Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why I Want What I Want

I've been working lately, and very very busy. You don't realise when you're a stay-at-home mom all the things you have the luxury of doing. I mean, I felt busy before, but now I am positively frantic. In the mornings, I steam Ender's baby food, in the afternoon I puree it, and when he's gone to bed I freeze it in ice cube trays. He has been a picky eater lately, so I'm trying to hone things in to his preference while at the same time expanding his flavours. Mostly he likes sweet things: pears, peaches, beets and squash. I can't blame him, since those are my favourites too! Whenever it's all savoury, say, lentils and broccoli, he'll have none of it. So I have to sneak in weird combinations: lentils and pears, peaches and chickpeas. Sometimes it works, sometimes I'm left with three sandwich baggies of frozen food that Ender refuses to eat. I shall not waste your time, dear reader, with the story of the confluence of my feeding Ender okra and trying to teach him to eat with his hands...let's just say thank god my baby still fits in the kitchen sink for such emergencies.

Now, with time ahead that I'm not working, I'm looking forward to getting back to basics. Piles of baby clothing that no longer fit my rapidly expanding son will be sorted in 'give away' and 'if we every have another kid' piles. Currently fitting clothes will be moved from their current residence on the pink chair, back into dresser drawers where they belong. Ender's room will stop being an oversized closet, and start being a room again. This is my resolution.

I guess as I am waiting for my decision from Dalhousie is as good a time as any to explain the program that I am applying for, and why I'm applying for it. I've applied to costume studies in the theatre department of dalhousie. My mother did theatre studies at Dal, but with a different specialization, in props. Props is in essence the things that the actor uses on stage. The furniture they sit on, the mirrors they scream into, the tree they sit under contemplatively. It is not set creation or design, which is a common misunderstanding. My mom worked in several prop shops when I was growing up, one of which is the one that I am currently working at. While it's not exactly what I want to do, it's close enough for now, and gives me some real experience in the theatre industry. Of late, I've even had a chance to work on some costumey stuff, which is excellent.

The program that I've applied for is for costuming. It has a historical focus, and teaches design as well as construction. I'm mostly interested in design. I want to do period dramas for the BBC or even sci-fi stuff for hollywood. That said, one needs to crawl their way slowly up this ladder. I will probably start as a seamstress for a large wardrobe house. The thing that I like is that there is a ladder to climb, which is not like my job as a legal assistant, in which I was treading water, counting the seconds towards my inevitible demise. Most, if not all wardrobe designers started as seamstresses.

So why do I want to do it? How do I explain it, without sounding overly dramatic....most of my life all I've focused on is what people wear. Does that sound superficial? It's not meant to be. I've always noticed it in such a scientific way, in the sense that clothing is a signifier. It can express so much about a person's standpoint, character and mood. It can also throw things off in its contradiction. This was always my favourite; the honours student with dreadlocks and a lip ring, Marilyn Manson talking eloquently about American politics in a top hat and blind man contact lenses, or Bettie Page, the fetish pinup girl in a bullet bra with a squeaky clean 'jesus loves me' smile. These contradictions were some of my first 'aha!' moments, in which I realised that subversive clothing could exist to not only throw off people's perceptions (were they close minded enough to leave it at that) or have people question their existing ones. If Marilyn Manson can look the way he does, and still be an intelligent and socially concious person, doesn't that make us question things like the wearing of a suit and tie in the business world? Not that I'm against this, but I think that it's much more fitting if done with an awareness of its anachronism and irony. The suit is a signifier of an all boys club in the business world that is dead and gone. Your grandfather would have you believe that it will give you a leg up at a job interview, and maybe it would, but I think this speaks more to the outmoded belief in clothing as signifier of current HR departments. If we can accept a world in which Marilyn Manson is an intellectual and a fetish model is a jesus freak, seeing the business suit as a sign of employability is simply naive. Anyone can dress up to act out a part, if needed. It takes balls to dress up like a freak and convince people you're normal.

Further to this, I like the duplicity of meaning that clothing can have. I love the idea that a corset can act as a stand in for the nude body. That during the Victorian era, the corset itself was a sexier thing than the nude female form. It also simultaneously expressed the chaste and upstanding matron and the she-devil whore. A proper lady wore a corset to maintain her modesty. A loose woman wore a corset to accentuate her assets. The difference, if extant, is deliciously subtle. 

I think I'm going to stop rambling now.

I just wish I had my letter from Dal...

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