The Smoking Nuns
The Smoking Nuns is the only fashion blog I follow and really, it’s the only blog I follow. I’ve been following The Smoking Nuns since May, the month Blair and Dani started the blog. In each post, Blair and Dani seem be having a good time. The clothes they choose and how they choose to model them creates a sense of playfulness. Take for instance, this post about shorts and belt buckles and pink hats and their post that features bloopers.
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Before I started following The Smoking Nuns, I thought of fashion as tall, thin models who looked starved and serious. The models seemed unhappy and lonely. They modeled an attitude I had no interest in relating to.
A few years ago, I would sometimes watch America’s Next Top Model, which meant that I watched a show that thrived on the entertainment of drama and reinforced the belief that women are catty and competitive. The women wanted to win and, for the most part, appeared motivated by insecurity.
This type of mentality and attitude I watched on reality TV existed in my real life. I think now of my friend who spent months planning an outfit for a wedding because her boyfriend’s ex girlfriend would also be attendance. She spent hours online looking for the right hairpiece, hours at the mall searching for the right pair of shoes, and hours talking about her outfit and rationalizing her motivations. She explained that she wanted to look good, when, in fact, she wanted to look better. Oftentimes what inspires a good outfit is the desire to look better than her.
When I thought of fashion I thought of the summer one of my closest friends moved to Los Angeles to pursue both modeling and acting. That was a summer where I struggled with depression. Whereas previously depression decreased my appetite, that summer, my appetite increased and for the first time in my life, I tried to fill a void with food. In less than two months, I went from a being double zero to a size six. That summer, I would drive to my friend’s apartment in Hollywood and talk about my feelings and failures as I finished off her pint of ice cream and whatever else she might have in her fridge, which wasn’t much.
My friend talked about her acting and modeling auditions. She often compared herself to other women and commented on their destructive eating habits. She had a friend who modeled and acted and she speculated if her friend was still menstruating. Her friend was so skinny, so tall, it seemed impossible. Hers was a speculation that seemed motivated not by concern but by competition. My friend had started eating a slice of watermelon and cup of coffee for breakfast, she ate four grapes and then said she felt bloated. She was dropping weight, I was gaining weight, we were close and then very quickly, we were not close at all.
Fashion, for me, had only negative connotations. I viewed it as a world that takes itself too seriously, a world filled with lonely women who are fueled by insecurity and competition, which gives way and reason to self-destructive behavior. This is perhaps a narrow perception of fashion but a perception I had and one that is probably not all too uncommon.
What surprised and interested me about Dani and Blair’s blog is that it is inspired by their long time friendship. Years ago, they met at UC Santa Cruz and now both live in Los Angeles. They love each other and they love fashion and they started a blog that includes a sense of creativity, fun, and play.
Here then was a story about fashion that was different from the one I knew. Instead of a great outfit inspired by the desire to look better than her, these were great outfits inspired by their enthusiasm for style and their support and affection for one another. You can see this from their very first post when they publish a photo that details their skirts as they hold each other’s hands.
The Smoking Nuns told a story that was different, they modeled an attitude that I liked and as a result, I found myself interested in fashion and style. I actually became interested in the clothes, the accessories, and make up. I wanted the rainbow skirt, the black heels, and liked the green lipstick.
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Recently I joined Dani and Blair, along with their friend Ryan, as they modeled Ivan Lopez’s shirts, an artist who works at Artillery Apparel Gallery in the Mission District in San Francisco. Ryan lives in San Francisco and commissioned Ivan to make shirts of each of their power animals. Dani’s boyfriend shot the photos down the street from their Silver Lake apartment, and they posed in front of the white wall with a crack running down the middle of it.
Off to the side, I leaned against the wall and noticed a dirty dried white bougainvillea petal hanging from a dusty spider web. It was something I would notice, something that helped me feel rooted in the moment, rooted in Los Angeles. More to the point: Smoking Nuns is not just about fashion. If Blair and Dani are friends who include other friends in posts, model clothes from an artist who works blocks away from their friend’s apartment, and use their neighborhood as the backdrop, The Smoking Nuns is about community.
After the photos, they walked back to the apartment and started the editing process, which included uploading, cropping, selecting, and arranging photos. They included Ryan in the editing process and allowed him to pick the photos that he liked the best. As they selected photos, Blair and Dani encouraged Ryan when he thought his neck looked too big in one photo, his hips too wide in another. They believed he looked good, as good as they looked, and they wanted him to believe the same. It was another reminder that The Smoking Nuns is inspired by support and affection.
As they selected photos, I thumbed through the book on Elsa Schiaparelli in Dani’s apartment. Dani told me she was a designer whose rival was Coco Chanel, she took chances in fashion, and collaborated with Salvador Dali. As I looked through the book, I kept interrupting them to say, Look! Look at this dress! Blair would nod and agree that the clothes were awesome. She would say, Wait until you see the Lobster Dress.
At one point, Dani started talking to me about a pair of heels and as she started talking about the details of the shoes, the materials and pattern used, she lost me, completely lost me. I didn’t really know what she was talking about, I just knew the shoes must be cool and nodded my head, seeming interested because I was interested.
Dani works as the Assistant Registrar at FIDM Museum and Galleries, and helped put together their current exhibitions Fabulous: Ten Years of FIDM Museum Acquisitions, 2000–2010 and Parfums Lucien Lelong: The Peter Fink Collection. Later that week, I went to FIDM opening day of the Fabulous exhibition and felt in awe of the outfits. I wanted to even steal some of them, particularly the roller skate outfit.
It would seem Blair and Dani’s enthusiasm for fashion is infectious. Granted, I tend to be an excitable person but I never thought I’d be interested in fashion or style. The Smoking Nuns redefined fashion for me and continues to do so.