for. As for the tights, I actually struggled for a while over whether I should wear sheer or opaque (bare legs were not an option with a knee-length skirt, black ankle boots, and my short calves). While both looked equally appealing, I finally opted for opaque because I thought it was a classier look more appropriate for attending a fashion show.

However, what I really want to highlight are the shoes. I didn't end up bringing any heels over to include in my university wardrobe, but thankfully, my friend graciously lent me a pair of ankle boots. Not only did the boots have a sleek silhouette, they also harboured a little surprise:

Red soles, ladies and gentlemen. Please, contain your excitement. Even though the soles do look very similar to Louboutins in this photo, in reality, they are actually more of a burnished red. No, these are not Louboutins, but this is as close as I have ever gotten to living up to my blog's name. Mistake me not; I will live up to my name one day, but for now, let a girl dream...

P.S.: A huge thank you to my friend (pictured with me) who unexpectedly gifted me a silk scarf! That was so kind of you, and the scarf is exactly my style!