savage secretary

battle VII

I’ve been unbearably prim of late. I can feel my wannabe-Suicide-Girl cred eroding, replaced with pleats and starch. I’ve returned to a phase I first wrote about last April: tightly controlled, highly stylized. More than that, though, I like being utterly badass while I’m doing it. I’ll always be a Suicide Girl on the inside. I can dress like a secretary and still crack a few metaphorical whips.

I envisioned some of these shots in a dementedly chipper kind of way. Like I’m patting my bottle-blonde hair and presenting Bob Barker with the very latest in offensive technology. This might be a fun character to come back to.

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My father teaches Kung Fu. He opened his studio when I was eighteen months old, and I grew up surrounded by deadly weapons. I revisited it last week for these photos. Who says precious isn’t powerful?

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Dress & Sweater: Classy Closet Hat & Necklace: Old Gold Belt: Downtown Threads Tights: Spirit Halloween Shoes: Gifted

~

Let me remind everyone that it’s not too late to enter the Eye Bleach Sweepstakes! Send a photo of your creepiest doll to eyebleachsweepstakes@gmail.com for a chance at fame and fortune (i.e. $25 to my Etsy shop).

glass slippers will cut your feet

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Cindy won’t forget herself that easily. You don’t spend two decades scrounging scraps and counting every moment of peace only to slide painlessly into luxury. Cleanliness feels too naked, finery too bright. Trust doesn’t come so fast, not even for Prince Charming. Too many nights she finds herself pulled hearthward, hypnotized, drawn to some semblance of her old life.

Lace doesn’t go with ashes. She aches for a way to hide.

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I love fairy tales. I hope that’s obvious by now. I love the archetypes inherent in them. Their demonstration that humans have always been the same. More than that, I love how many ways exist to twist and queer and bastardize them. The goth in me doesn’t want to let anyone have a happy ending.

How much sense does it make for Cinderella to sail right into royalty without even a nod to her crippling PTSD? Exactly none. Part of her probably wishes she still slept beside the cinders every night. She knows embracing her new life is the clearest way forward, but she can’t let go of the rags and ash.

Under her gold and lace, she still wears that filthy frock close against her skin.

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At least as a slave she was Someone. Now she is Other.

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Dresses, Shawl: for sale at Downtown Threads Mask, Pearls, Ring, Belt: Gifted

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little red

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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,

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and I, the intergenerational messenger,

I skipped from fern to fungi to roots

that stretched out,

angling to ensnare.

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I counted brushes of my feet against the ferns

and stones against my heels

and whispers of wind

inflating the lining of my cape.

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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.

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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).

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His face was athletic –

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

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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.

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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.
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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).
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The shock value works on another level, too: “No big deal, I’m just drenched in blood.”
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Dress & Belt: Downtown Threads Shoes: Old Gold Tights & Bow: Spirit Halloween Glasses: Zenni Optical
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My Karen Walker face.

skulls on skulls

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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.

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

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

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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.)

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

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the witching hour

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

peasant in lace

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

i was never here

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On my best days I feel like a ghost. Silently transcendent, able to engage and disengage effortlessly with my world. Humanity moves through me but doesn’t linger; any dwelling is my choice and my choice alone. On my best days I’m the Buddhist I never quite got the hang of being.

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I love vintage first and foremost because of its history. While certain fashion eras do appeal to me on the merit of their designs, I find that my appreciation takes a distinctly modern point of view: I wear these precious metals and stiff, splitting fabrics because they’re so old. “Vintage-inspired” doesn’t cut it; I want the real thing, skeletons, spiderwebs and all. Some vintage ladies dream of jetting back to when the eras they love were shiny and new, but I like my musty leather and shirtwaist frocks with a few decades of history stitched into their fading weave. Wearing the past makes me feel storied, like I’m collecting my inheritance as a citizen of this planet. On my best days I have a foot in every world.

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These photos turned out a little pale and overbright. I could have fixed them, but instead I ran with the concept and utterly washed them out for a “between worlds” sort of effect.

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No matter how far afield I wander, I always make it back to fashion inspired by witches and ghosts. It’s what I am.

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Slip (worn as a dress) & Blue Bangles: Old Gold Boots & Silver Bracelet: Battery Street Jeans Hat, Tights, & Necklaces: Gifted

raising the comatose

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This could very well be the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging. To use a cliche, the time sneaked up on me. One day I’m on top of my carefully cultivated universe; the next, I’m lucky to break 30 pageviews. My Kingdom for a Hat, the gritty reboot: wherein my empire crumbles.

I kid. I’m not viewing it as a bad thing. I’d been feeling for a while before my impromptu break that my life was growing increasingly performative. Even though I dress and blog first and foremost for myself, even though I love sharing my sartorial passions with the internet, I am fundamentally an introvert, and sometimes it’s all just too big. I was putting out way too much. Endlessly commenting and collaborating and discussing. It was starting to feel shallow: like I was slowly chipping away at my own interior in the name of beautifying the world, until I was running on memory and there was nothing left.

So for a while I eased up on flamboyance. I wore less jewelry than usual. I wrote some poetry and took some long walks. I cooked a lot of interesting meals, of which I will not be posting pictures because I don’t really want to be that kind of blogger. Suffice it to say that apple slices work marvelously in onion omelets. Josh and I took a stage combat seminar, which kicked my ass in an “I’m gonna sleep so well” kind of way. Most significantly of all, I started writing my religion blog again. Other than costuming, spirituality is the other big passion in my life, and I feel a little off-kilter when I’m not properly indulging it.

For two weeks I concentrated more on the meat of my day-to-day life than the flashy skin I present to the world, and lo and behold, it’s left me more than ready to start effusing again.

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I go really hard, and then I simmer down. That’s the way I work. I’m pretty intense. Sometimes I need to force myself to balance things out.

I love fashion. I love costuming. I love the history and semiotics of clothing, but I am not just a fashion blogger, and I would often do well to remember that.

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The angles of the sun already feel autumnal to me. There’s a certain crispness unique to spring and fall, in contrast to the heavy blur of summer. I’m eagerly awaiting rich colors and baked squash and haunted houses. Mostly the haunted houses.

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My mom (who took these pictures, because I misplaced my tripod) said I looked like an Englishwoman on safari. I’m definitely feeling a more bohemian, prairie-chic vibe these days. I’m not without my pops of modernity, though. I really like the surprise of my tights and fingernails.

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I should take pictures at sunset more often. Loving the little hints of glare.

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Dress & Belt: Downtown Threads Hat & Boots: Battery Street Jeans Necklace &  Tights: Gifted

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I’m back.