Thursday, October 2, 2014

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

I'm going to make a pretty controversial statement, and I'd like you to bear with me while I explain myself. Are you ready?
I think we should cancel Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Honestly, it's not because I'm some kind of terrible person who has no empathy for those fighting breast cancer. Really, I promise. Cancer has been serious business in my family, and it's not something that I take lightly.
However, before October was chosen as Breast Cancer Awareness month, it was Domestic Violence Awareness month. I feel like that issue has gotten lost in the shuffle, despite the fact that it's something that is actually affected by increasing its visibility.
Let's start off with some good news - intimate partner violence has declined significantly in the past 20 years, ever since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. We have made a lot of strides towards keeping women safe, and giving them the resources they need to get out of abusive relationships. Since people raised in households were domestic violence occurs are more likely to become abusers themselves, it seems likely that it will only continue to decline in the future.
However, there are some segments of the population that are still at much greater risk of domestic violence. Women with disabilities are 2 to 4 times more likely to be victims of domestic violence, and it tends to last longer and be more serious than in the general population. African American women are 2.5 times more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner than white women are. An astonishing 40% of Native American women are subject to domestic violence, putting them at a 50% greater risk than the next highest population. So while progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the safety of vulnerable members of our society.
In some ways, breast cancer is an easy thing to talk about, an easy thing to rally against. It is unequivocally bad. It strikes at random, and anyone, good, bad, or indifferent, can get it. There's no controversy to it, so people like to get behind the cause and the funny, slightly racy slogans and events that come with it. 
It seems like in the month of October, any company looking for good PR with the ladies runs some sort of promotion related to breast cancer awareness. The market is over-saturated with pink - pink ribbons, pink dresses, pink lipstick, pink water bottles, pink yogurt cups, pink necklaces, pink sunglasses, pink belly button rings, pink armbands on NFL players (more on that in a minute). I don't doubt the sincerity of the people who choose to buy these items, but I can't help but think that it's little more than a cynical marketing ploy on behalf of many of the companies that sell them. At this point, I'd say we're about as aware of breast cancer as a society can be; in pop cultural, it's devolved into little more than a cutesy slogan. While I'm sure many survivors appreciate the support, I have seen some women who hate that the vicious disease that has caused them so much pain and fear has become "Save the Boobies!", something cheeky and winking.
One example of the issue that I take with using Breast Cancer Awareness as a PR prop to get in good with the ladies is those pink armbands that NFL players wear, which I mentioned above. The NFL has had some serious and high profile issues with domestic violence - mostly recently, the furor that erupted when a video surfaced of Ray Rice brutally punching his then-fiance, Jenae, in the face. For the past few years, the NFL has attempted to court female fans by promoting breast cancer awareness, and that has not changed this year, despite the rising concerns about the violence in their ranks. There is a petition circulating encouraging them to wear purple in support of Domestic Violence Awareness, but I have doubts about its potential success.
These photoshopped images of Covergirl ads, the "Official Makeup Sponsor of the NFL!" have been making waves on the internet recently.
One of the reasons I think it's so important to bring domestic violence to the fore is the way that we tend to talk about it. Domestic violence is like rape, in that if you're not the "perfect victim," people will find ways to blame you for it. Look at Janay Rice; in the video, they are arguing, and it does seem that she attacks him first. However, she's a petite woman, and he's a muscular NFL running back. While I don't think any sports commentators flat out said that she deserved what happened to her, several of them talked about how she provoked the attack. On the internet, where vile opinions flourish, plenty of people did say that she deserved it, and that they would have done the same thing in the circumstances.
Even more vile is the talk surrounding Christy Mack. Mack, if you don't know, is an alt model and adult film actress. She was horrifically attacked by her ex-boyfriend, an MMA fighter named War Machine. He left her with 18 broken bones, missing teeth, fractured ribs, and a ruptured liver. From her account, it seems likely that he intended to kill her.
Christy Mack released these photos after the attack.
Even many who express disgust over what happened to her start with "even a porn star doesn't deserve that!", as if porn stars are somehow of less value than other people. The thing that sickens and enrages me are the people that blame her for it. "She's a porn star, she got what she deserved." "What did she expect would happen, dating an alpha male type like that?" "I would have done the same thing if I caught my woman with another man." Never mind that fact they had broken up six months prior to the attack - sane people don't try to kill other people because of infidelity. Sometimes people make bad relationship choices, and that doesn't mean that they deserve to be violently assaulted. It is absolutely monstrous to devalue another human being for the work that they do to the point where you can rationalize that nearly being beaten to death is something they have earned.
The question that so many people ask when the issue of domestic violence comes up is why a woman would stay with an abusive partner. It seems to simple, so easy - something hits you or hurts you, you get the hell out of there and don't look back. The last time I talked about this issue, I mentioned that I had asked my stepmom the same question. Many other women answered the same question on Twitter, with the hashtag #WhyIStayed, and I think the answers are really illuminating. There are a lot of reasons why a woman might stay in an abusive relationship - lack of resources, dependance, fear, and even love. Relationships are rarely violent from the start, and by the time it's escalated to that point, women might be in love with their abuser, and believe that he could change. They might be financially dependent on him - in many abusive relationships, the abuser may prevent their partner from working or having money, giving them few resources if they try to leave. Children complicate the issue tremendously. Although divorce is common, there is still a stigma against breaking up a family, and dealing with abuse sometimes seems like a better option than leaving children without a father. The victims may also blame themselves for the abuse, often because emotional abuse has stripped them of their self-esteem.
The sad fact is that it seems like our culture can only support one "women's issue" at a time, and I think it makes sense to divert some of the resources that breast cancer receives towards helping prevent domestic violence, and helping victims of it.
Domestic violence is 270% more likely to end up as homicide if there is a gun in the house, so change the laws to make it illegal for domestic abusers to own them. Create and fund more shelters for women to go when they do leave, and promote programs to give them a helping hand up, particularly if they have children. Several cities have introduced programs that monitor victims of domestic violence, and intervene when they believe that they are at greater risk; those should be expanded nationwide.
Above all, we need to re-frame the discussion about domestic violence. Instead of just telling victims to get out, we need to talk about what tools we can give them to help them do it. Interventions with abusers are just as important. Monitor their behavior, offer them therapy and domestic violence focused anger management training.
I, for one, am definitely going to be wearing purple this month; I encourage you to do the same.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fuck Yeah October!

Guess what? It's October! Do you know what that means?
Decorative gourds.
Photos of movie stars with pumpkins.
Young Marilyn Monroe Hanging Out in the Pumpkin Patch, 1945 (3)
Classic Hollywood actress Cyd Charisse, vintage Halloween pin-up girl photo[4]

Scary stories to read in the dark. Although not too dark, because then you couldn't read them.
Candy corn nail tutorials.
Candy Corn Nails
Pumpkin spice everything.
And, of course, Halloween costumes!
Spooky Styles of Halloween Costumes from a Century Ago (3)
Screen Shot 2012-10-22 at 10.59.38 AM

I'm resisting the urge to do some kind of "30 Day of Halloween" thing, but I figured I should mark the start of the season with a fun little something. Anyone else as excited for this month as I am?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The pitfalls of being a wallflower

Sometimes I annoy myself. I'm not a super social person, especially if there are large groups of people involved, which means that sometimes I miss out on really fun things. Chvrches had a free show at a bar here in Chicago on Friday, and when I didn't get guaranteed entry tickets the night before, I opted to skip it rather than wait in line. Saturday, I didn't go play softball with my boyfriend and his friends because I'd just finished painting my nails, and didn't want the work to go to waste; apparently, it was an awesome time, and my nails were messed up by the next day anyway. Later on Saturday, I felt overwhelmed by the number of people at a backyard bonfire that I went to and decided to leave early. Again, a great time was had by most everyone else who was there.
I wouldn't really describe myself as shy, exactly. In most situations I can deal with people just fine. Every job that I've ever had has been customer service related, so time and practice have made it much easier for me to interact with people in a professional sort of framework. I'm also ok having one on one conversations, or conversations in small groups of people. Stick me in a room with 10 or 20 other people, though, and all I want to do is either hide in a corner with a book, or, better yet, leave. A significant amount of alcohol can help me get over that, but I don't really like to drink that much anymore, so I usually end up just going with my impulses.
It helps to have my boyfriend around to figuratively (and sometimes literally) hold my hand, bringing me into conversations and helping me feel included, without necessarily forcing me into heavy duty interaction with other people. While it's nice having that support, sometimes it also makes me feel guilty, like I'm keeping him from having fun by being too clingy or needy. He assures me that that's not the case, but it doesn't always keep me from thinking it.
I'm not happy about missing out on so many social activities this weekend, but there were still things that happened that I enjoyed. It was in the 70s for most of the weekend, so I spent a lot of time outdoors, walking around, reading, and checking out the autumn foliage.
Even though I missed the show on Friday, I got to take some nice outfit shots, and then I spent the evening with Brian, listening to records and playing Bioshock.
I also went shopping, and while I don't have any photos of the amazing vintage coat that I got for only $16 (it needs buttons and a cleaning), I do have a photo of the honking big nose ring that I really like, and am not sure I'll ever wear in real life.
I'm still going to enjoy my solitary pleasures a lot of the time, but I am going to make a little bit more of an effort to say yes to more social activities. I just need to get out of my bubble. Sometimes I forget that things like that can be fun, and this weekend felt like a wake up call for all the stuff that I'm missing out on.
So, what about you guys? Are you a social butterfly, or are you more likely to want to stay at home curled up with a good book? If you're more introverted, like me, how do you balance taking care of yourself with enjoying social activities with friends?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Crotch Gussets and Frankentitties: A Rago Shapewear Review

I mentioned last week that I had ordered some new shapewear, and it recently arrived. I've been test driving it for a couple of days, and I'm pleased to report that I really, really like it so far.
Rago is a pretty popular brand among vintage loving ladies, and for good reason. If you're not buying vintage girdles and don't want to drop the dough required for something like What Katie Did, Rago is really the way to go for shapewear. Their pieces use modern fabrics and technologies, but still have a certain old-fashioned charm.
I already own a couple of things from Rago - a suspender belt, which is super sexy and awesome, and their 1294 open bottom girdle,  which is great in a lot of ways, but also has some serious downsides. It does an amazing job shaping, and takes an entire inch off of my hips and thighs. Unfortunately, if I wear it on a normal day, when I'm going to do normal things like, say, walk more than 50 feet, I end up with enormous raised welts on the insides of my thighs because they rub together so hard. Taking off a girdle at the end of the day is always kind of a relief, but you shouldn't need lymphatic massage afterwards.
I still wanted something to smooth me out, though, and on top of that, I like wearing shapewear. I know some people find it really uncomfortable, but I kind of enjoy that squeezed feeling you get from it. What I ended up ordering was the Hi Waist Long Leg Shaper, and while I was at it, I grabbed their Long Line Bra as well.
The leg shaper has been a great choice so far. It's not quite as firm as the girdle is, but in my case, that's kind of a good thing. Because my hips and thighs are so much larger than my waist, not only is the girdle too tight in the thighs, it's actually not tight enough in the waist. The leg shaper takes about 3/4 of an inch off of my butt and thighs without squeezing my thighs too much, and also gives me a bit of a cinch in the waist. It doesn't ride up or roll down either. It comes up a bit higher in the front, which gives added tummy control, but I get a little bit of flesh pinched between the top of the shaper and the bottom of my regular bra while sitting. I can't really even call that a con, though, since it actually makes me sit up straight for once.
It comes with four garters, which I wasn't expecting, since it's not mentioned in the product description on Amazon. On the one hand, it's great - I can wear my stockings with it! On the other hand, if I'm not wearing my stockings, it's just something digging into my thighs. There is also a crotch gusset so you don't have to take the whole thing down to use the bathroom, but... well, let's just say that it doesn't actually work as well as one might like.
I added on the bra mostly just to get free shipping, so I'm very pleasantly surprised by how much I like it. My sternum protrudes just a little bit right between my boobs, and the bands for most underwire bras rub and irritate me there. Because of the construction, this one offers great support without the irritation. The cups are the "lift and separate" style, and there are horizontal seams across the cups, so they actually give me a pretty decent set of cone boobs. I know that might not sound like a good thing to everyone, but I really like it! Not only is it great for filling out those vintage tops and dresses, it works pretty well with the natural shape and position of my assets. Because it is lace, I would not recommend for wearing with a t-shirt, or other tops made from a light or thin material, because it will be highly visible. And this might be a personal problem, but because my boobs sort of settle in the cups as the day goes on, they start to wrinkle a little bit across the seam. The cups, I mean. Not my boobs, my boobs don't have seams. Although Frankentitties would be an awesome burlesque name, right? Anyway, I know that they make inserts for cone bras, and I might invest in some to get around this issue.
I know just talking about shapewear doesn't really give you much of an idea about what it's doing, so I put on my tightest, least forgiving dress with and without my new Rago pieces. You know, for science.
With. Obviously. Giant bra straps are kind of a give away.
Without, side view.
With, side view. Not a hug difference, really. If you're looking for more tummy control, you might want to look at some of their other products.
Without. My granny panties are doing me no favors here.
This is the shot that makes buying this stuff seem worth it. It doesn't make anything that much smaller, but it smooths out the little lumps and bumps that I have. Would I want to wear it every day? Hell no. Is it a great way to boost your confidence in a tricky dress, or feel extra sexy on a special occasion? Yes.
I don't spend a lot of time or money on underwear, but if you're interested in more vintage lingerie reviews, I highly recommend She's a serious lingerie enthusiast, and she offers excellent and detailed reviews of her undergarments. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sweater Weather

October, my favorite month, is fast approaching. Although we've had some nice bursts of cooler, autumnal weather, this past week and the week to come have felt like summer's last hurrah. I'm certainly not going to complain about 70° and sunny, though, and there's a little bit of brisk air when I leave for work in the morning, so I can still bring out my sweaters.
This look was actually inspired by Call the Midwife. I've been watching the last few episodes of season 2 lately (and now I've got season 3 to watch as well! Thanks, Netflix), and I loved the combination of the light blue uniform and red cardigan that the nurses will wear sometimes. While I don't have the same pieces in the same colors, I can still do the color combination with this dress and cardigan. To bring in a little bit of the Teddy Girl influence that I was so excited about, I thought a slightly fancy brooch at the throat would a nice touch, and I also added some sort-of-matching clip on earrings as well.
On a side note, I've discovered that I really like rosy brown lipstick. I wouldn't have thought it would suit me, but got a free lip liner in that color and was surprised by how good it looked. I usually run more towards cooler pinks and reds (and, lately, purples), but the brown tone gives a little bit of color and definition to my lips without really reading as makeup.
A couple of days ago, I was test driving the new shapewear that I picked up (I'll have a review for that on Monday), so I figured this skirt would be a good piece to try it out with. Possibly inspired by the 1938 Hitchcock film I watched recently, I decided to go for a kind of 30s/modern look, with my low heeled shoes, a subdued floral blouse, and a vintage pink cashmere cardigan.
I'm actually really pleased with how this worked as a transitional, early fall outfit. The longer length of the skirt and the light sweater give me just enough warmth when it cools down in the evening, but it's breezy enough to be comfortable when it hits 70° during the day. I was going to put this blouse away for the winter, but I love all of the different colors subtly worked into the floral print, which makes it easy to pair with just about anything.
I didn't realize until I was putting this post together that mid-calf skirt/dress + cardigan seems to be my go to look right now. Do you guys also find yourselves unwittingly reaching for the same kinds of items day after day? What are your go-to pieces for transitional dressing?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Links to love

I've got a photo heavy set of links for you guys today, so I hope you enjoy them!

The Photographer Who Rejected Racism in the American South
This fantastic article about recently discovered photographic plates depicting a wide range of folks from the South is really fantastic. In a time and a place when the law mandated that blacks and whites live separate lives in every way possible, this man opened his doors to anyone who wanted their portrait taken. It reminds me a little bit of the way Vivian Maier photographs were found - this little slice of history that could too easily have been lost.
First Look: Bettina at Galleria Carla Sozzani
Bettina (born Simone Michelle Bodin) was one of the most iconic models of the 40s and 50s, but I don't think she has quite the same name recognition as someone like Dovima or Suzy Parker. It seems like she had an incredible life, though, and I would love to hunt down a copy of her 1965 autobiography.
Will misogyny bring down the atheist movement?
It kind of weird to realize that Buzzfeed, home of lists of things from the 90s that you'd forgotten about and quizzes about which Harry Potter character you should mate with, actually does really interesting, well-researched articles as well. This one, about sexual harassment in the skeptic movement, was a great read, if a very depressing one. You would think that people devoted to rational thought would be slightly more rational about sexual harassment in their ranks, but the same issues that crop up when women start to move into any traditionally male dominated spaces are present here as well.
I'm just going to leave Emma Watson's speech to the UN here for you. It's both awesome and relevant.
Realistically Colorized Historical Photos
I love the stark beauty of black and white images, but there is a distancing effect to photos that aren't in color. I mean, we see the world in color, so black and white can seem sort of unreal to me. That's why I loved these photos that have been digitally colorized. They may or may not be accurate, but there's such a sense of vibrancy and life to the color images that it kind of took my breath away.
30 Years of the Coens
So this isn't one article, but a series of articles from an author rewatching all of the Coen Brothers' films in chronological order. I haven't seen all of their films - not by a long shot - but reading these reviews makes me want to have a binge weekend with them. My favorite, given who I am and how old I am, is The Big Lebowski, but I've never seen a Coen Brothers' movie that I didn't enjoy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Classic Movie Catchup: The Lady Vanishes

A little note before we jump into the post:
It looks like this morning I passed 10,000 total page views. I know that compared to some blogs that's not a lot, but I'm still hugely excited about hitting that mark. I've had a bit of an uptick in traffic lately, and while I'm not sure where it's come from (generally increased visibility from having done this for six or seven months now, I guess), it definitely makes me happy.
So, basically, thank you! Thank you for reading my ramblings. Thank you for commenting on my posts. Thank you for having your own blogs, which are a huge source of inspiration, entertainment, and camaraderie. I love doing this, and knowing that people read and enjoy it makes it feel worthwhile.

Let's call this my happy dance.
Ok, so on to the actual topic at hand.
At the risk of sounding like a bad vintage-y person, or even a bit of a poser, I have to admit that I have never watched a Hitchcock movie before watching The Lady Vanishes this weekend. Nope, not even Psycho. Of course, Hitchcock is so much a part of pop culture that it would be hard not to have some knowledge of him. It's just one of those things that I categorize in my head as, "well everyone knows about that." The shower scene from Psycho; the birds in, well, you know; the plane swooping low over Cary Grant's head in North by Northwest; and, of course, the succession of icy blonde vixens in his movies that gave us the term "Hitchcock blonde."
I don't think The Lady Vanishes is all that well known, as far as Hitchcock films go. I know I hadn't heard of it until I decided that I wanted to watch a Hitchcock movie, and lo and behold, here is was - literally the only one available on Netflix. What the hell? I will never understand their licensing agreements, but stuff like that is why I still have the subscription for actual, physical DVDs. There are a startling number of movies that aren't available for streaming out there, and I'd still like to have access to them.
This chick seriously makes me want some 30s style eyebrows...
But anyway, the movie! It was the last one that Hitchcock made while working in England, and it's pretty well regarded. It stars the very lovely Margaret Lockwood as Iris, a tourist visiting a fictional country that seems to be situated somewhere between Germany and Italy. While waiting for the train back to England, she befriends a sweet old lady, Miss Froy, who, shortly after the train departs, vanishes. With the help of an impish musicologist named Gilbert, she searches for her missing friend.
There is a lot to like about this movie. It's from 1938, and the costumes are fantastic - I was making mental notes about various outfits and pieces the entire film. It's also surprisingly funny. There's some very silly physical comedy in the movie, and the dialog is sharp and witty. I also really enjoyed the chemistry between the two leads, which seemed very natural and affectionate.
Saucy minx, hanging out of a table top in your underwear while the poor, distracted butler dude has to try and work.
While I enjoyed the movie, the plot is kind of beside the point. The sweet old lady is a spy, carrying an important message embedded in a folk tune; my reaction to that development was something along the lines of "um, ok...." The back and forth between the main leads as they match wits with all of the baddies on the train is the real reason to watch the movie, because it's freaking adorable. I also love that a major plot point involves a fake nun who gives herself away by wearing high heels, as well as two dudes who love cricket so much they lie about not seeing our elderly espionagette so they don't miss a big match.
So what's your favorite Hitchcock film? Or are you a philistine like me who has never seen some of classic cinema's best known thrillers?