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“Whose Wife Are You?:” The Problem of Being Artistic in a Traditionally Professional World

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So I have a new job which means I have new coworkers. And it also means getting to know said coworkers.  I have the interesting situation now of being extremely diverse in skill set and professional interests in comparison to my coworkers.  In the past, I was surrounded by a small core group of other creative types who I could call across the room to if I ever needed an opinion or help.  Now I work in an building with Economics faculty who, while impassioned and interesting people, are unlikely to know the answer to my problem of determining the best way to aesthetically animate line graphs in After Effects.  It’s a different setting for me to be working in so it’s taking some adjustment, but I wanted to share one anecdote that revealed a truth to me about the difference between creatives and most of the rest of the professional world.

On a recent weekend, the Economics department held their yearly Fall Gathering with the intention of alcohol flowing freely and introducing new faculty and staff to the rest of the crew.  Suffering from sometimes debilitating social anxiety, I was skeptical of going, but eventually decided to attend (even though I was getting over a cold and illness has always made a perfect excuse for bailing on social events) because I knew it would be good to socialize with my new coworkers in a non-work setting.  (Plus free alcohol and food. Who can turn that down?)

First, I learned that these people are amazing and have done some pretty cool things. Many of them have traveled quite a bit–Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Caribbean islands.  Second, everyone is fascinated by the entertainment industry.  So an easy talking point for me is movies, my film education, and if they’re on the technological up-and-up, YouTube and other online content.  All of this is to say, “Hey! They’re just like me!” With perhaps a bit more educationally-funded, exotic travel in their repertoire. How we differ though is usually in how we look.

I am an eccentric dresser. I love bright colors. I love trying trendy statement pieces. I love wearing something that makes my outfit POP!  And despite what one might believe, I don’t love these things for the attention these things sometimes bring me. (In fact, sometimes I wish I didn’t love them so I didn’t bring so much attention to myself).  I love being an eccentric dresser because the bright colors, the trendy pieces, the POP! of textile excitement brings me joy.  However, it usually sets me apart from your Average Joan.

At the Economics Fall Gathering, I wore a bright purple pleated mock-neck shift dress with southwestern-inspired embroidered heels.  I wore my hair in my signature “Victoria Secret” waves with some super-long, dangly earrings and gold jewelry.  I felt out of place the moment I walked in the room. (I hadn’t known if this was a classy event where we were supposed to dress up or a casual event. So when in doubt, I tend to opt for “Artistic Kaitlyn” which is LOUD and colorful and dangly.  It turned out to be a “wear whatever you want” with people in ties and dress pants and others in jeans and unbuttoned shirts over t-shirts.) But after a glass of wine and a fun conversation about the normalcy of people walking around dressed in colonial garb when attending The College of William & Mary, I had forgotten I was dressed any different or was any different professionally then they were.

And then the party came to an awkward halt when a new arrival looks to me and says “And who’s wife are you?”

(NOTE: From an outsider’s perspective, the situation I’m about to recount might sound very rude, but I will say it was entirely amusing from my point of view.)

The introduction of new faculty and staff (there are 3 of us) occurred at the beginning of the event.  The lovely and boisterously Italian woman who burst into the room an hour late had missed this announcement and she was the one faculty member who I had not met at all yet.  She first assumed I was the wife of one of the other male faculty members that I was standing beside at the time. He quickly corrected her, and so that’s where the “Who’s wife are you?” came from.  It was followed by, “You look like someone’s wife! And we haven’t met before so….”  I think at that point she started to see the horror on some of the other faculty member’s faces who were standing near me.

While both comprehending the implication of what she’d said (I look like someone’s wife not like a Economics faculty member who should be here of her own right) and trying to encourage a laugh with her rather than a laugh at her faux paux, I told her I was the new Learning Media Specialist for the department.  She later pulled me aside and profusely apologized in her very amusing Italian accent and demeanor (I mean, really guys, it was like someone pulled her out of a classic gangster movie). I told her I knew she didn’t mean anything by it. And in fact (though I didn’t tell her this), I completely understood why she would think I was someone’s wife. I certainly don’t look like a professor of economics! I might be able to pass for a professor of Art or Visual Media or something like that, but I generally don’t think I have the “look” of the average professor. Not that professors can’t be eccentric, of course. But I know that wasn’t what she was expecting when she came to the Economics Fall Gathering and she may  not have known there was a new staff member yet.

So instead, it all became this big globby mess of confusion and embarrassment and the realization that creative professionals, while just as skilled in their respective fields, almost always will feel like outsiders in the traditional professional world.  It’s in our general make up.

But that’s okay. I kind of like being the eccentric one.  It’s fun when I can forget and just be “one of the crew,” but I wouldn’t give up my “one of a kind” status for anything either.

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The Weirdness of Women’s Clothing

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Women’s clothes are weird. If you’re a woman, you probably already know this. If you’re man…well apparently you have an interest in women’s clothes and who am I to judge? Essentially I’m pretty fed up with women’s clothes. Sometimes I fantasize about burning my bra and running naked through the fields with my only covering being my hair braided with flowers. Then I remember I’m not a nymph or living in a fantasy world. It’s not really even in the realm of possibility.

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No, I live in the real world. And I have to wear clothes. And I live and work in a pretty traditional setting so I have to wear women’s clothes. I also own quite a lot of women’s clothes. Which brings me to our topic today. Women’s clothes suck. Like yeah, there’s the whole issue of women having a much more complicated world of clothing: dresses versus pants, heels versus flats, do you add a scarf or accessories. But what’s really bothersome about women’s clothes is the way they are made.

Let’s talk about sizing. None of it makes sense. There’s junior’s sizing and women’s sizing. And now there’s junior’s plus sizing and women’s plus sizing. Plus don’t forget about petite sizing! And even tall sizing. So that’s essentially 6 different systems of measurement for women’s clothes. That also corresponds to how pieces in each of those categories are made. If that’s not confusing enough add in the fact that pretty much every brand decides how their sizing system is going to run and it very rarely matches anyone else’s’.

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I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t know if I’m weirdly shaped or if it’s just the clothing. For example, I’ll tell you about my own sizing. I typically wear junior’s clothing because that’s what I feel most comfortable in and they tend to have the bright colors that I enjoy at a reasonable price. I’ve been wearing a size 7 in junior’s pants since high school and that still holds true. On most charts a size 7 translates to a medium. But very rarely do I wear anything that’s not a large or extra large in junior’s tops because:

  1. They’re usually too short.
  2. They rarely fit my broad shoulders without making me feel like the Hulk.
  3. They’re usually don’t have long enough sleeves.

So then I recently started buying junior’s 1X’s in certain tops like sweatshirts (because I like them long and baggy) and t-shirts (because I don’t like midriff bearing or super-tight tops). And then one of three things happens:

  1. It fits like what I think a normal top should where my shoulders aren’t squished and it comes past my belly button.
  2. It bags out in the armholes if it’s sleeveless and makes me look kind of homeless.
  3. Somehow it’s longer but still just as narrow in the shoulders and chest area and I feel like a freak. The plus size models they show wearing the 1X’s are much more well endowed than I am! What’s wrong with me?

So then I look at women’s clothes. Tops usually fit better there, but most of the time I still find that I need a large or extra large to feel comfortable. And dresses in women’s…oh gosh! Who even knows? I wear mediums in this one brand I like Apt. 9 that I’ve found at Kohl’s, but I have to wear a 12 (!) in almost anything Lauren Conrad (also at Kohl’s). Interestingly enough in Lauren Conrad skirts, I’ve bought anything from a 12 (which is like a large or extra large depending on what chart you’re looking at) to a medium. And a small in ELLE skirts but a 10 in ELLE blazers. Don’t even ask me what size pants I wear in women’s sizes. I own 4’s, 6’s, and 8’s and they all have the same kind of fit. Do you see!? It’s like Alice in Wonderland of clothing! Nothing makes sense! It’s all topsy-turvy and upside wrong and right side down!

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If a man goes to buy pants and he has a 33 inch waist and a 32 inch inseam, he buys a pair of 33×32 pants. Simple. I mean he has to choose between straight leg or bootcut or pleats or not but that’s essentially it. Women have to think about how much spandex versus cotton content their pants have before choosing a size! Is it low-rise or high-cut?

Now I understand why the standard for women’s sizes is on a shifting scale. I know it’s all about perception and weight and the fashion and model industries. I know that most of our clothes are not made in America and tend to be outsourced to factories where not only are the pay and working conditions horrendous but the quality standards for production just aren’t up to par. (e.g. One time I ordered an extra large dress shift dress from a brand I knew I wore a large in but I wanted to be extra sure it would actually be a “shift” and not an accidental bodycon dress, but I ended up with an obviously mislabeled dress that wouldn’t even fit over my shoulders.) But why can’t there at least be some kind of normalcy involved? Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to feel like a toddler trying on my doll’s clothing every time I went to the mall?

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And I know I’m not alone in this problem. Every dressing room I’ve ever been to in a store has a rack slam full of “not working” clothes outside. I’ve heard the sighs and groans and huffs of frustration when you find something you really like, bring three different sizes but still none of them work. One’s too big. One’s too small. One’s too awkward. Why!? It is an injustice!

Well…maybe not an injustice. But it does feel pretty unfair when the world is already always telling us that we’re not good enough, we’re not pretty enough, and we’re not thin enough. It’s just one more negative tick in our self-esteem depletion box. So how do we stop it? I’m not sure we can really change the fashion industry with force or over one generation, but we can stop the negative thinking. And realize that the weirdness we feel in the dressing room or in front of the mirror at home, is not our own body’s weirdness but the weirdness of women’s clothing. The clothing and the manufacturers and the designers have the problem. They’re not being made for real women who come in all shapes and sizes. We just have to find what is made in our shape and size and forget about the other stuff. Perhaps take up sewing and learn how to tailor our favorite pieces to our own unique size. But never, even let the clothing make us think that we’re the weird ones.

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Halloween: Costume vs. Cosplay

Halloween Cosplay 4 It’s October and that means Halloween! And what does Halloween entail? Costumes! Or is it cosplay? That’s my current dilemma. With the ever-growing popularity of cosplaying now because of various fan-centric conventions like Comic-Con and the general rise in respect for “Fandoms,” when thinking of a fun costume for Halloween, I feel like I’m not creative if I don’t have a down-to-the-exact-details cosplay of a particular character. Well, let’s say this…it feels like there are three types of female costumes.

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First, sexy costumes are what you probably think about when you think of women’s Halloween costumes. I don’t even consider them an option. I mean it’s one thing to want to look cute in your Halloween costume, but I personally find it unnecessary to wear glorified lingerie in public. So that leaves the “lazy costume” and the “intense cosplay.” The adjectives “lazy” and “intense” are not actually true, but they accurately describe the way I’m made to feel about these types of Halloween attire.

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The lazy costume doesn’t have to be lazy. But any time you’re dressed as something only semi-recognizable or just a generalized character without trying to be in the “sexy costume” category, I feel like people judge you as being in a “lazy Halloween costume.” I imagine a girl with an obnoxious Valley Girl accent saying, “Like what’s the point? It’s like you’re not even trying.” But the truth is, you could actually REALLY be trying. I remember as a kid, I could dress up as a fairy and do face paint and decorate my wings and flower crown, and IT WAS A BIG DEAL. I was super creative for doing all of that! But somewhere in the last 5 or so years, I feel like this respect for creativity has given way to a different kind of imagination.

Halloween Cosplay 3           Cosplay is amazing. I have so much respect for the people (especially girls) who do it. The incredible cosplays of Disney Princesses always wow me. Like I want to meet them, not the official ones at Disneyland! But whenever I look at pictures of cosplayers, I feel a little deflated. I feel like if I want to be considered a really creative person on Halloween then I HAVE to cosplay a character. I can’t JUST be the Queen of Hearts. I have to be Lizzie Hearts from Ever After High or the Red Queen from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. For example, my initial ideas for Halloween were Princess Mononoke, Sailor Jupiter, or Emma Swan from Once Upon a Time (because my boyfriend is a dead ringer for Captain Hook).   But all of these ideas require extensive research, money, and intricate costume piece hunting that I personally just don’t have time for. I’m always telling myself that I’ll start early so it won’t be a problem, but truthfully, I need to start November 1st and get it over with and hope I remember what I decided on in a year.

My next deluge of ideas include: The Queen of Hearts (because I want to do some cool make-up inspired by Lizzie Hearts), the Tin (wo)Man (because I have a silver skirt and shirt and shoes that would be pretty cool to throw together), a Circus Ring Leader (because I’ve worn a similar costume before and have many of the pieces already) and a Unicorn (because again, I’ve worn this costume before and could update it). But this second round of ideas feel less inventive. I want to be impressive! Although I’m not entirely sure who I’m trying to impress. Myself, probably. I’m always trying to one-up myself every Halloween. I also realized that an “easy” cosplay and couples costume would be Claire and Owen from Jurassic World. I mean, I’d just need a red wig, white outfit, and to roll around in the dirt a bit. It would be genius! I could even bring along a stuffed T-Rex and a (fake) flare just incase people are being especially dense.

As Halloween steadily approaches and my window for ordering specific pieces online disappears because I don’t have Amazon Prime, I’m left wondering if one is better than the other. Is cosplay the new king of Halloween? Does a non-specific character costume mean that you’re a lazy Halloween celebrator? Can you be creative without cosplaying?

I’m still not sure how this Halloween is going to turn out costume-wise for me. I mostly want something that I can be proud wearing because I put thought and effort into it and it creatively expresses “Kaitlyn.” Because that’s the reason Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It’s not about goblins and ghosts and horror stories for me. It’s about costumes, creativity, and imagination. It’s about being a kid again for a day. It’s about being something you’re not or maybe, showing who you really are underneath the boring, everyday façade we all have to put up to survive. It’s a time for fun. So whether you’re cosplaying, costuming, or sexifying it up this Halloween, enjoy a night of wildest imagination!

Images I’ve collected for cosplay purposes when I thought it was feasible for Halloween.

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Maybe I’m a Grammar Nazi (Or Maybe I Just Respect Women’s Intelligence)

Grammar-Nazi-1 I don’t really consider myself a Grammar Nazi. I can get pretty distraught over people’s horribly mutilated YouTube comments that clearly show they don’t have a grasp of the English language, but rarely do I freak out over the misuse of “your” and “you’re” or “its” and “it’s” in casual writing. (Although I definitely have met people who do. English majors I’m looking at you!) But I do have certain expectations concerning the appropriate use of grammar when dealing with businesses—especially those who employ the use of language on their products. And recently my goodwill in one of my favorite clothing companies was dashed when I ran into a very obvious mistake.Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 9.42.03 AMI was considering buying the comfy-looking black sweatshirt above from Wet Seal. I thought it was cute and snarky, and I liked the simplicity of white on black with the tiny accent of pink. But the more I looked at it (because I typically agonize over new purchases in my shopping cart for days to weeks, depending on how long until a good sale), the more I realized that something seemed off. And then:Grammar-Nazi-3

But like shopping?

What is that supposed to be? Where is the subject to this second clause? Where is the “I?”

I tried to justify it to myself. Maybe it’s supposed to be read in a valley girl accent. Maybe the “I” is just hiding in the folds of the shirt and the physical version would feature the grammatically correct version.

But no. There’s no explaining this except to say that Wet Seal needs a proofreader for its graphic shirts because really this is unacceptable. How did this shirt go into production, get a photo shoot for the online store, and be uploaded online without ANYONE noticing or holding up a red flag. (“Hey guys, does this shirt make sense to you?”)

I’m really disappointed in Wet Seal. And I’m a little disappointed in myself for nearly purchasing this sweatshirt. I left a comment on the product in hopes of warning some poor soul away from making a grammar faux pas, but also to stick up for women. That seems like a weird assertion to make, but I feel like wearing this sweatshirt makes the statement that not only is shopping is better than boys, but it also ranks higher than appropriate grammar or taking the time to proofread. Who cares as long as you look cute in your new clothes!

This is a real “shaking my head” situation. I’m sure this isn’t the first time a clothing company has put out a grammatically incorrect or misspelled shirt, but when it’s marketed toward teen girls I feel like you’re tricking a young and naïve population into looking dumb and wasting money. That’s not the kind of message I would want to be sending if I was part of Wet Seal’s public relations/marketing team. We girls like boys, shopping, and intelligence.Grammar-Nazi-4

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Your Brain and Fashion

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The first week of September has been really hot and so despite the fact that it’s after Labor Day and all the “Fashion Rules” that come along with it, I’ve continued to wear “summer dresses.” But gosh, golly, geez does it feel wrong!

It’s literally only a few days into September, and a week ago when it was August I felt no issue wearing “summery” things, but the minute September rolls in and the passing of Labor Day, suddenly I feel like I’m committing some awful fashion faux pas. Why does my brain trick me like this though? Technically it’s still “summer” until mid-September so why in the first week of September when it’s hot as Hades outside do I feel like I’m committing a crime for wearing neon pink and flowers or white shoes?

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Essentially I both scoff at and participate in the “rules of fashion.” I let them bother me before I decide on an outfit not just during in-between seasons (though that is when I have the most problems) but really all year round. I legitimately have to box up my “non-season” clothes so that I won’t be tempted or confused into wearing them. But why! It’s dumb and wasteful!

At the same time, I enjoy the “rules of fashion.” It gives me guidelines within which to work. It’s like being given a whole coloring book and being told to color in whatever you want rather than being given a blank sheet of paper and told to “create a masterpiece.” For a woman, fashion—style, whatever you want to call it—is (unfortunately and expensively) important. Men have two options: suits (or some dressy iteration of one) and t-shirts. It’s basic. It’s simple. I envy them. Women’s clothing is not so easy. There’s pretty much a different style for every situation and then there is the constant changing fashion. What’s “in” this season? The 90s seem to be making a comeback with combat boots, crop tops, plaid, and denim everywhere. So do you give in to the trends and buy new clothes that fit or do you just stick with what you’ve got? If you’re like me—that is someone who loves to experiment especially with my outfits—then you’ll be going shopping.

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But once you’ve gone shopping and you have your new fall wardrobe picked out, it starts to feel weird to continue to wear “summer” clothes even though the temperature and sun seem to confirm that you can without any problem. Because now you’ve transitioned your sense of style to a new season and even though it’s technically not autumn yet, you feel like it should be because your closet says its fall!

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Many of you are probably thinking, “Why does this girl care so much about fashion? Just throw on a t-shirt and go with it already!” And I wish it were that simple for me. Unfortunately, it’s not. Somewhere along the line my brain got (re)wired to artistically express myself through clothing and thus this monster was born! My brain does funny things when it comes to fashion and the seasons. I hate these in-between times because I don’t want to rush off summer, but I also don’t want to overstay my summer fashion welcome. (Is that even a thing? It’s probably not a thing.)

Where do you go? What do you wear? What season is it even?

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