What A Find

A few weeks ago, two of my high school friends came to visit Skidmore and while they were here I had the glorious freedom of having access to a car. After spending Saturday shopping in Saratoga and dodging snow flurries by darting into Mrs. London’s, the three of us decided to head out to nearby Glens Falls. While many shops were closed because we are poor planners who decide to go shopping on Sundays, we did happen upon two great finds.

First was a place called The Chocolate Mill, where we enjoyed some delicious coffee, or in my case, peppermint hot chocolate. This café also offers breakfast and lunch options as well as, as you may expect from the name, chocolate treats in countless forms. If you ever take a shopping trip (or any trip) to Glens Falls, I suggest stopping in The Chocolate Mill for your caffeine/chocolate fix.

Our second find (the one more pertinent to this blog) was a consignment shop called Finders Keepers. This shop is filled with everything from sweaters to prom gowns, all for great prices. There are also shoes, handbags, jewelry, and even books and movies. The shop is cluttered in the best way possible. The large selection of clothing means the clothes are everywhere, but it’s not headache-inducing or hard to maneuver. There are dresses hanging from the ceiling, plants and knick-knacks framing the racks of clothes, and cute and convenient fitting rooms in the back of the store. The racks of clothes are organized by type of clothing, making it easy to browse the whole store or look for something specific. In just the time we were there I must have heard the saleswomen on the phone with at least three people interested in selling their old clothes, so it would seem they are always receiving new merchandise.

We easily spent a couple hours exploring the store and our shopping experience ended up being a huge success. We all had a good time and found something we wanted. I found two business-y skirts for $6 each and a dress that fit perfectly for $12. If you’re looking to expand your wardrobe without spending a fortune, I definitely recommend checking out Finders Keepers.

The Chocolate Mill’s website

More info on Finders Keepers here

My Finds: Dress for $12!

My Finds: two skirts for $6 each!

 

ACA is Looking for Models and Clothes!

This year’s ACA Dinner will include a fashion show featuring an array of Asian clothing. ACA is searching for clothes they can borrow for the show. They are looking for clothes from any Asian country, either traditional or modern. If you have any pieces ACA can borrow, or if you have interest in modeling in the show, contact Dawid Pypec at dpypec@skidmore.edu.

The event will be held on April 14th. In addition to the fashion show, the dinner will include many other performances related to Asian culture–everything from dances to game shows. Don’t miss it!

Lucy Skidmore Scribner

We’ve been asked a few times who this “Lucy” is. For all you non-Skidmore folk, Lucy refers to Lucy Skidmore Scribner, the original foundress of Skidmore College. If you’re on campus, perhaps you’ve seen her featured on our posters, thinking about 2012 looks from Kate Spade, McQ, etc.

If you’d like a little background, Lucy Skidmore was born on July 4, 1853. She was raised by her aunt in Manhattan, as her mother died soon after her birth. Growing up, she was dedicated to community service and taught at the mission school related to her church. She married John Blair Scribner, but both of their children died in infancy and John died soon after from pneumonia.

In 1897 Lucy purchased a summer home in Saratoga Springs and eventually settled here permanently. She and four other women from her church established the “Young Women’s Industrial Club” in 1903, which would become the “Skidmore School of Arts” about 10 years later.

Without Lucy, there would be no Skidmore College. For more of her story, go here.

Element Fashion Show Interest Meeting

This Thursday, March 1st, there will be a general interest meeting for the Element Fashion Show. Head to Case Lounge at 6:00 pm for general information and 6:15 if you’re interested in designing. This is one of the biggest fashion events on campus, so get involved! The Element team is looking for clothing and jewelry designers, hair and make-up artists, and models. The event will be held on April 13th and this year it is Twilight Zone-themed, so it seems everyone will be looking as dapper as Rod Serling and models will arrive on the runway via crashing elevators. No; as cool as that would be, I don’t think that’s the plan. But if you have better ideas or designs you would like to share, attend the meeting!

Ujima Fashion Show on DVD

If you missed the Ujima fashion show earlier this month, or if you want to see it again, you can request a DVD copy from SkidTV. Just head to SkidTV’s website to fill out the brief order form.

SkidTV already posted some photos from the show, which occurs during Black History Month and features students modeling a wide variety of styles. Local businesses donate clothing and accessories to be featured in this annual event. Here are some of our favorite looks from this year’s show:


The New Black

Four ratings into her discussion board on the infamous ratemyprofessors.com, an anonymous student culminates his or her sparkling review of English professor Barbara Black with “Plus, she has incredible fashion sense.” In fact, one-eighth of her reviewers made it a point to comment on her style. Having taken a course with her this past semester, we can attest to these comments: as the saying goes, Black is always in fashion.

In addition to having fabulous personal style, Barbara Black—a Victorianist and New Historicist with a BA from Bryn Mawr and a Masters and PhD from the University of Virginia under her belt (pun not intended)—researches fashion history and theory in much of her own scholarship. She also enjoyed rummaging through thrift shops *before it was cool* and fawns over the runway stylings of Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and Tom Ford.

Before the endless pajama-clad days of winter break, Professor Black, who describes her personal style as age-appropriate yet eclectic and free, was gracious enough to sit down with us to talk about fashion in her work, life, and at Skidmore.

WWLW: Have you specifically studied fashion history or theory, or has it been a topic that happened to come up in your studies of the Victorian Era? Has the specific time period of your area of specialization (the nineteenth century) affected your interest in fashion, as this was the era that created the modern fashion industry?

BB: In grad school, I didn’t have specific training in fashion history, as the program I was in did not acknowledge its existence.  I was trained in new historicism [a group of critical theorists founded by Stephen Greenlatt who focused on understanding a work through the eyes of its contemporary history and culture], which prepared me for what has become an interest in a relationship between the representational and material. What is more central than the clothes we wear? I’m particularly influenced by the works of Roland Barthes, Valerie Steele, Jean Baudrillard, Georg Simmel, and Pierre Bourdieu. Though not all specifically rooted in fashion theory, all these theorists are interested in social and cultural capital, which is stature and status dictated by what we possess or own or wear.

WWLW: Why do you think a knowledge or study of fashion is important? What, if anything, do you think a particular fashion sense or style movement says about a society or historical period?  

BB: The nineteenth century was an age of social mobility and the first age in which your life and future were not necessarily ruled by the class into which you were born. For the first time, you could move up the social ladder by how you acted or appeared. The notion of being a gentleman or a lady was up for grabs. As long as you could affect your appearance, you could be anyone; you stood a chance of becoming anything. A key aspect of this idea is how you dress. Social life was not pre-scripted. You simply had to master social signs instead of reading out a plan. Identity became a game. The fluidity of appearance is still how society works today, as well. Victorians predicted their modernity for the future. We have the right to fashion ourselves—pun intended. Who we are is not essentialist but a social construction of the self.

WWLW: How do you incorporate fashion and fashion theory into your scholarship?

BB: My current book project, which is just going into production, is focused on gentlemen’s clubs of nineteenth century. Not strip joints, but exclusive social clubs. What interested me is that these clubs are about belonging—insiders and outsiders. You don’t have a club if you don’t have a strong sense of who is not eligible.

Fashion is a club; you either know how to dress or you don’t. When you look at these clubs, there was a lot of talk about whether someone dressed like X club or Y club. A big discussion in the nineteenth century man’s life was if he looked like a club man or not. Though we typically think fashion is a women’s concern, it is beyond gender; fashion is the social concern of all people wanting to belong. In specific clubs, there was always this discussion of if he appeared to be ‘one of us’ and if he was socially eligible. This ties in with the idea of the ‘dandy,’ one of the greatest figures of the era. Oscar Wilde! This ideology focuses on what it meant for a particular kind of Victorian man to dress. The dandy dresses for pleasure, for aestheticism, for sensation; he became a symbol of leisure. He took a long time to dress and didn’t work a normal job. He became a symbol of the urban London scene.

Additionally, clubs have club jackets, or ties, or colors. For example, Garrick club colors are salmon pink and cucumber green; the secret ‘insider’ code between club members was wearing salmon pink socks. What I love about this example is that it is a metonymy that symbolizes how fashion works: it takes another clubman to understand that these socks equal an insider. Popular media of nineteenth century had anxious editorials about imposters. Being “clubable” created the personal desire to try to be clubman, even if one was not.

WWLW: How do you incorporate fashion into your teaching?  

BB: When teaching the Victorian novel, there is always a physical description of a character—his/her face, hair, body, clothing—which tells us something immediately about the personality. This convention emphasizes that what characters wear is extremely important. We need to take time with these descriptions, or we wouldn’t be reading cues as closely as the original audience. Physical descriptions speak of personality, morality, and social class.

In another course called “American Dreams,” we discuss what contemporary Americans desire and value, and what they spend their time doing. Brand welfare, consumption, and social mobility are major themes in this course. I’ve had students read the work of Naomi Klein (a scholar of fashion and consumerism) and look at the work of the architect Rem Koolhaas (who designed the flagship store for Prada in New York City). Studying fashion, advertising and consumerism in modern America provides insight into the lives and culture of contemporary people the same way that these things can tell us about the past.  

WWLW:  How would you describe the general style of Skidmore?  

BB: It would be incredibly modest to say that there is a fair amount of diversity and panache among the students. When I first came to Skidmore, I heard of the reputation of the campus being generally attractive; however, I was much more struck by the range of individual styles among the student body and faculty. Diversity does not have an orthodox shape; it can be subtle, intellectual, aesthetic. When I look around at the student body and the way they wear fashion, I see diversity. Creative thought matters! (Covers her mouth with her hand) Also, the current cultural moment’s interest in past styles resonates to my own college days; the other day, I saw a student wearing a pair of bellbottoms exactly like a pair I had owned, and it was odd to think that maybe she bought my exact pair from a thrift shop.

Creating Covergirl: Words of Wisdom from the Advertising World

As Executive Vice President and Creative Director at Grey Advertising, Mark Fina has helped to foster the images of some of the top brands in the beauty industry. He currently works with Covergirl, TJ Maxx, and NFL Women’s Apparel, just to name a few. Earlier this year he visited Skidmore to talk to marketing classes about his unique perspective on the beauty industry and how to truly understand a target market.

In his presentation, Fina discussed his involvement with planning and producing both print and television ads. He focused on his work with Covergirl to explain how to portray the image that a company wants through its advertisements. Covergirl deliberately chooses celebrities with strong, unique personalities (such as Drew Barrymore, Queen Latifah and Ellen Degeneres) as the faces of their campaigns. On set, Fina encourages these women to relax and improvise so that he can really capture their personalities on film, since Covergirl is all about originality. Fina has a background and degree in fine arts and spoke about the differences between creating art for yourself and creating visuals for beauty companies or fashion houses. He explained that in the art world, it doesn’t matter if people don’t like your painting, while in the advertising world, other people’s perceptions are everything.

We had a chance to speak to Fina after his presentation and ask him a few questions about his work and what he likes to see on a resume. Anyone interested in working in the fashion/beauty business, take note!

WWLW: You talked about your transition from fine arts to advertising, but what exactly was the first job you had in advertising?

Mark Fina: My first job in advertising was for a small local Tucson ad firm. I was an unpaid intern for a very short time. My job consisted of illustrating for newspaper ads and doing mechanical paste ups. I clearly remember one day being asked to draw the words “rock breaking prices” and the letters were literally rocks breaking apart. Terribly hideous. Clearly I didn’t last long there.

WWLW: What qualities or types of experience you like to see on a resume (for anything from an internship to a full-time job)?

MF: For me, there is no patented answer to this. But I do believe real life experience, whatever it is, in business does help. Of course, if it’s in the area in which you want to focus, it’s best. A lot of the time I ask interviewees what they like to do, what they read, if they travel, or what music they like. Sometimes the answers they give help me get a better picture of how enriched their lives are. The more life experience they have usually equates to a better candidate.

WWLW: It seems that you’re involved with almost every aspect of the ads you work on. For beauty product ads, how do you decide what clothes the people in the ad will wear? For clothing ads, how do you decide what their hair and makeup should look like?

MF: Both questions above have the same answer. It all starts with the idea. Once you are clear on what the idea is and you’ve done thorough research, then you can easily get to how to execute your concept.

The thing to remember in creating advertising/communication is that you’ve got to have a very tight vision. And when the vision and idea are tight, the scope of the answer is small and usually a winner.

As an example, in beauty, if the product is expensive and the package is pink and the lip-gloss is high gloss, then you look for wardrobe that will help visualize what the product looks like and feels like. We call this the look, tone and feel. For a fashion ad, a lot of how you decide on the makeup/hair (glam) is largely dependent upon the trend and the positioning of the brand. A wider-appealing and lifestyle-focused brand can be more natural and less polarizing. A high-end and haute brand can be over the top and more unexpected and defiantly more polarizing.

So, in conclusion, the most important thing to remember is to be clear on your vision, be specific about what you want, do your research and be confident.

If you do that, you’ll always know how to decide what’s right.

For more on Grey, visit grey.com/newyork