“body talk”

I saw a NYTimes article today about different summer camps that enforce a “no body-talk” rule. Meaning, no talking about how someone looks, positive or negative. Meaning, no complementing someone’s new dress or great hair, no saying that shirt looks bad on you, no talking about your own body really.

On Friday afternoon, when the campers, girls and boys from 8 to 17, are dressed in white and especially polished for the Sabbath, they refrain from complimenting one another’s appearances. Rather, they say, “Your soul shines” or “I feel so happy to be around you” or “Your smile lights up the world,” Ms. Stadlin said. – full article here

This immediately clicked for me and put a word to a weird feeling I’ve been having. I love talking about bodies, I love talking about clothes and I love when people look good and feel good. But there’s something that I’ve noticed especially on instagram and facebook (that I’ve totally taken part in) where powerful ladies complement each other by saying “babes!” or “hottie alert!” or “you look great girl!” It’s mildly ok when my female peers say something like this to me, but when someone I hardly talk to makes a similar comment, or if the commentator is male, it automatically feels weird.

It’s basically Feminism 101 — feeling objectified and like I am only seen as my body — but what surprised me or felt new was realizing how I am so deeply entrenched in this  and am adding to it everyday. I don’t actually think that calling my amazingly beautiful friends “hotties” empowers them or makes them feel great. It’s just like a random thing to say. I feel weird being part of the system that just looks at people (because it isn’t just a female thing) as how we look. because really that’s not what i’m complementing them on anyways.

Furthermore it got me thinking about the clothes I’m making. I’ve always felt weird about making clothes — it’s why I’ve held off actually declaring that I’m making a real clothing line for so long. It feels so silly ! Clothes are for insecure fashion obsessed lame-os! Clothes aren’t going to change the world! And on top of that, many of the clothes I make are sexy in some way. I feel powerful in being sexy, in being powerful in my body, in talking about bodies, in being conscious of my body. But the context around this is what’s upsetting me.

I don’t really have a coherent conclusion or answer, it’s the start of an inquiry. I want my clothes to empower the wearer beyond having them feel sexy or good, like a nicely fitting dress or a new pair of shoes that some random stranger on the street complements as you walk by — “Oh cool shirt you look great today!” That’s nice and all, but that’s not what I’m going after.

There’s something to this “no body talk” rule and I’m going to take it on, WHILE ALSO making clothes and talking about bodies. There’s an intersection here somewhere and I think that is where I’m most excited to go — not into making custom clothing, not into making costumes for plays, not into making sewing workshops — going into a place where the clothes we wear naturally allow us to easily share our selves underneath these skins.

Your thoughts welcome.

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a month in the midwest

I’ve temporarily traded NYC for a month on the road – visiting friends and doing some mini-residencies to refine and develop a real wearable clothing line, the next step for the PowerSuits project.


Last week I took part in an art residency at Have Company in Grand Rapids and had a great time meeting all the amazing people of that town and getting to know the life of a store owner. I finished up a bunch of old projects that had been haunting me, hosted a romper-making workshop, and had an amazing photo-shoot with Carson Davis Brown — looking forward to the PowerSuit pics that come from that afternoon of fabric forts and metal mountains.



Now I’m in Yipsilanti, inhabiting my friend’s Juliet and Narooz’s lives by housesitting, hanging out with their cat Gingerale, and eating all the pickles in their fridge. I am so enjoying having the space to myself; it feels like playing ‘house’.


My goal for this residency is to create 4 rough drafts of pieces that I love and want to produce on a bigger scale as part of the PowerSuits line. To do that I’m creating at least 3 variations of each piece, 12 pieces total. The categories are: Jumpsuit, Blazer, Basic Dress, Basic Blouse. These are pieces for fantastic daily wear, uniforms for a magical and powerful life.

So far I have a bunch of starts — some very standard shirt and dress combos, some weird crazy costume pieces. I want to have the final pieces be a bit of both: totally wearable while also a bit weird and crazy. More pictures over the next few days.

Thanks for your ongoing support of all things PowerSuit y’all…. I’ve been very much in my head these last few months, but this summer is the summer of sewing. more making less thinking GO!

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work hard; spring is coming

Two weeks in and I’m already behind. As always I’ve taken on too many projects and committed to a million meetings — all of which are awesome and incredible and fun and or necessary and I can’t possibly say no. This weekend I had a chance to sit down and sew. I have two projects to show you today for the past two weeks of this project.

But in my head, I feel like I don’t have anything to show you. I have been making up a lot of stories as to why these two pieces “don’t count” or “aren’t good enough.” I want this project to be about making domestic, wearable garments, but I also want to create crazy outrageous non-functional costumes. These aren’t really outrageous or costume-y, one isn’t even completed, and the other is actually cheating because I didn’t make the whole thing from scratch.

OH BUT WAIT, I made up this game – and I didn’t even really make up all the rules yet. The only rule is work. This game is about producing instead of thinking, it’s about making things instead of making lists. These garments are two steps forward towards a clothing line, a coherent project, a next step, a clear vision. So here we go.


For these past two weeks, I created two everyday-wear garments responding to my very immediate environment and personal state of being. These pieces are about planning, preparations, utility, warmth, bundling up for the last bit of winter, dreaming of the adventures ahead, suiting up for times when I’ll be out making and doing and walking around in these costumes. Work hard now, spring is coming.

The first piece is a pair of overalls. I’m almost finished but need to sew in the snaps, and find the right hardware for the straps. The trickiest part was the side-openings, as I didn’t want to have a center fly. I am hoping when finished it’s the right combination of loose fitting for easy bending and moving, but tight enough to feel like it’s made just for me.


The second piece is a cozy cozy sweater for a cute-lumberjack. I took an old “dad” sweater with a big V neck and added a fleece collar, lined with fuzzy red plaid underneath. It is surprisingly very warm, and I’m excited to ride out the last bit of this winter wearing it.


The only rule is work. Keep working. Keep going. Stop thinking, just make.


p.s. yes, I make my patterns out of “Latino Firemen” posters from MFTA.

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New Project: Weekly PowerSuit

I have been feeling stuck lately, I’ve been writing and applying and working and making lists and planning but not making anything. I am feeling restless, like there is some place to be and some way to go there and I must have missed the memo.

I have accomplished amazing things in the past year of which I am so proud. I produced a week-long intergenerational camp exploring what our Dream Job could be with a Queens Girl Scout Troop. I won Iron Chef Flux (a previously unknown Dream Job). I am being called to different residencies and opportunities in New York and beyond. I co-created a New York Fashion Week pop-up custom Boutique (including a photo in the New Yorker Magazine’s Instagram Feed, which basically means I’m famous right?) I sold quilts in a major exhibition. I taught a million kids how to sew.

But what’s next!? What’s the deal with this PowerSuit thing anyway — does it actually make a difference or change the world or make people feel awesome? Am I a workshop leader? A custom clothing designer? A kids teacher? A radical social change-er?

If I spend 8 hours a day sewing weird clothes and costume, is that any more valuable than if I spend 8 hours filling out spreadsheets (what I assume people who get paid lots more than myself do lots of their day), or if I spend 8 hours teaching sewing (what I actually get paid to do), or if I spend 8 hours cleaning my room (which will mentally sustain me), or if I spend 8 hours cooking amazing food or doing yoga (that will physically sustain me)? None of these have any real logic or sense behind their value. It doesn’t really matter.

For whatever reason, right now, I love making clothes. I love making weird costumes, wearable sculptures, objects that people put on their bodies and walk through their lives inside. I love the intimacy, the everyday-ness. I love dressing up. I love feeling like I look great. I love seeing other people dressing in a way that makes them look amazing and brings out their greatest self. I have felt like that’s dumb for a while — fashion is stupid! only vain people care what they wear! — but actually that’s BS and I know it. So I am embracing it.

Here is my new project/exercise to shake out of this funk, to start making things again, to explore whole-heartedly my own PowerSuit in a way I haven’t fully fleshed out before. I will make one PowerSuit costume a week from now until an indeterminate time. I imagine a year. But I’m going to start with a month. These costumes continue my past PowerSuit projects (Camp, Boutique, various workshops & sculptures) but are more personal, more sculptural. I want to make costumes based on whatever I’m feeling or going through that week. Like autobiographical documents of my year. I want to loosen up, make Suits out of crazy stuff, not necessarily finish everything, try out lots of new ideas. I want to express myself and be vulnerable in a new way, through costume.


Hold me accountable world! I am looking forward to sharing these creations and my year with you.


p.s. what is a PowerSuit?

clothes forp.p.s. i whole-heartedly believe in the power of repetition and over-internet-sharing silly projects as the ideal way to get out of a funk. see installation a day and daily flags for past iterations.


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Performance Score

late at night
alone in a really hot and humid room, preferably with almost no air flow.


1. Take out all the projects you’re working on. All of them. stack them in neat piles.

2. Try to decide what is the best project to start first.

3. Make a list of all your projects. try to prioritize them. remember some random email you forgot to write and add that to the list (but maybe in a different column)

4. decide to start many new columns. grocery list, tomorrow’s to do list, what you should eat for breakfast, what you’re going to wear tomorrow. another email you forgot from last week. someone you really should have contacted two weeks ago and it’s almost not worth it at this point. that other errand you should have done. add it to the list.

5. start getting really overwhelmed. and worried. maybe none of these projects are worth anything. they’re all probably pretty stupid. who cares. why are you doing this?

6. start going through list again and evaluating each project based on its stupidity and lack of meaning or impact on the world in any way.

7. contemplate sending emo tweets.

8. decide to just start something, who cares.

9. take out all your supplies – ribbons, glues, glitters, papers, threads, scissors. Oh that other thing you saved, find that too.

10. get overwhelmed by the mess you’ve just made in such a hot little room.

11. sit down and wonder if this is really what you should be doing with your time anyways. it’s still all a bunch of stupid projects.

12. scan the internet for other more accomplished peers and get worried and anxious about your own work in comparison. look at their CVs just to make it sting more.

end performance.

stop thinking. go to sleep.

it doesn’t mean anything.

it’s all made up anyway.


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FOR AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!

vanilla cake with cashew and honey sesame seed buns, black-bean (gluten free) chocolate cake meat patty (was good, probably would be better with a few recipe tweaks), pineapple cheese slices, berry relish, yogurt “mayonnaise” dressing. vegetables were only used for garnish.

this is my new july 4th tradition. an aliyabarbeque original.

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this was #worthcelebrating

the twitter / real life performance was just lovely. I loved loved loved interacting with people in real life — collecting their stories and celebrations and whatever they were celebrating that day (including both moving to NYC, and also finally figuring out when he will be moving out of NYC). I also loved getting the additional layer of input and story contribution from the amazing online audience — friends, family, and everyone else contributing their stories in little twitter poems.

read the full (mostly full — open up those private twitter accounts in order for me to include your tweets in there next time!!!) story of the performance here.

thank you to man bartlett for documentation, assistance, and for making sure I got some dinner. thank you to curators jean barberis and elizabeth larison who let me throw together a performance in short notice!

in-progress flag photoshoot by alison nguyen!

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