(Image courtesy of notetoselfblog.com)
Emily Spivack Loves a Good eBay Story
A natural-born archivist, Emily Spivack loves to dig for narratives with soul. In addition to blogging for Threaded, the Smithsonian’s fashion history blog, she documents personal clothing stories through her two other digital babies, Worn Stories and Sentimental Value, the latter being an experimental journey into the emotional tales found on eBay. Inspired by the purest curiosity to troll through the e-commerce platform naturally (we swear we didn’t put her up to it!), we were thrilled to discover this blog organically.
Last Friday, I took a trip to Philadelphia to attend her first-ever installation of Sentimental Value in its corporeal form, with original items presented beside the unedited text from eBay’s listing. The result? A fascinating study in human emotion. As guests surrounded her with praise all night, I managed to squeeze in some personal time with Emily to ask a few questions on her anthropological sojourn online.
Jauretsi: Most of your blogs revolve around clothing, yet you are not a “Miss Fashionista” type. What is it about clothes that draws your attention?
Emily Spivack: I approach fashion with a reluctant fascination. I’m curious about what informs how people dress — decisions they make consciously or unconsciously about what to wear, what to buy, what to hold onto. I’m less curious about new trends, upscale designers, and must-have items. I see clothing as a reflection of culture, values, and history. What you see in my various projects is an attempt to figure out what the garments we cover our bodies with every day mean. For me, it’s an ever-evolving process.
J: For the Smithsonian blog, I imagine there is an incredible responsibility to writing about the history of clothes. What was one of your favorite historical posts that surprised and pushed your curiosity?
ES: This past winter, I was looking at an ad for sequin-covered Ugg boots on the subway platform, and I wondered how sequins had gone from formal occasions to something so mundane and ubiquitous. I decided to look into it, and figured that Threaded readers would share my curiosity and enthusiasm (which they did since it’s been one of the most popular posts).
In the process of researching those shiny discs, I uncovered details that practically made me giddy. For example, Leonardo da Vinci sketched a sequin-making machine! King Tut was buried with sequins! (Sequins were more functional than decorative then.) And when sequins were made with gelatin in the 1930s, the sweaty hand of a dance partner could melt them right off the back of your dress.
J: Your upcoming show, Sentimental Value, opened May 17th where you displayed items found on eBay (we’re flattered!). Tell us how you came to gravitate towards eBay tales versus any other marketplace, and how this art project came to life on its own.
ES: I’d been buying from eBay for years, mainly vintage clothes and tchotchkes, when, in 2007, I came upon a garment with a really detailed provenance. Instead of just describing the garment’s size, condition, and other basics, the post included information about who had owned it, when, and why. A photo of the former owner was even included in the auction’s documentation. Something clicked at that moment and I began looking around eBay for more stories associated with clothes people were selling. They weren’t so easy to find, but if I looked long enough, I’d find them. I became fascinated with people’s desire to share stories — often quite personal ones — about things they were parting with, and on an online platform that wasn’t really meant for storytelling. I was particularly drawn to eBay’s marketplace for stories because all kinds of people sell all kinds of stuff on eBay. I’ve collected over 600 stories at this point and I can pretty quickly get a sense of the person by the way s/he tells the story (emoticons, ALL CAPS, detailed anecdotes) and photographs the garment (on the bed, over a closet door, on a mannequin). I never know what I’m going to find and that’s what has kept this project interesting, what’s prompted me, in 2010, to start bidding on the garments I was posting on Sentimental Value, and what’s helped this project evolve into an exhibition.
J: What is the one eBay item’s personal story that moved you the most?
ES: I don’t know if there’s one personal story that’s moved me the most. Some are funny, others are sad, and then there are those that are simply mystifying. I did reread this one post recently, about a high school-aged girl who made a homemade anime costume for a boy she had a crush on, and I was struck by the story’s open, and bittersweet, tone.
(Photo: Curator/Blogger Emily Spivack with exhibition item “Victoria Bronze Brocade Silk 2pc Brides Travel Dress.” On eBay, the caption reads: “The sad story of this dress is that it was made as part of a young woman’s bridal trousseau. This was her ‘going away’ dress. She was married, but the hapless bridegroom was killed in a horse & buggy accident on the honeymoon. She returned home, placed the dress in a chest and it’s been there ever since, until the home was finally emptied for an auction sale of all the contents over a hundred years later.” — eBay seller vintageaffairedamour, August 16, 2010. Photo & Text by Jauretsi)
Meet Your Curator
Our very own Jauretsi Saizarbitoria, Chief Curator over here at The Inside Source, was recently featured on Refinery 29, where they got inside the brain of our epic multi-tasker. Did you know that in addition to finding you the best in culture, arts, fashion, and design, Jauretsi hosts a radio show? Or that she’s also a documentary filmmaker? You’re going to have to read the rest for yourself. Until then, here’s an excerpt from Refinery 29.
Refinery 29: Tell us a bit about your career path — we sometimes get lost in all the details.
Jauretsi: “I was always a little diffuse in my career goals. I’ve let my passions guide me. I learned in later years that that’s an asset not a liability. Yeah, I threw parties in the mid ‘90s for Paper magazine, then Details back when it had the Soho loft (oh, those rooftop days!). By the time I made it to Jane magazine, I was its entertainment editor, booking celebrity covers. Jane Pratt was an awesome partner in crime and really knew how to put people together. After 10 years in print, I left the business to shoot a documentary in Cuba and reemerged in New York two years later to reinvent myself as a digital girl.”
(Photo and interview courtesy of Refinery 29. Intro by Jenny Bahn)
Chanel No. 5, the first perfume launched by Miss Coco Chanel herself, was created to bridge the gap between the two “types” of women who wore perfume and the types of scents they typically favored. Chanel No. 5 met them in the middle, where women could be sexy without necessarily being scandalous.
(GIF courtesy of pinerosolanno. Text by Jenny Bahn)
The Fabulous Cannes
Cannes, the annual film festival in the south of France, kicked off a few days ago. While celebrities are out in full force with their glamorous gowns and tuxedos, the architecture of France is something almost out of a movie in its own right. Take the staircase at the Hotel Martinez, for example, a bustling hotspot for festival-goers and industry folk.
Put a little Cannes glam on your coffee table with this book, Cannes: Inside the World’s Premiere Film Festival.
(Photo & Text by Yale Breslin)
Strawberry Ice Cubes
We love the “AnOther Lovers” section on the AnOther Magazine website that has the publication’s editors pick their fav photos online, like this tasty pic seen above. Here’s more fabulous inspiration from commissioning editor Laura Bradley.
Try making these fruity ice cubes at home this summer with circular ice trays from eBay.
(Photo: Courtesy of AnOtherMag.com. Text by Jauretsi)
Isn’t this GIF the greatest? It reminds us of old Disney cartoons from way back in the day. But never mind all that. What it really did was remind us of cooking… and that we need a few new pans. If you’re outfitting your new home or apartment, it’s worth checking out eBay for a vast selection of goods. You can pretty much find any kind you like. From eco-healthy ceramic sets to the coveted copper kind, we think eBay has whatever you’re looking for.
(GIF courtesy of Schwittenberg. Text by Jenny Bahn)
Too often we tend to favor simpler palates of neutral shades. But what if we dig into the archives and go for something a little more, well, gauche? Here, the wood paneled walls paired with the orange door and runner in the hallway might be a little much for modern tastes, but the massive piece of ’70s driftwood serving as a foyer table is still pretty spectacular even by today’s standards.
(Photo courtesy of Dust Jacket. Text by Jenny Bahn)
Since the beginning of his career in the early ’60s, British photographer David Bailey has been considered one of the best in the business, shooting everyone from Sir Michael Caine to The Beatles to Mick Jagger. His work was so impressive, in fact, he was contracted by Vogue at the ripe old age of 23. Though he is best known for his work capturing “swinging London” at its height, as well as his countless images of model Jean Shrimpton, Bailey is still around today, shooting for the likes of i-D Magazine and GQ.
(Photo courtesy of David Bailey. Text by Jenny Bahn)