“Don’t move. I wanna look at the outline of your body,” John instructs Elizabeth as he tilts a lamp towards her, casting dusty bedroom light over her and her white button-down shirt. Through it, we can see her waist —— where it caves and rounds —— and her crescent breasts, but really, all we’re seeing is what we’re half-seeing. Her shape is perceived through another shape.
Throughout 9 ½ Weeks, Basinger drowns in shapes: heavy cable-knit sweaters, cocooning cardigans, asymmetric collars, boots and wool socks that ruche at her ankles, shirts that droop in shades like pale rose, ecru, mauve. Her everyday coat is a faded grey linen trench that parachutes on her body and prompts a certain floppiness as if she might, at any moment, pull Harpo faces or waddle down the street like Charlie Chaplin. At one point she asks John, “You know, sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be one of the guys.” He buys her a suit and a mustache, and at the Algonquin, she pantomimes her impression of masculinity for kicks.
But there’s also something sensual about the fit of her clothing. The weight of a sweater three or four sizes too big has an uncanny way of conceiving the nude beneath the bulk. Like women who cover their faces with their long hair or only wear black, Basinger portrays a woman who swaths agitation in fabric, clutching the loose creases of her sleeves, or burrowing in the broad shoulders of her coat ——”
AND HERE, quotes from the panel:
FIONA: “There are different modes of inconspicuous chic. There are garments so soft, so supple, that your body feels awakened like by the fluttering fingers of a kind lover after you’ve popped a klonopin; that’s a pleasure-oriented luxury.”
DURGA: “I sometimes feel like I have sought invisibility as a way of fitting in: wearing all black, unflattering shapes, nothing tight, uniform-ease, little to no color, trousers with pockets for feeling like I have a purpose.”
KATHERINE: “I like feeling completely simple——which is different than looking unremarkable——in something that has some depth. I can walk, sit cross legged on the floor, slouch, jump into a hug, but there’s absolutely recognizable effort. Layers, texture, tension, whatever.”
FIONA: “I shop not-anxiously but actively. I’m discriminating. Then, ideally, I can fling whatever on without thinking too much about it.”
ARABELLE: “But anxiety is part of my identity, and I like clothes that bring it out. If I have to suffer this mortal coil, you’re gonna hear about it. Everything I do is out of the anxious death drive, let’s be real.”
HARI: “I first experienced luxury as something so unattainable it wasn’t even material. Fashion was more about inspiration, options, and propositions. Tips and tricks! (…) So there’s a part of me that wants to say that I first experienced minimalism as an early brand of the most personal feminism. I did not know that I wanted to be a woman when I first heard the word “minimalism,” but I was certainly well on my way to forming an Ideal Woman in my head, one who eventually became so big beautiful and hungry that I would have to start turning into her. Fashion came first, Minimalism came second, and the rest is history.”
“I like feeling completely simple—which is different than looking unremarkable—in something that has some depth. I can walk, sit cross legged on the floor, slouch, jump into a hug, but there’s absolutely recognizable effort. Layers, texture, tension, whatever.”—Katherine Bernard, “Clothes & Class: For Feeling Like You Have A Purpose,” on Adult (via adult-mag)
“People want to look effortless and carefree with their clothes because it could be conflated to imply they have their shit together and don’t worry about their body. There’s no anxiety in Céline or a beautifully cut Lanvin skirt. But anxiety is part of my identity, and I like clothes that bring it out. If I have to suffer this mortal coil, you’re gonna hear about it. Everything I do is out of the anxious death drive, let’s be real.”
Durga: I’ve spent the first half of summer re-reading Virginia Woolf. And so, my response to clothing at the moment is motivated and confused by Woolf’s “frock consciousness.” In her diary, Woolf talks about “display,” what she describes as “where people secrete an envelope which connects them & protects them from others.” She likens herself to the other; she was after all an outsider. “These states are very difficult (obviously I grope for words) but I’m always coming back to it…Still I cannot get at what I mean.”
That’s why so much of Mrs. Dalloway (class) and Orlando (gender, of course——Tilda played Orlando in the film adaptation) are devoted to the potential and futility of dress. Clothes had a psychological currency in her writing, even though her relationship to clothes was always fraught. Woolf considered herself to be a serious woman, but she was interested in pursuit, not definition. Of course she loathed excess in writing, ornamentation, etc., but I think Woolf’s scrutiny of style was her way of reconciling with how she felt as an outsider. She and her characters were on the margins: not pretty enough, living privately in public, feeling the doom of one’s position (especially a woman, anxious to please and placate, but also incapable). Dress figures prominently in her writing because she’s afraid to describe it, perhaps to describe appearances at all; I also have a fraught relationship to clothes, and as a writer I worry that I too, too often, rely on physical descriptions.
Elaine May during postproduction on Mikey and Nicky:
"May seemed to enjoy the minutiae of editing (in its way, a visual analogue to improvisation), although at times her habits became erratic. Some nights she would return to the editing bays after the editors had gone home, with Cassavetes in tow, and systematically undo everything the editors had done that day, then disappear for forty-eight hours. Cassavetes, Falk, and the writer Peter Feibleman were among the chosen few allowed to visit. At some point during postproduction, Jeannie Berlin also moved into the Sunset Marquis. May herself rarely ventured out, save to troll from her suite to the cutting room, her figure wraith-like, her face occasionally painted with intense mask like makeup. She had forbidden the maids from entering her private bedroom for ten months, and when she left the remaining production staff found rotting banana peels and apple cores strewn in her bed, the charred remains of TV dinners in the oven, the blackout curtains across all the windows. She’d written notes to herself in lipstick across all the mirrors. May seemed to lived primarily on pills and health food. At one point she even commanded an underling to bring her only pink food. "If you put any salt in the food," May told one waitress, "I will die right here."
From Rachel Abramowitz’ Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?
"I regret ever believing that being ironic and counterintuitive were acceptable substitutes for having real thoughts. I also regret the serious problem I had with mimicry when I first started out. I’d write my versions of David Sedaris stories or Gawker posts and then wonder why so many of my pieces were being rejected. Of course, they were being rejected because they were transparent ripoffs, and I needed time to become my own writer (which is an ongoing process). To get hired at Gawker, I first had to stop trying to write like I belonged at Gawker.”
"Imparting advice is tricky — while I am always excited to and interested in speaking with women of color about how identity intersects with their own writing, I’m still very much in an incubation period. I am a slow writer, (it’s looking more and more like I read more than I write), I don’t take as many chances as I’d like to take, and sometimes I feel too susceptible to too many opinions or hashtag-type waves of precipitous discussions. What I will say and what I’ve always said is, it’s vital to meet other women writers — women of color writers especially — and to surround yourself by them. The year that followed college I was still living in that residual space where I seemed prone to writers named Jonathan (yikes!) and where I thought being smart (whatever that means) was the ultimate pursuit. I was not writing for myself. I have since learned to write for the three or four people (mostly women) who I admire most on this planet, who I know hear and love hearing my take on things. A litmus test of who those people are would be to check your inbox. Who do you write your best emails to?
After college, I was surrounded by too many white male writers and journalists. They were everywhere! I even wrote a dopey fan letter to, of all people, Jonathan Franzen, seeking advice. He wrote back, months later, and recommended I read Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge and added the following: “My first piece of advice, perhaps already unnecessary, is to seek out a reader or two whom you can trust to be maximally and lovingly hard on what you write.” The words “lovingly hard on what you write” were not, for me at least, the right advice, though I guess it was cool that he wrote back. Thing is, I was already hard on myself. As a woman of color, aren’t we all already so hard on ourselves? Either trying from a young age to fit in, or be the best, or be invisible? What I needed was to trust myself more, trust my voice, let it run a bit before it could walk, and believe that my own way of seeing things and making connections were valid. It’s funny to write now, but even a year ago, I felt like my words were illegitimate. Meeting other women writers of color, especially so in the last year, has given me so much momentum. The ways in which a simple, knowing nod can encourage me back to my computer are breathtaking. I now write not just as a reader but as someone who trusts that my lived experience can offer more to the conversation. Sometimes I just remind myself to feel valid and to know that I can only approach the macro through my own micro experience.”
"Recently, a friend at a dinner party mentioned that Agatha Christie went missing for an entire year only to return to her husband, refusing for the rest of her life to tell him where she’d been.
“No!” I said, “That’s my fantasy!” It was only then, hearing myself say it, that I realized it was true. I didn’t want to go missing in the way that necessitated a flyer or search party, but I’ve always loved the idea of just going. Why hadn’t I seen this before?
In truth, I later learned, Agatha Christie was only gone for 11 days before being discovered at a hotel registered under a false name, but the idea of being gone for a year, of having a year’s worth of unobserved time, all those solo days stretching long and soft, the meditative state of barely speaking, when everyone who sees you is a stranger, when you know you’ll be forgotten by most anyone you come across — well, for as much as I love my friends and family it almost doesn’t make sense that I long for that variety of aloneness as much as I do. How ephemeral everything becomes — it’s some kind of holy.”
“There are times when it will go so wrong that you will barely be alive, and times when you realise that being barely alive, on your own terms, is better than living a bloated half-life on someone else’s terms.”—Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (via larmoyante)
"It doesn’t matter whether you are in the city or the country, as long as you can control your own little pod. Make it a weekend, get in plenty of candles, and lay the fire if you have one. Prepare dinner ahead, and plan a walk so that you will be heading for home in that lovely liminal time where light and dark are hinged against each other.
City or country, that sundown hour is strange and exhilarating, as ordinary spatial relations are altered: trees rear up in their own shadows, buildings bulk out, pavements stretch forward, the red wrapper of brake lights turns a road into a lava flow.
Inside, the lights are going on. Outside, it’s getting dark. You, as a dark shape in a darkening world, want to hold that intimacy, just for one night. Go home. Leave the lights off.
We have all experienced negative darkness – those long stretches of the night when we can’t sleep, and worry about everything, and so we know that “dark time” can seem interminably long, compared with daytime. Yet this slowing of time can be the most relaxing and beautiful experience. Spending the evening in candlelight, and maybe by the fire – with no TV – talking, telling stories, letting the lit-up world go by without us, expands the hours, and alters the thoughts and conversations we have.
I have noticed that when all the lights are on, people tend to talk about what they are doing – their outer lives. Sitting round in candlelight or firelight, people start to talk about how they are feeling – their inner lives. They speak subjectively, they argue less, there are longer pauses.
To sit alone without any electric light is curiously creative. I have my best ideas at dawn or at nightfall, but not if I switch on the lights – then I start thinking about projects, deadlines, demands, and the shadows and shapes of the house become objects, not suggestions, things that need to done, not a background to thought.”
57 Minutes into Paul Mazursky's An Unmarried Woman
Jeannette: I never had any self esteem and that was the trouble. (PASSES Bloody Mary and SIGHS) I guess I suppose I thought looks would do it. Well I’ll tell you, it’s a nice feeling to like yourself.
Sue: Bette Davis always had a self-esteem
Erica: Katharine Hepburn
Sue: Terrific woman. It’s strange, where are all the wonderful women that were in the movies in the old days?! Bette Davis. Katharine Hepburn. Joan Crawford.
Jeannette: Where are the women!?
Erica: Well we’ve got…Jane Fonda.
Jeannette: Oh please.
Erica: Barbra Streisa—
Jeannette: It’s not the same thing
Sue: I’d hate to see Streisand and Fonda in a toe to toe with Hepburn and Davis. There’s no contest.
Erica: Different time.
Patti, Erica’s teenaged daughter walks in the bedroom.
Patti: Hey. Hi, I’m sorry, am I interrupting?
Sue: No we’re just wondering where all the women movie stars are compared to twenty, thirty years ago.
Patti: Well I think we’re getting to an age where the dominant cult figure is bisexual.
Sue: You mean like Mick and Dylan, and David that sorta thing.
Patti: What’s so funny?
Sue: Is that good or bad?
Patti: I dunno…Nobody knows.
Sue: Well you’re entitled to an opinion
Patti: Well I’m not bisexual if that’s what you’re asking.
Erica: Yes, we know that.
Patti: You know but maybe she doesn’t.
Erica: How’d we get started on this?
Elaine: (tears running down her cheek) Self-esteem. I could write a book on self-esteem. Self-esteem in the American woman. Once divorced, sleeping around, drinking too much, pretending to have a lot of self-you-know-what but really having next to none.
Sue: You gettin your period, Elaine?
Elaine: (a loving smirk) Sure. But I also have no fucking confidence.
Sue: (hands her a glass of water) Here, drink this.
Elaine: Why do you people always give you water when you fall apart? I don’t need water, I need booze.
Sue: (laughing) It’s true.
Elaine: Don’t worry, Patti. Aunt Elaine is a just a manic-depressive. You know like, um, Jekyll and Hyde.
Sue: I don’t think you get enough Vitamin C.
Jeanette smiles, sighs.
Patti: See ya guys later.
Jeanette: Bye, love
Sue: Take care.
Jeannette: She’s something else
Erica: Yeah. Tough cookie. She’s confused about Martin.
Elaine: How is the son of a bitch?
Sue: Hey. We forgot Claire Trevor. Jean Arthur…Susan Hayward.
Jeanette: What about Greta GARBO…
Sue: (tosses the paper at Jeanette) That was before my time!