Knowledge Beyond Education

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The most knowledgable people I know are often not trapped in a classroom. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself since I graduated with my bachelors degree in May.

Most of my peers who are still going through school tell me that there is no reason I should want to be in graduate school right now. Depending on the program, it can be grueling and expensive beyond what most 20 somethings can afford even with loans.

All of this I know. But I miss learning. I miss being forced to figure out a made up problem which a professor can (most of the time) tell me the answer and explain how to solve it by the end of the hour long class. Weirdly enough, I miss being tested on the knowledge that I was supposed to glean from the class. I miss being held to a standard of learning.

However, as I’m starting to make headway down my career path, I’m starting to realize that what I actually miss is the ease of someone placing all of the information in front of me, relaying it to me, and then confirming my understanding of it once I’ve parroted it back to them. This  is not actually “learning” or knowledge collecting. It’s an expensive alternative story to casually looking up facts on google and remembering the gist of them enough to recite them to friends.

Not to say that graduate programs are a complete waste of time or that they’re just an excuse for students to delay the start of the 9 to 5 life. In fact, I aim to attend a graduate program within the next few years. But even graduate programs only last a year or two; they’re temporary learning environments. I want to build into my life habits of constant  learning, of perpetual discovery. After all, why would I only want to only explore a minuscule piece of everything in this world has to offer?

For now, I’m “educating” myself by reading books and essays that are considered “dense” or “complex”. This could be on a syntactical level or on a content level. I’ve also been reading “closely”. By the time I’ve finished going through a text for the first time, I want to have a good understanding of it (I’ll look up any words or references I’m not completely sure I understand). Then I’ll read the text again. And again. After each reading, I come away with a better understanding of not only what the text is communicating but also how it operates, and how it communicates those “messages.”

This shift of learning has helped me to not feel as though post-graduate life is just this endless monotony of working 9 to 5, paying bills, and cooking. Unfortunately the age-old aphorism “Life is what you make it” applies quite well here. Post-gradom is as boring or as intellectually enriching as you’d like it to be. It a “free” learning environment.

Here is my required reading list in this first course of self-education:

 

 

 

Here Comes Cara

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In this new issue of American Vogue, model and budding actress  Cara Delevingne delivers a cover story interview more honest and down-to-earth than any other I’ve ever read throughout my many years of reading the magazine.

Anna Wintour’s letter from the editor states that the cover story doesn’t make for the most comfortable reading. And it certainly doesn’t: Cara lays out not only her own battles with depression and figuring out her sexuality, but is also very open about some serious family issues that have haunted her throughout her life. However, unlike many new actresses coming out of Hollywood who just want a bit more time in the limelight to bolster their image through interviews such as these, Cara doesn’t come off as insincere. She isn’t even particularly proud of all of her enviable accomplishments in the modeling industry. It seems that Cara doesn’t want to settle with conquering just one industry. She speaks very openly in the interview about her aspirations for the acting world and possibly for a side career in the music industry.

Most revealing of all within the interview was her openness about her deep seated struggles with addictive behaviors. Her mother was (and to some degree still is) addicted to heroine and some of those addictive traits, Cara feels, have been passed down to her. Instead of manifesting those tendencies towards drug addiction, Cara choses to be addicted to her work (lucky for the rest of the world!).

Though I don’t know Cara personally, her honesty and genuine spirit of wildness mixed with curiosity make for quite the female role model and I applaud her for being her utmost self while working in an industry which does its best to mask individuality.

The Problem of Place

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In any given novel or literary work, place is an important aspect to consider while reading or analyzing it, as we are taught in each and every english class ever taken.

Similarly, in our own lives, where we live tends to influence and direct our fashion and style sense. I grew up in upstate New York, in a town where clothes were merely items to be bought and put on without much thought or enjoyment.

Then, I moved to New York and was amazed at how many people really seem to not only think about the way they dress, but are genuinely interested in their style and the way clothing looks on their body. I felt that I had finally found the right people, my people.

I began dressing the way “I’d always wanted to dress.” I put thought into everything I put on, even if I was just going to the corner shop to grab a few things. I made sure that no matter what time of the day it was or where I was going, I was wearing something that I felt great in and that I would be happy to be seen wearing.

But now, that seems a bit stupid. Why couldn’t I have dressed that way all my life? It wasn’t as though I had never had a sense of style or had been dressing poorly my whole life, I just had always dressed more casually than I would have liked because I had wanted to fit in a bit with those around me.

Now, as I’ve moved back upstate for a bit, I’m realizing how much the place I live influences my fashion sense. Instead of going back to dressing more casually, I’ve tried to continue to put more thought than necessary and more effort than necessary into what I wear. The first few days, people commented on my style, saying things like “Whoa! You’re making me feel bad. Who said we had to dress up today?” But I’ve continued to dress the way I thought best anyways.

Style is such a personal thing. It can reflect your personal values, mood, and your aesthetic senses. Why should it be dependent upon your environment?

It’s much too late for New Year’s resolutions, I know. But I’m going to try to make a half-way year resolution. I want to dress in whatever way I see fit each and every day, regardless of the city I’m in and regardless of the opinions of those around me. Besides, fashion isn’t meant to make people blend together but to bring out the unique personality and style of every individual.

Whose Fashion Week is it Anyways?

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The sheer number of “fashion weeks” held every year can be a bit daunting and monotonous to keep track of. Really, the number has grown at a rather alarming rate over the past decade or so.

For the past two weeks in London and Milan men’s pre-Spring 2016 fashion weeks were hosted, but it wasn’t the men that attendees noticed the most. Women were intermixed with many of the most most-known men’s fashion shows this season.

Prada Men's 2015 Show Men's Fashion Week

Some reviewers, of course, said that the addition of women into the men’s cat walk was a bold move and one that broke gender boundaries. Others said that the trend detracted from what was supposed to be the focus of the week: men’s fashion.

However, for anyone who has consistently watched and kept up with what’s shown on the cat walk over the past decade, this “radical trend” actually seems more like stale news or a poor job done on the part of fashion journalists.

For at least the past decade, if not longer, men have been used often in women’s fashion shows. Think of Channel in the 2015/16 ready to wear show, where men were situated in the background as bar tenders. It wasn’t seen as shocking in any sense of the term.

Men behind the Bar

Chanel 2015:16

Why is it that when we turn the tables and have women intermixed with men in any industry or activity, it suddenly becomes a radical gender-bending change or sign of progress? It just seems like this should no longer be considered a trend but a way of life. Men and women are capable of almost of the same things (aside from a few biological differences in ability). Walking in fashion show’s of the opposite sex should not be seen as anything new.

Celebrity and Style

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Recently, along one of my daily jaunts through various fashion websites and blogs, I began to contemplate the reason why the realm of Hollywood celebrities seems so incredibly tied to the fashion industry. At first it seemed like an obvious relationship. However, I quickly realized that there is more to the liaison than merely a correlation. If you’re famous, you do not suddenly become fashionable or known for your style. The Kardashian trend of reality TV star to fashion icon is more complex than the fact that some celebrities can financially support a small country.
In many ways, celebrities are walking advertisements and/or martinets for those in charge of the fashion industry. Due to the intense celebration and popularization of their profession and life styles, celebrities are simply seen more by the general population. Think about it- you’ve probably seen more of the actor or actress who stars in your favorite television show than your own neighbor. This constant presence in your everyday life has more of an impact on your fashion sense than you probably care to realize. It could be considered a very legal form of subliminal messaging.
Celebrities and reality TV stars are told what to wear to get the most attention from the public and are even given garments and products for the small fee of espousing the designs house’s praise wherever they go. Celebrities are given clothing and their sense of fashion the same way they’re given lines. Yes, they can improvise sometimes, but not without risk to their career and even their personal lives. Though a few of today’s youthful celebrities, namely Shailene Woodley and Jennifer Lawrence, claim to reject fashion on their personal time, it surprises me that more aren’t taking the path of sartorial rebellion. If someone were to constantly tell me what to wear and how to wear it, I would jump at the first chance to take control over what I put on my back.

Normcore Explained and Explored

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ImageIn the past decade or two, fashion has become something more tangible and accessible to people outside of the industry itself. This new found accessibility has led many to become more “fashion conscious” and has financially strengthened the industry. However, some people are using the exposure as a guide to the brand buying lifestyle. To them, ‘fashion’ is buying whichever brand seems to have gathered the most attention or which designer has been worn most recently by a favorite celebrity.
Lately the tables are turning, as they usually do rather quickly in the fashion world. Look around on any subway or art university campus and you won’t see many “high fashion” inspired looks. Instead, you’ll find styles from what appears to be a 90s sitcom. There are lots of no-specific-brand “dad” t-shirts, baseball caps with various logos on them, plaids, and cartoon sweatshirts splattered across many urban areas.
This look is called “normcore.” When I first heard about the movement, I was more than a little leery. The ideal of rejecting a sense of arrogance which many have garnered by purchasing and wearing designer clothing, sounded a bit like a new arrogance in itself. However, after reading up on the ideal I’m beginning to convert and sympathize with the latest hipster movement. Maybe it is high time for a rejection of the exclusive and hands-off nature of the fashion industry.
Fashion should mean more than the number of bills carried around in our wallets. It should reflect not how long ago I was able to visit the nearest mall, but how adventurous I can be in combining pieces from several seasons ago in a way that looks chic. It should be more than merely mimicking what the latest trends are and what a celebrity favorite wore most recently. If we’re going to dress as though we understand fashion, we have to play an active role in creating it (and sliding our credit cards at the local boutique doesn’t count). Image