*Larita Kutsarita - n. see THE AUTHOR
*Spoonfuls - n. articles/dispatches/scribbles by Larita Kutsarita
(Background photo by Aiess Alonso)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Lola Within a Material(ist) Girl: From "Lao Lao" to "How to Wear the 'Shkirt'"

While "Kabayan" was busy drowning Christopher Lao's car at Mother Ignacia (without informing him, mind you. The nerve!), which would later expose his arrogance in his reaction after he was rescued by concerned "swimmers" nearby, I was stuck at home coercing my brain cells to write something.  Anything.

My months-long literary drought is one of the factors that have greatly affected my recent moods (which would range from "I don't want to live today" to "I feel like killing someone today"), style of work, and overall disposition.  Apparently, this was around 24 hours before I discovered what would be the subject of most online bloggers, tweeters (is that what you call people with Twitter accounts?), trolls, etc. in the next few days.  And all these have entertained me even more than the online hullabaloo triggered by Rebecca Black.  I mean, Black was clueless and can't be blamed entirely for today's pop culture trash.  I can forgive stupidity, but arrogance from a UP graduate owning a car, demanding that everyone tell him it was flooding like Noah's era without asking anybody a single friggin' question was beyond my tolerance.  A friend and I even agreed that PNoy should replace his metaphorical allusions of "Wang wang" with "Lao Lao" which will mean--in addition to PNoy's many versions of said metaphor--"people belonging to a class higher than most, with relatively 'great' achievements as defined by the status quo (a Law degree, laude honors, a position in the University Student Council under the banner promoting multiperspective activism, and whatnot) pointing fingers at everyone but him/herself for a wrong that he/she clearly committed."  There are many Lao Lao's out there, after all, and they deserve to be given a new sort of taxonomy.

Anyways, right before the Lao Lao ideas came in, I resorted to my one guilt trip besides Katy Perry (during her pre-blonde Smurfette and "Firework" days--that godawful song): Fashion.  There are times when I am a bit ashamed of my fondness for clothes, shoes, and accessories--and virtually anything you can wear, really--because I know that forwarding the people's struggle also has to entail the process of assuming a simple lifestyle.  Whenever I would wear red lipstick or anything that's actually nice, fellow activists would ask me "where I was going."  I happen to be not the only one who is subjected to this uncomfortable situation.  Rose, a close friend, also questioned why being "tibak" means having to be constricted to shirts, jeans, and sneakers.  I mean, who wants to explain what she's wearing, right?

I only consider myself a victim, growing up on Vogue back issues (because we were never rich enough to get the latest copies), romancing the 60s jumpsuits Mick Jagger so seduced many teenage girls with, the shade of red lips his longtime love, Jeri Hall, had popularized in the 70s,

and whatever else that I experienced that led me to falling in love for the first time, without any possibility of a broken heart.  Seriously, I developed a love for wearing art at a young age.  I tried to hide it through all those years until college, hugely because Mama was the one who picked and bought my clothes, so I never had any say, except on what other people wore.

When I was five or so, I was made to believe that I was a real fashion designer.  When Papa was away in his lay missionary work, I spent most of my early childhood in the province in the company of my Mother and her three sisters--the "Little Women," I call them.  My aunts' female friends would drop by to gossip and occasionally ask me to draw dresses and suits for them, the renderings of which I happily sprinkled with lots of bows, ruffles, and flare pants (gawd, I still adore those.  I owned ten of them when I was in first year college, until skinnies became the norm).  They took home my sketches and, during their next house calls, would lie to me about getting my designs made or tailored, and actually wearing them to the "office" or "party" of some sort.  Of course, I only believed them up until I realized that most of them did not work in an office (because they were housewives), and cocktail parties were an impossible sight in a little barangay near the public cemetery in the province.  The epiphany was awful.  It felt like when I was eight, waking up one December midnight to go pee-pee, and finding my Mother wrapping presents in the living room with the late night TV show on.  "No wonder, Santa's handwriting looked a lot like Mama's," I thought.  I don't remember if my Mother noticed my presence, but what I do remember was afterwards: I went back to bed like nothing happened, but knew that I was already incapable of an uncontrived child's imagination.

I first learned how to draw when my youngest aunt taught me how to sketch angels standing on clouds with halos over their heads.  As time went by, I thought my angels looked prettier if they wore gold stud earrings and then, later on, gold ballet flats, instead of standing barefoot on otherwise perfectly comfortable fluffy clouds.  My eldest aunt, Tita Manay, and Lola also happened to be seamstresses, although not professionally.  They had these thick fashion magazines that didn't just have advertisements, models smiling from glossy pages, but also step-by-step instructions on "how to sew/make" the photographed garments, complete with accompanying illustrations of the stitches, patterns, and the like.  It was pretty amazing, actually.  Problem was, these magazines were in Chinese, or Korean, or Japanese--I wasn't sure which--so nobody at home really bothered to read the glossies,
although the Little Women would joke that I must have understood the text because back then, I had the smallest eyes in the family.  Such racists.  Up to now, Mama still uses "Chinky" as a term of endearment even if my eyes already grew to their current rounder, bigger size.

Nevertheless, the pictures were a delight.  I remember that the first color I learned spell was "Maroon."  I was enamored by this particular photo of a woman's tailored suit whose color I found both alien and fascinating enough to ask my Mother about.

My Lola was a different story, altogether.  She liked her stuff really old school, as in all of it.  She had this ancient sewing machine that she never replaced even if it was almost unusable.  Her scissors are all black and rusty, her dresser was filled with buttons from lost garments instead of the other way around, her clothes with impossibly old prints of paisely, velvet details, and dark florals.  Whenever I go into Lola's bedroom, I feel like I just got out of a time machine.  I love it!

What I'm trying to say is, it is no small wonder why I put on what I put on.  Growing up surrounded by women who actually give a damn about what they wear has made me this person who simply ogles at Annie Hall's refreshing andogynous look in the late 70s, which Diane Keaton seemed to have acuired up to her golden years (I heard that the actress chose her wardrobe, herself in the 1977 Woody Allen flick),

Left: Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall"; Right: Keaton at present
is completely in love with the original styles of Hollywood icon, Katharine Hepburn, who ushered in the men's trousers to women's closets in the 40s, when it was just plain abominable for girls to wear pants,
fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg, who "invented" the wrap dress in the 70s,
and current fashion icon and critically acclaimed actor, Chloe Sevigny, who can channel any kind of vintage and gets away with it.
Fashion just offers so many inspirations.  To me, the classics are still the best choices.  Maybe that's why I've been told that I wear too many "Lola clothes."  If that means I don't follow trends, then that's good enough for me.  To be compeletely honest, though, I'm not that free a bird when it comes to wearing stuff.  I have clarified a few rules for myself, such as: Only wear red lipstick when you're going au natural in the rest of your face; Never wear heels when you're not going to a formal event, and on said formal event, take them devils off every now and then.  I ABHOR heels. I think that they're oppressive patriarchal state apparatuses (really!); Do not get too matchy-matchy (i.e. shoe color same as belt color as bag color).  The secret is in the MIXING of colors, however odd they may seem at first (brown and pink, violet and red, etc.); NEVER, ever limit awesome fashion to high-end brands.  Don't be afraid to wear the "unknown's," and go to ukay-ukay stores an hour before they close, because they'll be a lot more receptive to haggling (tried and tested).  Also, when choosing clothes at thrift/secondhand shops, be impossibly picky on details, bring all your garment options around with you all the time for selfish purposes, obviously, and then choose the ones that take your breath away in the end, which means you have to do away with at least two pieces; Hit the "sale" racks first.  And if it's not "to die for," even if it's 50% off, DON'T BUY IT; The best source of apparel, though, is your closet.  Experiment and layer with various pieces.  You may even try the seven-piece, seven-day challenge in which you will wear seven pieces of clothing by mixing any number of them, spread out through the entire week.  This also saves laundry. Just don't include underwear!; Do not fear "doing it yourself." 

I can mention some other rules, but hey, there shouldn't be that many when you actually want to wear art.  "Let a hundred flowers bloom and a thousand schools contend," right, Mao?  If you're an artist, you'll never run out of ideas.  People whose styles I admire in real life are Gilyanne Blancaflor, Daena de Guzman (her handpainted bags are freakin' awesome!), the Dalena sisters, and of course, probably my biggest influence and the fashion icon of mine, whose vast collection of native bead accessories is most enviable, who introduced me to sneakers and slingback flats, and who taught me how to spell "Maroon," my Mother, Carolina Mendizabal.

This is my first ever "The Lola Within a Material(ist) Girl" spoonful, a series of which, I hope, will be writings on what it really means to wear art, on not putting fashion on such a high pedestal (sorry, Ms. Wintour), on anything that's decadent based on how old and nostalgic it is to me ('cause I'm a cool "Lola" like that), and on inventing something that's just plain genius--which is my all-time dream, by the way.

Below is an exciting way to wear the long sleeve shirt as a skirt.  I call it the "shkirt." Not my invention, though, nope.  I made sure to do this at least once in my life.  A mind-boggling yet prodigious look.  It's best to use the boyfriend shirt that's really loose with really long sleeves for better knotting and shaping.  I did the "mini" version, though.  No regrets.  Try it, yourself!
 1) Pick your button-down long sleeve shirt.

2) Position the collar around waist, and button it around a tight enough area so it holds, but skip a button or two at the bottom for an assymetrical hemline.

3) Carefully tie the sleeves in a knot/bow, and...

4) ...VOILA!  Meet.  "The shkirt!"
So, next time anybody asks you what the hell you're wearing, just answer, "What I have been socialized to wear."

"Fashion is only the attempt to realize art in living forms and social 
intercourse." - Sir Francis Bacon

"A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed."
- Coco Chanel

“The burden of originality is one that most people don't want to accept. They'd rather sit in front of the TV and let that tell them what they're supposed to like, what they're supposed to buy, and what they're supposed to laugh at."
"I find beautiful in the ugly."
- Marilyn Manson 

"When in doubt, wear red."
- Bill Blass

"Above all, remember that the most important thing you can take anywhere is not a Gucci bag or French-cut jeans;
it's an open mind."
- Gail Rubin Bereny

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