Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And now about clothes again...

Or not. Somehow this gorgeous piece from Pina Bausch's Nelken (Carnations) makes me think about my desires, dreams, hopes, regrets...and dresses. Maybe it will have the same effect on you. (Or not.)

I find it fascinating how simple changes in context--from the studio to the stage, from casual wear to the suit, from the intimacy of the first clip to the unexpected intrusion of the audience's laughter in the second--affect our perception of the performance. I can't say that I prefer one over the other. All I know is that the marriage of visuals (the movements, gestures, body) and audio (the music, lyrics, and mouthed words) is beautiful. It makes me want to put on a dress and--no, not dance on stage--just be.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Loves Past

On this Valentine's Day, I'd like to pay tribute to all those girls from my past who made a deep and lasting impression on me, but who exited my life before I was able to know it or acknowledge it.

To Edna, for her pink velcro sneakers and sharing cookies in our hiding spot

To Han-Lin, for her braided pigtails and yellow jumpers

To Rachel, Molly, and Jen--true outcasts who accepted me as one before I lost my way

To Lauren, most of all for her laugh, but also for her grandmother's wooden sculptures and the serene beaches of Big Sur

To Michele, Mich, Michelle, ma belle, for defining my teenage years (and all the Manic Panic)

To the girl in my summer photography class, for her sad but brilliant eyes and her striking resemblance to my mom

To the girl in denim who took my photo the following summer

To Marie, for lending me her copy of Rilke (which has traveled with me to many strange places and still sits on my bookshelf like a stolen treasure)

To the girl in comp lit with the stunning hair and boots, who flew back to Korea, I think

To Rose, for her antics during choreography class, her red leotards, and her effusive love of Titanic

To my study abroad roommate from Japan and her mother, who sent me a scarf

To Adrienne, for her musicality and for giving me a chance

To Cynthia, who will always be as cool and as beautiful as she is elusive, for her unwavering sense of style and self

All of you together are a patchwork of innocence, awkwardness, confidence, confusion, intensity, vulnerability, vulgarity, joy, restlessness, calm, immense beauty, and fierce intelligence.

I wonder where your life has brought you, and if who you were then is still a part of who you are today. I hope so.

Thank you for entering my life, and thank you for leaving a mark.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Let's just get it out there. I have a thing for:
1. stripes
2. dark dark navy blue
3. buttons, preferably gold (those that serve no function get extra bonus points)

So I was practically walking on air (water?) when I went thrifting yesterday and found four wonderful, nautical-themed items within half an hour. It's not that I go searching for them, they just have a way of calling out to me, like the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, pulling me in and not letting go until I'm won over...or something like that.

I even found a rubber-slicker yellow, faux-snakeskin bracelet-watch for a whopping $5.99 (with working battery) to perfectly accessorize my 80s-yachting outfits. Interestingly, my husband is a sailor. Even more interesting, I probably would be quite happy--if not downright gleeful--were I to never step foot on another boat. Ah...the mysterious and inexplicable push and pull of attraction.

Truthfully, while my husband's style of Nautica and West Marine may be more authentic, I happily embrace my Coco Chanel- and Kurt Cobain-inspired stripes and will continue to wear my nautical threads with deck shoes firmly planted on city pavement.

p.s. I've recently fallen in love with these sailors' knot bracelets* that you, too, can learn how to make, thanks to Etsy!

(*photo: groundsel for etsy.com)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Year of the Velveteen Rabbit

Ever since I saw ODC's magical performance of The Velveteen Rabbit over the holidays, I have been obsessed with the character of the Skin Horse. First of all, the costume for the dancer was amazing. Secondly, I am already partial to horses. I remember Margery William's tale from my childhood, but what struck me then was not the Skin Horse and his wisdom, but the Velveteen Rabbit and his vulnerability. (That and the terrifying Fire.) Like the captive audience of mostly second graders, I was mesmerized when I heard this passage from the book narrated verbatim at the performance:

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.

But the Skin Horse only smiled.

Now imagine dancers in costume performing to these words. KT Nelson is my hero.

The line "once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand" seems as appropriate for tots as it is for teenagers. How many times have I dressed in my thrift store finds and thought something along these lines as I braved the halls of my high school? And even I will walk into a consignment store and be drawn immediately to a few select items while the rest just seem to hang around limply, pitifully, stained and unwanted...and I wonder, "who could have once loved you?"

Likewise, many of us have a beloved stuffed animal from our childhood that, were it to find its way into a thrift shop, may very well sit around gathering dust until it is eventually discarded. Perhaps no love can compare to that of a child's toward his snuggly sidekick, cuddly confidante, and furry friend, but would it be blasphemous to think of a beloved old sweater in the same way?

In a material world where clothes are as cheap as they are shoddily made, where one season's trend is next season's embarrassment, and where we continue to support a disposable culture in a time of economic recession, it's the Velveteen Rabbits in my closet that stand out: my holey orange Courreges sweater (by now a skin horse) that an ancient Upper West Side shopkeeper discounted for me because, in her words, "it should be worn by someone young"; my tattered navy blue blouse with the fireworks motif (a true skin horse--ugly only to others) that somehow, in my eyes, grows in beauty for the worse wear and tear; and my gorgeous Avion dress (a young velveteen rabbit...on the long, windy road to becoming Real) that my dear friend Kathy gifted to me one Christmas after ten years of irreplaceable friendship (during which time we shared meals, a tiny closet of a bedroom, heartbreaks and dreams and growing pains).

I am the sixth daughter in a family with six girls. I was destined to embrace or rebel against all the hand-me-downs. Yes, there's affordability, practicality, and nostalgia to consider...but I believe that some things were meant to be worn and reworn, tattered and torn. In a world where meaningless objects proliferate and once-coveted items fade away and are forgotten, I believe in holding onto the stories of those things that have become, or are on the road to becoming, Real.

It's the lunar new year, a time for donning new clothes to symbolize letting go of past quarrels and getting a fresh start. My sister just gave me two adorable vintage dresses. I think I'll wear one with a new pair of shoes.

(photo credit: Steve DiBartolomeo for ODC)