Archive for April, 2009

the anatomy of style

collagepersonI have a theory: the single most important element of an outfit is exactly how a pair of pants or any legwear meets the shoes. It’s not completely the pants or the shoes, but that moment where they join. Yes, yes, colors, fabrics, patterns, the rest of the proportions of the rest of outfit are important, but the pant/shoe moment is far more telling than anything else. And of course, there are always exceptions.Maybe this is also an architect or designer’s way of thinking of things. “It’s all about how the materials are joined, how they meet”, says Chris Dewart’s voice in my head. But what do you think?

Consider this, when we think of stereotypical outfits we think of: tight black pants with Converses, baggy jeans with Timbs, skinny jeans with ballet flats, flared jeans with rainbows, baggy sweatpants tucked into Uggs but spilling out a little at the top, leggings fitting cleanly into calf height boots, pants rolled up mid-calf with nice sneakers for urban bikers, straight fit jeans partially tucked behind the tongue of loud sneakers a la Kanye, Thom Browne’s entire market of men’s suit pants ending above the ankle.

In other words, people dress to fairly specific looks/attitudes/trends that are not as much defined by shirts or jewelry but very much defined by the proportions of the clothes they wear and for a large part, the proportions of your outfit are dictated by the shoe/pant moment (I need to find a term for this!). I am obsessed with this detail because it seems to have so much control over how everything else in an outfit works, everything adapts to the fit the right moment between the pants and shoes. But this is still a continuing thought….

Streetstyle bloggers whether consciously or not seek out the same sort of details. Here is a catalog of shoe/pants moments mostly from street style blogs, some good and other just standard. See for yourself that variety and possibility of proportions that are out there….


[photocredits: the sartorialist. cafe mode, stil in berlin, f&art, jak & jil, stockholm street style]

dematerialization of fruit and other objects

Despite our constant complaining about the overwhelming quantity and pointlessness of MIT course requirements*, it is on occasion actually not a terrible thing. MIT, being a technical school, requires me to take a 12-unit lab class before I graduate (slight groan). So I opted out of the architecture-building tech lab with Les “is More” Norford which sounded only somewhat interesting and registered for Strobe Photography Lab in the electrical engineering/comp sci department instead. Had it not been for MIT requirements, I probably would have never gotten to around to taking this class and missed out on a long standing MIT tradition.

Strobe photography was largely developed and popularized by Doc Edgerton as a student and professor at MIT. The flash of the strobe is so short, on the order of a 75-250 nanoseconds, allowing us to use it to record extremely high speed events that are not discernible by the human eye in normal lighting. The main challenge is to get the strobe to trigger at the exact moment to capture what you want. Enough talk. Here are the images**.

mapping a balloon pop | synch and delay method
This is six different balloons popping with photos taken at different strobe flash delays. Camera: Nikon on 35mm b/w film

the process of things | multiflash strobe photography
Exposing the film to multiple strobe flashes to capture the process of an action. Shown here: a golf swing, and two bouncy balls dropped on top of each other (transfer of momentum). Camera: Nikon on 35mm b/w film.

milk drops and lighters | high speed video


This is recorded using a high speed video camera, not strobe. Frames were capture at a rate of 3000 frames/second with Phantom HSV recorder. The milk drop is shown here at every 20 frames or .007 seconds. The lighter ignition is shown at every 10 frames or .003 seconds. Hopefully, I’ll get these up in video form too!

bullets | audio triggered strobe
Bullets shot through playing cards, various fruits and peeps with a rifle. Strobe triggered with an audio sensor whose position was adjusted to capture the bullets in different positions. Camera: Nikon D200

shockwaves | schlieren and shadowgraph
For our group final project, we are taking on the ambitious task of imaging shockwaves produced by bullets and discharging capacitors when the sound barrier is broken. The images should be beautiful as long as we get the lighting to work which is proving much more challenging than we had thought. Point source lights! Columnated lights! Ack, I end up just listening to the engineers, but still what I’ve liked most about this class is the technical work that is involved. The images are just a satisfying by product of the calculations.

In a time when photography is so effortless, and oftentimes so careless and nonchalant, it is easy to forget that it was developed as a science. Photography is not only aesthetics, emotion, ideas or intuition; there is real precision, detail, and science in the way it works. It’s nice to be able to understand a bit of that technical side that’s actually quite beautiful.

*One of the things that makes MIT unique amongst colleges is its ability to endlessly generate systems for institute requirements and corresponding vocabulary for those requirements. For example, before I graduate from MIT, I am required to take all my 6 GIRs, 2 RESTs, quite a few HASS, two of which have to be CI-H, 3 of which have HASS-Ds that are from the same category of which there are 6 (be forewarned: not all HASS classes are HASS-Ds and not all classes that seem like HASS are actually HASS, but you can replace a level three language for one HASS-D), 2 CI-Ms, 12 units of lab, and a swim test. Is this gibberish? It is.

**All images were taken by Strobe 4 aka Broken Glass Disposal. Group members: N. Ristuccia, S. Cole, R. Teil, J. Li with help of C. Silcox.

[edit 07.09.09 | Strobe 4 its final project investigated Schlieren imagaing of shockwaves generated by discharging capacitors. Our website provides general theory behind Schlieren, as well as images, and Schlieren set up tips]

beyond blue jeans

During this spring’s fashion week, I relegated myself to only occasionally checking specific collections on Partially, this was because I was trying to allot more time to academics…which sort of worked. But I was able to keep that self-restraint for four weeks because I was quite satisfied flipping through streetstyle fashion blogs which were just as interesting as runway shows but more understandable and relevant than all those sheer skintight dresses or voluminous layers coming down the catwalk.

Streetstyle bloggers have made off the runway/on the streets just as popular and thoroughly documented as whatever new design is being strutted around in shows. They are the fashion week papparazzi swarming around any mildly stylish girl, model or magazine editor (+ their posse) and at some point, there is just indiscriminate photographing and uploading of pictures because everyone at fashion week looks damn good. The fraction of blogger/photographers that distinguish themselves from the crowd are the ones who filter out the lastest Balmain jackets, tall blond models, bright colors and find people who really understand that perfect balance in the clothes they wear.

My favorites in street style blogging are unquestionably Scott Schumann of The Sartorialist and Garance Dore. They both have an incredible affinity for the well-crafted outfit.* At the Autumn/Winter-09 shows, they both picked up on the refreshing look of loose pants sometimes high waisted and rolled-up, with tucked in shirt and high heels.
Perhaps, I like this because it looks vaguely like a sophisticated and classy version of the comfortably loose rolled-up jeans we wore in boarding school. I’ve recently outgrown all my blue colored jeans and seeing these pictures reminds me to venture out and experience the many other styles, colors and fabrics for pants that exist out there. I’ve been stuck on blue jeans for too long and I am determined to stay out of that comfort zone this spring and summer. Instead it’s going to be white jeans, linen pants, and whatever else I find!

*I can only think of a way to explain in terms of architecture. The people and outfits that SS and GD document are like the Renzo Piano buildings: detailed, elegant, resolved, and hold presence. Renzo Piano’s refinement as opposed to the flashiness of Herzog and De Meuron or the simple catchiness and boldness of BIG which is the kind of clothes most streetstyle blogs document.

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