Archive for December, 2008

Literary Ladies #3: Nous sommes toutes des filles françaises

December 30, 2008

Literary Ladies is my weekly series where I nerd out for a bit & update movie versions of my favorite female protagonists.

Oooh, how French I felt this morning, with my baguette buttered-toast and bitter coffee for breakfast. I had a third Literary Ladies post ready to go, but after spending my morning the way I did I decided to whip up a new one, centering around two of my favorite French literary heroines Emile Zola’s Nana Coupeau, and Fadette of George Sand’s eponymous La Petite Fadette. (Don’t let the masculine name fool you: George Sand was not only a woman but another ardent proto-feminist who wanted her female characters to own their destinies, rather than the other way around.)

First, the story of a dirty little girl of low birth: pegged by the townspeople as a witch because of her grandmother’s knowledge of healing herbs, & discriminated against because of her mentally retarded younger brother, who never had proper care under their grandmother’s dismissive eye.
(Lily Cole as Fadette; yes, I know she’s English, not French.)

The story was originally written in the early 19th century, so people have different feelings now about just what constitutes ‘witchcraft.’ Let’s imagine the setting is unusually rural for 2008. Fadette lives in a close-knit agricultural community where disinterest or non-participation in church is reason for social ostracism. After striking up a romance with a boy considered by the whole town to be ‘too good’ for her, Fadette goes into self-imposed exile, and upon gaining control of the family finances after her grandmother’s death, is able to turn public opinion to her favor by returning as a respectable lady, her brother cared for & her reputation restored. It’s not the best feminist manifesto, because Fadette does emerge as more of a ‘follower’ than she initially seems. But you know, in 2008, feminism means taking control in your own way, so it fits for today more appropriately than in its time. Go Fadette!

La Petite Fadette by GephydroXX

Fadette’s wardrobe wouldn’t be outlandish, even though after returning to her village, she could have afforded luxurious clothing. I liked the pretty simplicity & feminine lines of the silver-gray linen dress, and the polished-but-trendy look of the bolero to cover up with. Fadette would enjoy natural jewelry and long beads, accenting her unusual and striking beauty. She would wear practical shoes during the day & strap on a sexy pair of heels to go dancing with Landry in the evenings.

In a modern remake of Emile Zola’s Nana, I cannot picture anyone but the beautiful, enchanting Clémence Poésy (she was Fleur Delacour, that’s why the name is familiar) as ‘la blonde Venus’, Nana.

Nana Coupeau is a courtesan, a high-class call girl always cared for by rich men, oblivious & indifferent to the destruction & suffering she leaves in her wake. Throughout the story, Nana, a marginally talented actress with a wild streak uses and breaks men, her whim as dangerous as Death’s iron scythe. While not a sympathetic character, Nana is nonetheless intriguing and mysterious as a woman no one can resist. A character like Nana would exist in a completely different world today: in 2008, her profession would be a secret rather than a topic of discussion, her conquests too a braid of deceptions and lies. She is Hurricane Nana, she is void of compassion & full of lust, manipulative & thoughtless, beautiful & damned. In 2008, she’d dress like this:

Nana by GephydroXX

But her life would come unravelled in much the same way. Nana’s destruction doesn’t stop at the men in her life; their suicides and ruin only serve as the inevitable foreshadowing of her own slow suicide, living a life of complete excess & debauch. Sensual and softly feminine, Nana would dress in slink cotton/silk slacks, cut extra low & slim. She’d tempt men in a ruffled corset top, drenching her decolletage in diamonds to draw attention to her fine features. She’d drink too much wine & swill absinthe while alone. Late in the feature, I feel very strongly she must be a closet addict: addicted to money, to beauty, to sex & to ‘fun.’ She’d splash out thousands on bags and shoes, trying to fill the void left by her father & her work. She’ll die dirty, Venus crumbling to the ground, undone by her own wild temptations.

Who are your favorite French literary heroines? Spanish? Indian? Do your own collage & if it’s featured here I’ll send you a NEN magnet!


Whee, what a week!

December 29, 2008

There cannot possibly be a week in the year busier than the week of the Yuletide holidays. Today in particular was lovely, but the whole last week has been non-stop good cheer; I didn’t feel very festive until the last few days before Christmas, when the snow finally stopped (!!) and I could go & get things done!

All in all I’ve been a very bad blogger and taken practically zero pictures, so no fuzzy black snowflake-wrapped gifts with shiny red bows, and no teeming boxes of chocolate chip cookies (baked by A, styled by moi), and no obligatory Christmas tree shots. (I will say this though, I love our tree: it’s covered in white lights, silver balls, and vintage paper ornaments, including some of B. Kliban’s sweater cats!) I promise to find my camera cable, I really do!

Anyway, today I went with A’s mom & sister to his Aunt Ginny’s house out East. The house itself is like one giant art installation, from Babette the dressmaker’s mannequin (dressed to the nines!), to the garden, to the who’s who of today’s mixed media artists adorning the walls. Audrey & I agreed we want a house just like it. Jen was also there with the kids, we exchanged gifts & ate delicious food & made nine panel Christmas quilts out of wrapping paper (!). Even though my idea will end up cataloged under ‘The Dada Period,’ I had a lot of fun. There is so much talent in that family! (And just as much style.) More than that, I hadn’t done something artsy just for the fun of it in quite awhile, so it got me itching to make some new pieces to share. (See Ginny’s blog for the pictures!)

So, feeling inspired, tonight I discovered this. I’m really curious: who out there has used precious metal clay? The investment is rather shockingly less than for buying say, half round 12 gauge silver wire for rings, and 1mm sheets for creating personalized bezels, soldering materials (including gun), etc, because the starter kit comes with everything you need for a couple pieces. All those things are wonderful, but this clay seems tooooo good to be true. I’d love to try it out, so tell me:

What are your experiences with precious metal clay? Inspire me!

Ten things I’ve learned about style

December 23, 2008


10. When I decided to change the way I dressed, suddenly, being shy wasn’t such a handicap, because I could express something without having to say it aloud. Letting the world have a peep at what’s inside your head via your clothes is intriguing– it makes people want to know you, and there’s never anything wrong with meeting new people & sharing ideas.

9. Was it Coco Chanel who said, “Look in the mirror before you leave, and take one thing off,”? Well, her name isn’t still around for no reason. Mom wasn’t lying when she said less is more.

8. “Less is more” becomes more and more true as we age. I may be a cute twentysomething, but I cannot (and wouldn’t) wear many of the clothes popular with teenagers– and not just because of my job! The point in style is to be fresh, not weighted down with too much of something. Too much jewelry or makeup and over-tanning are three fashion mistakes most women will admit to.

7. Don’t experiment the night of your event/dance/party/show/recital. Try on your outfit for a friend, dye your hair the night before (& clean up your temples), and practice any new makeup techniques.

6. Don’t wax your face the day of your event/dance/party/show/recital. If you’re particularly sensitive, go for two or three days before, just to be sure.

5. Mom makes her second appearance with this gem from your teenage bathroom nightmares: YES, your eyebrows do look better if you leave them as natural as possible. Just, please, take my word for it.

4. Draw inspiration from your favorite music, artist, literary character, best friend. Who do you think is simply fascinating? What would she wear, shopping in your closet?

3. Try on lots and lots of different pairs of jeans. It’s tempting to grab the ones that *maybe* fit from the 50% rack at Gap, but if you’re like me and live in your favorite jeans you’d serve yourself better to just have patience. Your bum will thank you!

2. Keep it basic for every day. If you have lots of time to get ready in the morning, by all means make a big production of getting ready– have a ball! But if you squeeze in breakfast in the five minutes between showering and leaving for work, devise a simple routine. You can find a five-minute-face guide anywhere, but it’s your perogative, so make it yours.

and the #1 style tip is…

1. You are beautiful, you are remarkable, you are unique, you are fun, you are creative & you are divine… But you’re not perfect. Remember that, and laugh at yourself when you’re turning red– a good sense of humor and healthy self-appreciation is better for the soul than any number of amazing outfits!

Here are some style blogs I love:

What are your personal style commandments?

Starred this week: Food fixations, writing resources & Louis, Louis, Louis

December 19, 2008

Well, it looks as thought the Pioneer Valley is about to be visited by the snow-wielding goddess of winter–she’s dropping off over a foot of snow to keep us company for Christmas! I made the list extra-long this week so that you have something to read when you can’t open the door. <3

  • Oh, scandal, leave poor Sarah Palin alone. Or don’t, either way that family is one big mess of amusing.
  • These pictures could make any little girl want to become an astrophysicist.
  • We make these in our cookie baskets every year, but this flavor looks so decadent I may have to try something new over the old and weathered tried-and-true.
  • I lovelovelove mushroom dishes, and I lovelovelove risotto. Beatrice Peltre marries the two in this amazing dish–which I am actually afraid to prepare as I’ll never want to eat anything else again.
  • Once you’ve found some ways to keep yourself inspired this winter break, use these writers’ resources to supplement your trusted favorites & try some new things.
  • I must have these shoes.
  • This is so cool; if all the office buildings in major cities had these, can you imagine what kind of power could be generated?
  • How does your style evolve?
  • I’m not always partial to Louis Vuitton, but this collection– wow. Just wow. I can’t stop looking at it! My etsy obsessions below show how much I’ve been obsessing over it!

And now for my etsy obsessions this week!

  • Flower and feathers and this crazy cameo, painted with one of my favorite stories!
  • This gorgeous faux bois molskine notebook, for the inner artiste in me.
  • There’s something so goddess-like about this art-deco silver scarab necklace. I’d layer it with my wrapped rupee (made by me) and the silver cuckoo clock I recently re-incorporated into my wardrobe. I got it when I was 8! How fashion-forward was I? (Everyone laughed at it then, though–jokes on you!)

What’s on our list this week?

Literary Ladies #2: Jane Eyre & Tessa Sanger

December 18, 2008

The beautiful Joan Fontaine played not just one, but both of today’s Literary Ladies on the silver screen. Both characters have a certain dark innocence about them, so fitting to her wide-eyed persona on film.


I had a hard time deciding who I’d choose to play the lumnious, intense Tessa in an updated version of 1943’s The Constant Nymph: my imagination ran away with me when I read the novel, so my first ideas fell flat against that vision. I had to re-read a few chapters, refamiliarize myself with the solitary-Tessa (summers running wild in the Tirol, and later trapped at school & kept away from her family) and the Lewis-Tessa (who blurs the line between mother-child-lover without ever so much as whispering an exacting word). Solitary Tessa is outrageous, vulgar, stubborn, raggamuffin and proud. Lewis-Tessa is resigned and quiet, enduring abuse after abuse at the hands of her cousin just to stay near to her beloved Lewis. The two Tessas are contradictory, so figuring out the actress was VERY complicated. But light dawns:


With Alexis Bledel as Tessa Sanger. The theme song as the credits roll? But Stravinski’s Le Sacre du Printemps, bien sur!

Tessa Sanger by GephydroXX

2008 Tessa would live in her denim cutoffs, indecently short of course. She’d love sophisticated detailing (like the small black frill down the front of her jumper) coupled with almost obscene-accessories (diamond-encrusted fish skeleton earrings? Yes please!). She and her siblings were known for sneaking the occasional glass of wine, and Tessa would definitely need to run in her shoes. In hindsight, maybe someone should have told her to cover up or she’d catch cold.


For Jane Eyre, the choice of actress seemed more obvious. The Jane Eyre floating about Thornfield in her beloved grey silk dress living in my mind’s eye possesses the same luminous, questioning eyes as Tessa–but Jane is quiet and shy. Jane needs to speak without speaking, reveal all from beneath her lashes. Of course that means I chose:

Christina Ricci. The song playing as Jane meets Adele? Margaret vs Pauline, by Neko Case.

Jane’s wardrobe must contain only classic pieces. Remember, she was brought up in an orphanage, so she’ll likely never become too much a spendthrift. I see a modern Jane in crisp tailored dresses and pretty details, such as the bow on the waist of the lbd. I also think a 2008 Jane would save her money and buy quality items that will last for many years. No throwaway Target pumps for Jane Eyre (but perhaps some for me…) Mrs. Rochester would love the stark luxury of pearls, but she’d probably be careful enough to remove all those rings before going painting in the moors.

Jane Eyre by GephydroXX

What other literary heroines do you want to become friends with?

Peace from the Valley,