Leah Hennessey’s Closet

Leah Hennessey, from the band Make Out, in an interview from StyleLikeu. She speaks eloquently on why she takes clothes seriously, the bizarre relationship between desire and attainability in fashion, and the joy of dressing as a character.

Lit Links

Jesse Anne O always writes thoughtfully about fashion and ethical purchasing, so this post on her relationship with the “impulse buy” and the idea of the essential piece of clothing is no surprise. She talks about the want/need split in a refreshing way- where does aesthetic expression fall in that dichotomy?

  • What The Right Clothes Mean To You: “Why shouldn’t I have it? I “needed” it to be comfortable and appropriate for work and the weather (all seasons). Some of these would be integral to me having an aesthetic I like. Some of these would make getting dressed easier and give me some dressing flexibility, which will help me feel more “me”, right?”

While I believe that all clothing involves performance and that all gender presentation is also performative, I’m definitely aware that some gender/clothing decisions are read as “natural” and that others are read as “performance.” That’s what makes drag so interesting… I recently read a piece in the New Yorker by Alex Ross on the gay community’s political and representational journey- its progress and the room for continued change. It doesn’t focus on drag, certainly, but he addresses the role of drag in the gay community and the ways in which it can be potentially charged as a misogynist act or read as a celebration of the dance of gender- its flexibility. 

  • Love on the March: “The trickiest component of gay-male culture is the role of women in its midst. Feminist critics have long detected misogynist mockery in drag acts and in gay men’s howling response to melodramatic scenes that were not intended to be funny, such as Joan Crawford’s verbal annihilation of her aloof, ingrate daughter in “Mildred Pierce.” Halperin, like many before him, sees a more complex identification at work. Crawford maintains a flawlessly high pitch as she gyrates between “feminine glamour” and “feminine abjection,” and the typical gay male viewer may feel at home at both extremes: so many gay kids work at presenting a perfected surface to the world, and so many are hounded by the fear that some grotesque exposure will tear it down.         At the same time, the plunge into abjection can be liberating—“the politics of emotion,” Halperin calls it, of “losing it,” of “righteous, triumphant fury.” (That young man at the Jack in the Box, despite his frat-boy affect, had a Joan Crawford quality.) Furthermore, as the feminist theorist Judith Butler has argued, these extravagant diva turns, and, more particularly, the drag acts that perpetuate them, reveal the artificiality of conventional gender roles, the “hyperbolic status of the norm itself.” As Halperin puts it, “every identity is a role or an act.” It’s just that straight-male performance is granted instant authenticity. Super Bowl Sunday, seen from a certain angle, is a pageant as intricate and contrived as the annual invasion of the drag queens on Fire Island.”

And here we have another form of very high stakes gender performance… Kiana Hayeri’s photo series of Iranian women in and out of hijab is provocative and thoughtful. 

  • Your Veil is a Battleground: “In diptych portraits (Slides 15 through 20), Ms. Hayeri photographed her subjects with and without clothes or makeup. She said their choice of material for the hijab and their makeup allows them to have some control over how they present their public persona.

    “They use color and fashion to make them stand out from the crowd,” she said. “When they put on the hijab and makeup, they are more powerful.”

    The issues are complex. Women are restricted in public, sometimes for wearing too much makeup. But makeup, in a sense, is a veil too, covering a woman’s real appearance.”

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