Thursday, October 12, 2006

Clothing of the American Mind – An Invitation into the Blue

In June 2004, I went from LA to DC to live with Jason (now, my husband).
Whew, two cities could not be more different… at least at first glance.

Finding myself in the Nations Capital a few months before the Presidential elections, I wondered how I could get involved in
a political revolt. (er, "movement.") The year before, I had marched in the California sun with thousands of others protesting a war that had no chance of being diverted. I mailed letters to Senators. Nothing made any difference. "Maybe I’ll find inspiration in Washington," I thought as I flip-flopped my way down Connecticut Ave in low-cut jeans and a Playboy T-shirt, bewildered by icy stares from makeup-less “womyn” in suits, and well aware that, freedom of expression aside, I wasn’t in Venice Beach anymore…

Around this time, some friends out West told me about Caitlin Blue, creator of Clothing of the American Mind. Her creative blending of politics and wearable art was making both fashion and political statements. She was on a grassroots, cross-county mission, registering young people to VOTE for the upcoming election, reaching out to them through clothing. Caitlin’s crew filmed a documentary during that trip, preserving celluloid snippets of the political climate. They’d arrive in DC in a few days and wanted to be part of a politically inspired event.

Having only been in the DC-area a week, with little idea of what was going on around town, I pulled on my publicity and event planning background, and created an event for them called “Free Speech IS Patriotic” outside the now-defunct Visions. I invited the fantastic spoken word artist Tonya “Ja Hipster” Matthews and was thrilled to find something that bridged my LA life with this strange new political (and politically correct) place.

When Caitlin stepped out of their well-journeyed tour bus, I knew she’d be one of the coolest gals I’d meet for a long time. Although my lack of contacts in DC at that time resulted in an underwhelming turn-out at the event, the dedication and philosophy behind C.O.T.A.M. left an impression on the people there, and ‘blue voters’ across the country.

Caitlin, a New York native who resides in Los Angeles, is an acclaimed set decorator for TV, by trade. She started Clothing of the American Mind in her ‘spare’ time in March 2003. She says, “At that time, there was a lack of good news outlets. Important ideas and issues were not talked about. Bush had the pulpit, literally.”

However, she noticed that people were excited to connect with others who were, like her, fed up with the current administration. She remembers, “I was having political conversations at Starbucks with the person behind the counter. T-shirts are a great way to start those kind of conversations, especially in LA which is a very visual city. I thought clothing was the best use of space.”

Some of the T-shirts in her line include slogans such as “VOTE,” “Electoral College Dropout,” “Stop Wars,” and my personal favorite “My Bush is Pro-Choice.”

The goal of her coast-to-coast trip in 2004 (which ended at the Democratic Convention) was getting people registered to vote. Caitlin explains, “Registering to vote is something I take for granted but a lot of people didn’t know how to do it. Each state has different rules. Many people don’t realize that when they move, even down the block they have to register again.” She notes that the democratic process is not stressed in school and most people learn how to vote through media, friends and family. She also found that a lot of people don’t know how to get involved in change. Her message is, “Political activism is as simple as a t-shirt.”

Caitlin describes her biggest challenge, still today, is connecting with the “marginalized.” She feels that the majority of Americans are against the Iraq War but are afraid to speak for fear of being labeled “unpatriotic.” She worries that people don’t see their communities represented in the White House. And, she is concerned about Americans losing rights, especially the right to privacy. She hopes the upcoming elections make Congress more Democratic, on many levels.

With a family (she gave birth less than two months ago!), a career and devotion to her cause Blue explains, “It is harder for me to be on the streets.” Luckily, her other baby, Clothing of the American Mind’s new flagship store, gives a home base to her movement.

Blue says that the store, which sits in the heart of where immigration marches took place this summer in LA, gives C.O.T.A.M. great exposure “in a community crossroads of hip and Hispanic.” Caitlin feels it is important to be in neighborhoods that are up-and-coming and “working class.” The Clothing of the American Mind store is a place where voters can get registered. It is a community center that offers movie screenings and holds yoga classes and wine parties to raise money for causes.

The Grand Opening party called VOTE 4 CHANGE, takes place:
- Saturday, October 14, from 8 – 11pm at:
- Clothing of the American Mind 1284 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90026 (in Echo Park)

VOTE 4 CHANGE, features DJ Lillyanne, comedienne Natasha Leggero and sketch comedy by The People Who Do That. Speakers include Holly Jacobson, co-director of Voter Action, and Sheri Myers, co-author of Cheated! The event benefits and aims to raise awareness, register and educate voters for the November 7th mid-term elections. Consider this your invitation, the public is welcome!

Click here for more information on Clothing of the American Mind.

PS – Caitlin’s favorite cocktail is the Margarita!


The Senator said...

This is awesome. I wonder if there can be a connection with this and the Great American Condom Campaign. said...

Great thinking, Sen.

Let's to get the Masquerade Ball rolling!