Thursday, September 30, 2010

performing femininity

or: how I learned to dress like a girl.

Here's the thing. Only in the last few years have I embraced skirts and impractical shoes and dainty dresses. I still don't wear makeup, and I still don't devote a whole lot of time to my hair. I shave my legs as infrequently as possible. And I think a lot about performing femininity, and what it means to me.

I have kind of a complicated relationship with girliness. I wasn't a tomboy-- I would have had to have even a slight affinity for sports, which, no-- but I wasn't what you'd call a girly girl. Between learning how to read and puberty, I spent as much time as humanly possible with my nose in a book, in the company of girls like Meg Murry and Alanna of Trebond. My mom picked out my clothes, which in retrospect was pretty unfortunate, because it meant I spent a lot of time in stirrup leggings and those awful tapestry vests that were popular in the early '90s. But I didn't worry much about what my clothes said about me-- I wasn't really aware that they were saying anything, or concerned about whether they should. And if you asked me what "being a girl" meant to me, I would have talked about the girls in the books I read-- girls who had adventures, who were brave and fearless, who rebelled against the roles society wanted them to play.


Then came middle school. And, uh, it didn't go very well. Having spent the last six or seven years mostly in the company of fictional people, I didn't know how to socialize, how to act, how to present myself. And all of a sudden I *wanted* to do those things, when I hadn't before. Which was unfortunate, because I was really, really terrible at them.

It didn't help that I come from a family full of women who (it seemed to me) instinctively knew how girls are "supposed to act." My mother, to this day, seems kind of confused at how she ended up with a kid like me, one who can't apply eyeliner to save her life and never knows which are the right kind of shoes to wear. When I was younger, she'd just look at me and ask, incredulous, if I was really wearing *that,* if I couldn't tell that those don't match, why I thought that was the right outfit for this time of year. And at school, as far as I could tell, everyone who was any good at performing femininity was really, really mean to me. Girls, I concluded, sucked.

So I headed in the opposite direction. I was a jeans-and-t-shirts girl, a geek who didn't care about stupid stuff like fashion. I became a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which is a great Baby's First Feminist Theory show when you're twelve), and I identified hard with Willow, the awkward nerd who didn't dress like the fashion-plate cool girls. In high school, I was introduced to punk and riot grrl, to women who knew that femininity *was* a performance, and that you could choose to play it however you wanted.


It took me a few years, after high school, to figure out that reflexively disregarding "girly stuff" as stupid and a waste of time was, possibly, not the most forward-thinking feminist attitude I could hold. Eventually I stopped automatically rejecting girliness as bad, and starting thinking about which parts of it I actually wanted. And I found that the clothes I'd never wanted to wear, the stuff I'd thought was impractical and uninteresting, actually made me like how I looked and feel good about myself. I already had a fondness for weird old stuff, and vintage clothes were weird old stuff you could wear, that looked a lot better on me that most of what I saw in stores. I figured out that I was in control of what I looked like, and that I could control how I presented myself to the world.

So here I am now: a much better feminist than I used to be, and just as much of a nerd as ever. Only now? I'm pretty sure I'm much better dressed.

still gray

It's been raining nonstop since last night. Today is kind of a blah day; I have to run errands and go to work. But at least I've got a little bit of red, to brighten up the gray.

blouse: thrifted
skirt: thrifted
belt: thrifted
boots: DSW
socks: Rugged Wearhouse
necklace: made by me

I made this necklace ages ago, when I was on a jewelry-making kick. I'm a terrible serial crafter-- I'll learn something new and want to do nothing else for months, and then my interest kind of tapers off. I still make jewelry every once in a while, but nowhere near as often as I used to. If you're interested in making wire-wrapped jewelry, there are some good tutorials here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

a gray day

Sometimes I wear extra-bright clothes on cloudy days. Sometimes I dress to match them.

dress: vintage
shoes: Very Volatile
tights: Rugged Wearhouse
brooch: Colonial Williamsburg
belt: thrifted

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I said they were perfect

Now I just need to figure out what to wear them with. Any thoughts? I suspect I'm going to need some shorter skirts; all my knee-length-and-longer ones are going to look terrible.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

one more before I admit it's fall

These blouses from Spool no. 72 may be summery, but I bet if I love them enough it'll stay warm so I can wear them. And also I'll have enough money to buy them. That can happen, right? That can totally happen.

In other news, have acquired perfect lace-up brown ankle boots; pictures forthcoming.

Friday, September 24, 2010

summer silk

While I'm longing after silk blouses for fall, I *do* have a silk dress to wear while it's summery.

I got it from this incredibly sweet little old lady in Bethesda who sells vintage clothes out of her house. She had some amazing stuff-- I have a few fall pieces from her I can't wait to wear!

My hair, by the way, is pretty typical for the day after a pin curl set. I hear other bloggers talk about all the different hair products they use to get pin curls to hold, and I'm like, product? really? Because I set my hair bone dry and sleep on it, and I get way more curl than I actually want! In a day or two it'll calm down into pretty, frizz-free waves, but for now I feel a little like a poodle.

Oh, and don't forget to enter the giveaway!

silk blouses

I have a lot of cotton blouses (mostly short sleeve button downs) but I think I need more silk in my life. Especially if it looks like these two, from Eskell:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

thrift scores

Went to the thrift store yesterday (the Value Village on University, if you're DC-area and curious), and turned up these beauties:

Yes, I know that last one is awfully summery. But it's over 90 degrees this week, and I can't say no to tulips and a surplice neckline. I'm not made of *stone*, people.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

how to

I thought I'd do a step-by step tutorial on how I made my silhouette charms. They're really easy, but it doesn't hurt to see how it's done.

Step 1: Gather your materials.

what you need

You'll need a sheet of shrink plastic (they cost around $5 for a six-pack), some scratch paper, fine-point and fat Sharpies, a good pair of scissors, and source material. Oh, and a hole punch. If you're making a charm bracelet, you'll need a blank bracelet, large and small jump rings, and jewelry pliers.

Step 2: Trace the image you want to make into a charm.


Step 3: Cut out your shape.

cut out

Step 4: Color in your shape on both sides with your fat Sharpie. The quarter is so you can get a good idea of how big it is.

colored in

Step 5: Punch a hole in your shape (this is IMPORTANT!), and then into the oven it goes. I use my toaster oven, which there will be no picture of because it is kind of grody. Keep an eye on your shape while it shrinks; it should curl up at first, then flatten out. When it's flat again, it's done and you can take it out. Pop it in the fridge for a minute if you're impatient, and here's what you get:

all done!

See how much it shrinks? Now that you're done, you can make your charm into a necklace pendant, or attach it to a bracelet or earring. For that, you'll need jump rings, which are pretty easy-- just bend them open with the pliers, slip on the charm, and close again. I used a small jump ring on the charm itself, and a larger one to attach it to the bracelet.

And that's it! Now you're ready to make jewelry of your own.

let's talk repro

So I think it's pretty well established that I love vintage. I love the lines of the clothes, I love the way my chosen era fits my shape, I love how well-made it is compared to modern fast fashion. Vintage suits my budget and my love of treasure-hunting. But vintage has its drawbacks: it's hard to find good stuff in larger sizes, there can be condition issues, you have to hand-wash it; and sometimes the treasure hunt gets tiring.

Enter repro. Good repro has all the advantages of vintage-- the cut and quality-- without the drawbacks of clothes that are fifty years old or older. Repro can also be more expensive than vintage, but so are most new clothes worth having.

Here are some of my favorite repro and vintage-styled looks for fall from Etsy. I'm in awe of the talented people who sew this stuff!

1.NewVintageLady 2. thepinkkitten 3. violavintage 4.jacksdaughter 5. allureoriginalstyles 6. porshesplace 7. michelletan

thumpety thump

This dress from Emily and Fin is kind of making my heart go pitter-patter. It's the sweetheart neckline, I'm pretty sure.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

this week: designers

This week I think I want to take a look at some fall clothes I've seen around the interwebs. There'll be some indie designers, some Etsy sellers, and maybe some runway stuff too-- although I hardly know where to begin with all the Fashion Week shows!

Let's start with Filly. I spotted them on Frolic, and I think I'm in love.

How great is that gold-and-plum color combination? I don't know if I can get my hands on any of these clothes (though if I could, I'd go for the high-waisted skirt and the cream blouse), but I'm sure going to aim for those colors. They're so, so perfect for fall. Maybe with chocolate-colored tights?

Monday, September 20, 2010

50th post, and a giveaway!

Well, I made it to fifty posts! This blog officially has more staying power than most enterprises on which I embark. To celebrate, take a look at the charm bracelet I made this weekend from shrink plastic:

silhouette charm bracelet

Like it? Well, that's good, because I made two. One for me, and one for my readers! To enter, leave a comment on this entry. In two weeks, I'll pick a winner. Good luck!

new old clothes

I bought two vintage dresses at DC Big Flea. They are both adorable.




See the rickrack on the collar? I *love* the rickrack on the collar.

Big Flea was fun, as usual; though it was only in the one building this time, so there wasn't as much stuff. My favorite vendor didn't bring their $5 rack, alas, and I passed on a STUNNING purple dress that was just too fancy for everyday. I saw a lot of gorgeous furniture I couldn't afford, my mom looked at a lot of jewelry, and my dad went to the militaria show in the other building. I want an enamel-topped table now.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


So I bought some shrink plastic and decided to try making some charms. They turned out awesome! They're not pendant-sized, more charm bracelet-sized, which is perfect since I bought a vintage blank charm bracelet at DC Big Flea today. Once I make a few more charms and get some jump rings, I will have an awesome silhouette bracelet.


The three faces are from a Dover clip art book I found at the thrift store; the bird was found online. I plan to make a whole bunch more of these.

Oh, and I bought two pretty fall dresses at DC Big Flea! They're hanging up to dry after a soak in Oxy Clean (one of them had some stains, which are much better now) and I'll have pictures tomorrow.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

are you getting ready?

Halloween is coming! I love having excuses to dress up. I still haven't decided what I want to be yet, though. I have my WWII nurse costume from Dragoncon that I could reuse, or I could come up with something new. I'm really not sure yet. For inspiration, I spent a while browsing Etsy in search of costume-y vintage. Here's what I found:

Vintage Halloween

Thursday, September 16, 2010

this is *brilliant*.

Silhouette pendant made from Shrinky Dink plastic, from the Curiosity Shoppe. We sell a really cool Shrinky Dinks book at the toy store where I work, and between that and now this I'm really dying to bust out the coloring supplies and shrink some plastic.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

in my room

While the rest of my house ranges from cluttered to untidy, I have managed to get my room into some semblance of order. (Don't look at the pile of towels, or where I'm stashing the laundry basket. Shhh.) I thought I'd take some pictures before it gets messy again.

Starting from the door, along the left-hand wall:



I bought a Jen Corace calender (I LOVE her art), but I got impatient before the year was up, and cut off the calendar part so I could hang just the pictures. I think my Wall of Corace looks nice (if a little blurry).


Moving past my (still totally messy, and soon-to-be-replaced) nightstand, we have the corner on the other side from the door.


The framed pictures are thrifted (I painted the frames), the top print was bought on vacation, and the other print is from Small Press Expo last year. The key is from DC Big Flea, and I made the little embroidery myself.


This sketch is by Ted Naifeh, an awesome artist (and really nice guy) who drew it for me at Dragoncon. It's of the main character in Polly and the Pirates, a comic you should absolutely check out.

Here's the last corner. The dress will never, ever in a million years fit me.




And we're back to the door. I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of my room! If you're curious about where I got any of the stuff you see, feel free to ask.