Saturday, March 25, 2017

At least it's not a van down by the river

Pumpkin, my cat, has been living in an Ikea bag for the past week. No, she's not out in the wilds of Virginia using a reusable bag for shelter. The bag is sitting on the floor of my apartment. Every night, she sits in the bag on some schedule that only she understands. As I write this, she's sitting in the bag, gazing out into the vast expanse of the apartment while ignoring me. Her new abode raises a lot of questions for me; we'll get to those in a second.
Day One
Here's how it started: I had a bunch of smaller bags to bring in when I got home from work last Friday. Since I have this oversized, reusable bag in my car, I put the smaller bags in it which makes carrying things to my apartment easier than struggling with multiple little bags. I put the bag on the floor and went about my evening tasks of feeding Pumpkin, making dinner, and going through the mail. I didn't immediately remove the smaller bags from the bigger bag BUT there was enough room for a tiny orange cat to shimmy her way into the bag. Which she did. She sat, nestled amongst the bags, for a solid 20 minutes. Eventually, she jumped out and ate her dinner. I went about emptying the bag but left it on the floor since I wanted to take it back to the car. It never made it.

Pumpkin kept going back in. Since last Friday, Pumpkin has spent anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour sitting or napping in the bag. I don't know if she spends time in it when I'm not home; I haven't become the person who sets up video cameras to see what her pet does when she's not home...yet. Sometimes she peeks her head out and watches me, either when I'm in the kitchen (directly across from where the bag is) or sitting on the couch. She occasionally lays down so I can only see the tops of her ears. On Thursday, she didn't go in the bag; she rubbed her face on it and sat next to it but didn't go in. My theory is she did this because I came home later than normal and she preferred snuggling with me on the couch than sitting by herself. However, she did get me up at 4:30 am by making the "I'm going to throw up in your shoes" gagging noise. She didn't actually throw up; when I got up to check on her she was laying in the bag. The move seemed to say "I just want you to know I do what I want and right now I want to live in this bag. I don't have to explain my life to you, Erin."

Which brings me to all the questions I have about this latest chapter in my life with Pumpkin. We've been a part of each others' lives for 15 years now. In that time we've lived in Honolulu, New Orleans, Alexandria (twice), Alameda, and Arlington. She's been in an airplane on multiple occasions and driven cross-country (not in a Toonces the cat sort of way). She's even evacuated form a hurricane like a freaking boss. She's undergone endoscopic surgery (she swallowed a needle and thread because cat's do stupid shit sometimes) and had to take kitty morphine once after having some teeth removed. Pumpkin has led a more interesting life than many humans. She's just that cool.

So what does the whole thing "I live in an Ikea bag" thing mean? Pet experts always tell pet owners that pets do odd things to tell you something; their food isn't right for them, they're not getting enough exercise or water or sleep, they're sick. Weird behavior can be a sign of trouble. Here's the things: cats are always weird. How is a cat "owner" supposed to know the difference between normal weird and weird weird? Cats have a very specific life philosophy that skirts the normal weird/weird weird line very closely:
  1. "If I fits, I sits."
  2. Nap for at least 18 hours a day, sometimes with your eyes open because you can and it creeps humans out.
  3. Sleep in ways that can only be described as cat yoga.
  4. Stare creepily at your human in the shower or bathroom not because they're planning anything bad but because you love your human as the intense staring proves.
  5. "All of your things belong to me, human. I will now rub my face on everything."
  6. Run around at odd hours of the night like something is chasing you. Look perfectly at ease.
  7. Hide when your human sneezes; she has offended your ancestors. 
I don't think her new behavior is a sign of anything bad; but because I'm me, I have to overthink her behavior and try to find some meaning in the behavior of creature who never makes sense. Here's what I'm wondering:
  • Am I a bad pet mom? Have I not provided you with adequate napping and living space options?
  • Did you pick up a love of modular, brightly colored Swedish furniture at some point in our journeys and the only way you know how to express that love since you can't go to the actual store is to spend time lounging in a reusable bag created by the same company? 
  • Are you still upset about moving? Are you trying to figure out your place in our new apartment?
  • Have you secretly been harboring a desire to construct furniture with only an Allen wrench? Do you know what an Allen wrench is?
  • Is the apartment too big? Our last apartment was on the small side and we lived there for awhile so I could understand if the space now is too much for you. Maybe the smallness of the Ikea bag is comforting. 
  • Do cats know how to interpret the instructions provided when humans buy Ikea furniture? Is this actually the cat plan to take over the world - reduce humans to sad, sniveling creatures curled in the fetal position because they can't construct a three shelf bookcase and then our cat overlords take over providing clearer instructions but only if we pledge our eternal devotion? Wait...I sort of already do that. When do I get clear Ikea instructions?
  • Is it the crinkly-ness of the bag what makes it so appealing? 
  • Does it feel like you're hiding but also visible at the same time? You can see me but I can't see you? (I can see you because you're terrible at hiding in a very large, blue bag.)
  • Did you want to give me a good story to tell people this week?  
  • Is this the cat version of an mid-life crisis? Is Pumpkin thinking: "I need change in my life but I like my toys and my food so I'll just add oddly cryptic behavior to my repertoire because I'm a cat and it's the only option I have"?
As the week progressed, her time in the bag got shorter. Maybe she's tired of it; maybe she realized I'm much more comfortable as a pillow than the floor is. Maybe she's decided to be less weird. I don't know. What I do know is that this is not over. Pumpkin is heading to her grandparents' house this weekend. We're going to try a little experiment to see if it's a specific Ikea bag or all Ikea bags. My dad has the same blue bag and we're going to put it out for her and see what happens. How far will Pumpkin's weird go?

Next week: Dispatches from the #misfittoysroadtrip2017 all the way from Music City. We'll talk queens of country music and there might possibly be a new chapter from my novel. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Guest Post: Surprise Winter

Howdy Island readers! It's been a long time since I've invited a guest to blog on the Island. We've been experiencing what a friend described as "surprise winter" this week here in the DMV, so it's only fitting that my friend Lindsey share her thoughts on how to survive winter when you're not from a cold weather climate originally. Regular Island readers may remember Lindsey from that time I filled in as her fake bridesmaid and we got makeovers. Lindsey and I share a love of baking and nerdy things as well as a dream to create a series of videos on appropriate workplace behaviors that are mostly just me saying "Don't do anything inappropriate" in different voices while looking exasperated.

We've been discussing her idea for this blog for awhile now; Lindsey's wanted to share this information with everyone to better humanity and save some unsuspecting Floridians and other Southerners (I guess that's a bit redundant if you consider Florida a part of the South - I understand some people do not) from making the same mistakes she did moving to a colder climate. Lindsey has learned much in her short time in the DMV, braving a blizzard and surprise winter like a champ. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I do. 

A Floridian in Winter by Lindsey

Hey there, people of the internet! My name is Lindsey, and I have graciously been offered the opportunity to have a guest blog post. Okay, I had some advice the world needed to hear but no platform, and Erin was kind enough to mention that occasionally she has guests post on her blog. Thanks, Erin!

What you need to know about me: I've got two cats, and I love baking, Star Wars, and Victorian literature (no idea why I get along with the resident blogger). Also, about 3 years ago, I moved from Florida to the bitter, bitter cold of Northern Virginia. Now that winter has arrived (in March), I have a need to share what I've learned with my fellow Sunshine Staters. My list is by no means exhaustive, but let it be a lesson to any other northern-inclined Floridians.
  1. You will need a new coat. Your Florida winter coat is not going to get you past Fall. Don't buy it in Florida. Parameters: it should cover your butt(!), have a hood, be waterproof, and be big on you. Put that coat back on the rack if it fits snugly. Also, it is possible that you may want to own more than one coat (It seems like overkill, I know, but I got a super warm coat with a hood with fur lining that goes down to my ankles and is basically like wearing a down comforter, and it's awesome, but it's too warm for, say, 40 degrees. Or even 30 degrees. Now that you're out of Florida, guess what—it gets even colder <shudder>.)
  2. Scarves. They are apparently for more than decoration. They also catch snot and tears when you're out in the cold and the wind. Gross? Absolutely. But think of how much you're saving on tissues.
  3. Cold sucks. Cold with wind is worse. One word: ChapStick <quickly checks Google to see if that really is one word>.
  4. Snow is disappointing. It's wet. It only occurs when it's cold outside. It's heavy. It leaves your floors wet and gross and sandy (Sandy? Yeah, sandy, and not from a day at the beach. This area puts down sand to give you traction to drive instead of just salt.). The pristine beauty of fresh snowfall will turn into sandy/muddy brown slush. Also, snow has not yet learned to fall only in grassy areas, so it's a pain in the ass to go anywhere—by car or on foot. Snow Days? Ha! Not if you can work from home.
  5. Buy a snow shovel before a snowstorm is forecast. Like in summer. Because there won't be any in stock when a snowstorm is looming. Once the snow has fallen, unless you can get a shovel through same-day delivery from Amazon, good luck digging out to get to a store. (I have found that a large mixing bowl will make a dent. Also, if your neighbors see you scooping snow with a mixing bowl, they will take pity and offer to let you borrow their shovels. Like, multiple offers. Not that I know this from personal experience.)
  6. Pedestrian life sucks when the sidewalks are covered in snow. Get snow boots. If you forge a new path, you will be covered in snow (wet and cold) and potentially trip over covered things or fall into holes. If you step in footprints, the snow has been compacted and has melted and refrozen, so those footprints are actually ice. Pedestrian life sucks worse when the sidewalks are covered in ice. You will slip. Snow boots help, but they are not suction cups.
  7. You're a better driver in snow than a lot of people. No, really.
  8. Don't use your windshield wiper fluid from Florida. It will freeze. You will then realize this is obvious, but it was always above freezing in Florida by morning, so you weren't thinking about it. You're welcome.
  9. Get a windshield ice scraper thingy. Your credit card will no longer do the trick. Get one that has a brush on one end so you can brush off the snow from all over your car, too.
  10. Have a pair of waterproof gloves. Otherwise your hands will be cold, wet, and numb meat mallets as you try to scrape off snow and ice.
  11. Get cats. Then you don't have to try to walk an animal in snow. Also, if you need traction in snow to, let's say, back out of your parking space, apparently you can pour some kitty litter around your tires. I've never tried this. I need that stuff for the cats.
  12. Wake up earlier. It takes longer to dress yourself for winter. When you finally get your layers on, now put on that new coat, boots, gloves, hat and scarf. Promptly overheat as you sit in rush hour traffic for more than an hour, toggling the heat on and off and finally settling on heat on with the window down.
  13. Ice is slippery.
  14. Everyone will tell you to layer. This is confusing to Floridians. Let me explain: you have to go buy those other layers; they're not in your closet yet. Why the hell would you layer anything in Florida? Basically it's sweaters. Invest in sweaters. Put lighter layers (your "sweaters" you wore in Florida for winter) under sweaters. Put a cami under the lighter layer. Put a coat on over all that. This is why you bought a larger coat size, see? Plus side: layers help cushion your fall when you slip on ice.
  15. Get lots of lotion. You, from Florida, are an amphibian, and your skin will shrivel and die in the winter. It will suck. Hydrate your skin! Also invest in saline spray for your nose. Your nose will dry out and bleed, and you will thank me later. Oh, and a humidifier is a must to create a tolerable habitat.
  16. Northern Virginia is not even considered The North. I don't have any advice for this. Let's just sit and contemplate the fact that my list is for what is generally considered a "mild" winter.
  17. There is some good news. Here is where YOU are the expert: Up here, there are two hazardous road conditions that get me every time an advisory is issued: sun glare and road spray. No, that's real. ...Because driving when it's sunny is an event. A dangerous event. As is driving after it "rains." The rain up here is mostly weird and insubstantial phantom rain. Sometimes you can hardly feel it. If it actually rains enough, though, you'll get an advisory about wet roads. ...I just...
So hang in there, displaced Floridaperson. They will tease you about winter, but you can roll your eyes all day long once we hit summer and they start complaining about how humid it is.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lazy Movie Weekend: Use Thy Gumption*

"When you're young, when you've never done anything very much on your own, you imagine that it won't be that hard."
-Alice Paul

Earlier this week, several of the national organizers of the Women's March on Washington were arrested during a demonstration in New York. They were arrested outside of Trump International Hotel for disorderly conduct. It just so happened that it was also International Women's Day and they were participating in a Day Without Women demonstration. Supporters followed the women to the 7th Precinct singing songs and calling for their release. All arrested (13 total) were released later in the evening.

From left: Paola Mendoza, Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Bob Bland

I couldn't help but think of these women as I watched this weekend's Lazy Movie Weekend film, Iron Jawed Angels. The film looks at the women involved in the women's suffrage movement from the 1913 march during Woodrow Wilson's inauguration to the "Night of Terror" in 1917 and hunger strikes in the same year to the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote. At the center of the film is Alice Paul (played by Hilary Swank), a more radical suffragist (US - suffragist; UK - suffragette), who helped organize the 1913 march and would, along with other women, be arrested for silent pickets outside of the White House. Many saw the arrests as political moves by Wilson. The women were beaten and force fed in brutal ways during their incarceration at the Occoquan Workhouse (now the Workhouse Arts Center, an artist's collective).

Alice Paul is a fascinating part of the women's movement. She was a introduced to the ideas of women's suffrage early in life by her her mother, Tancie, who was a member of the National American Women Suffrage Association. Her family were Quakers and believed women should be educated equally (not just educated). Her grandfather was one of the founders of Swathmore College, where Alice eventually matriculated. She earned a degree in biology and was active in activities in college. She traveled to England and met the Parkhurst family, Emmeline and her daughters, who were central figures in the suffrage movement in England. It's from her English sisters that Alice becomes more militant. English suffragettes were known to throw rocks and break windows and heckle. During her time in England, Paul was jailed and became more radicalized in her belief in suffrage.

She returned to the US in 1910 and joined the National American Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She would meet Carrie Chapman Catt (played by Anjelica Huston in the film), president of the association. The women never agreed on strategy; this would eventually lead to a split in the group. However, Catt sent Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Crystal Eastman to Washington to help organize the 1913 march.

The film is exactly what you would expect from a film made for HBO during the early 2000s, at the height of Hilary Swank's popularity (Million Dollar Baby came out the same year). It gets the history right for the most part and many of the characters depicted were real people who did the things they do in the film in real life. There are some random additions, which we'll get to in a few minutes, that are a bit much but ultimately work in the grand scheme of the story. Rather than my normal point by point LMW post, I thought I'd focus on bigger themes, things I enjoyed, and things I thought could have been left out of this movie. Grab some tea and settle in for Iron Jawed Angels.

  • The history is solid. The film is told in chronological order and starts with Alice and Lucy's arrival in DC to help organize the 1913 march (although they call it a parade). We see events escalate to the US joining World War I and the movement through the various moments in the suffrage movement I've talked about above. Alice eventually does break away from NAWSA to form the National Woman's Party (NWP), a more radical group who picket outside of the White House for a solid year. There are a few things that didn't happen that are more for drama than anything else, including the appearance of Patrick Dempsey as Ben Weissman, an illustrator for The Washington Post who is not a real person. There are some inaccuracies, but not enough to be problematic. The three things that I think are important to note: 1. The 19th Amendment wasn't ratified until 1920, not in the immediate aftermath of Alice Paul's imprisonment in 1917. 2. Alice Paul didn't organize the 1913 march; she was involved but not solely responsible for the march. 3. Men were involved in the suffrage movement. Ben is the only sympathetic male character in the whole film. That's not how it worked just as today where there are lots of men who are feminists or involved in promoting women's issues. I think it's important to note this because allies are important and I'm so tired of these movements being characterized as "man-hating" in an attempt to discredit them.
  • The modern music... I get it, using modern music in a historical film is edgy and fun and creates a sense connection between the past and present. Used well, it can be very powerful. It's not as powerful here but at the very beginning of the film and during the 1913 march when "Everything is Everything" by Lauryn Hill starts playing, I can't help but think this feels a bit like a late 1990s/early 2000s girl power movie. I don't think that was the intention but that's sort of what happens. It also made me think of the moment at the Women's March in January where Alicia Keys appeared and sang "Girl on Fire" and it was crazy. A Sarah McLachlan song makes an appearance as well; I'll get to that momentarily.
  • Ida B. Wells. Ida B. Wells did participate in the 1913 march along with other African-American suffragists. The scene between Paul and Wells (played by Adilah Barnes) is perfect. The suffrage movement and the later feminist movement have always had a hard time dealing with race and women's rights. I'm of the belief that if you believe in women's rights, you believe in all women's rights. What's great about this scene is that Ida B. Wells calls them out on their exclusion, "Dress up prejudice and call it progress" are her words to Paul and company. Wells didn't want to march separately from the Illinois contingent. Rather than doing so she waited until the group passed her on the street and then moved into the march between white participants. This is how it happened. It's a great moment in the film although it doesn't remotely address the long struggle with inclusion the women's moments has had long after the 19th Amendment was ratified.  
  • There's a love story. Because of course there is. Alice Paul never married but she did have affairs and companions. She focused her life on her cause; after the passage of the 19th Amendment, she went to work trying to get the Equal Rights Amendment (1923) passed, earned three law degrees, and worked in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. This is a movie, though, so we can't just have a story about a bunch of real women who fought for their (and our) rights. Enter Patrick Dempsey as Ben Weissman (a fictional character) who says things like "Were you the smartest girl in your class?" to Alice and eventually teaches her to dance and drive a car and almost kisses her. This, of course, is set to the soundtrack of "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" a Sarah McLachlan gem from the album of the same name. Alice doesn't really have time for Ben or his adorable son (yep, there's a cute kid) but she does have a little sexual awakening of sorts because of him while this song is playing so there's that. Alice and Lucy have a few conversations about love and marriage and being politically active; they struggle with the same things women today do when it comes to having strong opinions or being a feminist but also wanting love. As Lucy puts it, "All the men I meet are idiots or are terrified of me." Preach, sister.
  • The police, the Occoquan Workhouse, and the blind eye of the public. The women who marched in the 1913 march knew there was risk involved. The police chief could not (or would not depending on the history you read) ensure their safety on the route. Lucy's (played by Frances O'Connor) impression of the chief is one of the funnier moments of the film. The police turned their backs during the march as spectators, mostly men, began to taunt the marchers and eventually, broke barricades and physically attacked the women. Later, when Lucy and other women are arrested outside of the White House and taken to the Occoquan Workhouse, the brutality they're shown is accurate. Lucy Burns was, at one point, forced to have her hands handcuffed above her head while in a cell because the guards realized she would not go quietly. Later, Paul, Burns, and others would be jailed again (this time with no real charges brought against them) and eventually force fed after they go on a hunger strike. This is depicted in the film and is one of the hardest parts to watch. In the lead up to these scenes, Alice is questioned by a doctor at the request of the DC Commissioner (they were trying to declare her insane since that's the only reason a woman would want rights and starve herself). She says this to the doctor: "You asked me to explain myself. I just wonder what needs to be explained. Let me be very clear. Look into your own heart. I swear to you, mine's no different. You want a place in the trades and professions where you can earn your bread? So do I. You want some means of self expression? Some way of satisfying your own personal ambitions? So do I. You want a voice in the government in which you live? So do I. What is there to explain?"
  •  The Senator's Wife. Tom and Emily Leighton are fictional characters but are here to represent a very real part of suffrage at this point in time: women who were married with families who wanted to be part of the movement but didn't know how to do so without losing their families (again not too far off from what some women still feel today about being political or having a job). Emily falls into the movement, donating money and then being more visible in her support. Her husband, a senator, finds out and of course does exactly what a dude at this time in history would do: he takes their children away from Emily and implies that he will have her declared unfit. It's in this moment that Emily decides to dedicate herself fully to suffrage for her children. She's eventually arrested with the group. Tom comes to see her in prison and it's through him that the word gets out that Alice is being force fed and abused. I love this particular plot line. There's so much of it that still resonates today and maybe is even more heightened in the politically charged world we live in. 
  • War is declared so we can't protest anything else...apparently. One of the things I love about the pickets during this time was that the women used Woodrow Wilson's own words against him as they protested. He brought the US into World War I with speeches about protecting liberty for citizens abroad and the suffragists would use those speeches to question his motives at home. The women were heavily criticized, including criticism from NAWSA, for protesting during the war. People equated their protests with not caring for about the sacrifices of the men fighting. Inez Milholland, who rode the horse at the head of the march in 1913, would ask in her last public speech, "Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?" After her death,while on a speaking tour in support of the NWP, Milholland's question would also be used to protest Wilson, the war, and his lack of interest in women's suffrage. Eventually, Wilson would change his support. He considered it a "war measure" to support suffrage. The film depicts Wilson's change of heart as a solely political move, after he is heavily criticized for the treatment of the women in prison as well as their use of his speeches in protest.
  • The 19th Amendment was only passed because of a note from mom. This is actually true. Harry Burn, a representative from Tennessee, changed his vote to support the amendment at the last minute. He received a letter from his mother, Phoebe Ensminger Burn. She was a supporter of Carrie Chapman Catt and encouraged her son to do the right thing and vote for ratification. Burn's vote broke the tie and led to the amendment being ratified. It's a great little footnote on the passing of the amendment. 

Back in December, I received a Jailed for Freedom pin from a women's group as a thank you for presenting to them about the museum. The pin is a commemorative pin in honor of the 1917 arrests of Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and their fellow suffragists. I wear or carry this pin with me every day to remember the women who came before me and worked so tirelessly for basic rights. I wear it every day to remind me to rise above the comments from others that my support of women's rights and my protests against the 45 are unpatriotic and that I should simply be happy with what I have. I keep it with me to remember that I am in fact an adult lady who can do things and that scares a lot of people.

*A quote from Susan Cunningham, a professor at Swathmore College. She was fond of saying this to her students.

Day Without Women image
1913 March image
1917 picketing image 
Alice Paul Institute  
Other images by me

Saturday, March 4, 2017

How to start a book club and not hate yourself: Women's History Month Edition

Well, it has been a hell of week...and I'm mostly talking about the weather. Freakishly warm weather has been here making the end of February feel like the middle of May. Then yesterday it was freezing cold and windy bringing us all back to winter. This is how everyone gets sick AND how we know we're one step closer to living underground in a bunker and becoming mole people. That's how it works: freakish weather pattern, return to "normal", end up as a mole person. Get your bunker ready now.

Before we have to start living underground, we get to celebrate Women's History Month! It excites me that we have one whole month a year to celebrate the accomplishments of women. I promise there's limited sarcasm in this comment. I think it's wonderful that we can celebrate women this month. You can join in the fun by finding women artists when you visit museums this month; use #5WomenArtists to tag your posts. I'm proud to say this campaign was started last year by the museum where I'm a docent. Or maybe you can join in on A Day Without a Women on International Women's Day (March 8th). There are lots of ways to participate; find the way that works for you.

I thought I'd kick off Women's History Month by tackling one of my favorite things (books) and one of my least favorite things (book clubs) all at the same time. Book clubs are one of those things I've never really gotten into. I've been in three book clubs in my life and all three were limited in enjoyment. One was for work and while I enjoyed the premise, it was definitely one of those things people were phoning in. It became just another chore so we disbanded. The other two book clubs were social ones; attempts by me to meet new people who shared my love of reading and talking about books. The first one never actually met. The organizer assigned the book (The Life of Pi) and then got so overwhelmed by the prospect of organizing 85 people (no joke) that she canceled the first meeting and closed the group. The last book club I joined was a women's book club. I should have known this was code for "we're going to read Fifty Shades of Grey and drink wine and talk about the "sexy parts" despite the fact that this is a terrible book and women can find much better options out there if they want to read this sort of thing." I politely declined after the organizer sent out the first four book titles (the Fifty Shades books and the first Twilight book). I support your life choices if you want to read these books but I don't need to add them to my collection. It's better I stop writing about these books right now so I don't offend anyone who loves them. That's more fun if I've had a glass of wine.

I love talking about books and sharing them with others which is why I don't know why book clubs and I have never figured out how to work together. People are always asking me what I'm reading (I read a lot) so what better way to share my books with you than a list? Like my past recommendations of movie marathons and music, this list is in no way exhaustive or complete. It's not particularly feminist (although it's a little feminist). It's not one genre. It's a little bit of all the things I love. The books are either by women or about women (or both). There's only one book on this list that I don't physically own (I have the Kindle version). What's even better is this: we don't have to get together in my apartment or at a coffee shop, drink adequate wine or coffee, and make polite conversation until we get into the book. And then we'll only talk about the book for 15 minutes before we start talking about dating or children or whatever else women talk about at book club.

If you want to talk to me about the books, you can post a comment and I'll reply back! Or maybe one day I'll actually start a book club for people who are not convinced books clubs are for them and then you can join. It'll be fun and only mildly awkward. For now, let's get to the list.

A Book Club That Involves No One - Women's History Month Edition

Books About Music
  1. Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon: Do you like 90s indie rock? Do you like strong female voices? Do you think girls should move to the front at rock shows? Then this book is for you.
  2. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein: I'm a huge Sleater-Kinney fan and this book is a great look at the band and Carrie's life before, during, and after.
  3. Girls to the Front by Sara Marcus: Read this before Brownstein's book if you don't know a lot about Riot Grrls. I like that Marcus was there and part of what she's writing about.
  4. Just Kids and M Train by Patti Smith: These books are and aren't about music but I'm putting them here because it feels right to do so. Patti Smith is one of my heroes. Read Just Kids first.
Books About Art
  1. Lee Krasner by Gail Levin: The woman behind Jackson Pollock and in my opinion, the better artist. If you come visit NMWA (my museum), you can see one of her paintings in the collection. It's one of my favorites.
  2. Diane Arbus by Patricia Bosworth: This is the first biography of Arbus I read. I'm in the middle of Arthur Lubow's new book about her. Bosworth's biography is good for a casual Arbus fan; Lubow's is here for those who really want to dive in.
  3. Hubert's Freaks by Gregory Gibson: This book is also about Diane Arbus. A rare photography dealer finds photos he believes are Arbus originals. He goes on a quest to prove it.
  4. Edie by Jean Stein & George Plimpton: Edie Sedgwick is one of those figures in the Pop movement that is both loved and loathed. This book captures both well but doesn't malign her as others have done. 
Memoir and Biography
  1. My Life in France by Julia Child: I've read this book a few times (a good sign) and absolutely love it. Child lived a fascinating life before she became famous for bringing French cuisine to home cooks. Her love story with Paul Child is lovely; may we all find our Paul Child.
  2. Daughters of the Samurai by Janice P. Nimura: Fascinating account of three Japanese women sent to the US by the emperor to learn more about American life and bring that knowledge back to Japan. It's beautifully written for a historical biography. It was not a story I had ever heard of before picking this up and I was captivated.
  3. Queen of Bohemia: The Life of Louise Bryant by Mary V. Gibson: I watch Reds every Valentine's Day. Diane Keaton's portrayal of Bryant is amazing. This was a great read to learn more about Bryant with and without John Reed. Sappy me also enjoys their love letters.
  4. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott: I love Civil War history. I'm particularly interested in the role of women at home and on the battle front so this book was wonderful to read. It's well researched, fun, and full of adventure. I would also recommend Drew Gilpin Faust's books if you like Civil War history.
  5. American Rose by Karen Abbott: Abbott's style is perfect for a biography of Gypsy Rose Lee, the queen of burlesque. It's funny, sad, and oddly glamorous. If your only knowledge of Gypsy Rose Lee is the musical, grab this book and enjoy.
  6. The Scarlet Sisters by Myra MacPherson: I'm going to admit that I'm only halfway into this book but it's great. This book has everything: scandal, the suffrage movement, a woman running for President, and the primness of the Gilded Age.
  7. Bossypants by Tina Fey: I'm a huge Tina Fey fan. I miss her on Weekend Update but love her stories here. There's a reason so many women respond to her humor; Fey is one of us in all our awkward glory.
  8. Yes Please by Amy Poehler: Great look at Poehler's rise to comedy stardom and the focus on what a hustle is it to be a women in comedy.
  9. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem: I consider this a primer of sorts for reading Gloria Steinem. The collection includes work for the first two decades of her writing including her time undercover as a Playboy Bunny and work about her mother's struggle with mental illness. It's so freaking good.
  10. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay: I love this collection of essay's from Roxane Gay. She talks about everything from Sweet Valley High to her love of trash tv to issues facing women of color. Her style is open and funny and accessible.
  11. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West: I identify with Lindy West in a lot of ways. It's challenging to be a loud woman with opinions and feelings and ideas in a world that would prefer quiet, demure women who don't take up a lot of space. 
  1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This is a magical book. It's beautifully written with vibrant characters, fantastical landscapes, and a love story that isn't overdone or trite. I both want and don't want to see this as a movie.
  2. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: Please read the book before you watch the Hulu series (I'm not sure it's started yet but you get my point). Probably one of my favorite novels of all time, you owe it to yourself to read it. Set in a future version of the US, the book is both cautionary tale and satire of what can happen when power goes unchecked. 
  3. The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean: Combines my love of vintage fashion with a story of a woman trying to figure out who she wants to be. The characters are fun and real which is not always easy to do in fiction.
  4. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious: For it's time Peyton Place was incredibly controversial for its depiction of sex, domestic abuse, and the way in which small towns create terrible people. It's one of the biggest selling novels of all time and was made into a film starring Lana Turner. It's frank and gossipy all at the same time. I would recommend the sequel too.
I hope that's enough recommendations to get you started. As I said before, this is not an exhaustive list but some of my favorites. Share yours in the comments!

Next week: Lazy Movie Weekend gets into the suffrage movement with our viewing of Iron Jawed Angels. 

Don't forget to support A Day Without a Woman. I'll be wearing red in solidarity since I can't take off work. Show your support in whatever way you can!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Stuff I Love: Politics & Lipgloss

When I was younger, I was an avid magazine reader. I mean, I was an avid reader of all things, but I really hit peak magazine reading between the ages of 12 and 19. My earliest non-Highlights magazine memories involve Bop, Teen Beat, and Tiger Beat. No 12 year old can ever have enough pictures of the Coreys, Christian Slater, or the boy band of my preteen existence, New Kids on the Block. Eventually, I would move onto movie magazines like Premiere and Entertainment Weekly, music magazines including but not limited to Rolling Stone, Spin, and Mojo (because imports are cool), and more political/social commentary magazines like Ms and Vanity Fair.

Seventeen magazine was the first magazine I ever subscribed to that I selected on my own. I was probably 14 or 15 at the time and enjoyed getting mail so a magazine seemed like a good investment. I was like most young women in my age group, trying to fit in and figure out to be pretty and fashionable. Seventeen promised fashion tips, what boys like, and the latest celebrity news. I can't say that I learned much about makeup or the world of dating from Seventeen but it did lead me to my deep commitment to fashion magazines. I can draw a very bold connecting line in the magazine web of my life from Seventeen to Vogue, Elle, and InStyle. I didn't renew my subscription and eventually moved onto music magazines and more lifestyle themed periodicals.

In college, I came to the crushing realization that magazines are freaking expensive. Subscriptions actually make more sense when you're on a budget; I've had several magazine subscriptions over the year; Rolling Stone, Southern Living, and Ms are my mainstays. My friends and I also started magazine swapping, a practice I continued as I moved into jobs that required lots of travel. When you co-worker likes Real Simple and Cosmo and you like Elle and Garden & Gun, you have a swap made in heaven. I like variety in my reading, both in books and periodicals, so I gravitate towards magazines that can give me that. This is why I started reading Vanity Fair; it's a perfect mix of fashion, politics, pop culture, and stuff rich people like. Jane was like that in its heyday but for the late teen/early 20s set just discovering feminism and dark eyeliner.

Magazines like Teen Vogue aren't new. There have always been magazines catering to young girls and women that mix fashion, celebrity gossip/news, and social commentary. In any given issue, you'll find an article on current fashion trends (but never the one that says skinny jeans are going away), the latest on whatever celebrity couple is popular, and a piece on a world event told from the lens of a teenager. I remember reading about campus sexual assault and identity theft and eating disorders in Seventeen. However, I always remember the articles being tame; informational but not controversial. I was in my teens when zines were popular but I never really got into those either (that would happen in college). Most adults consider magazines like Teen Vogue fluffy and don't put much stock in them.

Until now. Since last year, Teen Vogue has consistently lead the charge with hard-hitting news stories on a host topics: DAPL, feminism and the current election cycle, sexual harassment, multiculturalism, trans rights, the 45 and team's blatant disregard for the truth, Congress's inability to do its job. Teen Vogue has done more to put the current administration on blast that some of its more "important" and influential media siblings. Current editor Elaine Welteroth took over in May and with the start of her tenure, the magazine has taken a much more political stand, including a very sharp focus on teen activism. It's refreshing and it gives me hope for the future.

That's actually how I stumbled upon the journalism of Teen Vogue. Back in November, there was a great piece on the Dakota Access Pipeline and the protests taking place at Standing Rock. The article included video featuring two girls participating in the protest. The article doesn't simplify what's happening at Standing Rock but clarifies it and puts in the context of young Americans. For me, it was a look at teen activism in a way that I hadn't seen in a long time. I started falling Teen Vogue after reading this story and have not been disappointed. The article that brought a ton of attention on the magazine was Laura Duca's fierce piece entitled "Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America", published in early December. Duca, the current weekend editor for Teen Vogue, is an award-winning journalist and the piece on gas lighting was one of the best I've read on the topic. Duca also has the distinction of being a freaking boss on Fox News. She a strong voice on politics and social commentary AND she's funny to boot. Lily Herman gave us one of the clearest explanations of the impeachment process in a piece called "Presidential Impeachment, Explained". I retweeted five of their articles this week alone. (I also retweeted two animal photos, an article about an exhibit at the Hirshhorn, a tweet from Classic Alternative about The Smiths that involved a sight gag, and several HuffPo pieces about politics - a lot happens in my brain on Twitter.)

Why does it matter? We have a president who claims that the media is the enemy of the American people. This is the language of despots. It can't be the sole responsibility of CNN or Fox News or The Washington Post or The New York Times (or whatever legitimate news source you prefer) to report news and question the administration on their policies and actions. In light of this week's ban on some major news outlets from certain White House press briefings (it's like they write these posts for me), it's even more important to embrace magazines like Teen Vogue. I would be saying this regardless of who the is president so keep your "you're just mad your candidate didn't win" nonsense to yourself. The truth is being obscured: the term "alternative facts" is a thing now, and this administration has no idea how to run itself. Teen Vogue and magazines like it are important because they focus on an audience we only care about when trying to sell them stuff: teenage girls. This magazine speaks the language of teens. It sparks discussion in a way that doesn't speak down to them or exclude them. It promotes the good work teen activists are doing, hopefully inspiring more teens to get involved and be socially conscious. Teen Vogue balances being a good citizen with being a teenager (a fashionable one at that). You can be both. That's why Teen Vogue matters. And that is why it made to the list of "Stuff I Love."

Do yourself a favor: follow Teen Vogue on your preferred social media site or go out and buy an actual copy. It's worth the read.  Maybe buy the Sunday edition of The Washington Post or The New York Times while you're at it. And while you're completing the Sunday crossword in pen like the boss you are, check out Elaine Welteroth and Phillip Picardi on The Daily Show.

March is Women's History Month - woohoo a whole month to celebrate the achievements of women! The Island is bringing back "Women Who Rock" for this year's celebrations. Check it out starting next weekend!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Stuff I Love: The Quest for Pockets

Co-worker: "I love your dress! It's so cute. Are you going on a date tonight?"
Me: "Thanks! It has pockets."
Co-worker: "Oh My God - pockets?! Are they functional pockets?"
Me: "Yes, it is the greatest thing ever. My phone fits in the pockets of this dress. It's magical."
Co-worker: "Pockets in dresses are the best. Are you going on a date tonight?"
Me: (Slowly backs away without answering the question, carried off in an awkward haze of not wanting to share about my dating life but also smug satisfaction that I have a dress with pockets and she doesn't.)

And scene.

I have some variation of this conversation every time I wear one of the two dresses I own that have pockets. Both dresses are awesome; one is a floral number I bought for my cousin's wedding last year but is, with the right level of accessories, appropriate to wear to work (it's called a day dress for a reason). The other is a black sheath dress I bought on a whim/sale at the Gap Outlet four years ago. Because it's black, I can make it truly magnificent by adding colorful sweaters, funky shoes, or tights for cold weather days. When I wear either dress, I'm immediately impressed that the pockets are larger than most of the pockets on any pants or jeans I own AND that they don't ruin any of the "sleek lines" of design of either garment. They're functional and fashionable. I'm also 100% serious when I say that I can fit my phone in the pockets and I have a Galaxy S6. It is not a small phone but it fits securely with room to spare in my dress pockets. Take that jeans!

What an attractive family! And look at that dress (it has pockets).
Why are pockets in women's clothes such a problem? Some would argue it's the inherent sexism that exists in the modern fashion industry. Most design houses that cater to mass market type fashion are dominated by men who focus more on production than thinking through function for the wearer. Another argument would be the focus on a specific type of woman when designing fashion: slender, sleek, and lithe. Adding a pocket to a pair of pants for that woman would ruin the beautiful line a designer is trying to make. Yet another argument: Hips are problem areas. Adding a pocket would add unnecessary bulk to an area most women want to mask or hide. Want another one? Women have to carry so many things all day, everyday. A pocket will never suffice; all women should carry a purse.

I remember some variation of at least two of these "arguments" coming up when I was taking costume design classes in college. One of the textbooks was a historical survey of design and I remember reading a passage about the evolution of pocket design (this is seriously a thing) in women's clothing and the impact on costume design. Costume design is different than fashion design on many levels, one of which is the level of functionality of a garment. With a costume, functionality is not about everyday wear; it's about conveying a character and ease of wear for an actor. You can actually design costumes to hide functional details like pockets if needed. I've done this for costumes before and it's can be easy to do. Need a pocket on a dress that can't actually have pockets? Build it into the bodice or inner breast area of a coat (like a man's suit jacket has). You can also hide them with decorative touches if you can't build into a the interior of a garment. Despite the ability to mask or hide in costuming, the persistent argument of "problem areas" was still a thing. No woman likes to think about her hips so don't call attention to them! Leave the pockets to the men! Give her a purse!!

It's interesting to think about the role of technology on the design of clothes. The development of the smartphone has caused a fair amount of disruption in the fashion industry especially when it comes to things like pockets. Now purses have to have pockets large enough to fit an iPhone or Android. There's an entire industry, cell phone accessories, that has been created to accommodate the rise of larger phones. However, most other fashion hasn't caught up, especially when dealing with women's fashion. Skinny jeans, the bane of most people's fashion existence, are probably some of the worst offenders when it comes to having to deal with pockets and phones. The Atlantic had a story about this in 2014, just as the iPhone6 was being released. I remember reading this article when it came out originally and was able to find it again for you (woohoo Google). The author, Tanya Basu, explored the slow pace of the fashion industry to acknowledge technology and the need for women to have freedom with their clothes in the way men typically do. Fake pockets don't solve the problem; in fact, they make most people (myself included) rage-ful. If designers aren't thinking about pockets for obvious items like pants and coats, why would they consider them for dresses and skirts?

There is hope but only if you enjoy spandex and athletic activities. Athletic wear is probably the one place where technology and fashion come together; the way pockets are integrated into athletic wear is pretty great. From hidden interior pockets to kangaroo pouches that don't add bulk to accessories that do the heavy lifting, this group has got it done. The rise of althleisure wear is a testament to the power of function and fashion. What Basu wrote in 2014 is still relevant in 2017: Just make a pocket that work. This shouldn't be that hard.

I hate shopping for jeans. Part of the challenge with jeans is that I find a style I like and when I go back a few months later to the same store, they've changed everything and no longer make that style or fit (I'm looking at you Old Navy and Gap and Michael Kors). I'm not a skinny jeans person but I don't want to wear "mom" jeans either. I like boot cut, curvy at the hips (since I have them and they should look nice in jeans), with functional pockets. If I can't fit my phone in the front pocket, I don't buy them. I call this the pocket test (in my head). I've acquiesced a few times over the years and have usually regretted it later. Recently, I discovered Simply Vera, Vera Wang's line at Kohl's. Her jeans are designed with the most magical front pockets ever. I can fit my phone and my keys in the pockets (not the same pocket). It's liberating and wonderful. I imagine this is how dudes feel when they put stuff in their pockets and leave the house. (Pro tip: she also includes pockets in some of her dress designs. Modcloth and Dress Barn are also excellent sources for dresses with pockets.)

Pockets in women's clothing isn't a frivolous issue. It's actually about agency and ownership. As I wrote last week and have written before, clothes are important even if you don't spend a lot of time thinking about what you wear. I like to feel comfortable and fashionable when I put any of my clothes on. I also want to feel effortless. When I buy clothes I don't want to spend time and money having to alter them (or do it myself since I can sew) because they were almost what I wanted but I couldn't find what I wanted so I had to settle. When it comes to clothes, jobs, or significant others, don't settle. We're all better than that.

Get out there and demand functional pockets in your clothes. You'll thank me for it later.

Next week: The final "Stuff I Love" post for 2017. I'm planning a very exciting discussion magazines from my childhood and the rise of Teen Vogue as the most hard-hitting news source out there.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Stuff I Love: How to Dress Like a Woman

Ladies, I don't know about you but I honestly don't remember the day in school where they taught us how to dress like a woman. I recall the incredibly awkward day where all of us girls got to learn about getting our periods and feminine hygiene products (but not about how much money we'd have to spend on said products). If my memory is serving me properly, there was definitely a terrible video about the joys of being a woman and how our periods make us special or some such nonsense. I definitely remember sex ed class in high school. My health teacher was really excited when two of us, me being one of the two, got perfect scores on the test about pregnancy. Her exclamation, "You got a perfect score on your pregnancy test," still haunts me.

But I can't recall dress like a woman class. I would think if something was this important, so important that our president has issued some nonsense "decree" about women visiting the White House needing to dress like women, I would have learned about it in school. Right? Isn't that how this works? We weren't as concerned about grizzly bears roaming the halls back then so I would think my public school could have added "dress like a woman" classes. Thanks for nothing high school.

Most of my fashion choices come from one of following sources of inspiration:
  • 80s and 90s teen movies (still even all this time later) and sometimes tv shows
  • Rock stars I like
  • Costume design reference books
  • The children's section at Old Navy. For the patterns - seriously why don't they make an adult version of the dragonfly shirt? Am I the only one that feels this way? Don't answer that.
I'm not joking or trying to be cute. Most of my fashion inspiration does come from the movies. I think I speak for many women out there who grew up in the 1990s that I still crave Cher's closet from Clueless despite the fact that none of those clothes are right for me. My mother occasionally reminds me what a willful child I was when it came to wearing dresses, pink, and changing clothes multiple times a day. Mom, I'm sorry. Figuring out your personal style and the sort of statement you want to make with clothing takes a long time to accomplish. It's takes a lot of trial and error. It takes a lot of embarrassing combinations of oversized sweaters and stirrup pants (it's was the late 1980s). And it takes a lot of inspiration.

Continuing with Stuff I Love, let's grab some popcorn and a glass of your favorite movie-watching wine and settle in for a little fashion inspiration with from some of my favorite movie ladies who, in their own unique ways, taught me how to dress like a woman.
  1. Andie in Pretty In Pink (1986): I have very strong opinions about the prom dress in this movie; most people who have seen this movie have very strong opinions on that dress. Even Ringwald hated it but it works in the context of the movie. What I love about Andie is her sense of self within her clothes. Her look was modern and retro at the same time; that's something I love to do myself. I can trace my love of thrift store sweaters to Andie. My favorite outfit was the gray one she wore on her first date with Blaine. I always thought she looked so sophisticated and very unlike any teenager I knew. She was who she was and her clothes helped tell that story...even that terrible prom dress. Pretty in Pink turned 30 last year and there was a great article about the costumes from the designer that I enjoyed very much. What's interesting about the movie is that if you look at it today, so many of the fashions are back. It's timeless in a way I don't think anyone ever thought it would be.
  2. Jo Stockton in Funny Face (1957): I love this movie so much! It's a fashion movie wrapped around a mildly awkward love story between Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire set in a very hazy/dreamy 1950s Paris. What could be better?! Hepburn plays Jo, a bookstore clerk who is "discovered" by fashion photographer Dick Avery (Astaire) and becomes the new face of Quality magazine. The magazine whisks her off to Paris to launch spring fashions and we are treated to a fantastic fashion photo montage in front of the sights in Paris. Jo wants nothing to do with fashion but wants to go to Paris to meet her favorite philosopher and wear cigarette pants and dance tables in a jazz club (as one does). My favorite moment of the movie is when she's helping Dick set up one of the shots on the steps of the opera. It's so good. Audrey teaches us all many things when it comes to fashion but for me, this movie is really about taking a risk. Jo could have stayed a bookstore clerk but she took a chance with fashion and found something new. You literally never know where you clothes might take you.
  3. Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (2001): We can learn much from Elle Woods: that you can never wear enough pink, sparkly bikinis are the law school admissions applicant must-have, the rules of hair care, how to be a true friend. As I've discussed previously, Elle is the perfect heroine to have as you approach adulthood. She's smart (although no one thinks so), she's kind, she goes after what she wants (even if originally it's just a dude who doesn't deserve her), and she knows how to get stuff done. Fashion-wise, Elle Woods and I could not be further from one another but what we share is the idea that fashion should empower you. Your clothes shouldn't be a hindrance or an afterthought. Women in positions of power, whatever those positions might be, embrace this idea. Look at someone like Michelle Obama; she used fashion so well while First Lady. She conveyed elegance, power, femininity, strength, and killer arms over and over again. She curated her fashion smartly just as Elle does throughout the movie. You don't have to wear that much pink to learn from Elle.
  4. Allison Reynolds in The Breakfast Club (1985): Allison's transformation at the end of The Breakfast Club is the kind of movie moment that elicits very strong opinions from viewers years after watching the movie. Allison goes from the weird girl with "all that shit under your eyes" (eyeliner) to a mini-me version of Claire (Molly Ringwald) in what seems like only minutes. When I was younger, I was disappointed in Allison's makeover but I also understood why she did it. High school sucks, even if you enjoyed your experience. That's how I originally viewed Allison's makeover; a way to deal with the fact that high school sucks and she wanted it to suck a little less. I didn't love her motivation but I understood it. As I've gotten older and "wiser," I've re-watched the movie a few times and my opinion has changed again. I don't necessarily think Allison was dealing with the fact that high school sucks and she wanted to fit in a bit more. It was about trying on different personas as part of figuring out who she actually is. That's a huge part of growing up. Even if I didn't realize it when I originally watched the movie, Allison inspired me to do the same. I went through so many fashion phases in my youth: semi-goth, hippie flower child, trying too hard preppie, wearing too many floral patterns girl to get myself to where my fashion life resides today (a quirky librarian with mild punk undertones and a love of whimsical patterns). Maybe the following Monday, Allison reverts back to her original style of clothing. Maybe she figures out how to combine her style and Claire's style into one wonderful statement. Maybe she does something completely different. That is the best part of fashion: you can do whatever you want.
  5. Marcy in The Matchmaker (1997): I love Janeane Garofalo. She's hilarious and talented and feminist and awesome. She was the best part of Reality Bites and made Mystery Men the delight that it is. My favorite of her movies from the late 90s will always be The Matchmaker. Marcy was everything I aspired to be as an adult (I was 17 in 1997): independent, funny, adorable, fashionable, and she had super cool job. She also got to go to Ireland by herself. This was all very exciting to me. Also, she eventually falls in love with a handsome and sort of dorky Irish guy; basically my romantic life goal. But it's her clothes that I love. I will always love the fashion of the 1990s. I'd sing "I Will Always Love You" to the fashion of the 1990s if that was something I could do. I love chunky shoes, skirt or dress with tights combos, awesome coats and jackets, vintage/thrift store chic. I still dress with these elements in my wardrobe because true love never dies. Marcy epitomizes this entire decade in one movie. I wanted that brownish/reddish (is it burgundy?) coat she wears on the ferry with Sean. I craved the dress she wears when stomping on the rental car. She wears scarves like a champ. Marcy was adulthood and independence and occasional poor choices all rolled into one. Every time I put on my three favorite skirts (two are striped, one is black) with brightly colored or black tights and throw on some chunky heels, I feel like Marcy. I also feel so very Mary Tyler Moore. 
  6. Louise Bryant in Reds (1982): Valentine's Day is right around the corner. I'm not a huge fan of this holiday but my personal V-Day tradition is to watch Warren Beatty's sweeping epic, Reds. While it is a film about John Reed, the journalist who wrote Ten Days That Shook the World, it's also a movie about the love affair between Reed and Louise Bryant, also a journalist, that unfolds against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. The movie is gorgeous to watch; the sets, the costumes, the story. Every piece of it works to form the story. The cast is stellar and I can't help but fall into the world of Reed and Bryant each time I watch it. Diane Keaton is stunning as Louise Bryant; she takes up so much space in every scene she's in I'm surprised other actors could handle it (but it's because they're all so good). Bryant was not always well liked in the circles she and Reed ran in; some felt she was no one or attaching herself to his fame but she had her own career and her own successes as a journalist. I have zero desire to wear the fashions of early 1900s but I can appreciate how Keaton's Bryant does. What I gained from her in this film is that confidence; you wear that fur coat and you wear it like a boss. That's how a woman dresses.
  7. Dinky Bossetti in Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990): Everyone has their favorite Winona Ryder movie; mine is Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael. This movie is after Heathers and Beetlejuice but before Mermaids, Edward Scissorhands, and Reality Bites. Heathers is my second favorite but there's something about Dinky that wins over Veronica Sawyer every day of the week. Since I'm sure most people have forgotten this little gem, a quick summary: Dinky is your typical movie loner. She doesn't quite fit in her small town or her high school. She's adopted and she begins to believe that she's the secret child of a woman named Roxy Carmichael, who left town 15 years ago to become a movie star. Roxy announces she's coming back to town and Dinky sets out to prove Roxy is her mother. You can fill in the gaps with what happens next (or find it somewhere to watch; it's not on Netflix). Anyway, Dinky dresses exactly like I dressed in high school (for most of high school): oversized sweaters, weird shirts, and the same black shoes. Dinky didn't teach me to enjoy the comforts of baggy clothes. (PS: Baggy clothes are not the answer. They don't hide things, they make you look larger. Wear something form fitting but not tight that plays to your assets to truly feel comfortable. It took me a very long time to figure this one out.) She taught me about contrasts. Towards the end of the movie, Dinky dons a bubblegum pink dress and combat boots. It's so good. It's girly and feminine but also edgy and totally her. This where I learned to combine heavy boots with a whimsically patterned sweater or a breezy summer dress with a structured jacket (although I don't wear this anymore because I can't find a jacket I enjoy much). This is probably the fashion lesson I've carried with me the longest. All from a forgotten Winona Ryder movie. 
There is no one way to dress like a woman. One of the reasons I like fashion is because of its ability to push boundaries when it comes to personal expression. Clothes say a lot about a person whether they spend time thinking about it or now. I invest a lot of time into what I wear because I want to. It's not for anyone but me. If I spent time thinking about dressing for other people I'd never leave my house and most of my closet would be Spanx. I have zero for time for that. So whether it's my classic black skirt/purple tights combo, my unintentional Freddy Krueger sweater, or yoga pants, when I get dressed each day I know I'm dressing like me.

Pretty In Pink
Funny Face
Legally Blonde 
The Breakfast Club
The Matchmaker 
Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael