Browse Month by August 2017
Fashion

Your Mama’s Closet

bunch of clothes

If you’re a lover of old things and vintage finds (or thrift ones, at that) then you might know that your mother’s closet is golden.

Or your dad’s.

I want to show you what my mother gave me and not the kind usually referred to in songs okay? 

Belts are better from the past.

claire in striped red shirt and red bow belt

Belt plus shirt is very 2000s.

I still shudder at the memories. But this combination can work! (And everyone is still wearing this. It’s classic and now the trend is corsets which I almost think is worse. Read why here.)

layout collage of corset belts
source: http://www.instyle.co.uk/fashion/street-style/best-corset-belts

The red one I’m very seriously posing for you above is something my mom got just shy of the Orwellian year.

“The red bow was purchased to be a pop of color for a navy dress in 1984. Loved the bow.”

The bow is good. How can one not love the bow? It does what all of these trends do, except for Kelly Clarkson’s example, defines the waist. An essential move. Plus red is basically a neutral now.

Shoes from the good old days.

The first picture says “lol finger guns” and the second one says “god what am I doing with my life?”

My mom is very good with money—she knows how to budget and spend wisely which is way harder than it ever sounds.

…I bought the boots in my senior year of high school. I was working at The May Company and used my discount. I wore them with longer length dresses.”

Part of my is very mad I never thought to wear them with a longer dress, but they do look chic peeking out under wide-leg pants. Very 70s. I will have to take the tip from her.

I think the best things to filch from your mother, if you can, size permitting, are shoes. If you should see your mom dragging old footwear out to the trash or donation bin, STOP HER IMMEDIATELY and take everything.

Chaotic Neutral.

confused claire bending to show nude pumps and creme bag

Okay so there’s a lot going on here that I couldn’t quite get pictorially. The navy sweater is my mom’s, it has a small paint stain but I really like that for some reason and it’s just absolutely classic and comfortable. Alexa Chung, one of my style icons, often sings the praises of a “navy jumper” and she’s not wrong: you need one.

alexa chung in blue jumper
Lovely Alexa. I mean honestly she’s not trying and it’s perfect.

The skirt you see barely peeking through is HAND-KNITTED by my mother. I mean, not only does she bestow fantastic relics of decades gone by upon me, but she makes me unique pieces by hand.

The pumps are hers from….well I don’t actually know. They showed up in my room and I accepted it.

Last but hardly the least, that purse is one of my favorites ever. It’s unique, well-made, and neutral so—you guessed it—it goes with everything. Mother dearest says it “was purchased for a wedding in the mid 80s.”

Way to show up the bride, mom.

A Round of Applause.

Let’s all collectively thank my mother for instilling an appreciation for excellent clothing in me. Despite it making me absolutely unbearable to shop with since I remark on “terrible stitching” or “a cheap knit” on the regular, loudly, in front of retail employees who are just sweet angels trying to do their job.

Do any of you wear your parent’s treasures from the past, be it jewelry, bags, jackets, what have you? Sometimes I sit back and realize some of my favorite pieces are from them.

Bisous et à bientôt,

Bookths

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco | BOOKTHS

Welcome back to another book analysis and review of a book so difficult to read it took me far longer than expected.

Eco is not for the faint of heart, this is something I knew ahead of time, since he is a genius with prose. His writing is long and syntactically complex, his subjects expansive and developing at a micro-level. His works are absolutely re-reading material.

Nevertheless, Eco’s writing is a delicious experience for the linguistically-obsessed.

Let’s begin.

Who are you talking about?

Good question. This is Umberto Eco.

umberto eco smoking

I love this man. You don’t understand. I love him. Look at him.

eco with a magnifying glass

This sweet old, pot-bellied italian genius makes me so happy I get so excited to see one of his books in a store, what have you. Unfortunately he died in 2016 and it has saddened me to yet again be bereft of a favorite living author.

I’d recommend him to anyone, but I also know he’s very academic, so it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s work.

Some quick info on Eco: he was born in 1932 in Alessandria in the Italian region Piedmont (recall that Italy only became a democratic nation in 1946 post-WWII). Despite his father’s wish that he pursue law, Eco pursued medieval philosophy and literature at the University of Turin. After that he was a cultural editor for the state broadcasting station where he met some avant-garde artists.

He wrote a book piggy-backing off of his thesis on Aquinas and boom, we have a fantastic semiotician and writer.

The important note here is that he was born pre-Mussolini AND he lived during that angry meatball’s reign. The man knows fascism, he knows censorship, and he writes extensively on those subjects and how they manifest.

Oh and best of all, he had a personal library of 30,000 books in his Milan apartment and 20,000 in his Rimini vacation home (goals.) He died last year at the age of 84.

He used to teach at Bologna University which is 1088 years old. I once stayed in Bologna in a 1000 year old student-housed monastery. I regret not tracking Eco down just to meet him.

They collected passport photos of guests.

What even is the plot?

Glad you asked.

To put it simply, if I even can, in 19th century europe everything is much as it is and has always been: rife with conspiracies and plots. Behind many of these conspiracies and forged documents and domestic terrorism is Simonini (our main character), an agent of the French and Italian secret services.

We follow Simonini in a very, very complex manner, as he wakes up positively flabbergasted by the fact that he appears to be sharing his apartment with a priest he does not know. He begins to write in his diary, noticing that Abbé Della Piccola—the mysterious priest—responds in kind with the same amnesia.

The narrator clarifies sections for us, since he is reading the diary decades after its actual use.

Very complex, you see?

Eco in his library.

From Turin to Paris, Simonini uses his grandfather’s teachings on anti-semitism and hatred for Jesuits/freemasons as fuel to incite violence for the government, as he slowly begins to write a document that will change the world for the worse.

His incendiary document is titled the Prague Cemetery. Simonini writes the dramatic piece with borrowed scenery and ideas from older, racist and extremist writings to build an illusion of truth as he creates a scene of rabbis meeting to plan their destruction of the modern world.

As Eco says in his Paris Review Interview that I highly suggest reading, “Simonini is a forger, and understands that in order to tell secret information to a secret service you always have to tell what is already known. Otherwise they will not believe you.”

That’s all well and good, a book about a forger who feeds governments fake information and secretly works in his hateful agenda—very interesting.

I’ll let you in on a secret. The documents in this book, as well the characters, are nearly all real. The Prague Cemetery? The forged anti-semitic document? It’s based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Guess who referenced that fabricated anti-semitic piece in his book?

Hitler.

“How much the whole existence of this people is based on a permanent falsehood is apparent in the famous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Every week the Frankfurter Zeitung whines that they are based on a forgery: and here lies the best proof that they are genuine…When this book becomes the common heritage of all people, the Jewish peril can then be considered as stamped out.” Hitler, Mein Kampf

Now that’s juicy….and scary

Yep. I audibly gasped at the conclusion of this novel. I couldn’t believe it that in all the despicable events and thoughts I had read, sometimes disgusting enough for me to put the book down in horror, I was reading truth. Eco only created one character: Simonini.

“All the others (except for a few incidental minor characters such as Notaio Rebaudengo and Ninuzzo) actually existed, and said and did what they are described as saying and doing in this novel.” Eco, The Prague Cemetery, “Useless Learned Explanations”

Even the illustrations in the novel are real portraits half of the time or real propaganda. Eco says it creates an “oscillatory function” in which you are shocked to discover that the normal, fiction-like function of a story is suddenly very real.

And of course it’s real. Of course there are all kinds of forged documents fed to governments and the masses to create fear, motivation, anger, what have you. The instances of planned violence in this novel—the bombings, the use of extremist students and groups as pawns to make public arrests or create safety or discontent. Of course it’s real.

You see it everyday. The note at the beginning of The Prague Cemetery says the reader will “look anxiously behind him, switch on all the lights, and suspect that these things could happen again today. In fact, they may be happening in that very moment.”

Nothing is new, is it? Nothing is ever new.

The book featuring my dog, who wanted to sniff literally every page.

What is the reading like?

It is not easy. Not solely because it’s Eco, since he is quite readable after being a pop culture author from The Name of the Rose, but because our main character is a bigot. He hates women, he hates Jewish people, he hates Jesuits and Freemasons, he even hates French people and he lives in France for many years.

“The German lives in a state of perpetual intestinal embarrassment due to an excess of beer and pork sausages on which he gorges himself.” (Eco, 6.)

“Priests…They are idle and belong to a class as dangerous as thieves and vagrants.” (Eco, 12.)

“I hate women, from what little I know of them.” (Eco, 14.)

And I could not forget his hatred of the Jews.

“My grandfather described those eyes that spy on you, so false as to turn you pale, those unctuous smiles, those hyena lips over bared teeth, those heavy, polluted, brutish looks, those restless creases between nose and lips, wrinkled by hatred, that nose of theirs like the beak of a southern bird…” (Eco, 5.)

Simonini also has an erotic obsession with food, so at the very least we encounter many beautiful descriptions of foreign foods that you’ve likely never heard of. At least the bigot has nice thoughts on restaurant meals.

We must mire through a rather despicable mind, we must go where we never want to go, to the place where angry and motivated people wallow. I can assure you it’s not a breeze, but I do think it’s vitally important.

Like this passage, which is chilling and horrible, which details Simonini’s “contribution” to mass genocide of the Jewish race:

“I wouldn’t have to destroy them myself—I am (as a rule) a man who recoils from physical violence—but I knew how it had to be done, since I lived through the days of the Commune. Take gangs of men who are well trained and indoctrinated, and drag anyone you meet with a hooked nosed and curly hair straight up against the wall. You’d end up losing a few Christians but, in the words of the bishop who had to attack Béziers when it was occupied by the Cathars, it is better to be prudent and kill the lot. God will recognize his own.

As it is written in their Protocols, the end justifies the means.” (Eco, 426.)

First: Simonini has murdered multiple times by this point in the book, ironically, for a man who “recoils from physical violence.”

Second: Reading this makes me uneasy and queasy.

And so?

Ultimately, this novel on 19th century conspiracies, written in 2011, is uncannily relevant. I would highly recommend it to anyone seeking understanding in the realm of false information or the dissemination of mainstream information.

Of course after Charlottesville and in this tumultuous time, some wonder how things got suddenly bad and, of course, any oppressed member of society will tell you it did not suddenly become tumultuous. Indeed, the soup of hatred has been simmering and boiling over and simmering again for centuries.

The violence of white men is old. It’s in Colombine, in Timothy McVeigh at Oklahoma City, in the extremism of masculinity, in colonization, and in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I don’t have time to type it all out. But if you need a way to understand the age of conspiracy, of forgery, and of the libel of the “other”, perhaps begin with The Prague Cemetery.

I should say Eco has a sister collection of essays titled Inventing the Enemy. I will do my best to get to it as soon as possible.

Bisous à tout le monde et tout qui souffre,

 

Sources used:

Eco, Umberto. The Prague Cemetery. New York, Mariner Books, 2010.

“Umberto Eco.” Umberto Eco Biography, www.umbertoeco.com/en/umberto-eco-biography.html. Accessed 17 Aug. 2017.

Fashion

Away in Marblehead

When I travel somewhere I have the opposite sort of social media presence that most people do. This is not to say that one trumps the other, but that in the midst of being in another place I notice I don’t keep up with my phone as normal.

This is tremendous for my personal goals, which is always to minimize moments on my phone or computer. I dislike being distracted from the day to day occurrences happening around me.

It’s been many years since my family has been gathered together, so we rented a house up in Marblehead right near the water with Cedar Point in view. It is a beautiful place with the uncanny quality of being so very close to home and feeling so far at the same time.

Views from our porch.

I documented some of what I wore, because the clothing I adopt in relaxation is a different monster than the day to day. So without further ado, here is my suitcase (and other special guests’ suitcases) in action.

I’m bikin, I’m bikin, slow-mo

There’s an art to bike-ready clothing. It has a lot to do with ratios of material that look nice in the wind and reducing that material to a safe amount that won’t get caught up in your wheels. This is a dress I bought back when I was obsessed with clearing out aisles of H&M. It was $10 and it shows that even the cheapest sundresses can be miracle workers for more than 5 years.

Will is featured here. When asked to comment on his bike ensemble he said they were “Just what I was wearing earlier in the day. They fit nicely into my backpack that I brought to work.”

Sometimes fashion is as practical as it is aesthetic.

Bike views.

We biked a lot at Marblehead. The wind there has the kind of freshness that makes you wave your head around like a dog in a car.

Secret sandbars

My aunt and uncle brought their kayaks with them, so my arms got a well-needed workout on the regular when we embarked on early morning or mid-afternoon kayaking adventures. Will and I swung around a point in the bay towards the lake and discovered a small sandbar rife with birds and with a really interesting view of Cedar Point.

We watched the rides go up and down from very far away and, because he works there and because he is an enthusiast, Will knows all the goings-on even if I couldn’t tell.

Here he is; enraptured. I’m sure he’d wrap up his swimwear in similar terms as his bike-wear. But don’t be fooled by his flippancy, the boy has style.

Scarf in hair

There is a particular charm to tying a scarf or a ribbon around your head. It’s childish and innocent, it’s the action of a little girl in a field of flowers, or at least that’s the way I think of it. I love the colors in these photos and their delicacy—beachside color palettes are pastel and soft on the eyes and I like the way they look like breeze might.

My cousin Kathryn is featured here. She was rightfully excited about her mustard yellow crop tee here and I think it couldn’t have been a better accent to the colors I was vibing about in these photos. I went with a classic button down I bought in Galleries Lafayette (same with the scarf in my hair) that I remember trying on in a dressing room while this song played. It’s such a random, dated song but I was struck by it at the time.

The jeans are Ann Taylor Loft, which has excellent options for itsy, bitsy petit girls like me (not too long, not to loose on the hips). My eyes are colored by the Marzia Bisognin’s Natura palette from Winky Lux, which is a New York based cruelty free brand that features fun colors.

It felt wonderful to play, swim, and take time to breathe in Marblehead. I know everyone always tells you to take time and pause, so I will just say “same” and hope you listen.

Toujours bisous,

Fashion

Working With My Hands

First, it must be said, that the prospect of posing for photos can be difficult for me. You’ll have to bear with me as I try to come to terms with that bizarre bashfulness. I don’t know what I’m doing.

I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art with Will to catch the Alex Katz exhibit right before it was over and, thankfully, I could squeeze it in.

My knowledge of the art world lies mainly in 20th century french art, so an American artist of the pop art movement wasn’t exactly in my repertoire. I’m beyond happy that I went, as his pieces are beautiful and the exhibit flowed to best show his work as it evolved.

paper flowers
Wildflowers in Vase c.1954-55 Collage with cut and watercolored paper  27.9 x 21.3 inches

I saw Matisse in him (some flatter looking portraits of his muse Ada in colorful palettes, some paper collages of bright coloring) and some strange elements of Pollock (dripping paint, Katz is said to have studied Pollock intently despite rejecting abstractism), among others. At one point, a man who came up to me and Will said “that one on the right reminds me of Renoir when they eat in the grass” and then he pointed to a farther portrait saying “she’s the new Mona Lisa.” It was strange having someone ignite a conversation like that and it reminded me how rare and, bizarrely, how nice it is.

Alex Katz, Black Suit (Ada) 1958 Oil on linen 48 x 32 inches

We were particularly drawn to a portrait of Ada (again, his wife and muse) that seemed to be burning from within. The portraits had a strange quality of existing and not existing, of feeling real but uncannily void.

Knowing little to nothing about Katz beforehand made me a little apprehensive at first (I’m the kind of person who dives into research before I do anything) but it proved to be rewarding. There was enough context for me to suddenly see the conversation Katz was having with other moments in art and that is, in my opinion, really ridiculously amazing.

 


 

If you have a sort of specialized disdain for artspeak, this is the section that you would probably enjoy more.

This is where Claire tells you about clothing choices.

I made a dress in my last semester of college, as I had suddenly decided sewing was something I needed to know (I had a stinging guilt about writing about clothing and knowing squat about why it was couture.) This dress, however ill-fitting or rudimentarily produced, is a point of pride for me and I finally got the guts to wear it when I went to see Katz. Seemed vintage pop-art enough.

lime green paisley dress

And here it is, in all its bright green glory. I wanted to make something interesting out of the choices I was given in class, so I went with the 60s shift complete with a tie belt. It’s a simple cotton with a cool slit in the back and a boat neck.

You should know it took me weeks to produce this. And don’t even get me started on that zipper. But it sure felt good to finish, to claim that I had made it with my own hands.

At the end of college, I needed a skill that required my hands and a tangible result.

I want to make more things and I’ve found that I have plenty of ideas now for cutting up, repurposing, and stitching up things I would have disregarded. I hope to show you more of these projects in the future, as I try to figure out how to further personalize what I own. We’re all obsessed with self-expression anyway, might as well tailor it (literally) to you.

Claire laughing with green dress on
Laughing off the fear at Cleveland Museum of Art.

 

I am glad you all enjoyed the last post so much, even if you simply glanced (it’s why I add so many pictures) and I hope you like this one too. Please comment what you want to see or maybe something you’ve always wanted to know, should a suggestion come to you.

I’m figuring this whole style blogging thing out and honestly it took me a long time to do it because I never felt ready or that I knew what I was doing, but after researching Katz I found this quote which is as much an encouragement as it is an affirmation that we’re all okay.

“If you know what you’re doing, you’re doing dull stuff.” 

 

Bisous,