maxi dress & evolution

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Somewhere in the past two years, I’ve stopped being Kooky-with-a-capital-Q. I don’t know when it happened, but one day recently I woke up and realized all my outfits have the same silhouette, the same pleats and gathers and darts. I still love my power clashing, my aggressive kitsch, my costume pieces repurposed for everyday life, but there’s something leaner about it now. I no longer wear trailing skirts or a million layered bangles or black tights in the summer. I still crave being seen, but the tools of my seduction are much more ’50s twee, primness slightly queered, than art-teacher absurdity.

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I have a uniform now, for better or for worse. A fit-and-flare dress – knee-length, cotton, cap-sleeved – a hat or scarf, colorful socks, men’s brogues. It’s where I’ve settled after a lifetime of throwing fabric at myself and hoping something stuck. I enjoy it, I feel like myself here in this groove, but I didn’t realize just how deeply carved it was until I almost passed up this dress.

It’s longer than I prefer, by a good foot. For a few minutes I agonized – I just don’t feel right in long dresses. I’m not a hippie; that’s Kristina’s department. And then I realized that when a dress like this is delivered, pristine and unstained and in your exact size, you don’t pick nits. You spend the ten goddamn dollars, because you will never find a piece like this again.

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I ended up wearing it to a circus-themed party the night after I took these photos. I sprawled on the floor and decided my dress would be the tent.

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daisies & eyeliner

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It’s my thirteenth summer at camp. I started as a camper way back in 2003, as a rising fourth-grader who had yet to get her first haircut. Since then, my whole life has boiled down to one microcosmic week each year. Every June, I enter my fishbowl. Every June, our family gets a little closer and a little stranger.

I’ve made most of my best friends here. We’ve swum upstream through the counselor-in-training program and become fully fledged authorities, lording over the tiny brats like we swore we’d never do. Such is the way of the world.

I managed to extricate myself for a few minutes yesterday to take photos down by the pond. If the facilities are mediocre (I’m convinced my bed will give me herpes), the landscape more than compensates.

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the witch & the sprite, part ii: polka dots & trilliums

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The second batch from my recent shoot with Holly.

I like having friends who are dark where I am light. I am more a fairy, swathed in silks and gleeful scandal, than a witch. I need more trenchant forces to balance me.

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vintage watercolors & winooski in bloom

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My camera is finally back! Just in time for nascent spring, too. The whole city looks scrubby and new when I sit atop the hill and observe. I love love love the bright tentative green of almost-leaves.

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It’s weird how anxious I got without my camera. I am someone, I’ve discovered, who gets extremely anxious when I cannot document beauty. I have a hard time just taking things in: I need to capture them. I need to make sure everyone knows how exquisite that flower was, how unique that cloud’s shape. In short: I’m the worst Buddhist ever.

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It feels strange to just…live life. I’m so used to trying to grasp as much of it as I can. I need to remember that an experience unshared is still an experience. I don’t need to haul out my mechanical eye for every private joy.

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In other news, it’s moonshine time again. I’ve been making dandelion wine for four years, and this year I have a big enough kitchen and a steady enough income to branch out. I’d like to do, at minimum, dandelion, lilac, peony, and rose.

I’ve been thinking of doing other seasonal varieties, too. I want to experiment with some savories come autumn. How does rosemary wine sound?

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three years: part II

It’s my anniversary. I get to be overtly narcissistic, okay?

I came to blogging for the style and stayed for the photography. My earliest photos were almost unconscionably shitty; I look at them now and can’t believe I put them on the internet under my real name. Learning my way around my camera and cultivating a genuine love for capturing light have been two really rewarding by-products of blogging.

Here are my best-ever photos.

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this magic keeps him alive / but it’s making him crazy

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Putting the endless twee parade on hold for a moment. Just your average day in the screaming post-apocalyptic abyss – aka my backyard. It makes a pretty great abyss, though.

Josh’s Simon Petrikov cosplay is among the more uncanny likenesses I’ve seen. For those of you who don’t watch Adventure Time – well, first get off this blog and watch all six seasons of Adventure Time – Petrikov is an antiquarian who stumbles upon a madness-inducing crown. It grants him immortality at the cost of his mind, and slowly transforms him into the Ice King. Hilarity – and also really unsettling “this is so not for kids” imagery – ensues.

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granny florals, orange tights, & a leather coat

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Two Australian women are currently campaigning against the term (and attendant concept of) “plus-size”. Model Stefania Ferrario writes:

“I do NOT find this empowering. I’m NOT proud to be called ‘plus,’ but I AM proud to be called a ‘model,’ that is my profession!”

Ferrario & compatriot Ajay Rochester claim that “the label is both counterproductive and harmful to young girls’ self esteem”. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here smashing my face against the keyboard: am I the only one who thinks they’re going about this completely wrong?ojVIIIojIII

First of all, I wish more people understood that plus-size isn’t a judgment or a statement on one’s personhood. It’s a garment category. It’s not about the people wearing those garments; it’s a way of classifying cut and fit to easily signal its intended audience. Just as “tall” means “longer inseams”, “petite” means “shrunken proportions”, and “maternity” means “forgiving stomach”, “plus size” indicates that a garment isn’t merely a bigger version of its size-zero equivalent. It means the whole garment has been restructured for a different scale. 64% of women polled believe that “[plus size] should be banned as a defining term, as bodies are bodies, no matter what the size”, which is all well and good politically but ultimately meaningless. Should we also stop measuring ourselves because “bodies are bodies”? More power to you (even if it is a tautology), but good luck finding a bra that way.

The categories you fit into aren’t a measure of your worth as a person. I’d much rather challenge the idea that they do than abolish categories altogether.

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And on that note…I don’t think it’s harmful to young girls’ self-esteem to assess themselves honestly. Abandoning a certain term won’t make me any smaller. I’d rather come to terms with my proportions than rationalize them away. I want to own myself, and I don’t want to keep promoting the idea that being “plus-size”, or “curvy”, or whatever you want to call it is something to be ashamed of. Doing away with the label would broadcast shame loud and clear, and that’s what I find harmful to young girls.

Now I absolutely agree that “plus-size” models and garments are often marginalized, and I’m not in any way supporting that. I just don’t think that bigger models will magically become more accepted if we stop describing them a certain way. This kind of change runs deeper than that.

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plaid, petticoat, & an assault on the eyeballs

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I wore this outfit antiquing on Sunday, and the little old ladies were swooning. “Is that a petticoat? I haven’t seen one of those in years!” I like being their blast from a past they thought was dead and buried. I like the feeling of keeping something once-precious alive.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’d rather be stuck in history than progressing for progress’s sake. I’d rather be rooted than erratic. I’d rather respect the past than barge blindly into the future.

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And during said day of antiquing, I found two of the shiniest treasures ever.

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The first was a 1950s wedding set. Dress, crown, train, purse, garter. In perfect condition, barely yellowed. For TWENTY DOLLARS. “When’s your wedding?” the shopkeeper asked in response to my hyperventilation. “Eventually,” I told her. The dress doesn’t even fit me, and I don’t want to get married in white anyway. But twenty dollars is a pittance for such a slice of history.

The second was an authentic Victorian embroidered coat. Also in perfect (well, almost perfect) condition. For…

TWELVE DOLLARS.

It’s black and ankle-length and fits like it was made for me. I am not sure I will ever wear it, because of course I would fall in the mud two steps out of the house if I ever tried. But it is the oldest thing I own, and I can practically feel the ghosts waking up.

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red polka dots & orange stripes

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I love, love, love square-dancing dresses. I’m not sure exactly how this particular style came to be called so, but I love the immediate association with soft twangs and towering hair. Frills and poufs forever, especially on the first day of spring.

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A very eager girl approached me as I was shooting and asked to help. She didn’t seem likely to steal my camera, so I handed it over and she took the above shot. Pretty nice! Strangers’ reactions to my photo shoots have always been positive. I hear horror stories about deliberate sabotage and snickering behind backs, but that’s never been the case for me. Lots of staring, sure. But I’m kind of asking for that.

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black polka dots, yellow florals, & way too much green

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You know that one Seinfeld episode where Elaine is thrilled to be called “breathtaking” by a potential suitor, only to discover that he applies that word to literally everything? No one wants to be categorized with scrambled eggs and an ugly baby, but saying so makes you the asshole. You’ve seen that one episode, right?

That’s how I feel about my writing class.

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It’s not that I think I’m the hottest shit around. But it’s hard to trust any critique when every. single. story is brilliant and amazing and a paragon of its genre. It’s hard to trust the eye of someone who has not proven any discernment whatsoever. I mean, I get it. We’re all terrified to be the class asshole. Better to keep criticisms light and praise flowing, lest your victims return the favor when it’s your turn. But there has got to be a middle ground between “this is perfect and you are a god” and “who told you you could write?”

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And even if the story is brilliant – what makes it so? What does it stir? Where does the passion hit you? It’s the same failure mode as “everyone is beautiful” rhetoric: when everyone is beautiful, then by god no one is.

I’m leading the charge toward more exacting adjectives. Tell me my work is transcendent and chilling and it hits you somewhere so painfully atavistic you need to lie down for a while. Or tell me it’s maudlin and derivative and you need to go lie down for a different reason. Either way. Your perspective is valid. Articulate it.

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