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! 

aque[duck]ts

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The last time I visited Wales, crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct seemed an impossible venture – ice, cold, and wind might have complicated such a quest. I’m glad we didn’t even try, because the summer experience proved absolutely idyllic!

Clad in my standard uniform for British adventures – a Sophie Hatter-esque dotted blue dress and an enormous, SPF-strong sun hat – I stepped into the sky with a canal at my side!

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The aqueduct (a World Heritage site!) naturally appealed to my romantic sensibilities. That’s funny, considering that it constitutes an engineering highlight of the Industrial Revolution – probably the opposite of what would satisfy most actual Romantics – but in the twenty-first century, it possesses a distant historical aura that I adored. Imagine an alternate world in which such airborne canals became commonplace, and man-made rivers stretched like highways throughout all of New England!

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A flock of ducklings and their watchful mother crossed our paths near the edge of the canal. Make way!

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Of course, I most enjoyed the marbled, glimmering glimpses of the sky and trees in the water! On our way back, a few tourist-bearing canalboats sliced through the reflections, creating an even more dizzying pattern of colorful ripples. Now that I’m back in Massachusetts, I can’t help peeking into creeks with some disappointment…

“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).

burgundy every burgunday

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For the first time in many years, I’m attempting to introduce a vaguely autumnal color palette to my wardrobe! Crimsons, browns, creams, and olives – sure, you might surmise that  this reflects my growing desire to blend into the natural landscape like a quietly rooted tree, but let’s not be too hasty. I could not, of course, pass up the opportunity to match my favorite antique book!

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outfit of the [yester]day: return to the sea

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Two years ago today, I published my first cautious “outfit of the day” post, showing off what would become two classic staples of my personal aesthetic: Peter Pan collars and nods to marine biology. At the time, I possessed only that one vintage-style dress, and I wore it so often that I ended up buying its twin in another color. I’d never identified as someone who was Into Fashion, but there was just something about that dress–as soon as I zipped it up, I felt like a cheerful, quick-witted girl detective equipped to handle anything with anachronistic flair.

In the time since, acquiring pieces for my quirky wardrobe allowed me to feel more confident and more myself than I’d ever been in jeans and sweaters or Young Professional Workplace Wear. Now, if I so desire, I have the ability to wear colorful retro dresses literally every day. Even a skirt decorated with galactic, bioluminescent mermaids and sea creatures is at my fingertips! But — as my absence from this blog might have suggested — over the past few months, I’ve begun to lose confidence in my bold fashion. In some moments of confusion, I’ve almost wondered if I might have to abandon the style that I love and start showing up in slacks or skater skirts!

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Thanks a Vermillion!

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Red has a complex and fascinating past–as a valued commodity, a treasured signifier of wealth, a color of power and prestige. One of my favorite books that tells such scarlet stories is Amy Butler Greenfield’s A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of DesireIn particular, Butler traces the trade history of cochineal, one of the most coveted “New World” substances discovered after European contact with the Americas: all due to its ability to create a vivid red dye.

Luckily, the red that has appeared in my life recently has little to do with empire-building or early modern trade. A pepper plant beginning a vivid transformation and the arrival of my Coach Tour Dress in Rouge from Modcloth has made this a red morning indeed (though I’m glad there was no red sun involved, Legolas).

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