What to Wear to a Successful PhD Thesis Defense? A Skirt’s Worth of Academic Rejection Letters

Some people are paralyzed by rejection.

Others, like Michigan State University’s Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD candidate, Caitlin Kirby, sport rejection like a mantle of honor... or more accurately, a pleated skirt falling to just below mid-thigh.

"Successfully defended my PhD dissertation today!" Kirby wrote in a Tweet that has since garnered over 25,000 likes. "In the spirit of acknowledging & normalizing failure in the process, I defended in a skirt made of rejection letters from the course of my PhD."

The custom garment, which Kirby teamed with a dark blazer and red waistband, was organized in two tiers, with a tulle ruffle peeping out beneath.

MSU’s Career Services Network’s Director of Employer Relations, Karin Hanson, told the Lansing State Journal that rejection comes as a shock to many high achieving MSU students.

Kirby’s decision to upcycle 17 disappointing letters received over the course of her academic career was partially inspired by a Parks and Recreation episode in which the skirt of Leslie Knope's wedding dress is a wearable collage of newspaper articles about the character, drawn from earlier episodes

More to the point, Kirby’s skirt is part of an ongoing campaign to acknowledge rejection as a necessary, if painful, part of academic growth.

The whole process of revisiting those old letters and making that skirt sort of reminded me that you have to apply to a lot of things to succeed. It seems counterintuitive to wear your rejections to your last test in your Ph.D, but we talked about our rejections every week and I wanted them to be a part of it.

And, as she later noted in a tweet:

Acceptances and rejections are often based on the traditional values of academia, which excludes POC by not valuing the approaches, research questions, and experiences that POC tend to bring to their work.

Kirby’s letters were culled from a variety of sources—scholarship applications, submissions to academic journals, and proposals for conference presentations.  Unfortunately and We regret to inform you are recurrent motifs. About 8 letters were left on the cutting room floor.

But she is prepared to lower her hemline, when she starts applying for jobs, following a stint at the Research Institute for Urban and Regional Development in Dortmund, Germany, the result of a successful Fulbright application.

Follow Kirby’s example and turn your temporary setbacks into a power skirt, using the tutorial above.

via Boing Boing 

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain, resurrects Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

What Happens to the Clothes We Throw Away?: Watch Unravel, a Short Documentary on the Journey Our Waste Takes

When we throw our clothes away in the West, they don’t all go to a thrift store or to a recycling center or a local landfill. Instead, every year 100,000 tons of clothes make their way across the ocean to India. In this awareness raising short doc from UK-based filmmaker Meghna Gupta, we see the end point of these bales and bales of Western fashion, and the women and men who turn our waste back into thread. The thread then begins its own journey, inevitably winding back up as cheap imported clothes. And the cycle begins again.

Gupta lets the women speak for themselves, in particular Reshma, a young mother and wife who works in one such recycling center in Panipat, North India. We see her daily life as well as the process turning our castoffs into thread. Upon entering the country, the clothes are cut so they can’t be re-sold. Then women like Reshma remove buttons, zippers, and any other non-cloth component.




Far, far away from even a passing encounter with a Westerner (apart from what they’ve seen on the Discovery Channel), Reshma and her co-workers create a narrative and an image of the people sending all these clothes. The West must have a water shortage, Reshma says, that is stopping people from washing their clothes. The West also must have a very strange diet to produce the plus-size garments they keep coming across.

Now, the West doesn’t have a water shortage, but according to EDGE (Emerging Designers Get Exposed), the clothing and textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world, second only to oil, producing 20 percent of global waste water, and a global waste total of nearly 13 million tons of fabric. Producing cotton is water-intensive—with 5,000 gallons needed just to make a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

Recycling is important—it’s been a constant message to the public since the 1970s. But the global footprint that this film hints at, all those cargo ships, all those trucks, all that fuel and those miles traveled…is this really a solution? How do we stop the demand and the disposability?

The doc doesn’t answer those questions, and doesn’t mean to do so. It just wants you to see a small family in the middle of a large global machine. They seem happy enough. But they also see their fate as God-given, at least in this life this time 'round.

“You tend to get dressed for other people,” Reshma’s husband says. “But at the end of the day you’ll be as beautiful as God made you. All people have a natural beauty.”

via Aeon

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour Teaches a Course on Creativity & Leadership

Imagine a famous magazine editor, and smart money says the image that comes to mind has a bob haircut and sunglasses. No one has defined the role of magazine-editor-as-cultural-force, and so consistently lived it, more than Anna Wintour, and the online education company Masterclass has somehow convinced her to take her hand off the wheel of Vogue — and put aside those oversized shades — just long enough to star in a course about how she steers that behemoth of a publication through the waters of fashion. "I know many people are curious about who I am and how I approach my work," Wintour says in the trailer above. "This is a class for those who want to understand my leadership style, and then understand the experiences that have helped me become an effective leader."

You may well have already heard a thing or two about Wintour's leadership style, the famously exacting nature of which has provoked different reactions from different people (and possibly even inspired a bestselling novel and its feature-film adaptation).




But as Wintour herself explains it, "you need someone who can push you, that isn't pulling you back" — sensible advice even for leaders of companies, teams, and classrooms who don't mind projecting a somewhat more laid-back image. But even for those who want to project as much individual strength and resolve as possible, "it's really, really important to surround yourself with a team whose opinions that you trust, who are not in any way frightened of disagreeing with you, and you have to listen."

In her Masterclass, Wintour teaches, in other words, "how to be a boss." That phrase appears at the top of its syllabus, whose twelve lessons include "Anna's Management Tips" and "Editorial Decision-Making" as well as "Photographers and Models," "A Look Back at Iconic Covers," and "Transforming the Met Gala." Though geared toward viewers with an interest in the business of fashion (case studies include the careers of Miuccia Prada and Michael Kors), "Anna Wintour Teaches Creativity and Leadership" also offers principles for any human endeavor that requires invention, group work, and meeting hard deadlines over and over again. You can take the course individually for $90 USD, or as part of a $180 yearly all-access pass to every course on Masterclass, including another one on creativity by a similarly productive cultural figure, similarly recognizable by personal style alone: David Lynch.

FYI: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Imagined Medieval Comics Illuminate the Absurdities of Modern Life

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revised its famous food pyramid, jettisoning the familiar hierarchical graphic in favor of vertical rainbow stripes representing the various nutritional groups. A stick figure bounded up a staircase built into one side, to reinforce the idea of adding regular physical activity to all those whole grains and veggies.

The dietary information it promoted was an improvement on the original, but nutritional scientists were skeptical that the public would be able to parse the confusing graphic, and by and large this proved to be the case.




Artist Tyler Gunther, however, was inspired:

I started thinking about the messaging school children in 1308 were force fed to believe was part of a heart healthy diet, only to have the rug pulled out from under them 15 years later when some monk rearranged the whole thing.

In other words, you’d better dig into that annual goose pie, kids, while you’ve still got 6 glasses of ale to wash it down.

The imagined overlap between the modern and the medieval is a fertile vein for Gunter, whose MFA in Costume Design is often put to good use in his hilarious historical comics:

Modern men’s fashion is so incredibly boring. A guy wears a pattered shirt with a suit and he gets lauded as though he won the super bowl of fashion. But back in the Middle Ages men made bold, brave fashion choices and I admire them greatly for this. It’s so exciting to me to think of these inventive, strange, fantastic creations being a part of the everyday masculine aesthetic.

The shapes and structures of women’s headwear in the dark ages are truly inspiring. Where were these milliners drawing inspiration from? How were they engineered? How comfortable were they to wear? How did they fit through the majority of doorways? What was it like to sit behind a particularly large one in church? I’m still scrolling through many an internet history blog to find the answers. 

Kathryn Warner’s Edward II blog has proved a helpful resource, as has Anne H. van Buren’s book Illuminating Fashion: Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands.

The Brooklyn-based, Arkansas-born artist also makes periodic pilgrimages to the Cloisters, where the Metropolitan Museum houses a vast number illuminated manuscripts, panel paintings, altar pieces, and the famed Unicorn Tapestries:

On my first trip to The Cloisters I saw a painting of St. Michael and the devil almost immediately. I don’t think my life or art has been the same since. None of us know what the devil looks like. But you wouldn’t know that based on how confidently this artist portrays his likeness. After gazing at this painting for an extended period of time I wanted so badly to understand the imagination of whoever could imagine an alligator arms/face crotch/dragon ponytail combo. I don’t think I’ve come close to scratching the surface.

Every time I go to that museum I think, “Wow it’s like I’m on Game of Thrones” and then I have to remind myself kindly that this was real life. Almost everything there was an object that people interacted with as part of their average daily life and that fascinates me as someone who lives in a world filled with mass produced, plastic objects. 

Gunther’s drawings and comics are created (and aged) on that most modern of conveniences—the iPad.

The British monarchy and the First Ladies are also sources of fascination, but the middle ages are his primary passion, to the point where he recently costumed himself as a page to tell the story of Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall and Edward II’s darling, aided by a garment rack he’d retooled as a medieval pageant cart-cum-puppet theater.

See the rest of Tyler Gunther’s Medieval Comics on his website and don’t forget to surprise your favorite hygienist or oral surgeon with his Medieval Dentist print this holiday season.

All images used with permission of artist Tyler Gunther

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, October 7 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domaincelebrates the art of Aubrey Beardsley, with a special appearance by Tyler Gunther. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How Ladies & Gentlemen Got Dressed in the 18th Century: It Was a Pretty Involved Process

We can identify most of the last few centuries by their styles of clothes. But it's one thing to know what people wore in history and quite another to know how, exactly, they wore it. We've previously featured videos that accurately re-enact the whole process of of how soldiers and nurses dressed in World War I, and how women got dressed in the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. Today we go back again to the eighteenth century with two videos from National Museums Liverpool, one that shows us how European gentlemen got dressed in those days, and another that shows us how ladies did.

One obvious way in which dressing points to changes over the past few hundred years: both the gentleman and the lady require the assistance of a servant. The gentleman begins his day wearing his long linen nightshirt and a wrapper over it, Japan- and India-inspired garments, the narrator tells us, that "reflect British interests abroad."




To replace them comes first a voluminous, usually ruffled shirt; over-the-knee stockings held in place with breech kneebands; occasion-appropriate shoe buckles and cufflinks; optional linen underdrawers; many-buttoned and buckled knee breeches; a waistcoat (whose top few buttons remain open to reveal the shirt's ruffles); a linen cravat; a buckled stock; a coat on top of the waistcoat; and of course, a freshly-dusted wig.

Getting clothes on for a day in the eighteenth century was even more complicated for ladies than for gentlemen, as evidenced by the fact that its video requires two additional minutes to show every step involved. We begin with the shift, an undergarment worn without knickers. Like the gentleman, the lady wears over-the-knee stockings, but she ties them with ribbon garters (at least for days not involving much dancing). Over that, "a knee-length white linen petticoat worn for warmth and modesty," and over that, a stay made using whale baleen. Pockets were added in the form of bags worn at the hips, but bags known to get lost if their ties came undone — hence the nursery rhyme "Lucy Locket lost her pocket."

Proper eighteenth-century female dress also required petticoats of various kinds, a kerchief, a stomacher (often highly decorated), more petticoats, a gown, a linen apron (with a bib pinned into position, hence "pinafore"), a day cap, and then another apron that "serves no purpose other than to indicate the fine status of the individual wearing it." Conspicuous consumption mattered even back then, but so did the painstaking creation of the ideal female figure, or at least the impression thereof. Not only do these videos show us just the kind of clothing that would have been worn for that purpose and how it would have been put on, they also show us highly plausible attitudes projected by dressed and dresser alike: the former one of faintly bored expectation, and the latter one of resigned industriousness tinged with the suspicion that all this can't last forever.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

3 Iconic Paintings by Frida Kahlo Get Reborn as Vans Skate Shoes

Attention Frida Kahlo tchotchke hounds.

You can scratch that itch, even if your summer itinerary doesn’t include Mexico City (or Nashville, Tennessee, where the Frist Museum is hosting Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection through September 2).

Taking its cue from Doc Marten’s Museum Collection, Vans is releasing three shoes inspired by some of the painter’s most iconic works, 1939’s The Two Fridas, 1940’s Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, and—for those who prefer a more subtly Frida-inspired shoe, 1954’s refreshingly fruity Viva la Vida.

Vans’ limited edition Frida Kahlo collection hits the shelves June 29. Expect it to be snapped up quickly by the Waffleheads, Vans’ dedicated group of collectors and customizers, so don’t delay.

If this line doesn’t tickle your fancy, there is of course an abundance of Frida Kahlo tribute footwear on Etsy, everything from huaraches and Converse All-Stars to socks and baby booties.

via Juxtapoz/MyModernMet

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

What is Camp? When the “Good Taste of Bad Taste” Becomes an Aesthetic

Even if you don't care about high fashion or high society — to the extent that those two things have a place in the current culture — you probably glimpsed some of the coverage of what attendees wore to the Met Gala earlier this month. Or perhaps coverage isn't strong enough a word: what most of the many observers of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute annual fundraising gala did certainly qualified as analysis, and in not a few cases tipped over into exegesis. That enthusiasm was matched by the flamboyance of the clothing worn to the event — an event whose co-chairs included Lady Gaga, a suitable figurehead indeed for a party that this year took on the theme of camp.

But what exactly is camp? You can get an in-depth look at how the world of fashion has interpreted that elaborate and entertaining but nevertheless elusive cultural concept in the Met's show Camp: Notes on Fashion, which runs at the Met Fifth Avenue until early September.




"Susan Sontag's 1964 essay Notes on 'Camp' provides the framework for the exhibition," says the Met's web site, "which examines how the elements of irony, humor, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration are expressed in fashion." But for a broader understanding of camp, you'll want to go back to Sontag's and read all of the 58 theses it nailed to the door of the mid-1960s zeitgeist.

According to Sontag, camp is "not a natural mode of sensibility" but a "love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration." It offers a "way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon." Most anything manmade can be camp, and Sontag's list of examples include Tiffany lamps, "the Brown Derby restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in L.A.," Aubrey Beardsley drawings, and old Flash Gordon comics. Elevating style "at the expense of content," camp is suffused with "the love of the exaggerated, the 'off,' of things-being-what-they-are-not." Camp is not irony, but it "sees everything in quotation marks." The essential element of camp is "seriousness, a seriousness that fails." Camp "asserts that good taste is not simply good taste; that there exists, indeed, a good taste of bad taste."

"When Sontag published ‘Notes on Camp,’ she was fascinated by people who could look at cultural products as fun and ironic," says Sontag biographer Benjamin Moser in a recent Interview magazine survey of the subject. And though Sontag's essay remains the definitive statement on camp, not everyone has agreed on exactly what counts and does not count as camp in the 55 years since its publication in the Partisan Review"Camp to me means over-the-top humor, usually coupled with big doses of glamour," says fashion designer Jeremy Scott in the same Interview article. "To be interesting, camp has to have some kind of political consciousness and self-awareness about what it’s doing," says filmmaker Bruce Labruce, challenging Sontag's description of camp as apolitical.

And what will become of camp in the all-digitizing 21st century, when many eras increasingly coexist on the same culture plane? Our time “has cannibalized camp," says cultural history professor Fabio Cleto, "but to say that it’s no longer camp because its aesthetics have gone mainstream is an overly simplistic reading. Camp has always been mourning its own death.” Even so, some of camp's most high-profile champions have cast doubt on its viability. The phrase "good taste of bad taste" brings no figure to mind more quickly than Pink Flamingos and Hairspray director John Waters (who speaks on the origin of his good taste in bad taste in the Big Think video above). But even he speaks pessimistically to Interview about camp's future: "Camp? Nothing is so bad it’s good now that we have Trump as president. He even ruined that."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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