m. klara

Design Sponge
July 4, 2009, 7:55 pm
Filed under: Designing the Interior | Tags:

Sorry I’ve been MIA for the past millenium! Wedding planning is insane! We’re down to the wire with a little over a month to go before the big day and Wayne and I are struggling to find time to attend to the details which are supposed to be fun –and they are!– but just finding the time to do it is one of our biggest challenges.

Anyway, wedding planning has opened me up to a whole new area of artistic realms: interior design. The wedding reception is gonna be in Wayne’s parents’ Chinese restaurant. The space is awesome, but the interior design is, in my opinion, less than palatable for a wedding scenario. (Sorry guys!) So, I’ve been trying to harness all my creative energies into transforming my vision for the reception into a reality (read: budget-friendly). This means purchasing DIY books and Martha Stewart Weddings magazines.

On a side note, which happens to be the real reason for this post, I found a website that has totally captured every core of my artistic being: Design Sponge. They have a section called sneak peeks which has become not even eye candy, but visual crack for me. Each set of pictures gets me high. I really can’t get enough of it. It’s basically a sneak peek into the homes of local designers and artists. I guess it’s a logical step for me because after marriage, Wayne and I are probably gonna look into purchasing our own home. A part of me wants a fixer-upper. I love getting vintage things whether it’s clothing or homes or objects and even more so when it’s reworked into something more modern. Creating something unique always makes me happy. It’s a wonder I don’t have cable. I’d have full access to HGTV. When I was in Hawaii, I’d stay up into the wee hours of the night watching it at my grandparents’ house. If I had cable at home, I’d never leave the apartment.

I’m currently scoping the interior of a portland four-square designed by interior designer jessica helgerson and I am in love. Visual crack high begins.

omg omg kitchen omg omg

omg omg kitchen omg omg

i love the contrast of the black modling and blue vases against all the white. GORGEOUS

i love the contrast of the black molding and blue vases against all the white. GORGEOUS

i love how the black frames the white with hints of green thrown in. beautiful framing.

more black and white goodness

more black and white goodness

i love the black bathtub with the white interior. who knew white could be so freakin awesome???

i love the black bathtub with the white interior. who knew white could be so freakin awesome???

i immediately felt transported outdoors even though i know this corner of the space is indoors.

i immediately felt transported outdoors even though i know this corner of the space is indoors.

Ah, this high should last for awhile. 🙂

Oooh, just an update, I aced my fashion course! Now I’m wondering if I really was meant for a career in fashion…Because of the wedding. I can’t take any summer classes right now, but after all the wedding madness dies down, I’m looking into merchandising and fashion show production. I might expand my interests to just art in general. An admissions rep from Academy of Art keeps trying to contact me. I had looked into their fashion program and was totally smitten by the courses they’re offering. I found a few scholarships, too, that could help me with tuition. But as always, wedding first…<sigh>


Forever Dilemma
May 18, 2009, 5:12 am
Filed under: Style Advocates | Tags: , ,

I’m on a mission to find the perfect bidesmaid dress. Purple and versatile, something that can be worn both casually and fancy. And once again, Wayne has come through for us ladies. I was scouring virtual and actual clothes racks at Forever 21 for the perfect dress, and Wayne happens across a slim strapless number with virtually no trims, embroidery or beading involved, making it the perfect versatile dress for the ladies on my court.

But wedding ish is not the topic of this post (for once, haha). Instead, I’m struggling with the ethical and moral complications of shopping at a humongous chain like Forever 21.

A few weeks ago, one of my bridesmaids, Gen, and I hiked our way to our local Forever 21 in Pasadena, California. I just looked it up online and it’s referred to as a Forever 21 “superstore.” It seriously is. It’s 2 gigantic floors of stark white walls serving as a backdrop for racks and racks of clothes encompassing every single color of the rainbow spectrum. It’s so outrageous and excessive, it was kind of hilarious.

The sidewalk in front of the store also boasted another delightful display: about 30 angry protesters with picket signs cursing Forever 21 at the top of their lungs.

boycott forever 21

Gen and I scooted past the protesters into the safe haven of Forever 21’s giant womb of a store. Accessories! Bags! Clothes! Shoes! Totally my heaven. But I’m not gonna lie. The ruckus outside did ruin my shopping experience. I bought my crap and on our way out, I had to stop a protester to ask what was the big deal about Forever 21. Underpaid sweatshop workers? Yeah, we all know about that. We just shove those guilt-ridden images to the dark corners of our conscience as we fork over less than 100 bucks for an entire outfit.

But apparently, this protest was geared towards a more specific, not to mention local, cause. I stopped to dialogue with the protester largely because I caught snippets of South Central in their chants. I work primarily with individuals in South Central LA, so I have a soft spot for any issues that community has.

I learned that Forever 21 is trying to build a new distribution plant in the city of Vernon so they can churn out more designer knock-offs (I got no problem with designer knock-offs, by the way). However, in doing so, they push out farm workers who work that land. In addition, a new distribution plant is not eco-friendly.

The whole situation is kinda freaky. In my current mission to find this strapless purple shift dress, I stumbled upon a Forever 21 department store in Montebello. Did you get that? Forever 21 department store. They’re seriously going for blood. Two floors that are even bigger than the one in Pasadena with everything sectioned off into mini-departments. It’s insane. I never thought that Forever 21 would blow up like this!

F21 Dept Store

It almost feels like the anti-Christ of all cheapsky knock-off stores. They reel you in with their bright lights and colors and incredibly cheap prices. I’ve been haunting the Forever 21 website recently to check if new purple dresses have been posted. They’ve really pimped out their site.

F21 Website

They’ve added some new goodies since my youthful days shopping at single namebrand Forever 21. Now they have like, 3 different labels. The webpage for one of their new labels, Twelve by Twelve, caught my eye with the editorial layout, the requisite stick-thin models in awkward poses and the exaggerated headpieces. But it should come as no surprise seeing as Forever 21 is a knock-off store. Poor people like me can’t afford to splurge my grad school tuition on a designer jacket. Why not copy couture editorials to entice their audience even further? Complete the couture image.

Other interactive features their website boasts includes a lookbook or “photo gallery” and an advice column called “Ask Aimee” where registered users can ask Forever 21’s “fashion director” all their questions about fashion. (I want that job!) The lookbook is especially genius because it touches on all the current trends: tropical, desert, rockabilly and “Sunday Best.” If you scour through recent teen mags like “teen vogue,” I see those four trends splattered across every issue.

I guess the scary part to me is how cunning Forever 21 is. Even someone as socially aware as I am can be so easily caught up in the glamour of it all while still being able to save tons of money. It’s economical both stylistically and financially. And those are the two elements that they’ve used to really capitalize on at the expense of those who do the grunt work.

Ironically, there’s a reference to a Bible verse stamped on the bottom of every Forever 21 bag. Seriously. Go and check to see if “John 3:16” graces the bottom of yours.

F21 3 16

This is the verse:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Apparently, the founder of Forever 21 is deeply religious and he and his wife donate millions of dollars to their church. My question is, why can’t they use that money to pay their workers humane wages? The whole thing boggles my mind, though capitalist greed should be something I’m used to seeing and hearing about. Hell, I buy into it, too! I struggle with how to work that shit out in my conscience. I was telling a friend of mine that I will always be an advocate for the community, but here I am, contributing to their suffering and their social status on the bottom rung of the ladder.

It’s a dilemma and I have no answers. I do what everyone else does, which is to look the other way, shrug my shoulders and say, “That’s the way it is,” while enjoying my new designer knock-off sweater that I bought for $15. Trust me, I’ve been struggling with this for  years, though it hasn’t been much of a struggle. It’s something that’s bigger than me and I’ve accepted that. I’m just one tiny part of the bigger problem; it would take a freakin army, or at least a small of group of people with the energy and passion of an entire army, to move mountains like improve sweatshop workers’ conditions.

Stylist in the Making
May 14, 2009, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Gettin My Career On | Tags: , ,
m. klara gets ready for her engagement photshoot

m. klara gets ready for her engagement photshoot

Tricia let us out of class early last night, but I stayed afterwards a little bit to complete my class assignment. Elizabeth stayed also and we spent the last few minutes of class reviewing SPEC and cost sheets.

As we were walking to the our cars, we got to talking and we discovered that we had similar goals in terms of fashion.

First of all, she wants to be a custom dress designer for wedding dresses and I had to tell her about Wai-Ching. Wai-Ching is awesome. Second, she wants to be a stylist and start a business party planning for events and weddings. I was like, omigod! I totally wanna do that too!!

I had actually stayed after class last week, too, to talk with Tricia about how to get a start in becoming a stylist. Right now I’m thinking more along the lines of becoming a stylist for photoshoots. As I’m getting to know myself artistically, I notice a theme of taking elements and putting them together to create one big picture. The simplest way of illustrating that is through my love for making collages. Even the Tarot cards I own have collage pictures instead of the typical single image.

It’s the same with fashion. I love looking at street style and how individuals take garments or accessories or even objects that might look ordinary on its own, but fantastic when paired together to create one unified look.

With photoshoots, its the same thing: taking different elements –backdrop, lighting, colors, models, props, etc.– to create a mood, develop a storyline, evoke an emotion. To me, a successful photoshoot will inspire creativity in others.

All that fluffiness aside, Tricia advised several things. One, working with magazines is a good start. Also, finding connections in the entertainment industry. Two, research schools that offer certificates in costume design and merchandising. Three, market my psychology degree like a mofo.

After talking with Elizabeth last night, I was inspired to think about ways I could incorporate my psychology degree into a future side career as a stylist. During the intake, or first meeting, I could ask the editor/director/photographer/model what their vision is. If they’re having trouble with that, I could ask about the mood or emotion they want to evoke, what colors they want to use, what message they want to send out to the audience. Play word associations with them. Talk about the abstract before getting into the concrete (the actual physical space and tangible elements). Or should I do the reverse? That would be fun to play around with…And seeing as I’m only in the beginnings of my fashion venture, I’m versatile in terms of what kinds of moods and styles I like to mess around with.

I was talking about marketing plans with my brother yesterday. Taking a marketing class would be interesting, too. And definitely helpful. Working with magazines is a fine idea, but to be honest, I don’t like the idea of working under someone else for very long. Though I love team work, I see myself more as a freelance agent, working with magazines here and there, but definitely with indie companies or websites.

I’m currently looking through Academy of Art’s online fashion courses and there are so many I wanna take! Introduction to Fashion Journalism, Consumer Motivation in Fashion, Costume Design for Film, Fashion Marketing, Fundamentals of Management, History of Fashion, Visual Merchandsing, etc. FUN!! And the best part is that the online classes cost nothing.

Strictly speaking, this will be a side job. Psychology will always be my main career choice. I find psychology to be useful in everything, even fashion. The one beef I’ve always had with psychology is its lack of creativty. I don’t know if it’s because psychology has always been accused of being a “soft” science that they feel the need to stay clinical and well, boring. But I noticed that even in my dissertation, I chose to study something offbeat, something more personal and less sterile (Filipino mail-order brides).

I should definitely look into studying art and music therapy because if there’s one thing I’m learning, fashion can be good for the soul.

PS. I just found a Styling course!! Woohoo!!

PPS. Okay, as I’m making my way through the course catalog, I think I’m interested in Fashion Journalism and Editorial Styling. I’m still getting used to the terminology…

To Train or Not to Train?
May 14, 2009, 4:39 am
Filed under: Trends Mirror Society | Tags: , ,

While I was busy crying over the wedding dress that got away, I noticed something. Designers charge so much more if the dress has a train. Logically, it makes sense. Trains require more material and therefore, increases the value of the dress.

In my fashion course, we’d been studying the dresses from the Victorian era and one of our assignments was to explore what certain styles of dress said about the people wearing them. For example, huge dresses that used massive crinolines, panniers and bustles were worn by upper class women. The extensive use of luxurious fabric reflected their income status.

And it made me think about trains on wedding dresses. The bigger your train is, the more money you’re telling your audience you have. It’s such a status thing, especially when you have a big wedding. Guests are totally gonna look at your decor and outfits and determine just how much money you’ve spent and therefore how much money you have.

It’s like the equivalent of guys and cars. The bigger your car, the bigger your…well, you know.

Barong Tagalogs
May 13, 2009, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Culture 101, My Wedding | Tags: ,

As someone who is a fashion/syle monger, I am all about aesthetics for the wedding. I’m going for a down-to-earth vintage feel which incorporates a lot of lace and sheer fabric. Which makes me feel a lot better about the dress I did buy. Anyway, I was racking my brain trying to figure out what the men could wear to fit this vintage vibe and I thought: barong tagalogs.

Barong tagalogs are the traditional formal Filipino attire in the Philippines. As you can see, the lace and sheer material would fit the vintage vibe to a T.

However, I struggle with the historical significance of the garment. During Spanish rule, the barong tagalog was worn by the natives to distinguish them from the upper-class Spaniards. The sheer material was so that the Filipino couldn’t hide weapons under their shirts or to prevent them from stealing from their Spanish masters.

According to history, the barong tagalog is supposed to have evolved into the formal wear it’s known for today after it was declared the national dress of the Philippines. Still, I kind of struggle with that. When it comes to cultural dress, I don’t want my men to wear it lightly. It’s definitely a source of pride for some of the men in my family, such as my brother, but I’m not sure how I feel about this garment having such an important place in my wedding when I’m aware of its history.

I think part of the struggle is that many Filipinos still tend to have this colonial mentality where they accept their position in society as lesser than and that they should feel grateful to have had Western forces “civilize” them. So even though Filipinos embrace the idea that barong tagalogs have evolved to represent anti-colonization, a part of me wonders if this is another manifestation of colonial mentality.

I just got off the phone with my brother. And while he understands my concerns, he still doesn’t mind wearing it. Aesthetically, it’s very pleasing to my eye and it totally fits the theme of my wedding. Plus, it has cultural significance and I love the idea of expressing my cultural pride in my wedding. I just don’t want to come to a conclusion about how I feel about barong tagalogs later on down the road and have it be throughout all my wedding pictures for the rest of my life.

Then there’s another part of me that tells me I should just find a way to accept the history of the barong tagalog and create new meanings for it. I just did some research on the kebaya of Indonesia and apparently, it has a history of colonization as well. Now, it’s seen as formal wear for many Asian countries.

Does anyone else find it disturbing that these traditional forms of dress have histories of colonization? The dilemma is that, Spanish culture is so intertwined with Filipino culture that if I were to boycott certain Filipino traditions based on their colonial history, we would have very little tradition left. But I guess that’s the general effect of colonization: to eradicate so-called “uncivilized” behaviors and rituals in favor of more Western “civilized” ones. Either way, their mission was accomplished. All indigenous traditions are no longer practiced or only known by those Filipino tribes that have been ostracized by the rest of Filipino society.

Another part of me does not want the men on my court wear traditional tuxedos. I’m American, but I’m not All-American. The artistic, Filipino side of me wants to incorporate this aesthetically pleasing, cultural part of myself into my wedding. I think I’d rather do that than have them wear tuxedos.

May 13, 2009, 6:57 pm
Filed under: My Wedding | Tags: ,

The negative side of procrastinating on a wedding: you tend to make hasty decisions and when a better opportunity comes up, you can’t reverse the decision and your opportunity goes out the window. Such an event happened to me the other day when I purchased my wedding dress under the impression that it would be the best deal I could find within such short notice. A couple days later, I came across this designer whose designs are exactly what I wanted for my dress. I went on a complete spazz attack and called the designer, trying to find out how much she would charge to expedite the order and left her a zillion emails and voicemails. I texted everyone and their mamas about her amazing work and my maid of honor had to tell me to calm the fuck down. She told me that the dresses wouldn’t look as good in person, but I think she was just telling me that to make me feel better. She knows my style and I am all about Wai-Ching. Take a look:

Antoinette Dress

Bliss Dress

L’Arbre Dress: I love the Western feel of this. If Pauline (my maid-of-honor) is correct, and the dresses probably don’t look as fantastic as they seem in the pictures, then huge props goes to the photographer and stylist on the set. The setting really accentuates the feel of the dress.

Zolotova Dress: Apparently, the designer, Chrissy Wai-Ching, wore this dress to her own wedding. I love her signature stitching in the bodice and how she uses tufts of material to “glam” up the dress rather than beading. I’m so not a fan of beading. And I love how she uses raw edging to emphasize the bohemian look.

Yowying Dress: The color is amazing. A little bohemian and urban all at once. It helps that model is gorgeous, too.

White Yowying Dress: This is one of the dresses I wanted to purchase. And it costs half as much as the dress I bought!

Samsara Dress: This was another dress I wanted. It looks more like one of the traditional dresses you’d find at like, David’s Bridal or something, but it still has her signature stitching which I love.

Satori Dress: I love how glam this dress is. She uses the tufts of material to glam it up, but no beading. Gorgeous.

Anyway, it only took me an hour or so to calm down, though I still dream about her dresses. Every day. The designer called me back and I had to explain to her my situation. I told her how much I loved her designs and she was such a doll about it. She’s all, “Well, maybe for your next event.”

Which reminds me…I’d love to start a collection of couture and vintage. Maybe when I start making enough money. But until then, I’m all about supporting indie designers like Wai-Ching. Amazing.

Something to Choo-Choo On
May 9, 2009, 7:31 am
Filed under: Subcultures | Tags: ,

I’ve always had a weird fascination for trains. And not like, Amtrack or anything. Old steam trains from back in the day. So when Wayne suggested that we take our engagement photo shoot at a train track, I almost creamed my pants.

This is why I’m marrying the guy.

Anyway, his epiphany led me to a mad hunt for examples of “steampunk” fashion. I had just read about a steampunk-themed wedding on Offbeat Bride and was immediately intrigued. To be honest, I’m still not sure what it is except that it reminds me of people riding steam engines in like, the 1920’s or something.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

This man is just beautiful.


I’ve always been intrigued by alternative genres of style, but none have really connected with me. I think they were either too out there or too “bright” or too “dark.” For now, it appears that steampunk is a nice medium.

I downloaded a bunch of pictures off this livejournal thread so I can show Wayne examples of how steampunk style looks like. Then we can try to incorporate elements of it into our style for the photoshoot. I was extremely exhilirated when Wayne first pitched the idea to me (I still get a little thrill down my spine when I think about it) for a couple reasons: 1) not sure how our fairly traditional Asian families will react to pictures of their children dressed in costume and 2) I’ve always wanted to do a photo shoot that involved costumes and dressing up!!

I did a little research on steampunk and found that it’s a derivative of subcultures such as Lolita fashion and romantic goth. It’s fairly new, having picked up steam (haha, couldn’t resist!) in the late 80’s. As a sci-fi/fantasy genre, steampunk is a cross between romance and steam-powered technology of the Victorian era. Like other subcultures such as cyberpunk, steampunk is anti-establishment. But in contrast, it takes a more optimistic point of view towards human potential.

In a way, this is very reflective of Wayne and I. As psychologists, it’s easy to become jaded by humans suffering at the hands of our government and just social inequalities in general, but I think we’re still early enough in our career where we still maintain hope for humankind.

On a grander scale, I like to view the rise of steampunk as a testament to the current changes in our society, particularly American society. Yes, we still have much to accomplish in terms of social justice and even economic growth. But it’s almost as though we have to set ourselves back a little just so we can begin anew, just like steampunk reverts back to a time when technology was becoming more and more industrialized. It’s almost like going back to a simpler time, but perhaps it’s also a vision of another opportunity to try things differently.

Stylistically, the pictures I’ve viewed have more earthy, neutral tones. Personally, I’ve always steered more towards neutral colors anyway, but nothing gothic unless it’s Halloween. Even though it was hotter than hell these past couple days, I still ventured out of the apartment in belted black dresses. I wish I had the patience to put together an awesome outfit like the ones above, but alas, I’m so lazy when it comes to everyday wear. Maybe that’s why I like playing dress-up so much; cuz I feel more motivated to put an effort into the details.

Due to recent events, I wonder if I’ve been appropriating different styles and genres just cuz it’s “cool.” But looking back on my stylistic tastes and interests, I’ve always been interested in period costumes, just with a more modern, sensual twist like using corsets, feathers, birdcage veils and the like. But because I know steampunk is also a lifestyle, I tend to worry about offending others who practice the lifestyle.

It’s something I wrestle with. It might be good for me to separate the two: fashion versus lifestyle. Fashionably speaking, I connect with steampunk much more than I do with the lifestyle, though that may be up for debate as well. That’s what I love about style, though. There’s always room to be creative and incorporate your own unique take on things.