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Just simple shots I grabbed after work, but I LOVED this outfit. This dress is the hardest-working garment in my closet. It’s shown up on the blog at least once a month since I got it in March. But seriously, it’s the best. Vintage, perfectly fitting, only $30 at one of my favorite brick-and-mortar shops.  And it goes with anything. Any season, any color. I’ve spent so long collecting loud, loud dresses that I’ve forgotten how nice it is to have staples.

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Dress: vintage, via brick-and-mortar store

Shoes: vintage, via eBay

Everything else: thrifted

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still tacky & the leibster award

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This is still one of my favorite posts of all time, and I stand by it 100%. I play at elegance sometimes, but everyone should know what a tacky fuck I am. I think about it every time I pull out this sweater, which is one of the most beloved things in my wardrobe.

In other news, Kristina nominated me for the Leibster Award. It’s a “learn more about the blogger!” meme, and I love answering surveys and questionnaires, so why not, eh?

First, eleven random facts about me:

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1. I’ve been working at haunted houses for almost a decade now. I grew up loving them, and I started volunteering the minute I was old enough. The rest is history. For next year, my tenth anniversary, I think I might take a sabbatical for “research & development” – i.e., going to a bunch of other haunted houses. I’m so busy working that I haven’t actually been to one in years!

2. I’m the only child of older parents who had tried for years to have kids. My mom was 42 when I was born; my dad, 38. The day after I was born, there was an article in the paper about women who are pregnant in their 40s being more likely to live to 100. My mom cut it out and laminated it, and she still has it.

3. I have Asperger’s and OCD. Though Asperger’s is no longer a distinct diagnosis, having been rolled into the rest of the autism spectrum, I feel most comfortable identifying as an Aspie. I was diagnosed in my teens after years of feeling profoundly alienated from the world. I’ve come a long way re: my social skills. Now, at 21, I can usually pass for neurotypical pretty well, with the exception of some motor tics and other stimmy behaviors.

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Skirt: via costume shop

Shoes: vintage, via eBay

Hat: from a friend

Everything else: thrifted

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4. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: I love Latin. I love it. In high school, Latin class was just about the only thing getting me out of bed in the morning. And, if I do say so myself, I’m really damn good at it. The language just makes inherent sense to me. I swear I was born with an extra grammar lobe.

5. I’ve been fascinated by criminology since I was a kid. I was about 11 when I first started writing psychological profiles of my favorite book & movie villains, and it snowballed from there. I took a few criminology classes, and I once had serious designs on a career in the subject, but I have a lot of complicated criminal-industrial-complex-related feelings, so that’s a ghost I’ve more or less given up. I do watch a lot of Orange Is the New Black, though.

6. I’m a really good cook! My specialty is a sweet potato, caramelized onion, and Swiss cheese pie with shortbread crust. Both my parents used to be professional chefs, so it’s in the blood.

7. I’ve made peace with the fact that I might never finish college. I love learning and I love knowledge for its own sake, but my brain isn’t well suited to academics (except for Latin). I went to college for two years, and that’s better than nothing. I have a day job I like and plenty of creative outlets. Not everyone needs a degree.

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8. I used to sing classical music, and I miss it every day. I wish I could find more amateur musical opportunities! As it stands, all the choirs near me are either a) religious, b) a huge time commitment, or c) both. I’m often tempted to join a church just to participate in the choir, but that feels dishonest.

9. I’m polyamorous. I have a primary partner whom I live with, and secondaries scattered about. I could easily write a post and a half about this alone, so I’ll leave it there, but I’m willing to answer questions!

10. Two years ago, I ranted on reddit about a political issue that was bothering me. A scout for an international magazine saw it and messaged me, and that’s how I ended up writing for The Prague Revue until they took a hiatus this summer.

11. I am terrible at keeping track of my glasses. At least twice a week I misplace them for a few hours and have to squint my way through the day. My eyesight isn’t awful, but the glasses definitely help.

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Now for the q&a:

1. What inspired you to start a blog?

I’ve had several blogs throughout my life. When you love both writing and attention as much as I do, it’s only natural. I started this particular one because I’d been posting my outfit photos on Facebook for a few months, and I decided to move them to a more formal platform. But, if we’re being real, the actual catalyst was that I was procrastinating my finals and in kind of a manic mood, and I decided to start a huge project instead of writing a paper about Latin etymology.

2. Who is your favorite style icon?

My absolute favorite designer is Elsa Schiaparelli, she of the famous lobster dress. I love Iris Apfel and Beatrix Ost. And even though she doesn’t really blog anymore, I really loved Solanah of Vixen Vintage. She had such a lush, cozy vintage style.

3. Can you name two of your favorite bloggers and explain why they are your favorites?

My current favorites are Nora of Nora Finds and Melissa of Specs & the City. My own style is equal parts of each, and it’s cool to see that mirrored. Nora has the best vintage wardrobe I have ever seen. She puts together accessories in ways that are almost too busy, but end up falling on the side of eccentric & elegant instead. And Melissa is a brilliant artist. Her entire world is madcap and overbright. I envy her editorial vision .

4. What’s one wardrobe essential you can’t live without?

Fit-and-flare dresses in every possible color and pattern, naturally. Brightly colored tights. Men’s oxfords. I have a uniform of late, and I’m pretty happy about that.

5. How would you describe your blogging style?

Overeager and pretentious. I’m kidding, but only kinda.

6. What is your greatest achievement outside of blogging?

I won eleven Latin awards in high school, but I feel utterly lame choosing that one, given that I graduated four years ago. Honestly, I suppose it would be learning to live with my mental issues and build a life to the extent that I have. I live on my own with a partner, and a few years ago I didn’t think that would be something I’d be able to do.

7. What was the last book you read?

Incubus, by Anne Arensberg. And it was AMAZING. If you like spooky, atmospheric horror, not the bloodbath kind but the kind that settles in your chest, you need to check it out.

8. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Ireland all the way. Rebecca of The Clothes Horse moved to Northern Ireland last year, and her pictures have made me fall even deeper in love with the place.

9. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Married to my primary partner, with possibly a mortgage and definitely a pet. Having published my short-story collection, plus a few auxiliary stories. Earning at least half my income writing freelance. Maybe owning an antiques shop, maybe owning a haunted bed-and-breakfast. Maybe both.

10. What was the first book or movie that made an impact on your life?

I saw Sleeping Beauty when I was four years old, and I’ve been deeply in love with Maleficent ever since.

11. What advice would you give someone who has just started blogging?

Post whatever the fresh hell you want. Seriously. Build an audience by being you first and foremost. You can refine later. First you want to know that people are reading you for yourself, not for whatever airs you’re trying to put on.

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I always feel so awkward tagging people in these things, so how about this: if you’re reading this and you want to participate, consider yourself tagged!

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apples, saddle shoes, & ideological purity

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Yes, I have more than one apple dress. This one’s from Hell Bunny. I got it during July’s Amazon sale, along with my cherry dress. I’ve been buying a lot more “vintage-inspired” – a.k.a. non-vintage – clothes than I used to. I still adore true vintage and prefer it, but I’m getting frustrated with how fast it wears out. My oldest dresses are unraveling under the arms and at the hems, and it’s getting expensive. I’ve been trying to invest in some really well-made “retro style” dresses.

But, even more than that, I think I’ve gotten burned out on trying to make my life a political statement.

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Let me be quite clear: I still think reusing and recycling clothing is objectively better! I still think fast fashion is destroying the planet! I still want to maintain a wardrobe that’s at least 75% vintage/thrifted! But I also think boycotting things is kinda…hypocritical. Because I still eat meat. I still – though I don’t drive – make use of others’ cars. I still love novelty Halloween crap. I am fully complicit in all that a Western lifestyle entails, and unless I’m prepared to fully overhaul it – which, let’s be real, I’m not – I have no business looking down my nose at others’ consumption.

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The perfect really is the enemy of the good. I think a lot of people who might otherwise want to cut down on meat or gas or cheap Chinese clothes are scared off by the intensity of some of the hard-liners: “if you’re not a thrifting non-driving vegan, you’re a terrible worthless person!” It becomes impossible to make small changes of any kind, because it becomes all or nothing. And I don’t want to be that hard-liner. I’d rather be approachable than strident.

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Dress: Hell Bunny

Hat: old & beloved

Everything else: thrifted

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And, frankly, I’m not really sold on the idea that individual efforts are terribly powerful to begin with. I really like this post on the subject:

Power rested not in what you did as one person, but what you did as many people, as one part of a large, organized, and focused movement. For him, this meant organizing workers to go on strike for better conditions, and eventually it meant winning the right to unionize. What you ate for lunch or happened to be wearing was of absolutely no concern whatsoever.

This was striking to me, because it was the mirror opposite of my culture back home in Canada. Where I came from, you expressed your political beliefs—firstly and very often lastly—through personal lifestyle choices. By loudly proclaiming your vegetarianism. By shopping fair trade and local and boycotting big, evil brands.

So I’m done preaching (mostly to the choir) the merits of vintage clothing. I’d rather donate to a garment workers’ union. Symbolic empowerment only does so much.

The bottom line: don’t worry so much about whether all your clothes are ethical or all your relationships sufficiently feminist or all your tastes in media un-problematic. Agitate for the changes you want to see, but you don’t have to internalize purity in everything you do.

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attend the tale of toni todd

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This past summer, I went to a local theater company’s costume sale and bought about 25 dresses for my Etsy shop, which I’ve only just gotten around to photographing (listings will be up sometime this week). I snatched up anything I thought might be remotely salable. The directors were thrilled to get rid of everything – they handed me a garbage bag and told me to go nuts. I promised Josh I was buying to sell, not to wear. Our apartment is only so big. But I’m keeping the hell out of this vintage Toni Todd dress I found in the pile.

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I’ve been waiting most of the summer to wear this dress. It’s really an autumn number. And it looks twee-in-the-best way with the saddle shoes I also picked up at the costume sale. It always delights me to find a piece with a label I recognize, a bit of history I already know. Toni Todd wasn’t a person but the name for the Misses division at R & M Kaufman. It was basically the fast fashion of its day, but you’d hardly guess that from its construction. I don’t want to be one of those “back in the day” curmudgeons, but…some things really just were better back then. Do you think a $20 J.C. Penney dress made today would ever last 50 years?

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Dress: vintage, via costume sale

Coat: vintage, via brick-and-mortar store

Everything else: thrifted

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the magic shoot

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This is, hands-down, my favorite photo spot ever. Ever ever ever. I don’t use it very often, because variety and all, but every time I do, my shots come out looking baller and a half. Witness: here, here, and here. (Also witness: how long my hair has gotten! I stopped cutting it last year just before Halloween, and I can’t wait until it’s long enough for fancy Victorian updos.)

But seriously, this place. I live in an old mill town, and though most of the mills & attendant waterways have been refurbished, to serve as museums or shopping malls, a few have been left to crumble. This is one of them. It’s well enough preserved that I don’t feel like a bull in a china shop, but rundown enough to be interesting. There’s something ineffable here. The light is always perfect and the air is always crisp and I never get flustered or frustrated or drop my camera. Everything just…flows here.

My dress is vintage via Rusty Zipper. I’ve worn it on the blog before, but I’ve since modified it. I didn’t care for the original ’70s-tastic sleeves. My shoes are men’s loafers I dug out of a thrift-store dollar bin, and they are seriously the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. You ever find something so comfy that wearing it in public feels like cheating, like you’re just waiting for everyone to notice you’re actually wearing pajamas? Yeah, these shoes. They’re practically slippers.

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Dress: vintage, via Rusty Zipper

Hat: old & beloved

Everything else: thrifted

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the devil’s carnival

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…is a movie I have not yet seen, and I am quite frankly surprised my goth friends haven’t disowned me yet.

Seriously, though, carnivals and circuses are so…unsettling. Without even trying. It’s not the “creepy clown” archeypte; that’s never really done much for me, honestly. I think it’s the fact that these whole worlds, these insular, glittering universes, can be packed up and whisked away at a moment’s notice. Makes you wonder why they’re leaving in such a hurry.

Incidentally, has anyone else noticed that a lot of bloggers seem rather, uh, fixated on Disney World? It seems to cut across genre lines, honestly: almost every “big” blogger I follow has done some kind of Disney post. I’m not sure whether “people who enjoy fashion blogging” and “people who enjoy Disney World” are categories with a lot of natural overlap, or whether it’s more of a status thing. Who knows?

I do know that I, personally, find Disney World more than a little weird. I read a lot of conspiracy theories and r/truecreepy, and while I’m not sure how much of it I believe, I certainly believe enough to put me off theme parks for basically ever.

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victoriana

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This was supposed to be a steampunk outfit, but it ended up more “1940s train traveler”. Ah well. I love it anyway. And what better to pair it with than this short story? It’s sort of based on Chekhov’s “The Bet”, which I read when I was 10 and which proved very formative to my literary sensibilities.

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Let me first whet your palate with the mention of Dr. Lucius von Schroeder. It is with a bowed head and a mist in mine eye that I recount his fate. Not I, nor the beings ingrained within this volume, shall pass judgment should you choose to turn your dear faint head away.

Von Schroeder was only a boy. I shouldn’t have nursed his whims so. Then again, bravado had thrilled him since his first beard. It was writ epic in his nature. Who was I to stand in his God (or whomever)-given way?

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Von Schroeder craved beginnings and feared their ends terribly. He spoke of new dawns and advances yet unseen with besotted rapture. I don’t think his early days in the seminary had ever really quit him. He spurned the Church too vocally, too frequently, as though expunging whatever kernel of faith yet remained. He swore fidelity to science through and through, but I knew better. One night, when the walls seemed thin as ash and wind whipped our meager quarters, I heard the young man pray.

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How life itself ran riot through him! “Ashes to ashes,” he crowed. “Why, you and I are naught but stardust. Think of all we’d accomplish by truly realizing such infinite life. What is a man but his insistence on his own humanity? O, but what wonders we could channel if we’d stop clinging so.”

Lucius lusted faithfully after the ends of the earth. His need for transcendence, for taxonomy greater than his in creation’s kingdom, seemed to dog him with equal parts arousal and anxiety. Were I an insect, carrying discernment in the pads of my feet, I’d have seen the struggle writ subtle on his keen face. The epic of a man who’d abandoned God wrestling his own desire for holiness.

I watched him grow fevered and fevered further. I heard his prayers that weren’t prayers, whispered below breath as he worked. I didn’t recognize his deities. I did not understand his crosses to bear. In his private moments, he stood at a crux between two worlds I would never know.

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I was blind to what truly lay before me until the day my ward summoned me to his bedside. He was pale, but far from enervated; he was lit, incandescent, by the same godforsaken stardust that gripped him so. It hit me: he’d been a little less man each day. A little more spirit. Lucius was ash and wind and his own corner of Armageddon. He wasn’t meant for this world.

“My boy?”

“Professor Crowe, I’ve long known what I have to do. When you return to work, you’ll find your arsenic depleted. Once I have gone, please replace it with any money my earthly possessions will fetch you. It’s the least I can offer. But in the time I have left, there’s one thing I need.”

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He paused. Theatrics always did run deep in Lucius. “Collect my final breath, Professor. Let it ferment. Let whatever cursed thing called me home finally show its face. I will not live to see what multitudes I truly contain.

But you will.”

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I buried a man half my age with a heart twice as heavy. I drafted notes to his family only to remember he had none. The hastily corked bottle containing his final earthly statement dogged me all the while.

And then, my friend, my dear blameless boy, I let it go.

That little carafe exhaled your remains into a world never meant for them. I felt the air itself recoil. And I hung my head in shame.

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But what else would I have done? For all my dedication to this world’s more sordid wonders, I was cowed by something so ineffable. You see, I hunt the darkness in corners long forgotten. I was not prepared to find it in man.

~

Dress & jacket: vintage, via brick-and-mortar store

Boots: vintage, via eBay

Everything else: thrifted

apples & (righteous?) rage

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Yesterday I was informed by someone on tumblr that creative anachronism (encompassing vintage fashion, historical reenactment, Gatsby parties, etc.) is “intrinsically bigoted, mainly racist. This seems pretty obvious to me. Like white people romanticizing the Jim Crow era? It’s disgusting.”

First of all, I know, I know: I brought it on myself by frequenting tumblr. (Shut up, there’s good fanfic there.) But seriously, I could not let this go un-debunked.

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I, as a lover of ‘20s and ‘50s aesthetics, am not romanticizing the Jim Crow era. I’m culling specific aspects of those decades to take pleasure in, and that is a very salient difference. I’m baffled by the argument that merely existing adjacent to oppression is enough to damn a particular art form. “These clothes/this food/this style of entertainment was popular in a time when people believed messed-up things about race and gender; therefore, appreciating them is tantamount to expressing those beliefs yourself.”

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No. It doesn’t work like that. First of all, that’s called the fallacy of association, and we all know how I feel about logical fallacies. But more importantly – by that logic, I can’t very well enjoy anything at all, can I? Every era, including this one, has had its despots, its bigotries, its injustices of every size. Everything is tainted by some hand or another. But every era, including this one, also has real beauty and wonder and pockets of progress.

Just as I refuse to take the bad with the good, I also refuse to throw away the good along with the bad. Think about how culturally barren we’d be if we tossed everything of less-than-pure origin. Henry Ford was a Nazi apologist, but I’m still gonna keep riding in cars.

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And if I’m being even more cynical, it just feels like another way of telling people, especially women, that our physical appearance is all you need to know about us. That you can effectively gauge my worldview, my values, my desires, my aptitude for social progress based on what I’m wearing. A miniskirt doesn’t mean I’m asking to be assaulted; a medieval dress and liripipe don’t mean I want to own serfs; a garish Victorian hat doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be allowed to vote. You’d know that if you bothered to listen to my words rather than letting fabric speak for me.

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