Little Ms. Polymath

aka the know-it-all

the roots of personal style July 31, 2009

Filed under: celebrate,life,style — mspolymath @ 7:54 am

Annette and I were talking about our individual fashion styles yesterday, and she pointed out how often what’s on the inside doesn’t match the outside, particularly as we age and have to deal with lifestyle, finances, and our actual physical bodies.

Our conversation was a thunderbolt* of self-realization. I definitely don’t dress as I see myself internally, and I mostly blame that on my wallet and my body. There are certainly outfits that in concept are stylistically what I’d like to project, but I know my physical shape gets in the way of the final product.  For the most part I see myself as an American classic/preppy from the early 80’s with a dash of 90’s indie rock girl and some Mad Men-era structured/housewife looks thrown in. I do have elements of those influences in my wardrobe, but I mostly take the easy way out and shop at Target and TJ Maxx and assorted fat girl stores and wear what fits and what’s inexpensive and doesn’t resemble a caftan. I suppose it’s about not addressing my weight and at the same time just being lazy. Honestly, at this point I’m more interested in hiding flaws than anything.

Anyway, we were bantering back and forth about style ideals, and I started thinking about what influenced me when I was younger and what has stuck with me to this day.  This topic definitely can’t be covered in just one entry, but here’s my initial foray into the subject of my style.

In the very early 1980s Blair Warner was definitely a style icon for me. I'm sure the Facts of Life is partially responsible for some of my continued heartbreak that my Catholic school didn't require uniforms. Also, I'd totally wear that turtleneck sweater and blazer combo today. Those colors, too.

In the very early 1980s Blair Warner was definitely a style icon for me. I'm sure the Facts of Life is partially responsible for some of my continued heartbreak that my Catholic school didn't require uniforms. Also, I'd totally wear that turtleneck sweater and blazer combo today. Those colors, too.

Fashion Plates were a huge part of my childhood. I was no doubt heavily influenced by the very Ralph Lauren/Calvin Klein/American Classic options availabe in the early '80s version.

Fashion Plates were a huge part of my childhood. I was no doubt heavily influenced by the very Ralph Lauren/Calvin Klein/American Classic options availabe in the early '80s version.

Um, I still own this book, and you can bet your sweet ass the minute I can comfortably squeeze into some cords with ducks embroidered on them I'm wearing them 24/7. I'm pretty confident this book is the sole reason I took tennis lessons.

Um, I still own this book, and you can bet your sweet ass the minute I can comfortably squeeze into some cords with ducks embroidered on them I'm wearing them 24/7. I'm pretty confident this book is the sole reason I took tennis lessons.

I still remember my first Izod Lacoste (hand-me-down) polo. It was kelly green. Thanks to Ebay I have a few vintage versions of the classic shirt, before the corporate divorce. Nothing says fresh to me like this alligator.

I still remember my first Izod Lacoste (hand-me-down) polo - I think I got it in 4th grade. It was Kelly green. Thanks to EBay I have a few vintage versions of the classic shirt, from before the corporate divorce. Nothing says fresh to me like this alligator.

And speaking of influences, how about John Hughs and his movies? He totally screwed up my idea of what teen life was supposed to be like, not to mention boys. Ah, Jake Ryan. My team dream of an all-American boy. And Jason wonders why I'm always chasing him around with sweater vests.

And speaking of influences, how about John Hughes and his movies? He totally screwed up my idea of what teen life was supposed to be like, not to mention boys. Ah, Jake Ryan. My team dream of an all-American love interest. And Jason wonders why I'm always chasing him around with sweater vests.

Seventeen part of the beginning of my love for all things magazine related. I actually remember pouring over this issue before starting 7th grade, making clothing wish lists. Later in high school I did have a kilt (LL Bean, maybe?). If it fit I'd still wear it today. So much of my high school fashion sense can be captured in this image - clean cut, conservative clothes.

Seventeen is part of the beginning of my love for all things magazine related. I actually remember pouring over this issue before starting 7th grade, making clothing wish lists. Later in high school I did have a kilt (LL Bean, maybe?). If it fit I'd still wear it today. So much of my high school fashion sense can be captured in this image - clean cut, conservative clothes.

This image is a great description of my taste later in high school, into college, and even now. First off, I am a cardigan FREAK. Also, thanks to Annette black tights became an obsession that has carried through to this day. As I moved into college and my own sense of self, I definitely took on a more stark way of dressing, yet it still holds true to the clean lines and classic textures of my earlier choices. On a side note, I have to give a huge amount of credit to Sassy magazine for who I am today. Living in Iowa in the 1990s, there weren't a lot of influences for teen girls outside of the mainstream media. Sassly brought a whole lotta new into my world, and I am so thankful.

This picture of Juliana Hatfield is a great description of my taste later in high school, into college, and even now - both in clothes and in music. First off, I am a cardigan FREAK. Also, thanks to Annette, black tights became an obsession that has carried through to this day. As I moved into college and my own sense of self, I definitely took on a more stark way of dressing, yet it still holds true to the clean lines and classic textures of my earlier choices. On a side note, I have to give a huge amount of credit to Sassy magazine for who I am today. Living in Iowa in the 1990s, there weren't a lot of influences for teen girls outside of the mainstream media. Sassy brought a whole lotta new into my world, and I am so thankful. PS I still love those shoes.

It’s definitely important to consider ideas of beauty versus ideas of actual style. As I aged I began to study other women not just for what they looked like and what they wore but also for how they carried themselves. Style became more about a sense of feeling and how the pieces were put together, as opposed to the labels and the colors and the trends for that season. Some looks and feelings are timeless, and I realized I wanted to incorporate that timelessness into my wardrobe.

Ali MacGraw was certainly a huge style icon of the 1970s. Today I'm still in love with her scarf and beret combo, and I'd wear it in a heartbeat.

Ali MacGraw was certainly a huge style sensation the 1970s. Today I'm still in love with her scarf and beret combo, and I'd wear it in a heartbeat.

I don't need to tell you that Sophia Lauren is beyond an icon. For me she is the perfect blend of European and American classic fashion, with a flair all her own.

I don't need to tell you that Sophia Lauren is beyond an icon. For me she is the perfect blend of European and American classic fashion, with a flair all her own.

Another European influence, Catherine Deneuve has a stunning sense of self that comes through in her sartorial choices at every stage of her life. Sure, she's French, but it's more than that. It's j'ne sais quoi - intangible.

Another European influence, Catherine Deneuve has a stunning sense of self that comes through in her sartorial choices at every stage of her life. Sure, she's French, but it's more than that. It's je ne sais quoi - intangible.

This post has opened an internal floodgate and I know I’ll be visiting this subject again and again – I’ve barely scratched the surface. I suppose one of the elements of personal style is that it does fluctuate, and what influences one on any given day can vary drastically. I’m very interested to hear what influences you, and who your style icons are. And do you see yourself differently on the inside than the outside?

*What the hell is a thunderbolt? I think I meant lightning bolt or thunderclap. Or something like that.

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pick, pluck, squeeze, tweeze July 30, 2009

Filed under: life — mspolymath @ 7:54 am

It’s a sad but true fact that I am a picker. If I see a blackhead or pimple anywhere in a 20-mile radius I hone in on it like enemy missiles on radar. Granted, I don’t go after strangers, but I have been known to ambush a loved one in order to pop a zit. And don’t get me started on errant hairs. They literally drive me crazy.

when fashion meets function

when fashion meets function

I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which has gifted me with many wonderful symptoms, such as a discolored ring around my neck* (tangent: during my senior year of high school Kay Windisch told me my neck was dirty, and asked me if I ever washed it. I was mortified, as I’ve been dealing with this weird neck stain since my teens – didn’t know why then – and for the past 19 years I have literally SCRUBBED my neck raw every single day with a fingernail brush. I am not even close to exaggerating. So fuck you, Kay – my neck wasn’t dirty then, and it isn’t dirty now. Just sayin’. Also, way to be rude.) Other symptoms include extra acne (my paternal lineage is of the greasy bohunk variety, so this is one area where I didn’t need help), a propensity to pack on the pounds (again, didn’t need HELP), and oh, my favorite treat, a little something I call lady hairs. 

What’s a lady hair, you might ask yourself, not having learned that oh-so-scientific term in school. In my lexicon, lady hairs are the random hairs on a woman’s body that sprout up where they don’t belong – let’s just say the chin, for example. They’re usually dark in color and coarse in texture, and they have the ability to grow at the speed of light. I’ve gone to bed with not a single lady hair to be found, only to wake up with inch-long black tendrils sprouting from my chin. Lady hairs happen to most women as they age, but because of the PCOS, mine kicked in during my early 20s. They are humiliating. We live in a hairless culture, and while I’m fortunate enough to only need to shave my legs once or twice a month, I have to patrol my face and torso for whiskers daily. I guess I should just thank God I don’t have hair on my back. Or my knuckles.

I’m probably also the only woman in the world who wishes her boyfriend would have bacne so she could have a hobby. Poor Jason, with his blemish-free skin. The moment he gets a sweat pimple or an eyebrow hair out of place I’m at him like Sarah Palin on a wolf. I will not stop until I’ve made my kill!

a paperclip will work in a pinch

a paperclip will work in a pinch

 I’m outing myself so if you see me and I have a lady hair, please tell me. And if you’d like to hire me as a professional zit popper, depending on your hygiene and the location of your zits, we may be able to work something out (I never said I wasn’t picky about who I groomed. Oh my, an inadvertent pun!) And while we’re at it, if I have food in my teeth or a pen mark on my face, please feel free to tell me those things, too. I have enough to worry about already.

*only one of the reasons I lament that not being able to wear a turtleneck year ’round. I’m no Diane Keaton.

 

six years July 29, 2009

Filed under: celebrate,life — mspolymath @ 7:14 am
love love love you.

love love love you.

 

good thing they're not using my liver July 28, 2009

Filed under: life — mspolymath @ 9:33 am

So last week I was thinking about phrenology, and today I’m thinking about haruspicy. Last night I was reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s lovely collection of stories, Unaccustomed Earth. In the final story one of the characters is studying the Etruscans, who practiced haruspicy, a sort of fortune telling that involved the entrails of sacred animals.

A little research uncovers that this practice goes back to the Babylonians. At the time the liver was believed to be the source of life, the source of blood, so examining the liver of a scared sheep, for example, was believed to provide insight into the will of the gods.  The augury was conducted as close to the moment between life and death as possible – classical references have stated the organ was “quivering.” In Mesopotamia the baru, or augur priest, would ask a prearranged question prior to performing the ceremony. In that respect, the act truly was like tarot cards or tea leaves, just a little more bloody.

So why a sheep? Archaeologists at Stanford postulate that sheep were smaller and less expensive than cattle, making for an easier-on-the-pocketbook sacrifice. They also point out that a sheep’s liver is small (smaller than a cow’s, anyway) and easily accessible, and very smooth, which makes any oddness stand out.

The Etruscans continued the practice, though for them the organ was divided up into sections, only this time each area represented a specific deity. A mark on a particular area of the liver could mean good or bad depending in which god’s territory the blemish resided.

Roman haruspicy was alive and kicking well into the time of Christianity. Emperor Claudius even founded a college dedicated to the study.  When the Goths threatened Rome in 408, Pope Innocent 1 was in on the fortune telling – as long as it wasn’t publicized.

Sheep’s liver in clay. Old Babylonian, circa 1900-1600 BC.

Sheep’s liver in clay. Old Babylonian, circa 1900-1600 BC.

It’s fascinating to think of the lengths we have gone to in order to better understand what cannot be predicted and what cannot be explained. I suppose the most modern version of this is Regan’s reliance on astrology, which reportedly kicked in after the assassination attempt. Nancy was so desperate to protect her husband she scheduled his meetings, travel, etc…based on the advice of her astrologer. I guess it’s better than cutting up a sheep every time there was a cabinet meeting.
Still, I know I look for signs, ideas, glimpses into what might be. I’ve talked to astrologers and used the information as inspiration for change. I find it gives a different perspective,  almost a permission to think differently. It’s also pretty hokey and ridiculous to rely on anything but yourself to assess when and how to proceed with your life, at least in this modern age. Isn’t it?
 

the only word is courage July 27, 2009

Filed under: things that make me cry — mspolymath @ 8:23 am

This is a bit heavy for a Monday morning, or any morning, for that matter. A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times profiles the story of Assiya Rafiq, who was brutally raped and attacked, only to be delivered to the police and raped again by four police officers, repeatedly, over the course of two weeks. According to the article this is not unusual in Pakistan, and Assiya was expected to kill herself after the second round of rapes. After all, she was the one who should be ashamed.

Instead, she is fighting back.  Her family has had to go into hiding. Assiya and her younger sisters have been threatened with kidnapping, rape, murder. But still she won’t give in. Assiya is sixteen years old.

I can’t help but ask myself what I’ll fight for today, tomorrow – in my lifetime.  I’m going to start by fighting for Assiya, and you can, too. You can send funds through Mercy Funds (Mercy Corps advises that to stipulate that the money should go to Assiya, donate it to the Mukhtar Mai fund and then, in the comment field at checkout, say that it is for Assiya) or contact government officials.

Assiya Rafiq and her mother. From the New York Times, 7/25/09.

Assiya Rafiq and her mother. From the New York Times, 7/25/09.

 

classic moments in men's fashion July 25, 2009

Filed under: celebrate — mspolymath @ 7:47 pm
Do you think the eyepatch and the pet are a coincidence?

Call me crazy, but I think there may be a connection between the tiger and the eyepatch.

How did these go out of style?

How did these go out of style? The smooth fit certainly makes the most of the model's body.

Obviously the inspiration for Anchorman.

Obviously the inspiration for Anchorman.

Cut loose, indeed.

Cut loose, indeed.

 

collier

Filed under: celebrate,life — mspolymath @ 8:02 am

A year ago today, my brother Marty had a baby. Well, my sister-in-law had the baby, but still, my brother’s son was born on July 25, 2008. It’s still weird to think my baby brother made a baby. Collier is delightful, charming, and sweet. 

one of my favorite photos

one of my favorite photos

Collier opening my birthday gift. I was informed he has four other copies of the book. Things could be worse.

Collier opening his birthday gift.