Friday, August 29, 2014

La Vie en Blanc

Happy Friday, everyone! And to those of you in the good old U.S. of A., happy Labor Day Weekend!
So yesterday was my 100th post. Whaaaaaaaat. I know that I post kind of a lot, but I never realized that I did it quite that much. I only started this blog in late March of this year, so that means I've done 100 posts in only six months.
I'm really happy with how well this blog has progressed. I feel like I've really found my voice (a lot less pretentious than one would assume from my first post) (no, I'm not going to link to it, because it makes me cringe a little bit) (well, not that much, but still), and I've also found a comfortable posting schedule, with a good variety of the different things that I want to talk about. Yes, I'm usually talking about clothing or vintage photos or something like that, but I also find space to talk about my nerdy tendencies or feminism.
Vintage fashion and social justice: how could I resist?
So, from here on out, you can expect me to bookend the week with outfit posts. It makes sense, right? I dress up on the weekends, so I usually post that on Mondays, and I can usually manage interesting outfits a couple of times a week, so I can post about it again on Fridays. In the middle, I can do a list of things that I'd like to buy or a movie that I've seen recently that I like or something that's made me really mad (or happy, I guess) about the state of the world. It may not be the most coherent blog format in the world, but one of the things that I wanted to do when I started this was reflect a real person, and a real person's interests. Mine, obviously.
Labor Day is coming up, and while I'm certainly going to continue to wear white well after that date, the burst of warm weather that we're having in Chicago has me running to the lightest dresses in my closet.
I picked this dress up a while back, at a local flea market called The Vintage Garage, for only $10. Although it's comfortably light-weight, as well as being light in color, I think it's one that I'm going to carry with me through fall. I'm picturing it with a high necked blouse underneath or a cardigan on top; the longer length, with a pair of tights and some ankle boots, still seems really perfect to me, like that great 30s tea dress that I want but can't seem to find for the right price.
30s drama3
I really love these shoes, which are very 20s or 30s inspired, but they're just a tiny bit too tight on me. I keep meaning to have them stretched so that I can wear them all the time.
30s drama
This dress works much better with a belt than without, I think. It's very fitted through the torso - so fitted, in fact, that I can't wear a bra with it. By my own strange calculus, since I can't do anything to prop up the girls, I have to cinch the waist to maintain the same proportions. That's just math, folks.
30s drama4
I'm finally wearing the dress clip that I purchased from The Best Vintage Clothing. I read something somewhere about clipping a dress clip over a necklace to make them more versatile, and that actually works really well for me. It makes a really beautiful pendant, and I've been returning to it a lot this week.
30s drama2
When I purchased this dress, I initially intended to have it hemmed to just below knee length. However, as we've crept closer to fall and I've gotten more into 30s styles, I've fallen a little bit in love with the lower calf length. My legs are very muscular and not exceptionally long, so it's not the most flattering length on me, but sometimes what's traditionally flattering doesn't always have to be the final consideration when you think about clothes. That's not to say that I want to look bad, but one of the fun parts of fashion is questioning, and sometimes breaking, the rules. Who says you have to be supermodel tall to wear tea length?
By the time I post again, we will have officially passed the unofficial start of fall. And it will be, like, 80 degrees here, so I still won't be able to bust out my sweaters and tweed. Please remind me how annoyed I am with how hot it is now when it's negative 20 and snowing this winter.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

America, 1935-1945

I just realized that this is my 100th post! I'm glad that it's one that I think is really special, and that I'm genuinely excited to be sharing with you all.
One of the famous images of the Great Depression is the pea picker's wife, her face dirty and creased with concern, two of her children hiding their faces against her and a third, a baby, in her lap.
That photo was taken by a photographer from the Farm Security Administration, and there are a lot more where it came from. Like, a lot a lot. Almost 175,000 more, to be exact, and they've recently been digitized by the Library of Congress, and tagged with information like who took them, where, and who the people in the photos are, if it's known.
A project at Yale University, Photogrammar, has taken those archives and organized them into an interactive map, viewable by county. I just found this yesterday, and of course that last few hours of my day were given over to poring over the images. I started with Chicago, but I'm excited to see images from everyday life from around the rest of America as well. Here are some of my favorites from the place I call home.
Anything with a well dressed woman prominantly featured obviously caught my attention.
Bidding farewell to someone departing on a Greyhound bus.
A woman in a fur coat kissing her boyfriend, a soldier, goodbye in Union Station.
A WAC waiting for her train in Union Station.
I don't remember who exactly this young woman is, but I believe that she also works at Union Station. Just look at the beautifully set hair.
A young African American woman on the South Side tries on a skirt. Love the strong-shouldered silhouette.
A nurse working in a clinic on Chicago's South Side. Her eyes just have such depth.
The floor show at an African-American cabaret.
A young couple walking down Michigan Avenue. I really want to try to recreate her outfit.
This photo of three women waiting for the Easter Promenade outside of a South Side church is one of my favorite images. THOSE HATS.
There are some fantastically atmospheric shots as well.
Like this one, taken inside Union Station. At its peak during WWII, Union Station saw 300 trains and 100,000 passengers a day.
Two women waiting for a streetcar on a foggy day.
A ship heads down the Chicago River. I know exactly where this was taken, because the building on the far left is still standing.

I really, really encourage all of my fellow vintage enthusiasts to check out this fantastic archive. I love the glimpse that it's given me into the everyday lives of people living in my city so long ago, and I think it's really fantastic that this project focused on people that we don't really have that many surviving images of.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I'm an angry feminist, but I'm trying to dial back some of the actual anger

One of the ways that I define myself is as a feminist. I am someone who is deeply committed to the cause of equality, and all of the things that go along with that - equal pay for equal work; adequately representing the voices of women in all aspects of culture, from politics to the media to religion; promoting respect for women's bodily autonomy; not elevating one gender or set of gendered characteristics over another; not forcing people to conform to gender norms that may be stifling or constraining to them.
In some ways, the feminist movement, as it exists here in the US, is a deeply idealistic one, even though it can also be very cynical and pessimistic. Although that may sound contradictory, I think the two emotions go hand it hand. We're cynical and pessimistic because it seems like every day you hear about something really terrible happening because of the way that gender works in our society. A woman is brutally assaulted by her MMA fighter ex-boyfriend, but social media is flooded with people saying that she shouldn't be surprised because that's the kind of guy she went for, or somehow deserved it because she did porn. In Georgia, an ex-cop, who was convicted of raping a woman and even threatened to literally penetrate her with his gun, just got his gun rights back. In South Carolina, which has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country, only 18 counties out of 46 have shelters for women seeking to escape abusive relationships. In Texas, the governer is fighting measures that will make sure prisons are adequately staffed in order help end sexual assault there because he says it costs too much money.
The idealistic impulse in feminism manifests itself in the way that we talk about what has to be done about all of these things. Real change can't occur until there is a massive shift in the way that we think and talk about gender in our society; anything else just feels like a bandaid, a stopgap measure that is only designed to react to a problem, not actually fix it.
Yesterday my boyfriend sent me a link to an article that he was critical of: "Why is it easier to invent anti-rape nail polish than it is to stop rapists?" I will admit, the headline is a little misleading; of course it's easier to invent a thing that reacts to a chemical compound than it is to change the way an entire culture thinks about sex, consent, and rape. He felt like the author was far too critical of the guys who invented the nail polish, and that given that we live in a society where rape is a real possibility that women have to contend with, any tools that they can use to help prevent it should be applauded.
In a way, I guess I agree with that. There are certain things that I do, or have done, that make me feel safer. I used to carry pepper spray on a regular basis, and it's still kicking around in a drawer somewhere. In my post about street harassment, I mentioned that I may or may not react in a certain way to being catcalled because I don't know what the repercussions might be.
On the other hand, I understand what the author was trying to say. It's the idealism in play - what kind of world do we live in that women feel like they have to arm themselves with roofie detecting nail polish in order to feel safe? How is that different from the other "rape prevention" techniques and devices that have been recommended over the years? That's included everything from from a condom you can leave in that basically has built in vagina dentata (side note, the movie Teeth is actually pretty awesome and you should watch it), to pissing on yourself if someone is trying to rape you because then they'll be grossed out and stop, to not going out and drinking or "dressing like sluts." It's not that the nail polish or the impulse behind it are necessarily bad, but it feels like yet another burden that women have to take on to prevent bad things from happening to them.
Of course, the world that we live in is this one. Is it merely pragmatic to accept that, while the only person to blame for a rape is the rapist, the are certain things that women can do that might diminish their risk? It seems like that just leads back to victim blaming.
If we accept the statement that there are things that women can do to keep from being raped, the logical conclusion would seem to be that if you are raped, you must have done something wrong. The tendancy to do that in our society is already so strong. Rape cases don't make it to trial very often, and when they do, victims have to be prepared to answer questions about what they were wearing, if they were flirting with their assailant, and details about their sexual history. Defense lawyers wouldn't ask these kinds of questions if the answers, irrelevant though they are, didn't result in acquittals.
The best anti-rape campaign that I've ever seen.
I want to have discussions with people about the problems in our society. Rape is the one that's foremost on my mind right now because of this article and because of Slutwalk, but I will argue with people about birth control, abortion, domestic violence, racial discrimination, and inequality in all its forms. What I don't want to do is alienate the people that I'm having these discussions with, or shut the conversation down without hearing them out. The thing is, I'm absolutely convinced that I'm right about these things; I don't argue positions I don't believe in, unless I'm trying to play devil's advocate. Sometimes, that level of passion is an asset, and I feel like I've definitely brought people around, or at least worn them down, by finding different ways to explain things to them, coming up with different metaphors and analogies and questions to try and give them an "a-ha" moment.
Sometimes, though, people have told me that they feel like I'm shouting them down, and that I'm not listening to what they have to say. That's something that I do regard as a failing on my part. How can you expect people to listen to you and respect what you have to say if you don't give them the same courtesy? I want to help change the way that people see the world, not close their minds to what I have to say by bludgeoning them with rhetoric.
This isn't intended as a criticism of other feminists - there are so many terrible injustices in this world that should make me angry, and do. But there's definitely a time and a place for that anger, and I think every person has to decide for themselves when and where that is. For me, I'm just trying to bring things down a notch in my personal life, with the people that I love and respect. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Vintage Man: Fall Fashion Inspiration

One of the things that I really appreciate about my boyfriend, Brian, is that he likes dressing up almost as much as I do. While he doesn't spend as much time thinking about or shopping for clothes as I do (at least, I hope; no one should, really), he has a pretty distinct vision of how he wants to look, which I think is kind of unusual for guys. To say that he's a bit of a retrophile is a serious understatement, and his love of all things vintage is one of the things that gave me the confidence to delve as deeply into vintage as I have, and to wear what I want with pride.
Not only did he want to dress up 30s style, with the boater, bow tie, and suspenders, he even picked out my outfit to match.

That is the face of a man who is not afraid to rock a serious Hawaiian print.
In the car on the way to Randolph Street Market a few weeks back. Brian's brother has a car that I always call an El Camino, but which is not an El Camino.
We sometimes type up stories on his vintage typewriter.
I already did my fall fashion inspirations, and I was curious about what his were. He had a pretty succinct description.
"Oddly enough, the cab drivers and longshoremen from classic Film Noir. They aren't the main characters but they give those films their character, grit, and authenticity. It's not the flashy, flamboyant style of a '40s star (which is great, but a bit impractical). It's simple, classic, durable clothing with a bit of a tough edge."
Marlon Brando and other cast members from On The Waterfront, 1954.
I know Bogart was a star, not a background character, but do you know how hard it is to find images of background characters from film noir? I think Brian may literally be the first person to take them as a fashion inspiration.
Obviously he's a bit more practical than I am. I also think it's funny that his fall shopping list is about half as long as mine.
• Brown bomber jacket (He actually already thrifted one for something like $8)
• Fresh raw Levis blue jeans

• Navy surplus chukka boots
• Round 30's sunglasses
• Brown felt fedora
• Surplus wool sweater with elbow and shoulder patches
• Shirts - printed patterns, no button collars, non slim cut
I'd set up a list of options from online shops for him, but I know that's not how he does things. Chances are he's doing to thrift most of this stuff, which is a skill that I need to learn from him.

So, do any of you have a significant other who dresses in vintage or enjoys vintage style? If not, is that something that you would enjoy?

Edit 8/27: So, Brian was not a fan of one of the photos that I used and requested that I swap it out with one that's a little more flattering. On the bright side, he did say he'd let me take more photos of him in the future, which is pretty great.

Monday, August 25, 2014

My new normcore hair and my totally awesome weekend

I go to a professional for major color changes - going from black to blonde, for instance - but most of the time I do my hair myself. Usually it works out pretty well. I've been coloring my hair for many years now, so I generally understand what my hair's going to do and how to deal with it.
My hair was in desperate need of a touchup, and I was interested in going a little bit darker for the fall. I was shooting for a medium to dark golden blonde, and the dye that I picked up looked like it should have been exactly that. When I got it on my head, it looked darker than I expected, but that's not that uncommon; when I was dying my hair a very silvery blonde a few years back, for example, the dye was a deep violet color.
So I was a little surprised when I washed everything out, and my hair had turned out to be this color.
I like it, but I'm not quite sure what I think of it. On the one hand, it's pretty close to my natural color (just lacking in the red tone that my hair has) (at least, I think so, anyway. It's been a really long time since I've seen my natural color), so it should be much lower maintenance than the more drastic colors that I usually go for, like a light blonde or black. I do think it's kind of pretty, and it definitely has more dimension than the single process blonde that I had before. And, ok, my hair looks way softer and healthier.
I don't think I have ever had hair that's just brown before, though. Not that there's anything wrong with having brown hair, but given what I'm used to, I guess it just seems slightly... boring? No, I shouldn't say that. It's not like I look at other brunettes out think that their hair is boring, I promise. It's flattering and pretty, but it's not as dramatic as the colors that I usually gravitate towards, and that's going to take some getting used to.
I don't think I've ever posted a full photo of this Trashy Diva set, but it's one of my favorite things.
But enough about my hair. I actually had a pretty eventful weekend, at least for me. On Saturday I met up with some friends for Chicago's Slutwalk, which is an annual event to combat rape, harassment, and violence against women. The event came about after a police officer in Canada told a group of college women that if they don't want to get raped, they "shouldn't dress like sluts." The idea that a woman is "asking for it" or is responsible for being raped because she is dressed a certain way is absolutely sickening. Rape and street harassment aren't about sex, they're about power, the power that men feel like they have over women's bodies and actions. Slutwalk sends a powerful message that even a provocatively dressed woman still has rights, and that clothing cannot give consent. You can check Facebook for your local event if you would like to get involved.
When I was riding my bike to meet up with my boyfriend afterwards, the sky opened up and absolutely drenched me. I have a feeling it's going to be a very wet fall, which is kind of depressing. Rainy springs are great, but rainy autumns are just kind of miserable. Wet leaves don't crunch under your feet very well.
On Sunday, I got to see Robyn and Röyksopp at Millennium Park. Although I'm not all that familiar with either act, I like what I've heard from both of them, and they put on an amazing show. The friend that I was going to go with couldn't come because she sprained her ankle, but she gave her ticket to my boyfriend, so I got to go with him instead. They put on an amazing show, and I had a great time. I've got some videos up on my Facebook page if you want to check them out.
So what did you guys get up to this weekend?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Adventures in highly impractical shoes

Ohmygod it's so muggy here right now. Disgustingly so. I was all geared up for fall, and the weather gods, as they are wont to do, just laughed in my face condescendingly and decided to make things as gross and sticky as possible to punish me.
Ok, so I'm being a little over-dramatic, but I'm not really hot weather person, and I'm definitely not a hot weather + extreme humidity and pouring rain person. But *deep breath* it's just weather, and since there is literally nothing that I can do to change it, I might as well enjoy it, right? And few things make bad weather easier to bear than new accessories.
Hello there! Why yes, I am wearing some sassy new shoes. And my way less sisterwife gingham dress, thanks to all of the accessories advice I got.
I ordered these last weekend because self control is a thing for other people, and I LOVE them. They are so pretty, and for something that makes me this tall, they are surprisingly comfortable to walk around in. Granted, all I did was take some photos and hang around the house in them, but still. 
But they are vertiginously tall, and yes, I really am losing my balance a little bit in this photo. But cutely.
They're also peep-toed, and suede. I hope it's a dry autumn.  
I love Seychelles shoes, and have for years, even before I seriously got into wearing vintage. They do such cute, retro styles, they're usually pretty well made, and I can always find something that's been drastically discounted, so they fit my budget as well. This is my fourth or fifth pair, and the first ones that I got have lasted me for several years.
I'd also been on the hunt for a pair of 30s style sunglasses. I never really thought that they would suit me; my face is rather long and narrow, so a smaller, round pair of sunglasses are the sort of thing that I've always steered clear of. But, maybe because of my growing fascination with 30s fashion, I decided recently that I really wanted a pair.
Gingham dress from The Vintage Studio, flower brooch from Chronically Vintage.
The ones that I ended up with were actually a men's style from Forever21. Not only were they pretty unique with the matte tortoise finish and aviator detailing, but were all of $6. You really can't beat that.
I was sweating balls in this photo. Just so you know.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Links to Love

It's been a while since I've done one of these, hasn't it? Frankly, there are a lot of stories out there that I could be linking to right now, most of them just really depressing. Let's see... there's Ferguson, and the way white privilege and black disempowerment are coming to a head, not just in the South but everywhere in America. There's the rise of ISIS in the Middle East and the brutal beheading of journalist James Foley. There's the horrendous assault against Christy Mack by her ex-boyfriend, an MMA fighter, and the equally horrendous response on social media because she's a sex worker.
It's easy to start feeling angry and depressed with all of terrible things going on in the world, and to be honest, I don't want to talk about them (at least, not any more than I just have). So this week, I've got some frivolous and fun stuff to take my mind off of the gloom.
1. The Secret History of "Flashdance"
The movie Flashdance is one of those pop culture touchstones you don't have to have actually seen to be familiar with. It made millions of dollars and resonated with millions of people, but what most of those people don't know is that it's actually based on the lives and images of real dancers who worked in Toronto in the 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, they were taken advantage of by unscrupulous people in the movie business, and have made virtually nothing off of the use of their stories and images. The real stories of Gina Healey and Maureen Marder are fascinating, although they never got their own Hollywood endings.
2. Sleep Hack - Keep Your Feet Outside Your Covers
Photo unrelated to article. I just want my bedroom to look like that.
I'm kind of scared of the dark. I mean, not really anymore, but sometimes I still get creeped out. Up until recently I had this thing where my feet had to be covered by the blanket, because it they weren't I would get this feeling like something was going to reach out and grab them. When I moved, though, I left my bed frame behind (on purpose, it was really shitty), and now that my mattress is right on the floor that fear has gone away. But anyway, what I mean to say is that this trick actually works! I've been doing this ever since I read about it last week, and I'm finding I fall asleep much faster than normal.
3. Before Elvis There Was Nothing - Black and White Photos of Elvis in the 50s
Elvis Presley in the 1950s (4)
I sometimes forget that before Elvis was a chubby, sweaty guy in a rhinestone jumpsuit, he was super hot. Thank you for reminding me.
And hey, spend some time exploring the website these are from. always has fantastic vintage photographs of everything from fashion to high culture to daily life. I try to check the site daily because the updates are so frequent. Definitely one to bookmark.
4. Escape is the unlikely link between The Shawshank Redemption and Natural Born Killers
I'm all about the double feature, and I might actually have to do this one. I would also quite like to do the one that they mentioned in passing as a joke - The Lion King and The Professional.
5.Why does asparagus make our urine smell?
Truly one of the great mysteries of our times.
6. Could the cravat make a comeback?
Man, I really hope so. That would be so sweet.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fashion Under $50: Vintage Appropriated

Even though I've moved well past the stage where "back to school" season involves anything related to school, I still love all of the fashion that comes with it. Like I said not that long ago, fall is my favorite season, so I love see all of the plaids and teeth of hounds and nubby knits roll into the stores. And as I've also mentioned on more than one occasion, I'm a mighty cheap bastard, and I like to slake my lust for all things autumnal for as little cash as possible.
Like most of you (I assume), it's not really workable for me to have an entirely vintage wardrobe, although I would dearly love to. However, this season there are a fair number of vintage appropriate styles floating around out there in fast fashion, giving me a cheap and easy way to dip my toe into trends that I might not otherwise be able to try, or flesh out some of those basics that I don't like to spend a lot of money on, and can be hard to find in the vintage market.

Pants aren't really a trend, I guess, but really never wear them these days. I've got a couple of pairs of my boyfriend's jeans, but I really want a pair of slightly masculine trousers that I can rock for a masculine meets feminine aesthetic.
f21 Heathered Suspender Trousers, $22.90
I like the high waist, relaxed fit, and suspender details on these trousers.
f21 Pleated Wide-Leg Pants, $24.80
There's a serious Katherine Hepburn vibe to these wide legged pants, which also come in black and white.
f21 Classic Plaid Pants, $19.80
I'm suspicious of pants that look too much like leggings, but the classic plaid and rolled cuff might work well as the updated bottom half of a suit.
Zara Wide-Leg Trousers with Small Dots, $59.90
Ok, so these are slightly over the $50 mark, but the casual draping on this just screams luxury to me. I would rock these with a pair of 40s style platforms and a crisp button down.

A cape is one of those things that I love and really, really want, but am not sure that I'd wear that often in real life. Actually, now that I think about it, I do own a cape, but since it's fur it's not really an all the time thing.
ASOS Plain Cape, $42.56
This one is more on the blanket end of the cape spectrum, but I could see it working well if you're going for a gypsy, boho kind of vibe.
f21 Classic Cape Blazer, $32.80
Forever21, what are you doing to me? This cape blazer combo is great in a very Old Hollywood meets New Hollywood kind of way.
H&M Cape in Textured Woven Fabric, $34.95
If I actually get a cape, it would probably be this one. I like how they've styled it with a blouse with long, tight fitting sleeves, but I could also see this working really well with my early 60s (or 60s inspired) pieces.

You can't really go wrong with a basic, collared blouse, especially if it has some interesting detailing. They're great for wearing with skirts and pants, obviously, but they can also be worn over or under a dress to lend it versatility.  
f21 Peter Pan Collar Blouse, $17.80
The peter pan collar gives this is a nice vintage feel, and the rust color makes it perfect for fall.
H&M Jaquard Weave Blouse, $29.95
A sleeveless, bow neck blouse works well layered under a cardigan or a v-neck sweater.
H&M Lyocell-Blend Top, $24.95
Light-weight knits are great in any season, and the bow neck and slightly puffed sleeves make this sweater feel a little special. It also comes in mustard, one of my favorite colors.
Zara Blouse with Back Buttons, $49.90
So, real talk - I just got a button back blouse, and I'm not sure where I stand on them. On the one hand, no awkward button gaping, which seems to happen to me no matter how well the shirt fits. On the other hand, not being able to get dressed by yourself is, um, inconvenient, to say the least. Still, this airy, peter pan collared blouse was too pretty not to include on this list.
Zara Leopard Shirt with Contrasting Collar, $59.90
It's always the Zara stuff that makes me want to go just a liiiiiiittle bit over budget. Can't you just see this with a high waisted black pencil skirt and a pair of killer black pumps?

Zara Geometric Earrings
And I just couldn't resist posting these pretty, deco-inspired earrings from Zara, which are only $20.