Tag Archives: fashion

Havana Calling

havana

Freshly painted pink car in Havana – © iStockphotos.com/Christian Bernfeld – Source: http://www.timeout.com/travel/features/392/20-great-things-to-do-in-havana

This post comes a little belatedly, not because I didn’t know what to write, but because I was/am busy finishing up before I depart to feed my soul for two whole weeks.

That’s two weeks without working on my thesis, or thinking about deadlines, or marking papers, or answering questions to concerned parents who unknowingly turn up the stress factor by affectionate nagging.

That’s two weeks of engaging with an unknown place and people and experiences through creative writing and photography.

Godammnit, I can’t wait!

But le sigh. I have to finish a mountain of work before I get on that plane.

So on the eve of 23rd April, I completed four years of being a blogger. Ta-da!

What did I do that day? Nothing substantial. Meaning, no celebration as such. But possibly worked on a thesis chapter, as I have been doing every day now.

So here’s the lowdown. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I haven’t been publishing much lately. Not because I haven’t been sending my stuff out, or writing anything at all (Oh, but I have! So. MUCH.), but because I have been aiming higher.

By higher I mean I have been sending my work to journals where I truly want my work to be seen (won’t take names. Don’t make me! Not yet…). The result has been that I have also been getting a lot of rejection letters. Not form ones. Actual letters with feedback where most of them say:

We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, your piece was not selected for publication. We sincerely hope you will submit again in the future. 

ps. Thanks for the chance to read this. You do a great job of capturing voice in this piece. It made the shortlist for this round.

It made it to the shortlist! Atleast on three different occasions. Which means I am getting something right. In this essay on academics/writers and fashion, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says as much. She calls it “progress of sorts”. That’s where I am right now.

I have also been fashion blogging. It’s a one year project (not just for now. It just is.). It has been evolving and frustrating and fun and all kinds of mixed feelings. From a post every week, I have dissolved it to every alternate week just because it is too much work. Mad respect to fashion bloggers all around. Also, just like my little sister, if anyone else is wondering WHAT THE EFF IS THE POINT? You will find out in a year, when the project’s done.

And for those of you not in the know, my second MA thesis has a creative writing component. Which is really parts of my work-in-progress novel. And, for which, I was allowed to take Carolyn Smart‘s fiction and poetry workshop classes over the past eight months.

In fact, Smart is so awesome that she even edited a short story for a competition. I didn’t make it in, which sort of broke my heart, but it just makes me want to work harder on the story. It will find a home elsewhere, I am sure.

So, there you have it. This is what it has come to after four years of blogging online.

Not a writer yet, but getting there.

Meanwhile, HAVANA CALLING!

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FashUN Faux Pas

fashion intro

Turns out I really wanted to (if you don’t know what I am talking about, click here).

Yes, I really wanted to.

The catch? It’s an experiment for a year (for now), and just four posts in, it’s already evolving.

Some of my friends – including LuAnne D’Souza aka Weesha – who have seen the blog, have been really supportive.

And my brain! It has been in an overdrive, where I have already begun to churn out academic articles about fashion blogging in-my-head.

This ride, my friends, is going to be interesting.

So, I have a fashion blog (WHAT!!). Yes, go see:

FashUN Faux Pas

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Why I Can’t be a Fashion Blogger

Okay, I found this funny.

Okay, I found this funny.

It’s simple, really. I love fashion, but I am too lazy to be fashionable all the time.

Okay, maybe that’s a tiny lie.

I do make the effort. I have been making an effort ever since my India trip (a trip I still haven’t recovered from and long to repeat and re-repeat till I do).

So, not too long ago, I had the chance to meet with two fashion bloggers in Calcutta.

Debiparna Chakraborty, who had invited me, is a fabulously sexy plus size blogger, much like my friend, LuAnne D’Souza from Dubai who goes by the name Weesha in the blogging world. The second one was Anupriya Dutta Gupta, also known for her fashion line, Howrah Bridge. There was a third person as well, Shreya Goswami, but she is a photographer.

So, let me be honest. I had been apprehensive about this meeting. Me, a struggling writer-in-progress/grad student (for life!) who didn’t care too much about fashion (well, not until recently) was about to meet fashion bloggers. For fun. Yeah, right! Too-much-pressure, I tell you.

Plus, there was this fear. What if they were superficial? Yes, I stereotype too.

But nice people, them. Debi and Anu. I was almost sad I was leaving India two days later. Anupriya asked me if I intended to ever have a lifestyle section on my blog, and I said no. Because you know, the blog is my creative space as a writer/photographer.

But then, I seriously thought about it. Why not? I could be a fashion blogger if I wanted to. I could fill this niche of a short, curvy, big busted brown girl fashion blogger, something I hadn’t seen yet. So, why not, right?

Well… no.

For one, I simply don’t have the time or energy. I am a full time graduate student. I am working on my second MA thesis. I am taking a poetry workshop/class this term with seasoned Canadian poet, Carolyn Smart (see what I did there? Name dropped…). I just finished all of my PhD and grant applications (phew!). I am planning to launch a literary magazine soon (an idea I had been flirting with for a year). I am also working on my novel and a collection of short stories on the side. So… no way on earth did I have time for fashion blogging too.

Two, I barely know anything about fashion. What I do know comes second hand. From magazines, from my ever fashionable younger sister, from friends, from the internet (long live fashion bloggers!). For example, I recently learnt about accenting, how you can accent certain fabrics with certain colours. The lingo is still very new to me.

And three, I am more of a voyeur, rather than an exhibitionist. It’s true. I love watching (no, don’t you dare go there). So there is no way in the seven wonders of the world am I going to put up pictures of me on the internet for the world to see. Especially pictures of me accompanied with posts that talked about clothes on my body. My BODY.

I am the kind of person who self-censors her private life on social media.

And oh my god, I completely forgot. My brush with a stalker/harasser last year (that led me to making an official police complaint. The police of Mississauga were so very helpful in taking care of that. Thank you!). I don’t want to encourage my stalker (or, potential stalkers) in any way.

I am better off, living the life of a pretend-recluse writer. The one who parties with people she knows. The one who is mostly very social in person, and online, but won’t cross certain boundaries because it is beyond her comfort level…. wait, what?! I didn’t just type that. That is a complete lie.

I cross boundaries all the time.

Not just because as a writer, you should, but because that’s who I am.

Sigh, I guess I could be a fashion blogger after all.

If I really wanted to.

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Filed under anecdote, observation, Writing about writing

Women in Clothes Style Survey

funny-woman-shopping-failure-cartoon

What is the role of style in a woman’s life?

This is one of the main questions that authors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton, aim to answer in their crowd sourced book forthcoming from Penguin in 2014. (For anyone who’s interested, they are accepting surveys until the end of this month. More information can be found here.)

The questions  in their survey were probing without being intrusive. In the process of answering the questions, I uncovered a lot about my own motivations of existing as a person.

I realize that this blog post isn’t directly related to my own writing / writing process, but at the same time, the answers I came up with revealed the ways in which I approach my writing as well. Here is an edited version of my answers:

THE STYLE SURVEY

QUESTION 1

Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about?

I was 12 years old and I was in (puppy) love with a boy four years older than I. I think I became conscious not only about what I was wearing, but also about my weight. At one point, I even started watching my food portions. I think that was when I started to adjust myself to my new body where I stopped wearing oversized t-shirts to hide my breasts and opted for more fitted clothes.

QUESTION 2

When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I have dressed up with care, my clothes carefully chosen, my makeup carefully done, my contact lenses on—this is when I begin to walk with a confident swagger. Sometimes, I become aware of men looking my way and that boosts my ego even more. And when equally confident women also look my way, I know I have got it.

QUESTION 3

Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you keep buying this thing?

Not really. I try to adapt my clothing to the season and my body shape. Usually, I won’t buy something because it’s in fashion or because it’s trending. I buy stuff that flatter me and is also comfortable. For example, I have started wearing shorts with flowing tops in pastel shades this summer. I am careful to choose colors that suit my skin tone and make me look attractive. The shorts enhance my height, since I am very petite. I also wear flats because I am uncomfortable in heels, even though heels make me look taller.

I am also careful about the durability of the piece. How long will this piece last? Can I wear it through multiple seasons? etc.

QUESTION 4

What’s your process in getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?

It depends on where I am off to. If it’s a meeting with my thesis advisor or a class I am TAing, I will dress more formally. The make up is usually done to enhance my eyes (my best feature) and I leave my glasses on. I might wear a formal dress or a shirt/top with formal pants. If it’s just to meet friends or an errand, I will put on something casual, maybe jeans with a tee? I love t-shirts and have a lot of them. However, I make sure to buy t-shirts that are comfortable and “different”. I have a lot of t-shirts from a green company in India, No Nasties, who specialize in organic and fair trade cotton t-shirts. I keep buying their tees for the comfort and fit, even though they cost a little more.

QUESTION 5

What are some dressing rules that you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to anyone else, but which you follow?

Be confident in whatever you wear. It’s all about being able to carry it off, even if you are unsure inside. Projecting confidence is important.

QUESTION 6

What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had with someone on the subject of fashion or style?  What was said?

N/A

QUESTION 7

Do you think you have taste or style? What do these words mean to you?

I think style and taste are very arbitrary words. I mean, what I might find stylish or tasteful may offend someone else’s aesthetic sense.  However having said that, I think I wear stuff that makes me- as an individual- come off as tasteful, if not stylish. I like to look good in what I am wearing, but feel comfortable at the same time. I also believe in being able to look sexy without revealing too much skin, and I believe that is something I have mastered for myself. Then again, if one can be confident in what they are wearing, regardless of whether it’s considered stylish or tasteful by mainstream fashionistas, then does it really matter?

QUESTION 8

a) Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Yes, at certain angles.

b) When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?

It depends on the photograph. Sometimes, when I smile too much, my nose begins to look dumpy. Also, when my neck isn’t visible in a photo, my face looks fat.  But to be honest, I do not like being in front of the camera much, as much as behind it. When I was in India for four months, I traveled a lot and took a lot of photos, yet there are only a handful of me to document that I had actually been to certain places and seen certain monuments.

I sort of regret not being a camera whore. I have been trying to change this, and trying to document myself more, through photographs. However, I have realized that if I don’t do this consciously, I don’t get photographed. Le sigh.

QUESTION 9

a) What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?

Mostly confidence. I envy confidence, because I have to keep reminding myself that I can be all that if I only believe in it. There is a woman I particularly admire- Sharanya Manivannan. She is a poet and writer based in India, and she knows how to dress with panache.

I also admire my younger sister’s ability to throw together stuff and manage to look ravishing. I think I have learnt a lot about fashion and make up over the years from my sister.

b) Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?

See above.

QUESTION 10

a) How and when do you shop for clothes?

When I am in the States (which is twice a year) because it’s cheaper. Also, when I am in India. I need to try clothes on in person and see myself a few times before I decide to buy something. Accessories, however, do not require that much thought.

b) Do you have any shopping rules you follow?

Yes. I always ask myself: do I need this or do I want this? Sometimes, if the piece of clothing is especially flattering on me, the latter wins.

QUESTION 11

a) What is your favourite piece (of clothing or jewellery)?

Don’t have one.

b) What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?

A handwoven Kashmiri woolen stole from India. Since it’s black with intricate stitching, it goes with almost anything. I love this item in the winter as it’s warm as hell. Yes, I still own it and still wear it.

QUESTION 12

Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?

Yes, after I finished my Master’s in 2011, I realized that I needed to dress to impress. Back in graduate school (then), I did not care about what I wore. I wore whatever was available and to be honest, most days, I looked sloppy. Now I realize that clothing matters. People judge you by what you wear and how you appear. And this judgment can have a direct impact on your self esteem. I had really low self esteem back then, and was unsure of a lot of life choices. I was also very socially awkward. Things are different now. I dress to look good, to exude confidence. I am also able to mingle easily now.

QUESTION 13

Do you care about lingerie?

Yes, they need to be sexy and comfortable.

QUESTION 14

How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?

See answer to question 12.

QUESTION 15

Can you recall any times when you have dressed a particular way to calm yourself or gain a sense of control over a situation that scared you?

No.

QUESTION 16

a) What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?

Nothing on my face, except my glasses and lip balm. I am in my bright blue loose pjs and a Tantra t-shirt I only wear at home. My hair is tied up in a knot.

b) How does makeup fit into all this for you?

I wear makeup only when I leave the house. Sometimes, I only do up my eyes and slap on some lip balm.

I used to hate wearing makeup and it’s only recently that I have learnt to tolerate wearing it regularly. But whenever I am at home, it’s no makeup for me.

c) What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?

Perfume is so bourgeoisie. I have never bought perfume for myself. The perfume I own have all been gifts. I put on Dove body spray on a daily basis. It’s understated and makes me smell pleasant without being obnoxious.

QUESTION 17

Is there any article of clothing, piece of make-up, or accessory you carry with you or wear every day?

Yes, black eyeliner and lip balm. Without fail. I am nothing without them.

QUESTION 18

a) Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?

Do books count? I care a lot about what I am reading outside of school. Usually, a lot of literary fiction.

b) Do you think you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances and chores? What is it?

Sure, I am always thinking about the lead up. Where is this all leading up to? The way I am, the way I appear to be, the time I am putting in, the friends I have, what is the point of it all? Will this lead to a better me? What is the big picture? I am always worried about the big picture, the end goal of it all. It helps me keep my life in control.

QUESTION 19

What would be a difficult look for you to try and achieve?

A free spirit? I need some structure to my life. Without (a little bit of) structure, I am lost. Yet, I lose structure when I am on a “break”. So, I am not really sure.

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