When I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s I was continually surrounded by two things-fashion and music. Today, although we live a more laid-back lifestyle where dressing down is the norm, fashion and style are still all around us on a daily basis. It could be in the way an Indian waiter ties his green turban for work or a co-worker wears cuffed Dickies, a black tee, and Dr. Martens. Regardless, it’s everywhere.
In my other WordPress blog, Lookin’ Good, Feelin’ Goodhttps://www.lookingoodfeelingoodblog.worddpress.com I visually document a different outfit or accessory from my wardrobe every day. This journalistic journey has led me to the realization that I am surrounded by as much fashion today as I was during my childhood. In Every… I’d like to share this with you, in addition to my fashion blogs and Observations of the Week illustrations, by writing daily blogs following a thematic blogging schedule. It will proceed as follows:
First of all I want to congratulate you on trying to get an education during such challenging times, and second I want to take the time to tell you how to get good grades regardless of your race, socioeconomic background, or ability. Fortunately since it doesn’t require money, a high IQ, or support from others, you don’t have to worry about that. What it does require, however, is hard work, persistence, and curiosity. Learning has to be your lifestyle and a lifelong commitment. That means no matter how old you are you should still be taking classes and adding to your store of knowledge, whether that’s through traditional written material (i.e., books, magazines, and newspapers) or on the Internet.
Now I’d like to reveal the tools I used to succeed in an extremely challenging MA program in Fashion Journalism at Academy Of Art University, where I earned all A’s and B’s.What made it twice as hard as an on-site program was it was all online and all of the courses were taught by professionals in the field. Since it was organized into 15 weekly modules, where you basically worked independently, it required excellent organizational, reading, and writing skills as well. While you probably aren’t dealing with a cirriculum this difficult yet, you can still utilize my tips to get better grades and more out of your classes and education.
(a) Get a library card at a public library and check out a variety of books, for your age, every month. Then read about 20 minutes or a chapter a day. Besides finding books, and other materials, for fun you can also find books that will help you with school. The reference librarian and the library website is also another excellent resource for you while you’re going to school.
(b) Subscribe to a major urban newspaper (i.e., Los Angeles Times or The New York Times) that you can read for enjoyment and school projects. The Sunday edition, of both papers, would be a great choice because they have various sections that are very informative and well-written. Read these papers every week, and clip out relevant stories to use for school when needed. (If you can’t afford to subscribe to a newspaper, read it at the library, then Xerox whatever you need every week).
(c) Subscribe to a magazine that reflects your interests to build up your reading skills (i.e.,Vogue if you’re interested in fashion, etc.,). Read it every month, then at the end of the year, clip out relevant photos and articles that will help you for school when needed. (If you can’t afford to subscribe to a magazine, you can always splurge and buy one at the grocery or drug store, or read one or more at the library. Just like the newspapers, you can inexpensively Xerox whatever you need at the library).
(d) Read all of the materials required for your classes (i.e,. textbooks, class readings, etc.,) right after class, then write down any questions you have about parts of it you don’t understand so you can ask your teacher in class.
(e) Buy a dictionary and a thesaurus, then learn how to use them, by looking up words you don’t understand from class and whenever you read. This will not only improve your reading comprehension and vocabulary it will also improve your writing. (You can get an inexpensive dictionary at the 99 Cents store, etc.,).
(a) Buy a small notebook, at the Dollar Tree and free write in it for five minutes everyday. You can make lists, create a story, express your feelings, anything you like, as long as you write.
(b) When in class (this includes Zoom classes too) make sure you have writing materials (i.e., spiral notebooks, notebook paper, pens, and pencils ✏️) so that you can write everything the teacher writes on the board and to take accurate notes. You can find inexpensive writing materials at the Dollar Tree,Target, etc.,
(c) Instead of sending a text or email to a friend or family member, write a letter. It’s another good way to practice your writing.
(a) Buy a school assignment or datebook and record all of your assignments in it when they’re first assigned by the teacher (i.e., in the book you should always include the title, a description, and its due date).
(b) While working on projects, make a TO DO list of all of the things you have to do to complete it, then check them off as you complete them.
Lastly I hope these tips will help you and that it proves to you that learning can be fun once you learn how to navigate the academic arena. Good luck and take care.
I wanted to clarify my reason for writing about the beautiful black skirt I bought at H & M in the light of their current troubles over the blatantly racist sweatshirt that’s been recalled by their company. I’m an African-American fashion/feature writer, in a field that doesn’t have a lot of representation from my culture, so I’ve faced my share of racism. Instead of refusing to wear or buy their clothing I want to show them, and others in the industry, the real face of their customers to further educate them about who we are and what we really represent and look like. For me, the only way to confront racism is head-on with unflinching assertiveness. If they learn from this and become a better, more inclusive company, the effort was worth it.
The Ultimate Separate: The Black Skirt
In 1979, when my mother bought a gorgeous black skirt suit by BIS for my high school graduation from Westchester High School from Bullock’s Wilshire black skirts were easily accessible.
But when I wanted to buy the retro boho multi-tiered black skirt from H & M, a couple of years ago, that was featured in a Vogue editorial ad it was a trial. Why?
It couldn’t have been the price, since my BIS suit was $300 and this skirt $19.99. It couldn’t have been the style, since both have classic silhouettes.
Recently, when I bought a stunning green, brown and white vintage 1970s maxi dress from etsy.com for $40, from a dealer in Poland, instead of at my local Goodwill Thrift Store I realized what it was.
Despite the plethora of fashion bloggers, journalists, stores and websites promoting excellent designs and killer buys, the consumer isn’t receiving the message. There seems to be a big disconnect. The clothes that need to be worn as representatives of intelligence and good taste languish un-bought while inexpensive, passe trends are displayed briefly, then discarded on random bus benches and trash cluttered streets.
Anyone who’s paying attention knows by now that needless sartorial waste is a no-no the fashion industry’s trying to correct. Of course we have other problems to deal with besides finding the perfect black skirt, such as the closing of over 130 LAUSD school libraries, homelessness, and the sad reality that L.A. is now the second worst dressed city in the country, and 44th in education. But if a woman does make the decision to purchase one it can solve her immediate wardrobe problems by becoming a reliable staple item that will never let her down. Paired with a crisp white shirt it can take her to work and dinner with a change of shoes and layered over leggings it can easily be worn for dance class.
Looking Back to the 1940s
Edna Woolman Chase (1914-1951) editor of American Vogue in 1942 really understood the magic of a black skirt. “They are as great a standby as a black sweater,” she wrote in the article Skirt Story. Meant to purchased as an “investment piece” it served the same purpose then as it does today by being versatile and long lasting. Compared to trendier fare, ubiquitously worn by everyone who has a pulse, it has the flexibility of hamburger without undue flash.
Blessedly, all-black is no longer as pervasively popular as it once was, making room for the black skirt to make a come back as part of an ensemble that can include a floral print blouse, funky statement tee and vintage embroidered cardigan sweater for work 9-5. After 5, that same blouse and cardigan can be accented with a multi-strand necklace for a fancy dinner date or concert.
For retailers, who mistakenly thought “corporate dress or all-black” would help their sales staff increase their sales and customer service skills with a uniform instead of individual style, the black skirt would help them teach their female employees how to coordinate their work attire appropriately, easily and inexpensively. Since a major component of fashion retail is based on helping consumers buy items for their wardrobe the sales staff that reflects an attractive appearance, from their own imagination, is more qualified to improve a company’s image than a conformist who wears a uniform.
A Wardrobe of Black Skirts
In between my Undergrad years, at CSULA, to my Grad years, at Academy of Art University online, I’ve collected 15 black skirts that have steadfastly helped me look pulled together whenever I wear them. For my day job as a Special Education Instructional Assistant for LAUSD at Leo Politi Elementary School in Koreatown, I’ve regularly worn the long black skirt I bought at Ross Dress For Less with either a cool tee from snorgtees.com or a lightweight pullover sweater from Forever 21, my beige trench coat from amazon.com and a pair of sneakers. Comfortable as a pair of jeans, it’s perfect for my long walks to and from the bus stop, before and after work, and a long six hour shift in the classroom.
I’m just as well prepared for my off-duty social life, with a vintage velour bubble skirt I bought at my favorite Goodwill Thrift Store, and a retro self-belt taffeta one I bought at Ross Dress For Less. Combined with a lovely vintage top and pearls they’re an evening stand out.
The Perfect Black Skirt for Today
“There are few women who can wear every type of skirt,” wrote Christian Dior in The Little Dictionary of Fashion. Personally, I’ve found that to be true of every garment, and despite my thin frame, I still have to work hard to find the right clothes for my budget, lifestyle and body.
Caught between my obligation to always “dress and represent”, as a requirement for AAU, and a need to be comfortable at LPES I wanted to find another black skirt to fit both worlds. My hunt officially started after I’d bought a pair of black sneakers from H & M online. They were too big so I had to exchange them at their store in the Westfield Century City mall. I thought while I was up there, I’d buy the black boho multi-tiered skirt I saw in the Vogue ad.
Everything was going great-they had a pair of black sneakers in my size and the blue and white/floral shirt I’d had my eye on was on the Sale rack. Then when I showed the cashier the ad and asked about the skirt things got shaky.
“I’m not sure we have any left,” she said. “If we do it’s a Petite.”
“May I see it please? I’d like to try it on anyway,” I said.
She asked another clerk, who was working on the floor to see if they had any more, and if they did, to bring it to me. When he found it, he carried it to me, holding it with the delicacy of an Egyptian artifact. He then repeated what the cashier said, “It’s the last one and it’s a Petite.”
“Are you planning on stocking any more soon?, I asked. “No,” he said. “We’re lucky we have this one, because as soon as it was featured in the magazine ad it shot off the racks. Editorial items always sell out quickly.”
“Okay, I understand that, but why was this particular skirt so popular?,” I asked.
“It looks good on almost every body type and it’s versatile enough to be worn with a tucked in or loose fitting top,” he answered.
“Well, I usually wear a Medium, but you never know with sizing, so I’ll try it on and see if it fits,” I said, taking the skirt from him, and heading for the fitting room.
Doubtful, and holding my breath in anticipation, I slipped it on then exhaled with relief when it fit perfectly.
It’s been more than a year since I bought this skirt, and although I haven’t worn it yet, I know its timeless silhouette makes it a worthwhile addition to my collection.
Fashion Coordination Tips for Black Skirts (2019):
Work:Power Separates The Easy Way (Pair a mid-calf A-line black skirt with a white button-down shirt, striped short-sleeved Breton shirt, or plain crewneck pullover sweater, then top with a mini trench coat and accessorize with a structured bag, colorful scarf, shades, and ballet flats or sneakers.)
Casual: Fun, Fun, Fun Days (Pair a long straight black skirt with a t-shirt then top with a cotton, army or denim jacket and accessorize with sneakers or sandals, shades, a baseball cap or bucket hat.
Formal Evening: Swanky Times (Pair a mid-length retro full black skirt with a sequined shirt and decorative cardigan or bolero jacket and accessorize with black decorative pantyhose, pointy-toed flats, a turban and clutch bag.
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons, Japanese Designer. Sweater and skirt, 1984.(Berg Fashion Library)
Bernhard Willhelm. Black with multicolored diamond design sweater, headpiece and skirt, 2002-2003. (Berg Fashion Library)
Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garcons, Japanese Designer. Black ensemble. “Linen blend jacket in the style of a man’s 19th-century tailcoat; wool skirt resembling a deconstructed trenchcoat.” Spring/Summer, 2016.
Woolman Chase, Edna. Fashion: Skirt Story. Vogue; New York, Vol. 99, Iss. 11 (Jun 1, 1942).
Dior, Christian. The Little Dictionary Of Fashion, Abrams, 2007.
I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker yesterday about inexpensive clothing. I told her my instructor, for my FSH 619 class Developments and Current Debates in Fashion at Academy of Art University, asked if we’d seen any changes in fast-fashion recently? When I told her, I’d said, “Yes,” and pointed out the new day from Target plaid jacket and blue and white striped shirt dress I was wearing while stating it was a real bargain, she flew into a thinly veiled rage.
“People in this area, of Koreatown, would rather buy as many pants and tops as they can at Ross, then spend more money on one thing that might be “longer lasting” at Target, she said. “Besides their clothes are too expensive.”
Laughing I told her that I didn’t blame them because the skinny jeans, Harajuku Lovers sneakers I was wearing and the Betsey Johnson purse I carried that day were all bought at Ross over two years ago. It’s true that I’ve been mistaken as an extremely wealthy fashionista because I know my way around an outfit, and I always try to upgrade whatever I wear to emulate a Vogue, Porter, Nylon, Elle or Marie Claire layout, but my ultimate goal is to find quality items at a great price with great style.
Still reeling, from both the derision of my outfit and later a compliment about it from a woman on the bus home, I took my trash out the next day and saw a sordid display of discarded garments. On the one end of this issue, I was insulted for treating my fast-fashion with pride while this unknown culprit was applauded for being “poor”. Which one is right? The consumer who thinks about tomorrow or the person who could care less.
As this drama goes on, with both sides fighting for position, the only resolution I see is to realize we have a longer way to go to get back where we should be.