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

yellow II

yellow I

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.

yellow X yellow IV

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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bric-a-brac

VI

 

Taken at Barge Canal Market this past weekend. I think the reason I love taking photos in antique stores is that I get to practice my technique without having to set anything up. I get to work on capturing a scene already arranged for me. At home I have to haul out lamps and dress forms and, I dunno, electric toothbrushes to create the same effortless effect.

That, and, I mean, antiques.

VIIXI

 

VIII XV XII XIII X XIV

rounding up

Every few months, I like to catalog my inspirations. Collating images I’m drawn to gives my work some direction. It’s funny how much of our own lives slips under the everyday radar. I often don’t notice trends and evolutions in my aesthetic tastes without blatant evidence. For the past several weeks, it seems I’ve been into…

  • crispness. Far more than usual. Suddenly I feel like a schoolgirl in structured wool and swingy coats. I’ve become almost secretarially prim. I haven’t photographed any such outfits, mostly because I haven’t a clue how to style such a shoot to make it stand out, but I’ve been loving the aesthetic.
  • crinolines. They add some buoyancy to my prim-‘n’-proper silhouettes.
  • witch gear. I’ve been wearing more black lately. I haven’t abandoned my beloved brights, but lately I’ve been relegating them more and more to accents. It’s unbearably cliche, but each black piece I drape feels like a new layer of magic.
  • lace, and its autumnal twin, brocade. A simple silhouette in a luxurious fabric is really doing it for me right now.
  • religious imagery. I’ve always been drawn to things that suggest the sacred. I was a religion major, after all. Lately I’m fascinated by the line between reverence and blasphemy. When does sartorial homage become outright mockery – and why, exactly, should I care? It’s such an interesting visual struggle.
  • Victoriana. Josh is, as his roommate lovingly puts it, balls-deep in steampunk. He matter-of-factly dons top hats and goggles in his daily life. I’ve become interested in interpreting his style in my own way, filtering it through my own lens. I’m indifferent to aviator caps and pith helmets, but corsets and lace-up boots suggest a certain gothiness that I’m more than happy to bring to my aesthetic.

Click on each photo for its source.

rusty zipper I

dirndl

There’s no way this would fit me, so I implore one of my readers to give it a good home! It’s for sale on Etsy by Moonchild Vintage.

moonchildvintage

mourning cape

Antique Victorian mourning cape for sale on Etsy.

rusty cuts

Rusty Cuts makes bespoke items from vintage fabrics and patterns. I love the idea, especially as it dovetails so nicely with my slow fashion pledge.

This skirt is a perfect example of what I wrote above about religious imagery. Is it an homage or an abomination? Who the hell knows? The contrast, and its inherent shock value, makes it head-turning.

doll poupee

roberta

black swan

all black

suspenders

yellow daze

city in the rain

70s knit dress

slowing it down

First of all, let me announce far and wide that I haven’t forgotten about y’all, or this blog, or even (perish the thought) Halloween itself. I lost my $%&*$#& tripod, probably thanks to seasonal gremlins. Although I could probably wheedle some photos out of my loved ones, it’s just not the same as manning the shutter myself. Prepare, though, for a massive backlog of posts (including my excruciatingly belated Halloween costume) when I either find it or suck it up and shell out for a new one. In the meantime, I’ll be filling this blog with writing, non-fashion photography, and maybe a few pretty pictures from elsewhere on the web.  And today I’m unveiling something I’ve been pondering for a while now.

thrifted

You’ve seen this picture before, but look – it’s an entirely vintage/thrifted outfit!

Starting on January 1st, I will no longer be participating in fast fashion. I’ve been disappointed for some time with fashion blogging’s emphasis on consumption over creativity. I’m tired of same-old-same-old editorials with brand names in full, obnoxious view, as though the price tag were the end-all of a garment.  I’m tired of uninspired outfit posts with no story to tell, just a label to flaunt. The way I see it, fashion blogging is supposed to be about bringing the art of clothing to a wider audience. Taking it into our own hands and pioneering new styles. I’m all about the democratization of high fashion (and high art in general). There are so many talents out there whose work might never see the light of day were it not for the internet and blogging culture. So it kinda bums me out when I see post after post about endless acquisition of off-the-rack basics. Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the creation of something the world has never seen before?

On its face, I don’t really have a problem with this. Hell, I’m not immune to attention-whoring when I find a really excellent vintage hat. But I’m tired of pretending that the glorification of status and materialism has no cost. I want to acknowledge that much of American culture’s pursuit of beauty ascends at the expense of human rights and environmental preservation. Yes, I know that Forever 21 dress is cute. But what’s that cuteness worth? Exploited children, shoddy factories, erasure of real craftsmanship? Not to mention that it’ll fall apart after three or four washings, and you’ll be left browsing the racks once again, perpetuating the cycle. I’m done with it.

Starting on January 1st, I will be buying exclusively vintage, thrifted, and handmade clothing. Admittedly, that isn’t much of a statement, coming from me. The clear majority of my clothes already fall into at least one of those categories. But I do occasionally cave in and go nuts at Charlotte Russe or Urban Outfitters. In two months, it stops. As a fashion blogger, I sit in a uniquely advantageous position: I can prove, with visual evidence, how awesome secondhand clothes can look. There’s so much clothing in the world. Why should it fall to ruin because predominant mores decided it’s no longer relevant?

So much of the activism in the fashion world is ultimately superficial. Yes, it’s great that so many people are pushing for a more inclusive perspective of beauty. It’s great that more companies are expanding their audience by marketing to different sizes and economic brackets. But if your definition of “inclusive” includes only those who have the privilege of contemplating fashion in the first place, it’s fundamentally flawed. Compared to the other flaws in the fashion industry, it’s one big ol’ first-world problem. How about including the often indigent workers, the local communities displaced by factories and urban sprawl, the children asthmatic from pollution, in the global discourse on fashion? How about finding balance between luxury and sustainability?

Beauty is tainted when its production is ugly. I am not okay with seeing my art propped up by corrupt, ozone-frying industries. I’m not going to pretend the gobbling of shoddy resources isn’t just another tick of the metaphorical time bomb. And on a more personal level, I care about the fashion world. I love its glitz and grotesquerie, and I damn well want its art to last. It’s the very least I can do to support ethical production and earth-safe materials. We have to lift this metaphorical house from the sand and plant it firmly on solid ground.

Starting January 1st…

  • I will buy primarily from local secondhand/vintage stores. Not only does that recycle the old, it supports the local economy.
  • I will also buy handmade artisanal garments when I can. Etsy is my friend here.
  • No more box stores or fast fashion franchises. No Urban Outfitters, Charlotte Russe, etc. I will, however, keep doing my research, and if certain box stores are particularly ethical, I will continue to patronize them.
  • I will begin making my own clothes more often. I’d like to find sustainably produced fabrics, too, but that will be a later project. I’m easing in.
  • I will keep what I already own. Poorly produced though some of it may be, I find it ultimately disrespectful to throw it out for some grand ideological reason. It was made, I’ve bought it, and I might as well get all the use from it that I can.
  • I will consult Annika’s ethical clothing directory as often as I can. That girl is doing great work.
  • I’m undecided about what to do if someone gifts me a fast-fashion item. Family and friends know about my pledge, and I have no qualms about reminding them of it when holidays and birthdays roll around, but what about acquaintances? Distant relatives? Family friends? Handing it back or asking for the receipt seems like such a cringingly awkward thing to do. Has anyone else who’s made a similar pledge figured out a good system for this?

little red

red VI

In a time when I still counted years

I skipped from fen to forest

with a basket over my arm,

with offal tripe and fruitcake

tucked into a pouch of love

from mother to grandmother,

red XI

and I, the intergenerational messenger,

I skipped from fern to fungi to roots

that stretched out,

angling to ensnare.

red IV

red IX

I counted brushes of my feet against the ferns

and stones against my heels

and whispers of wind

inflating the lining of my cape.

red XV

red XVI

And when a thin, keening voice

wailed my name between howls at the rising moon,

I didn’t stop to let its portent soak.

I was too steeped in my love of the

numerical,

the rhythmic,

the categorical.

red XIX

But the keening voice belonged to a rangy grey figure

who stepped into my path,

on two legs,

deigning to appear more man than beast,

but his snout planed out from his whiskery face

at an indecent angle,

a cockeyed, sinister gesture

(like a butcher, all swathed in blood

but clutching flowers in his hand).

red XVII

His face was athletic –

he’d chased before and he knew all the steps to the dance.

red V

He came forward, snapping

I hid my basket of offal tripe and fruitcake,

foolishly thinking that was what he wanted,

that no thick-muzzled wolf-man was going to snap up

the pouch of love and sweetbreads

sent by my mother, who trusted me

a little too much.

red XVIII

It wasn’t what he wanted.

Of the feast, I remember nothing.

Only that I am glad my cloak was red,

for it hid the steepness of my stains,

and the blood on the insides of my thighs.

“`

Skirt, Hat, Tights, & Pentacle: Gifted Blouse, Brooch, & Boots: Battery Street Jeans Sweater: The Classy Closet Cloak: iParty

Poem by me. Photos by Josh. Autumn by Mother Nature.

nonchalantly bloodstained

purple IX

Franceta Johnson posted an incredibly salient rant today about how tiresome the “glorified selfies” aspect of style blogging can get. She yanked the words right from my brain: there’s practically nothing inspired about three posts a week featuring the same poses, same background, same suspiciously grainy mirror shots. Your outfit better be hella impressive if you’re going to rely on those tropes post in and post out. I suspect that, too often, formulaic photo technique and unvarying background makes fashion photography less of an art form and more of a consumerist “this bag speaks for itself” label circlejerk. And that’s so not what I want my work to be about. The materialism of much of high fashion culture gives me serious misgivings. I love clothes because of the stories you can tell with them using nothing more than fabric draped around a human form. I’m fascinated by just how many volumes color and texture can speak. A $1,000 dress isn’t worth a damn thing if you can’t give it artistic relevance.

I’d really like to move away from your average “stand and pose” fashion photography. We (read: fashion bloggers) all succumb to that sometimes, but if I’m modeling an outfit, I damn well want to model it! To move in it, to play its nuances off the background and the light, to make my photos suggest a story more than the sum of their individual parts. I like working in themes. I like syncretism. My favorite magazine, Vogue, treats its clothes as costumes and its sets as artistic playgrounds. It contextualizes and refines the outfits and the sets until each photo is a complete story unto itself. That’s what I strive for in my fashion photography.
purple I
Today I’m trying to parody the “lazy Sunday” aesthetic. No big deal, I’m just hanging around my kitschy little apartment, absurdly fancy as usual. To further queer the imagery, I played with the light and turned the shots dark and dramatic, not what you’d expect of a cute retro kitchen.
Oh, and the whole shoot was a little inspired by Amanda Palmer’s “The Killing Type” (super super NSFW).
purple II
purple III
purple V
purple XIV
The shock value works on another level, too: “No big deal, I’m just drenched in blood.”
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purple XI
Dress & Belt: Downtown Threads Shoes: Old Gold Tights & Bow: Spirit Halloween Glasses: Zenni Optical
purple XIII
My Karen Walker face.

skulls on skulls

skulls XII

As I bounced down the street in my cheap Spirit Halloween finery, an irrationally angry girl yelled “FREAK!” at me from a passing car. I have to say, I’m disappointed that was the best she could do. Scoundrel, slattern, harlot, blackguard, rapscallion. Someone needs ten vocabulary drills, stat.

skulls III

skulls IX

I really love creepy-cute. There’s something so adorably eerie about smoothing the raw edges of horror into something youthful and hyperfeminine. It’s a dichotomy that makes people look twice: “how cute…wait, are those skulls?” It turns the placid unsettling. I’m also a big fan of imbuing femininity with power, and few things scream “power” to me more than the macabre and the paranormal.

It’s also interesting how context influences and corresponds with individual items. Do the skulls make the dress macabre, or does the dress neutralize the skulls? It’s hard to parse the exact percentages, which makes the social response so interesting: what exactly are we reacting to? Is it just the shock value, or something more nuanced?

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skulls VI

skulls X

skulls XI

I think so much about clothes. Do other people think this much about clothes?

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skulls XVII

I love tightly wound color schemes with one real shock of variation.

skulls XVIII

The fickle weather turned some of these shots a little grainy. I kind of like it. It complements the pastels.

(That’s hair dye on my wrist. I don’t have the plague.)

skulls XXI

skulls XX

Dress & Belt: Old Gold Cardigan: The Classy Closet Necklace & Suspenders: Battery Street Jeans Tights & Shoes: Gifted Headband: Creative Habitat

skulls XXII

the witching hour

witchy I

I’m on the upswing from a month of serious misfiring in my inspiration lobe. I know I said my hiatus was over, but I spoke a little too soon. For almost one whole month, the longest I have ever gone without blogging, I barely imbibed any fashion media at all. Suddenly everything I loved was just a little too glitzy. Too performative. I harbor great admiration for anyone who can effuse and effuse and effuse without any blows to their sense of personal peace, because I’m sure as hell not one of them. I was swimming in circles in a fishbowl of my own making. The metaphorical paparazzi were banging down my door – and, worse, I was inviting them.

So I went cold turkey, whatever the hell that means. I wore less jewelry. I fattened myself on books I’d meant to read for months – House of Leaves, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I cooked elaborate meals and decorated my new apartment and filled several notebooks with word vomit. I spent afternoons supine on friends’ floors with mugs of earl grey. I read webcomics in bed with my boyfriend until the laptop screen singed our eyeballs. I strolled the beach in a vintage bikini. For one month (well, six weeks, if you count my original proto-hiatus), I focused more on living my life than on performing it.

My blogging feels more informed now, more like a personal niche I’m cultivating and less like the mad momentum of someone who’s in way too deep. It’s a choice. I was worried that I would strip away my performance and attendant bravado to find nothing underneath. That absence of blogging would inevitably become absence of identity. Now that I’m sure I haven’t pigeonholed myself at the callow age of nineteen, I am much more confident in the future of My Kingdom for a Hat. It is one of my many artistic media. It is not all I’m about. My little vacation illustrated that more viscerally than platitudes ever could.

That’s the trouble with a career in creation, I suppose. Parsing what is you and what is just the veneer of you.

witchy II

I am a witch. I have always been a witch. I was scared off for a good year and a half by some unpleasant experiences, but my witchy affinity runs too deep to ever really quit me. Autumn is always the dawn of my inspiration. The Mabon/Samhain season gives me such profound peace that it’s hard for me not to believe in some truth to spirituality. And few things make me feel witchier than dressing up like a harvest goddess.

witchy IV

witchy III

I am, in the strictest sense of the term, an atheist. I believe in no gods. I do not pray to any deity or anthropomorphic representation thereof. That was one of my biggest problems with Wicca: I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief thoroughly enough to incant to Diana and believe I was actually accomplishing anything.

witchy VII

What I do believe in is collusion. I believe not in physical manifestations of spirits, each governing a different arena (Sea God, Sky God, Sun God), but rather in one singular, ineffable divinity that pervades every damn thing. In Chinese philosophical terms, the Tao. When I work a spell, I’m not supplicating before a deity, I am taking charge of the Tao residing in me and realizing its connection to the rest of creation. I am Sea is Sky is Sun. Fuck if I know whether my work actually effects change. On a quantum level, maybe. (That’s another area I’m very interested in, which I could wax positively lyrical about: the confluence of science and spirituality.) I do know that universal cohesion is one of my most fundamental urges. I can’t touch a person without, on some level, being cowed by the fact that we’re all carbon and so are the stars and we’re really just little pockets of the same overarching essence. I can’t smell a flower without pondering the energy manipulation that brought it from seed to stem to scent. This is the way I naturally see the world. Whether or not it means shit in the wider scheme of things, satisfying that structure gives me a deep, clean kind of peace.

witchy VI

witchy VIII

witchy IX

Dress: The Classy Closet Jacket & Belt: Downtown Threads Boots: Battery Street Jeans Pin: Savers Tights, Scarf, & Pentacle: Gifted

witchy V

If you appreciate my thoughts on spirituality, check out Sacred Syncretism, my religion blog. I’ve been trying to put more effort into it lately.

the unbearable brightness of being

white slip I

white slip VI

I’ve been mired in a phase of dreamy, romantigothic lingerie-inspired fashion. Lately it seems that the ambiguity of pastel folds just has more to say than anything sharper and stricter-bodied. Like there’s a secret embedded in each lacy layer.

Also, I just really really enjoy being a flapper.

white slip IV

I’m watching this blog inexorably become about more than just aesthetics, and that feels right. First and foremost, I like to think. I like to create. Fashion happens to be the point at which all my creations coalesce – because, I think, its relation to its audience is so immediate. It draws the eye with physical beauty, then seduces the brain into staying for the story. I love that clothing, the semiotics and theatrics of it, operates on multiple levels. On the one hand, it’s a statement on history and perspective and the thousands of tiny events informing the creation of a single garment. On the other, maybe that’s just some really really pretty lace.

I’m a writer, a haunter, a witch, a feminist, a lover of logic and debate, an amateur scholar of religion. Curating my collection of eye-catching clothes is the locus around which my other passions gather. I love clothing because I can make it say any damn thing I want. I can use it as a segue to say something about poetry, witchcraft, feminism, spirituality, or all or none of the above. I can connect my getups to anything or to nothing. Sometimes the sheer amount of things in the world really cows me. There’s so much to learn about and puzzle over and recoil at. Ultimately, fashion (and all art, really) is not exempt from the world: it’s just one corner of some grand exhilarating web. It’s so much more rewarding when we can make some sense of where it came from and what it’s trying to say.

(Or it might just be a really kickass dress, nothing more. That’s the other great part: sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar, and we as art-consuming masses get to decide when that is.)

Expect more poetry from me. Expect more stories and political commentary and spiritual affectation. I believe that all arts are connected deep in some expressive place. Fashion is much more than the clothes on our collective back: it’s how we live.

white slip VII

white slip V

white slip IX

This look, to me, says “pajamas for day(s)”. It’s just sturdy enough to pass public muster, but all the elements of sleepwear are there: the slip, the oversize blouse worn like a robe, the slippers. The fascinator pulls the look into daytime.

I love how bright and airy these photos turned out. Photographing white can be risky, and I’d like to get better at it, but I do like this slightly ethereal, slightly eye-searing effect.

white slip VIII

white slip III

white slip II

I usually don’t go for big, ostentatious bags (I carry enough tension in my shoulders already), but I couldn’t resist this one. I love the Moulin Rouge-esque pop it gives my flapper garb.

white slip X

white slip XI

Slip, Shoes, & Bag: Battery Street Jeans Tights & Blouse: Gifted Fascinator: Old Gold Necklace: Family heirloom

peasant in lace

lacy XI

I love fairy tales. I always have. I love them for their darkness and their spite, their sickness and their slanted sort of health. I love hidden variations on their themes present, unexpectedly, in the oddest corners of literature. I love seeing them twisted and hinted at and expounded upon. My most evocative mindscape – well, one of them – is a rambling Bavarian cottage lousy with secrets and maybe-truths.

Today I’m Cinderella simultaneously before and after. Cinderella in her lacy altogether returning to the hearth she once called her whole world. The tricky part is figuring out which, the before or the after, is the tragedy.

lacy IX

lacy XIV

I wrote this poem when I was fifteen. I call it City Girls.

Stories are just that,
stories,
flights to pace and prowl,
the bones of poetry and secrets:
into these we build our lives.

Do you remember
the stories from your childhood
do you –
ever let those musty books
take purchase in your mind?

lacy XV

Do you ever let those figures
reassemble,
the bones of creation,
the archetypes of nascence,
to be filled in by the
flesh and faces
of real time?

lacy VI

lacy XVI

That woman on the corner
could be Rapunzel,
skinny and cigaretted
her walk-up patio perched high
against a low-down world.
If I wanted to see her
I’d take the stairs
because her hair’s too short and smoke-stained
to ever really shine.

Or –
Snow White for the cyber age
Chinese chambermaid, quietly bred
emptying the wastebasket
every morning
on the corner of Seventh and Main.
Rapunzel smokes,
oblivious to the congress
of colliding tales
just below her window,
every morning.

lacy VII

Snow White
stands under five feet
and she’s got
thin humble lips
and a home-stitched face
not anonymous enough for comfort,
and no one will exalt her
in a transparent coffin
when she pops off.

lacy VIII

lacy XVII

Snow thinks the subway is
a luxury:
for all its jerks and belches
there she can rest her
bound and weary feet.
Sharing her low-slung plastic bench
is the girl in yesterday’s makeup
and last week’s clothes.
Frosted hair won’t come
back into fashion in greater Manhattan,
but her crowd appreciates it;

they’re the ones flicking cigarette ash
into drainpipes
and fending off the down-lows
in their potbellies
and leather jackets
who crave more tricks than
they can pay for.
Where is she going, dressed like that-
is there an appointment in the world
worth requiring such an abusive shade of red?

lacy III

lacy IV

lacy X

I’d like them all to meet, someday
in that pub above the laundromat
Rapunzel with her bored lips,
Snow White with her deference,
Sleeping Beauty with her pierced-heart narcolepsy.
Each asleep in one way or another,
each missing a piece potent enough to
wake up her corner of the world.

lacy V

Blouse: Downtown Threads Skirt: Goodwill Boots: Battery Street Jeans Hat, Tights, & Bra: Gifted Necklace: Family heirloom

~

I cringe to disrupt the mood of this post, but I want to emphasize that this poem is absolutely not to be read as sex-work negative or prejudicial in any other way. Sex workers are laborers who deserve to see their work legitimized. Sleeping Beauty has a hard life and she is a prostitute, not necessarily because she is a prostitute. (The same can be said, in different ways, of my poem’s other two characters, though their lives aren’t quite as politicized.) Sex workers’ lives run the gamut of human experience, because they’re, you know, human. I apologize for the aside, but the safety, autonomy, and legitimacy of sex workers is one of my pet issues. If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend the blog Tits and Sass.