Shopping at Hip Wa Zee, featuring Ivory Woods

Ivory Woods holding the head from her latest costume-killing spree.

Ivory Woods, 23, laughs when I ask her about the most outrageous piece of clothing in her closet.  “Oh gosh, I’ve got a lot of crazy stuff in my closet.  It’s hard to pick just one thing.”

Woods is a sales clerk at Hip Wa Zee on Harden Street in Columbia, and has worked at the store for nearly one-third of its 12 years in business.  She became employed at Hip Wa Zee during Halloween season and has loved her job ever since.

“We sell vintage and costume clothes, especially period clothing and 1970s party stuff,” says Woods. “Some of our oldest pieces are from the ‘50s and ‘40s.”

Hip Wa Zee offers a wide range of merchandise to its customers.  One small corner of the room is crowded with fake cigarettes, vampire teeth, Leg Avenue stockings and costume jewelry for at least 50 ensembles. On a glass counter sits a bowl full of buttons labeled “Columbi-yeah!”

The Five Points store’s walls are lined with close to a hundred wigs and hats, but only one plaster Elvis bust.  On one of the shelves sits an enormous pink hat shaped like an entire swan and embellished with gemstone eyes and a purple tulle tail.  I must consciously resist trying on the gaudy headpiece. (more…)


Changing Faces: The Westernization of Asian Beauty

Japanese Pop idol Ayumi Hamasaki with blonde hair. Image from

“I haven’t met a blonde Asian girl who looks good,” I said to my friends as we browsed through Charlotte Russe.  To prove my point, I motioned toward the girl who had walked in, her skin baked brown and her hair bleached orange.

Every blonde Asian I had met had the same frizzled, straw-like hair, an unfortunate result of a botched at-home bleaching.  I dismissed any Asian with bleached hair as shallow and oblivious to reality—did she really think her hair was not tacky?

Besides, why try to look “white?” (more…)

Warming up to thrift store shopping

As I rearranged the mountain of clothing and books in my shopping cart, I caught a glimpse of myself in a cracked mirror. I had become a 19-year-old bag lady, thanks to thrift stores.

Alternative fashion is expensive and hard to find, even on specialized online stores. For a teen on a budget, this complicates dressing fabulously. Throughout high school I was stuck admiring on a computer the clothing I could not afford.

All of this changed when I went to college and began my love affair with “thrifting.” (more…)

Those weren’t the days: Idealizing the past through fashion

Life for women was not all tea and crumpets. Image from

As a young teen, I looked at my peers and mocked them for their sense of entitlement, their laziness, their stupidity, their rudeness, their musical tastes and, most importantly, their absolutely hideous fashion sense.

I was 16-going-on-60, disdainful of the low-rise jeans, Ugg boots and trucker hats sported by so many high school students.  I wondered what kind of future this country was in for when our generation grew up.

It was hard to believe that my peers, who thought it fashionable to wear the waists of their pants at their knees or wear words like “juicy” and “sexy” emblazoned on their rear ends, could ever achieve anything as noteworthy as the youth culture from other decades. (more…)

Twinkle, twinkle goes my cash: Dream dresses for a premium

“Twinkle Journey,” a 2010 series from Metamorphose. Image from

An anguished scream catches in my throat.  My dream dress—!  Sold out!  The luxurious chiffon decorated with winged unicorns and magnificent pink ruffles will never be mine—or at least, not for a reasonable price.

My dream dress, with the fantastical name “Twinkle Journey,” hit the online market in 2010.  It was released by Metamorphose Temps de Fille (Metamorphose for short), a Japanese clothing brand primarily selling Lolita fashion.

Tragically, Metamorphose makes all its clothing in limited numbers, and once each piece has sold out it is gone for good.  Shoppers snapped up every scrap in this series, and not one unicorn-encrusted jumper skirt, one piece dress, skirt or sock was left for me. (more…)

Defacing Clothing for Profit: The Commercialization of Punk

Designer labels such as Burberry Prorsum and Jean Paul Gaultier are embracing punk elements for their spring and summer 2011 collections, but to many punks, this commercialization undermines the ideals of the fashion.

The style of a young punk. Image by Conner Wessinger.

This season, runway models for Jean Paul Gaultier’s spring 2011 line sported spiked, multi-colored hair, black leather and fishnet stockings, all staple accessories in punk fashion.  Even Gaultier, in an homage to the punk aesthetic, fashioned himself a two-toned Mohawk for his spring couture fashion show.

Other designer labels this season are featuring clothing and accessories influenced by the punk aesthetic.  Christian Louboutin, NYC, is selling spiked leather handbags for $1,695 a pop.

Burberry Prorsum is also offering customers punk-inspired, studded leather biker jackets on their official website.  Their price? Just shy of $6,000.

But is punk really punk when you pay couture prices for it?  To many punks, this social acceptance and profiteering is contrary to the ideal of punk, which eschews the materialism of mainstream consumerism. (more…)