vvitchy vvoman


Okay, so nothing about this  outfit is witchy, besides the fact of my wearing it. But it is accompanied by a review of one of the best theatrical experiences I’ve ever had. I would summarize The VVitch as “Puritan family loses child, succumbs to witch-hunting hysteria”, but it’s so much more than that. First, you should probably watch the trailer.


My local paper called The VVitch “the world’s creepiest historical reenactment”, and how true it is. I always prefer media that’s totally immersive, that doesn’t step into the meta level to comment on itself or judge its characters.  I’m not interested in morality plays. I’m here to live two hours in someone else’s world and come away with my own conclusions. I don’t like being told who to root for or which humors are supposed to be stirred. And The VVitch delivers just that.

greyskirtII greyskirtX

There’s no directorial judgment on the characters’ choices, no rationalist rebuttal to Puritan hysteria, and that’s just the way I like it. It feels, genuinely, like a reenactment. Like the way things really were, not a modern critique thereof.  I will always prefer a peek at the past to a 21st-century condemnation of it.


And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that “rural religious gothic” is my favorite genre of anything ever. The VVitch is a northern, Protestant answer to Flannery O’Connor, and I’d love it for that alone. I grew up ghost-hunting in graveyards and river valleys. I had a special interest in the Salem witch trials. I am a child of rural New England, and its landscape trips a very specific wire in my lizard brain. The scariest stories are the stories that feel like home.

greyskirtXII greyskirtIV

Several reviewers have called this movie “something you should not be seeing”, and that’s probably the best way of describing it. Guys – I have a really high bar for “unsettling”. But there were definitely a few scenes that felt too alien to be looking at. Like you’ve walked in on something profoundly other and you can’t find the door.


That’s all I want from my horror, really. Not monsters, not madmen. I want the altogether strange. I want things that rattle your bones with just how much they shouldn’t exist. I want eldritch fucking abominations, dammit, and it’s all too hard to find them in a world of jump scares.

I’m tired of horror that’s “all in your head”. There’s a big world out there. Show me characters wrestling with it – with one filled with things that should not be.





I had a pretty quiet Valentine’s Day, as evidenced by my mentioning it eight days late. I wrote about this at Christmas, and it still holds true: I’m uncomfortable with the pressure on bloggers to publicize our holiday celebrations. Certain things are just for me and my loved ones; I don’t have to invite the whole world in.

That said, I somehow ended up with ten Spanish-language conversation balloons, and that in itself is worth sharing. The gas station was selling them for a penny each the day after Valentine’s, so I, lured by the promise of living Wes Anderson’s wet dream, loaded the car with them.

“You have quite a weirdness magnet,” Josh said, after we’d finished stuffing them into the trunk like hostages.

balloonsXX balloonsXV

I’m wearing ModCloth’s “Unbridled Panache” dress in dice print, which, while adorable, only serves to reinforce why I prefer true vintage over reproduction. It’s a great print and a nice soft material, but honestly? ModCloth is really hit or miss. Their dresses always fit a little funny in the bodice, and the armscyes are way too wide. Which would be fine in a cheaper garment, but this dress retails for $100. Thanks to a coupon, I got it for less than half that, but I would have been mighty disappointed had I paid full price.

balloonsXVII balloonsXXIV balloonsXIX balloonsXII balloonsXIVballoonsXXII balloonsV balloonsXXI balloonsXVIII balloonsIII

in praise of effort


I confess: I don’t understand “effortless chic”. I don’t understand applying makeup to look bare-faced, I don’t understand moussing one’s hair to emulate bedhead, and I really don’t understand why expending effort on your appearance has ceased to be cool.

greysuitII greysuitXI

You see it everywhere. Don’t look too “done”. Don’t look costumey. Spend hours caring, but only to achieve that perfect careless look, that purgatory of the average. You’re still supposed to care, but looking like you do? That’s just gauche.

We’ve cargo-culted casual, it seems. We’ve taken symbols of a laid-back look – Levi’s, bedhead, yesterday’s eyeliner – and proceeded to thoroughly miss the point of what makes them effortless in the first place: the actual, y’know, lack of effort. A $200 white t-shirt might be following the letter of the law, but it’s spectacularly neglecting the spirit.

greysuitX greysuitV greysuitI

And there’s something dishonest in that, I think. In working so hard to pretend you don’t care, in not even getting the satisfaction of articulating yes, this matters to me. Maybe my red lips and shapewear look too done, too fussy, too too, but at least I’m upfront with it. I don’t care if I look costumey. I don’t care if my outfit looks like I labored over choosing it, because you know what? I did, and it was labor well spent.


It’s not just fashion, either. I’m growing wearier and wearier of millennial disaffection. I want to like things unironically. I want to care too much and get too excited. I want to flap my hands and squeal when something amuses me. I want to spend more time unequivocally appreciating the world and less calling out what’s problematic about it. I want it to be cool to go all in, dammit.


After all, all fashion is artifice. No use pretending it isn’t. It’s okay to admit you want control over how you appear to the world. Natural is overrated. Preventable diseases are natural too. Doesn’t make ’em a net good.

Here’s to going all out. To turning your passion up to 11 on whatever it is you’re passionate about. Here’s to dressing like a 1950s caricature if you damn well want to, because life’s too short not to live your art.

on attraction


One of the most stubborn assumptions about us vintage lifestylers is that we’re doing this to impress men, or that we somehow long to be subservient to them. As though we’re nostalgic for an era when domesticity reigned oppressive. Now, I want to make it clear that I don’t find a damn thing wrong with dressing to attract men (or women, or whoever). We’re all looking for love; I’m not going to get on my high horse and pretend I’m too cool for it. But it’s an irritating, not to mention agency-chafing, thing to have assumed of yourself.

redplaidV redplaidVI

The thing is, those criticisms miss the point in a big way. Yes, girdles and pin curls were the gold standard of submissive femininity – in 1950. Doing this in 2016 is not normal by any stretch. It’s deliberate. We might have looked respectably meek sixty years ago, but nowadays anyone dressed this way is a screaming beacon of strangeness. It takes a certain mettle to leave the house in any subcultural uniform, and that’s what this is: a subculture. No longer mainstream.

redplaidII redplaidX

There’s a hierarchy to who gets hit on in bars, and believe me, the girl in the vintage hat and full petticoat is nowhere near the top. There’s a reason all my partners are fellow theater kids or general eccentrics. Fact is, most people of any gender are weirded out by the “year-round Halloween” thing. If a modern man is looking for a woman to cater to his every whim, someone whose selfhood he can override, why would he choose someone who stands out so much?

redplaidVII redplaidIVredplaidVIII

And those modern men, it seems, like simplicity best of all. Or at least that’s what anecdata, plus having lots of male friends, has told me. I hear over and over that jeans and a fitted tee are so much sexier than a party dress and perfectly done hair. My own partner can’t even tell when I’m wearing makeup. If I were trying to impress men, I wouldn’t be wearing a goddamn girdle.

redplaidXI redplaidXII


dabblers & devotees: an ethnography of vintage blogging


After four years of fashion blogging and two-ish in the vintage/retro/pinup scene, I think I can sort us into a few distinct, albeit occasionally overlapping, categories.

On one end, you have what Jessica of Chronically Vintage deems “vintage appropriate“: not vintage, and not explicitly vintage reproduction either, but evoking a vintage aesthetic nonetheless. Bloggers in this category do sometimes wear true vintage or repro, but it’s not the cornerstone of their look. Such bloggers are more likely to describe themselves as “retro” than straight-up vintage, and they often emphasize the modern twist. They rarely go all out, preferring instead to mix in contemporary elements and give the past a subtler nod: an heirloom brooch, Grandma’s purse.

Examples from around the blogosphere:

browngreyIX browngreyX

In the next ring, you have “vintage inspired”. The pinups, the lindy boppers, the rockabilly dames. Often covered in tattoos. These girls tend to go for a highly stylized, almost fantastical affect. Their closets are full of Hell Bunny and Voodoo Vixen, and their look is less a representation of the past than an abstract homage to it. There’s an aspirational element to this particular corner of vintage blogging. A glamour that transcends the everyday. While the first category is about wearable retro looks, this one is about playing a character. Many such bloggers are artists or performers in their everyday lives, and it shows.


browngreyVI browngreyXIII browngreyXIV

Finally, on the “haplessly obsessive” side of things, you have the lifestylers. The immersives. The ones who have a separate closet for their petticoats and stalk rare vintage on eBay (it sold for two dollars over my max bid, guys. Two dollars.). We in the third category certainly turn up the glitz at times, but we’re more focused on what women of old actually wore day to day – which was, sadly, a lot less flashy than pinup art would suggest. Category Two girls get asked if they’re headed to a photo shoot; Category Threes get asked if we’re in a play.

The line between Categories Two and Three can be nebulous. I’ve fallen pretty squarely into both. The main distinction I’ve noticed, though, is in accessories. In my experience, the more die-hard the enthusiast, the larger her collection of vintage hats, gloves, and brooches. Lots of bloggers wear vintage dresses, but we here in our strange little bubble refuse to forget the details.


browngreyXVIbrowngreyIII browngreyXV

What do you think? Any categories I’ve missed? Any bloggers you feel were slotted incorrectly? Let me know!

misinformation, my old friend


Okay, vintage virtuosi, let’s play a game.


I don’t consider myself an expert on vintage clothing. I have no formal qualifications; my education has been purely osmotic. I’m pretty good at dating and describing garments, but there are certainly gaps in my knowledge. So it’s downright bizarre to realize: sometimes I know more than the experts. More than people who date and sell vintage for a living. When I’m browsing eBay or Etsy, I instinctively defer to the seller’s judgment: they have the garment in front of them, after all, and if selling vintage is their job, they likely know what they’re doing. Lately, though, I’ve had an uncomfortable revelation: so many vintage “experts” are just more dedicated bullshitters than the rest of us.


One of my favorite writers posted this slice of insight a while ago:

There’s a thing some people on the Internet do – I’ve only now started noticing it – where they bootstrap their way into being famous and influential. They take a really nice professional looking photo of themselves, start a really nice professional looking blog with a name like Tech Trends From John Smith, start a Twitter account with accompanying bio like “This is John Smith, from Tech Trends From John Smith”, and then once they have a few followers they start a webzine with a cool name, and the webzine says “Edited by the author of Tech Trends From John Smith”, and Tech Trends From John Smith says “Written by the editor of COOL NAME WEBZINE”. And then they publish a few essays on something that sounds hard to publish to but actually isn’t, like Daily Kos where anybody can publish their own personal Daily Kos blog, and they interlink that with everything else.

And this always works, because nobody can possibly keep up with all of the mildly famous people on the Internet, so if somebody presents themselves as a mildly famous person, you just assume that they’re right.

I’ve only just now started checking how many of the people I assume are mildly famous could get exactly the web presence they in fact have by doing this.

If what he observes is accurate, and I think it is, then the vintage community is doing it times a million. You find a few retro dresses at a thrift shop and go “hey, I can flip these!” You  stage some hipstery shoots with dried flowers and dappled light. You call your shop something like “Badger & Blossom Vintage”, and you make a nice Etsy banner to match. You regurgitate a a few vaguely period buzzwords – “housewife” means “full skirt”, right? – and presto! You’ve cargo-culted yourself into vintage expertise.


An incomplete list of terms I have seen abused by vintage sellers:

  • Atomic print. Atomic prints are inspired by or reminiscent of atomic diagrams, which can be interpreted literally or more abstractly. It’s admittedly sort of a “know it when you see it” thing, but I’ve seen all sorts of things labeled “atomic” that are decidedly not. Florals, paisleys, gradients – nope.
  • “New Look”. Lots of people forget that the New Look was a very specific garment design, not just a catchall term for ’50s dresses. From dictionary.com: “[A] style of women’s clothing introduced by the designer Christian Dior in 1947, characterized by a silhouette with broad shoulders, a narrow waist, a long, full skirt, and often emphasized hips.” Though that shape seems to have gone down in history as THE ’50s silhouette, the era hosted lots of other styles as well.
  • Novelty print. This is novelty print: its print has a specific theme or tells a specific story. Novelty prints are often called “conversation prints” for this exact reason. This, though? An abstract print, sure. But not novelty.
  • Wiggle dress. By definition, the hem of a wiggle dress will be narrower than the hips, like this. (It’s been pointed out to me that that image is reproduction, not vintage, and that is true. It does, however, accurately convey the point I’m making.) However, I’ve seen a lot of dresses labeled “wiggle” when they’re actually shifts. Important distinction to make!  I’m not the only one to notice this, either. Vintage Bulletin complains that less than half the results for “wiggle dress” are even remotely accurate.

redwhiteII redwhiteX

As for more general faux pas…

  • If the label on that “authentic” 1940s dress reads “100% polyester”, back away slowly.
  • If said “authentic” ’40s dress has an elastic waist, back away even faster.
  • And, of course, if you see anyone offering “custom vintage” anything, START RUNNING. Just Say No to keyword spam.

redwhiteI redwhiteVI

Can you think of any other common mislabelings among vintage sellers? Let me know in the comments!

redwhiteXI redwhiteXIII



On Monday I spirited away to Montpelier for a totally impromptu shoot with Brent. He messaged me on Facebook, and forty minutes later I was on the bus, because why the hell not? Brent and I have worked together on and off for three and a half years now, almost as long as I’ve been modeling, but it had been a while since the last one. I’d forgotten just how in sync our creative impulses are.

He’s still editing most of the photos (we took several hundred), but I’m happy to present the first few. Both the collages are edited by me.


and now for something completely different


This dress is unlike anything else in my closet. It’s a) not fit-and-flare, b) made of synthetic material, and c) from the ’70s. I mean, what? It’s long been on record that the ’70s are my least favorite fashion decade. It’s not anyone’s fault; it’s just what happens when you snarf acid like candy. Dear god, the pantsuits! Given that I’m not into the bohemian look either (give me polished or give me nothing), there really isn’t much for me in the land of pot and polyester.

Except this dress. For whatever reason, whatever goddamn rationale is hiding in my hatted head, I love this dress. It goes with anything, it hugs my hips just enough, and it’s the warmest thing I own. It’s not easy being a vintage queen in northern New England, but throw on this dress with 120-denier tights and a wool coat, and you’ll be sweating on your walk to the bus stop. Plus, a lot of ’70s pieces have a ’40s feel to them, and I’ve been more drawn to ’40s than ’50s the past few weeks.

greygreenII greygreenV

I’ve worn the dress twice before on the blog, but in meatspace life I actually wear it more like once a week. I repeat: SO WARM. (Though this year’s winter is blessedly milder than most. It’s an El Nino year, so the weather’s funny all around. Still unmistakably Vermont, but we’ve only had, like, three below-zero days this season as opposed to last year’s two dozen. ) Today I’m accessorizing with the hat & gloves I thrifted this weekend. I picked up a couple other vintage hats, too – and all for an absolute song.

greygreenXII greygreenI greygreenVIII greygreenVII greygreenXI greygreenX greygreenIX greygreenXIII greygreenVI greygreenXV



wasp waist


I have had amazing luck with discount ’40s dresses lately. First sheer WWII loveliness for $20, and now this striped confection for $25. At a brick-and-mortar vintage store, no less, so no shipping costs. I drooled over this particular dress several weeks ago, actually, but it was $98 then, so I left it on the rack and went home to lick my wounds. Last week, though, it had been (inexplicably) reduced to $25, so naturally I made it mine. I’m still stymied; usually a markdown that dramatic would indicate a serious flaw, but I can’t find anything wrong.

I’m slightly worried that someone is stalking me and left this dress as bait.

fancyIII fancyV

If you don’t already follow my writing blog, Beginning Our Dissent, go check it out! I’ve been writing so much the past few months: essays, fiction, drunken screeds. I realize that the category “people interested in vintage blogs” does not overlap much with “people interested in punchy tirades about polyamory” or “people interested in Maleficent fanfiction”, but I am here to serve that 1%.

fancyVI fancyIV fancyIX fancyXI fancyXIII fancyVIIIIMG_2986




A return to my former heyday. Aggressively twee outfits are no longer my bread and butter, but once in a while ain’t bad. Particularly in such a (stereotypically) Parisian color scheme. I feel like Madeleine’s sullen older sister, the creepy one they keep in the attic.

blacksII blacksX

blacksVI blacksV blacksIV blacksXIV blacksXI

Dress: Lindy Bop, via eBay

Everything else: thrifted

dblacksIII blacksVII blacksXIII blacksVIII blacksXII