Low Rise Jeans Are Coming Back: September 2019 Digital
By Sophie Cloherty, Features Editor
The cat knows things I don’t: how to hunt, colors at night, how I turn in my sleep. This is my first few weeks of ever living with an animal. Maya the cat slinks around in her orange and black fur and jumps on my bed each morning. She doesn’t like to be touched, but sometimes she’ll lie affectionately at my feet, her belly exposed to be scratched.
Coexisting with this being, I’ve been thinking often of perspective. I want desperately to know what she thinks. How do pet owners do it? How do they submit to such unknowing? I’ve begun to fabricate her thoughts in the silence. I imagine she filters everything the same way she walks—in feral, manic jumps or lazy sun struck saunters, there’s no in-between.
Both these time spans, however, proscribe no history or future. I imagine this animal to be hungry for the moment, for her mood to change in an instant, for the daylight to predict her behavior. All this is far from true. Maya the cat has lived histories. My favorite history is the one where my roommate gets off a plane in Detroit and drives an hour to pick her up off a woman’s porch in a shoebox.
Do I see the world in manic jumps or lazy saunters? When I encounter the word “instant” I slip into the past. I jump from photo to photo in the pile I keep stacked in the back of my closet—to be looked at only as I resituate myself in early September. Each jump is an act of creation. I recreate myself on a mountain I stood on once. I recreate when the rain came and we didn’t turn around. I recreate my mother next to a palm tree, what she said about her first taste of coffee. I recreate an old boyfriend on a bridge, why he held my hand. I recreate a lamp in an attic, the yellow way I thought about summer. I want to jump fast from visual to visual, but I find myself sauntering down threads of thought. Each image is threaded to another so that an image of a living room recalls the entirety of the house. I often find the instants I record come to define the heart of things.
In fashion we have moments. Moments have something to do with the heart of things. We might call moments accumulations of instances. Tom Ford sends low rise jeans down the runway, Bella Hadid is photographed walking her dog in hip hugging white corduroys, old images of Madonna keep resurfacing on the internet, Chanel pairs a low-rise cut with a swimsuit, your mom pulls out her treasured pair of wranglers, your best friend starts wearing a choker. These instances accrue and panic ensues—are low-rise jeans and the 2000s having a moment?? These moments can never occur in isolation. Other moments constantly tug at our peripherals. Sustainability, for example, is having a “moment,” boy bands are having a “moment.” Who is responsible for a moment? That’s a difficult, if impossible question to answer. I might argue that to declare something a moment is simply to acknowledge a collective nostalgia.
There’s a multiplicity, then, inherent in the word moment. I’m thinking just now that it’s about that rounded o sound or the way a moment begs description as Mary Elizabeth Coleridge understands in her poem A Moment: “The clouds had made a crimson crown/above the mountains high…” An instance, then, is something more flashy— perhaps more feral, unpredictable. I might remember that my mother spoke about coffee or I might remember the next day when we drove through Topanga canyon with the windows down.
A moment, of course, doesn’t have to be fleeting. We can saunter through it, saver it, understand it. We do this in words, we do this when we style a shoot, we do this when we contemplate a photograph. A magazine, for example, seeks to capture a particular moment, to curate a collection of instances that we find meaningful. In doing so the art form asks its onlooker to wrestle too with everything that’s out of the frame. When we define a moment, we simultaneously define those instances we exclude. We beckon to the world builders.
This summer I came across the compelling and brilliant world builder Christopher Smith. In 2016 the contemporary photographer released a series of self-portraits to which he has since added. Each portrait has no visible location or setting other than the body. His clothes and the lines of his face form a time machine—a Greek gladiator, a fifties house wife, a ballet dancer. When I see each photo I construct the way Smith moves about a space, what he thinks. Each shot is an instant, but one that unravels. This is the first time I have decided that an image, perhaps even fashion, can say everything. I’m a writer. I am shocked. I have never before wanted this to be true.
I’m on my fire escape scrolling through Smith’s photos and shifting through film prints I’ve managed to keep intact through all the moving about I’ve done. I am thinking of ways I can use words to recreate instants. I am thinking about what it means to do so. I am thinking about how many porches Maya the cat has seen before this one? How many does she remember? While I remember in instances, I can’t continuously live in them. Neither can fashion. The language of fashion jumps about, is deeply affected by daylight, is hungry for the moment, but like all things is unable to exist independent of its surrounding histories. All I mean to say here is that low rise jeans are coming back and that the cat knows more than I do.
It’s that time in Ann Arbor when Summer saunters around and Fall jumps at windows in the night. Inside, my roommates are discussing the uses of the word feral. Maya saunters out and curls up by my arm. Our histories commingle and exist for an instant in complacent and communal silence.
Image: Franz Marc, The White Cat, 1912.