Category Archives: Hue Too’s News

Campus happenings.

HOW MEMORIES BECAME FICTION FOR HELENA MARIA VIRAMONTES

FIT being a school of art and design, business and technology, some people don’t realize that high-caliber novelists often visit.

Mostly recently, FIT hosted Helena Maria Viramontes, author of The Moths and Other StoriesUnder the Feet of Jesus, and Their Dogs Came With Them, and chair of the creative writing MFA program at Cornell University. Her most famous story, The Moths, about a teenager’s relationship with her dying grandmother, has been anthologized hundreds of times.

The talk, sponsored by FIT Words, the college’s creative writing club, was called “Writing Your Truth in Fiction,” and Viramontes spoke about how her upbringing as a Chicana (the identity of many Mexican-Americans) in Los Angeles influenced her writing.

We were struck by some of her early inspirations, fragments of her childhood that she alchemized into literary gold.

New roads: “The freeways started in 1959 and finished in 1970. Much of my upbringing was about seeing the destruction of our community.”

The encyclopedia: “Growing up, we had a World Book encyclopedia, but we weren’t allowed to touch it. I’d pick up a volume and run to the bathroom to read it. Whenever I opened a book, it was with a sincere and profound faith that it would inform my life.”

The Bible: “I’d read the parables and stories and recite them to my younger brothers and sisters.”

James Joyce: “With The Moths, I wanted to do a Joycean Dubliners for East L.A.”

Her family: “My first short story began with my mother and my father. I wanted people to know us. I realized I was writing not about my family but a community.”

Hue Too readers, what traces of your childhood inspire you today?

FOUR THINGS WE DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT GAY HISTORY

Jack Drescher, MD.

Jack Drescher, MD.

Jack Drescher, MD, one of the world’s experts on the psychology of gay men, lectured at FIT last week about the history of psychiatric views on homosexuality. (He was invited by Daniel Levinson Wilk, Associate Professor of American History. )

Turns out Hue didn’t know nearly as much as we thought we did. For example:

1. Pioneering psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud considered homosexuality to be a result of “developmental arrest,” and nigh impossible to treat, but he didn’t judge it as perversion. Only later did psychiatrists pass judgment on it.

2. At the American Psychiatric Association convention In 1972, Dr. John Fryer spoke to the membership about his life as a gay psychiatrist. At that time, a psychiatrist could lose his or her license for being gay, so to conceal his identity, he spoke through a microphone that distorted his voice, and he wore an oversized suit and mask. Creepy!

A landmark 1972 panel on the question of whether homosexuality is mental illness, featuring a moving speech by Dr. John Fryer, right.

A landmark 1972 panel on the question of whether homosexuality is mental illness, featuring a moving speech by Dr. John Fryer in disguise, right.

3. When the APA voted in 1973 to remove homosexuality from the DSM (the official list of mental disorders), it was the first and only time the membership has voted on a scientific matter.

4. Conversion therapy, the effort to change the sexuality of gay people, is now illegal in some places because it is considered consumer fraud. In other words, any claim that it can be “successful” is false.

Hue plans on reading Drescher’s book, Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man, to learn more.

CONVERSATIONS WITH INTERESTING WOMEN

The concept is astonishingly simple and deliciously complex: a book about our relationship to clothes, as experienced by 642 women, including Lena Dunham, Cindy Sherman, Tavi Gevinson, and two FIT faculty members, Sara Freeman and Dale Megan Healey. In the hands of editors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton, the result is Women in Clothes, a clever, surprising, encyclopedic portrait of beauty, insecurity, and family. And it reads like the most delicious issue of O magazine.

On October 23, the English and Speech Department invited Julavits and Shapton to read from and discuss the book. Julavits read about accompanying a smell scientist to the coatroom of a New York restaurant to judge the wearers of the coats. (“It’s a very nice scent,” the scientist said after sniffing the armpit of one coat. “I think she’s with the wrong guy.”) Shapton read a first-person account from a garment worker in Cambodia who sews bras too expensive for her to afford.

Women in Clothes

No detail of the book’s design was overlooked. Shapton wanted it to be softcover to be more welcoming. They didn’t want pictures of the women so that readers wouldn’t form judgments based on their looks. They wanted a gridlike design, broken up by images every few pages. They went back and forth about which cover to use.

Toward the end, someone asked them whether the book had made them more conscious about what they put on each morning. “I think, ‘What am I feeling inside, and how do I want to express that in some manner?’” Julavits said, then amended her answer slightly. “Today I’m wearing this book. That’s what you should be looking at to understand me, not what I’m wearing right now.”

Hue thinks she wears it well.

Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits discuss "Women on Clothes."

Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits discuss “Women in Clothes.”

MUSEUM AT FIT DOLL DISPLAY EVOKES OOHS AND OZ

In the Blink-And-You’ll-Miss-It category, a display of Wizard of Oz dolls wearing character-appropriate couture made a weeklong appearance in the lobby of The Museum at FIT earlier this month.

Dorothy Gale is looking very on trend in her gingham Reem Acra gown.

Dorothy Gale is looking very on trend in her gingham Reem Acra (Fashion Design ’86) gown.

To commemorate the classic film’s 75th anniversary, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and the Tonner Doll Company collaborated with a dozen name designers to create hot outfits for Oz characters. They were on display at The Museum at FIT for a week, during which anyone could bid on them, with all proceeds going to Habitat For Humanity’s (wait for it…) “There’s  No Place Like Home” campaign.

In the foreground, a red-headed Glinda by Ruth Myers. In the background, Betsey Johnson's Glinda in fabulous fuchsia.

In the foreground, a red-headed Glinda by Ruth Myers. In the background, Betsey Johnson’s Glinda in fabulous fuchsia.

The Wicked Witches commanded the premier prices. Donna Karan’s witch, seemingly inspired by Morticia Addams, went for $1,205. A Marc Jacobs fishnet witch fetched $1,525. And a Scandal-ous black-and-white Wicked Witch ensemble by Lyn Paolo (costume designer for the popular show) with Kerry Washington brought in a whopping $2,125! The Glindas weren’t far behind.

Dummy

Erickson Beamon’s disco glam Glinda earned $1,600 for Habitat For Humanity.

Hue is glad all these witches and Dorothys found homes–and that they helped people in need find homes of their own.

THE GREATEST LESSON TIM GUNN EVER LEARNED

Tim Gunn—educator, author, and co-host and mentor for the smash fashion design reality show Project Runway since its debut in 2004—spoke to a packed house of students at the Haft Auditorium on April 2. With his characteristic warmth and charm, he walked the audience through his career, beginning with his realization that he “didn’t like sweating and didn’t like getting dirty…I loved learning and I loved education.”

It wasn’t until he started studying art, he said, that he discovered who he was. Then a mentor asked him to help teach a design course—and almost three decades later, he hasn’t looked back.

Project Runway star Tim Gunn spoke at a Dean's Forum for the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio.

Project Runway star Tim Gunn spoke at a Dean’s Forum for the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio.

The greatest lesson he ever learned is that “the world owes you nothing. You have to make your own place in it. You have to do everything at 150 percent or greater.”

Asked by a student what it’s like to influence so many people through shows like Project Runway and his books on personal style, Gunn said, “I hope I’m giving people the confidence to make their own decisions [in what to wear]. If fashion were easy, everyone would look fabulous.”

Tim Gunn greets students before the event. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio.

Tim Gunn greets students before the event. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio.