Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hilda, the Voluptuous Pinup

Am I the only one who hadn't heard of Hilda? This luscious pinup is the creation of the talented pinup artist Duane Bryers, and she was largely unknown until after his death in 2012. Although most pinups are known for their curves, Hilda's softer, fuller figure sets her apart. A little silly, a little funny, and ridiculously cute, Hilda's got to be my new favorite pinup.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

An Ancient China That Never Was

Although it wasn't intentional, over the past couple of weeks I've been immersed in (fictional) Chinese history. Last week I read Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was, and now I'm wrapping up another great book, Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt.
Although the two books are very different, I've enjoyed them both immensely. Bridge of Birds is the first book in a series about Master Li and Number Ten Ox, and it's in the style of a classical Chinese novel. It reads like a fairy tale, with overlapping and repeating narrative threads that diverge and come together to create a very satisfying tapestry. I'm really looking forward to grabbing the omnibus edition next time I'm at the library, because one story at a time is just not enough with these guys.
I picked up The Years of Rice and Salt because I was looking for a good alternate history book, and this one was recommended as a good place to start. And really, it is fantastic. It posits a world in which a second wave of the plague wipes out 99% of the population of Europe, leaving China and Dar al-Islam (a union of Islamic states) to become the dominant powers in the world. It covers nearly a millennium of history using a clever device of reincarnation; a clan, or jati, of six souls are reincarnated together several times over the course of the novel, with each of their names always starting with the same letter. While in the bardo, or afterlife, they reflect on their faults or what they might have done differently in order to create a better world. Not all of the chapters are set in China, but some of my favorite ones are, and I found it really fascinating to consider what the world might have been like if the East had become the dominant power in the world, rather than the West.
In keeping my promise to myself to pick up more great accessories, I'm taking a look at Chinese and Chinese-inspired vintage jewelry and accessories.
Vintage Chinese Plique a Jour Cloisonne Bell Earrings
My ears are stretched, so I don't usually wear normal earrings, but I think I would have to make an exception for these delicate bell earrings.
Art Deco Chinese Junk Brooch
While I do already have one brooch in the shape of a boat (a beautiful little piece that I got from the Chronically Vintage Etsy shop), I wouldn't say no to one more. Or several more, since collecting things is fun.
Chinese Carved Cinnabar Bangles
Aren't these bangles lovely? Unfortunately I don't think they'll fit me (fun fact - I have really big hands), but they are on sale is someone else wants to snap them up.
Chinese Cloisonne Bangle
This one is also probably a bit small for me, but SO PRETTY. I seem to be developing a fondness for Chinese enamelwork.
Green and White Floral Silk Scarf
This green and white silk scarf would be the perfect accessory to lived up a solid dress.
1930s Chinese Movie Star Poster
This poster of 1930s Chinese film star Hu Die (translation: Butterfly) would make a gorgeous addition to anyone's collection of classic pinups. Reading about her is making me want to explore Chinese cinema of the era.

Ok, I've got a couple of notes about cultural appropriation.
I think respect is really important when it comes to interacting with other cultures. I've always been interested in Chinese history, because it is absolutely epic in scope. They had almost two thousand years of history to look back on when the Romans were founding their empire, and they were undoubtedly the greatest, most technologically advanced culture in the world up until almost the 17th century. It really is just a fluke of history European powers came to dominate the world rather than China.
Although I would love to own a cheongsam, I don't know that I would ever feel comfortable wearing one, because the line between respectfully wearing a traditional piece and appropriation isn't entirely clear. On the one hand, you've got the stuff that's obviously wrong - wearing bindis and war bonnets to Coachella - and one the other hand, you've got stuff that's even the strictest progressive probably wouldn't ding you for - wearing a jade bracelet that you purchased from a Chinese craftsperson. Traditional dress falls in a gray area that makes me kind of uneasy. Even if you're not venturing into bad Halloween costume territory, with a bad polyester dress and a conical hat, there's still a whiff of exoticism around wearing traditional dress from a culture that's not your own. If a Chinese woman couldn't wear it comfortably, without dealing with questions or stares or harassment, should I? 
Of course, I may be overthinking all of this, but I do want to be conscientious about how I treat other people, and that includes how I interact with their culture.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Accessories - to murder!

*No vintage accessories were harmed in the making of this post*
On Friday I posted about a dress that I wasn't sure worked for me, since I felt a little bit frumpy in it. The advice, pretty much overwhelmingly, was "did you consider maybe accessorizing it a little bit?"
Honestly, I am the worst when it comes to accessories. It's not that I don't like them or don't have them, it's just that most of the time I forget about them. You know that old rule about removing one piece of jewelry before you leave the house? If I did that I'd just walk around with one earring all the time.
For the past couple of days, I've been reversing that rule for myself. Before I leave the house, I have to put on one piece of jewelry that's visible from more than 10 feet away.
On Sunday, I added a vintage bolero that was a dead on match for color to my Heart of Haute sweetie dress, along with a flower brooch from Chronically Vintage and a red floral scarf for my hair.
The wind gave me a pretty perfect Marilyn Monroe moment.
Are you every really fully accessorized without a book? I added a watch necklace that I inherited from my grandmother and another headscarf as well.
Trying to get Neighbordog to come and pose for a picture. Of course this is the one time she completely ignores me.
I've been picking up a lot of new clothing lately (don't judge, it's sale season), and since my wardrobe is full to bursting with cute summer dresses and skirts, I decided that I'm done buying clothes until fall. Of course, I also know me, and the temptation to get new things is hard to resist. So while I'm easing up a little bit on the new clothes, why not think a little bit about picking up some accessories to perk up my wardrobe a little bit?
I've got quite a few silk and cotton scarves, but I would love to get a few of those sheer nylon scarves as well. They just seem like such a great finishing touch to a lot of vintage hairstyles, and you can find them quite cheap in a lot of places, it seems.
Brooches are also very high on my list of pieces to find, since I will actually wear them for a full day. As much as I would love to be the woman with the armful of bangles, most bracelets drive me absolutely crazy. I'm still very tempted by them, though, so maybe I'll pick up a couple and see how it goes.
Obviously I'm still just taking baby steps when it comes to this, but it's funny how much just a little something in your hair and a piece of jewelry can liven up an outfit. I'm actually really excited to find some fun accessories that add punch and pizzazz to the clothes that I've already got in my wardrobe.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hastings Brothers' Furniture

Ok, I just want to take a moment to shill for my boyfriend a little bit. A few months back, he and his brother started a furniture business. They both have a fair bit of experience with woodworking, since their dad does a lot of carpentry and woodworking, as well as a great sense of aesthetics. Brian, my boyfriend, has a distinctly mid-century modern bent, with a hint of deco flair. Andy, his brother, goes more towards the craftsman style, which emphasizes the beauty of the materials.
This walnut coffee table is probably my favorite piece that they've made. 
They're also selling these vintage stock certificates with custom frames made from reclaimed wood. 
This weekend they had a booth at the Randolph Street Market here in Chicago, and although they didn't make any sales, they got a great response from the crowd, and handed out their cards to several people who liked what they saw, and might be interested in commissioning custom pieces.
The Hastings Brothers' El Camino was a bit crowded on the way to the Market Saturday.
This deco inspired lamp is another favorite of mine. I love all of the different woods he used for the piece.
Check out the Hastings Brothers on Facebook for more photos of their pieces, and they should have their Etsy shop up and running in the near future.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sisterwife Syndrome

One of the things that I struggle with when wearing vintage is what I can only call the frump factor. Maybe you've encountered it yourself - you buy a dress (or skirt or blouse or whatever) that is really cute, great fabric, fits well, but there's just something about it that takes you from modern women who likes the vintage aesthetic to bit player in your community theater production of Oklahoma. Or, as the title might suggest, like you, your husband, his three other wives, and the 12 kids you have between you just got an offer from Lifetime for a reality tv show.
Pose. The hills are alive, bitches. Alive!
And here's what it looks like straight on, no cute posing or anything. This is also what my bitchy resting face looks like straight on.

I got this dress at a clothing swap a couple of months ago, so it was free. There were some issues with it that I just got around to addressing, namely the fact that the bodice was separating from the skirt in several places, and there were some good sized stains that needed to be soaked out. However, it fits really nicely, and it's made of a soft, lightweight cotton, so when it was hot out a couple of days ago I decided it was time to bust it out.
"Are we gonna lose the farm, Pa?" "I just don't know, Sally. I just don't know."
Also, my neighbor is awesome for making this cool wooden sculpture thingy, because now I have something to pose with.
Also, filters are fun. 
I can't decide if this gets into sisterwife territory or just skirts the border a little bit. It's not very fitted through the waist, and the pointed seam at the front of the bodice and the puffed sleeves with the eyelet, um, fins(?) take it in that direction. On the other hand, I grew up in rural Colorado, and I can't say that I mind looking a bit like a Dust Bowl era cowboy's sweetheart.
I've been trying to think of some fixes, but I don't really want to take the sleeves off of another dress, and since this guy has waist ties, not to mention the interesting seaming, I can't really wear a belt with it to define the waist more either. I'm not sure if it's going to stay in my wardrobe, or if I'd like to do a few more repairs and then pass it along to someone who would be really enthusiastic about it. If I had a sewing machine, I might be tempted to just lose the top half and just make it into a high-waisted skirt, but I don't, so...
Any thoughts? What do you usually do with a piece that you like but aren't sure has a place in your wardrobe?
So I've got The Reverend Horton Heat concert tonight, and then I'm going to spend the weekend helping my boyfriend and his brother sell their handmade furniture at the Randolph Street Market, so if you're in Chicago come visit me!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Links to Love

I seem to have gotten a rather large influx of new readers with my last post on street harassment, largely due (I believe) to a link from my lovely friend Mallory of Miskatonic Musings. While I'm happy to see that what I wrote resonated with a lot of women, it made me really sad as well - we shouldn't have to go through this on such a regular basis. And I do want to make it clear that I take no issue with a sincere compliment, but what we're talking about is a very different thing, and yes, we can tell the difference. It's not a compliment when a guy licks his lips and stares at your tits when says "nice dress," it's harassment.
Also sad is that fact that as bad as it can feel here in the US, there are places in the world where it's far worse. In India and parts of the Middle East, just to name other places where it's been making the news recently, women experience much higher rates of street harassment, and it's more likely to escalate to physical contact such as groping or assault. A cultural shift that emphasizes women's autonomy and dignity is what is necessary to stop a lot of the issues that women face, from street harassment to sexual assault and domestic violence.
But, hey, all this shit is making me depressed, so let's talk about something else.
1. The Scientifiic Case for Decriminalizing Sex Work
Want to check the spread of HIV and AIDS? Start treating sex workers like human beings.
According to recent data from the World Health Organization, female sex workers are 14 times as likely to have HIV as other women, yet fear of arrest and stigma often prevents them from seeking medical care.
2. I'm Forcing Myself To Wear Beloved Old Clothes I Can't Bear To Donate
I totally get where this girl is coming from. I don't follow the "if you haven't worn it in a year, get rid of it" rule because it always seems like when I've done that, the thing I just got rid of becomes cool again and I miss it, but I definitely have items from my early college days that I just cannot get rid of. Mostly old band t-shirts. Sentimental value, y'all.
3. Why Can't We Stop Talking About Bikini Bodies?
If you have a body and a bikini, you have a bikini body. Even Gisele doesn't look like Gisele without a lot of work, so it's about time we stop making women feel like they need to have perfectly toned and supple bodies in order to rock a swimsuit in public.
4. Sisterhood of the Traveling Dress
The lovely Joanna of Dividing Vintage Moments is sending one of the dresses in her fabulous collection around the US (and then on to the rest of the world). If you're interested, post a comment by tomorrow. I'm signed up already, and I can't wait to style this beautiful piece.
5. Weird Al Endures
Weird Al's new album, Mandatory Fun, is #1 on the Billboard Charts. Just soak that up for a moment.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Let's talk about street harassment

You know that feeling when you LOVE the outfit that you're wearing, and you hair is cooperating for once, and you know your makeup is really on point, and you just feel good? You're walking down the street - maybe you're just going to work, or heading home from a movie, or just want to go for a walk because it's a nice summer day and that's something people do - when you feel the hair on the back of your neck raise. You look around, and there's a guy, standing there, staring at you. You quickly look away (don't make eye contact, it only encourages them), square your shoulders, and speed up a little bit as you walk past. And then you hear it. "Nice ass, baby." "Hey. Hey you. Girl." Or just a hissing between their teeth, or a whistle. Suddenly, that good mood is just gone.
Ruth Orkin - American girl in Italy, 1951
I've seen this photo a few times, and usually people seem to be laughing about it - "look at those virile men reacting to a beautiful women on the street!" All I can see when I look at it, though, is the discomfort on her face.
It can be hard to explain why it makes me feel so bad. I've told stories about street harassment to people who will laugh and tell me that I should be flattered, it means they think I'm hot; or tell me just to ignore it, guys don't mean anything by it; or shrug and say, "that sucks," their lack comprehension written on their faces.
What I hate is that it makes me feel shame. Yes, I like to dress up and look nice, and while that's definitely a thing that I do for myself, I also love a sincere compliment. This kind of harassment, though, makes me feel like I should not be wearing what I'm wearing, that I shouldn't be where I am. It makes me feel like I've done something wrong just by existing in public.
I have to admit, I don't react very well to this, largely because it makes me really fucking angry. Like, angry in the way where I know that I have had a heated argument with someone, but I can't remember exactly what I've said because it's all been lost in the haze of rage. I've definitely barked like a dog at a guy (because that is what he sounded like to me), confronted someone by asking if they think I'm a hooker (not because I have any issue with sex workers, but because they are, amongst all women, the only ones you might reliably assume would be interested in a proposition, made on the street, to engage in oral sex), and just straight up told more than one guy to stop talking to me, with varying levels of success.
At least, that's the way I might react when I feel safe - if I'm in a very public place where I can reasonably assume even the biggest asshole will not react with violence. If I'm somewhere isolated, or close enough to my home that I might be followed, I inevitably stare at the ground, pretend I've gone deaf, and walk, stiff-legged, as fast as I can to wherever I'm heading. Because the other thing that people don't get sometimes is the fear. Maybe that guy on the corner doesn't mean anything with his creepy stares and lewd comments, or maybe he's the guy that's going to hit you if you tell him off. Or maybe he's the guy that's going to follow you until you're isolated and drag you into an alley and rape you, and worrying about that kind of shit is why some women sound like paranoid basket cases to people who don't understand what it's like.
While I wouldn't say that I experience more cat-calling and street harassment while wearing vintage, it's definitely got a different tenor. Before I'd get the wolf-whistle/hey baby kind of thing; now, guys feel like they should come up and talk to me. Well, not me, exactly; my body, my clothes, my tattoos. I don't have any particular value as a person in the interaction, just my seamed stockings ("Are you wearing a garter belt and everything?" Seriously, what fucking business is my underwear to you?) or the cleavage that my "Nice dress!" is showing, or the red lipstick that a guy just can't resist telling me he loves. They stand too close, make too much eye contact, have a creepy way of talking that makes it clear that I have unwillingly been incorporated into the fetish video running through their brains.
On Saturday, I went and saw a movie, and on my way to the theater this guy, who was standing by a building down the street, went, "ooh, that's nice." I pretended I didn't hear and kept walking, but he started following me, yelling "You! Hey, you! You with the bike!" I had to lock up my bike, so I stopped and rounded on him. "What? What do you want?" "Your tattoo, the bird, what does it mean?" "It means none of your business. Stop talking to me." "Why you gotta be such a bitch about it? I don't have to talk to rude bitches." And then he finally walked off, still talking to himself about bitches and rude women.
"Hey! Hey, you! You acting like an asshole! Fuck off."
When I was telling this story to my boyfriend, even to my own ears this sounded trivial. It seemed stupid that I was so worked up over a 60 second exchange from some random dude on the street, but that fact is that this happens all the damn time, and it wears on you, and it makes you feel helpless.
I've seen some great videos of women confronting their harassers, and although it's satisfying to watch, it doesn't really feel like it changes anything. Most of the time, they don't seem to realize that they've done anything wrong, that women are not on display for their pleasure, and that women do not owe them their time or conversation.
I would love to hear stories from other women about how they've dealt with street harassment, and what we might be able to do to change it.
Organizations to know:
Stop Street Harassment
Cards Against Harassment

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pinups with Pixies: A borrowed from the boys rockabilly style

This wacky hairstyle is making me excited about my hair again. I know, I know, I was just bitching about how I missed my hair, I want to grow it out, blah blah blah. And I still want to grow it out, but I'm also going to make the most of this short do while it lasts. It's funny how actually doing something with your hair makes it look way better than just washing, air drying, and then sighing because it's all flat and sad looking.
That's why they call me the king of the bop.
Elvis, Elvis! Let me be. Keep that pelvis far from me.
So this isn't quite the tutorial that I promised you last week (finger waves are coming, though! Promise), largely because I was feeling something with more of a rock and roll vibe this weekend. What I settled on can't quite be called a pompadour; it's more like if John Travolta in Grease or David Bowie got caught in a wind tunnel.
David Bowie
It's the first time that I've used my hot rollers since I got my hair cut, so that's pretty exciting. I also really liked the second day hair that I ended up with - it was a little messy and sexy, like the perfect bedhead that you never actually wake up with.
It's... ok, it's a definite look, and it's not going to be for everyone. Personally, though, I really liked the androgynous, glam rock(abilly) vibe, so maybe someone else will too.
Start with hair that has a little texture to it - if it's freshly washed, add a little bit of mousse or dry shampoo. It's hard to get really short hair to stay in rollers, so anything to gives your hair a little more grip can only help.
Separate out the top section of your hair. This can be as long or as wide as you would like, but make sure you can fit a couple of curlers side by side so that the curls can sweep inward, towards the center.
As with longer hair, give each section a quick spritz with hairspray before you put in the roller.
For obvious reasons, you'll want to use the smallest curlers you have. My set only has four in this size, so I ended up using a couple of larger rollers on the longest part of my hair.
Here's the final set.
When I did this the day before, I had one more double row of curlers in. While it did work, the clips didn't really clamp on as well. With long hair, you don't want to overstuff the rollers, or the heat doesn't penetrate as well. That's less of a consideration with short hair.
Once the rollers have cooled (which took about 15 minutes, in my case), go ahead and take them out. Give your hair another shot of hairspray, and consider leaving your hair like this because you kind of look like a Dr. Seuss character.
Decide that no, you'll stick with the original plan, and gently break up and shape the curls until you like what you have.
At this point, my boyfriend decided that I really need a ducktail, so he showed me how to do that. I used a little bit of his Brylcreem to grease up the back and sides of my hair, and then combed both sides to the center and then divided it.
Kind of a fun touch, right?
This is what my end result looked like when I did it the previous day.
Although it's a little out there to wear to work as is, I could see setting it the night before and then sleeping on it to get that messy bedhead that I mentioned before. 
Previous Hair Tutorials: The Baby Beehive

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rockabilly Weekend at the Vintage Garage

Chicago actually has a pretty strong rockabilly scene. It's not something that I'm particularly involved with, but my boyfriend has been in the past, and so I tangentially know some folks that are live their day to day lives riding in vintage cars, slicking back their pompadours, and swing dancing, which I think is really cool. While these days most of my wardrobe is vintage, I'm still looking to add other vintage accoutrements to other areas my life.
But that's an issue for another pay day. This weekend I went to the Vintage Garage, a monthly flea market held on the north side of Chicago. There are dozens of vendors with vintage and antique housewares, records, jewelry, and (my personal favorite) clothes. This month they had a Rockabilly and Tiki theme, and even had a costume contest. Yes, I entered, mostly because this lady was walking around and asked me to, but no, I didn't win. I did get photos of all of the other contestants, though, as well as a season pass to the flea market, which is usually $5, so I'd say I came out on top with that one.
The emcee was the lovely Jennifer Greenburg, author and photographer of The Rockabillies. I loved her gingham dress and white heels, she looks like she stepped straight out of the 50s.
One of the contestants, Emmy, was also in a cute gingham. Angelica, with the swimsuit and umbrella, won the "occasion" outfit portion of the competition.
Unfortunately I don't remember the name of this gorgeous lady, but I love her Pinup Girl dress, and her makeup was seriously On Point.
The polka dots and espadrills on the girl on the left are adorable, but I think my favorite outfit of the day has to be this Hawaiian print sarong dress on the pink haired doll on the right. She even had straw shoes and a matching handbag.
This tiki goddess, appropriately, won the Miss Congeniality award.
My other favorite was Abigail, in her 60s Kamea Meha (spelling? I dunno) outfit. Not only did she look utterly fab, she was giving away all of her prizes to other people. I ended up with a gorgeous pair of clip-on earrings, which I will probably wear as dress clips, as well as a pair of Reverend Horton Heat tickets! To be honest, I've never heard them and have to remind myself that it's Horton Heat and not Horton Who, but Brian said that they're a big rockabilly act, and I'm sure the show will be a blast.
I didn't have a lot of money for buying things (mostly because, despite my best intentions, I've bought too many things lately) (#sorrynotsorry, you will be seeing the cute shit I've bought recently in the near future), which was actually kind of great. It meant that when I found this dress, which did not have a price tag, I could go up to the vendor, offer her the $10 bucks I had on me, and have her sigh and hold out her hand.
If I felt guilt, I might feel guilty about getting a dress this cute for that cheap. I love the print, and it fits like a dream, although I will be getting it hemmed sometime in the near future. It's got pockets and a nylon zipper, so I'm guess it's probably from sometime in the past 10 or 15 years. I can't wait to wear it out and about.
I know that I said I'd have a lazy girl's guide to finger waves up this week, but I ended up doing another style that I made a tutorial for. Here's a little preview...
I'm going to upload more photos to my Facebook page, so please feel free to check them out! You can find me at