Does Everyone Need a Style Formula?

yrmama

yrmama’s brother (technically yruncle, I guess) told us about the moment when he learned that his dress socks should match his dress pants rather than his dress shoes. He’d been doing it all wrong. Then J.M. shared his personal journey from always wearing a tie to work to now wearing sport coats and colorful socks instead.

My daughter said, “so socks and a jacket equal a tie?”

yrmama said, “I don’t have a formula for getting dressed. But I also don’t want one.”

yruncle, “ah, but I’m sure you do, even if you can’t articulate it.”

J.M., “Creativity blossoms within boundaries.”

Just this morning I read an article on Man Repeller about Larry David’s formula for getting dressed and was struck by how intimately it spoke to me. https://www.manrepeller.com/2020/01/larry-david-fashion-theory.html

Larry David
manrepeller.com

In short, Larry apparently believes he should only wear one “nice” piece of clothing at a time. More than that and he’s “too dressed.” If that is his “fashion theory,” then maybe I have one too. Mine is based on the realization that I win more when I wear one interesting thing at a time.

For example, today’s ensemble as seen above. We see the Old Navy jeans again, a pair of very sensible black Dansko boots and a plain, old, navy blue, v-neck t-shirt. See what I did there? A dark, sober, unremarkable backdrop for the real point of the whole exercise, a vintage sailor sweater! Yay! My mobile carbon dating system puts the sweater’s origin at right around 1983. It is a dense cotton knit lined to encourage maximum sweating, with metal buttons and was probably the top half of a suit. When I discovered it there were eNORmous shoulder pads that I unceremoniously cut out and threw away. Presto, from monstrosity to a quirky “find” just like that.

I think Larry David and I have discovered the secret to having just enough fun getting dressed while being relatively aged. He always looks pretty good. He is also relatively more aged than I. But I still think with the passing years I look more like I fell into a pile of laundry if I have too much fun getting dressed.

Remember, restraint my dears, but not too much. Do you have a formula or is it just a free for all?

The Pose

Dorothy, my maternal grandmother, knew what to do when someone was taking her picture. This was not due to the Gladwellian 10,000 hours of practice put in by modern girls, but because her uncle was a professional photographer. There are lovely portraits of her from the time she could stand where she’s popping out some version of this: face the camera, line your left heel up with the instep of your right foot, tip your head just a hair towards the outstretched toe, then find an arm position and facial expression that suit the occasion. Here, that being some boy about to give her a corsage. The bob! The shoes! The gorgeous dresses they got to wear in the 1920s!

This mirror selfie approximation of the pose took about 30 tries and I’m not even kidding. It’s the best I could do. Grandmother’s foot trick is subtle, brilliant and surprisingly hard to not over play. Turns out the rest of it requires standing up very straight and then relaxing your shoulders and neck so that your head just sits there. Who knew. Today’s fashion statement involves second hand, black Old Navy jeans, the same brown belt I wear every day, a scoop-neck Patagonia t shirt and a DIY cardigan. If you have a tightly knit sweater you are tired of, or that makes you sweat too much, you can find a pair of scissors, slice it up the front and voila; a cardigan. No, it does not unravel into a big mess. I’ve committed this wanton act of creativity many times and your should too.

yrmama's New Leaf

In the photo above, taken in the late 1960’s perhaps by my father, we have the adorable baby yrmama surrounded by her grandma, mother, brother and grandpa. Grandma was a figure larger than life – affectionate, bossy, and very hardworking. No one in this photo is very comfortable in front of a camera except, it appears, Grandpa. Baby yrmama doesn’t care much either way about the camera but hates the way her mother and brother are holding on to her lest she bust out in unruliness. Ha. Little did they know about who they were dealing with, literally.

In the photo to the right we have full-grown yrmama. Today’s hairstyle was achieved with a big old handful of mousse and a nice long wall squat under the hand drier in the pool locker room. yrmama was blessed with teflon hair that rarely needs combing and I’m not even kidding. A secondhand magenta madras shirt is layered under a rust sweater that yrmama actually bought off the rack at Target when she went to a genealogy conference and found she had not packed warm enough clothes for scouring the nearby graveyards for familiar names. That strategic clashing creates a nice glow, don’t you think?

I’m now more or less the same age Grandma was in the first photo and I think I look something like her. My life is very different than Grandma’s but like her I am very hard-working and very bossy. I’d like to say I’m as affectionate as she was but I’m not sure it’s true.

I have three daughters who always look terrific in photos whereas I usually look apologetic. I remember a time when I could not stand to look in a mirror with someone. I just didn’t have the confidence to see what I looked like while someone else was looking at me too. My daughters all spent a good portion of their adolesences practicing what to do when a camera shows up. They can effortlessly “find their light,” strike the pose, flip the hair, tilt the head, jut the hip, tip the chin and exude confidence.

oswaldpharmacy.com

I don’t really know what I look like. I’m always surprised by mirrors and photos and unpredictable reflections. Photos confuse me because I look like I’m trapped inside an unfamiliar voluptuous mound of flesh. That effect is especially highlighted if I’m caught sitting in a chair, trying desperately to look tall, thin and blond and perhaps not even there. My son, who was born looking like a super model and never even had to practice, recently took a brilliant photo of himself on the beach with me in my bikini, sitting in one of those painful cloth folding chairs. Good God. In some photos my face sags, like a gravity burst is sucking the joy out of me. I look like one of those droopy-eyed dogs. Sometimes I look like my mother. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the photo is of me or my oldest daughter.

In the past few years illness has messed dramatically with my size, from normal (the way I’ve always been, the size and shape I was from high school through my late 40’s) to way too skinny, to normal again and then shooting past that to mildly plump. Every time my clothes don’t fit I give them away and restock in my new size at Crowded Closet and Goodwill. Resultingly, there’s hardly anything I’ve worn for years like I think most people have, clothes in which I might feel nostalgia, or like my same old self. I pull a hanger from the stuffed rack at Goodwill and think, “omg, that’s huge,” when it’s actually my size. When I was too skinny the shorts my size seemed impossible so I tried to make slightly larger, reasonable sizes, work and they literally fell off my narrow butt.

So, I’m practicing. Maybe I’ll watch some instructional videos on how to look like myself in a photo. Meanwhile, I’m becoming very clear on the fact that this corporeal form of energy pressed into matter that is my vehicle through this lifetime is just that. It’s doing a fine job of helping me hurtle through space and time. I like it! Now, if I can just learn to see myself in it as the molecules get switched out for new ones and the pattern continues to break down (aka aging) I will have won.

You’re welcome.

What's a good look for the day after an impeachment?

source: Terribly Cute

I’m not even kidding, but the sun came out. Everything in the world feels more relaxed. I had the House impeachment debate on in the background all day yesterday because it just seemed like the kind of event I should acknowledge. But today we can move on. And I’m still burnt out on politics. But will watch the stupid debate tonight anyway.

So the look for today is navy blue cotton leggings (Kohls 2016), a very thin navy blue striped sweater (Goodwill clearance) and a spectacular pair of robin’s egg blue boots.

Fluevog

When one’s feet look this good, what else does one need? yrmama has always been all about having fun getting dressed, but the combo of these magical boots and my polished wood cane led the mind beyond.

Last summer at an Ehler’s Danlos syndrome conference there were a bunch of wheelchair riders, brace wearers and cane walkers. The more assistive equipment one had – a scooter, oxygen tank, iv pole – the more aggressively cute the personal style. Bright red lipstick that said, “I know you just want to talk to my service dog but hey, I’m the person here and you have to look at my face.” A pink wig that said, “I know you want to stare and think it’s awkward that I’m using a chair, but goddamit, look me in the eye.” Same for fantastic shoes, or a beautiful vintage dress with crinolines. An effective way to get people to stop fixating quite so much on your unusual circumstance is to draw even more attention to yourself. “If you’re going to look, I’ll give you something to look at.” Or maybe, “This light is going to shine so bright that the glare in your eyes will make you forget everything but me.”

Burnout is real

I’m am exceptionally disillusioned with politics right now – this thing is taking sooooo long and the UK just gave old Boris a big wet smooch. I mean, we didn’t think Donald could win, but he did. We’re counting on him losing again, but maybe it’s more likely he won’t. And whoever wins, half of us will be flipping out and having a huge panic attack as if it’s not our fault. We are a species not very good at looking at the big picture, after all.

But here’s what I never get burned out on. My torch. I get to use it to pop bubbles in the epoxy resin I pour over my crazy little assemblages of ephemera.

This Sucrets tin has an initial layer of resin curing around a Shrinky Dink lady smoking in her mid-century magazine living room. I’m not sure yet where we’re going with that. But lotsa smokers sucked on Sucrets back in the day.
This battered Belmont Household Nail Box features two models presenting a painting of some mountains in China above a layered pool of jewelry fragments and glitter. The final layer of resin covers some tissue paper scraps that help the glitter not be too shiny. You know, keep your light under that barrel.

You might fairly ask, “but yrmama, what kind of passtime is this nonsense for an over-educated white lady like you? Can’t you get a job? Or play golf?” And yrmama will calmly remind you, “ars longa, vita brevis, bitch,” even though she can’t really speak Latin. Because no one can you ding-dong.

Play on, dreamers

yrmama and JM biked to brunch. Identical meals – hardened, folded-over egg lay on our plates, inside the fold was chilly pico de gallo, rubbery once-melted cheese and a TON of big ‘ol cubes of pork belly (aka bacon). No home fries. No toast. So what did we do with those repulsive “omelets?” We cleaned our plates and paid. Then outside we said, “omg, that was so bad!” I still feel sick when I think of what I ate that day.

Maryland Science Center

Now you might say, “But yrmama, surely you noticed the omelet was not your cup of tea before you ate the WHOLE THING.” And I would reply, “We were talking about Pete! Maybe I didn’t notice.” Then you might say, “yes, but this was egregiously bad food. You still feel sick from it.”

Fine, but JM and I were taught to clean our plates NO MATTER WHAT by genuine Great Depression survivors, including congealing disgusting meat bits. If there’s a little mold, trim it off. Sure the texture may have gotten strange, but there’s still flavor in it. JM so terrorized our own children with this ethic that I still regularly find thimble-sized plastic containers holding one or two bites of long ago dinners stashed in the refrigerator for “later.” These are bites they have no intention of eating but are afraid to scrape directly into the compost bucket.

Now with my dotage on the far horizon a crazy idea has dawned: when there is a decision to be made or a plate to clean I can ask myself, “what is in my best interest right now?” I fell out laughing when I first tried that question on for size. Ludicrous! What’s best for me? Without considering all of you? The interesting thing is that my own best interest in any given moment leads to pretty good decisions.

I know you are shocked by this. yrmama is so full of good advice. She appears oddly youthful and shiny. She is beyond reproach, omniscient and omnipotent. How can she have been walking around for decades with such a log in her eye? She doesn’t seem like a doormat.

It’s hard to know how to prepare for life as a human. Is yrmama a ruse? Are we in a waking dream? Could we pretend to be as well as we wish to be? Play on, dreamers. Onward and upward.

Amy, the Young Boomer

The other day a dear friend of yrmama’s turned 84, not 64, 84. Before we spent his entire birthday dinner talking about Pete, he told me he’d like yrmama to say more about Amy.

Well, Amy has the best of all the campaign colors – bright green – hopeful, down to earth, intense and yrmama’s favorite color.

Star Tribune

Amy has a robust Angela Merkel vibe, and a bit of Jimmy Carter.

Amy looks like yrmama and that’s a very good thing. The first time I saw her in person she walked right up to me as she entered the room, even though I was sitting in a stupid folding chair, shook my hand and introduced herself. 10 points!

Amy has the upper midwestern pragmatic, no-frills, nails for breakfast approach to politics layered over formidable intelligence, experience and leadership that any politician would pay a bundle for if they could sit down in a salon chair and say, “just give me an Amy.”

I would be thrilled to have Amy as president, but I think better yet, as Pete’s vice president for eight years and then president.

Amy’s commendable youthfulness is worth another 20 points. She was born in in 1960, which keeps her from being one of the “old yelling white guys” that has dominated our country for too long.

Our friend Elizabeth (1949) totally counts as an “old yelling white guy.” She jogs down the runway to the stage, pumping her gloved fists in the air to demonstrate her vigor and focus on fighting. I love Elizabeth, but if she won even she would be the oldest president ever elected to office. And she’s an old yelling white guy and it’s time to be done with that.

Joe, six years older than Elizabeth, also jogs around the stage bouncing as though he’s entered a boxing ring. He pauses to do wave-and-points into the crowd, as if he could see that far.

Donald, W, and Bill were all born in 1946. Barack (1961) gave us a tantalizing taste of generational change, but with Donald’s electoral-college-only victory we were back to the 1946ers. They are old enough to be Amy’s father. They are old enough to be Pete’s grandfathers. I think the old guard boomers have had their turn and we are ready for leadership that looks into the future. Beating Donald isn’t enough if we don’t want to just swing back to another 1946er in another four years and we shouldn’t settle for that. We need leadership that will help us start building out what comes next.

Onward!