Category: Fashion and Design

All things fashion and design.

James Murphy 1968-2016

James in Strawberry

James Murphy 1968-2016

If I only ever remembered one thing about you it’s that no matter how little you had, you always let me have half your noodle-roni when I didn’t have anything to eat. That when you had one cigarette left, you’d hand it to me for a few drags if I was already out and getting edgy. That when Carrie and I were evicted from our apartment and I had no place to live you let me move in with you in your tiny studio apartment on Jones street. There is no greater thing I can say of anyone but that they’re the kind of person who shares whatever they have during lean times with friends who have even less.

I haven’t seen you in over 20 years and on Friday you died. I’ve been watching all your friends and loved ones post memorials and it’s made me wonder if the James they knew was the same James I remember. I can’t grab hold of who you were to any of them because my memories of you are all from so long ago. The James I knew was technicolor the same as everyone else says you were, but you were also a dark sylph sucking all the marrow from life with a long wicked-sharp beak. You were Pan in a land of dancing naughty children, gathering souls to you like wildflowers choking to reach the sun of your misadventures.

We met over cheap FIDM vending machine coffee that cost 25 cents a cup and was occasionally decorated with a floating cockroach. The old Woolworth’s building was a monolith of aging tastes and teachers who couldn’t see beyond the cowl neck and pressed slacks that were chic when they were young middle class hopefuls themselves.  They didn’t know what to do with you or me. But like the obedient person I have always been at heart, I followed rules, I attended my classes and bided my time. You couldn’t be bothered with their bullshit and so they sent you packing.

I knew right away that you had the kind of raw talent that could turn Chanel on its tired ass. You inspired me constantly to expand my own design imagination. You predicted the return of platform shoes. You constantly stood at the junction between genius and self destruction. I’ll never know how far you took your talent, but I know that you could have bought the stars with your imagination if you set your mind to it.

You were behind most of the misadventures I had during that time in my life. I spent just as much time laughing with you as I did wanting to strangle you for not thinking about anyone else if it got in the way of your desire for novelty and fun. You’d share your last meal with me, but you also left me to walk home from that club on Brannon Street after you and Kurtis promised me you would give me a ride back home. You invited others back to our apartment and didn’t have room for me in the car. So I walked home alone.

That was the night I got mugged, you fucker.

You opened my world to new things in a way few have been able to do. Mostly because you were so damn tenacious. Like the time you wore me down until I agreed to read Bukowski. Because of you I know I hate Bukowski’s work, but reading Hot Water Music was a rich formative experience you gave me as a writer. I learned that you can hate a writer’s work but still admire the fuck out of it. I don’t want to ever be sunk into his world again  but I learned something from his use of language. The weekend you went away and left me alone in our hot little apartment to read that damn book is one of my favorite memories. You gave that to me.

Because of you I know what it smells like when pints of blood pool on the floor and congeal. I’ll never scrub that smell out of my memory: sick thick cloying iron that fills your airways and then your stomach until you want to throw up. I thought you’d killed yourself or been murdered. I have never approached a bathroom with such horror and dread. When I didn’t find you in the bathtub dead, I spent hours calling everyone we knew and trying to imagine what could possibly have happened to you to lose so much blood.

Then you came limping through the door as cheerful as you always were, as though I hadn’t spent the last three hours in a mad panic. I came down so hard on you for that, that was probably the moment you realized you were living with a pinchy old lady instead of a 20 year old. You left me no note, I accused. You couldn’t understand my anger when it was so obvious to you that you’d just stepped on the glass next to your bed and had to go to the hospital for stitches.

I remember that time you got those fat frozen steaks from your grandmother, wife of THE EVIL CATTLE BARON, and you decided to defrost a couple of those bad boys for supper. But then you went away for a few days on a whim. It took me two days to locate those rotting steaks in the oven where you left them. Another smell I couldn’t scrub from my nose for all of eternity.

You taught me that if someone suddenly has a pile of cocaine who has very little pin money for luxury drugs and offers you some:


I discovered how good baked garlic is smeared on expensive bread because your mom took our sorry asses out to a really nice restaurant to attempt to make amends with you. Making baked garlic always reminds me of that night.

We haven’t seen each other for over 20 years and our parting was one of those natural things that was right and necessary for us because we needed different things, needed to take different roads to different ports. I regret nothing.

Except that I never got to see your lumberjack beard in person. I regret that. The picture I’ve seen of you with that lush full beard, bald head, and plaid pants is my favorite look you’ve ever had and I never saw it in person.

You’re the first and only person I’ve ever thrown a hard object at with the intent to hit. I’m glad I wasn’t such a good shot then. Do you remember that hideous ceramic vase? A few years ago I threw it out  but I admit it was hard to do because it reminded me how you could bring out the very best and very worst in me.

I’m not going to miss you in the same way so many of your friends are desperately missing you right now. For them your death is visceral, fresh, and mean. But you and I said our goodbyes a hundred years ago, so I’m used to not having you in my life. Even so, I can tell you without hesitation that the world always takes a cut to the jugular when spirits like you leave it.

You lived and loved magnificently, my friend.

Don’t know where you’re headed but I’m willing to bet you’re trailing willing souls behind you like drunk lanterns lighting the places you’ve already been and holding up your beaded feathered train like mischievous acolytes of hell.

I will always love you, James.

A Whole Lotta Ugly: Spring Fashion 2013

Ugly Fashion

A couple of these items are not from the Spring 2013 collections.  All of them are, in my opinion, HIDEOUS.  Here are some notes I’m taking as I go through the Spring fashion magazines:

I didn’t previously have an opinion on Proenza Schouler but suddenly they are putting women in boxy ugy sleeveless jean-jacket style vests (not just boxy, more like putting women in BIG BOXES) and low slung hole punched leather skirts and my all time favorite “shoe” the tall toeless boot.  Why do they suddenly hate women so much?

Prada – what is up with the gross furs with the bright red splotches?!  Not mod.  It’s ugly ugly ugly!  Also – stop with the furs!  NO FURS.  I usually like Prada.  They make great sunglasses that I always wish I owned.  I’m hating this season’s collection pretty thoroughly.

Etro – continuing to vomit color and pattern all over bodies in the most indiscriminate way.  Garish, gross, hideous.

icb – is giving Etro a run for their money.  Why you hate women so much?!

Juicy Couture – always promoting tasteless hooker style.  Going strong this season.  I was going to say something about the rhinestones on sweat-clothes but have decided there’s no point.

Eileen Fisher – just surprised me.  This is not a designer that I generally pay attention to.  I really like the outfit in the Vogue ad – the striped sweater and the harem pant.  Really nice.  That’s something I’d wear.  Love it.  Not sure what the rest of her line looks like but now I’m interested.

Versace.  Oh lord.  Still making clothes for rich women who want to look sexy and oily and trashy but still very very rich.

Miu Miu is delivering some really nice style this season.  Also enjoying some pieces from Dolce and Gabbana – the striped cotton suit and the rose accessories are both really good.

I LOVE Carolina Herrera’s silk faille blouse with the long black skirt.  Herrera rarely disappoints me – her clothes are really feminine without being patronizingly girlish.  Very elegant and classic without being staid or boring.

Alexander McQueen!  I’m still so sad about his death but his top designer is doing a really great job of carrying on the line in, I think, the same spirit of rebellion and fun that McQueen has always been known for.  Opulence with humor and innovation.  This is the best of Brittish fashion in my opinion and I’ve enjoyed that Duchess Kate has worn McQueen on a number of occasions.

That’s all I’ve got today.  Now it’s time to get dressed and then draft some pockets for a shirt I just drafted and do a sample sewing to see how well it might work.  I spent yesterday evening drafting and it was so enjoyable.  Will be better if it actually works out well.  I watched Foyle’s War while I worked – a great show for sewing and drafting to.

What to Wear to Fight Your Healthcare Provider

What to Wear to Fight your Healthcare Provider

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to get medieval on corporate ears to be heard, when you have to stand up and shout at the top of your lungs to get services you’re paying for but aren’t receiving, and when you will have to be an automated telephone system’s worst nightmare.

And you need to be ready for that day.

Get some armor to protect your vital organs from corporate whiplash.

Wear the biggest baddest pair of keister-kicking boots you can get your feet into.

While tiny cooter-revealing skirts or skintight pants might make you feel like a superstar they will not impress your healthcare provider. Command respect in a floor length voluminous skirt – the kind you can hide weapons in.

Hide weapons in it.

Add polish to your look with a neat and trim capelet, studded cuffs (for a most tough appearance), and acorn earrings to summon the courage and power to deflect lightening.

Go forth and irritate the hell out of your health care provider until you wear them completely down, and they take care of you the way they promised they would when they lined their offices with your paychecks.

How to Have a Cold in Style

How to Have a Cold in Style

So, you have caught your death of a cold, C’est grave! The cold, she is a vixen, n’est pas?

I am here to help you dress for this serious occasion. First of all, don’t wear color. Wearing color shows an unbecoming level of optimism that may attract the vultures of fate. You want to stick to black and grey. It’s important to appear to take your condition very seriously.

A large loose comfy chunky warm sweater will keep you feeling hugged as though by a big blanket. But this is not enough – next you must wrap your neck with a very big warm shawl or scarf – big enough to cover half your face. This will help you look as pathetic as you feel. Bottoms that are soft and warm are recommended. Slippers are more convincing than going barefoot which implies you are of stout enough health not to complain about a little cold. People who are really sick always wear slippers.

Have much tissue close at hand.

Art depicting skulls or bones will make you feel a little better because you still (presumably) have flesh on yours. For now, anyway.

Your mug may be bright and sunny, for all the evil eye knows you may have had it for ages. Cling to this mug with all your strength and beg someone to keep it filled with hot liquids. If you’re truly on your deathbed you may as well make it a hot whiskey beverage.

Schedule an appointment with your local funeral home. You may survive this cold, but if you don’t, it’s the least you can do for your loved ones.

Building Visible Inspiration

I offer no tutorial on how to make these doors but if you want to know more about what I did you can go and Behold My Inspiration Doors!  I used to tape magazine pictures to my bedroom walls as a teenager and these doors reminded me of that.  While in nearly every respect I would rather throw up for a month than revisit any part of being a teen – this may actually be one of the few fun things I remember about it.  Feeling free to paste inspiration all around you with lowly tape and tacks.

These are my inspiration doors that I put together because I don’t have any wall space in my office to hang an inspiration board.  I need to be able to SEE what my personal goals are and be inspired to work towards them every day.  My friend Sarah suggested using an inspiration board and I loved the idea.  I’d had some shady idea of something similar for a while – but I wanted to be able to see outfits of mine that I want to wear again.  So I thought a free-standing set of doors would be perfect for pinning fabric swatches and magazine pictures to while also being a great way to hang up garments that I want to be able to wear again.

Like this polka dot shirt.  The great thing about this shirt is that it ALMOST fits me now.  I could be wearing this in a couple of months if I stick with my goals.  I also hung up (but it’s not particularly visible here) my prettiest never-worn bra.  I bought it because it was cheap and because I had a bout of wishful thinking one day.  It’s about 1.5 sizes too small.  Not an unreachable goal to wear that one this year.

I am making my theme for the year: polka dots, stripes, and roses.

I used to mix all three of those patterns at once in various ways.  I’m not comfortable doing that at the size I’m at now but I’m determined to add some of each of these patterns back into my wardrobe even if only as scarves.

I’m really happy with my doors.  I haven’t had a lot of time to really play with them but I used the Barnes and Noble gift card my brother gave me for Christmas to buy an i-D mag ($$) and a couple of British fashion magazines.  the pictures on my doors right now are from a spread in i-D the winter issue #322.  So I’ve been pulling out pictures and going through all my old binders of fashion pages too.  All while watching SNL reruns, our current favorite nightly family entertainment.

In order to bring these doors into my office I had to finish unpacking all my craft crap and miscellaneous “How the fuck did this not get weeded out and left in Oregon?” crap and my office is now so much better!  It also was the last of my household needing unpacking for the move so it was nice to finish it before the new year.  Everyone knows you have to weed your junk out many times before you get rid of everything you really have no use for but I found a piece of fabric that I have continually decided to hang onto for years that I hate.  I mean, it’s probably great for someone, but it is a slinky black fabric with a huge bold red and white print all over it that isn’t my style.  I bought it at a deep discount and that’s the only excuse I can come up with for why I even bought it in the first place.  Quite a few yards of it.  I have culled through my stash of fabric many times and that wad of ugliness never got tossed.  I am all amazement!

Starting the new year out with dark confessions and a clean office and visual inspirations has made me feel cleaner and brighter.  My office is now a place for creating and writing and


Day 3 of January and I’m feeling pretty good.  How about you?

What to Wear to Whip 2013 into Submission

New Year's Eve - how to kick 2013's ***


Let’s not beat around the bush – 2012 was a thumping BITCH of a year for most of us.  This is why it’s imperative to start 2013 off with the right attitude.  You need to be ready to KICK ITS ASS TO THE CURB before it wedges its boot up yours.

Always start with your head – put a tiara on it.  A big one.  The more you look like a snow queen with no feelings the better – chill the shit out of 2013 with a single look.

It’s wise not to go too punk rock because you don’t want to suggest that you can’t kick ass in a dress – if you don’t know how to kick ass in a dress that needs to be your first goal of the year: learn to throw a hard hook while wearing a gown.  Know how to deliver a side kick in long skirts.  Go with a sequined short dress and wear a fetching long skirt underneath.

The message is: “You want my Gi-Gi?  You’re going to have to get through my layers first – and I’m not talking about my damn skirt!”

A little edge to keep your look from getting too curly is good – this can be accomplished with a leather or metal cuff.  Spikes may offer a good side-blow to your hook.

Shoes: must be flats.  Don’t give me that bullshit about kicking ass in 5″ heels.  I’ve seen you all try to run in your spikes.  Would you run a marathon in Manolos?  2013 is going to be a marathon and you need to win it.  Go with ballet flats or boots or sneakers – sequins, leather, ruffles, bows – it doesn’t matter how you fluff them up – but keep your feet connected to the earth and you will have 2013 whipped like cream.

Cheers t0 2013 being everything you make it be!

What to Wear Foraging for Nettles

What to Wear Foraging for Nettles

Foraging for nettles is a gentle activity but the most important thing you must keep in mind is that other people are doing less gentle activities in the woods with guns. To prevent an unfortunately early demise it is advisable to wear really bright colors on your person so that you don’t accidentally look like a dear or a bear or a duck.

Early spring is a muddy time of year unless you live in an arid climate, in which case you won’t be finding any nettles in the first place. Wear wellies to keep your socks dry. They have the added benefit of protecting you from being stung by the nettles.

You can cut nettles with scissors, of course, but you will take your adventure more seriously if you cut them with an actual knife. The added benefit of using a knife is that if you run into any hunters specifically seeking out chic nettle foragers you will be armed with something more intimidating than scissors.

You will observe the absence of gloves. Do you suppose that if you had to survive in the woods you would be clever enough to remember to bring gloves? If you meditate on the activity you are engaged in and become one with the nettles you’ll probably still get stung but you’ll feel very relaxed about it.

What To Wear While Spring Cleaning

What To Wear While Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning your house can be an emotional and exhausting activity so it is therefor imperative that you dress in cheerful colors that will prevent you from spiraling into a decline when you uncover disturbing things like fossilized gummy bears in your costume jewelry box and the “pottery” you made in 8th grade that you used as a weapon against your old roommate.

It is time to purge these things from your life and to do this you will need copious amounts of tissue NOT because it’s so sad to let go of your childhood artifacts that you don’t even remember liking when you were a child but because the dust will KILL you!

A scarf or hat to hold your hair out of your watering eyes is recommended. Keeping shoes on during this activity is also recommended because you will have to make many trips to the garbage in the storms spring brings.

Comfort is key but you must be sure not to dress as shabbily as the crap you’re getting rid of.

Lastly, do wear some form of acorn on your person because it is a sign of strength and good luck and you’re going to need lots of that!

What to Wear While Making Bread

What to Wear While Making Bread


The single biggest mistake people make while baking bread is to offend the yeast by wearing sweats or other ratty clothes signifying a level of disrespect not worthy of bread. It is vital that you dress as though you give a shit and this means:
Wear underwear
Long black skirts – the more like something your Grandma wore as a girl in the old country the better.
Colorful cheerful (but not insipid) top.
Chandelier earrings because baking bread is better than going to the prom.
Headscarf – because your hair should never touch your dough and you should look charming holding it back.
Make up – even if it’s just a little lip gloss and cheek pinching – look like you’re about to meet up with a lover who doesn’t wear white tube socks.
Lastly, and most importantly, you must serenade the yeast for best results. Ideally you will play songs on an accordion while the yeast is proofing. If you don’t have your own accordion or your skill with music is abysmal – play old songs on your 78 record player until your bread is in the oven.

What to Wear to Beg the Power Company to Not Turn Off Your Power

What to Wear to Beg The Power Company Not To Turn Off Your Power


It is devastating when the power company comes to turn off your power in the middle of winter just because you’re a “little” behind on payments. It is important to take care how you dress if you plan to plead with them while standing in your driveway. The most important thing is that you need to look cold. This will appeal to the mercy of the shut-off man.

To look cold it is recommended that you still be in your sleepwear. You want to avoid looking slatternly while still being under-dressed for the cold. The general look is one of haste and surprise (because otherwise you’d just look stupid standing around outside in your flip flops when snow has been predicted). Your shivering will make the power guy very uncomfortable. (Suppressing a few sobs is also effective but more difficult to achieve.)

Fingerless gloves are Dickensian and appropriate whenever one wants to look like they can’t afford a whole pair of gloves or to imply that one has worn through the fingers with hard work. Very effective for looking pathetic.

Lastly, it is recommended that your choice of jewelry be fresh and young implying a certain level of innocence which will enhance the shut-off guy’s guilt in turning off your power. He will probably still turn it off, but at least you will have succeeded in ruining his day.