Archives for posts with tag: granny chic

OK, as the only other real drag hag  I know is 10 years old, and her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent are all used up going to grade school rather than alternative drag dives, I have to ask all you drinking age scenesters this.

RuPaul’s Drag Race is, as you all know, the gender performativity news frontier. Last season a mature drag queen (thirty-something Raja) who had grown up a club kid, and dressed, magnificently, I may add, in a globalized mashup of glam ’90s club wear, won. (Pace, all you idiots droning on about inappropriate cultural appropriation of Other Peoples’ Clothes. We’re born naked, as Ru says. After that it’s all drag.)

You understand that drag goes through permutations. In the 1990 drag documentary Paris Is Burning, now streaming on Netflix, Dorian Corey explains some of them. Las Vegas showgirls would be a persisting old school one (clinging on among the Latinos, it would seem*) — or as Sharon Needles puts it, the paycheck drag vs. the dignity drag — or realness, such that you can pass for a girl walking your little brother to school, or a boy applying for a job. Realness was another criterion that the drag balls of the ’80s tested for.

So now Sharon Needles who is 30 — and calls herself a sex clown rather more than a drag queen — is talking about drag for queens younger than she:

“I think that’s what this season embodied: It might not be TV drag, it might not be supermodel drag, it might not be young, couture, fishy drag, but this is what drag is in America.”

So would this “young, couture fishy drag” be the couture kind Dorian Corey talks about in PIB, where you don’t sew your own feathered, sequinned, stoned creations but merely…acquire or boost designer girls’ clothes? Sort of Kanye-West-in-Paris drag?

I am very interested in Sharon Needles’ zombie/Star Wars/Olivia Butler/post-gender apocalypto drag. You should be too. I think it has something to do with the iteration of Granny Chic we’ve been looking at. I mean, the tentacles in Ep. 13 just about killed me. I need some.

sharon needles tentacles


*Huge props to RuPaul, who is a genius, for hiring for Season 4 finals, and naming as Professor of Drag the immortal Coochie One, in the honorable tradition that a respectable woman is bien pintadita, Charo. I fell out.

Charo translates for Kenya, Ep. 14, Season 4, RuPaul’s Drag Race

I’m very interested in y’all’s take on granny chic, or, as my sharp-eyed London friend stipulates, The New Frump.

To sum up your insights, a combination of crowdsourcing comment from my private blog and FB:

  • wearing skirts is a backlash against the boomer feminist Hillary pantssuit
  • no real granny would wear droopy cuffs, as they interfere with her “generational duties” — this, I think, emphasizes the fashiony and slacker/pixie aspects of The New Frump
  • it’s a scenester look pegged, at least in London, to drinking too much, not eating enough, and having a cool dead-end job
  • its untidy hair and orthopedic shoes connote disability, perhaps of slacker origin
  • the twee is manipulative rather than sexy
  • the sexy aspect of hand-crafted clothes is partly based in feminist, peasant, artisanal, upcycling, frugal/poverty-stricken origins of the proletarian women’s work the punk knitters are honoring, and
  • its heroic, art-therapeutic properties for its makers to
  • enliven, dignify, classify and nationalize prole surroundings and their bodies with signs of their artistry
  • the sexy/manipulative range of motion much depends on whether the look is defiant (clothes as armor) or insouciant (clothes as vulnerable/flirtatious).

I think the twee is armor, manipulative, and not sexy. Think about Warren Jeffs’ 50 Mormon wives in identical, baby girl/Jordan almond colored, dresses, with sexy, shiny, pinned-up hair in big Elvis quiffs. I think they’re definitely clothed for Eros and scrubbing floors. They have anti-feminist agency. And are probably sexier than The New Frump girls, who seem armored and yet insisting on disability, as if they were playing dumb blondes and their fingernails are too long, and too crusty, to type. The twee thread of Granny Chic — the manic pixie dream girl aspect — also subverts feminist agency — no second-wave feminist pantssuits for me — without substituting corn-fed prelapsarian Mormon randiness.

Whussup? Y’all are being very smart about these readings. I think there are a couple of threads: the difference between

  • the New Frump and the 50 year trend of vintage wear;*
  • the New Frump and artisanal punk hand-crafted/upcycled/retailored “granny” wear
  • the twee pastiche vs. the polychrome Old Babe Iris Apfel pastiche
  • the defiant, Mormon granny/prairie sexy look vs. the twee/disabled/slacker/manic pixie dream girl manipulative look.

I have to add the heroin chic aspect that mitts, sleeves (tatts or textile), cuffs, shrugs, all hide needle tracks and the tecatas, at least in New York City, all have an entire wardrobe of shrugs. This was one of the fashion messages of Rent.

Heroin chic: Daphne Rubin-Vega and her latex sleeves in Rent: Rock that navel but never ever reveal your brachial arteries.

Am I getting it right? Tell me more. I’m also getting the strong sense that the twee is partly anorexia armor, its droop calculated to replace secondary sexual characteristics in the way polychrome Old Babe wear asserts a third gender, if not a third age.

What is the New Frump’s art school claim? It is carefully curated, people.

Old Babe Iris Apfel

Polychrome Old Babe Iris Apfel. By Chester Higgins Jr., The New York Times

* For example, early ’60s body con modernist vintage, tailored, well-groomed, knee-length, now all the rage on account of Mad Men, is also called Granny Chic:

There’s a permutation known as Grampa Chic, which has to be thought through on its own terms. Depending of course on whether it’s a girl or a boy who’s wearing it.

I am thinking about granny chic, inspired by this bad avatar:

One fashion maven friend says all the girls in his hip neighborhood in London are doing it, and that its fashion message is vulnerability instead of armor.

From the ’60s, I bring this news dispatch. There was, first, Granny Takes a Trip, the famous 1966 King’s Road boutique which claims to have started it all, long before Vivienne Westwood, with the velvets, the Edwardian coats, and clothing the Beatles and Rolling Stones for their Revolver and Between the Buttons album covers.

I’d just like to point out that the Cockettes and the Pointer Sisters were simultaneously discovering the thrift shops of San Francisco, and one in particular which was loaded with panne velvet — the foundation stone of rock chic (with the special left coast twist of the Pointer sisters’ sharp, tailored, high heeled, skirted ’40s vintage wear as opposed to the Stevie Nicks/Talitha Getty drapey pants path).

Then we had granny dresses. Mine was not vintage, but purchased in a department store. Ankle-grazing, Empire waisted, with a high ruffled neck and long sleeves with ruffled cuffs. It had an ankle-grazing grosgrain ribbon bow under the bust. The essential gran elements were the high neck and the midi-length.

This vintage ’70s pattern gives the trope. It’s pastoral, pioneerish, possibly anti-capitalist, certainly communitarian:

And can be seen in its apotheosis on the backs of Warren Jeffs’ 50 Mormon wives:

Here, another London fashion observer friend has stipulated the valuable aesthetic criteria of defiance and insouciance. I’d say the Mrs. Jeffs were in defiance, yes?

We further had granny glasses — I remember in particular a hott pair of zinc wire frames with brown tinted lenses, kind of John Lennon meets Yves Saint Laurent — which were meant to detract attention from my then-resemblance to Bette Davis, and assert my resemblance to Trotsky.

Along the way there were granny boots — pre-Doc Marten, tight, over the ankle lace-ups, which looked hott with the long skirt.

Twenty-twelve brings us at least three permutations of granny, one of which, I do believe, is the 21st century London version the girls in the street are wearing. Fifty years after the founding of Granny Takes a Trip, it’s less about the panne velvets, the Edwardian tailoring, waistlines, and even those ’40s lace berthas a lot of the left coast vintage hipsters, legatees of the Pointer Sisters, can be seen jitterbugging in. It’s more about a layered pastiche, with the Doc Martens.

Sprigged and midi length have remained. This chick expatiates on the romance of how the skirt swings when you walk, and butches out the femme with the ubiquitous motorcycle jacket, always present when steel-toed boots are not:

She found it in a thrift shop in pastoral West Virginia, and emphasizes the little girl playing dress-up element we find going rogue when it crosses the line into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl:

The floral dress is vintage by All That Jazz found at a Salvation Army in West Virginia. Long dresses aren’t exactly in my comfort zone. They’re ok, but I usually chop long dresses shorter. Since this isn’t my favorite dress I’m going to add it to the vintage store because it’s quite lovely. It flatters the feminine shape by flaring at the hips, but being tight across the waist. Plus, I enjoyed how the skirt flounced up and down when I walked. I felt like a kid playing with a toy and my toy was my skirt.

The difference between this and the ’60s granny dress is, I grew up wearing dresses. To school. Pants not allowed. Wearing skirts and dresses was quotidian until about 1980. Wearing them was not the gender-bending, shape-shifting event — whether insouciant or defiant — that it now is.

Then we have Cate Blanchette’s artisanal granny square dress:

From the Australian label, Romance Was Born, this dress of Ozzie Blanchette is firmly in the artisanal punk tradition. The founders of the firm were both offered internships by John Galliano and turned them down to stay in Australia and pursue what they call more “laid back” Oz fashion energies. These appear to be carefully connected to a local artisanal aesthetic, descended from the pioneer Granny chain smoking, drinking tea, and embroidering crinoline ladies on the dish towels after a day of shovelling sheep shit alone in the outback.

There’s wildness down under, and my impression is that the punkness and the fiber arts are — like Oz’ special film aesthetic — encouraged by state supported art schools. There is, for this new nation, the romance of everything up in the attic. The Australians are the great hyperbolic knitters, the originators of the crocheted Great Barrier Reef, of the immortal Native Blossom Hat, by Lynne Johnson, in Jenny Dowde’s revolutionary book, Freeform Knitting and Crochet, and of Killer Tea Cosies which is probably the best and most expensive Granny Takes a Trip publication of all time.

Here, Australian mathematician Margaret Wertheim, the founder of the crocheted Great Barrier Reef, discusses her inspiration, and sounds the clarion manifesto for the feminism and environmentalism in punk artisanal fiber work:


Crusty enviro punk knit sculpture is a far cry, however, from granny chic. Just to make sure you understand, here is the photograph of a knitting militant in her wedding dress.

Oops, that’s not it. Couldn’t find it. But you get the pic.

Finally, the annals of 2012 granny wear uncover a prejudice among young men that any pair of underpants worn by their girlfriends which is not a thong is a granny panty. In other words, any coverage of the buttocks, much less the navel, is considered buzzkill.

What are granny panties?

So boyfriend always calls my underwear granny panties even if there not… what do you guys think granny panties are because i need to prove him wrong… he says granny panties are any underwear that cover your butt… but i tell him that its underwear that sags and sits up by your belly button…. what do you think?

Best Answer – Chosen by Asker

So…string bikinis…low rider boy shorts…are all considered granny panties!! I think not!! Tell you BF to wear a thong all day in jeans and see how comnfortable he is!! You’re right. Granny panties are for girls what tightie whities are for boys!!

This vista of a whole generation of young men schooled to internet porn standards depressed me so I had to go think about my granny’s panties.

She wore pink silk tap pants practically ’til the day she died. Old school is a good school. And definitely not granny chic.

I have a deep, deep, Boho streak which would have me dressed in lacy white ruffled cotton petticoats, bright colored prairie skirts, rose-embroidered off-the-shoulder peasant blouses and buckskin fringe, with orange and magenta embroidered touches, perhaps on the handknitted stockings, from the Estonian crafters on the island of Muhu, Frida Kahlo earrings and do rags and perhaps a Day of the Dead rose garland with rainbow colored ribbons over the ears? Or a room which looks like this. I have a deep deep resonance with Natalie Chanin and her boyfriend’s visionary art aesthetic, Dixie Boho, if you will, and African-American yard art.

But there are several caveats.

When I was young, I dressed for the office. And not as a hippie, either. I had to be six feet tall and bullet proof; peasant lace and hand hammered earrings would have had them stabbing me in the front, and not just the back.

Now that I am an old babe, I am sensitive to dressing for the office and the — negrifying effect of not doing so. You want to look hip, and there is a way of doing polychrome hipster Old Babe, as personified by Iris Apfel, which is genius, carefully curated, and requires a flat chest if not the entire substitution of clothes for secondary sexual characteristics — the number one aesthetic reason for going polychrome.

But imagine what Apfel’s trademark brutalist jewelry would look like on Stephanie Seymour’s chest.

Old Babe Iris Apfel

Iris Apfel, co-captain with Princess Lilian of Sweden, of the Old Babes team.

The immortal Stephanie, mother of four, in her see-through Chanel dress.

Now you need to turn to imagining what obloquy an old hippie chick gets from Britain’s highest paid journalist. A.A. Gill is Murdoch’s TV critic at the Times of London and has twice reviewed television shows by the Cambridge classics professor, 57-year-old Mary Beard, as unviewable on account of her appearance. The first time, Gill wrote:

…for someone who looks this closely at the past, it is strange she hasn’t had a closer look at herself before stepping in front of the camera. Beard coos over corpses’ teeth without apparently noticing she is wearing them. The hair is a disaster, the outfit an embarrassment. If you are going to invite yourself into the front rooms of the living, then you need to make an effort.

Mary Beard, in the ancient Roman latrines at Ostia.

Gill is as famous for his feral attitude toward women and shooting baboons, as he is for his alcoholism, his dyslexia, his lack of a college degree, his salary, and the 62 complaints that have been filed against him with Britain’s toothless Press Complaints Commission in the last five years.

This last time, as Beard hosts “Meet the Romans”, a well-received BBC doc on ancient Rome, Gill reviewed the show by saying that she is too ugly for television, except as a contestant on “The Undateables”, a British Channel 4 series about disfigured and disabled people who can’t find partners.

Mary Beard, professor of classics, Cambridge University.

While Beard does not dress in the kind of elaborate Boho chic I like, imagine the screams of obloquy she’d get just walking down the street in a prairie skirt. Virginia Woolf radiated vulnerability and Bohemianism; according to her husband, people would literally point at her and laugh as she walked the streets of London.

Only young ladies want to inspire that kind of derision, one of the real reasons for the young, and not just the old, to have blue hair. To annoy the bourgeois.

I think Boho chic is the purlieu of the rich, the young, and the unemployed. Real Bohemians, like de Kooning, wear work clothes, paint-spattered jeans. Which brings us to exhibit A of my manic pixie dream girl find of the day, a Boho chic costume, shot in Instagram, by the manic pixie dream mom who freaked me the eff out this morning.

Given my love of Boho chic, tell me what is wrong with this outfit? Why is it not making me lust for it? The last person I saw in a fab Boho chic outfit was Jericho Poppler Bartlow, the old surfer girl, at a meeting of the Surfrider Foundation in Long Beach, and it was awesome, moving into the Talitha Getty zone.

Jericho Poppler Bartlow, surfer chick.

Rock on, Jericho.

But so here is the outfit that is So Wrong. A friend elsewhere has weighed in on my private blog. You do the same. It has to do with the infantilization — the replacement of the secondary sexual characteristics with clothing that is — ohhh grrrl, just say it. Limp. The young lady’s granny chic pastiche, unlike Iris Apfel’s masterful polychrome Old Babe collage, is …Not Sexy.

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