Aug 4 2011

“Tall Women Can’t Hide”

5565284073_271f3e70f3The magnificent Daria Werbowy, looking breathtaking in Lanvin.

Shot by Mert and Marcus for American Vogue, March 2011

And why should they?

As I was scrolling through Jezebel today the other day, always on the procrastinating prowl clearly, the article “Tall Women Can’t Hide,” by Austinite Elaine Dove, came like manna from I’ll Get to That Tomorrow heaven.  “Expletive yeah!” sayeth I, as I grabbed some popcorn and settled in to read the heck out of this article.   The commenters on Jezebel truly are a cut above the rest, and since commiserating and joking around with other tall women is one of my favourite things, I was pretty stoked.  Of course, I felt compelled to include a rambling, verging-on-incoherent comment of my own in response.

The author stands at 5’9, and she talks about some things that are pretty familiar to many tall girls, like finding pants and skirts that are long enough (I’m still undaunted in my search for long jeans that fit me properly, kind of like what I imagine the really-ripped Spartan dudes of 300 felt in the face of Xerxes’ ridiiiiculously large army, but I’ve embraced the too-short skirts a long time ago, like Xerxes does in the movie.  He looked fabulous, and so do I.  Delusions of messianic grandeur can do wonders to one’s posture.) ANYWAY.  In addition to the clothing conundrums that so many people of so many sizes face, Dove also brings up the concept that tall women can unwillingly serve as the target for other people’s insecurities, that dating can be fraught with the difficulty of not “offending” your potential paramour’s ego by wearing high heels, and that fitting a traditional definition of femininity can be challenging when society still clings to the outdated equation of tallness with masculinity.

I appreciated Dove’s honesty about her insecurities, and her challenges in navigating the world as a tall woman rang true for me.  The article wasn’t exactly brimming with feel-good pep-talk goodness, but it’s also worth noting that it takes some people longer than others to develop self-confidence and to fully appreciate their height as a positive asset.  It’s an ongoing process.  If anything, the tone of the article really highlighted how friggin’ essential it is to develop a sense of self; an identity that isn’t defined in relation to other people, especially dudes.  It’s a tall order (oho hahaha) to do this, I know, since it’s human nature to come down with a wicked case of Compare-itis pretty often.  We’re also surrounded by a culture that loves body policing, reinforcing old-as-the-hills gender stereotypes, and making people feel badly about their perfectly lovely selves so that they will buy stuff.  But if you can see past all this every once in a while,  you will be an unstoppable tornado of love in the form of a girl!

Okay- back to the bitchin’:  Many of the comments from fellow tallies reinforced the notion that tall women are especially public targets of the insecurities and hang-ups of other people, and that these unresolved self-esteem issues, mixed with the fact that many people (especially guys) feel inexplicably entitled to comment on womens’ bodies, means that tall women face an undue level of harassment and running public commentary.  Even worse?  Many of us take all sorts of measures to make other people feel comfortable with our “impetuous” height, and resort to slouching, sitting instead of standing, losing weight as to appear more frail and to “take up less space,” deliberately changing our mannerisms to appear more passive and “non-threatening,” and being far too kind to people who truly deserve a proper verbal smackdown.  I think I’ve avoided the deliberate slouch, but I’m definitely guilty of suffering fools far, far too gladly (usually while Morrissey’s voice sings in my head “In my liiife, why do I give valuable time to people who I’d much rather kick in the eyyeeee?”)  The internalized belief that we’re somehow to blame for triggering the insecurities of others, and thus feel compelled to play therapist by changing and diminishing ourselves is….pretty friggin’ screwed up.  It’s a much larger societal screw-up, and not created by tall women themselves, so it’s pretty hard to fix by just switching into a pair of flats.  Pretttyyy screwed up.  We know that “heightism” is mere peanuts compared to systemic, all-pervasive forms of discrimination like racism, etc…, but it’s still important to note that height, weight and sexism intersect in some pretty insidious ways, and that the only way to start dismantling all of this is to talk about it.

Dove noted that she “wasn’t alone in this dilemma, even if none of us are talking about it.”

And that, ladies and gents, is precisely why The Height of Life came to be.

Have any of you read the article?  If so, what were your thoughts?


Jun 30 2010

Influence: Iekeliene Stange

 

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I’m afraid my internet sleuthing skills have disappointed; I can’t find the original creator of this.  If anyone has any inkling, please let me know, because it’s pretty clear a lot of time went creating it! 

Welcome one and all to the very second Influence feature!  Now, I realize Miep Gies is a preettttty tough act to follow, but we’ll try our best.  Too many role models, too little time.  Our second person to be featured in Influence is also from the Netherlands (perhaps we should have a sub-category of Dutch Influence all-stars?)   Iekeliene Stange is a Dutch fashion model, photographer and all-around creative force to be reckoned with.  Born on July 27th, 1984, she was initially scouted in Rotterdam, where she was enrolled in a multi-media design program, and then in London, where she had started to study photography.   Although Iekeliene hardly thought herself model material (she protested “But I’m not beautiful!” to her model scout, Victor de Bie), she gamely decided to give modeling a try with the intent of continuing it for a year or so in order to help fund her photography studies.   That plan of a one-year stint was parlayed into a significantly longer career; no easy feat, given that the modeling industry is a notoriously fickle.  Girls can be quickly replaced and discarded with an unsettling ease.   A model’s longevity can be generally be attributed to a good work ethic, artistic ability, ability to fit the particular “look” of the season and a variety of other factors mainly out of one’s control.  Iekeliene’s success in fashion land owes itself to a little something extra: her ability to stay completely and proudly true to herself.

iekeliene stange pretty much rules

I’ll confess the fangirling upfront: Iekeliene Stange is one of my favourite models.  I first heard of her when I stumbled upon her LiveJournal blog via Elyse Sewell’s LiveJournal (mild tangent alert: I can’t recommend Elyse’s LJ enough!  It reinforces why the internet is such a spectacular thing.  Alas, it seems like she doesn’t update much anymore, but the archives are all there for the reading.)  I was immediately captivated by Iekeliene’s thoughtful and whimsical outlook on life.  She has a very sharp, extremely distinctive face (think the personification of a female elf), and completely and confidently owns it.  From her colourful outfits that are re-imagined in a variety of ways, her chronicles of “Bjornvild: The Traveling Pony,” to pancake parties and adventuring photoshoots with friends, she is unapologetically imaginative.  It’s a rare person who can sport a tutu on the regular without veering into hopelessly twee territory… or, y’know, ridiculous territory.  Her enjoyment of simple pleasures and her resolution to make her own fun was misinterpreted by some, who saw all of this as “childish” rather than “childlike.”  The demise of her LiveJournal happened when some member of some horrid model-rating community started leaving vicious comments about her appearance.  I just can’t fathom why or how some people could be so deliberately malicious to someone they’ve never met, just for the sake of being cruel.  A flurry of comments- – both defending Iek and agreeing with the internet ghouls- -ensued.  Iekeliene kept posting a few more times, but these few people kept up with their negativity.  Finally, she closed down her blog, explaining that it was originally just intended for friends and family anyway.  I felt a bit dejected about this end, especially about the circumstances in which it came about. 

About six months passed, until, in a particularly epic bout of procrastination (and having seen her in a pirate-themed Galliano show), I looked up her name.  Lo and behold, Iekeliene just had her first solo photography exhibition, and it featured some of my favourite pictures she had taken.  And the title of the show?  I Like Ponies.  Ah!  I felt joyful and triumphant and as if all was right with the world.  It was a nice little reminder that just by being true to yourself, the world is so much better off for it.  You are so much better off for it.  Let the haters drink their haterade.

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A section of the I Like Ponies exhibit


Apr 15 2010

Mid-Week Dance Party! (April 14th, ’10)

Hello, friends!

What a great day it is today!  The sun is shining and the lawnmowers are out for their first whirl.  Naturally, I am inside and wearing a delightfully wierd sweater that is actually kind of itchy but I suffer through it in hopes that the “delightfully weird” part will triumph over the “itchy fibres fusing to my skin” part… as you do.   I’m also watching hilarious videos on Youtube.  Life is, indeed, grand. 

Coco Rocha is a 21-year-old Canadian supermodel with an engaging personality and a distinctive face.   Possessing both brains and beauty in equal measure – like, a truckload of measure - she is fully deserving of the rarified “supermodel” tag.   Rocha deserves her own article detailing her various charity works and her brave public stance against the overwhelming demand for increasingly thinner and thinner models in the fashion industry (a move that could have very well gotten her blacklisted), so I’ll be writing about that shortly.   How does Coco Rocha fit in today’s MWDP?  The girl knows the value of a spontaneous dance party, as her charming homemade music videos can attest.   There’s one video in particular that tugs my heartstrings, and that’s the one of Coco and her father dancing to “I Wanna Be Like You” from Disney’s The Jungle Book.   This video is equal parts “awwww” and “doing your best impressions of jungle animals,” so let’s check it out:

Coco Rocha and Trevor Haines- The Jungle Book

Seriously- their commitment to all the lip-synching and their synchronized dance moves are hella impressive.   I also think it’s pretty adorable that Coco’s dad seems just as into the song (if not even more so) as Coco.

I wanna walk like you! Talk like you! You see it’s true-ue-ue!

Kylie


Feb 13 2010

McQueen Is Dead: Long Live McQueen

 

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Yesterday, I was completely gutted to hear of Lee Alexander McQueen’s untimely death.  He was only 40 years old.  Only 40 years old, and yet he left behind a powerful legacy of creating, re-defining and expanding our concepts of beauty and art.  His creations proved, time and time again, that fashion is art, and that fashion is worthwhile.  Many people credit McQueen as the designer who inspired that breakthrough, and who initially inspired their interest in fashion.   His creations were never merely snippets of fabric or presented for empty shock value; they were masterpieces, works of art, ideas, thoughts, visions, reactions, stories, and concepts.  He was a true visionary who often explored the worlds of the ethereal and the macabre, and with a penchant for historical, royal, gothic and futuristic themes. 

McQueen expertly navigated tradition and innovation.  He was known for his meticulous tailoring (a skill that currently seems to be on the decline), and his clothes were a celebration of the male and female form.  He often wore kilts of his family’s tartan, and wool, tartan, lace and houndstooth were popular fabrics in his collections.  While working on Savile Row in the early ’90s, he allegedly embroidered curse words in the linings of Prince Charles’ suits (“I am a c*nt,” to be exact) and his cheeky (er, literally) collection featuring “bumster” trousers in the mid-90s earned his notoriety and the reputation as an “enfant terrible” of fashion.  A completely self-made man, McQueen hailed from London’s East End, and was the son of a cab driver.  He developed a lasting relationship with his mentor, the iconic Isabella Blow (who plucked him out of obscurity), and remained very close with his mother.  Despite his rising success, Alexander McQueen’s sense of humour, kindness and loyalty remained firmly grounded.  When the supermodel Kate Moss was engulfed in a drug scandal, and many other designers (including those Moss helped represent) were tripping over each other in efforts to disassociate themselves, McQueen publicly stood by his friend.   He was also a champion of models (and all women) with unconventional looks, and often employed Erin O’Connor and Karen Elson- models who carved their careers out of being outsiders, “freaks.”  (O’Connor is the model on the left-hand side of the second photo.) 

Although the fashion industry is often mired in scandal and frivolity, McQueen’s masterpieces are exemplary reminders of the power and potential of fashion.  They encourage us to find beauty in the most unlikely of subjects, including ourselves.  This visionary artist inspired us to imagine the world for what it could be.  The world is a slightly less brilliant and beautiful place without him. 

God Bless McQueen.

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(All images from hautemacabre.com)