the full skirt

Do not look upon all this that I am telling you about the clothes
as uncalled for or spun out, for they have a great deal to do with the story.

                                     – Cervantes, Don Quixote

Some mornings I wake and wonder: if I could wear anything that day,  truly anything I want…what would I wear?

Then, I wear that.


IMG_7800I recommend it.

There are certain eras of style that resonate with me, notably including the Victorian era (technically 1837-1901, a lot happened but I like the later years) and stages of early America, roughly the 1840s and extending maybe a decade on either side; the era of pioneers and the gold rush, of saloons and prairies.  We still have prairies…but I mean the ones after which the dresses are named. You know the ones.

I love this shape, the full A-line. I’m glad to see more and more knee and calf-length bell skirts out and about (see minute 1:45), and plan to get in on that, too.  I embraced the historic aspect here, pairing the skirt with an old-fashioned top and hairstyle, but imagine it with no crinoline and a T-shirt. I don’t see why there would be anything unwearable about it. Who cares about this “wearability” anyway? If you want to wear it? This shirt would be nice with just jeans…but there will be other days for that.


For me style is sometimes less about looking polished or “stylish” and more about a very specific kind of wish fulfillment or direct expression. In the first case clothing often feels to me like armor that helps me to interface with the world in a way that preserves my individuality and independence; a contemporary uniform that makes it easier to behave like my best public self, designed with the purpose of being worn in this culture, in this era. In the second case of style as fantasy, style as an interpretation of a vision that would get some strange looks on the street, clothing is the opposite of armor, the unprotected translation of self. Such looks are designed with really no purpose save the delight of the self. They are manifestations of my own projections of myself within myself.

Looked at another way, I have a tableau in mind, just like any magazine editorial, and I am the model and creative director in one.

Looked at another way, style is personal.

IMG_7806Civil war era reproduction camp skirt (thrifted) with crinoline (eBay), lace top (thrifted, which I ought to have steamed), obi sash/belt (eBay), Bass oxford pumps (thrifted), Pearls of Joy 10-11mm pearl studs, lace parasol (a gift), vintage Timex watch.



Wear what you want.


reading: Friedan, Sontag, babies


The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan – I had only read excerpts of this up to now, and I wish I had read it in its entirety sooner. This book is interesting, relevant, elegantly structured, and–to me, and I think to all American women–important. Friedan explores the causes and repercussions of what she calls the feminine mystique, an American phenomenon bound up in the history of feminism in America. It is a story about our mothers, our grandmothers, our great-grandmothers, and that means it is a story about us.

“The feminine mystique says that the highest value and the only commitment for women is the fulfillment of their own femininity. It says that the great mistake of Western culture, through most of its history, has been the undervaluation of this femininity. It says this femininity is so mysterious and intuitive and close to the creation and origin of life that man-made science may never be able to understand it. But however special and different, it is in now way inferior to the nature of man; it may even in certain respects be superior. The mistake, says the mystique, the root of women’s troubles in the past is that women envied men, women tried to be like men, instead of accepting their own nature, which can find fulfillment only in sexual passivity, male domination, and nurturing maternal love.”

There is a lot more to it, and it is with great sincerity that I urge you– especially the women among you– to read the whole thing. At least read the wikipedia page. This was written in 1963 but the cultural pressures it chronicles have no small degree of influence today, as evidenced by the prevalence of and often rabid responses to articles about ‘having it all’ and ‘all the single ladies’.  (Coincidence that both the articles I’ve chosen as prime examples are from The Atlantic?) I suspect that any given reader would resonate with more of these 60s observations than they would expect. Man or woman, this history is influencing your life, whether you know about it or not. I think, in this case, it is good to know.

The Volcano Lover, Susan Sontag – I picked this up after watching this incredible Sontag interview, wherein she is so unabashedly contentious, so ungenerous to the interviewer (to whom she has taken a transparent dislike), so unexpected, that I took an immediately liking to her. How refreshing! How inspiring! I like her book, too! I don’t know who Camille Paglia is, either! [Or, I didn’t. There is an interview with Paglia in the link as well, which seems to demonstrate quite neatly that she is unhinged. Both interviews very entertaining in their way.]

The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent, Michel Cohen – A sensible care guide from a French pediatrician, the gist of which is: don’t panic (try this instead). I don’t have a baby but I may someday, or may in some other capacity be called upon to know what to do with one. I like to know what to do. Also, babies and the cultural stuff surrounding them are interesting to me, just academically (why do I feel a need to defend myself? Perhaps because I mention it in the wake of Friedan…). I deem this eminently practical and thorough, with an excellent amount of detail (meaning, not too much) and the encouragement of a relaxed approach. If I did have a baby, I would keep it on hand.