Suburban White Trash

By Arielle E. and Roxanne G.

Suburbia, and NOT the city, is where cool fashion begins.

First, let’s talk about why suburbia sucks, and then I’ll explain how the suckiness of suburbia makes for cool fashion.

Everyone around me has a stick up their ass
Middle class conformity begins with middle-class insecurity. Most of the middle-class suburbanites act like they’re one bad move away from becoming Trailer Trash, either because they ARE Trailer Trash (my family) or because they’re either one generation removed from or one bad move from becoming Trailer Trash. That’s why everyone has a stick up their ass about this and that and everything. Anything that hints of trailer trash must be avoided at all times. Which makes everyone look and act like…Suburban Trash.

The bulges in their parents’ wallet determines their class and popularity
Doesn’t matter if Tiffany’s dad robs the elderly with high pressure sales tactics or Heather’s step-dad seduces young and impressionable young men with network marketing scams or Toby’s dad is an ambulance chaser. If they have money, they’re considered part of the suburban upper class, regardless of their taste, job, and character. The ones with money think they’re sophisticated when they’re just burlesque versions of Kim Kardashian, who herself is a burlesque version of Liz fucking Taylor. No wonder there are so many bimbos in suburbia.

Pretentious. Assholes. Everywhere.
Well if the popular kids are doing burlesque, guess what everyone else is doing? Burlesque!

I was the poor kid so I was the target of everyone’s bullying.
If you weren’t doing burlesque or were bad at it, which was the case for the poorest kids, then you were bullied. The Suburban Caste System is reinforced daily because the suburbs aren’t supposed to have poor people. It’s supposed to be idyllic, which is why people move here in the first place. Except it isn’t, a lot of people are struggling to maintain appearances.

I was taught by those around me – including my own mom- to fake it like we were well off, that everything was ok. But that was bullshit. I didn’t like spewing bullshit. It made me feel nasty inside.
This isn’t “faking it till you make it.” In the world of suburban burlesque, it’s about “faking it till everyone gets sick of the stupid act.” This stupid act made me even more aware of being poorer than those around me, which made me angrier at myself not just for being poor, but for pretending *to not be poor.* And it’s this stupid act, not the state of being poor or whatever, that tears families apart. Everyone around me either is or is going crazy.

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This is what happens when you wear the wrong sweater. (Welcome to the Dollhouse).

Described above are five of the seven deadly sins: greed, pride, vanity, envy, and wrath. There’s plenty of the other two too — lust and sloth — where I grew up and we’ll get to that some other time.  Point is, suburbia is an evil, evil place.  Which would be fine if we called it for what it is.  But we don’t, it’s supposed to be idyllic.  They say only cities are supposed to have domestic violence, drug abuse, rape, murder, poverty, prostitution, and weirdos. So city dwellers are ready for that kind of shit, they’re expecting it (they’re especially looking forward to meeting the weirdos).
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What really happens at your idyllic suburban high school. (Scene from Welcome to the Dollhouse).

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These two pretend to like each other on Facebook.

Suburbanites, in their expectation for the idyllic, aren’t prepared for the kind of diversity of experiences expected in cities because they’re not expecting it.  When weird shit happens, their impulse is to either deny it ever happened or make a big deal out of nothing and get offended about stupid shit.  And that’s precisely why suburbanites are a special type of crazy — “batshit crazy” as my editor puts it.

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These bitches are so crazy, they made two movies about them.  (Stepford Wives).

And it’s that brand of crazy, that arises from an uncanny expectation for that spirit crushing, outlandish, total conformity of manners and fashion, is what spurs creative fashion.  Oppression, not freedom, is the necessary condition for creativity.  And when you grow up with this much bullshit, you either conform — ie. you die — or you figure out how to break out.  Sure, cool cities like San Francisco and NYC get credit for all the cool fashion that starts in the suburbs but that’s because they have the power to legitimize, which is not the same as doing the creative work suburban teens have quietly been doing.

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This Alexander Wang piece is old news in suburbia, suburban White Trash like me have been wearing ugly old sweaters like this and getting bullied for doing so since 2nd grade.  But he gets the credit because he grew up in San Fran and lives in NYC.  Motherfucker.

Suburban White Trash
If Suburban White Trash is what happens when suburbanites pretend they’re ideal suburbanites but are in fact White Trash putting up a ridiculous act when they arrive in the suburbs to seek a new life, then Suburban White Trash is a big fucking movement that we should pay attention to.  This is a layer of American life that’s been ignored for too long. At the Privileged Poor, we’re going to figure out what it means to be Suburban White Trash and how they’re influencing the American cultural landscape.
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How to Look Fuckable While Pregnant

According to a 2009 study of pregnant women and their sex drive, 52% reported being horny more than five days a week, 38 % for three to five days, the remaining less than three days.  In another study, only 21% of women say that they’re having sex two or more times a week, while 61% of pregnant women are having sex less than twice a month.  In yet another study, 79% of women report masturbating more often during pregnancy than they had when they were virgins.  In other words, there are a lot of horny pregnant women out there, but many of them aren’t getting laid. Why is that?

Some reasons for this sad and unnecessary situation:

  • sexist American values teach us that pregnant women are pure and never horny
  • ignorant beliefs such as 68% of men believing that they’d be “jizzing on their unborn child” if they engage in preggers sex
  • fake news spreading rumors about babies born without lips due to preggers sex
  • racist memes suggesting that White people aren’t built for preggers sex
  • religious extremists telling people that preggers sex is a sin

The fashion industry has also contributed to the bias against pregnant women. There has — incredibly — never been a visibly pregnant runway model. Mainstream maternity fashion displays pregnant women as “asexual hermaphrodites,” or as “temporary alien beings,” or as “androgynous pageboys.”

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This mainstream fashion photo tells viewers: don’t have sex with her because shes’s about to fall over.

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Polka-dots, the “stop sign” of fashion. Nothing makes a man lose an erection faster than the sight of polka-dots.  Polka-dots are ubiquitous in mainstream maternity fashion.

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She doesn’t look fuckable. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want some.  I asked her, she does.

Put simply, the message maternity fashion industry sends to pregnant women is: “you don’t look sexy and fuckable so don’t bother trying.”  Well, we think that’s fucked up and we’re going to do something about it.

Pregnant women everywhere ARE sexy and fuckable and should be getting laid.  At the Privileged Poor, we’re going to change the way people think about pregnant women and maternity fashion. Pregnant women are neither delicate nor pure — they run marathons, they’re CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, they give corporate tarot card readings, and they want to get laid, and often.

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Sexy swollen feet.  If you don’t think these are sexy, then you deserve to run out of toilet paper the next time you take a shit.

 

 

Our project isn’t to just create maternity fashion that frames pregnant women as sexual beings, but also to get us to re-consider what is sexy and what it means to be pregnant.  And ultimately, what it means to be fashionable.

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She’s hot.  And horny.

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Maternity lingerie.  Awww yeah!

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What inspired the design of the clothing store?
The (small) budget, customer expectations, and leftovers from construction projects. Circumstances determined the scope and nature of the design.  Analogy: some go grocery shopping with a shopping list and an ideal meal in mind. We went shopping without a list, only a budget and the goal to create something functional within that budget.  From there, we’ll make improvements.

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Chairs hanging on walls as clothing racks.

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Bunk bed as a clothing rack.

Why is it designed like a bedroom?  
We want customers to experience the store as *investigating* someone’s bedroom as a spatial metaphor of identity and psychological depth. Customers are encouraged to sift through the desk and dresser and under the mattress, where they’ll find not only clothes and accessories, but also “personal” items such as diaries (fictional), porn magazines (if we can find some), and love letters received or never sent (fictional).

What items do you carry? 
An assortment to start, from traditionally vintage items such as a fur lined cape coat from the 40s and a an A-line coat from the 60s.  A few couture items from designers such as Valentino.  Random stuff from our juice bar and dance studio lost-and-found. Stupid funny T-shirts.  An elegant sari. Otherwise, mostly ordinary items from Tse, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, J. Crew, etc.  Not much for now, but it’ll grow and find its identity.

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Emojis and footprints on the soft floor.

I heard you’re going to sell used women’s panties and soap bubbles?
Yes. We’ll put panties in a zip lock bag with a photo (from random magazine, maybe GQ) of a woman or a man.  Also included is a short blurb about the person: “Sabrina plays the flute in nothing but stockings and high heels”; “Adam has a fetish for armpit hair.” We’re also going to sell soap bubbles in a container.

WTF?  
WTFN?

Do you offer consignment services?  
No.  Not planning to, but that could change.

Do you have an online presence? 
We’re working on setting something up on Ebay. Advice welcome.

Do you purchase clothes?
When we have money to do so we will.  For now, we offer credit. And it’d be much appreciated if someone can hook us up with couture leftovers.

What sort of clothes are you interested in?
Interesting or marginalized items, such as authentic Mao suits; sarees, head scarves and veils, cheongsams.   Also couture items and vintage classics, but we don’t have the money to pay fair value for them. Run of the mill lightly used items from Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, J. Crew, we can offer juice bar credit.  No more women’s panties — trying to get rid of the ones we have.

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Mao suit. On Chairman Mao.

So where did you get, I mean, this is, nevermind…
Ok.

When will the store open?  
Soft-opening January 1st.  Limited hours that day, stay tuned.

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Shiatzy Chen piece inspired by Chinese peasant clothing.

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Samant Chauhan pieces.

Why She Got Knocked Up

I.

In controversial 2012 New York Times op-ed How to Live Without Irony,  Princeton professor Christy Wampole calls Gen-Y hipsters fucktards for being irresponsible poseurs:

Manifesting a nostalgia for times he never lived himself, this contemporary urban harlequin appropriates outmoded fashions (the mustache, the tiny shorts), mechanisms (fixed-gear bicycles, portable record players) and hobbies (home brewing, playing trombone). He harvests awkwardness and self-consciousness. Before he makes any choice, he has proceeded through several stages of self-scrutiny. The hipster is a scholar of social forms, a student of cool. He studies relentlessly, foraging for what has yet to be found by the mainstream. He is a walking citation; his clothes refer to much more than themselves. He tries to negotiate the age-old problem of individuality, not with concepts, but with material things.

Is Wampole’s critique part of the tired cycle of one generation gratuitously belittling the next generation’s habits, attitudes, and sensibilities, or is there substance to Walpole’s observations? Let’s explore both possibilities and see where this takes us.

Wampole anticipates being called a hypocrite who is making a big deal about nothing.  So she confesses:

 I, too, exhibit ironic tendencies. For example, I find it difficult to give sincere gifts. Instead, I often give what in the past would have been accepted only at a White Elephant gift exchange: a kitschy painting from a thrift store, a coffee mug with flashy images of “Texas, the Lone Star State,” plastic Mexican wrestler figures. Good for a chuckle in the moment, but worth little in the long term. Something about the responsibility of choosing a personal, meaningful gift for a friend feels too intimate, too momentous. I somehow cannot bear the thought of a friend disliking a gift I’d chosen with sincerity. The simple act of noticing my self-defensive behavior has made me think deeply about how potentially toxic ironic posturing could be.

She tells us that she’s not perfect, that she too is guilty of insincerity — which in this context is ironically itself ironic posturing and self-defensive behavior — and uses an example that’s disingenuous at best. If “finding it difficult to give sincere gifts” is the best she can come up with, then I guarantee you she’s either hiding a dead body or there’s a lot of self-deception and repression going on here. People give insincere gifts to friends and family because deep down they don’t like and give a shit about them, yet are are obligated to pretend to like them.  There’s nothing ironic about shitty gifts, the giver is giving and communicating exactly what she intends to give and communicate. It’s the social context — spending the holidays with people you can’t stand — that’s drenched in irony, that allows the shitty gift to appear ironic so no one gets hurt.  It’s the denial of one’s true intentions — not ironic posturing — that’s toxic. 

This is a fashion blog, so here’s another way to look at it.  If you were surprised that that “nice White girl” from that nice conservative family with sterling reputation got knocked up by a cholo who wasn’t her boyfriend at the time of the tryst, and then tried to hide the pregnancy from everyone until she couldn’t, there’s something wrong with you too. “But she dresses so modestly, and seemed like the nicest girl in the world.” As if promiscuity and taste in men and impulse control have anything to do with hemlines and push-up bras and ridiculous middle-class manners.  “But I taught her Christian values and how to behave and to avoid the wrong crowd, I taught her to wait, at least until he’s accepted as a boyfriend,” mulls confused Mom. Sorry Mom, but protecting your daughter from the latest slut-wear trends doesn’t protect her from developing an addiction to flattery that got her knocked up by a trashy sweet talker you can’t stand. And remember, the apple doesn’t fall far from its tree, one of those apples will eventually be eaten by the person who planted that tree.

II.

Who below is most ironic?

a) Forty year old tow truck driver drinking Mountain Dew and smoking cigarettes while listening to Bach and Mozart.

b) Trust fund kid majoring in Russian Lit. at Oberlin College, dressed like a hobo, listening to Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (obscure band specializing in ironic remakes of pop songs)

c) Thirty year old county prosecutor dressed in Brooks Brother’s suit, listening to Outkast (hardcore gangster rap) on his way to work

d) Modestly and mainstream dressed (with frilly accents and excessive patterns) 27 year old office manager who listens to Aaliyah and Norah Jones, attends church every Sunday.

a. That’s an amusing sight and sound.  He’s worth a look.

b. That’s a tired look. Usual old money rich kid dealing with feelings of guilt, pride, and ennui by trying on different personas. Which is why editorials on why it’s a tired look are themselves tired.

c. Mildly interesting.  Nah, nothing to look at, who gives a shit.

d. Looks and sounds boring. And that’s precisely why it’s my pick.  There’s a lot more to this look than it seems. This is the person we should be worried and talking about. This person, not the hipster, is the archetype of our collective madness.

III.

Wampole says it’s wrong to appropriate styles one doesn’t understand. Which means she lives with a copy of her dissertation up her ass. Are we not allowed to listen to Bach if we don’t understand the purpose of counterpoint? Is it wrong for a woman to watch football to make herself more attractive to guys? Or for a guy to take ballet lessons for the babes? Attend opera to appear cultured and sophisticated, and not for the appreciation of opera?

Once read about a guy who took ballet lessons for the babes.  Ended up liking it so much he became more interested in ballet than the babes (which brought him more babes). Sincere appreciation often begins with exposure and disingenuous interest.

IV

People don’t repress horrible memories.  In fact, people are far more likely to make-up horrible memories (to elicit sympathy, to play victim).  People only repress that which threatens their identity. And rage against those who threaten their identity.

V

Ironic mode of living isn’t new. It’s 1950 and Gloria Vanderbilt is slumming it with James Dean bad boy types and eventually goes on to popularize working class blue jeans for people of all social backgrounds. The tension created by ironic gestures — in this case, a blue blood trying out working class life — drives change in fashion.  What’s new for Wampole is the scale of ironic living and the availability of ironic modes.  Wampole on Internet’s impact on lifestyle options:

Life in the Internet age has undoubtedly helped a certain ironic sensibility to flourish. An ethos can be disseminated quickly and widely through this medium.

Not sure what she means by “a certain ironic sensibility” (do certain sensibilities thrive better in Internet age?).  Let’s set that aside for now and compare pre-Internet to Internet. In 1980, the small-town White girl could only imitate the lives she reads about in Glamour and Cosmopolitan (ha, you really think she read Pride and Prejudice?), the shows she watches on three (only!) TV channels (lives too far from films). Her options were limited to whatever a few Jews were telling actors and models who were pretending to be White Anglo-Saxon Pricks to act and wear.  In her world, homosexuality doesn’t exist, the French are romantic, NYC is scary, and the Japanese are boring.

Take same girl, have her experience 2015. Now every girl has to have a gay friend to be cool, the French are rude, NYC is exciting, and the Japanese are the funniest people on earth. That’s what happens when you have access to youtube, 100s of tv channels, streaming movies from around the world, and a far more diverse cast of American writers and actors.

And so?  All I get out of this comparison is that both have access to quick fixes and one person has more options to choose from when developing her identity and sensibilities. Wampole, in contrast, argues that the Internet age has somehow made Gen-Y hipsters morally, intellectually, and aesthetically deficient and that we should all strive to “live without irony.” Here’s an example Wampole provides of how hipsters have lost the ability to be patient:

Furthermore, the nostalgia cycles have become so short that we even try to inject the present moment with sentimentality, for example, by using certain digital filters to “pre-wash” photos with an aura of historicity. Nostalgia needs time. One cannot accelerate meaningful remembrance.

If this is her example, if using technology to play make-believe is a show of poor character, then she’s a Luddite and certi-fucking-fiably an Ivory Tower princess who makes a living complaining about stupid shit.  She’s calling someone who is creating an effect impatient. Next she’ll ask us to stop taking photos and do family portraits 18th century style, strike a pose until the artist is done some 6 hours later.  And toss all recorded music.  That’ll teach the philistines to delay gratification.

Wampole again on the difference between pre-Internet and Internet:

While we have gained some skill sets (multitasking, technological savvy), other skills have suffered: the art of conversation, the art of looking at people, the art of being seen, the art of being present. Our conduct is no longer governed by subtlety, finesse, grace and attention, all qualities more esteemed in earlier decades. Inwardness and narcissism now hold sway.

As if people’s conduct has ever been “governed by subtlety, finesse, grace, and attention.” And “inwardness and narcissism” have ALWAYS held “sway,” it’s our total depravity: you can read about that in Plato, Homer, Confucius, Sun-Tzu, Kierkegaard, the Bible, the story of Echo and Narcissus, pick any Classic from any culture and you’ll learn that people are born as fucktards and to live authentically is to struggle with one’s narcissism — our Original Sin — that basic human condition.

VI

You can tell a lot about a person by what they’re embarrassed to like.

VII

Ironic living isn’t the problem.  It’s not even the “ethos of our age.” Repression is.

When Wampole writes about hipsters, she’s primarily writing about upper-middle class kids and young adults.  The ones who don’t have to shop second hand and know they’re not supposed to watch Jersey Shore or listen to Justin Bieber but do so anyway with a smirk.  She feels qualified to write about them because, as she tells it, she grew up as one of them and now teaches them at Princeton.

Hipsters explore and negotiate the contours and boundaries of identity. Which is what non-hipsters in their age group are doing too.  As defensive and irresponsible as hipsters may appear, at least they recognize the shallowness of their experiments, the vulgarity of their desires, and the dissonant features of their lives. Let them be, they’re young, they’ll sort it out when they have real responsibilities.  And when they do sort it out, all their attempts at cool may produce something of value, something classic, and they’ll live out their lives either as the privileged poor (no money), or as bourgeois bohemians (have money).  I’m more worried about those who live ironically without realizing they’re doing so.  They’re the ones living a dangerous lie, they’re the ones who project on their bookshelves and closets and social media so they can repress repress repress: from their anger and fear and confusion to the miserable truths about their lives they prefer to not confront and fix.

VIII

Middle-class White woman, that “girl next door” we talked about above, had everyone fooled.  Her parents were fooled, her friends were fooled, but her ovaries weren’t.  When a cholo sweet talked her into spreading her legs, her body was saying: “this is the one,” even as her mind told her that mom and dad are going to be pissed, and friends are going to be shocked.

Why would she sleep with a cholo? She’s not slumming, only upper class women have the power to do that.

Because her public persona and look is a facade. Scan her bookshelf and you see middlebrow literature (New York Times best sellers that she thinks of as respectable literature but are in fact ridiculous and overwrought tales of redemption); artsy Hollywood films and mainstream foreign ones. Boring and middlebrow, right?  Look more closely. Her online subscription to New York Times shows she only reads articles on Restaurants and Travel. The Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography has never been touched. There are a few sappy romances in her movie collection. Now go into her room.  There you find dogeared murder mysteries and trashy romance novels and travel books. Her clothes may be from middle-class stalwarts like Banana Republic, but she picks items that are frilly or have excessive patterns. As much as she wants to be upper-middle class, as hard as she tries to maintain her middle-class identity, her baseline desires, habits, and worldview are thoroughly lower-middle class.  She doesn’t study for the CPA on dreary wet days, she doesn’t even curl up with a book, she binge watches TV while eating an entire tray of brownies. She works for rewards and praise, not for a sense of achievement and virtue.  She’s addicted to compliments. She’s afraid of being seen at McDonald’s. She’s easily hurt. She wears large hoop earrings.  She lives ironically without realizing it.

She tried dating into the upper-middle class. They didn’t like her, they weren’t impressed with her job or her bullshit college degree or her contrived taste.  The cholo, on the other hand, was impressed with all her books and her college degree and liked that she had a few extra pounds and thought she dressed pretty. He was sincere when he told her how smart she is, how pretty she is. Her ovaries responded accordingly.  This was the best thing to happen to her.  She’s finally free from living a lie and can be herself to her parents and friends.

The difference between a hipster and mainstream-knocked-up-by-cholo-girl-next-door isn’t in their desires, but in their approach to desire. The hipster doesn’t hide his desire to listen to Justin Bieber or his preference for ranch dressing or his urge for a McRib.  He wrly announces his baser desires, which is why he eventually outgrows them. The mainstream girl repressed her desires, or at least hid them from the public, which made them grow stronger and more infantile.

Everyone thought her life was over when she announced she was knocked up by a cholo (who by definition, doesn’t live ironically). Actually, her life was finally beginning. If she’d married that software engineer she and her parents hoped she’d marry, she’d be in therapy.  Ironically, it’s the cholo, despite not being able to provide her the life she and her parents once expected, who saved her. He showed her how free and happy she could be by living sincerely and authentically, as has he.

An Identity Experiment

The sorting system at a typical clothing store begins with gender.  The segregation is spatial, with Women’s section occupying this space, Men’s that space, the division clearly marked so Julio doesn’t embarrass himself.  In these gendered spaces, products will be further sorted by apparel type (eg. sweaters, skirts, lounge wear, suits, shoes), which are then arranged systemically by sizes. Some other classifications include event (eg. bridesmaid, prom, beach party) or style (eg. J. Crew’s “Style At Every Age” campaign, which explicitly matches fashion sensibility with age group).

Are such gendered spaces necessary? What’s their function? Julie already wears her boyfriend’s jeans, boxers, and button downs, why not make it easier for her to continue her style after he dumps her?  Do we really need to tell Jimmy that his package isn’t going to fit well in those red thongs? My favorite pair of sweat pants was a boot-cut “Women’s” pair (discontinued) from Club Monaco that form fit perfectly and didn’t make me look like a slob, as Men’s sweatpants usually do to men.  I’d pair it with a soft and thin tail-less button down and accessorize with a simple canvas messenger bag and a well-trained Siberian Husky for a comfy lounge-ware look good enough to get me great service wherever I went shopping.

At The Privileged Poor, we’re going to see what happens when we get rid of gender distinctions and stop sorting by apparel and size and instead organize clothing and accessories by identity.  Ironic identities.  For instance:

 

*The Bourgeois Bohemian
*The Pretentiously Frugal
*The Over-Educated Dirtbag
*The Redneck Poseur
*The Privileged Poor
*The Fraternity/Sorority Hippie

We provide the pieces, re-branded in our own fucked up way.  Where does that thick 1989 Bud Bowl T-shirt go, to the Redneck Poseur or the Fraternity/Sorority Hippie?  The tagless soft cotton button down from who knows when and where, to the Bourgeois Bohemian or the Pretentiously Frugal? We don’t know, but wherever they end up, it’ll be the customer’s opportunity to explore the possibilities and put together an outfit, a persona — an *identity* — that enters and disrupts the narratives of migration, alienation, and belonging.  We want customers to feel like immigrants, so they can reclaim their immigrant heritage.

 

 

 

 

 

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to The Privileged Poor.  This blog supports its upcoming namesake “vintage” clothing store that’ll be located in a North Seattle suburb.  We use quotes because we expect our use of the term “vintage” to be problematic, if not controversial.

The Privileged Poor is an American lifestyle store-blog.  Like its cousins, Alive Juice Bar and Foodyap, it seeks to reclaim immigrant narratives, and to use them to invigorate the American nation building project.

We hope The Privileged Poor will help clarify the role of fashion in how we use clothing and accessories to imagine and construct our identities. And how we then use these identities to envision and build an impossible dream.

Enjoy!