After reading a few posts and articles on the power of uniform dressing, last week I decided to only wear black dresses to experiment with sartorial disappearance.  Apparently, taking the choice away of getting dressed in the morning will make you a more stable, in control, smarter and productive person.  Probably more successful and happier too.

This was, quite obviously, the wrong experience for me. Black is actually not a uniform as far as I am concerned . All its nuances and textures and different associations make it versatile and welcoming and experimental. Just the opposite of a uniform. As much as I like black dresses and have a closet full of them to prove it, I found it extremely boring to put on the same thing everyday. Boring might be efficient and productive but this doesn’t seem to be what I’m interested in becoming.

I do understand the allure of having a streamlined, organized home / closet but I’m not, no matter how hard I try a minimalist. This doesn’t mean that I’m obsessed with fast changing fashion trends or fast fashion fixes. By now, about 70% of my wardrobe is vintage or secondhand because I do love clothes a lot more than I am interested in fashion.  I might be obsessed with my possessions but mainly because I got a lot of them from my grandmother, my great aunt and my mother. They tell, at least partially, the story of who I am.

For some, settling into an everyday uniform means that you have finally understood who you are and what outfit goes with that while becoming incredibly stylish. I do agree with Valerie Steel that the idea that clothes are supposed to express your true identity is  “almost laughably naive, clothes are a mask,a persona you put on. You present an aspect of yourself, not the core. Anyway, what would the core be? It’s a rather horrific thought.”

I need the choice, even if it’s a waste of energy and mental power. I need to be able to decide who I want to be in a given day and I need to be able to have fun with that. The normalizing discourse of uniform dressing/ capsule wardrobe sounds too much like a managerial trend applied to everyday life, transforming it into some kind of efficient unidimensional space and that’s also rather horrific. Foucault argues that through surveillance our bodies are made docile by institutions and become subject to mass standards of behaviour, these standards of behaviour (or ‘discourses’) are then internalized by individuals and govern the ways in which we use and understand our bodies. He also suggests, however, that people can act on their bodies in different ways and resist these normalizing discourses.


Valerie Steele

Foucault,M. (1977) Discipline and Punish


Things I learned in the midst of frivolous amusements 

I am a frivolous person and I have often felt guilty about it mainly because I fear that most people would understand that as meaning that I am a shallow person. Most of my time seems to be occupied with aesthetic considerations or concerns of some kind. Most of the space I live in is organized accordingly. Every morning I go out hoping that what I have chosen to wear will contribute to make the day a little more beautiful, a little less real (I suppose that’s where the love of vintage clothes comes from). Every evening I want to come back home to the same kind of fantasy. I watch movies and plays looking for the kind of visual and emotional grandeur that can make one forget that there’s some kind of reality out there. I read books to be seduced by the music in words and I like music because it embodies all the beauty I find in movies and books.
Form always seems to overcome purpose and content.

Except when it comes to people. Their content is what sustains their form. And still, I also tend to understand human relationships as an aesthetic ideal in the sense that they should be a pursuit of pleasure and an avoidance of pain.  I like people. I like watching them, I like talking to them and getting to know their stories and I feel mesmerized by the things they know and the lives they lived.

I am terribly shy so I never start conversations with strangers but I do engage in them often and listen.

There was someone from Belgium sitting next to me on a flight to Lisbon and he told me how he hadn’t spoken to his family in over twenty years because he had taken his dad to court over child support money. There was an  elegant lady in the subway in New York who collected ancient tiles and a kid from Spain who talked for over seven hours during a flight between Johannesburg and Madrid and  street artists in London and drag queens in Porto and soccer fans in Zambia and the regal looking lady in Houston during intermission at the ballet. She was a widow and her son was working for an oil company in Nigeria. Maybe we could go to the ballet together the following week. I would not be in Houston anymore. And the Brazilian girl  that had been left at the altar and was trying to forget that she was hurt and afraid of flying while the plane was getting ready to land.

And, if they asked me, I could go on and almost write a book with all the moments some stranger decided to confide in me. Sometimes I talk and understand how liberating it is to be your vulnerable self with someone you know will not cross paths with you ever again. And you go on for hours sitting across a perfect stranger in some Lower East Side bar after checking some independent production of Hamlet and talk about all your unfulfilled dreams and what your fear and how finding Shakespeare has changed your life.

These are the moments of bliss that truly feel they could be enough for a whole lifetime and shield me when the world just seems to hurtful to endure. I am one of those. Deeply hurt by the trivial, the rudeness and mainly by the pain of others, of strangers, by the injustice, by whatever dehumanizing force seems to be operating on any given day.

“Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good, and melt at other’s woe.”

And my heart also got used to marvel at others, to shudder, tremble and thrill with the same pleasure and emotion it felt coming face to face with Hopper’s “New York Movie” or driving to Jarrett’s “Köln Concert”.

Works of art,  Martha Nussbaum says,  “give us insight into how other people live and feel, how they strive for happiness, and how conditions of many types affect them. [And] that is crucial for living any sort of decent life.”


Marcel Proust

Dinah Washington

Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Martha Nussbaum

On fear (an exercise in copy/paste)

I have been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I wish I could say that I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do. I have. Once you let fear get possession of your soul, it does not readily yield its place to another sentiment. Then you just realize you have to fight yourself and let everything happen to you, Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. I go back to a gin infused advice over “I am sailing” announcing the final round at Peter’s, years ago. Don’t think. And I realize I do appreciate the unknown, the feeling of jumping before looking. I learnt that through facing the fear of traveling alone. I prefer it like that now. No longer fearing freedom. For a few days. I do not fear mistakes. I do fear perfection and the fearlessness will come when I stop waiting for the right day to go up or down in my own way. I fear wasted time. 


Georgia O’Keeffe 

Leo Tolstoi

Rainer Maria Rilke

Jim Morrison 

Pink Floyd

Photo via Pinterest 


The process of deciphering and expressing a sense of who we are happens in tandem with deciphering and expressing when and where we are .


In the summer of 1988 we went to Cheltenham for an intensive English language course. I stayed with Cathy and Howard and my brother stayed with another family so we wouldn’t disturb the immersive quality of the course.  I remember Cheltenham as the England in the movies. I remember that Cathy and Howard’s house was “colour coded”, each room had its own colour. My room was pink and their wonderful living room was red. Red carpets, red sofa, red furniture and red wallpaper. 

This was my second time in England. I had been to London with my parents when I was 14 or 15 and could not control my excitement at having a place to go with the language I felt in love with in school and getting the Smiths “The queen is dead” before it went on sale in Portugal.   

There is a phrase: ‘the sweet smell of success’. And I can only tell you, I’ve had two experiences of that and it just smells like Brighton and oyster bars and things like that.
In August 1992 I visited Brighton with my parents to get things ready to start studying at Sussex University in the Fall. This is still the city that lives in my heart. My city.   

Life was completely different now. A full time student with a library schedule and tutorial classes. Now, I was in charge and it wasn’t as easy as I had imagined. Still, this is the city where, in a way, I grew up and everything was a promise of change.    

And then I moved to London. I doubt it if I will ever feel the kind of freedom and happiness and warm loneliness and sense of belonging I felt in this place. London was my moveable feast and  wherever I go for the rest of my life, it will stay with me. 


In 2002 I came back. So did others. Some of us just couldn’t handle it and decided to head back to London. I have tried to justify my choice of coming back many times, knowing that in reality that choice wasn’t actually mine. I arrived at the same conclusion every time. Choosing  to be who you really are takes a lot of courage.


Susan B. Kaiser 

Laurence Olivier 

Ernest Hemingway