Monday, January 18, 2010


In case anyone missed it, I am an enormous dork. Evidence, of course, is leaked all over this blog in the form of literary inspired fashion, poetic quotations—or those taken from theoretical articles and citations, and inspirational book covers. Not to mention that these days it is decidedly uncool to trot around a college campus or mall dressed up like a French school girl, librarian, tea-time visitor, or other preciously quaint and whimsical identities. But I'm also a dork of a totally other kind. I'm not really entirely sure where to begin this kind of thing because there are so many dorky facets of my life and personality that picking one as a defining characteristic is a daunting task, not to mention impossible.

I'm an enormous fan. My whole life I have had rabid hopeless obsessions with things. Weird things like Victorian wasting diseases (who doesn't love a good one of those?), musicals, 18th century novels, fantasy (always), historical persons or events, cartoons, movies, books and book series, the color orange. I think one of my first obsessions was Les Miserables. I was eight and I saw the Tenth Anniversary Concert on the local public station when they were doing one of those drives, and was hooked. I tried to read the book when I was a pretentious 13 year-old, made costumes, bought every CD I could find, and spent hours on the internet. I was also uncannily good at roping uninterested companions into playing my current obesession games. This habit has not changed. It's been Les Miz, CATS (musicals were especially enthralling), Sailor Moon (hmm), Titanic, Tamora Pierce books, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and many other things I can't even force myself to remember. These escapades involve a total immersion for months, sometimes even years at a time. Sometimes I miss the totality of these kinds of things. It's like a love affair in a way, but I'm not going to force that analogy farther than that. One of the important bits about these phases is that they resurface throughout my life. In recent years there have been very few new ones. Instead I notice the resurfacing of the old loves, although now they are mildly bittersweet and somewhat detatched.

This is getting long. I don't know that I care! The thing is, like anything else these phases are so strongly associated with my aesthetic and emotional memory that my reactions to them are visceral. I'm being melodramatic. But that's the idea anyway. It's that whole bit about how a certain song can transport you through memory to certain feelings in your stomach and head, smells, visions, just those intangible feelings of the state of body! I've been avoiding my point here. I'm experiencing a revisiting of my Lord of the Rings love. My boyfriend, not realizing I was in possession the the extended editions of each film, suggested we have a marathon of the films (that was a bit of a struggle). Since then I've had them on in the background almost non-stop, just as I did back-in-the-day. I'm a big fan of the cast commentaries on these in particular, they're sort of awesome and in some ways usurp the films themselves.

But do you know, they just thrill me? They make me so happy I think I just want to cry, or pretend, or something. The first, Fellowship, has especially strong memories for me and it's definitely my favorite. Oh, but I can't describe it! It is the very pinnacle of my dorkish sensibilities! The feeling it gives me is simultaneously one that I would have gotten anyway just from the experience, but then also doubly of that I had when I was a sophomore in high school and my best friends were equally obsessed. Late nights with movies, websites, food and weird inside-jokes about LotR are so dear to me that the whole thing almost breaks my heart.

Of course, the costumes are endlessly fascinating—since it seems necessary to bring this back around to questions of style (although, honestly, it's not a stretch as for me, and I think for most bloggers, it's something we almost always notice. I am sorry, coma, to abuse you thus)--and make me envious. Of course the male costumes are wonderful and interesting, but to tell the truth the women's costumes tickle my fancy! They're sort of nostalgic in a way, reminiscent of all the kinds of dresses princess seemed to wear in stories, and the kinds of outfits I always doodled in my notebooks: improbably fastenings, long sweeping sleeves, trains, delicious embroidery and braids! I love it, the sort of regal Medieval look. To be fair though, it does touch on something much more Pre-Raphelite—which of course is so inspiring and exciting and pretty that I think I might pass out.

"In the middle of the table, against the woven cloths upon the wall, there was a chair under a canopy, and there sat a lady fair to look upon, and so like was she in form of womanhood to Elrond that Frodo guessed that she was one of his close kindred. Young she was and yet not so. The braids of her dark hair were touched by no frost; her white arms and clear face were flawless and smooth and the light of stars was in her bright eyes, grey as cloudless night; yet queenly she looked, and thought and knowledge were in her glance, as of one who has known many things that the years bring. Above her brow her head was covered with a cap of silver lace netted with small gems, glittering white; but her soft grey raiment had no ornament save a girdle of leaves wrought in silver. So it was that Frodo saw her whom few mortals had yet seen; Arwen, daughter of Elrong, in whom it was said that the likeness of Luthien had come on earth again; and she was called Undomiel, for she was the Evenstar of her people. Long she had been in the land of her mother's kin, in Lorien beyond the mountains, and was but lately returned to Rivendell to her father's house."

-Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien

This one has nothing to do with anything, other than it's my favorite Waterhouse (which, I suppose it sort of works. He's sort of vaguely Pre-Raphelite, no? I seem to remember there is some debate over that. Oh well!) ever. I love it. I need to have this dress, it is constantly in my dreams! 

Yet only your eyes moved, following smoke
into darkness, composing
a study less domestic than occult,
until the room was like Rembrandt's portraits:
golden in the center and either very deep or strangely empty
in corners of the canvas.
-Richard Howard

I had the perfect quote for fall, the best little bit of poetic prose--I've been saving it for months--that I need to remember to use, but it just didn't fit right here. There is little point to this moment, other than a little provision of inspirational darkness, or something-or-other. I found Lula today! I have been searching for the silly thing for ages, and then there she was. I suppose it's a heads up then, my dears, the pages have reached us in the states and we may now grab them with our grubby little hands!

Every year I wait for fall with such anticipation that it's a wonder I survive the rest of the year at all. Most of the outfits I plan or devise and then never wear are thought up with the idea of fall weather. And yet, when it arrives I panic. I am afraid I am wasting the days! I feel as though every outfit must live up to the expectation of the weather, leaves, air, pumpkins, and food. I am convinced that the season is constantly slipping away from me. There is a sense of urgency in the leaves the second they start to change, the visual confirmation that it is all going to be gone very soon and it will be bitter bitter cold. It is all gone so fast, slipping through my fingers before I can enjoy it! I feel like I ought to be out in it every day and that moments not doing so are lost and pointless.

Originally my boyfriend disagreed with my choice, and condemned them as Witches (or rather, witchy, but it's much more dramatic if I cast him as a witchfinder in this funny little tale, so that the shoes might be in danger of being burned at the stake, and also so that I may make inapropraite jokes) but has quite seen the genius of these little beauties! They are so comfortable I almost want to die, with the perfect heel height and all. It was quite a hard choice to make however, since I had quite the little list of shoes to choose from. On the upside, they do offer free shipping, and so providing the financial structure that surrounds us does not collapse and force me into clothing-destitution, I may have to reward myself for something innane in the near future!

And, I know, jeans! It's the weirdest feeling, wearing pants. I forgot the difference it makes in things, how much more strangely exposed they make me feel, but in the past few weeks I've been--gallently I think--trying to challenge myself into working with them. I've always admired women who are able to effortlessly compile outfits that look put-together and right while wearing jeans. I am sure that is a statement that goes against all kinds of fashion magazine rules, since a good pair of jeans are always on the must-have list, but there you have it!

Lately I have been allowing myself to repeat outfits. Three year or so, it might and probably was before that, I decided that I was going to wear a different outfit every day. Part of this was a stunning realization that I had piles and piles of clothes, mountains really, that I hardly ever wore and this fact was tragic. This is not to say that every outfit was earth-shatteringly wonderful or different, but it meant that a little something ought to be changed anyway. Loads of things were still repeated but I tried to make them different.

This has gotten very stressful. As of late, I've relaxed a bit. It was a habit I hadn't even realized I'd fallen into, as is the way with most habits, and it's been rather nice to let things be. The last dress in this strange promenade of morning pictorials has graced my body two days in a row, as have the boots (which I have become almost totally inseparable from. I love them, I love them! I would write a sonnet to them, if I had the gumption to really do so). I've taken to repeating things, not worrying if someone might--as narcissism makes me wonder--notice that I've worn one or two dresses several times. This assumes that the world is paying much more attention to me than they probably are. I know there is a phrase for this, but I cannot recall it at the moment, and so I shall not be bothered!

I've spent very little on clothing lately. This is a great feat, but I admit it is partially from a lack of time and partly from unhappiness generally with the offerings this fall. My usual haunts are not as productive as usual and my favorite second-hand and thrift stores close before I am out of class! Truthfully as well, I have car payments which are cutting terribly into my spending money--responsibility!--and I am just now on the brink teetering between jobs (I have a new job, it's rather nice, but there are those weeks between paychecks which are terribly stretched). As such, it has been an adventure to make do!
“I have stretched ropes from steeple to steeple; garlands from window to window; golden chains from star to star, and I dance.”
-Arthur Rimbaud

(I know I posted a bit of Chaplin a while ago, but I confess proudly confess, I prefer Keaton!)


(I have been decapitated!)

Once again, I return to taking pictures in the stairwells around my campus. I'm not as pleased-as-punch as I was last semester with the whole ordeal, or rather the results. I have a different camera, and over the past few weeks I've become slightly disillusioned with it. Poor thing, it does try its best, but just the same it isn't.

I am also still petrified of being caught! I've devised a system now where I procure a bagel and tea for myself and then go find an empty stairwell. This has worked well so far, since it is in the middle of classes so hardly anyone is coming-and-going. I did almost get caught again today though, and I still don't quite know what to do about it! I tried to take a picture in our underground tunnels, but they're too dark and people on strange electric cars are always driving around almost hitting people.

My real point today though, is candy. I love candy. I have an enormous sweet tooth and terribly gullible self-control. I have mostly gotten out of the habit of eating candy for breakfast, but I still snack throughout the day on things I shouldn't be. At the moment I am filled with elation over candy corn! I love it, although it's so sweet and disgusting that I'm not sure why. But I've eaten my way through mountains of it already, although I have managed to save myself one sleeve of the pictured candy buttons (even though one always eats more paper than buttons). Clearly, it is candy that is sugar in it's purest that I am after! It is not surprising then that I am constantly comparing items of clothing, shoes, jewelry to food. Everything, or most things, tend to look like food or candy, or remind me of it!

As usual, I've been vaguely outlining and composing this post in my head for a few weeks. Now seems the perfect time for several reasons, the most prominent of which is the newest issue of Lula magazine (which we, of course, don't have access to just yet. Its oozing onto various blogs and such slowly, subversively, and making me pouty and jealous) and it's article with all those gothy little illustrations of our favorite heroines. Add to that the impending twitches of inklings of Halloween costumes and it would be unnatural of me to hold this kind of thing in any longer.

We, or at the very least I (but I know I am not alone in this), are fascinated and jealous, inspired and in deep meaningful love with Weird Girls. They're our fictional bosom buddies, different from fictional boyfriends (I have lots of literary fictional boyfriends—that is, literary crushes—I am a fictional slut) and in many ways better because we don't particularly care that they don't exist. There is always something about them, and like the literary 1920s heroines in my most recent essay-ish post, we're inexplicably preoccupied by what the wear and their strange mannerisms. More important are their strange quirks that instead of being just plain weird, are charming and original and drive us to form our own strange mannerisms, habits, and penchants. We know that is best to let these things come naturally, as it so often does for them, but all the same I can't deny my own habits for attempting to adopt those silly quirks and things for myself.

I somehow had a harder time coming up with a fair number of Weird Girls that either haven't already covered in some capacity or who satisfied me enough with the personality and aesthetic I had dreamed up. By definition of course I shouldn't be able to come up with lists and lists of them, but I'm a bit particular really. She's got to be sullen, so it helps to have those outsider somewhat antisocial tendencies, usually some kind of depressive that hipsters can't help but fawn over, the spawn of Franny Glass type deals. This led me to eliminate such heroines full of fairy tale whimsy such as Alice Liddel and Madeline, although I can't explain exactly what sort of thing they were missing that made me ostracise them so!

The two most obvious to me are Margot Tenenbaum and Wednesday Addams (who are of course feature in Lula, I swear I had these thoughts before!). Both undeniably sullen and pouty, with instantly recognizable aesthetics. Wes Anderson movies, I have notice, seem to cater especially to this kind of thing, reaching into such bits as Natalie Portman's character in Hotel Chevalier. Which, at that thought, brings me to one I hadn't thought of: the wonderfully if somewhat cliché Sam in Garden State. But, I digress (I blatantly ignore proper use of this word! How scandalous!). I've long considered trying to wear a fur coat normally, and you've witnessed my attempts to bring penny loafers out of my high school uniform experiences and into real life a la Margot. I think at one point I attempted to find one of those bulky portable TV sets, which sadly won't work anymore after a while, and did adopt my own habit of soaking in the tub for ages and ages (before I broke the faucet and killed that leisurely activity).

"I can't even begin to think about knowing how to answer that question."

"She was known for her extreme secrecy. For example, none of the Tenenbaums knew she was a smoker, which she had been since the age of 12. Nor were they aware of her first marriage and divorce to a recording artist in Jamaica. She kept a private studio in Mockingbird heights under the name 'Helen Scott'. She had not completed a play in seven years."
-The Royal Tenenbaums

Wednesday harkens back to me childhood a little bit more, and tends to cater to that somewhat vaguely goth aesthetic (similarly shared by Emily the Strange who, I do admit, I have a certain lingering fondness for). As fictional characters they can carry these strong looks effortlessly, be these funny strange girls on the page and on film with their missing fingers and decapitated dolls.

"I'm a homicidal maniac, they look just like everyone else. "

Then, there are girls like Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, with all that colored hair and the orange hoodie (I searched high and low until I found one like it!) and weird conglomerations of outfits. She's not particularly nice, but I can't help but be drawn to her, and the personality that 'promises to take you out of the ordinary'. Maybe it's just because I always wanted, at some secret level, to have insanely colored hair. But there is something about her, just like in all of them, in her manner of speaking and thoughts and ideas that is deeply appealing to me.

"I'm sorry I came off kinda nutso. I'm not, really."

Beautiful as a dandelion-blossom, golden in the green grass,
This life can be.
Common as a dandelion-blossom, beautiful in the clean grass, not
Because common, beautiful because beautiful;
Noble because common, because free.

"Conversation at Midnight," 1937

Despite their sheer ridiculousness and ubiquitous presence on French bloggers, I was inexplicably drawn to these boots. My boyfriend got them for me for my birthday but they had to be sent back and exchanged for a different size, so I only just had my grubby little hands on them on Monday.

I never want to be parted from them. They make such a weird noise when I walk (I made a video to illustrate this fact, but I walk, apparently, very fast and it ended up pointless) and fill me with inane happiness. The fringe on one of them came a little crimped, but I don't really mind. It's kind of like a cowlick on my boots! On the other hand, I've had an awful lot of stare-downs on campus. This is only compounded by the fact that I am, for once, alone on campus! John (boyfriend, he has a name!) is in graduate school now and only has night classes, and everyone else I knew already graduated or is doing the same as he! So I am all by me onesies, traipsing across campus. Ah well, my inner (and outer) not-so-lonely-only child doesn't mind too much, most of the time.

At the Kennerley's in Mamaroneck that spring, Arnold Genthe took a photograph of her standing among the blossoms of a magnolia tree in full bloom. Wearing that linen dress, she just touched the branches of the tree, her glance away from the camera and slightly downcast, her long curling hair caught in a know at the nape of her neck. She looked winsome and young and fragile, as if at any minute she might become a wood nymph (115).

I also really love these biographies for their pictures. There is the one which is her high school graduation picture, with giant bows on her hair and neck, although my absolute favorites are those of her wedding to Eugen Boissevain.
“On July 18, 1923, Edna St. Vincent Millay married Eugen Boissevain in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. She was ill and looked worn as Norma took the mosquito netting from the porch and, pinning roses from the garden on it, made her wedding veil”.

Despite the illness, I think they are just glorious pictures. The kind of lethargic, effortless (although not really so) practicality to build something pretty and frivolous and romantic fills my tiny heart with aesthetic joy. I cannot of course, hide that the tiniest part of me is thrilled to bits that all of this takes place mere hours, minutes, and all that from where I've grown up. The moments I've chosen are from earlier in the biography, but be assured that throughout the rest of the books there are many equally divine interpretations and descriptions of garments and inspirational bits (not, of course, limited to clothing, but still). It is part of what makes me feel wistful and bitter that I don't live in a time when everything I wore was darling and beautiful and looked like the things in the pictures. It is what I strive so hard for, and yet it does get interrupted by terrible alien invasions.

I must admit that I was not quite as taken with Zelda, or Zelda. There is something sinister about her, I have always thought, although that did not make the biography any less interesting, I suppose it is in that I do not, in the middle-school mentality and desire, feel a particular personal connection. I don't think she's the type of person I would particularly like, but of course there is no possible way not to be at least the tiniest bit fascinated. Pictures of her are slightly less loose-around-the-edges in manner of dress, more in-fashion and smart and shining, more movie-star and red carpet like.

“Graduation was held at the Grand Theater the evening of May 31. There had been a lot of discussion about what the girls should wear, some wanting expensive dresses and no flowers, while others thought that dresses for which the materials were not more than five dollars would be best, with each girl carrying red roses, which were plentiful and cheap. One of Zelda's classmates, Lucy Goldthwaite, said, 'None of us had too much money in those days in the south, and our vote was finally for the five-dollar dresses with flowers.' A few of the girls were disappointed but in an era when store-bought clothes were scarce everyone set about getting their seamstresses to make the prettiest dresses possible within the five-dollar limit. That evening as they gathered behind the stage for the procession, Zelda turned up in a magnificent white silk dress with a tunic of chiffon floating over it, and a large-brimmed hat with long streamers down her back. 'You can't imagine how lovely she was,' Lucy said, 'but of course we were all shocked and some of us were resentful. I mean, it wasn't fair.' No one knows why Zelda ignored the five-dollar rule, or whether she had told her mother, who had undoubtedly made the costume, about it, but everyone agreed that it was just like her” (23).

“It was the first garment bought after the marriage ceremony and again the months have unsymmetrically eaten the nap off the seat of the skirt. This makes fifteen years it had been stored in trunks because of our principal of not throwing away things that have never been used. We are glad—oh so relieved, to find it devastated at last” (66)

The world and clothes described in this one are different, somehow more decadent although the circles cross and are indexed in different points in each, and out of the two this one makes me inexplicably (have you noticed this is one of my favorite words? It makes me self-conscious but I just love the job that it does) pine for underpinnings reminiscent of vintage underwear.

I am just nearing the end of Life with Picasso, and although it is stranger and in some ways vastly different, something about the crowded pack-rat-ness of it applies and is so similar to the previous books. It's both a biography and an autobiography of sorts, and so it enters, I suppose, into a strange world of literary theory (if we want to bother going there, that is) and makes me simultaneously interested in several people at once.

This book in particular lends itself well to fashionalities since, honestly, and I am certain it's subject would detest this kind of thing, it's about visual art. The descriptions of faces and bodes are fascinating and stupor-inducing.

“We were still at table when Picasso and his friends left. It was a cool evening and he put on a heavy mackinaw and a beret. Dora Maar was wearing a fur coat with square shoulders and shoes of a type many girls wore during the Occupation, when leather, along with so many other things, was scarce. They had thick wooden soles and high heels. With those high heels, the padded shoulders, and her heiratic carriage, she seemed a majestic Amazon, towering a full head over the man in the hip-length mackinaw and the beret basque (15).

“On the other side of the room I saw Picasso, surrounded by six or eight people. He was dressed in an old pair of trousers that hug loosely from his hips, and a blue striped sailor's jersey” (17).

Despite this ever-present jersey, most of the snapshots of Picasso in the book feature him shirtless, although many of them are beach scenes which even in black and white make me pine for sand and foamy, salty water despite the simultaneous yearning for crisp autumn days. I find myself reading this book and leaning forwards and perking up at the mention of clothes. I suppose it is because clothing is really so personal. It is what touches us, wraps us up, it's why many of us love (or I suppose, for others, why they are weirded out by) vintage clothing. It's the history, as is there anything as close to a person as the fibers that lie on them? It's deeply personal, these fabrics, clothes, that caress and fold over bodies. Perhaps that's making it all out to be somewhat more sensual than I mean, but not really.

This biography is short on clothing descriptions for ages and ages, and then all at once there are long passages of insight.

“Pablo had no problem buying shirts of shoes, but buying a suit caused him a great deal of trouble. He was fairly broad in the chest and shoulders, and had the proportions in that area of a much larger man, but since he was very small otherwise, he couldn't buy a suit off the rack that fit him [...] 'It turns my life upside down,' he explained to me. 'I can't paint when I know I have to go to a fitting.'” (224)

The thing is, I don't know. I am fascinated by it, I think most people are, we are constantly fascinated by what people wear. I find, in reading, that I want more, I want detailed descriptions of those outfits and dresses and trousers for which pictures aren't included. A tall order, I know, but I feel a compulsion while I am reading about lives on pages to be able to construct them in my head. Somehow, and bloggers and magazines and all sorts of people have pontificated much more eloquently than I on this very topic, it is that intensely personal nature of style, of what one is wearing that is so important. I remember when I was a kid, scribbling and writing funny little stories, it was always too important to know what characters were wearing. It drove me mad not to know exactly, I had to record every detail about it because every one of those little bits was terrifically important and dimensional. It also ties in to something else down the line, the quirks and effortless things we attempt to acquire in the way we dress. The mismatched, iconic piece, the knack for putting something together, something that is significantly 'you'. And all the same, we still borrow from others!

I am alive, I swear, although barely! Work is still somewhat ridiculous and I am experiencing exhaustion and allergy attacks (my hair and skin are in an atrocious state, not to mention the poor poor dears that were once my sinuses) of epic proportions! Nevertheless, I have a somewhat equally epic post in the works, which certainly oversells it, along with a return in productivity outfit-wise as the new school semester eeks closer and closer!

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