Best and worst Oscar dresses

February 11, 2020 • 3:00 pm

Surprise—it’s my first fashion post! But I do pay attention to fancy dresses at awards shows (men are boringly similar in tuxedos, and when they deviate, it’s usually horrible). I didn’t watch the Oscars, but am a sucker for collections of red-carpet pictures on some websites. These are from Vogue, and I’ve looked at other sites as well. I’m just going to award Best Dress and Worst Dress. (Photos by Getty Images.)

Best dress: It’s Natalie Portman, who chose to make a political statement with her dress by having the names of un-nominated female directors embroidered tastefully on her Dior Haute Couture gown. It’s not that revealing compared to, say, what Charlize Theron wore (a lovely dress in itself), but it’s classy and tasteful, and nicely complemented by the cape.

And Titania weighs in:


Worst dress. Kristen Wiig. What was she thinking? (The designer wasn’t even identified, and I’d recommend that he or she hide out for a while.) This dress has been compared to lasagna, and you can see why. As a biologist, I’d say it resembles a nudibranch.


Magnificent Chromodoris Nudibranch (Chromodoris magnifica). Moalboal, Philippines

Misguided accusations of cultural appropriation: The Big Nightcap Kerfuffle

July 30, 2019 • 10:00 am

I’lll be out of the office much of today, so posting will be light. In fact, this may be the only piece of the day. So it goes.

We’ve seen many bogus accusations of cultural appropriation, all meant to lay claim to some item or food or behavior supposedly the property of one “culture” or “ethnic group.” Many of these, like dreadlocks or hoop earrings, are supposedly damaging to the “appropriated” group, but aren’t really. After all, as I’ve said repeatedly, the cross-fertilizations of cultures, whether the appropriation be “up” or “down”, is almost always salubrious. In fact, I can’t think of any examples where it’s been damaging, though I can think of hypothetical examples.

But sometimes the accusations aren’t just misguided, but incorrect. Such is the case of the “nightcap” kerfuffle roiling certain segments of the Internet.  You can read about it at this Today show website (click on screenshot below ), or many other places (e.g., NBC News, CNN, etc.)

The trouble started when Sarah Marantz Lindenberg (a marketing director) had an interview in Fashion magazine touting her new company’s product, “NiteCap”, a silk head wrap that she designed (and sold for $75) to protect her hair at night. (You can see one above.) Here’s the piece that got Lindenberg in trouble:

When asked about the product’s genesis, Marantz Lindenberg said this (note that the editors added a coda after publication; I’ve put it in bold).

How did you get the idea for NiteCap?

My concept came out of a problem that needed solving. I was preparing for my wedding and, like a lot of brides, wanted everything to be perfect. My skin was breaking out and I have quite long hair. I like the way it looks the second or third day after washing, so I don’t wash it every day. A dermatologist recommended that I sleep with my hair pulled back. Another physician recommended I try silk scarves, and I had fun playing around with them but they didn’t stay on. I did notice, though, that my skin cleared up from not having my hair on my face. I also noticed that my hair was shinier, thicker, and my blowouts lasted longer. There were products on the market but none of them had a functional and fashionable solution for me—synthetic fabrics that I felt did more damage, or horrible colours that I felt silly going to sleep in. It inspired me to create something of my own. Many people have told me that their grandmothers wrapped their hair, and my aunt recently told me that my great-grandmother wrapped her rollers in toilet paper after it was all styled and set. That was a lot less glamorous than my product, but the practice has been around a long time. (Editor’s note: Though not strictly used just for sleeping, the item has a long history in black hair culture.)

Well, the item has a long history, period—a history preceding the use of “sleep bonnets” by blacks (see below). But somehow her marketing of the silk headwrap got people ticked off, who then claimed that it was either a cultural appropriation of night bonnets (or day bonnets) worn by African-Americans, or perhaps that Marantz Lindenberg failed to acknowledge the African-American history. And so she got, as they say, “dragged” on Twitter. And then the media, hungry for stories, simply put the Twitter pushback together into an article, like the one at the top. Here’s some of that pushback.

From Today:

Howard University communications and culture professor Tia Tyree told NBC News that the African American community has touted the benefits of hair wraps for quite some time.

It didn’t matter that Marantz Lindenberg runs a small company that tries to employ women, guarantees good employment conditions, and tries to use sustainable methods of production. Those are good, but apparently not enough:

In a statement to TODAY Style, Marantz Lindenberg said the following: “Hair wrapping and sleep bonnets have been used for centuries and I have never once claimed to have invented or come up with the concept, despite many stories and posts misquoting me. I introduced my version because I was unable to find a product on the market that worked for me — made locally and sustainably and from natural materials.”

She also addressed concerns over the price: “The actual price of a NiteCap is $75 USD (the website is listed in Canadian dollars). The price point is such because it is made from 2 yards of 100% natural silk and creates minimal waste through a sustainable production process locally in Canada. We are also committed to supporting fair pay, worker safety and employ a female-owned and operated manufacturing facility.”

There are two problems here. First, the nightcap wasn’t designed or popularized by African-Americans: it has a long history in Europe, as noted by Wikipedia.  Perhaps in modern times it’s worn largely by African-Americans, or Africans, but I can’t speak to that. All I know is that Marantz Lindenberg doesn’t seem to have committed conscious theft of a design, and is fully aware that “the practice has been around long before her time.” Not good enough!!!!  She apparently has to acknowledge that the practice was adopted by African-American women—although before that it was used by European women.

Here’s a day bonnet, protecting the hair, from 1665. You’ve seen this, of course:

And there’s this (click on screenshot):

An excerpt:

Nightcaps or sleeping caps were worn while sleeping to keep the hair tangle-free and – especially silk nightcaps – to make the hair glossy. Nightcaps have a long history and even today silk caps are recommended for long or curly hair. Read on to find out why and how Edwardian and WW1 women wore nightcaps and how to make a vintage silk sleeping cap for yourself!

Some examples from that piece:

Were these appropriated from African-Americans, or Africans? I doubt it.

But who cares who invented it In fact, it was probably “invented” several times over as women discovered that wrapping your hair helped keep it neat and tidy.

The main question, though, is this: was damage done to the African-American community by Mantz Lindenberg’s silk headwrap?  And, as usual with these things, the answer is “no”. The only “damage” done was to the feelings of people who thought that the head bonnet was theirs, and that nobody can use it without acknowledging one group who uses it, and probably discuss the history of oppression of blacks in America. This is the same story we hear over and over again: with the kimono at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, with General Tso’s chicken at Oberlin, with whites wearing dreadlocks or hoop earrings, and so on. In no case was palpable harm done to the minority groups.

Nevertheless, Marantz Lindenberg issued the obligatory apology on Instagram, and Fashion Magazine also added it to the head of their interview with the note: “Editor’s note: we wanted to update this story with the Instagram post from Sarah Marantz Lindenberg from NiteCap.” 

So the Woke humiliate those who have violated their canons of purity. It would be interesting to analyze the psychology behind this kind of outrage, but I must pass on to other matters.

Saudi Arabia features fashion show with no models, only drones flying clothes down the catwalk

June 7, 2018 • 12:45 pm

Well, Saudi Arabia, had a “Fashion Week” during Ramadan, but something was missing. Models—women models.  Instead of actual physical women wearing the clothes down the catwalk, they used drones.  Here you go. It’s creepy as all get out!

Now it’s true, as noted, that handbags and clothes have been displayed in Italy and California via drones, but this case seems to be religious:

The city’s recent fashion week featured clothes from some of the world’s most expensive designers — including Dolce & Gabbana — all of which were awkwardly shown off and modelled down the catwalk by drones.

Because why would you need six-foot models to show off $1000-plus gowns when you can hang it on a coathanger and float it down a runway instead?

Saudi Arabia is still ultra-conservative, meaning Riyadh’s fashion week kept its audiences female-only and male fashion designers weren’t even allowed backstage at their own shows.

According to local news site The New Arab, organisers for the fashion show said the use of drones was a first for the Middle Eastern country and said the odd technique had been used to make sure the show was “Ramadan appropriate”.

The peculiar catwalk, which featured the clothes creepily billowing as they were driven throughout the room, has since been mercilessly mocked online.

Now there are clearly men and women watching these drones, so I’m not sure why they say the audiences were “female only”, even if the females were clad in abayas.

In such cases, mockery is the only appropriate response. The Washington Post reports that the show took place in Jiddah, not Riyadh, as the noted. There appears to have been a similar fashion show in Riyadh in April.) The post adds this:

The presentation was intended as a gimmick and designed to make the show stand out to buyers in the fashionable coastal city. However, in a country where women are still bound by conservative ideas about modesty, the replacement of women with flying robots prompted widespread mockery — and in some cases, outrage.

On social media, some posters compared video from the show unfavorably to a horror film, with users suggesting that the floating dresses looked as if they were being worn by ghosts.

The reaction to the show is probably not what the organizers intended.

. . . Traditionally, Saudi Arabia has set restrictions on the types of clothes women can wear. The country legally requires women to cover themselves while in public by wearing an abaya, a loosefitting cloak. Many Saudi women are also expected to wear some kind of hijab or head covering, and some opt to cover their face with a niqab. These expectations are more relaxed in Jiddah, a relatively liberal city.

Well, they weren’t relaxed vis-à-vis the damn drones! Seriously, what is the point of trying to sell, or even show, clothes that are supposed to look good on women if the women aren’t allowed to wear them on the catwalk.

Will you see any of this on the Western feminist websites? Don’t count on it.


Now hoop earrings have become cultural appropriation

October 19, 2017 • 12:30 pm

Among the venues becoming Authoritarian Leftist (actually, it’s been largely like that for a while) is Vice News, which now cements its ideology with an article called “Hoop earrings are my culture, not your trend.” It’s written by “Anonymous author,” which shows both the cowardice of taking this risible stand, but also the willingness of a supposedly respectable news site to refuse to divulge who writes their pieces.  What kind of journalism is that? This is not a leak from an anonymous source like Deep Throat. (As we’ll see below, the author has been identified.)

Anonymous, however, makes this argument. She could have stopped after the first sentence.

In the grand scheme of things, hoop earrings may seem insignificant. But seeing white women wearing them is unnerving. White girls did not start the “trend” of over-sized hoop earrings and yet they’re the ones being praised for donning the “edgy” style. Meanwhile, women of colour who wear them face racial stereotypes or the assumption that they’re participating in a disposable trend. Last month,Vogue declared up-dos and gold hoops to be the ultimate summer pairing. They credited a bunch of mainly white models with starting the trend and even proclaimed that “bigger is better.” Never has that been the case when it comes to women of colour wearing over-sized gold hoops. A style that links so heavily with identity is not taken seriously until it is seen on a white woman.

I’m not sure what it means to “be taken seriously until it is seen on a white women”. Another interpretation would be “the fashion industry just noticed that hoop earrings look cool, and have declared it a ‘thing‘.” That has nothing to do with the marginalization of women of color, only that there has to be a time when some appealing aspect of culture gets noticed and touted if it’s to spread to other cultures. After all, there was a time, long ago, when Chinese restaurants didn’t really exist as places for Americans to eat. Did their new popularity reflect that fact that their growth meant that they were finally taken seriously by white people? That’s one way of looking at it, I suppose, but it has nothing to do with the denigration of Asians. It has to do with finally noticing that Chinese food happens to be good! (I am a creditable Szechuan cook; does that make me extra guilty?)

The anonymous author goes on:

Earlier this year in the US, three latina students painted a mural urging their white classmates to take off their hoops. White confusion ran rampant, prompting one of the creators to explain that “This is about how women of colour can’t wear their own style and culture because they are looked down upon when they do so… But on the other hand, white females are allowed to appropriate the fashion when it is beneficial to them or makes them look edgy.”

I do try to keep my ear to the ground, but I’m unaware of black women or Latinas have been denigrated a lot for wearing hoop earrings. In fact, I’ve never heard of a single instance. Was that some kind of bigotry that I missed?

Actually, as The Claremont Independent reports, what was  painted was not really a “mural” but graffiti created by three Latina students at Pitzer College in California. Here it is:

One of the “artists,” a student at Pitzker College, notes that these earrings, and other decorations, are “symbols of resistance” that cannot be appropriated:

“[T]he art was created by myself and a few other WOC [women of color] after being tired and annoyed with the reoccuring [sic] theme of white women appropriating styles … that belong to the black and brown folks who created the culture. The culture actually comes from a historical background of oppression and exclusion. The black and brown bodies who typically wear hooped earrings, (and other accessories like winged eyeliner, gold name plate necklaces, etc) are typically viewed as ghetto, and are not taken seriously by others in their daily lives. Because of this, I see our winged eyeliner, lined lips, and big hoop earrings serving as symbols [and] as an everyday act of resistance, especially here at the Claremont Colleges. Meanwhile we wonder, why should white girls be able to take part in this culture (wearing hoop earrings just being one case of it) and be seen as cute/aesthetic/ethnic. White people have actually exploited the culture and made it into fashion.”

This issue was also taken up by the Independent (is that place going downhill, too?) in the following article (click on screenshot to go there), which identifies the Vice writer as Ruby Pivet, a Latina writer. How did they find out?

The Independent basically regurgitates the Vice piece, so you don’t need to read it. But when did reporting at a place like the Independent consist on pointing at and regurgitating an article from another news source?

At any rate, I seriously doubt that hoop earrings were originally worn as “symbols of resistance”: they are only declared so post facto to prevent others from wearing them.

And winged eyeliner? Amy Winehouse, clearly a cultural appropriator par excellence.

Gold nameplate necklaces? Fault Iggy Azalea, wearing her Twitter handle!

There are too many white women with lined lips to show, but, as the ultimate cultural appropriator of hoop earrings—who in fact has made them part of her image—I submit this for your disapproval:

Anita, take off your hoops!

Now here we have a real dilemma: which woman of color dares to call out Anita Sarkeeian for culturally appropriating their symbol-of-resistance jewelry? Or will Sarkeesian simply admit her ideological misstep and stop wearing her hoops?

Want more cognitive dissonance? Here’s feminist activist Emma Watson wearing the Earrings of Shame.

Emma, take off your hoops!

But—as with dreadlocks—hoop earrings, while they may have been adopted by Latinas, have also been adopted over the course of history by many groups. WUSA-9, a CBS station and site, says this:

So what is the origin of the hoop earring?

There is no pinpointing who was the first to rock [JAC: please excuse the preceding infelicity] a pair of hoop earrings, but the popular jewelry piece can be traced back to Ashurnasirpal II, King of Assyria (884-859 BCE), according to the Cultural Encyclopedia of the Body.

There is a depiction of the king wearing thick hoop earrings in a palace in the ancient city of Nimrud, which is modern day Iraq.

Hoop earrings were evident in the major cultures of the ancient world including with the Greeks and Romans.

Pirates and sailors also often wore gold hoop earrings. Seaman often wore the earrings as a mark of their travels, according to LiveScience.

Pirates also used hoop earrings for superstitious reasons since it was believed the metals in an earring contained magic healing powers. Others believed the earrings would keep them from drowning or sea sickness.

When a seaman died, the earring would pay for their funerals or to pay for their bodies to go back home. Pirates would even dangle wax from their earring to use as ear plugs for when firing cannons.

Even Wikipedia backs that up:

Ear piercing is one of the oldest known forms of body modification, with artistic and written references from cultures around the world dating back to early history. Gold, Silver and Bronze hoop earrings were prevalent in the Minoan Civilization (2000–1600 BCE) and examples can be seen on frescoes on the Aegean island of Santorini, Greece.

Here’s an example from a fresco on the Greek island of Santorini (Wikipedia caption)

A Fresco depicting an elegantly dressed woman with hoop earrings from Akrotiri, Thera (Cyclades) Greece, ca. 1650-1625 BCE.[2]
Did Latinas themselves culturally appropriate hoop earrings from ancient Greeks and Minoans? Who cares? As you know, I object to cultural appropriation only in the rare instances where it actually damages a group by degrading their image or reducing their livelihood without recompense. That’s not the case for hoop earrings, which are simply one more aspect of dress that has spread among groups because people like it. Cultural appropriation, a sign of flattery and admiration, has been turned into a grievous sin among Leftists.

But here nobody has been harmed. People have been offended, but that’s ginned-up offense, and I don’t take it seriously.

Hiroko successfully settles case against company producing knockoff cat shirts

February 25, 2016 • 11:30 am

A while back, the Japanese embroidery artist Hiroko Kubota produced a wonderful shirt for me on which she embroidered the likeness of Hili. Here’s one of the series of photos I posted:

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.40.09 AM

I really should wear this more often, but I’m afraid of wearing it out! Hiroko also produced a book of her cat shirts, and one of the sections features my shirt with the model:

Self aggrandizing photo

Now Hiroko informs me that a dastardly company, “Paul & Joe“, has ripped off her designs, producing embroidered cat towels, shirts, and slippers using her very embroidered designs. The ripoffs:

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.44.44 AM

Naturally, Hiroko filed a lawsuit, and this link shows that the company backed won, agreeing not to sell her designs on its clothing. I never cease to be amazed at the mendacity of some humans.

In the meantime, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Hiroko continues to make her famous cat shirts. You can see them on her flickr site (note: there are 9 pages!), and I put some of the nice cat designs below. (She also embroiders fish, fruit, frogs, flowers, d*gs, and so on.) The bad news is that she’s no longer selling them on her etsy site, and apparently makes them for Japanese customers only (I have registered a protest!).  Note: the previous sentence was in error. Hiroko will still make shirts for foreign customers, but takes orders only once a year. If you wish to contact her, you may be able to do it through the flickr site; if not, email me.

Some new designs:

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.52.37 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.54.25 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.53.24 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.54.57 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.57.11 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.56.16 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.56.30 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.58.48 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.58.57 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.59.25 AM

Go have a look—there are a gazillion shirts!


Best eye makeup ever?

August 11, 2013 • 8:43 am

From Bored Panda:

Check out this amazing cat make up by Tal Peleg, make up artist and designer from Israel! Tal turns her model’s eyebrow into a cat’s tail, and the body is painted on the upper eye lid. To make it more playful, the artist even attached a little thread ball under the bottom eye lid, with a purple thread going down the cheek.

“Beauty is all that we look at with love,” write Tal on her Facebook profile. As you’ll see in her portfolio, the artist loves playing with and combining different colors and inspiring ideas, and her works are like little manifestos of aesthetics and beauty.

Born in 1985, Tal specializes in bridal makeup products, events, fashion and special effects, also conducts make-up workshops for individuals and groups.

Picture 2

Go to Tai Peleq’s site for more bizarre (and also conventional) makeup ideas.

The reader who sent this had some doubts about it, but I don’t. I’d totally marry the first woman who crosses my path with eyes like that. (Only kidding!)

h/t: Su