Thursday, October 15, 2009

Do You Have An Artsy &/Or Intellectual Cousin?

You may have an artsy or intellectual cousin. Might even be artsy or intellectual yourself. All to the good. Art and Intellect are cornerstones of the Renaissance, NPR, Burning Man, and other valuable human endeavors. However, this is not quite the same as choosing the Artsy And/Or Intellectual Cousin style in which to dress yourself. Taking up the Artsy Cousin mantle requires commitment, enthusiasm, imagination. And a closet full of clothes with stories.

While there are a few sub-species, (for example, the all-my-clothes-are-black birds of some large cities, or the Pacific Northwestern wood sprites), I do believe this style is, at a high level, universal. Cross-cultural. Not reserved for High WASPs. After all, there is no mall for the Artsy Cousin. The kabbal does not assemble in Tibet and decide that in 2010 there will be ruffles. No Fashion Week for the global aesthetic. Instead, Artsy Cousins of all cultures dress following common principles.

The Artsy Cousin wears clothes that reflect her beliefs. Her travels. It's possible that the High WASP version is particularly prone to the international style; the cachet of travel and adventure silence the voice of her mother, "Dear, is that really what you want to wear?" Of course she has been mocked, imitated, affectionately teased. She doesn't mind. Her vision, and her ideas, trump any cultural obligations. Go ahead. Point a finger at the orange harem pants. She will tell you that belly dancing is good for the 2nd and 3rd chakras.

She spends her grandest evenings at home, although can be found in cafes on occasion. No ballgowns. No charity events; she celebrates life. Exotic cooking is probable. Last year it was Moroccan. This year, well, we don't know. Perhaps Peruvian. Stock up on aji amarillo now. There may be a run on the market.

Of course, along with sandals from the market in Chennai, and skivvies from a vintage store, the High WASP Artsy Cousin may wear Grandmama's diamond ring. May have donated enough of her trust to charity over time that she feels more sentiment for Gran than guilt for blood money. If she's been lucky in the equity markets, that is. It's also true that if her commitment to independence, to global sourcing, to the non-commercial, is real, we'll all be lucky. A culture is strengthened by the well-loved voyages of its eccentrics.

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Blogger JMW said...

I actually have a cousin like this! I love her to death and I sometimes envy her bold choices in bohemian wear, b/c I often veer toward the more conservative style of dress. But, while she may be far more earthy than I, she does wear certain family heirloom jewelry, just as you mentioned. Too funny!

October 15, 2009 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger Buckeroomama said...

You might run into me wearing the ensemble from your second set. Uh, maybe not the orange salwar, but a similar one that is not drawn tightly at the ankles. Definitely the tunic, the sandals, the pashmina, and the earrings.

October 15, 2009 at 7:56 AM  
Blogger Mrs. G said...

I just wrote out a long comment then clicked off with out sending it. Believe me it was a great comment;) Anyway, bohemian is my alternative fashion choice when I am not in High WASP.

October 15, 2009 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger Princess Freckles said...

I think every family needs at least artsy cousin. I had a great-aunt. She was fantastic!

October 15, 2009 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

I could see myself in some of the clothes, not the tops though. No artsy in my family, no matter where I look!

October 15, 2009 at 10:34 AM  
Anonymous Jan said...

Unfortunately, my cousins are few and much, much younger than me - my mother and father got a head start on all of their siblings. I have some first cousins once removed who are closer in age, but they're all, well, hillbillies.

I guess the mantle of Artsy/Intellectual cousin falls on me, but I'm afraid the only story my clothes have to tell is what I had for dinner the previous night (I can't eat without dropping something on my shirt).

October 15, 2009 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Jan, why do you think they invented tie dye in the first place?

October 15, 2009 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Okay, I have been known to wear things much like the first ensemble. Definitely a few "artsy" cousins in my closet. And my daughters are absolutely in the running to carry the mantle forward.
Of course, growing up with an artsy mother on this artsy island, these types are everywhere, so maybe it's environment and not genes...

October 15, 2009 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger CDS said...

OK---so I am a prep who does dabble in this look. Some would say I really blaze my own style trail.

...I am an artist...and an intellectual...and I have a cousin like this too. She's far more boho.

October 15, 2009 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger QueenBeeSwain said...

GREAT post and yes, my family does have an eccentric or seven. Namely AMN who can't shut up about James Joyce- like she misses family functions to go over to Ireland for Bloomsday readings. It was easier to attempt to understand when my father told DMM and me that "JJ is AMN's sports"- since our family apparently is the dumb jock branch of the fam!



October 15, 2009 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger Beth Dunn said...

I have one of each, well actually 1/2 and 1/2--I think that is key



October 15, 2009 at 5:49 PM  
Blogger see you there! said...

You peeked in my closet! Then you poked around in my kitchen. That diamond ring I'm wearing is my Great Grandmothers tho.
Artsy Cousins are pretty common in Berkeley.

October 15, 2009 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger DocP said...

I aspire to this, but my day job sometimes limits how much I can wear on a daily basis. I do lecture to colleagues in Central Asia - does that count?

October 15, 2009 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

Dublin, Berkeley, Martha's Vineyard, all are unquestionably haunts of the Artsy Cousin. Doc - I just want to know, are yurts involved?

October 15, 2009 at 7:32 PM  
Blogger materfamilias said...

I usually try to repress, or at least mute, my (own, inner) Artsy/Intellectual Cousin, but occasionally she pops out. Or, depending on your perspective, she's always dressing me. I do try to edit, though, and I never, ever wear tie-dye. Some of the garments above would appeal to me, but I would tend to wear only one at a time with an otherwise more restrained outfit.

October 15, 2009 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Joyce Lau said...

May I ask for your satorial wisdom?
I'm going to the Hong Kong premiere of that Chinese film I wrote about. It's at 9pm on a Monday night at a big commercial theater downtown.
I presume that, as a run-of-the-mill journalist audience member, I do not have to dress like the stars will. (I'm guessing they will wear those gorgeous "cheongsam", the way actresses here always do when they have starred in a period piece).
I have a chocolate brown Chinese-type silk dress, with the high collar and the slit. But I've been having weight-related self-confidence problems recently, and you really need to be slim to pull it off. (Slim,and wearing a girdle).
A little black dress with heels? Designer jeans, heels and a tailored jacket? (Heels as a non-issue, as I am 5'1")
Hong Kong is rich, but not the dressiest place on earth, and this film is pretty indie / art housey.
What do you think?
Also, do you know if mere mortals actually have to walk down the red carpet into the theatre? Or will they let us slip by a side entrance?

October 15, 2009 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger DocP said...

I have certainly seen yurts, but never stayed in one. The local medical schools tend to offer us more conventional (by western standards) accommodations.

October 16, 2009 at 2:08 AM  
Blogger Red Lipstick Style said...

I don't but wish that I did! I like an arty piece here and there on weekends ;-) such as those pink and white pumps.

October 16, 2009 at 6:04 AM  
Blogger Duchesse said...

I WAS the Arty Cousin, rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters. Afghan coat, turquoise. Lots of DIY trims and beads. Can't wear now, without looking like Eccentric Aunt Who Never Grew Up.

October 16, 2009 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Joyce, I haven't ever been to a movie premiere:). I bet Hong Kong does it right...So I looked at online photos of Hong Kong premieres. It seems that the dress for the non-stars is more along the lines of stylish cocktail dress or jacket+designer jeans+plus stilettos. My rule of thumb for these kinds of situations is to dress appropriately for your role (i.e ask another journalist who has done this about the general parameters)and then do that kind of dressing really well and in a way that makes you comfortable and confident. You want people to think,"Oh, she is somehow related to the film but not an actress," and then for them to think, "Wow, she looks cool, I'd like to talk to her and I bet she is good at what she does..."

October 16, 2009 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

Duchesse, I NEVER would have pegged you for the Arty Cousin. I do love surprises.

October 16, 2009 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Joyce Lau said...

Hi LPC. Thanks for that. I can't believe you actually went and looked at photos of Hong Kong movie premieres!
I really appreciate it. And I'll take your advice. You're right about confident and comfortable. Squeezing myself into an outfit that is not me will just look pretentious and desperate, and then nobody will want to talk to me. It's pretty obvious that I am not a movie star!
Have you ever thought about starting a business as a fashion consultant? I know that sounds silly, but I once interviewed a lady here in HK who made good money advising women on dressing, organizing their closets, etc. It's that combination of solid good sense, dressing know-how and a certain air of authority that does it for her. Just a totally off-the-wall idea.

October 17, 2009 at 2:01 AM  
Blogger Joyce Lau said...

Ahem. I just reread by last comment. I didn't mean to imply, literally, that a high-level executive should go on to organize other people's closets. I just meant that you seem really great at giving fashion advice in a common-sense and comforting way!

October 17, 2009 at 2:10 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Joyce - Hey, I'm flattered, not offended:). For me it's all about having your aesthetic and physical comfort meet the social contract. There are others way more stylish than me, but I hope to help people with what we might call the fashion anthropology...that knowledge comes from years in corporations and years in a WASP family that used to be very concerned with being appropriate. We're all less worried now, luckily.

October 17, 2009 at 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So glad to find your blog. My High WASP upbringing and inner, carefree spirit are in conflict. :) Most of the time, I end up wearing what is "appropriate." That word is such a part of my mother's vocabulary and, as we know, the voice of our mothers never leave our minds-even when we are almost 40! haha

October 17, 2009 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger Patsy said...

Iris Apfel! Not quite a wasp, though......

October 22, 2009 at 8:51 AM  

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