Givhan is always good when ‘something new is afoot’

Whether one dresses fashionably or not, whether one knows what is fashionable or not, it’s always a good idea to read a Pulitzer-winning fashion writer. Few have done better than the Post‘s Robin Givhan in connecting fashion, both on the runway and in the big moments of our time, to the greater cultural mood and its meaning.

In February, Givhan’s criticism of a too-smooth Ralph Lauren show was so good I sent it to a few fellow managers on our digital product team. How might we be as true and real as possible in our product, even at the cost of imperfection?

Lauren sold customers on this glossy American promise. But so many things that once seemed so right and perfect and true have been revealed to be imperfect, rotten or fundamentally broken. Below the surface, the beautiful things are just not quite right: The once mesmerizing sweep of Hollywood, the shattered fantasy of fashion photography, the impugned standard bearers of media, beleaguered democracy.

Glossy doesn’t just seem ill-timed; it raises suspicions. It leaves one feeling unsettled. It leaves one asking: What fresh lie is this?

This week, Givhan went to a similar place, probing real-ness and self-truth in our modern hall of mirrors and influence, as she wrote about Meghan Markle’s dress. The column builds beautifully, gathering evidence to assemble into…

Markle, who is biracial, has been referred to as an American princess and a black princess, although she does not hold that title in her own right. The diversity she brings to the British royal family is historic and important. But there remains something disconcerting in 2018 about the obsessive enchantment with princesses and Prince Charming, tiaras, carriage rides and a life of happily-ever-after that is, in part, defined by giving up a career one enjoyed and ceasing to have public opinions. It can be a suffocating fantasy because it is one premised on relinquishing control and independence. It’s a fantasy that is less about the relationship between two loving individuals than it is a bargain between an institution and a symbol of femininity, the state and the silent bride.

The dress, in its simplicity, suggests that something new is afoot — or at least a desire for something new. It’s a modern dress. But it’s more than that. It’s a dress that in the glow of the global spotlight, amid the dreamy-eyed commentary, refuses the spun sugar fantasy and suggests reality has the potential to be just as marvelous. Perhaps even better.

You can explore the rest of Givhan’s recent archive here. (Her recent Tom Wolfe piece is terrific.) I agree with some takes and not others. You’ll likely feel the same — it’s criticism, after all. But she makes her connections and case in such powerful ways.

We’ll miss you too, Dusty

As we head into the new season this week, the Post catches up with the departed Dusty Baker. We loved him for lots of reasons, but his love of the District was one.

“The education level, the mind-set, the diversity,” he says. “That was the first time I found myself eavesdropping on other people’s conversations because I couldn’t believe how many different ethnic groups there were. They would look white and talk German, or look black and talk French. I liked that atmosphere. I liked the town — a lot.”

‘Called to witness and perhaps ease’

Christian Wiman’s recent “Issues of Blood” essay is a show-stopper. Lori read it and encouraged me to do the same. The piece from the former editor of Poetry magazine starts with an injured dog and ends with a Holocaust victim.

“Few of us will ever be called to witness to world pain—to weltschmerz—as Etty [Etty Hillesum, whose work Wiman teaches at Yale Divinity School] was called, but I feel sure that there is some one pain to which every one of us is called to witness and perhaps ease,” Wiman writes. “It might be as simple as some phone call to a family member you haven’t spoken to in too long, it might be some thorn in the heart of a friend to whom you have not paid sufficient attention, it might be some wholly ordinary encounter you have in the next few hours of this wholly ordinary day—when suddenly you feel some power going out of you.”

Also in the poetry-meets-religion vein, poet Lindsey Weishar writes: “I have come to realize the cowardice of sidestepping revision. … My task is to acknowledge my broken humanity, and to say yes to being broken further in the act of writing.”


The Buffalo News is here to make your day

Thank you to Lindsay for bringing the “My View” column to my attention. My view for the moment is that My View is one of the best things going in modern column-writing and I don’t know why it doesn’t go viral on a regular basis.

To understand the happiness that is My View, you must read.

February 8: “Wear your good clothes.”

It is time to face reality. If your number is up, most of your nice clothes with be put in a box, or given away, or thrown in the trash by someone you love. This is more of a factor for those of us who have cracked fifty years of age. Your nicer clothing items could literally outlive you.

Even for younger people, though, doing too much of this “saving” is a waste of time. You could get a job at the zoo, and the elephant could decide one day to sit on you. You could be driving your racecar around the bend, and go off the track. An airplane could land on your house.

February 14: “When the flight was the best part of a vacation.”

Flying was different in 1939. When I was nine years old, I could not believe it when Mom and Dad picked up our (landline) telephone, called American Airlines for reservations to fly to the World’s Fair in New York City. We were going to see the Trylon and Perisphere. I slapped my forehead and tried falling over backward like in the comics.

February 28: “Learning to accept the strange concept of ‘Doppelgramma’.”

Who, I think, is this imposter? This Other? This redhead from New Jersey who has wormed her way into my life? Or, more to the point, into my granddaughters’ lives? This woman who believes herself entitled to fawn over my darlings.

March 5: “Nicknames make life a little more interesting.”

1975 brought me back to the reservation to live with my aunt and uncle. My aunt’s name was Clara but my uncle lovingly called her Chub. His name was Norman but I heard family call him Nero. My uncle Myron was called Monk. My Grandpa spoke about the good old days with his friends Skimbo, Guggins, June Bug and Minoj. When I started dating my husband, Tom, my grandpa called him Little Minoj because of his grandfather. My family also had Jut, Leen, Cow, Deetle, Punkin, Eshka and Peaches.

March 19: “Hats off to hats.”

But don’t fret, headwear is back! This time not in the form of dress hats, but in the classic baseball cap. These are the hats of today. You can wear them forward, backward and even sideways. Isn’t it interesting to see well-dressed men walking down the street with that trendy baseball cap?

Love them all. Life is too short not to try writing something every once in a while. You could get a job at the zoo, and the elephant could decide one day to sit on you.

The service in teaching a craft

From Times profile of a career NBA assistant coach:

And though in professional basketball he has never been a head coach, he says, “it probably worked out the way it should.”

“I try to be an artisan,” he adds. “There is a purity to teaching as an assistant — a virtue in being a craftsman and having a craft. It’s the nuts-and-bolts stuff that appeals to me, and the relationships.

Lovely day (night) at the Kennedy Center

When a man with a great voice (Jose James) and a great band (Nate Smith and James Francies, among others) and access to a great stage (the Kennedy Center) has a love for a musician whose music you also love (Bill Withers), you go. I also love it when the Kennedy Center lives up to its potential of feeling like the most D.C. place possible. My hometown makes me happy. The crowd of all colors and ages was just what last weekend needed, along with a sick dog getting on the mend just in time to catch the show. The songs at the tribute were warm and soulful and brought out the writing that makes Withers work. Good seats, too.

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