Archive for the ‘Fashion Blogging for Toddlers’ Category

Mask as Religious Garment

September 11, 2020

I might get in trouble for this, but: I can kind of understand why people would have some confusion, or even skepticism, about masks right now.  The experts did a 180 in terms of mask advice early on in the pandemic, as we all remember, and even though the guidelines have remained mostly the same for a while now (insofar as we’ve all been told to wear masks) there has been some conflicting data on the topic: for example, a recent-ish study showed that masks made of certain kinds of material were actually actively unhelpful, while different health authorities in different states have mandated mask usage in different environments, i.e. outside all the time, or only when you can’t socially distance, or even in your own home.  Recently, researchers have floated the possibility that the mask might be just not-protective enough to actually engender immunity to Covid-19 in the wearer by exposing them to small particles.  This is purely speculative and is not really relevant to the conversation at hand, just to say that I get why people would be confused, generally speaking.

Let me be clear: I believe the research that shows masks help stop the spread of Covid-19.  As someone who is not a scientist or a doctor, I don’t know exactly how the process works––I can give you a sketch but not a detailed explanation––but I buy it.  And I totally do not care about people who think that masks are bad for you because they cause your teeth to rot or your oxygen to get low or whatever else they’re saying these days, because often these people are the same “medical freedom” fighters who are always talking about the body is a miraculous healing organism and can survive cancer without chemo, so if the body can do that then surely it can breathe through a thin cloth every now and then?  Some consistency, folks, please.

For those people, and for others who struggle with masks, I would like to propose another way of viewing them: as religious garments, which are non-functional, occasionally talismanic pieces of clothing that serve an ideological purpose rather than a practical one.

Many religions feature such types of garments.  There are the famous “Temple garments,” referred to also as Mormon underwear, which I used to make fun of liberally and now would never, bequeathed to Mormons during their initial participation in an endowment ceremony.  Sartorial signifiers of religious affiliation are hugely important in Plain Anabaptist traditions––you’ll remember the joke from Weird Al’s “Amish Paradise” about buttons, although the Amish actually do wear buttons–– as well as Orthodox and, to an even greater extent, Haredi Judaism.  From kippot (yarmulkes) to shtreimels(round fur hats worn by married Hasidic men on Sabbath) to the monochromatic, floor-length dresses worn by Amish women and the suspenders worn by their husbands, Judaism and Anabaptism in particular make great use of the fashion as semiotic communicator.  The list goes on: having specific uniforms for cloistered Catholics like vestments for priests, the hijab for women in Islam, robes of specific colors for Buddhist monks, and so forth.  You get the idea.  Particularly in more conservative sects/expressions of major religions, there is an intense focus on the minute detail of the clothing, garments or accessories: for Hasidic women, how long the hair of your wig is, or whether you wear a snood or a tichel, says a great deal about where your ancestors came from, what sect you belong to, and/or how liberal you are.  Years ago, I met an Amish Mennonite convert who was also an academic sociologist who had written an entire book on the variations in Amish women’s head coverings and what they symbolized.  Though an outsider would spot the difference between a black head scarf and a gauzy white covering for a bun, the sociologist delved into differences so subtle––type of pleating, width of band––as to be completely imperceptible to the uninitiated, but deeply meaningful to the Amish themselves.

What does this type of garment do for its wearer?  There are two main purposes, and how much the wearer emphasizes one or the other depends on a number of factors including general level of religious conservatism.  First, in some cases, like with the Temple garments and tzitzit, there is the idea that they literallysupernaturally protect you from harm.  But the broader one, and the one more interesting to contemplate here, I think, is the way these garments serve as a visual shorthand for tribal affiliation.  (That can be cultural or religious tribal affiliation, but in the case of many faiths, like the Amish and Haredi Judaism, the two are so intertwined that they can be indistinguishable both for the religious person and the observer.)  There are the tiny signifiers––like the bowsworn on beaver hats by Hasidim, on which side depending on the wearer’s sect––and the more overt ones, like hijab = Muslim.  Whatever the prominence, the dress lets everyone the wearers interact with know immediately who the wearers are (in broad strokes, of course): from their ethical precepts down to the nitty gritty details of their diet.

An example from my personal life: I dress modestly, which means I basically cover my knees and elbows and wear dresses and skirts.  I don’t do this 100% of the time––I wear pants a few times a year when I’m feeling spunky, and sometimes my dresses don’t fully cover my knees, which I don’t really love but that has more to do with style than religiosity––but mostly, I follow the precept of what we call tznius, or modesty.  I definitely do notdo it because I feel like men are wanton sexual beasts and I must protect them from my skin, and I don’t even really do it because I believe Gd wants me to (the Jewish texts are not particularly persuasive when it comes to this argument).  Mostly, I do it because doing so marks me as a part of a community, it lets other people know how I identify, it tells them certain things about how we should behave together as humans interacting without my having to explain it (i.e. don’t offer me bacon-wrapped shrimp, for instance, or don’t go in for a hug if we’re not related/married and you’re a dude).  Although to be fair, modesty being as unstoppable a trend as it’s proven to be, and liberal Orthodoxy being what it is, many people might not immediately get this.

Lots of people think this stuff is the height of religious stupidity.  Why would the God or a god care what you wear?  And why would people think their choice of shirts made them more moral, or even holier?  I get that.  There are definitely cases where people obsess over the vehicle at the expense of the engine, and then, when there’s some kind of vehicular malfunction, their hypocrisy is that much more embarrassing.  Maybe sometimes they’ve confused visual piety for actual piety (in some environs, that’s understandable, because the education is sub-par, or there’s inter-generational trauma that leads to fanaticism or a general blending of cultural expression and religious expression) and they think that as long as they’re wearing the outfit, they don’t need to worry so much about behaving ethically towards others or engaging in study or being mindful of other specific religious virtues.  Kind of like the faith version of the Peltzman Effect.  But in the best case scenario, wearing distinct garments that point to their religiosity reminds the wearer that they are beholden to ideas greater than themselves, and that they should conduct themselves in an overtly dignified and considerate way particularly in public but ideally everywhere.

So this is where the mask comes in (and yes, I’m admittedly writing this thinking of the obvious overlap between Evangelical Christianity and Covid-deniers/mask skeptics): if you just can’t wrap your mind around the idea that the mask might provide us some literal protection from the virus particles, what about, instead, viewing it as a cloth that symbolizes your belief in the idea that, as members of society, we have to make a covenantto protect each other?  Your willingness to make yourself a little uncomfortable (have you ever dressed modestly in a sweltering New York City summer?) so that people will know, upon meeting you, that you are committed to conceiving of our society (micro, as in local community, and macro, as in world) as a holistic entity that needs constant vigilance and nurturing?  Your desire to show others, via how you treat your physical being, that you care about them, and that you are aligned with the tribe that values that caring?

Do I think this argument would sway those who need to hear it most?  No.  As we know, the religious people who are the most mask-averse are Evangelicals, and most of the American Evangelical world (bar the Duggars) did away with most of their outward expressions of faith a long time ago, and also have found a way to de-emphasize the Christian ideals of charity, kindness, non-resistance, and other community-oriented (versus self-oriented) principles and replace (?) them with a warped and relentless entitlement and vague sense of “liberty.”  I don’t know much about how late-era capitalist Evangelism has become what it has, but I could probably take a stab at formulating a theory if you paid me (call Siobhan).

Final observation: would this make a face shield the niqab of the mask set?  I kid!

Adorable, but…

August 24, 2020

Would children really find these fun?  And if the answer is yes, for how long?  Do Scandinavian babies have some kind of special gene where wood is endlessly mesmerizing to them, and American kids are born with a susceptibility to toys with garish colors and blinking lights and gratingly cartoonish voices?  Honestly just buy me this mushroom basket.

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Pugwashisms

May 10, 2020

Last summer, my kids and I were lucky enough to be invited to spend a few days at a friend’s family’s summer house, on a rather magical island in the Atlantic with a long, bright beach and a weird little petting zoo and a giant pond of salty water smack dab in the middle.  The friend’s family had an excellent collection of vintage children’s books, including a few about Captain Pugwash, a rather inept pirate who gets his crew into all sorts of pickles (due to said ineptitude) and has to rely on his savvy but unacknowledged cabin boy, Tom, to save the day.  I wish I could find an image of this one page which just depicts Pugwash dreaming about having a normal life and tending to a garden, but humans are idiots and therefore most of the stuff that comes up on Google Images is related to the not nearly as charmingly illustrated film, and not the books.

Anyway, apparently Pugwash has a number of funny sayings he uses when he’s miffed, which Wikipedia has helpfully compiled.  Work this into your every day repertoire, folks.

“Dolloping doubloons/dolphins!”
“Coddling catfish!”
“Lolloping landlubbers!”
“Suffering seagulls!”
“Staggering stalactites!”
“Nautical nitwits!”
“Plundering porpoises!”
“Kipper me capstans!”
“Tottering turtles!”
“Dithering dogfish!”
“Scuttling cuttlefish!”
“Stuttering starfish!”
“Blistering barnacles!”
“Shuddering sharks!”

Nothing

May 1, 2020

“What is nothing?” I ask.

“Nothing is when you are given a very small portion of ice cream by an adult, and you look at the plate and at the adult and you ask for more and the adult says you have a huge portion and you say, ‘That’s it?  That’s nothing.’  And that is nothing,” says Lulu.

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Hey Willy, See the Pyramids by Maira Kalman

Honestly

March 4, 2020

The Coronavirus lewk is this cape with gauze face mask from Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Oh Please

January 6, 2020

I know that Vogue.com is not necessarily where one should be going to see reality reflected, but cmon: how could a wedding where the bride wore five outfits ever be considered “effortless”?

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Inspiration Everywhere!

November 7, 2019

Honestly the LEWK is these Pacific Northwestern Slavic anti-vaccine protestors.

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You Don’t Need That, Either

May 20, 2019

In the past few years, I’ve read myriad lists of what you NEED to buy for a baby, many written by people who claim expertise for one reason or another (they have kids, they write about having kids, or both).  This latest, by writer Emily Gould, attempts to once again be the last word on what you need when you have a baby, and she does a good deed by naysaying some of the things people believe are essential but aren’t really (like baby monitors, particularly if you live in small dwellings) and yet it, too, includes a number of things that are not necessary.  I know no one will read this, but allow me to be, once and for all, the most minimalist of all minimalist parents and tell you what you really and truly need:

  1. Baby clothes.  Ideally kimono-style onesies.  ZERO pairs of infant socks.  They will inevitably fall off.  Burn all the infant socks you get on a tiny bonfire.  Zutano-style booties are only option for infants.
  2. A baby carrier.  It doesn’t really matter what kind.
  3. A carseat
  4. A bassinet or crib.
  5. ZERO SLEEP SACKS OR SWADDLES OF ANY KIND.  Yes, you heard that correctly.  You can swaddle your baby in little blankets until they start fighting them, and then you can wean them off swaddles as early as four months.  I actually think these swaddles are doubly egregious as a “must have” baby item, because so many basically guarantee they’ll put your children to sleep and of course, no product is magical like that.
  6. You don’t need a baby bathtub.  Use the sink until they can sit, then use a regular bathtub.
  7. Some kind of seat for the baby: we have a Bjorn bouncy chair, and it’s great.
  8. NO BREASTFEEDING PILLOW.  Use a regular fucking pillow, it is the same thing. 
  9. Bottles.
  10. For mom: at least one pair of shoes you don’t need to bend down to put on or lace up.

THAT IS LITERALLY IT.  Don’t even make a registry.  You’re welcome.

New Fashion Inspo

February 18, 2019

The Amish have been fashion fodder before, but I’m going to do one better and declare that my new look this summer is MEXICAN MENNONITE.

Yes, there are Mennonites in Mexico, approximately 100,000 of them, mostly in Chihuahua and Durango.  They’re from Russia via Canada, the former of which might explain the cool headscarves these little girls wear.  Their clothes seem to differ from their Midwestern American counterparts in that the dresses are brighter and more often patterned, the hats are big, and the sleeves can sometimes be short.    The dresses look like Batsheva creations, jo?  Which, in truth, I’m not really that into.  I think I just like these hats!

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By the way, this obsession was brought on by watching Silent Light, a rather amazing film about Chihuahuan Mennonites in Mexico, starring a number of locals there.  Don’t you think there should be a name for movies featuring non-professional actors playing basically/borderline-themselves?  Like, autofiction, but for film?  Examples include: Menashe, Krisha, this film, and many others I don’t have the time to compile here.  If there is a term for this, please do let me know.

Peak Brooklyn

January 24, 2019

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