teal polka dots, black button hat, & pink everything else

dots Idots IV

I am so very fond of finding the kind of dresses that ModLoaf marks up for dozens of dollars at thrift stores for cheap. (And in better, sturdier fabrics, I might add.) This dress, plucked from the Classy Closet for $14, is almost a parody of the ModCloth aesthetic.

Sometimes it seems like ModCloth and co. are caricaturing the “retro” look. Actual vintage dresses, to that crowd, might not be recognizable as vintage, because they don’t hit all the tropes in one. Most dresses do not have polka dots and Peter Pan collars and froofy skirts (though how wonderful it would be if they did!).

And then I find dresses like this and go “I guess the stereotype had to come from somewhere.”

dots II dots VI

dots IX dots V dots VIII dots VII dots X

 

the other holy grail

I

IV

Sometimes you’re killing time at Old Gold before work and you decide, because you’re an incorrigible masochist, that trying on the fit-and-flare with the Peter Pan collar might be a good idea. It’s just for fun, you keep lecturing yourself, knowing full well that the purse strings are already loosening.

And then you pay up front and walk out wearing the dress, because sometimes good vintage is a matter of imprinting, really. Would you abandon a duckling that decided to make you its mama?

This dress is my Christmas present to myself. (If you follow my Facebook, you’ll notice that I also received a 40-legged stuffed caterpillar as long as I am tall and that it is the light of my life. I am a simple creature, driven by good vintage and weird garish novelties.)

III IX

XI VI X VIII VII

 

all is not lost

I sure hopped on my soapbox yesterday. I carry one everywhere just to be safe. But I don’t like to identify a problem without doing something about it, so I want to highlight a few bloggers who break that “cupcakes and hipsters” mold. As much as I bitch and bemoan my loneliness, I am really not the only blogger trying to do something different.

A few things I look for in a really quality blogger:

  • First and foremost, uniqueness. Not to get all “I’m not like other girls” on you and sniff that popular interests are inherently bad. Not at all! But no matter how pedestrian your passions, I want to see them filtered through the lens of you. I want to see them come alive through your eyes. Few things bore me faster than someone with no opinions and no perspective.
  • Humility. I don’t think anyone is required to apologize for the things they have or the life they lead. I’m not expecting high-end bloggers to prostrate themselves at my feet. But hideously expensive items presented without context or commentary seems tone-deaf to me, particularly when they’re included in “gift guides” or “shop my closet” links. You don’t have to apologize, but I would like you to acknowledge your presence in the 1%. And maybe include a few cheaper alternatives.
  • In that vein,  I have become quite cynical about corporate sponsorships. Sometimes I really appreciate them: I always like seeing bloggers review products or sellers I’d been considering. Hey, I’ve done one myself. But there’s a point at which it stops seeming like a review and becomes blatant ass-kissing. As though the blogger is the new “face” of the product rather than just another discerning consumer. It feels really dishonest to me, and antithetical to what (I think) fashion blogging should be about: an independent take on style, not just another corporate extension. Bloggers dressed in head-to-toe c/o are a huge turn-off. If you’re relying on sponsors to dress you, you’ve lost touch with the “personal” element of personal style.
  • Artistry. This is probably the most important. I am forever endeared to any blogger who can describe her outfit beyond “it looked nice”. I’m sure it did, but what inspired you? What character are you playing? Do you feel like a Greek goddess or a riot grrl? Maybe both? Show me that you’re thinking here. Show me that you’re interested in style, the art, not just clothing, the acquisition.

Here are some favorites that break the mold.

Advanced Style

hope I

I have a soft spot for anyone pushing the boundaries of who fashion is for. AS is full of older women (and a few men) who refuse to diminish. They wear exactly what they choose, and they have no patience for prudes half their age clucking “do”s and “don’t”s at them. Ari Seth Cohen’s photography is bright but down to earth; he’s trying to complement the glossies, not replace them. He even released a documentary this fall.

Downside: as I’ve gotten more invested in Advanced Style, I’ve spent a lot more time combing the obituaries.

Amy Flying a Kite

hope II

Amy, admittedly, hits a lot of the marks I railed against yesterday (grainy pensiveness, lots of food photos). That said, her versions of them make clear that they come from within and not without. She’s a poet and a folk musician, and everything about her oozes the earnestness thereof. The way she writes about her life and her art and her style is just…the best word I have is reverent:

I told myself many years ago that I must learn to call every winter beautiful and find my own reasons for saying so. I will not spend a lick of December longing for the garden or trying to catch the fragrance of flowers. I will stay cozy and close to the fireplace while being dazzled by the kind of glitter you can only find in the snow. I will bake shortbread cookies and give them a hot cocoa bath. I will find one hundred reasons to love the season in which I was born.

I think the main difference between her and other “hipster” bloggers is that Amy doesn’t take a thing for granted. She’s about finding beauty in every mote of existence. She might seem maudlin, but nope: she’s just that sentimental. She can’t be pretentious, because there’s no pretense. This is who she is. And I love it.

Eccentric Owl

hope III

Let’s be real; Kristina’s style is crazy similar to mine. We’ve both got the kooky/pinup/society dame thing going on. And we’re exactly the same size, so the fantasy of sharing her wardrobe is just that much closet to reality. More than that, though, she integrates her outfits into her world and shows off just how much can be done with clothing. She designs costumes for her husband’s short films and puts together outfits inspired by books she’s reading. And her makeup skills put me to shame.

She’s also just…real. I don’t know how else to put it. She writes simply and warmly but manages to avoid the cloying pseudo-intimacy I see in so many bloggers. She’s also very different from me spiritually and socially, but our disagreements are never anything but civil. For instance, she disagrees that sex work is empowering to women, but she’s supporting my Dressember campaign for the International Union of Sex Workers because she still believes their rights should be protected. I respect that.

As a person, she couldn’t be more down to earth; as an artist, she whisks me away. That’s a combination I always appreciate.

Helga Von Trollop

hope IV

Helga is the kind of bawdy older woman I can imagine stuffing a dollar in a Chippendale’s g-string. And then maybe rushing the stage, because you only live once. She reminds me of one of my mom’s friends: a squat, redheaded Kiwi prone to overuse of the word “fabulous”. Helga is everything I want to be when I grow up, and getting drunk with her is on my bucket list.

Kitsune-kun

hope V

She’s an artist, plain and simple. She makes no distinction between “outfit” and “costume”: the whole world’s her stage, every photo a production. I deeply admire that.

Melodic, Thrifty, & Chic

hope VI

Anna is unbearably twee. And also cyberpunk, and also dapper as all hell. She remains the most genuinely chameleonic fashion blogger I’ve ever seen. It takes a sharp eye to wear so many distinct styles and look 100% at home in each one. She’s also awkward as fuck, in the most adorable way possible. She takes this self-deprecating tone that never comes off as grating, just honest.

Not only THAT, but she’s one of the few bloggers who does corporate sponsorship right. She gives honest reviews of the products in question. No fawning, no smarm. She also sees the free swag for what it is: a gift, not a given. So many bloggers seem all too blase about the free stuff. Anna never takes it for granted.

The Clothes Horse

hope VII

Disclaimer: Rebecca is pretty damn popular. Last I checked, she had >10k followers on Facebook. But you know what, I love her anyway. She’s the only capital-B blogger I really follow, but rest assured she deserves it. Her blog is its own universe, full of starched pleats and pre-Raphaelites. Her posts never feel like just collections of photos: they’re knit together with poetry, art history, or whatever else she’s inspired by that day. Here’s what she wrote about Carven’s pre-fall 2013 collection:

I envision the Carven Pre-fall 2013 girl as a real-life Margot Tennebaum of inherited furs and consanguineous neuroses. She’s supposedly getting a master’s degree in Art History, but due to her hermit-like tendencies she hasn’t managed to complete her course work, let alone start her required internship. She spends most days deep within the recesses of her ancestral home reading Anais Nin by a fireplace filled with candles and cooking pasta over a bunsen burner. When she ventures out her disheveled hair and the dark circles under her eyes always betray her more curious nature no matter how gentrified her outfits of vintage Ferragamos, Chanel jackets, and crocodile clutches.

The Leather Fanny Pack

hope VIII

Because she’s the wacky society dame I desperately aspire to be. She’s obsessed with A Series of Unfortunate Events and dresses like the Esme Squalor of my headcanon. She is dark and arty (and just a wee bit insufferable) and completely fabulous.

dame in plaid

I

IX

It’s just a basic day dress, your average McCardell-esque cotton shirtwaist, but this dress always feels ineffably fancy to me. There’s something so elegant in the soft swingy folds. I feel like a working-class wife dolling up her children for Sunday service: practical but far from plain. Forget aprons and rolled-up sleeves. The order of the day is pearls, plaid, and lace-up boots. And a really excellent hat, because of course. I should really learn to do finger waves.

VI III

X XII IV VIII VII

XI

 

fever dream

IV I

I’m sick. Like, fever-dreams-&-blurry-vision sick. I’m getting a strep test in an hour, but thank Loaf for these photos I took last week and put away for a day like this. I knew I would get sick after the last run of shows; I always do. Cast parties are basically germ orgies. (And also regular orgies.)

On the plus side, my current delirium is making American Horror Story: Freakshow REALLY interesting.

IX XII VIII

XIII XI VI VII X

autopilot

I

So I’m basically eating, sleeping, and breathing Nightmare Vermont. And I mean literally breathing: our venue this year is an old horse barn, and after a few hours’ mucking I was coughing up black gunk. Last night I finished building a fifteen-pound suit out of mangy old stuffed animals. Yes, I realize how very “tiny violin” it is to complain about a volunteer job that I actually love with all my shriveled heart. That’s not going to stop me.

Fortunately, I’ve backlogged several outfits to tide y’all over during hell week(s). That might be cheating, but you seriously don’t want to see what I’m actually wearing today. Men’s bike leggings with way too much crotch space and an itchy sweater I found while digging through the costumes in our storage unit. Yep. Scaling the heights of fashion right here.

In the name of having something – anything – interesting to say today, I present the story of an autopiloted day far worse than mine.

III XII VIII

XIV II

XIII XV

it’s my goddamn birthday

XII

I visited my ancestral stomping grounds for my 20th-birthday dinner. Sponge cake and homemade dumplings, which I’ve requested for the past, oh, twelve birthdays. Spend two hours making fifty dumplings, and they’re gone in twenty minutes. I could weep tears of soy sauce.

IV

VIII

III

V

I wonder how one’s birth date affects one’s life. I grew up craving the semiotics of spring – lilacs, freshly mown lawns – at least in part because they meant I’d soon get cake and presents. What if I’d been born in midwinter? Would I crave snowdrifts? Would I be less inclined toward seasonal doldrums?

I

V

VI

II

XI

IX

Today I’m getting my fourth tattoo! T-minus three hours.

X

Photo cred to my mom, who underwent major surgery on my behalf exactly 20 years ago!

dressember quickies

Remember when I posted OotDs almost on the daily? Over the year and a half I’ve run this blog, I’ve phased out of straight-up outfit posts. Those certainly have  a place, but photography and scenic design have started to interest me nearly as much as fashion does. I want to use clothes to portray something, not just show them off for showing off’s sake. I’d rather do more creative shoots less frequently. Mirror shots are seriously overplayed.

But…they’re a godsend when it’s too cold and dark to take any real photos but you desperately want to stay relevant. I’ve been taking two-second snapshots in the mirror at work to document my Dressember process. I’ll run it through again: I’m wearing dresses every day for a month to promote the International Justice Mission’s campaign against human trafficking (and please consider donating if you can spare a few). And today I thought I’d commemorate what I wore this week.

Also, I figure it’s nice to give a look at what I actually wear day-to-day once in a while. I’m not always quite as ostentatious on a daily basis as I am in some of my shoots. I post when I have something special to show, and though I like all these outfits, I’m not sure that any of ’em would normally make the blog.

Tuesday, doing my ice-princess thing: 

Sweater: Replays Dress & Hat: Old Gold Tights: Goodwill Belt: Battery Street Jeans Shoes & Scarf: Gifted

dressember

Wednesday, a premature Valentine: 

Dress: Old Gold Sweater: Classy Closet Belt: Downtown Threads Tights: Goodwill Brooch: Battery Street Jeans Hat & Shoes: Gifted

dressember

Thursday, channeling warmer days: 

Dress & Belt: Battery Street Jeans Coat: Handed down from Mom Hat: Old Gold Tights: Goodwill Shoes: Gifted

dressember

And Friday, hoping to scare up some snow by going full elf.

Dress: Classy Closet Peacoat: Second Time Around Tights: Spirit Halloween Belt: Savers Necklace: Old Gold Hat & Shoes: Gifted

dressember elf

housekeeping

New in my Etsy shop. Click on the photos to visit the listings.

red coat II

suit jacket I

blouse II

In other blog news…

  • This week, I’ll be sponsoring a giveaway with Marlen of Messages on a Napkin. One lucky reader, after liking my shop on Facebook and commenting with their favorite garment, will receive a $25 gift card to Dressed in the Dark Vintage. I’ll promote it on Facebook when it’s finalized, of course, but keep your eyes peeled anyway. I also bought a month of ad space on Marlen’s blog! I’m five down on the right.
  • I received my first creepy doll contest submission! It sets the bar pretty damn high, but there’s still plenty of time to enter. Find out how here.
  • As of today, I am officially participating in Dressember. If I can wear dresses for a month (is that even a question?), volunteers will pledge to donate to the International Justice Mission’s campaign against human trafficking. I’ll be documenting my dresses both on the blog and on Facebook. Visit my profile here, and please consider donating if you can spare a little.

steam-powered witch

II

I wrote yesterday about my latest inspirations and the way I’ve been integrating them into my daily style. Today I’m illustrating what that actually looks like. This is a far primmer silhouette than I favored earlier this fall, when I was swishing about in cloaks and peasant skirts. The past few weeks, I’ve been all about crispness and crinolines.

I’ve also found myself influenced by Josh’s aesthetics. The man is unendurably steampunk. He wears top hats and white gloves on the regular. Sometimes I like to be his female counterpart in more ways than one. I appreciate our contrasts, but I also like it when we match. Today I attempted to combine our respective styles: I’m a witch, done fluorescent steampunk style. I went for steampunk silhouettes, but rendered in aggressively mod colors.

VI

III

IV

Why choose between a broomstick and a parasol?

I’m not sure how I feel about the contrast between the wall and the grass. It doesn’t look stylized or deliberate enough. It’s too incidental, like I didn’t give enough of a shit to find a cleaner setting. Then again, this entire outfit is a study in contrasts. Why not one more?

Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking of investing in some studio space one or two days a week. I could haul a trunk of props and hammer out two or three different shoots in a place I could design to my specifications. Does anyone in the Burlington area know where I might find such a thing?

IX

X

V

VII

Dress: Handed down from Mom Crinolines, Tights, & Gloves: Spirit Halloween Coat: Macy’s Hat & Necklace: Old Gold Boots: Battery Street Jeans

XI