malco maiden

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Today in “words I never thought I’d say”: this petticoat is too full.

Well – not too full period. Obviously there’s no such thing. Too full, though, for what turned out to be the majority of my dresses. Only true circle skirts will do: no halves, no three-quarters, no gathered-waist approximations. I have maybe…four dresses able to accommodate this monstrous pouf. Honestly, though? I think it’s worth it.

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After reading Miss Hero Holliday‘s review guide, I was itching for a new petticoat. Literally itching: my only halfway decent petticoat was a thrifted Leg Avenue number made of scratchy nylon mesh. Our Miss Hero gave Malco Modes a 10 out of 10 for comfort, immediately piquing my interest. Then I saw that a) the company has been around for 50+ years and b) their products are 100% American-made. Sold! I’m especially pleased that they’re such an old company. Petticoats are one of the few things I resign myself to buying new, so it’s nice to find a company with a vintage legacy.

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I’m wearing the Malco Modes Jennifer petticoat in ruby red. It is every bit as soft as it looks. In a pinch, I could ball it up and use it as a pillow. Its coverage is excellent – I could wear it as a skirt in its own right, and I probably will. The waist is a little too big. Size L stretches from 27″ to 50″; at 32.5″, I could have even worn the small. I wanted the extra two inches of length that come with the large, though, and in the end I think it’s a fair trade.

And the Jennifer isn’t even the fullest petticoat they make. I’m almost scared to attempt the Michelle

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1940s patio dress: thrifted

Hat: vintage, thrifted

Shoes & belt: old

Petticoat: Jennifer by Malco Modes

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kitschy witchery

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Would you believe I’ve had this skirt for almost two years and never worn it? Not just “never worn for the blog”. Never. Worn. It’s a few inches too big in the waist, and it’s really hard to take in a circle skirt without ruining the silhouette. I could pin it, like I did for these photos, but going a whole day like that…nah. Still, I’ll never get rid of this beauty. You can’t call yourself a ’50s girl if you don’t own a poodle skirt. It’s a social rule, unspoken but very much enforced.

Just…not this one, please.

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Skirt: costume shop

Hat: vintage, thrifted

Everything else: thrifted

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vernal victory

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Yes, I’m wearing a St. Paddy’s pin, but it’s clear from my three-days-late post how much I actually care about the holiday. In theory, it’s neat, but in practice, living in a college town has deadened my enthusiasm for booze-centric events. On the actual Thursday, I stayed in and vomited by proxy at the idea of mixing beer and Bailey’s.

I must remind everyone, though, that it’s actually St. Paddy’s, and every time someone writes “Patty”, another snake slithers back into Ireland. Though any Always Sunny fan could tell you as much.

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And with that, happy vernal equinox! Or first day of spring, for the plebs. This greenie is hands-down my favorite summer dress. It’s simple and soft and fits me so damn well. I’ve probably blogged it more than I’ve blogged any other single item, and I still haven’t captured just how often I wear it.

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Dress: vintage, via Cat’s Eye Vintage (no longer extant)

Coat & head scarf: vintage, thrifted

Everything else: thrifted

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beware the pides of march

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If the 15th is the Ides of March, it stands to reason that the 14th is the Pides, right? Et tu, Frute!

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I’ve been reading the Metamorphoses lately. In its original Latin, which I’m very pleased is an ability I haven’t lost. I’d been worried that my Latin had slipped, but I guess I’ve made like one of Hannibal’s elephants and locked that shit down tight. An hour or so of reviewing my verb endings and it all came back.

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I’ve been out of school for three years this May, and lingua latina remains my favorite subject in the world. Latin class was the reason I didn’t drop out of high school and graduated a sort-of-sane person. I’ve studied a few other languages, but it’s not the same. It’s not like this. Latin makes sense to me. When I decode a sentence bit by bit, when I puzzle out the difference between identical cases, when all the “t”s are crossed and the macrons positioned and each suffix properly attached, the whole world feels a little better.

Dead language my foot. If I do nothing else in this world, I’ll bring Latin a little more to life, and I’ll be happy.

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I’m not a Classics nerd, not really. I can take or leave ancient Rome as a historical period; I’m far more interested in other eras. But Latin grammar is one of the most beautiful things in my world. I don’t even need to read Ovid. I’d be happy doing verb drills for hours and charting every possible use of the ablative.

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Dress: Retrolicious, also worn here

Cardigan, petticoat, brooch, shoes, stole: thrifted

Hat: vintage, via Gem’s Vintage Gems, also worn here and here  blackgreenX

I wore this outfit on Saturday night to a friend’s bowling-alley birthday party. Josh dared me to bowl in a full petticoat, and I’m pleased to announce I hit a whopping 86. Which, for me, is excellent.

And my ladies and I looked all the hotter at the club afterward.

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in praise of effort

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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what do you do with a shrunken shirtdress?

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You take yet another cue from Nora Finds and wear it over another dress. I’ve grown a cup size in the past year or so, which means this dress no longer buttons smoothly over my chest- not that it ever really did, if I’m being honest.  I’m loath to get rid of it, though. It’s such a lovely piece. But then I remembered Nora repurposing a button-up dress as a short-sleeved coat, and I decided to attempt it.

I’m not sure how much I like the result, honestly. Well, let me rephrase – I personally like it. Quite a bit, in fact. But I’m not  sure how much I can trust my enjoyment. I can’t tell whether it falls on the “eccentric” or the “utterly ridiculous” side of society dame. Nora does it perfectly, of course, but on me…I don’t know. What do you think?

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Coatdress & hat: vintage, thrifted

Orange plaid dress: vintage, via Soulrust

Boots: Kick on the Uptake Boot from ModCloth 

Everything else: thrifted

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bloodsucker

octopusVIMy partner’s favorite animal is the noble octopus, so of course he’d want to see his favorite lady bedecked in them. This dress, my Christmas present, arrived two days ago from Dracula Clothing. Within my first hour of wearing it out, I had to tell a very appreciative lady in the sandwich shop exactly where I’d gotten it. She wanted to buy one for her daughter. And for once I had a response other than “sorry, it’s vintage”. Buying new has its perks! octopusXVoctopusVII

I’d wanted a Dracula Clothing dress for a while. The whole label is one man’s passion project. From the shop’s about page:

I started Dracula Clothing in 2007. … I had traveled around in India and knew they have some tailors that are the best in the world. So I decided to make a shop that has tailor made clothes at a more reasonable price. One of the ways we keep the price down is by sending the clothes directly from the tailor to the customer. … We thought we would sell mostly to our friends and some random people, but have ended up selling a lot more than we thought.

I already have my eye on the map print and the “Leonardo’s Inventions” print. It’s nice to know I’m supporting a fellow eccentric. Plus, I feel like Mrs. Lovett, and that is never a bad thing.

Dracula Clothing ships free (!) worldwide from Prague. (Lots of good things in my life come from Prague, it seems – you might recall that I used to write for a magazine based there, and you’ll find the best cup of tea in Vermont at a cafe that started as a Czech chain.) The cotton is stiff and sturdy, though I have yet to see how it’ll stand up to a wash. The dress comes with a lace-up corset that’s really more of a belt; there’s no boning, so the effect is more visual than physical. My only complaint? After a few hours of wear, the sleeves’ elastic got mighty scratchy on my underarms, though that might be because I’d just shaved that morning.

(Also worth mentioning: unfortunately, they don’t carry over a size US14, and even that runs a tad small, being European. It fits 43-34-46 me just fine, but if you’re even a couple inches bigger in the bust or the waist, it probably won’t work.)

I’m not saying the steampunks/gothabillies/dandies in your life don’t already love you…but they’ll probably love you even more if you get them something from Dracula Clothing.

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Dress: via Dracula Clothing

Coat: hand-me-down from a friend

Everything else: thrifted

octopusVoctopusIVYou might recall that 2015’s New Year goals included hair long enough for fancy Victorian updos. A year later, I’m not quite sky(e)-high yet, but I’m well on my way! octopusXVII octopuscollageIIoctopusI octopusXVI octopusIII octopuscollage

first

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I woke up this morning in a place I’d never been. Not a bad start. I spent the night with friends in Windsor, and I don’t think I ever want to leave. It’s the quaintest place imaginable, all squat bricks and sprawling Victorians carved between twin mountains. I went for a walk in my pajamas to work off my Kraken hangover, and it was nice to care more about the adventure I’m having than about how I look having it. I love the way railroads and rivers curve out of sight.

nyeXnyeIIAfter talking a big game about how much I loved this maxi dress, I gave in and shortened it. At the end of the day, I love the print too much to let it languish in a length I know I’m not comfortable in.

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Dress, hat, & coat: vintage, thrifted

Everything else: thrifted

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writer in wred

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One aspect of blogging I really struggle with is the urge to turn everything into a performance. I don’t want to calibrate everything I do and wear and eat for optimal clicks. I don’t want to take so many pictures of my food that I forget to eat it, and I refuse to turn Josh into an Instagram Husband.  I want my blog and my photos to serve my life, not the other way around. So a holiday break was just what the doctor ordered. I had a lovely Christmas in the woods with my family, and I didn’t take any pictures. Every artist should remember the difference between spectators and friends.

That said, I’ll be doing lots of posing and preening in the dresses I got for Christmas. Especially this vintage one from my mom. Would you believe I didn’t own a plain red dress before now? I’ve been such a loud dresser for so long that I’ve sorely neglected basics.

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Dress: vintage, via The Art of Vintage Dressing

Cape: from a friend

Everything else: thrifted

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In other news, as of a few days ago, I am officially three stories away from finishing the short-story collection I’ve been working on for…ever? (Probably.) It’s tentatively titled Watchers, it’s sort of New Weird/Flannery-O’Connor-meets-Toni-Morrison, and I am very proud of everything in it. The lineup:

  • The Undertaker’s Parasite (finished, my favorite story I’ve ever written)
  • He Called Himself Messiah (finished)
  • Regicide (finished but could use editing)
  • How to Leave a Cult (finished, previously published in an online magazine)
  • Orexia (unfinished)
  • Lolita the Second (finished)
  • Isolde (unfinished)
  • The Housewife’s Helpmeet (finished, a companion piece to The Undertaker’s Parasite)

Plus an untitled New England gothic project that’s rattling around in my head but that I haven’t actually started writing yet. It might go in this collection; it might not. But I’d like it to, because 9 is a better number than 8.

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Hoping against hope that I’ll have a book under my belt by this time next year!

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(The “no trespassing” sign refers to everything beyond the point of the brick wall, in case you’re a stickler for that sort of thing.)