Adorning the body

Alankara (ornament) protects the body and makes it complete and attractive; to be unornamented is to invite misfortune. From The Body Adorned: Sacred and Profane in Indian Art by Vidya Dehejia

Adorning the body is one of our most ancient practices and one shared across cultures and civilizations. Last Autumn I attended a very rich exhibit on the body in Indian Art. The exhibit sought to and succeeded in describing the myriad ways that art originating in the Indian Subcontinent has served through the ages as a medium to communicate the attitude towards the body. Many of the pieces in the exhibit were at least as old as a millennia. What I was most struck by were the those created to adorn the body - either for beautification, celebration or even protective purposes. Each piece was intricately crafted and just exquisite to behold with the eyes and possibly with the hands too if we’d been allowed to touch. So very much effort had been invested into things that have no functional utility except an aesthetic one.

Earlier in the year, our dear friend and video Editor, Branan Edgens, was showing us photos from his visit to Hmong country in Southeast Asia. I was struck by the elaborate embroidery on what were essentially everyday wear.  In some of the images, the women were wearing exquisite pieces of jewelry, even as they tended to quite ordinary tasks such as harvesting and cleaning. It reminded me of the nomadic peoples of India’s Rajasthan and Gujurat who, having nowhere to stash their best clothing and jewels, just wear them on their bodies every day.

It’s curious that we have this cultural divide between ordinary and the special in our urban and modern existences. It’s rare in places less extraordinary than New York or my hometown of London to see people adorning themselves elaborately to make a grocery store run. I can understand why. We live such busy lives. Consequently, we witness how in the worlds of clothing and fashion, we seem to be moving towards more simplicity in cuts, lines and embellishments. But for me, there is something magic, something almost sacred and ritualistic in adorning my body. I try, whenever possible and the gym and swimming pool notwithstanding, to dress myself mindfully each day, aware that the body I am clothing contains a sacred soul and that my time in it is fleeting and ephemeral. Even if that means just adding a small piece of jewelry with some sentimental or personal significance to my jeans and t-shirt ensemble. It's a reminder that part of living a full and rich life is to enjoy aesthetic pleasures. In so doing, we mirror back to the world the beauty she gifts to us daily.

Photos courtesy of Branan Edgens

THE WARDROBE | RECESSION ART SALONUKAH | NIGHT 2

Totally and thoroughly chuffed to be participating in this fab at The Wardbrobe event hosted by the lovely people at Brooklyn's Recession Art no less than three days after Jimi Hendrix's birthday.

I will be bringing my stash of Black, White and Red dresses. Come on by and say hello and try on a dress or two. And if you whisper the secret password in my bejeweled ear (Bold As Love), you can score 20% off your entire purchase!

Be bold, my vintage-loving lovelies! 

Body and style

My dear friend Yarilis Vázquez Guzmán, a personal stylist,  recently wrote this on her public FB page:

More often than not, we can read how a person feels about themselves by looking at how they express their unique perspective through style.

And shortly after, I listened to a fierce and beautiful poet recite a damning poem entitled "Shrinking Women" about body image. You can watch the video here and below. 

Both have given me pause to think about the challenges women in particular face - but truly all of us when we embody the feminine - in staying true to our inner visions of ourselves...The image of woman is such a loaded one that has been co-opted by institutionalized religion, politics and the marketplace. How do we stay true and hold fast to who we are on the inside and have our outsides be the most honest reflection of who and what that is? I don't have a universal answer. For me, it involves a daily practice of remembering and reminding myself what I stand for and then proudly embodying that in how I dress and how I am in the world... To not do so feels akin to living a half life...We have to remember that we as the life givers were not incarnated to live half lives.

Everything happens in dresses...

“I believe special things happen in dresses: people fall in love, new people are born, and the world grows.” – Dasha Pomerantseva (https://www.etsy.com/blog/en/authors/mrspomeranz/)

 

As I was browsing Etsy listings, I happened upon this quote by dress designer and fellow vintage lover Dasha Pomerantseva and it made my heart flutter! There are those who are just so much more articulate than I...In those words, Dasha summed up why adorning the body and doing so beautifully is important to me.

 

Dasha's dresses are divine and I love the story of how she got the place of designing them in the style of the 1950s. You can read more about that here. Interestingly, when I first conceived of East to West, I had shared with my mother that I would want to one day design vintage inspired dresses and have them made in India, my Motherland...I feel more inspired than ever!

 

 

 

 

 

The Nelson Street Mothership, 2013

Featuring the super mini va va voom little black dress from the 1980s

Photo by William Charles Moss

Vintage heaven

I love London, place of my birth, for so many reasons, chief amongst which is its veneration of old things. It is less of a throwaway society, I feel, than the US. But absence tends to tint the glasses a bit rosie...In any case, there are just a ton of lovely and fabulously curated vintage clothing shops all over London, from East to West. This is a newly discovered favorite, on Brick Lane which in the 1960s became home to mostly Bangladeshis who left the Subcontinent for the same reason my family did. You can read more about that here.    What I especially love about this lower ground location is that it resembles - as an old friend pointed out - someone's closet...Ah, would that it were my closet!! A girl can dream...

Vintage clothing store on Brick Lane, East London 2013

Dreaming vintage

I dreamt last night, during these last few days of a Pisces Sun and while Venus continues to sashay through glamor land, that I was wearing two gorgeous vintage necklaces. One was made of bakelite or other such similar material. The other was golden. I wish I could remember more details about the pieces themselves. But what I do remember, quite viscerally, is how they made me feel. Like magic. Omnipotent. And as if I was on top of the world. It was as if I was experiencing a subtle but much-needed healing in the realm of body image and self love. For the rest of the day, I felt decadent and luxurious and super feminine.

I do believe there is a touch of the sacred in the mundane. And I know that beauty can be restorative and redemptive. This is a big part of the East to West Vintage project.