outfit notes

well, after the first few weeks of Continuous Outfit – Altered Daily, a few things became clear. i’m only writing them up now because i’m bad at documentation, not because it took me this long to grasp them.

the most important was that my original understanding of the analogy the piece is making had been a bit off. i’d thought in terms of making consecutive alterations to one fixed set of garments, but hadn’t really considered how modular Continuous Project – Altered Daily was. but actual practice led me right back to a structure that’s much closer to rainer’s piece than what i had imagined before starting.

so: mostly what i’ve been doing since may has been wearing different combinations of a few garments i’ve made (i’ll get to what they are in a bit), tinkering with them now and then, adding to the set occasionally, figuring out what each of them is good for, and augmenting the assortment with other garments and accessories as needed (with an emphasis on things i’ve made). as soon as i recognized the pattern, i saw that it was, well, the CP-AD score. a group of set sequences, arranged flexibly, occasionally adjusted or altered, with additional material added around them (often through improvisation practices echoing the ways the sequences were established or refined).

which feels like the piece doing what it’s supposed to! for me, a big part of the importance (and excitement) of reperformance is how it clarifies what’s important in the structure of a score in ways that can only be done by passing my body through it (or the other way around, if you prefer).

another part is the direct, bodily experience of the score as it moves through me (or the other way around). and that’s been interesting too. but to get to that, i should first list what, at the moment, the COAD itself is composed from.

• a set of four linen shifts made as variations on a single pattern (in order of construction):

one sleeveless, straight-cut, V-necked, made in lightweight white;

one with short sleeves, straight-cut, with slight side slits, V-necked, made in lightweight white;

one sleeveless, a bit longer with a very slight flare at the hem, round-necked, made in denser black;

one sleeveless, a bit longer with a pronounced flare from the waist, boat-necked, made in loose-weave red.

i began wearing the first two mainly as undergarments for a square-cut kaftan in dark red, but as the weather warmed up they began being outer garments as well. the black and red ones i’ve mainly worn as primary garments.

• under all of them i’ve mainly worn linen breechclouts, made at the same time as the shifts, from the same three linens: white, black, and red.

• and during the colder spells this summer i added (and have also worn more recently as tick/mosquito protection) two pairs of leg coverings worn with a linen and elastic garterbelt, one in heavyweight brocade and one in lightweight pink linen.

• i’ve also continued to wear the dark red kaftan, which i re-cut to have a slightly narrowed body and have begun embroidering with judy grahn’s “she who” on the back in a purple wool color-shifting yarn.

• at the beach, aside from the kaftan, i’ve worn one of the three leather swim bottoms i’ve made over the past few years (one thong-style, the others with around-the-leg ties), and a (not-that-successful) leather bandeau prototype.

• most recently, i’ve dyed the two white shifts to a perfect lavender as a second rinse after dying a heavyweight patterned linen (with a bronze/copper metallic pattern woven in) to a bright purple. i’m still not entirely certain what the purple cloth will become – possibly a knee-length version of the shift, possibly a few shorter / looser tops.

• and i’ve made a pair of palazzo-leg overalls in the loose-woven red linen, which i haven’t begun to wear because my (generally excellent) neighborhood fabric store doesn’t stock much for fasteners and i don’t want to make tie-off shoulder straps.

• finally, my quilted capelet has been largely unused since the summer began, but i imagine will come back into rotation as fall arrives.

i haven’t been been doing very good visual documentation (see above), but i’m going to do my best to take pictures of the full set as they currently exist in the next few weeks, since i think many of them may not last longer than that in these forms.

linen is amazing.

i’ve always enjoyed how it looks, but wearing it next to my skin this whole time has made me fall deeply in love with it. yes: what i’m wearing is light-weight factory-woven cloth, not heavy homespun, which might be a whole nother experience. but wow. it feels crisp and soft on my body, it doesn’t collect hair (i shed), it doesn’t get stiff or slack with sweat. and after months of nothing but handwashing with cold water (and a few times some bar soap on a stain) and hang-drying i can say that it’s amazingly forgiving and easy to live with. yes, it wrinkles. hasn’t bothered me yet.

it’s making me wonder whether i should switch textiles seasonally. leather will always be in the mix for me, but perhaps fall should be silk, and winter should be wool. i’m not sure how much planning i want to do.

i could live indefinitely inside the dark red that this kaftan is made of. it’s a deep ruby color – not fresh blood, but maybe slightly tacky blood. i didn’t know i’d love it so much.

i’ve supplemented the COAD in various ways.

some are things that i’ve decided don’t count as part of the outfit: socks, shoes, boots; occasionally a bra or pair of underwear.

some are practical: shorts for modesty if i’m wearing the shorter shifts out of the house; a sun hat; a jacket for reading on the roof on a chillier evening.

some are ornamental: earrings, a necklace.

none have felt like more than a transitional combination or an accent on part of a set sequence. it’s possible that one could be absorbed into the main outfit – if i decided to make a hat for myself, for instance. but even that would, i think, feel like an optional extra.

perhaps the analogy is to the bits of business that become part of what makes a role what it is, even if not every actor uses all of them, and if they’re never in the score. or to the second layer of callbacks during franca’s shift at Marie’s Crisis: not the ones that are fixed (if evolving) – “…well, that’s what comes of too much pills and liquor” “lick her? she’s dead!” – but the ones that are individually improvised each time – “strolling along on the / what’s the word again?” “boulevard!” “avenue!” promenade!” “…street.”

after a year of slowly shifting from one single outfit to the next, as dictated by pandemic inertia crossed with working and socializing by video, and then by surgery recovery, and then by inertia again, the COAD selection has felt more expansive than restrictive.

i’ve wondered whether i would become noticeable in the neighborhood as a single-outfit person (my hometown’s brother blue (z”l) approached that status; one semi-housed longtime neighbor does at times), but i think that after an early stretch of color-euphoric Nothing But Kaftan i’ve moved away from that. i may be conspicuously near-monochrome some days (red minidress shift; red leather handbag; hot pink sun hat), but that’s often been true for me.

the week i spent visiting my dad i made a decision not to preemptively explain to anyone about the piece. but nobody ever did ask anything about what i was wearing, so i never explained it at all. i don’t know whether to put that down to politeness, to what i wore somehow being innocuous (implausible, i think – red minidress and acid pink leggings with intermittently visible garters?), or to mild discomfort asking a trans person anything about their appearance.

where i have been falling short with COAD is the daily practices. i’ve done a fair amount of all of them – singing, listening, reading and writing and hearing mame-loshn, movement – but none has been genuinely daily. this is my nudzh to myself to try to complete the score.

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