(H)ello Substack, My Old Friend
I've come to talk with you again
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Give a woman 3 finals to write, two concerts to put on, a couple of New York Times articles to edit, a beach in Miami to bask on and a Bachelor's degree to receive, and she'll skimp a little on the 'stack. But summer's here, and I'm five letters behind (three of which are I O U), so in the next few weeks I’ll do my best to pick up
My brain cells are pretty fried from the past several weeks, so while I recuperate from the recent craziness, I figured I'd keep it short form and just sound off on a couple of Hs.
H is for High Fashion
Since I last updated you (more than a MONTH ago now), I feel like I've encountered an endless parade of fashion content on my feed. Is high fashion having a comeback? Did high fashion ever go away? I was previously of the opinion that collections only got unveiled during designated Fashion Weeks — this may have just been ignorance on my part, because throughout the spring, clothes have been popping up everywhere.
The first show I encountered since we last corresponded was Thom Browne's FAO Schwartz-core Fall/Winter 2022 collection, which merged the American designer’s traditional tweeds with colorful swath-y interventions, quilted accents, and inflated, stylized shapes. Then came the Met Gala on May 3, in all its tone-deaf and performative glory. Dior took a stab at “California Couture” with their Spring 2023 Resort collection, which unfurled on Venice Beach in mid-May. Then, Balenciaga Occupied Wall Street for their spring 2023 collection – latex-clad models strutted down the New York Stock Exchange, the occasion marking the first time the public has been permitted to grace the trading floor since 9/11. Finally, on Wednesday, the brand Mugler released a fashion video for Spring/Summer 2022 featuring a fascinatingly ranged cast of characters from Megan Thee Stallion and Bella Hadid to Madonna’s daughter Lourdes (who I saw as Rizzo in Laguardia High School’s production of Grease!) and Eartheater (who I saw at the Baroque Ball Superspreader last summer. An iconic rave almost worth the 1.5 hours it took to get back from Queens to my apartment at 3 am).
I saw a Tweet recently (I want to say it came from Derek Guy, the dude behind Die, Workwear) which read something like “The whole point of fashion was to make clothes that looked good on people” — the Tweet was complaining that current fashion doesn’t even try for the beautiful tailoring or intricate beadwork which characterized the ateliers of couture houses past. Looking at some of the aforementioned collections, I have to agree – but it also seems to me that a larger issue is how the velocity of vibe shifts can affect a designer’s ability to assert a consistent and sartorially compelling aesthetic. Many of the collections I came across this spring felt so eclectic that it was hard to say whether they were asserting a statement of aesthetic coherence – this wouldn’t be bothersome if this weren’t, like, the point of a collection (I’m thinking here of the inexplicable tartan look in Dior, which, while likeable, felt to me criminally out of place in the capsule, which mostly looked to me like the first floor rack at Zara). In the age of the micro-fad, I think this could be partially due to FOMO — it’s like certain designers were worried about leaving trends out of their collections, even though it’s their job to set the pace of those trends. But if trends are no longer dictated by retail cycles, but spouted on the hour by TikTok teens who give them quippy names (Adidas x Balenciaga is “blokecore",” apparently), then it’s understandable that designers would be confused – if Depop has thrown everything together in one pile, maybe brands should too.
In any event, the fashion I’m actually following more closely is prom fashion. The Berkshire Eagle, my regional newspaper, happens to publish local student prom looks online, and I’ve been poring through them this spring with total glee. Check it out yourself if you want a dose of wholesome glam.
H is for @Hulu #FireIslandMovie
If you’re queer or queer-adjacent and on Twitter, you might have heard about the hilarity that is Hanna Rosin’s take on Fire Island, the Hulu rom-com starring Bowen Yang and Joel Kim Booster that centers the gay subcultures of the skinny little strip of land off Long Island where my family goes camping for Father’s Day every year (we avoid the nude beaches, mostly, for everyone’s sanity).
Rosin tweeted “So @hulu #FireIslandMovie gets an F- on the Bechdel Test in a whole new way. Do we just ignore the drab lesbian stereotypes bc cute gay Asian boys? Is this revenge for all those years of the gay boy best friend?”
For those of you just tuning into feminist media representation, The Bechdel Test refers to a measure of the representation of women in fiction invented by Alison Bechdel, the cartoonist who penned Fun Home. First appearing in Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, the test asks whether a work of fiction portrays two women who have a conversation about something other than a man. According to those who have done the research and watched a ton of movies, half of all films fail this seemingly basic test.
In an absolute RATIO, Ms. Bechdel added a corollary to spare the cast of Fire Island:
I cried laughing on the phone about this whole saga with my friend, himself a “cute gay Asian boy,” and his boyfriend designed this T-shirt, which I actually really need:
H is for Harini Logan
14-year old Harini Logan of San Antonio, Texas won the 94th Scripps Spelling Bee last week, but Logan had no one “winning word” — this year, the two remaining competitors (Logan and 12-year old Vikram Raju) made it all the way through Round 18, meaning the winner was determined by a “spell-off” in which both contestants had to spell a fuckload of words in 90 seconds. Logan got 22 words, and Raju got 15, so Logan took home the gold.
Very few of you probably know that I once was a Scripps wannabee myself — I played a Scripps-sponsored game on my mom’s phone in middle school that fed me words, I studied word lists, and I even took Latin to learn about roots. All to get out on “cacophony” in the first round, which I spelled like “epiphany.” It was always the As that tripped me up – “antecedent,” my other despised word, was “antecedant” to me, because like a misguided synesthetic, I associated the word with “cedar.”
Last year, Scripps introduced a vocabulary section of the bee – while vocabulary was a part of written tests before, it had never factored into live competition. In some ways, it seems like this defeats the whole point of a spelling bee, which is about how letters fit together rather than what they mean, although I guess meaning is technically more important (I still think I support a meaning-free Bee). 2022 was also the first year in 27 years that the competition wasn’t broadcast on ESPN, which is sad, because if the epic 2002 documentary “Spellbound” taught us anything, it’s that spelling is a sport!
As for H words, Logan only got one thrown her way in the spell-off, and she got it wrong –
hontish (Logan spelled it “hottish”).
Can you use it in a sentence?