House3
CLOSE
MENUCLOSE

The Self-Defeating Myth Of “Pulling It Off”

Clothing
Illustration by Lindsay Hattrick

Face it: Skinny girl privilege is real

If you’ve looked at a fashion trend in the past five years or so and felt it radiating an overwhelming sense of hostility toward everything about you as a person, not only are you not too sensitive, but you’re exactly correct.

In 2014, normcore entered the popular lexicon—mom jeans and crewneck sweatshirts in tow—and you can draw a through line from there to the shape-abnegating parkas, high-necked floral dresses, and mammothly oversized sneakers of Demna Gvasalia’s current work at Vetements and Balenciaga. Tiny sunglasses, which make everyone look like they’re wearing a bad Matrix Halloween costume many years too late, are now inescapable, as are culottes, bucket hats, Birkenstocks, and fanny packs. In 2018, the fashion industry isn’t so much providing women with the aesthetic tools to go confidently out into the world as it is setting forth a challenge: Are you hot enough to prevail over a garment so heinous that it would make mere mortals look like total idiots?

The primary animating principle of fashion in 2018 is that, if you’re cool, clothes can’t simply be worn, they must be transcended. That the garments in question are ugly isn’t incidental to the phenomenon, nor is it simply a matter of taste. Ugliness is inherent to the idea, as are the notions of beauty it stands in opposition to. Normcore and its descendants all ask fashion consumers not to simply wear their garments, but to be the kind of person whose beauty transforms them into something aspirational. If you can’t do it, you’re a sister wife or a time traveler sent to Earth from one of the early seasons of Seinfeld. Which way this goes depends heavily on how well your body conforms to traditional standards of beauty, especially thinness. In fashion, even in 2018, thinness always matters most. The industry doesn’t believe—and has never believed—that how much you love yourself matters at all.

I got in a little trouble last week for pointing out that prairie dresses, currently an emerging trend in fashion-conscious circles, fit this dynamic pretty squarely. Twitter beef isn’t interesting, often not even to the people involved in it, but that’s what happened. The Cut had published an article by Lindsay Peoples that encouraged readers to try the look, including a range of pre-selected options that adhered to the prairie aesthetic with varying levels of fidelity. The article itself only bothered me insofar as it reminded me that prairie dresses exist, and that the purest distillation of the trend (long, waistless, high-necked, frilly, floral, maybe even puff-sleeved) seems designed to tell me that a person with my body is not welcome in the fashion industry. The more a garment is a true prairie dress, the more offensive it is to modern ideas of aesthetic taste, and at a size 20, I’m not the type of person who gets to feel affirmed for taking a fashion risk.

The story included a couple options that came in plus sizes, which I appreciated, but none of them were all that similar to the actual trend, probably because there were scant options for Peoples to choose from in plus sizes in the first place. Instead, they were short party dresses with nipped waists, but with high necks or bib ruffle details that hinted at the actual trend—a clear reminder that, if you already have the temerity to be fat, you shouldn’t attempt any further deviation from the beauty standard because you’re already challenging enough to look at, according to the fashion industry. In my initial comments on the trend, I said that only thin people get to be praised for dressing like jackasses. The Cut’s editor-in-chief, Stella Bugbee, took issue with me for asserting that it’s possible to dress like a jackass at all, which belies my real point: that purposeful ugliness has been the dominant idea in much of fashion for nearly half a decade, but only some people have cultural permission to stare into that particular abyss. Understanding that point is crucial to understanding why those trends exist in the first place.

When you live in a fat body, well-meaning people love to tell you that the only barrier between you and whatever you want to wear is your own self-confidence. That’s incorrect, but I understand why people say it—it’s convenient to believe that the only barriers for others are in their own heads, partly because it means fixing the problem might be simple, but also because it allows anyone who has never been plus size to neatly abdicate their complicity in how the world treats fat women and obscure the gap in their own empathy. In reality, there are two phases of choosing to do anything, including choosing what to wear: deciding there’s a thing you want to do, and deciding that doing it is an option reasonably available to you.

This is where the experience of living in a fat body deviates from that of someone who’s simply always been, like, 15 pounds away from being an Instagram influencer, or who experienced having a different body while pregnant; even if I decide I want to put a true, waist-free, ankle-length prairie dress on my size 20 body, I have to think about how much worse I’ll be treated by the people I encounter because I failed to conform to the harsh standards of ultra-femininity we impose on fat women, as well as whether anyone has even bothered to manufacture such a garment in my size. My own desires don’t tell the full story of the choices available to me.

Even if I decide the potential cruelty is worth it—people can react very badly to fat women who have the gall to present themselves in a way that isn’t as small as possible—the fashion industry may have already decided to materially exclude me before I had the opportunity to decide for myself. Beauty standards make everyone feel bad, but it’s disingenuous to pretend that the effects don’t increase in severity in a fairly linear way as your body cleaves further and further from the established, obedient norm. For fat women, wearing clothes that purposefully make us look larger in the same way that a thin woman would, can mean stereotypes about people like us—that we’re stupid, or lazy, or dirty—are magnified or easier to believe. Assumptions like that are how people get passed over for promotions, denied medical care, or closed out of social circles. They also, on a micro level, just get you treated like shit in everyday life. 

Not only are these narrow expectations enforced socially, but they are enforced on a practical level, too. The majority of American women are plus size—a size 14 or above—but even on the mass market, most clothing lines top out at a 14 or 16. In the fashion-forward luxury spaces, that generally have their trends covered by cultural media, that’s lowered to a 10 or 12. The rah-rah girl power of wearing whatever you want and being unapologetically you doesn’t take into account the ways fashion excludes people based on their bodies, which go well beyond a couple quiet snickers at a fat girl in an ugly dress.

A big part of being a plus size person who works in fashion is wondering if anyone else will mention the elephant in the room, or bother to see the elephant in the room, or even acknowledge that elephants are real animals that exist in the world and not mythical beasts like unicorns and dragons, only found in the fictional accounts of people inclined toward flights of fancy. Do any of them believe me when I say my experience is different? Do they look at me, an otherwise delusionally confident person, and genuinely think all I want is a pity party, or to make them feel bad for being thin, when I explain what it’s like to live in my body in the world?

To a straight-size person, I’m sure this sounds histrionic, because hey, it’s just a dress or a pair of mom jeans, right? And, well, it is. For you. Fat women are playing a game with wildly different stakes. Five years ago, I lost a good bit of weight, putting me just below 200 lbs (the weight that Bugbee cites as the upper limit of her own experience) for the first time in my adult life. It was a strange experience in many ways, but the most heartbreaking part of it was realizing how much nicer people are to you in everyday life, the smaller you are. I wasn’t even close to thin by any popular beauty standard, but the difference was stark, even between being a larger plus size person and a smaller one. There is an entire industry dedicated to the aesthetics of the body and how we present ourselves to the world that doesn’t want to contend with these topics in a meaningful way, and how critical we are when we write about trends, their origins and what they mean is the perfect place to start changing that. But first, we have to be honest with ourselves about what’s really in fashion.

True
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

"I am honored to share this bonding experience with my own daughter"

In a heart-warming Instagram photo, Serena Williams shares the history of hair braiding and the importance of the tradition. The tennis player shared a photo of herself braiding her daughter Olympia Ohanian's hair and spoke about how "honored" she was to be able to "add another generation" to the tradition of the practice.

The photo shows Williams attentively braiding her daughter's hair while Olympia smiles, obviously loving the experience. Williams noted that hair braiding was created by the Himba people in Namibia, Africa, and that "we have been braiding our hair for centuries." "In many African tribes braided hairstyles were a unique way to identify each tribe," she continued.

Williams pointed out that braiding is a bonding experience. "People would often take the time to socialize," she wrote. "It began with the elders braiding their children, then the children would watch and learn from them. The tradition of bonding was carried on for generations, and quickly made its way across the world."

Williams closed her post with a sweet message about her daughter, saying that she's "honored to share this bonding experience" with her.

See the post, below.

True
FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Courtesy of Adidas

The Stan Smiths are a must-have

Adidas just shared its capsule of sneakers paying tribute to Keith Haring, and TBH I can already feel my wallet emptying (and they're not even on sale yet). The new collection features three shoe silhouettes, all including the late artist's iconic imagery as embroidered designs.

The standout style of the collection is the Rivalry hi-top; with bright blue and orange stripes and piping along the edges, Haring's stars and cartoon bodies, in black thread, pop right off. If you're looking for something less over-the-top, the quirky white Nizza Hi RF sneakers show a snake wrapping around the back of the shoe and chasing one of Haring's cartoon bodies toward the toe. There's also a minimal embroidered design on the toe of a classic Stan Smith pair. Look a little more closely at the tongue though, and you'll notice the traditional image has been swapped with a caricature of Haring himself.

Peep the three silhouettes, below, and set your calendar for the official drop at the end of the month.

Adidas, Rivalry Hi Keith Haring Shoes, $120, available at Adidas starting at 10am EST on June 30.

Adidas, Nizza Hi RF Haring Shoes, $120, available at Adidas starting at 10am EST on June 30.

Adidas, Stan Smith Keith Haring Shoes, $120, available at Adidas starting at 10am EST on June 30.

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.


True
Photos by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images, Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Hopefully this one will be typo-free

In an Instagram Live on Thursday, Taylor Swift announced that she would be creating a collaboration with fashion designer Stella McCartney inspired by her upcoming Lover album. Although she kept it vague, we can only assume that the two are working on a collection of luxe merch.

Swift noted in the announcement that she has been friends with McCartney "for a really long time," and that the designer already heard the new album. "I respect what she creates, how she creates it," Swift continued. "There's so much whimsy and imagination and romance to the clothing that she designs." Swift has been wearing McCartney's designs "a lot recently," so maybe we should have seen the collab coming.

One eagle-eyed fan pointed out that Swift wore Stella McCartney rainbow-hued shoes during her Wango Tango set. If the collab is anything like these shoes, you can bet I'll be copping it as quick as I can.

Swift detailed in her Instagram Live that the album Lover would be all about romance, which makes McCartney and her feminine designs perfect for the collaboration. We just hope that this collection doesn't have any typos, like some of Swift's "ME!" merch did.

True
Asset 7
MORE in VIDEO
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

And spreads the message that "we all got crowns"

Late on Thursday, Taylor Swift dropped a new single, "You Need To Calm Down," and announced her forthcoming studio album, Lover, out this August. Following her lead single "ME!" Swift continues to spread her message of self-love and call out haters—particularly the homophobic ones—in this latest song.

Swift "ended homophobic locals," as one fan put it on Twitter, with one particular lyric: "'Cause shade never made anybody less gay."

Along with the song, Swift shared a lyric video via YouTube which made her sentiments even clearer. With her lyric, "Why are you made?/ When you could be glad?" she spelled "glad" as "GLAAD," referencing the queer media advocacy organization.

Swift sings of homophobic protestors in the second verse: "Sunshine on the street at the parade/ But you would rather be in the dark ages/ Makin' that sign must've taken all night." In the pre-chorus, she adds, "You just need to take several seats and then try to restore the peace/ And control your urges to scream about all the people you hate."

Swift additionally comments on women being pitted against each other—"We see you over there on the internet comparing all the girls who are killin' it"—asserting that "we all got crowns." There's nothing trolls can do to rain on her parade anymore.

One fan pointed out the possible symbolism of the crown lyric. In "Call It What You Want," track 14 on Reputation, she sings "They took the crown but it's alright." Now on "You Need To Calm Down," track 14 of Lover, she sings that there's not just one crown—we all have them.

Some fans are pointing to the double meaning of the track title. If I had a dollar for every time someone said those words to me in a totally condescending way, I'd probably be richer than her! What woman hasn't been told to calm down about an entirely not-calm situation or while expressing their distaste?

During Swift's live stream for the release of the song, she also announced a fashion collaboration with designer Stella McCartney, a peek of which we got during the singer's WangoTango performance.

Lover is set for August 23 release.

True
Credit: Frederick Elmes/ Focus Features

"I was like, 'Did I sleep with this critic's girlfriend, or what?'"

The day I meet Jim Jarmusch, the sun hangs so bright and hot and yellow and solid in the sky that it's hard to believe that it will actually set at night. It's one of those New York June days that suggests we might be in permanent daylight; it's got a completely different feeling than the crepuscular atmosphere of Jarmusch's latest film, The Dead Don't Die, which takes place in a small town in what feels like one long twilight, maybe the last one.

But for today, Jarmusch and I are sitting at a table in a sun-filled restaurant, though we're in the shade. We're in a part of the city that used to be very punk rock, and is now very NYU, yet being there with Jarmusch, who looks so at home, like he's holding court in the booth (it helps that Larry Fessenden, an old friend of Jarmusch's and a writer/director/producer/actor, who appears in The Dead Don't Die, happens by the table to say hi), makes the area feel a little punk rock again, even with all the sun.

The Dead Don't Die is a very punk rock zombie movie, by which I mean: It's not very scary, but it is very cool, and even when it's sneering, it's a little bit tender. Starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Chloë Sevigny as a trio of small-town cops who fight back against a nascent zombie apocalypse caused by fracking, the film is cast with a who's who of Jarmusch regulars, like Steve Buscemi, Tilda Swinton, Iggy Pop, and Fessenden, to name a few; but it also features younger stars like Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez, and Luka Sabbat—and there's a real earworm of a theme song, courtesy of Sturgill Simpson.

Below, I speak with Jarmusch about the movie, being a dilettante, and why he only reads his negative reviews—which is definitely one of the most punk rock things I've ever heard.

Photo by Gareth Cattermole/ Getty Images

This was filmed on a pretty condensed shooting schedule, right?
It was a very rough schedule. A very difficult one, actually.

We only had seven weeks to shoot, and we had to shoot Adam Driver out in three weeks because he had to be delivered to Star Wars, and the financing of the film was incredibly grueling and took a long time, so we were pushed so far that we had about one month of prep, and then three weeks with Adam. And then all these different actors coming in and out; I don't know how Carter and Josh, the two producers, organized it all. And then we'd shoot 15-hour days, and halfway through, I had walking pneumonia; I had two coats; it was 95 out; I was shaking. You know, just weird stuff like that. But it's all okay because we had such great people—our crew—everybody. And then, the visual effects were very taxing and complicated.

How did that all work together? Because there's more than one decapitated head.
Yeah, it's a mixture. First of all, we mixed prosthetics with makeup with masks for some of the zombie stuff, but all of those effects with the decapitations, we had to just imagine. So we had to choreograph everything and then only imagine kind of what it would be like, which was, for me, very abstract because I'm not very versed in visual effects. You know, you had to really kind of trust your instincts, because Adam Driver's chopping away with a machete with no blade.

It could've been a machete, it could've been a lightsaber, who knows? So, to what degree is this a sequel of Paterson with Adam Driver's character's last name being Peterson?
Well, I just do these things to amuse myself while writing, you know? Bill Murray in Broken Flowers was named Don Johnson, and in this, I gave him the name Cliff Robertson. Tilda Swinton's character is Zelda Winston. Rosie Perez is named Posie Juarez. You know, I'm just kind of amusing myself.

And Peterson, Paterson. While we were filming Paterson I was always teasing Adam that the next one, we would make was gonna be a sequel about a psychopathic murderous bus driver named Peterson. Tag line: "Get the fuck off my bus!" Or "Next Stop Hell!" You know, stuff like that. It's just to make them... I love trying to make Adam Driver laugh, because he has a very odd and wonderful sense of humor, but it's on the dry side, so I'm always joking around with him between work to try and see what makes him laugh.

But yeah, there's no sequel of any kind, and I don't think that way, and I don't plan, and I don't see my films from the past ever again. I just look toward the next thing.

Credit: Frederick Elmes/ Focus Features

What was the original concept for this? When did you start coalescing all of these different elements into knowing that you wanted it to be your next film?
Some years ago after Only Lovers Left Alive, Tilda kept teasing me, calling me, saying, "When do we do the zombies? When are we doing the zombies?" And in between I made Paterson and Gimme Danger, but then after those I started writing the zombie one, and my original conception was: I wanna make a film that's really funny and silly like Coffee and Cigarettes, where people talk about whatever nonsense I want them to, and I want to get actors I love, you know? So I thought, okay, if I make a zombie film, I can have a structure where different groups are cordoned off against the zombies, and the zombie attacks will be intermittent and not very long, so I'll have long lags where they're just stuck there, like in the house of The Night of the Living Dead, where they can talk about any kind of nonsense. So that was my first idea, and then when I started writing it, for some reason, I wanted to have a small town, Centerville, and I just followed my intuition, and it became this, I don't really know why beyond that.

What is it about small towns that make them the perfect setting for existential terror?
They're insular. They're kind of… everyone kind of knows each other. It's controllable by the characters. It's believable that everyone kind of know each other. I don't know. I'm not very good at analyzing that. And also, this is not a horror film because horror films use devices that are necessary to frighten people, like suspense, and then you get scared. We have no interest whatsoever in that. This is more of a metaphorical zombie film, but I would not call it a horror movie. It's a comedy with zombies with a kind of sad ending. Beyond that, I don't know what it is.

And horror nerds may not like it if they're expecting creepy, creepy, scary thing! They're not gonna get it. They're not gonna get that delivered to them.

What's interesting about it is seeing who fights back against this existential dread. Or, like, Chloë Sevigny's character, Mindy, doesn't fight, she is on her own separate trip, avoiding the end till she embraces it.
It's a character film. It's not even a plot film, really, although critics say that about all my films. But Chloë… it's a complicated thing, because when I first called Chloë, I told her... I wrote her a letter, and then she said, "Yeah, yeah I'd like to do this." And I said, obviously, this is not a feminist character. She's reactive. She's our sort of "Scream Queen." She screams like six times. But Chloë is the master of reaction, and I love watching her react.

She definitely feels like a stand-in for what a normal person would feel during these absurdist experiences, which is nice to have. It's not necessarily that you need a relatable character in a movie like this, but...
Yeah, but she's an empathetic human that's in a job with some authority, but in a small town where that means taking care of whatever, you know, as a police officer, pretty minimal [stuff]. There's not a lot of rampant crime or anything going on… or anything at all, really.

Credit : Frederick Elmes / Focus Features

A lot of people are going to be projecting tons of different meanings onto this film, like with all your films. To what level do you participate in that or pay attention to that? Or, once you're done making a film, is it just out there, and you just let people project onto it whatever they will?
I've always felt that anyone's interpretation of a film that I write and direct is probably more valid than my own. Because it's a funny thing, the beauty of films is going into a world—or a book or whatever—but going into a world that you don't know, and you are entering a world, and it takes you. And if you wrote it, and you were there filming it, and you're in the editing room every day for six months, the mix, and all that... I can never possibly see it. I like hearing what friends or people I know... I like Q and As after screenings because they have no agenda except their interest. I like that a lot, and I value that. I don't really like to read a lot of reviews unless they're really negative. I love the negative ones.

You do?
Yeah, because they must be very far from me in their perception of the world, and that is interesting to me. But I try not to read a lot...

I think you're probably the first person who I've ever spoken to who says they like to read the negative reviews.
I really like them. The worst one I ever got in my life, I laminated and used to carry in my wallet. It was a brief thing from a right-wing French [paper], maybe Le Figaro or something, of a film called Dead Man that we made, and they said—this is the English translation—"The French intelligence celebrates Jarmusch in the way death and blind parents would celebrate their retarded child. Jarmusch is 33 years old, the same age as Christ when he was crucified. We can only hope the same for his film career." I was like, Whoa! That is harsh! I'm keeping that one!

It gets personal.
But that was vicious. I was like, Did I sleep with this critic's girlfriend, or what? What happened? It was really... the knife was sharpened, you know.

That speaks to a very specific kind of agenda for sure.
A friend of mine Amos Poe, he's sort of a mentor of mine, a punk filmmaker, whatever, and when we were young when he made, in the late-'70s, one of his films—The Foreigner or Unmade Beds—the New York Times called it "the cinematic equivalent of kindergarten scribbling," and he put that on his posters and put "New York Times" and we were like punks, we were like, "Yes! Amos! That's great!"

I mean, it genuinely is a pretty great pull quote, and I think also a little bit oblivious to the charms of a kindergartener's scribbles and what the value is in that anyway.
Yeah, it was kind of accurate in a positive way, and they intended it as very negative.

In this film, there are so many actors who are veteran actors, but there are also a lot of younger actors. What do you like about the combination of that dynamic?
I just like the variety of sort of world perceptions—indicated in a very minor way when Bill Murray's character says, "I've known Hermit Bob since we were in junior high," and Adam's character says, "Oh, wow! That must've been like 50 years ago!" And Bill says, "Yeah. It was." But just the kind of difference of perception of age I find as I get older really interesting. And I'm very interested in young people, especially teenagers, because I think they form our sense of style, of music, of so many things, and yet they're kind of pushed around and treated badly and constantly told, "You don't know how the world really works! You're just a teenager!" But they gave us poetry. They gave us Mary Shelley and Rimbaud and chess masters, and all the great music comes a lot from teenagers. So I tried to keep a pulse, that's why the three teenagers, I would not let them turn into zombies. There are only four people [who don't get turned by zombies]: those three that are delinquents, and the Tom Waits character, who's already removed himself from the social order long before.

When the zombies become zombies, they all have one inciting thing that they're still pursuing in the real world. Do you have one thing that you think you would pursue if you were a zombie?
You know, it's hard because I'm a self-proclaimed dilettante. I'm interested in so many things, I don't know if I would be breaking into a bookstore, or if I would be in the alley outside of a movie theater, or if I would be trying to get into a guitar shop. I'm not sure. I have a lot of interests.

I mean there's a way in which it's a really tender portrayal of the human impulse to just seek out these things that they love.
It's not totally a critique; it's their vestigial memory of some things that they were drawn toward, whether it was power tools or oxycontin.

The Dead Don't Die is in theaters now.

Credit: Frederick Elmes/ Focus Features