11 November 2009
In Vintage Color
There is a lot to appreciate about Fashion for Writers's Meggy Wang, like her recent conversation with her new collaborator Jenny Z on "overdressing." But one of the things I appreciate the most is how her outfit posts might be alternately imagined as a series of “found” photographs of some glamorous mid-century Asian American starlet, scholar, or secretary -- figures of both ordinary and extraordinary womanhood. Elegantly coiffed and impeccably dressed, Meggy poses most often in the familiar fashions of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, but with a significant difference.
As an archival imaginary, the sartorial or style category of "vintage" is often whitewashed in those forms of visual culture that comprise so much of its popular inspiration, e.g., fashion illustrations, film stars, advertising photographs. Against the glaring absence of similar images featuring other bodies, Meggy's photographs permit us to see what we have not been allowed to see. To me, it feels like Meggy renders visible the historical absence of Asians and Asian Americans in American popular culture as fashionable bodies --and through fashion as contemporaneous bodies-- and also corrects this absence in creating another archive through which we might imagine otherwise.
That's also why I can't stop looking at the new style blog b. vikki vintage by Rebecca Victoria O'Neal, "a 22-year-old, African-American young woman from Chicago with gigantic curly hair, and an affinity for books, knitting, and antique malls." (Thanks, Black Nerds Network!) Featuring a librarian's thorough excavation of the sights and sounds of black style, b. vikki is a wonderful archive for reimagining mid-century fashion design in color:
This blog features advertising campaigns and fashion editorials from Black/African-American publications, video clips and found photographs featuring people of color from the 1950s-1960s....
I've loved vintage fashion for some time (and traditional jazz and pop standards, old movies, Doris Day, et al), and did lots of research before deciding to open a vintage etsy shop and start this blog, because I wanted to do it right. Something I noticed during my research, something that helped me to cement my decision, was the lack of women of color in the online vintage community.
She's right about this absence and, like Meggy (if differently), hopes to fill in the blanks.