Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Favorite Things Roundup: December

I've given this some thought, but the truth is that there is only one thing I could possibly put on a list for December:

1) Christmas

I am a complete nerd when it comes to Christmas. My man had to practically hold me down to keep me from putting up the tree early--I don't see anything wrong about a Christmas tree mingled with jack-o-lanterns, do you?--and I was happily able to put up some more decorations this year since we are home for the holiday.

I realize there are lots of haters out there when it comes to Christmas. Yes, it's completely commercialized, yes, it can be a major source of stress, and yes, it can be really expensive. But I love the warmth in winter, the lights, the colors, and the anticipation (which might be my favorite part). My heart still leaps a little when I see presents under the tree on Christmas morning, and not because I got more stuff. My family says I'm impossible to shop for, and generally buy straight off my list or buy gift cards, so there actually aren't many surprises. (It should be noted here that my man is an exceptional gift-giver. His are ALWAYS surprises.) I get excited because somewhere in me there is still a little girl who thinks Santa or a Santa-like entity still exists who wants to give us one day when being thoughtful is celebrated. I love giving presents; my man has to hold me back on that as well. If he didn't, we'd be totally broke. I love the eating, I love the holiday specials and I love the carols.

For the Scrooges out there, I feel badly that Christmas has been lost for them. Christmases for me have been great, but I know that's not the case for everyone, and some people have a long list of reasons why they personally have learned to dislike Christmas. I think that ultimately each of us have our own definition of Christmas, or whatever winter holiday we choose to celebrate. As for me, love and magic are at the core of my Christmas, and I wish you both this year.

(So get off the computer! Go be with people! I'm only online because I'm stuck at work.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Corset Cover-up

One of the perks to my new job is a very steep discount on membership to a health club. I myself have never really been one for working out, the problem being that I don't like to sweat (I'm always worried it will cause me to break out, even though my skin has been under control). I like Pilates because it makes me feel strong, but it's expensive and I get bored doing the same workout all the time. So, I decided to start out with a one-week trial membership and see how things went.

I slipped into my tennis shoes and imagined them waking from an age-old slumber, much like the cartoon bullets that spring to life in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? when Detective Eddie Valiant enlists their help in Toon Town after many years of disuse. These are the same gym shoes I got when I started working my very first retail job in high school, and tennis shoes were a required part of our uniform. I washed my face, filled up my water bottle and went up one floor to the cardio room.

It took some time for me to reacquaint myself with this land of nefarious contraptions designed to inflict non-sexual pain. First, I forgot to be mindful of which treadmill I chose, and didn't take into account what channel was playing on the TV, so I wound up watching ESPN meatheads digest the Sunday football game. I was too embarrassed to move, though, and stuck with it. The first half-mile was hard, not least because I was in front of a mirror and saw how awful I looked as I ran. After a mile, I switched to another machine, and then headed up to the weight room for part two of my workout.

Back in the day, I used to be very enthusiastic about weight lifting. I got a weight bench for my birthday one year, and even brought my barbells with me on family vacations. I credit the weightlifting I did in my years of early puberty as the reason why it's not very difficult for me to get my arms back into shape. But recently, my man was sitting next to me on the couch and said, "You look great in that dress, but you would be devastating with toned arms." At first I was offended, then felt sad because he was right. I had allowed my once-beautiful arms to lose their muscle tone, and was now determined to restore it. This I knew I could do, and was doing some curls on the weight bench when a large man came over to me and asked me if I was okay. I told him I was fine. He asked me again, and I told him I thought I was doing fine, but it seemed like he thought otherwise, so tell me what I'm doing wrong. He showed me the proper way to curl (how could I forget?!?) and then demonstrated to me how some of the machines worked.

Ever since that day, I have been in pain, but the pain feels good. My thighs scream at me when I sit down, and my calves share the sentiment. I went back two days later, and though I'm still sore, I like that I'm getting strong. I can already see a difference.

The thing I realized is that I had let myself go because, in a corset, I look great. I'm not fat, but I have gotten soft, which is not something I see when I'm laced and looking in a mirror. In a corset, my waist looks great and my tummy is flat. The shape of my legs doesn't matter much because my skirts generally fall below the knee, so I don't notice so much if they expand or contract. And I gave up on my butt a long time ago. However, none of this is any excuse for not taking care of my body. Even if I look good, that doesn't mean I have a healthy heart. Flexibility is important, and working out helps me feel less guilty if I eat poorly one meal.

My father was just diagnosed with diabetes, himself having once been a star athlete who later let himself go with the various stresses of life. Now he can't eat the way he'd like to because he's spent the last few years eating whatever he wants with no regard for his health. It's hard on him now having to make sudden, big changes, and it's hard on my mom as well. My corsets are great and I won't stop wearing them, but I also can't let them trick me into thinking I am healthier than I am.

Friday, December 12, 2008

R.I.P., Bettie Page

Today we mourn the death of Bettie Page, unquestionably the queen of pin-ups. In her obituary in today's New York Times, Bettie is quoted as saying, "I want to be remembered as a woman who changed people's perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form."

I think she did. One of the great things about Bettie is how natural she looks--no implants, no tanning. Her trademark hairstyle is often a little frizzy, and her locks are never ramrod straight. I imagine she rolled out of bed, showered, and let her hair air-dry as she drove to a shoot. She doesn't wear lots of make-up, and generally isn't dripping in jewels and rhinestones. More or less, she's wearing underwear that happens to match.

Another thing I take from her referring to "nudity in its natural form" is her SM photography, although I am sure that is not what she meant. Nudity inspires different feelings and thoughts for everyone, many of which stem from a culture that treats nudity as taboo. Her work helped to make it okay for people to have their dirty thoughts, partially because she herself was so clean and tasteful. One thing that can be very difficult about enjoying SM play is that most people go through various stages of denial, in much the same way that I imagine gay men and women do as they come to realize their homosexuality. It's hard to admit that you enjoy being spanked or tied up, or to confront an innate desire to inflict pain on someone you love. Bettie helped make SM public, and it became part of the sexual revolution she inadvertently helped launch.

It's my belief that there is still an awful lot of prejudice and misunderstanding about SM and the people who practice it. I myself am extremely private about it, whereas my man is not, because I am very sensitive to the criticism I anticipate from others. But the message Bettie sends has helped me be at ease with my own desires. Sex is fun, and it's fun in a lot of different ways; there's really no right or wrong way to enjoy it and assumptions to the contrary are thrown out when you look at the scope of Bettie's photos. Like Bettie, you can be a good girl in soft lace some of the time and still be the bad girl in leather at other times. Because come on, admit it--you are a little bit of both.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

On My Naughty List

Instead of doing a Favorite Things post for November, I'd like to share with you just a few things on my naughty Christmas list. Please, Santa baby...I've been extra bad!

1. The SaSi

I love vibrators, and as far as I can tell the SaSi may be the cream of the crop (pun intended). What sets the SaSi apart is its use of Sensual Intelligence technology. As you use the SaSi, you tell it what levels and types of stimulation you like best, and can skip over the ones that just don't do it for you. SaSi remembers, and returns to your favorites, and, based on those, throws in some educated guesses about something new for you to try. It's silicone, so it's easy to clean, and it's rechargeable, so you don't have to keep buying batteries. Of course it can't bring you flowers or feed you soup when you're sick, but otherwise, the SaSi might be the ideal partner--does what you like, throws a few curveballs, and isn't offended if you don't like what it's doing. At $175, it's not exactly recession-friendly, but a girl can dream.

2. Fifi and Francoise

I would be happy with just about anything from Agent Provocateur under my tree, but these are a couple of my favorites. I love the lace overlays, and the pink and black combination runs throughout my favorite pieces at home. The bras give my breasts a flattering bullet-shape, and may I point out the Francoise French Thong in particular? Let's also take note of the Fifi slip. That's a gift for me and my man.

3. The Lace-up Girdle from Lace Embrace

Of course I love lacing up in my corset, but there are some days when I want something a little gentler. Maybe I'm cramping, maybe my hips are sore, or maybe I'm just bored wearing the same pair of utility corsets I have, but this girdle would be a great alternative. Not only is it sexy on its own, but it keeps everything smooth, tight and shapely, even if it's not as extreme as a corset. The smoothness in particular is a big draw, since I get very self-conscious about my corset being visible under my clothes. I've also had very pleasant dealings with Lace Embrace in the past, and would be happy to continue supporting their business.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Musings on the Mutter

This past weekend I was in Philadelphia, and visited one of the oddest places in my recent memory: The Mutter Museum. It is part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and is a collection of medical artifacts both historical and strange. There is an ovarian cyst that weighed in at 74 pounds, there is a piece of John Wilkes Booth's brain, a colon that contained forty pounds of feces and the twins joined at the head which are pictured here. Believe me when I say that these examples are just scratching the surface of strangeness in this fascinating place.

However, I keep thinking about one piece in particular, which is a turn-of-the-century skeleton of a tightlacer. Her ribcage has been brought in so small that her floating ribs nearly meet in front, and the museum estimates that at the time of her death, her waist measured in the 13-14 inch range. Listening to the audio tour, I learned that one thing scientists can discern from the skeleton is that she was wealthy enough to have a servant that could lace her that tightly, and that her corsets probably used grommets, which also helped her to lace tighter. I never would have thought about grommets as an innovation, but it makes perfect sense.

The audio piece also gives a shout-out to Cathie Jung as a modern tightlacer, notes that tightlacers are rare, and that tightlacing can cause serious damage to your body. This last part annoyed me. It's true that tightlacing can create significant health problems, however, it also worth noting that there are variations to the degree of lacing. I can sustain being laced to 22.5 inches for a day, which is a reduction of 5 or 6 inches. I've been lacing for years, and my doctors have never once expressed concern for my health. People wonder how I can breathe, my father in particular wonders about my organs being displaced, and others are amazed that I can eat in a corset.

The answer? Practice. I didn't always lace so tightly. I started out gradually in the early days of my training, and worked my way down to this size which is both flattering and realistic for me. I could lace tighter, but I wouldn't be able to stay laced so tightly for an extended period of time. Without taking the appropriate amount of time to work down to a smaller size, I would do damage to myself. There is a right way and a wrong way to do anything. A thirteen inch waist is not visually appealing to me, but Cathie seems to be doing just fine, so good for her. And, as for the skeleton, no cause of death was mentioned--not even from tightlacing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Free to be me?

Some big news for me: I got a new (day) job last week. This is a good thing, as there is no job security in my current position--I'm often surprised I even still have a job. Though I won't divulge the name of either company involved, I will say that I am moving from a group that is very blue-collared to another which is stark white. One reason I like the blue-collar workplace is because it is so much more laid back--I can flaunt my seamed stockings, drop-dead red lipstick, jet black hair and tiny waist with no problem. Where I'm going, you can't even wear jeans on Fridays.

I have a habit of worrying, and my worry now is that I will walk in on my first day of work and someone will decide that I need to dress more conservatively. I've heard of girls being told to lengthen their hems and raise their necklines in offices, and even though I'm not violating any dress code with a knee-length skirt, I wonder how my style will be received. I think it's classy, but others may just find it obnoxious. If I'm asked to change the way I dress, I'll be embarassed and annoyed.

With this in the back of my head, I went yesterday to a theory sample sale. I figure I could probably use a nice suit, and had read good things about theirs. Looking through the racks, I couldn't find anything that felt like myself. Sure, there were some cute blazers that I liked, but the disappointment came when I looked for skirts. Awful! I found high waisted pencil skirts with pleats that seemed strategically placed to add pounds to my appearance, or else run-of-the-mill skirts that bored me to tears just to look at. Even if I added personality to the suit with accessories or a tastefully bold shirt, the bottom part of me would still be a mess.

When I decide that I really can spend the money on a decent suit, I'm sure I'll buy one that is vintage, and I know that there are plenty out there which are both fashion forward and appropriate for a conservative office. That's not the point. But even among the racks of blue, gray and black plainness, I stood out like a sore thumb. It occurred to me that my new office will also be decked in blue, gray and black plainness. When I walk through the door, my new colleagues will have no idea what hit them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Second Skin You Don't Need

Ah, winter. Holidays, hot chocolate, snuggling by the fire--and fur.

This last is possibly my least favorite part of winter. I am anti-fur, and this can be a problem for someone who a) works in an office located in Manhattan's fur district, and b) rides a train to work that originates in Brighton Beach, a predominately Russian neighborhood where fur is part of the culture. I get great pleasure in both cases walking around with my "no fur" button. The best is when I sit myself down next to a lady covered head to toe in fur with my button front and center. It's worth it to watch her squirm, and to see the looks on the other passenger's faces.

But, being anti-fur can be difficult for a pin-up. Fur is incredibly soft and silky, and associated with sex and luxury, but it is also totally inhumane. My friend at work loves her furs, and the first time she saw me with my no-fur button last winter she asked why I was against fur.

"The animals are dead already," she said.

"Yes," I answered, "because they've been slaughtered, in some cases skinned alive, just to make a coat."

"Really?" she said, her eyes wide as saucers. "I thought they used animals that were already dead."

I further explained to her that no, her coat was not made from roadkill picked up off the highway, and also that there is no reason for wearing fur, as there are plenty of synthetic fabrics available that very closely mimic the look and feel of fur without any of the cruelty. Animals on fur farms are killed using some of the same brutal methods that Michael Vick employed to kill dogs at his Bad Newz Kennelz, including electrocution, drowning and strangulation. No living creature deserves to be treated this way for the sake of a fancy coat. Fundamentally, it's just disrespect for life.

The good news is that the no-fur movement continues to gain ground. Last month, luxury retailer Henri Bendel announced it would no longer sell fur products in its stores, joining fur-free companies like Polo Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, Ann Taylor and others. The celebrity movement against fur is also huge and includes names like Sarah Jessica Parker, Pamela Anderson, Eva Mendes, Christy Turlington and Gisele Bundchen. Each of these women are examples that being a pin-up does not have to include cruelty. (One name I wish I could add to this list is Dita von Teese, who continues to wear furs. I wish she would stop.) If you've got to have the look, go faux. I myself do not, because I believe that faux fur continues to propagate the image of fur as sexy, but I still support faux, as it is still far preferable to the alternative.

There are other materials that are also cited for their cruelty to animals, like leather and some wools. I confess here that I do own and wear both leather and wool garments, but it is a practice I am working to stop for myself. I love feathers, although I don't own any, but was recently pleasantly surprised when I contacted a feather retailer who told me that (at least in the case of peacocks), the feathers are harvested after molting and not forcibly ripped from the bird. I pick on fur because I find it unexcusable. Synthetic leather has never held up for me like real leather, and I am only now finding out about cruel wool practices, but we live, we learn, and we each have the power to change. Be responsible, and check up on the stores where you frequently shop. When shopping for makeup, find out if testing is conducted on animals. Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

Here are some other resources to help quell a habit of animal cruelty products:
Please feel free to share other cruelty free resources with me and everyone else here--then have fun shopping like a sexy and socially conscientious pin-up!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Favorite Things Roundup: October

Look at me, getting my Favorite Things post in on time! Here we go:

1. Voting
If you're American (I know not all of you are) and you're registered to vote (you better be) then you absolutely must vote on November 4. Besides the fact that this is a historic election of incredible importance, it's your civic right--and one that we take for granted far too often. The picture here is an aerial shot of voters in the first democratic election held in post-apartheid South Africa in 1994. Most of these people are voting for the very first time, and you and I have had the right to vote without batting an eye. And for all you ladies--know that plenty of women went through 72 years of hell to get us the right to vote, and we throw it back in all of their faces when we don't use it. So go. Vote.

2. Neil at Bloomingdale's.

I imagine that the average shoe salesperson at Bloomingdale's fits an Imelda Marcos-sized closet worth of shoes while on the job, and so I was particularly pleased with myself when I got a compliment on my skills. At my man's insistence, I tried on a pair of very tall L.A.M.B. boots (alas, no picture to be found online!). The stiletto on them was an easy five inches, and it was a skinny one too. I walked around the area, came back and told Neil I couldn't do it today. As he was putting the shoes back in the box, he remarked on how impressed he was with how well I walked in such high heels, and said he doesn't often see women who can pull that off. Which made me, and my man, very happy. By the by: I didn't get the shoes. They were not worth $725, and made my ankles look fat.

3. Betty's dress in the first scene of the season finale of Mad Men.

Every time I watch the show, I identify with Betty's wardrobe--not that I have it, but more that I want it. Her dress in this opening scene is so delicious. She looks like she's floating on the doctor's table, with the skirt so full and perfectly pleated, classy cut and fantastic color. Although, what I really want is for the Mad Men costume designers to start making replicas of the dresses and sell them, so that I too can be a Betty. When can that happen?

4. The Magic Wand

I know it's been featured here before, but seriously, it's awesome. If you don't have one, go get one.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pin-up Palin at your peril

I never intended this to be a place for political rhetoric, but given that a) sex/iness has injected itself into the presidential campaign, and b) I'll be furious if I have to keep paying taxes to a Bush-esque administration, all those intentions are out the window. Ever since John McCain picked her as his running mate, Sarah Palin has been the object of ridicule and/or adoration in America. Love her or hate her, the consensus seems to be that she's newsworthy--and also that she's hot. Fellow pin-ups, this is where I draw the line.

I don't care how cute her face is when she wrinkles her nose, or what you imagine she's thinking when she winks at you while debating foreign policy with an opponent who has 36 years of experience in the United States Senate compared to her 20 months in the Alaska statehouse as governor. I don't care about who made her glasses, or how she does her hair, or what color lipstick a pitbull wears. It has nothing to do with who she is, but unfortunately, the fact that she's pretty almost seems to be bigger news that anything she might do in the White House. And the more people hold her up as a thing of beauty, the sicker it makes me.

How can a woman who, at the very least, supported a local policy that women to pay for their own rape kits be considered beautiful? When a woman's body has been the scene of a crime, she should be able to turn to governing powers to help solve that crime, instead of making it as difficult as possible to even report it. Field dressing a moose is not attractive. Aerial hunting is hideous. Blaming the media for daring to ask her such mind-boggling questions as, "What are some magazines you read?" is an act of cowardice unbecoming of a lady, not to mention a leader. Maligning the community organizers who have made this country great by thinking globally and acting locally is plain ignorant, and the use of her office to pursue a personal vendetta is childish.

Tina Fey? Pin-up. Sarah Palin? Absolutely not. I refuse to accept the perpetuation of a myth that beauty and brains are unrelated or that they cannot coexist. Molding her as an object of sex is nothing but a distraction, and she is only reaffirming the same stereotypes that made it so hard for women to break into national politics in the first place. She has been given every chance to show us her abilities as a politician, but instead all we've seen is a scripted talking head. I understand many people consider having a woman on the Republican ticket to be a step forward. In this case, however, it is a giant leap back.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Defining the pin-up

As I write here, one thing that question that often comes to me is, "What is a pin-up?" I think that it's easy to define a pin-up as just a pretty girl, and not take it any further than that, but in reality there's so much more.

I'm not looking to be a pin-up on paper (though I wouldn't turn down the offer), but my main goal instead is to be a pin-up in real life. However, it's not enough just to be pretty. My favorite pin-up artist is Gil Elvgren, and one reason I like him is because his girls have so much character. Of course they convey that sense of playful innocence we all love, but when I imagine meeting one of them in person, I think the Elvgren girl would be just as much fun to spend time with as she is to look at. She's well-mannered and treats others the way she wants to be treated. She dresses modestly, with class, but won't shy away from the happy accidents that allow her to show off those gams. She has a range of interests that stretch beyond fashion and domesticity; in fact, part of her power lies in the fact that when you look at her, you might initially write her off. Quickly, though, she proves you wrong--she's witty, interested in art, is an avid reader and also incredibly curious about everyone and everything around her. Even after she greaduated from college, she never stopped learning.

Back in the day when Elvgren was painting, it may not have been socially acceptable for most women to get involved in politics, but I imagine that his ladies are citizens of the world. They take seriously the ongoing fight for women's rights at home and abroad, and don't take for granted the sacrifices others have made before them. They're compassionate with others less fortunate than themselves, and play a role in their community that goes further than local gossip. They vote. They volunteer for charity.

I know perfectly well that back in the America of the 1940s and 1950s, when most of my favorite classic pinup girls were created, things were much different for women. They had a very different relationship with the world than we do, and what was pushing a boundary back then (like going out without a hat and gloves) is not given any thought these days. Relative to their era, I imagine that classic pin-ups were a little rebellious. I imagine a man might have been taken by surprise when he learned that there was so much more to the girl next door than just a pretty face and sense of style. I think it's incredibly important for any aspiring pin-up to remember that, for as much as she might fuss over her outward appearance, a girl's most compelling feature is always her character.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Favorite Things Roundup: September

My apologies that these posts seem to creeping in a little late. Working three jobs is hard! Luckily, I have little things listed below that have helped make my life a little easier...
  1. Repro Depot

Remember those old oilcloth tablecloths that your grandma used to have? In my memory, the least likable thing about them was the pattern, which was invariably hideous. But they were great for Grandma when she had her three granddaughters in town to visit, because she could wipe up our messes from the oilcloth and be done--the alternative being constantly washing her fabric tablecloths.

Between my pets (who get on the table even though they know they shouldn't) and my man (who virtually needs a blast shield when eating), my tablecloths are a mess. However, I need them to protect our antique dining room table and to maintain my sense of personal pride at keeping a pretty table for my little family and our guests--but other oilcloths I've seen are hideous. I was thrilled, then, to find Repro Depot's selection of oilcloths and vinyls. I have the strawberry pattern for the summer and spring, and just got the apple one for the fall. They're backed with flannel so they're easy on my table, and in the case of these two patterns, wide enough that all I need to do is order two yards and put it on the table. There's no sewing required because the edges of the fabrics are already finished and won't fray. With shipping, they run just under $20, and they're far more unique than what you'd find for that price in most other places. And Repro Depot has lots of other fun fabrics out there for all your other pinup projects, so be sure to check out the rest of the inventory.

2. Cooler Weather

As I posted earlier this month, the cooler weather has been fabulous for lacing, and oh, how it blows up my skirts! But, it's so wonderful for other reasons, like that I get to start wearing stockings again. I can also indulge my deep and abiding love for coats and hats, both in the wearing of what I have and in drooling at the shop windows displaying them. As for my makeup, I am back to wearing loose powder, which never survived my perspiration in the summer. With all of these elements, plus the lack of mosquitoes and sweat, cold weather is my favorite. Yet there's one other part that deserves a section all its own...

3. Apples

Ever since I was just a little Kitty, I loved apples. Granny Smiths have always been my favorite, but at the moment I'm a Gala girl. I love their crunch, their sweetness, their juiciness, and I don't have to feel guilty for loving them because they're good for me too. I love apple ciders, apple juice, apple pie, apple crisp, apples in caramel or in peanut butter--okay, now we're starting to get away from the 'good for me' part, but the point is that this is the time for my favorite fruit. An added bonus is that, done correctly, you can look pretty damn foxy eating an apple (as with Ms. Gyllenhaal here). Keep the bites small, and channel the idea that you're eating something that has been frequently associated with sin. Fortunately for pinups, it's our kind of sin.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Back in business

With the fall in full swing, corset time is back! I am once again cinched up. Just another reason why I love the cooler weather. But with the return comes the return of some of my lacing anxieties--namely, corset care and visibility.

When I took off my corset for the warmer weather, I mentioned that my corsets would be spending their summer in rehab. Stays had popped through casings, and the friction of my clothes against my corsets was taking its toll. What I discovered was that my new best friend is extra-wide grosgrain ribbon. For any of you with corsets needing repairs, this is your quick fix. Grosgrain, also used sometimes as a seam binding, can be folded over the edge of the corset where the stays are coming out, and once carefully stitched into place, it's an effective patch.

Of course I'd rather get a new corset. Okay, I'd really rather get several new corsets. One of my biggest concerns as a tightlacer is people seeing the lines of my corset, and the extra layer of the grosgrain, though slight, doesn't help alleviate my concerns. I hope nobody looks at me and thinks that if they just do enough situps they, too, can achieve a 22.5 inch waist. They'd get frustrated, so I would really prefer if people could put it together and figure it out. But just as I don't want any other pieces of my underwear to show, I don't want my corset to show. And even with new corsets, it can be difficult to find one that is both effective and invisible.

My solution is to wear clothes that already have some weight to them, and that aren't skin tight. Of course I love my pencil skirts and pencil dresses, but I don't like feeling self-conscious either. It's an ongoing battle, which usually means that I end up trying to replace my wardrobe with clothes that I feel are better for keeping my secret.

In the meantime, it's not going to stop me from lacing. My man says it probably doesn't occur to anyone that I would be wearing a full corset, because most people don't think of them as options for everyday wear. I hope so. In the meantime, secret or no, it's great to be me again--laces and all.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Pretty Pauper

Unless you've been living under a rock this week, you've heard about the continuing devastation in the financial markets. Since I work at a bank, this week has been particularly difficult. I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I still have a job, but as someone whose father was frequently between jobs, I have a great deal of sympathy for the vast numbers of people who have found themselves unemployed. There is no question that we are living in difficult times.

However, when you're down, it's important to try to keep yourself out of a funk. If you're going to find another job you have to project an image of confidence and strength. Even if you have to fake it at first, you might find that paying a little special attention to your appearance will have you on the road to the type of positive thinking that can get results. You might be asking yourself, "How do I do that on a budget?" Well, I've been on a budget all my life, so I've learned a thing or two about beauty on the cheap. Here are some of my favorite tips, and you should also check out my DIY post, which is also about budget-friendly style. Please feel free to share your tips--I'd like to do many more posts on budget beauty!

1. Double up in the shower

Until recently, I would only use shower gel/lotion/whatever as a backup for shaving cream when I was extremely desperate. Shower gel never got foamy enough, and I always felt as though I was shaving bare legs, which hurt. But, as I said, times are tough, so when I was out of both shaving cream and shower gel at the same time I decided to go the double-duty route and tried Aveeno Positively Smooth Shower & Shave Cream. It works well, and I know I saved money buying one thing as opposed to buying two different products. But, the best part came when my man suggested I use his shaving brush to mix up a lather in the palm of my hand. Using a quarter-sized amount, the brush whips up enough soapiness for all my shaving. I used to use that much just to do one leg, so not only did I save money in the first place but I'm also extending the life of the product. The shaving brush trick would probably work wonders with just about any shower gel, so no matter what you've got in your shower right now, it's worth a shot.

2. Maintain your smile

You could have radiant skin, a sharp figure and a gorgeous head of hair, but if your teeth are crooked and rotting, then you might as well forget the rest. Correct me if I'm wrong, but there are no Vargas or Elvgren pinups with sub-par smiles. I know quite well that dental procedures can be costly, and if you're one of the growing numbers of people without health insurance, then it might not even be an option. The best thing to do is take care of what you've got, and minimize damage which will cost you later. Floss your teeth every day; I mean it. I know you're tired from being so pretty all day, but you are not allowed to be lazy and go to bed without brushing your teeth. People (read: my man) make fun of me because I still wear my retainers to bed a few times a week, but I have seen too many veterans of braces who now have crooked teeth as adults. I will never listen to them--and not have to pay to have my teeth realigned.
And while you're at it, use that smile! It will make you feel better, and just might inspire others to do the same.

3. Use palettes

When you've run out of your old stuff and it's time for new makeup, look for palettes and sets. Not only do they save space in your makeup bag, they save money in your wallet. Check out the combination sets available online at sephora.com--many of them are all you need for eyes, face and lips. Those of you who have been reading here for a while should know that my favorite brand of cosmetics is Besame, and it should come as no surprise that my favorite product of theirs (ok, it's tied with the red velvet lipstick is their Vanity Case. It (and my lipstick) is all I use, every day, plus a liquid liner and mascara which doesn't set me back too much. However, they have ignored my plea to keep the Vanity Case and it is now discontinued; they claim they have something else coming, but until I see it I'm not convinced it's better. Until October 31, Besame is having a close-out sale of what's left, and selling each case for only $12. They used to be $90. I don't know about you, but I'm stocking up.

4. Minimize your hair products

I'm a hair product junkie. Even though I know better, I fall for every hair ad I see, and honestly believe that (product name here) is the thing that will give me soft and defined curls, smooth flyaways, add shine, save the whales, whatever. You may know about my man's policy for shoes, and the same holds true for hair products. As far as I'm concerned, there are only three things you absolutely need: a decent hair gel or mousse, decent hairspray, and something for shine. I like Fructis Curl Scrunch Gel, Sebastian Shaper Plus Hair Spray, and MOP Styling Tonic. If you're after straight hair, I like Bumble and bumble Straight. It's a little pricey, but it lasts a while and it beats buying ten other things that don't work.
As far as shampoo and conditioner goes--I've never been a major devotee to any particular product, though I do really like the Neutrogena Triple Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner. Beyond that, try not washing your hair every day. My hair is actually easier to manage when it's a little dirty, and it's easier on my color to wash it only every other day. And, you'll use less of the product, ultimately saving money for the things that really matter--like shoes.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Movie to Watch

With my man out last night at a bachelor party, I got to do one of my favorite things: Order Chinese food, watch an old movie, and knit with a kitty in my lap, all with the house to myself. TCM On Demand had The Gay Divorcee to offer, and I made it my choice...and loved it. I have to admit that I haven't seen as many Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers collaborations as I should have. This one is their second, and it doesn't disappoint. Both are in fantastic form, and Rogers has some fantastic dresses and equally fantastic hats. Plus, when watching her feet, you get the dual pleasure of admiring her dancing and admiring her shoes. The Continental number at the end of the movie is representative of the old super-tight dance numbers with probably about a hundred dancers, all in beautiful black and white.

As a bonus, you get to see a young, pre-famous Betty Grable. Robert Osborne explains after the film that her rise to stardom directly coincided with the birth of color cinema, and here she is essentially still working in the trenches as a chorus girl--look for her listed at the very bottom of the intro acting credits, when just a few years later she'd be headlining major films and the most popular World War II pinup.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Favorite Things Roundup: August

Sorry this is late! Computer meltdown and a desire to experience some summer R&R (I keep hearing about it, but haven't had much of it) has prolonged this post. Perhaps more disappointing, I can only come up with one thing worthy this month of going into the Roundup...

  1. Mad Men
I had heard plenty about Mad Men before Season 2 started. It's rare that really good television actually gets made, and even rarer when all the critics seem to agree that the show in question is, in fact, fantastic. I'm here to tell you that it's true, Mad Men is great. If you haven't started watching it yet, get to it. The writing is quick, sharp and subtle, the characters are mesmerizing, and the fashion--well, the fashion is inspiring. It's inspired Michael Kors's fall 2008 line, and I'm expecting more designers to follow suit. Watch this show for ideas about hair, accessories, makeup, and be sure to read the weekly fashion blog written by Fashionista founder Faran Krentcil. Do yourself a favor, however, and ignore the naysayer comments in her every post alleging historical inaccuracies...just enjoy. Drool. Wipe. Repeat.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sweating out the dog days

It could start cooling down any time now, and I would be happy for it. I don't know about you all, but it's really cramping my pinup style. I don't even bother wearing rollers any more, because my hair frizzes out the second I step outside. And I can't wear corsets in the heat, so I'm not cutting the figure I want. I can't wear powder, because it clogs my pores when combined with massive perspiration. I adore winter coats, which are useless right now.

What's truly dangerous is how the sun threatens my complexion. One man the other day yelled at me from across the train platform, "You're pasty white! You look sick! Go get some sun, you don't look healthy!" I replied, "I am healthy! I don't have melanoma!" To which he said, "Healthy my ass! You look sick!" All this while the guy is smoking a cigarette, digging through trash and grasping a bag of potato chips. But, in an effort to be a lady, I decided not to further exacerbate the situation. Although, it should also be noted that the heat makes me quite cranky. I consider it a small miracle that anyone bothers to try speaking with me when it's over 85 degrees.

I do what I can to make up for the pinup elements that suffer in heat. I've been experimenting with new ways to put up my hair, I work the pencil skirts and I still sport the red lipstick, unless it's likely to melt down my chin. Heels are always in season, and this is perhaps my saving grace.

I wonder if you all are a little tired in the heat as well. I received only one beauty tip in response to my previous post, a gift from the lovely Rapunzel for which I am very grateful. I will leave you now with her insider tip, and the hope that the heat is breaking, wherever you are.


Darn! I knew there was something else I wanted to do in NYC this past weekend! *pout* The Burlesque will have to wait for another time..sigh..

As far as beauty tips, the one day I got to be a pin-up gal I had lots of help from this fabulous lady and her staff:


She made me look gorgeous with liberal use of hairspray, bobby pins, and one perfectly-placed hair net. All day I found myself taking a peek in the mirror, and at my daughters, inquring why we couldn't look like that *every day*? I continue to ask myself that question..sigh...

I look forward to tips & tricks from you & your wise readers.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Last night I went to probably the best burlesque show in New York City, This is Burlesque. I'd seen the performers many times before, not to mention most of the routines they did, but I still had a wonderful time.

The reason I bring up having gone at all is because when I went to the bathroom before the show, I got a slight peek into the dressing room. I saw Angie Pontani chatting with someone while getting ready, Murray Hill joking around pre-polyester, and Melody Sweets popped out of a door too. I didn't bother them, as I don't think they were really wanting to be seen at that point, but what I really wanted to ask them (with the exception of Murray Hill--sorry, buddy) was for beauty tips. Even the house kitten, Little Miss Licks, had enviably perfect hair, and she wasn't performing. I have no idea how burlesque stars manage to get their victory rolls to stay put while twirling or tapping around on a stage, how their curls are so perfect and non-frizzy, or how they manage to do some of the fantastic up-dos they create. I know some of it is done with wigs, but I know some of it is also natural. I suppose that I am now admitting a weakness, which is that I cannot always do my hair as perfectly as I'd like. However, as I was wishing I could have the chance to ask the Pontani Sisters and the rest of the cast for their secrets, I realized I could also just ask you--my readers.

I would like to know your beauty secrets, from hair styling to makeup to skin care and pretty much anything else that helps you turn heads. Send me your tips and tricks, and I'll consolidate them to be shared with everyone else reading Pinup Tales. Don't let me down...it's all for the good cause of helping all women embrace their inner pinup!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Check out my guest post

This is just a quick note to let you all know that I have written a guest post on my man's blog. It's the inside scoop.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

On Judgment

As I consider this to be primarily a place for discussions around vintage pin-up fashion, I don't often sit down at my computer compared to write a heart-to-heart about my relationship. Obviously pin-ups are a favorite topic for me, but, as the walrus said, the time has come to talk of other things.

My man and I are in a dominant/submissive relationship, whereby he is the top and I am the bottom. It's something that has taken us years to work out in all of its particulars, and every day we continue to work on it and make new discoveries together. We can only do this with a great degree of honesty, openness and communication, and at this point we've been at it for over four years so I have to believe we're doing something right. I enjoy taking direction. Not only do I find it freeing, but it also helps me to grow as a person and explore my world and my identity. There are many different types of food that I would not have tried were it not for my man's instructions, and countless erotic scenes and experiences have been enjoyed because of his orchestrations. I do my very best to take an attitude of, "I'll try anything once," and he does his very best to keep talking to me and staying aware of my limits and desires. I enjoy things like spanking, whipping, being tied up and more that others might find appalling. All in all, I happen think that what we have is a beautiful thing.

We do have some friends, however, who are at best a little distracted by some of what they see. One mutual friend once asked my man (in my absence) why it is that he makes me wear corsets. On other occasions, my man has made a decision for me and someone else might say, "Let her make up her own mind." In both of these examples, the outside party is jumping to conclusions in a major way, although in some way they're doing it out of love for both of us. What confounds me is when other people fail to consider that perhaps I wear a corset every day because I want to. It's true I didn't wear them before I met my man, but that doesn't mean I never thought about it. In many ways, he just gave me permission to indulge a curiosity and then I decided how far I would take it. I like it when he makes decisions for me, or when he orders for me at a restaurant, or when I become interested in something because of his suggestion.

One of the interesting things is that none of the people who make these criticisms have the balls to speak with me about it. They assume I am being oppressed or made a puppet, when in fact there is nothing of the kind going on. I've changed since I met my man, but in my opinion, everyone changes when they enter into a serious relationship. When we moved in together, we each had to make compromises of our previous living habits so that we could inhabit the same space. I care about things I didn't used to, and many of his interests have shifted as well. In the end, we're both different people in some ways, but in many others we're each exactly who we've wanted to be for a long time.

The moral of the story here is to think first before judging other relationships. What works for your friend may not be the same thing that works for you. What makes you cringe might make your friend cream. Unless you're looking at a truly abusive situation--and believe me, you'll know it when you see it--stand back and love the fact that two people who want the same thing have actually found one another. It really is a miracle.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Favorite Things Roundup for July

1. FCC: 0; Janet Jackson's Nipple: 1
It pleased me greatly to read that the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the $550,000 fine levied upon CBS by the FCC after the most famous wardrobe malfunction of all time. I'm not happy it took 4 years for the case to finally be closed, and though I'm not a lawyer, I imagine an appeal will be coming soon given the impact of the ruling on the credibility of the FCC. I thought the media storm following the incident was entirely ridiculous, though not surprising. Seriously--a nipple is inappropriate for children? That argument fails the second you consider how infants are fed. CBS should have been warned about the pending explicit nudity? Justin Timberlake's line just before the malfunction was "Gonna have you naked by the end of this song". I'm only half-kidding, but this sounds like a warning to me. In my mind, the lyric is certainly more explicit than showing a nipple on network TV for nine-sixteenths of a second . A song about sex is totally kosher for kids, but heaven forbid they actually see anything having to do with it! And how dare parents be faced with the responsibility of discussing media and sex with their children? Absurd.
2. Peacock Feathers
I'm completely anti-fur, and I extend this to feathers. Let's say that right up front. However, I have been spending a lot of time this month in adoration of peacock feathers and the birds that own them. During my travels in May I saw my first wild peacock--really, I heard it first, and asked my man if we were near a zoo--and it was incredible. Perched in a tree, the peacock's feathers tinged with blue, gold, green, violet and black hung below it like a majestic robe, and it has stuck in my mind ever since. I did some research on the peacock and learned that its meaning changes markedly depending on where in the world you happen to be (click here for some examples). Whether they're eyes of protection or eyes of evil, peacock feathers are beautiful, and I find myself especially wowed by them this month.

3. My Magic Wand

I suppose it's appropriate that someone who loves all things vintage should favor the most retro vibrator: the Hitachi Magic Wand. It's billed sometimes as a "massager" that "relieves tension," and boy, they aren't lying. When my man was out of town for a bachelor party, the wand was my comfort as I lay by myself in our bed. Although it can't ultimately satisfy me the way my man can, it's a decent substitution. My favorite way to use it, though, is with him, as a buildup to the final thrill of penetration. To boot, it's less expensive than most other vibrators of its size on the market, making it even easier to add to your naughty drawer. In short, if you don't have one, get one. Now.

4. Corsets by Miss Katie

This London designer makes some of the most exquisite corsets I have seen. Fitting for the stage or evening wear, a Miss Katie corset will be top of my list when it comes time for me to buy a new one (once the temperature drops). If any of them were to turn up on my doorstep I wouldn't turn it down, but my favorites are the Parisian corset and the collar corset. Be still, my lace-loving heart!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Mannered Performance

It seems to me that somewhere along the line, women forgot how to be ladies. As a New Yorker, I see women every day who would be otherwise beautiful were it not for their piss-poor manners. I grew up in the Midwest, and was raised by the kinds of parents who pretended not to hear me if I a) spoke a sentence using less-than-perfect grammar, or b) dared to ask for or accept anything without saying please or thank you. My impression after several years of living in New York is that one must choose between being a lady or a New Yorker. I choose to be a lady, but there are few of us here.

The standards of etiquette were laid down most famously back in 1922 by Emily Post, pictured here, and the Emily Post Institute has ensured that those standards evolve with time to include manners with regards to mobile phones, online friending, skiing and more. It may seem silly to spend time researching etiquette, but I assure you it is not and I myself intend to devote more web time to refreshing my memory. In my definition, a proper pinup acts like a lady and commands that respect, but this is difficult to do if she appears to have been raised by wolves.

For starters, you should always use "please," "thank you," "you're welcome," and "excuse me." None of these words are difficult to utter, and unless they are spoken with great sarcasm, I cannot think of a situation where they are hurtful. People here are constantly rushing and busting by others, but a simple "excuse me" at least demonstrates a small amount of consideration for other people. I don't think it's fair to take waitstaff and salespeople for granted, or to treat them any differently than you would a dear friend. I spent many years waiting tables and working retail, and was happy to oblige even the most outrageous request if it was clear to me that the other party considered me to be a human being and not a slave.

Be nice at the table. We all get sloppy, including myself, but proper table manners are key in your personal and professional life. It's worth it to watch your language and generally be on good behavior, even though it's difficult sometimes. My man, wonderful as he is, is sometimes lacking in the table manners department, eating off of his knife or performing stunts like pretending to snort his cutlery up his nose. I don't have a problem with it when we're at home--one of the things I love about him is his goofy sense of humor--but when we're in a restaurant I have to say something. There's a time and place for everything.

I could go on, but won't for fear of exhausting you and sounding like too much of a priss. It all really comes down to treating others in a way that you yourself would like to be treated. For example, I don't want to have to listen to your cell phone conversation any more than you want to have to listen to mine, so put the phone away at the table, on a train or in a bus. (I recently spent a weekend with someone who could not stop herself from texting on her phone, no matter where we were or what we were doing. I love her to death but found it rude and annoying nonetheless.)

I'll leave you with this poem, "Time Tested Beauty Tips," often attributed to Audrey Hepburn but in fact written by Sam Levenson for his grandchild. It was, however, one of Audrey's favorite poems, and read at her funeral. I think it does a good job of summing up the importance of manners in beauty:

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.

Remember, If you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Carrie, Closets and Curmudgeons

I was reading my New Yorker this morning, and had a bit of a revelation while reading, of all things, a letter to the editor. It was regarding Anthony Lane's recent review of the Sex and the City movie, and the part that got me was when the writer responded to Lane's disgust that women should react so strongly to the part when Big builds Carrie a closet from heaven. The letter's writer, Annabeth Bondor-Stone, says, "Am I an unrepentant materialist if I smiled when Carrie got a big closet? Can't I harmlessly indulge in fantasies of traditional femininity while the predominantly male audience next door drools over candy-colored cars?"
Exactly! The thing that wears me down during a lot of discussions about Sex and the City is that people seem to take it so seriously, when really it's like an action movie for women. Every woman I know will readily admit to an awareness that the movie is pure fantasy, and not possible for the vast majority of women in New York or elsewhere--those of us who live here and pay ridiculous rent for a shoebox knows firsthand that there's no way Carrie can live alone in that apartment on a freelance writer's salary, never mind maintain a closet full of Manolo Blahniks and Christian Dior. At the same time, however, I don't know of any men (smart ones, anyway) who walk out of a movie like The Fast and The Furious and fully believe that the lifestyle of drag-racing with scantily-clad lustful women could or should be theirs. I feel pretty comfortable when I say that most action movies are not scrutinized for their cinematic value nearly as closely as Sex and the City has been, even though in many ways they live on two sides of the same coin.
Over the last few weeks, my man and I have spoken often of Sex and the City. He didn't come with me to see the movie, and hasn't even seen one full episode of the show. He's pretty sure that he's seen all he needs to see to get it, a statement with which I disagree. In many ways, it's not his fault. He's not a woman, so he can never truly understand what happens in female friendships either in a group or on a one-on-one basis. It's also not his fault that the show is in lots of ways mistitled, as it isn't really about sex.
It's about friendship, support and growth shared between women--and yes, it makes you want to max out your credit cards so that you can have as much fun getting dressed in the morning as each one of the girls does. But can you blame us? Clothes and fashion are forms of self-expression, shaping how we are presented to and received by the people in our world. Most people don't want to be dull and boring, but it so happens that the pieces which are the most exciting also cost the most money. Patricia Field is an incredibly talented designer, but of all her successes perhaps her greatest is that she makes it all look so fun and playful. That sense of lightheartedness is refreshing in life and in any other escapist movie. The next time I hear someone coming down on Sex and the City as though it were trying to be the next Lawrence of Arabia, I intend to ask firmly but politely that they remove the stick up their ass.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Two great news items popped up today, both in the New York Times:
The first is that the July issue of Italian Vogue will use exclusively black models, all photographed by the venerable Stephen Meisel. This makes me very excited. If I haven't written much here about racial diversity in pinup art of the 1940s and 1950s, it's because there isn't much to write about. In all my browsing of Vargas, Frahm and Elvgren, I don't recall having ever seen a woman who was anything but white (the exception is that you can find some suggesting the women are from or visiting Mexico or South America). I can't blame the artists; their editors wanted them to make money and probably didn't think black pinups would sell very well. PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong on this, but meanwhile, here's to more diversity in contemporary mainstream pinup icons and inspirations.

The second is a short post by Elizabeth Spiridakis on her blog with the Times regarding this photo released of Amy Winehouse cleaning house, beehive and all. Winehouse is commended for maintaining her look even while performing mundane tasks, and this is probably something I should try to do myself. She's fortunate--or smart?--that her look isn't polished; it's bedraggled and messy, so it's not terribly difficult to conjure during a drug bust or a late-night romp through London. My problem is that my look is fairly polished, but I'm inherently lazy and can't muster the energy to put on makeup and dress nicely if I'm just hanging around the house. I'm sure my man would appreciate it if I did more. Perhaps that will be my resolution...starting next week.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Favorite Things Roundup for June

Starting now, I'm going to try devoting one post every month to things I like. A lot of times I find myself admiring something, and I want to write about it but it's just not enough for an entire post. And, I would hate to subject you to endless and sporadic endorsements for products that I enjoy (but, I repeat, am NOT getting paid to plug), and so this way you can easily avoid them if you like.

Now, let's get started:

1. The print ads for Weeds and Secret Diary of a Call Girl

There aren't many ads that I actually want to look at, but this duo does it. I've even positioned myself near them on the subway platform so I can look more closely at them, and wonder why they're not up in the subway stations I use most frequently. It should be noted that I have never seen one episode of either show. I don't have Showtime, and my Netflix queue is too long as it is. But, I can still admire the polka dot bathing suit on Mary-Louise Parker and her lovely (if out of place) sequined green heels. I'm not as familiar with the other actress and don't care for the dress she wears in the martini glass, but the overall effect is still good enough for me. This is also a good time for me to recommend this very fun blog for more adventures in pin-up advertising.
I got this because they discontinued the color liner that I usually wore, but didn't have especially high hopes because I was pissed about my favorite liner being newly extinct. It's a nude liner so it doesn't do much for adding depth to your lip color, but wow--my lipstick does last longer and stay in place better. Another plus is that since it's nude, you can wear it with any lip color you have. For a girl on a budget like me, versatility is key.
Beautiful shoes. Elegant styles. Go.

4. Parasols

I've mentioned before that one of the best things you can do for your skin is stay out of the sun.
A pretty parasol probably won't make the difference between skin that is sunburned and blistery versus skin that is soft and smooth, but it adds an element of style that suntan lotion cannot. Plus, suntan lotion doesn't protect your hair color, which fades faster with increased sun exposure. Perhaps equally eye-catching and just as effective for sun protection is a hat with an extra-wide brim. However, the laws of desire being what they are, I already have such a hat, and so it doesn't make the list this month.

Maybe next time.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Tribute to the Million Dollar Mermaid

The first time I heard of Esther Williams was in Pretty Woman, when Kit tells a rival, turf-crossing prostitute on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to go back "...down to Esther Williams, where you belong!" It was not the best introduction for me.
A far better introduction was in Ziegfeld Follies, when I saw Esther perform one of her water ballets for which she was so famous back in the 1940s and 1950s. Her hair was perfect, her makeup was perfect, even when wet! Whenever I go swimming, my mascara runs down my cheeks and my hair is a tangle of knots. I had to learn more about this lady.

As I said, she was most famous for her water ballets, and the 'aqua musical' subgenre created for her by MGM remains her legacy. She was not the most talented actress, but she was still fun to watch with her light heart, bright smile and statuesque poise. Were it not for her talents as a swimmer, her beauty and her charm, she would have been a one-hit wonder. Instead she had over ten years in the movie business, then finally retired in the 1960s after trying some dramatic roles which were largely unacclaimed. She is the original bathing
beauty pin-up, not only because she looked good in a bathing suit, but because she demonstrated the free spirit, athleticism and confidence that makes any beach bunny attractive. There is a large group of women (and men) in the history of show business whose careers have hinged upon their looks. To say that Esther Williams is not one of them is not to insult her appearance, but to praise her work and talents.

I'm still working on watching more of her movies. She made quite a few, so it will probably take me at least the better part of the summer. Meanwhile, in addition to seeing her water ballets and admiring her winning pin-up style which I hope to emulate in daily life, I'm looking forward to spending some more time in my Esther Williams bathing suit. That's right--she now designs bathing suits, all with the vintage flair I so adore. I've gotten more compliments and comments on my one-piece from her than I have on any bikini, and can't recommend her suits highly enough. The next time you're poolside or at the beach, do a favor for yourself and the folks around you by channelling the spirit of the Million Dollar Mermaid.

Monday, June 2, 2008

With Gloves On

One accessory that almost always gets pushed to the back of the closet in warmer weather is the glove. Sure, they hide your manicure and any rings you might be wearing, but they add a touch of classic elegance to any aspiring pin-up.

Once upon a mandate, gloves were a mandate of ladies etiquette. Take a look at the ladies in just about any Hitchcock movie (for example, Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief) and you'll probably find that each of them wear gloves at some point in the film--and not because it's cold. According to Barbara Leaming's biography of Marilyn Monroe, when announcing her divorce to Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn fretted over whether to hold her gloves in her hand or to wear them. Nowadays, many brides still wear gloves as part of their ensemble, and I need not mention that gloves are still a part of many burlesque acts.

I find gloves alluring because they cover a part of my body that almost anyone can touch. We come into contact with other people's hands so often that putting a barrier between them makes us sit up to take notice. Gloves communicate untouchability, modesty and innocence, which is part of what makes them so sexy. Even if the gloves in question are sheer or lacey, there's still a thin veil stretched over your hands, and that's enticing for exactly the same reason that sheer and lacey lingerie can be so hard to resist.

They aren't generally practical in the summer--although they can help dry up a sweaty palm and offer mild protection from germs--but that's not a good enough reason to take off the gloves. Like so many other elements of fashion, gloves aren't always about utility (though these are an exception). They're about adding style and beauty to the world.

And, another piece of good news is that gloves need not be a terribly expensive accessory. Those that are pricey are surely wonderful--such as these, which I received as a holiday gift from my sweetheart--but you can almost always find perfectly suitable gloves at your local thrift or vintage store, and I hope you don't require me to tell you about the bottomless well that is ebay. In short, you've got no excuse for going gloveless, so get out there and pretty your paws for your public.

Friday, May 30, 2008

End of the Armor (for now)

I knew it would happen. It was inevitable, and in fact has happened before.
Corset season has ended.
As you may know from previous posts, I don't lace every day of the year. It gets too hot in New York, and the perspiration is good for neither my true skin nor my second skin, and so from about May to September I let it all hang out and give the corsets a break. They need it, too--my two solid standbys will be spending the summer in rehab, as I reinforce their casings which have been worn down by friction.
This time of the year is always bittersweet for me. Although I love lacing, there's a part of my personality that is inherently lazy and doesn't mind not having to perform another step while dressing and choosing an outfit. It's also nice to be able to eat what I want without regard for the constriction of the corset. I don't mean that these months are spent eating fast food every day; there are some foods that are fairly healthy but still make me uncomfortable if I eat them while laced. Sushi is a good example, as is most soup, since both tend to be high in sodium. And then there are times when I'm cramped, and the corset just increases my unease. Don't get me wrong, I understand quite well that discomfort is a big part of lacing, but that's not the reason why I do it.
I do it for the hourglass shape, for the discipline of sitting up straight and eating smarter. It always takes some time for me to get used to how I look when I'm not wearing a corset--it's a little like getting your braces removed in that they were foreign and unnatural at first, but then they became a part of you and something seemed off kilter without all that metal in your mouth.
I also do it because my man really enjoys it, and the end of corset season is hard for him too. He misses the shape, and does his best to understand--since he doesn't wear one himself, and never has worn one, he can't really know the full toils and joys that are involved, but he gets that all the sweating is a bad thing. He does his best to be patient for the weather to cool off again, but in the meantime, my exposed flesh is subject to extra tickling.
I've tried to find a way to wear a corset in heat over about 75 degrees, but nothing has worked. My "summer corset" is made with fabric with breathes, but the liner I wear between my skin and the corset is decidedly hot on its own and so nullifies the benefits of wearing a light corset. I've tried drinking lots of water, lacing a bit more loosely, staying in air conditioning as much as possible...but there's no getting around the fact that seasons change, time marches on, and this, too, will pass.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Having an Audience

One thing that can be a little disconcerting about living as a pinup is all the attention one gets. I know what some would say to this--that they wish they got so many looks, or perhaps that this is conceit and vanity on my part--but I'm here to tell you that in any case, it's not easy having a constant audience.

I started modeling my everyday style after 1950s pinups about two or three years ago. At first when people were staring at me, it felt awkward. It feels like a cross between flattery and espionage, and often times I wondered if something hanging from my nose was the reason for the attention. By now, though, I've gotten fairly used to it. Little boys and little girls sometimes snicker at me on the subway, older women lean in and whisper together with their eyes locked on my face, and men's eyes travel me up and down. I imagine that some people like the look, some think it's exhibitionist, and at its worst maybe they think I'm a freak of some kind. Perhaps still others wonder if they're walking by a celebrity--after all, big sunglasses and hats are common props for disguise, and famous people are always so polished, right?

Here I am making guesses at what may be going through the
minds of the onlookers, because only a fraction of them actually say something. When they do, it's often to compliment the look as a whole or in pieces, and there have been some humorous ones too. I was standing on an escalator one day when a woman ran up it with great urgency to tell me that my seamed stockings were crooked. It was as though she thought I should stop right there, hitch up my skirt and adjust my garter among the other morning commuters. Another time, a woman asked me if I just came from one of the theaters, because do I know that I'm dressed entirely in vintage?

Unfortunately, yes, some of the comments are not welcome, but these are few and far between. I think this has to do with the fact that I dress like a lady, and my look commands that I be treated like one. No one has ever said anything so inappropriate to me that I started screaming at them on the street, no one has rubbed up against me or grabbed me. Generally I'm thanking someone who kindly told me that I look nice, or I'm spelling out the name of the website where I got my dress/stockings/makeup for someone scribbling on a piece of paper they dug out of their bag. Oddly enough, the reason I never pursued acting was because I didn't like being watched. Like I said, I'm better with it than I used to be, enjoy it sometimes and tire of it at other times. In the end, I hope that I'm one of many to inspire others to make classic beauty a part of their daily life. You only live once, and there's no reason not to look your best doing it.
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Pinup Tales by Kitty du Vert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.