Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Weird Girls

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."

There are always more! The Francesca Lia Block girls, Weetzie Bat and Witch Baby especially, who I've admitted are a part of this fascination with weird individuality. Annie Hall of course, might be one of the originals, although lacking the bordering-on-sinister attitude but afflicted with strange hand movements, manners of speech, and signature items of clothing setting the way for those polo dresses, middle-parted braids, funny turns-of-phrase I attempt to capture.

I am fascinated by them. I can't help but create them, little character sketches of me own in journals and heads, these quirks are overwhelmingly important and I also stretch to create them in myself. Weird little habits I try to not only cultivate, but to notice those that are genuine to my personality. It goes in hand with the constant attempts those of us blogging and w_r-ing to find our own personal style. I am fascinated by weird girls, I so badly want to be one of them, and at points I think I succeed! Without getting too terribly sappy and candid, it is one of the reasons I first hung out around my current boyfriend so much: that I felt not only like the best version of myself, but the version of myself I had tried so hard to cultivate, who was strange and charming and above all, weird weird to the core (but always in an endearing sort of way). It's part of why I have certain items of clothing (one day I will illustrate them all for you) that I pick out and wear only because they remind me of this or that fictional person or Weird girl: the Sabina bowler hat, the Professor Lupin sweater, Annie Hall pants. And the thing is, I am so not the only one! There is, I think undeniably, something particular about the Weird girls as opposed to boys and so I think they are created more. Maybe I just notice it more, but heck, it's why Juno was such a big movie, and why characters like the Weird girl keep popping up all over the place, because I am convinced she is the kind of girl we all want to be and that someone wants to know.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Delicacy, These Days.

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ankle Fringe.

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.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Our Pockets Full of Promises and Notebooks Full of Schemes.

Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin

This summer has been the first in a long time during which I have climbed my way through books not for school, but for my own fluttery bookworm heart. I found that, especially in collegiate years, the older-school years made it difficult to read for pleasure. Of course there are the time restraints, but it has been more than just that. Maybe it's my punishment as an English major that reading for academic achievement and reading for oneself become estranged. I remember moments in classes, starting at the most definite moments in AP English in high school, when I became aware of my learning to read differently. This is one of the goals of my professors, to learn to look for this signal or that, find the tropes and the modes, learn the theories and apply them, read this and that through such-and-such a lens, and all the while you must always act completely confident in your work, despite the fact that you as a twenty-something in knee socks and skirts cannot possible understand how you have any right at all to definitively say anything about the legions of literary geniuses forming battalions across the mind's library (my god, that was a pretentious sentence. See what I mean?).

On that cheerful note, the point, sort of. For the most part I've spent the summer reading biographies of all sorts of geniuses, perhaps in some subconscious hope that bits of genius will rub off onto my own creations and ways of being. Thus far my favorite has been Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, understandably as she is a favorite poet, at the moment followed by Life with Picasso (a birthday present from my parents) although I haven't finished that one, and Zelda (which, admittedly I haven't been very taken with, but all the same). I am also in the midst of Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties, although I am inexplicably wary of the author's tone I am far too in love with the book cover and title to be too resistant to it.

One of the things I cannot help but notice and become unbelievable and understandably fascinated by is the attention constantly payed to the aesthetics of their subjects. I know this has something, or perhaps everything, to do with the cult of celebrity and by some strange extension it's not so very different from this or that picture of what current pop culture figure is donning for a trip to the grocery store, but of course it's all so much more romantic when considered through the lens (see, I stole it from so many professors. I know we are not supposed to use cliches but I am addicted to them, partly because I like the homey, weird feel of them and must collect them and pin them under glasses upon cotton batting) of literary or artistic genius. I should also note, randomly and if I were any good English student I would find a place to put this properly in my essay-thing but only if it was useful of course, that I don't care for biographies that don't have those glossy picture pages. I do so hate when they reference this or that picture and then don't include it in the book. The nerve!

It's something which comes up a lot in Savage Beauty. Or, that's where I first noticed it. The picture of Vincent with the flowering tree branches is one of my favorites, and it seems as though others are constantly talking about Vincent in terms of her clothing, how tiny they make her look, how they illustrate her playing the part of the girl-poet prancing through romantic garments. And her letters are just full of descriptions of the most delicious dresses I've never seen, one of which I cannot for the life of me find and it kills me.

“I am cursed, and I know it, with a love for beautiful things. I can'tbear anything that looks cheap or feels cheap or is over-trimmed or coarse. I hate myself all the time because I'm all the time wearing things I don't like. It's wicked and it's ungrateful but I can't help it. I wish I had one graceful dress”.

“I've got it. O, my heart! The sweetest thing. Makes you think of summer & iced tea on the lawn & men & girls & once in a while a breeze. I am—I am languorous in it.”

“O, girls, I have saved the best for last! It is what I needed more than anything else in the world, perhape,--an afternoon dress. Sweller than anything you ever saw, simply regal in every scrap of material, unquestionable this season's... O, girls!
It is made of very soft taupe satin (must be just about the shade of that suit I had, violetish-gray) the skirt is Frenchily long, tho perfectly manageable—made with very soft panniers at the side which end in a row of buttons.... It is very clingy. I've been draping myself around without any petticoat & with one bronze shoe on to get the effect.”

“...& I have paid $10.50 for a tan linen, tailory, cutey, so becoming, with a white muslin collar, spring dress, that I really need, to wear to college. Yes, I know. And I'm going to, from now on.”

(From Savage Beauty):
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!

Milford, Nancy. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay. 2nd edition. New York: Random House. 2002.
Milford, Nancy. Zelda. New York: Random House. 1971.
Gilot, Francoise. Lake, Carlton. Life with Picasso. McGraw-Hill. 1964.

Larger versions of book scans, because I like to read the bits on the edges of pictures, over at flickr

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Favorite Forever Fruit Tarts

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!

Today my boyfriend and I were ridiculously and obnoxiously adorable, with our matching allergies and work frustrations, and took ourselves out to Saratoga where we sat on the edges of flower pots and ate slices of pizza on our laps, inspected antique stores, and ate fancy desserts before staring at walls of hats. As you can see, I am wearing--shock and horror- a t-shirt! But honestly, how could i resist?

But a girl needs her beauty rest and a fanciful prince named sleep.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Things of Happiness: Snails

I've been wanting to post about snails for ages, but no post is coming naturally except for one akin to this one, so I might as well stop resisting and get on with it! I love snails. I don't know why, since I hate slugs--rationally I know they are too slow to attack, but still, and all they ever do is eat holes in the violets--but snails are quite lovely. They are funny little things, wearing shells like big hats or houses and sliming all over the place. I often doodle them in my notebooks. Most of the time they are professing their love to flowers in my margins.

I had a hard time finding pictures of snails that weren't slimy or icky, but instead quaint and moony and glist-er-ing as I felt they ought to be. The only thing that lived up to the tender expectations of my heart was that funny little comic, inspiring giggles but still making me feel just a little bit heart-broken.

I don't know what it is,
but I distrust myself
when I start to like a girl
a lot.

It makes me nervous.
I don't say the right things
or perhaps I start
to examine,
what I am saying.

If I say, "Do you think it's going to rain?"
and she says, "I don't know,"
I start thinking : Does she really like me?

In other words
I get a little creepy.

A friend of mine once said,
"It's twenty times better to be friends
with someone
than it is to be in love with them."

I think he's right and besides,

it's raining somewhere, programming flowers
and keeping snails happy.
That's all taken care of.


if a girl likes me a lot
and starts getting real nervous
and suddenly begins asking me funny questions
and looks sad if I give the wrong answers
and she says things like,
"Do you think it's going to rain?"
and I say, "It beats me,"
and she says, "Oh,"
and looks a little sad
at the clear blue California sky,
I think : Thank God, it's you, baby, this time
instead of me.

-It's Raining in Love, Richard Brautigan

(I also always have that one little bolded part of the poem stuck
and replaying in my head, but it felt wrong not to post the whole poem).

Rainy Days, Sunny Days, Birthdays, Nowadays

It has been ages since I bothered with any kind of an outfit. Work is in an uproar and I am finding myself there forty hours a week, packing in all kinds of hours before school starts, in a desperate need for coverage at the store as well as looming car loan payments which require insane amounts of dollars. Somehow, my mood for clothes and outfits is just lacking and deflated, unhappy with strange in-between weather and no time. It's terribly terrible when dull real-life related things down-trod on the carefully constructed vision of day-to-day.

Wednesday was lovely, although a bit warm for my tastes, as I had nothing in particular to do. I made my way downtown to buy a birthday card for a friend and met my mother for an impromptu splurge at one of the local farmer's markets. When I was little we used to go all the time! Vendors collect outside the State Capitol (ol, al? My mind wanders) building and we used to sit and eat hot dogs, then go and get green beans, raspberries, corn, tomatoes and flowers at the Empire State Plaza.

This time, I grabbed a apricot glazed pastry and a dry soda and plunked myself on a marble edge for lunch. If only I could be so lucky today! I am in a rut, I suppose, and need a change of weather, of scenery! Never in my life did I think I would admit to being sick of rain!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Furthur Adventures in Dressing like Children.

I remember I saw The Secret of Roan Inish at my grandparents house (oddly appropriate). I never owned it or rewatched it very often but it always stuck with me, probably because it combines all sorts of things that appealed to me then and now. A deep-seated love of seals and such, despite their smell, passed on from a Marine Biologist dad combined with a penchant for darkened fairy tales and kids doing adult things makes it an ideal movie. It's sort of mysterious and great, and it's not one of those movies that plays down to children, assumes they don't understand things--although I'm not sure if it's a children's movie in the first place now that I think of it--and then later doesn't appeal to adults.

Anyway, it's been on the Sundance channel the past few months, and I've rediscovered it. It's still just as lovely as before, only now I am also enamoured with the young heroine's clothes. They have a wonderfully 40s (I think it takes place in the 40s, I'm not to good at that sort of thing) aura, not to mention the sweet little details so often found in clothing for little and young girls. Her outfits are adorable, subdued but colorful patterns layered in youthful nonchalance, which is another nostalgic quality I think so many of us try to recreate and explore.

It's the little high-waisted skirts with blouses and funny embroidered sweaters that I want to copy. I love the hair-bow as well, sort of dilapidated and floppy amidst windy hair. I feel like there are all sorts of little details like this that disappear once we slide into adult clothes, although of course there are those lines and exceptions which attempt to infuse this back into grown-up costumes, but still. It makes me still look forward to fall, for cardigans, and wish for spring which is ever-so far off.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Invisible Weekends.

Hello my dears! I am returned from my wonderful weekend spent with friends! I've meant to post something sooner, but days have just been flying by! And I am using so many exclamation points! The weekend was awesome, I sort of can't believe it actually happened and then ended. We went to New York City and did touristy things like running through wax museums and giggling over silly art in MoMa (who wants to take things seriously? Not us, apparently!), as well as frustrating myself with directions (which, honestly, for someone who gets lost in her own city as often as I do, I did very well and deserve a gold star on a cake).

(Pictures shamelessly lifted from my friend's cameras, I need to get myself a nicer one!)

On a more serious note, my car is broken, broken, broken. We put a down payment on a new one last night, but are still shopping around for a few days until that's finalized. It's very difficult being without a car, especially where I live, but the loan payments are going to kill me! Quite honestly I don't make a ton of money, no where near a ton, and these payments are going to curb my spending habits like nothing else! My parents are taking me to NYC again for my birthday on Monday, but after that I've got to be careful! I am slightly, mildly, sort of, kind of, toying with the idea of selling some of my things on ebay for extra monies, but we'll see about that. It is just that I have so many random things that I don't wear, and things I keep picking up from thrift stores, that I ought to do something productive with it!

I have so much catching up to do! I've read most of my usual blogs, but I've still got tags to honor, thank-yous, links, outfits and all that! I'll be around :D

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Escatic, Excited, Exhilirated!

At one point I had set myself down to compose a post singing the praises of penny loafers and peter-pan collars but I have been, as usual, inexcusably distracted. It would only end in nostalgic renderings of my old school-uniforms, which is a tired and true subject, so perhaps later on I will find a way to change the story around so it makes for a more interesting post!

However, I must absent myself for a few days! I will be having two beloved guests this weekend and our schedule is so jam-packed that I am certain I won't be around to post about strange and fusty things. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, the two kindred spirits in question (although they aren't in question, I just like that funny little phrase as much as every writing class has told me to avoid cliches, I collect them like a colloquial pack-rat) have been some of my closest pals for almost eight years and I have never met them. It is a truly epic weekend!

So have a good weekend, my pretty little nonpareils!