Creativity is not a matter of place. And yet, when we talk about creative scenes in Chicago, we often talk about the ways in which the city lacks rather than what the city can provide. It is a common argument, one that is framed around the pursuit of music, of visual art, of writing. But this argument fails to acknowledge the ways in which limitations can govern our decisions. For the Chicago creator, it is a matter less about opportunities and more about the self. What can one create out of nothing? How far can one push one’s self without the support, the resources, or the market to color their frame of knowledge?
For young fashion designers in the city, this creates perhaps an even tougher challenge than one struggling in the art or music worlds. Chicago lacks the media resources, fabric sources, production factories, retail stores, and history that exists in a city like New York. But as in any creative pursuit, the disadvantages also provide a chance to experiment with one’s work and develop without set rules or paths in line.
“In New York, the industry is there, the track is in place,” said Liz Patelski, one of two designers behind the new Chicago-based label Remi Canarie.
Olivia Pope wears a lot of white. She wears white dresses to inauguration ceremonies or lush white coats while running to and from one fire to the next.
She even wears long white gloves that she plucks from her body, finger by finger, to touch her great and complicated love, President Fitzgerald Grant, as he recovers from a gunshot wound in the hospital.
If white is a symbol of purity, from merely a quick glance, Olivia's aesthetics tell a story of a perfect, pristine woman. Her clothes should be the reflection of who she is, or who she projects to the world.
But any fan of Scandal can attest to the simplicity of this image. Audiences this season have witnessed the crumbling of this facade of perfection. This is not just the result of her affair. It is the result of her choices, the difficult decisions she must make in her personal life and the livelihood of those around her. Does she continue her affair with the President? Do we support her decision to break up a budding relationship for one of her staffers? Is it fair for her to keep secrets about the lives of her employees? Can helping facilitate an illegitimate presidency ever be okay?
Something we face as women: the struggle for control. It is this desire to completely own ourselves. Many times we don’t realize it until the struggle for it becomes real and constant. My personal writing took on an obsession with my own body by the age of 13 and held on until perhaps a year or two ago. I did not write about flaws as much as I wrote about my desire to control something that should be mine, but was not. In many ways, I felt trapped in my limbs. This body keeps me from feeling free, I thought. I don’t want it. The body was not my own, but something to be determined, sculpted, identified, or manipulated by the world, and the men specifically, around me. My thoughts were my own. Everything else was up for grabs.
I feared age not because of looks, but because of innocence. I feared it because of lost moments I knew I should have had and lost moments I did not know were mine to claim. When we discuss the aging process for women, what we often discuss is how this affects the agency and power a woman can possess through her physicality. Ageing means losing this power that is given to us by birth and cruelly taken from us by time. But this concept is built on a reality that is structured through stages.
Before September of 2012, I got manicures that were simple and subtle. Sometimes I chose a neon color or glitter top coat to make the manicure pop, but more often than not, I chose a look that was more subdued than the outfits I choose to wear on a daily basis. In September, I modeled for the local jewelry brand Ready-to-Stare and part of the shoot involved donning long, heavy false nails painted in a smart black and white geometric pattern.
After the shoot, Tacarra Sutton, the nail artist known as "Spifster," asked if I wanted her to remove the nails, or just trim them. I stuck with the short trimming. The designs were unlike any other style I'd previously worn, but I didn't feel uncomfortable wearing them. In fact, it finally felt acceptable to go for something different than just a clean coat.
For the next couple of days, I was approached by numerous women – at my favorite coffeeshop, at my day job, in a convenience store – of various ages, races, and ethnicities about my nails. During my first encounter, I was afraid to admit that they were not real.
I know this feeling, if only a little bit. Everyday I wake up to see the sun. I am nostalgic for an unremembered past. But the way my mother has gripped my rough, cold hands with her warm, thick fingers made the memories visceral, as if they were my own and not hers. These memories she passed on to me as fables, as rituals, and as a source of heritage.
I’m thinking about the city and segregation. What does it mean to belong? My father’s family often regarded my mother and my sisters with suspicion. He was from the South Side; my mother was from the West. They were both born in the South, in Alabama and Mississippi, but neighborhoods and cities have a way of changing you. Chicago in particular changes you. This is said a lot, but Chicago is truly a city of neighborhoods. And it is this configuration of neighborhoods that both welcomes and stifles diversity. You are free to be who you are, so long as you are over there. Lines can and have been drawn both inter- and intra-culturally.
My parents settled on the West Side, an area – like the South Side or the North Side – that is complex and complicating. It was important for my parents that we maintained a connection to family in both parts of the city.