Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Diversity in fabrics and people

You know what's a fun way to buy a new purse, handbag, clutch, messenger bag, or diaper bag?

(1) Go to an 1154 Lill Studio store (in Chicago's Lincoln Park, Boston, Philadelphia, or Kansas City) or their website/

(2) Choose a style.

(3) Mix and match with about 150 different fabrics to design your very own super-cute bag.

Today, I ordered the Sophie bag with pink and green fabrics (key lime twill, bubble gum linen, morning glory). You can play around on the website, trying a zillion different combos.

The prices may seem a little high for a fabric bag, but they're sewn in Chicago, not China, and provided you don't choose a horrendous combination of fabrics, you're going to get plenty of compliments on your probably-unique bag.

—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—

So, the Chicago 1154 Lill store is on Armitage, in the heart of a Lincoln Park boutique shopping district. Nearby was a salon that appears to be dedicated to facial bronzing. I don't know what that means. You go in and someone else applies self-tanner to your face so you don't "tan" your palms? I don't know. It did strike me as quite possibly the whitest business concept that there has ever been.

There's a lot of money in that neighborhood, and a lot of white people. Driving home from Armitage to our more diverse neighborhood, we made a game of labeling the pedestrians and cyclists we passed. Like this: "White, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, brown, white, white, white, white, white, tan, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, black, black, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white." Down in Lincoln Park, I think there were at least 30 white folks for every person of color.

It struck me as a good method for sizing up just how diverse or not diverse a particular area is. I think it's easy for the typical white person to fail to notice those first 30 white people and just notice the occasional variation: "Oh, yeah, this neighborhood's really diverse. You always see people of a variety of ethnic backgrounds." But if you are a person of color, perhaps you notice those 30 white people in a row: "It's an almost all-white area."

Try it out yourself, the white/tan/brown/black game. (Tan is Ben's designation for most Asian and Latin American skin tones.) Maybe you'll find it as illuminating as I did.

11 comments:

Jay said...

Definitely better with the pink strap.

I play the white/black/tan game in my head a lot. When I do home visits, I drive around and through a lot of the smaller still-rural towns in our area. I realized recently that I notice it when I'm in the more diverse neighborhoods - my brain points out all the brown people - but I don't notice when I'm in a white area, so I've started forcing myself to notice.

Narya said...

In my neighborhood, the ratio is a little different (according to the 2000 Census, about 30% black, 32% white, 28% Hispanic), and I notice it walking down the street, on some level. the other thing is that people in my neighborhood look pretty similar, "class"-wise (except for the young gentlemen selling pharmaceuticals), which means no one stands out. In other neighborhoods, there seems to be class stratification on top of the race. The other thing in Our City is that some neighborhoods have a lot of YOUNG white kids (think of Lincoln-Belmont area), but then their parents move to the suburbs to avoid public schools.

Anonymous said...

I hear you. We live in Bronzeville but I drag the kids to the Old Town School of Folk Music for Wiggleworms. Before the classes began, my son probably thought we were the only white people on earth.

Narya said...

OTOH, Friend lives in Jefferson Park--where there are multiple signs in Polish. Hispanic, some, too, including a family-owned place that recently got a liquor license and makes great food and margaritas. Not that we've been there several times already or anything. But I don't remember ever seeing a black person in that neighborhood. I guess the black cops live in a different neighborhood . . .

Becky..AMHW said...

I went to a store last week which had a handbag shaped like a chicken. I wanted it. I would have bought it too had my toddler's diaper decided not to leak.

Becky..AMHW said...

BTW, I'm not white. I'm a lovely translucent blue.

Orange said...

Narya: Yeah, the Gap store on Broadway quit selling clothes for kids over the age of 5 a few years ago. Too many refugees fleeing to the suburbs once the kids hit school age. And what helps a school district more than affluent, educated families fleeing from it? Oh, right. Their not fleeing from it.

Becky, I am also translucent, luminescent blue, with freckly spots and red highlights. (That's red highlights on the skin, not the hair.)

Narya said...

At this point, the red left in my hair is mostly highlights . . . highlighting the grey.

yesterday I walked from Sheridan & Lawrence to Armitage & Hoyne, all through the used-to-be-working-class-neighborhoods-but-now-you-gotta-be-rich areas (and some other areas as well). I saw exactly one school-age kid. I saw only a few not-white people, and they were almost all Hispanic lawn guys. I saw LOTS of people in SUVs and expensive foreign cars. Of course, I was on foot, so I cruised right past them. *g*

Orange said...

Depending on the time of day you were walking, the kids could all have been in school. The city school year is almost over...

Narya said...

I left work at around 4, got to where I was going around 5:30, so kind of prime playing-before-dinner time. It was an interesting transition, though: some of the neighborhoods are still in the midst of transitioning, and even in the gentrified bits, there are always a few buildings that aren't quite there. I would be much less snide if the people actually stayed in the city and, as you noted, actually kept their kids in the public schools. It'd be a revolution, i tell you!

Narya said...

Okay, now you have me obsessing on this a little, which I should do at my own damn blog instead of here, but . . . I walked partway to work this morning, and more consciously observed just how all-over-the-place my particular neighborhood is. A fair number of white people, yes--but many are Russian, I think, i.e., immigrants. Some streets are obviously housing rich people, but my route also took me past Senn HS, which is a whole other kettle of fish (we do some programs there, so I know a little about the population). It has me thinking about how neighborhoods vary in this city . . .