grace notes

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Last week, I returned to my keyboard for the first time in months (inspired by my inescapable desire to sing selections from the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack). To my great shame, a layer of dust covered the music stand and even its tinny electric sound felt alien to my ears.

Given how long it’s been since I practiced piano in earnest, I almost feel undeserving of this dress – how dare I wear these stylized keys around my neck when I’ve neglected them for so long?

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ex libris

Literary Dress (3 of 3)Literary Dress (1 of 3)

For every book cover printed on this dress, I can assure you that I have a real-world equivalent stacked in the massive monolith of research texts I acquired for the end of this semester.

Sometimes the treasures that fall into my hands through interlibrary loans astound me. A few weeks ago, I went to retrieve a stack of books about the Lindisfarne Gospels and wound up with a resplendent gold-embossed tome from 1908, its covers graced with as much elaborate interlace as the Gospels themselves. I felt almost afraid to touch it, much less page through in search of historiographical significance – it currently sits on a single shelf in my office like an arcane sorceress’ grimoire. 

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I wore this dress not for an endless day of research (of which I’ve had many of late) but to celebrate my favorite poet’s birthday, an occasion for which I participated in a reading of an eccentrically droll children’s Christmas story from the nineteenth century. I have to confess that the experience of holding that original book up for the audience to see absolutely delighted me. 

I wonder how perplexed (or delighted) these various writers from the past century would be to find that the vogue for ornamental Victorian book covers has persisted to the extent that I own a dress covered in their likenesses! 

“it had become a glimmering girl”

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I’m running out of opportunities to coordinate my outfits with local blossom activity! Fortunately, this dress offers a spectacular grand finale. I’m not sure if the embroidered blooms that wind their way around the neckline and sleeves of this gown represent dogwood specifically, but they match well enough, and I feel like a flower fairy whenever I wear it. The moth-pixie profile pin by Hannah Kienzle Illustration, one of my absolute favorites, further affirms my fay attitude.
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I’ve searched diligently through my blog archives to determine whether or not I’ve referenced one of my most cherished poems–Yeats’ “The Song of Wandering Aengus”–in a post before. As it turns out, I quoted its opening lines two years ago while recounting a flower-gathering walk I’d taken in nearby woods. I suppose that enough time has passed to merit some reminder of its almost-mystical transformation from trout to woman:

When I had laid it on the floor,

I went to blow the fire -a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor

And someone called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

– W.B. Yeats

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Until such a time that I have access to apple-blossoms for hairstyling purposes, I guess I’ll have to rely on the sun to manufacture glimmer instead! I’m thankful, at least, that my love is not the sort who will disappear into the brightening air (except when we lose connection on a video call).

bold like the chestnut burr

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That one sublime moment when the tree adjacent to my home explodes in a cloud of blossoms always marks the end of my winter sadness–and this year’s bloom coincided with the conclusion of my first year as a graduate student! Though I’ll sorely miss discovering the most eccentric and fascinating aspects of medieval art every two days, I am glad to have some time to recover from a challenging semester. Now begins the season of writing letters, reading novels, admiring flowers, and wearing enormous hats to protect myself from the sun!

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Inspired by the keenly methodical botanical activities of my favorite poet, I spent all of my finals week dreaming of acquiring a flower press and creating my own herbarium this summer. Considering that I’ve now survived that demanding cycle of paper-writing and sleep deprivation, I’m making such whimsical activities my top priority!

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Other ridiculous goals I have in mind for the upcoming months of relative freedom include:

  • finding out absolutely everything I can about nineteenth-century attitudes towards fairies (this is technically for school, but that’s of no consequence if it’s fun!)
  • apprenticing myself in the arcane practice of NAIL ART (since I’ve stopped biting my nails for the first time in my entire life!)
  • [re]learning Latin (it’s been a long time since I superficially studied it in fourth grade, and I’ve felt a strange desire to return to such ancient speech!)
  • carrying out a host of crafting projects for my wedding in August–many of which you might see soon, because my final goal involves…
  • actually blogging regularly! (Oh how I’ve missed writing these strange letters to the world. See you again soon!)

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outfit of the [yester]day: floral fish!

floral fish (4 of 4)floral fish (2 of 4)I attempted to create a more nuanced title for this post, but let’s face it–with a concept this incredible, there’s honestly not much I could possibly improve with a pun.

Meet the floral fish dress! I’m not sure which Lindy Bop fabric designer is responsible for this quirky land-meets-sea mashup, but they are my type of person. Its triangular collar provides some needed variety to my wardrobe, which is currently so devoted to Peter Pan [collars] that it might as well be a Lost Boy.

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outfit of the [yester]day: tidepool time

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Every time I think I’ve finally acquired the paragon of ocean-themed dresses, another fabric designer decides to add more nautiloids and seahorses to their novelty print!

I wore this for the first time on my last day of work, and it seems a fitting ensemble for new beginnings. The menagerie of sea creatures softly swirling* in these watercolored aquamarine polyester depths soothe me as I transition into life as a student again!**

*I don’t fully understand why those scallops and sea stars and conch shells are just suspended in what is presumably the middle of the water, but perhaps this skirt is more of a fabric tidepool!

**Plus, this is also the best match I’ve found for my turquoise-haired mermaid brooch so far!

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be yourself, unless you can be a medieval unicorn

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Unicorns! How curiously you’ve evolved in the popular consciousness over the past thousand years or so. I’m not one to consume sugary beverages named after these beguiling creatures, nor particularly a fan of the stylized neon unicorn that seem to permeate our visual culture these days – but man, do I love medieval and early modern unicorns.

This dress satisfies my fantasy need in a subtle way: spotting the unicorn amidst this pastel castle landscape is a true challenge, and from afar, the print looks like a simple blend of Fauvist colors. No one needs to know that a fairy tale is taking place on my very skirt!

(By the way, that handsome fellow above is from a sixteenth-century Swiss woodcut, back in the days when unicorns still had teeth!)

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