Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Fond Farewell: Indefinite Hiatus

I don't want to say I'm closing my blog, because that has a sting to it that I dislike. I've put off the inevitable for over a year now, but unfortunately, Her Lumpiness - and, indeed, lolita fashion altogether - has lost the spark, thrill, and release it once provided for me. I'm leaving this here, this entry, these articles, this wellspring of information and opinions which I've been trying my damnedest to amass since 2008, but this blog will officially no longer be updated.

I'm walking the curtain call, taking a bow, and exiting stage right.

It's time for me to say goodbye to lolita.

Can you really leave behind a fashion, a lifestyle, a movement that's been a part of your identity for seven years? No, probably not. At this point in my life, lolita is part of my psyche, and it's there to stay. It's part of how I evaluate the world, part of the literature and history I enjoy studying, part of the hobbies I've adopted. I may be leaving the fashion, but I doubt I'll be able to stop being a lolita completely. I've sewn frills onto the hem of my heart.

That said, there comes a time in everyone's life when they have to reevaluate. I'm going to be entering an entirely new phase in my life over the next year. I'm going to be, fingers crossed, graduating with my Bachelor's, moving to the big city, and working towards a career in writing. I'll have less time to devote to hobbies and fripperies and silliness, and much, much more need for any money I can get. Having hundreds of dollars sitting in my closet but not really being used seems childish at best and flat-out irresponsible at worst. No, I won't be selling all of it, but I'll be selling most; anything that doesn't have deeply-rooted memories connected to it will be gone.

And even some that do. Because that's something else, something that not many people know about me: I cling. I have strong ties left over to so many people and things that I shouldn't care about, people who've long since stopped caring about me whom I just can't seem to get over, and I'm sick of trying to figure out which meet-ups they're going to be at so I can avoid them, and I hate seeing memories of them hanging in my closet. I still have one of the dresses my ex bought me, and I tell myself I still have it because it's beautiful, which it is, and I'll wear it someday, which I might. But in the end, there are so many aspects of lolita that sting for so many different reasons, and I just can't have those in my life anymore.

There are so many people who've come and gone in my life because of lolita. Some of them I think about and feel the warmth of happy memories like the exhilaration of new life; some make me feel like my blood is running needles through my veins; mostly, it's a mixture of both. I cherish the growth they've prompted in me, and treasure the things I've learned from them, but in the end, I'd really like to stop being reminded of them every time I open my closet.

Why am I saying all of this? I don't know. I guess because in the end I feel like, while this blog has seen my blood, sweat, and tears, occasionally literally, I still don't feel like it has much of my soul in it. I figure I may as well go out with a bang instead of a whimper.

Though, like I've already said, I know that I can't leave blogging behind. Years ago I set up another blog, more of a journal than this, more personal, and never posted anything in it. I'm trying, tentatively, to publish things which are actually part of me, something like a writing journal, and the feeling is the same as stepping out onto a frozen river: the fear of cracking and crashing through into the freezing current is only abated momentarily by the thrill of doing something new, something different, something which could end horribly- oh, but what if it doesn't?

I am grateful every day which passes for those who have read and followed this blog - for years as well as those of you who've only read an article or two - and all of the amazing people I've met and friends I've made through writing here, as well as through lolita fashion in general. I wish I could tell you all individually how much I appreciate and value your views, comments, and support. To all those who have supported me, I honestly and truly thank you and appreciate you more than I know how to say. And to those who haven't... well, I've never had time for you, anyway, and I doubt that'll change any time soon.

I wrote this post a year ago or more. I keep going back and revising and adding more because I just can't bear to be done with it yet, but I suppose this is where I should leave off. Please know that, even if I'm not blogging anymore, my e-mail address in the sidebar is still active, so if you ever, ever, ever have anything you need to talk about or ask someone, I beg you not to hesitate to reach out to me. I've always been here for my readers, and that will never, ever change. You're all beautiful and amazing, and thank you so much for sticking by me for so long.

Love you all,

Miss Lumpy Aly Buttons

Find me on:
My new blog, trespass.urged on blogspot

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lolita Blog Carnival: Three Prints On Which I'd Spend Way Too Much Money

This week's LBC topic: Three Prints I Would Like to See! For these three, I decided to go with one of my favorite themes, "Literary Lolita;" therefore, all of the prints are based off of literature, and are ridiculously detailed in description, because I'm a crazy person. Hey, we all have our passions, right?

So, once again, what on Earth is a Lolita Blog Carnival? Well, it's a group of Lolibloggers like myself who all blog together about the same topic on the same day. The topics are voted on at the Facebook group and a deadline is set, and everyone works on their articles until the posting deadline. At the end, we all link to each others' entries at the bottom of our own, so all of our lovely readers can see what other participating Lolibloggers had to say.

First and foremost: Antique Library. I imagine this as a richly-colored classical border print, in hunter green, burgundy, plum, cream, etc. It would have regimental stripes going down to about 3/4 of the way down the skirt, where tall, ornate wooden bookcases would begin. Then, closer to the bottom, there would be spindly antique tables and plush leather armchairs. Sporadically throughout the print there may be the silhouettes of lolitas, sitting at tables, reaching for books, reclining in chairs, but I'm not sold on that yet. At the top of the print, the regimental stripes would be decorated with small falling books, as if they're being dropped from the ceiling to the bookshelves below. After trying to find images to represent this print, I've found that JM did a library print themselves, but it's very different from what I'm envisioning!

Secondly: The Secret Garden. This would be a sweet/classic print with the main colorways as muted pastels, such as peach, sage, powder blue, etc. The main print, though, would be bright, spring-y colors depicting, front and center, a large wrought iron gate, Moitie-syle, entwined with large roses of various shades. Flanking it would be a stone wall with a fantastical garden twining up the dress behind it- huge sunflowers, big, ancient oaks, and all manner of vines and flowers twisting up to cover most of the skirt itself. I know Angelic Pretty did a Secret Garden series many moons ago, but this would be a more ETC-style kitschy, vintage look to it.

Third and finally: Love Letters of Great Men. There's this fabulous book I found at a friend's house, and it's seriously just a transcription on various love letter from various great men - everyone from Mark Twain to Napoleon Bonaparte. This sweet-classic print, inspired by BABY's Strawberry Love Letters series, would simply be a collection on there love letters in dress form. It would look like the letters were spread out on a gingham table cloth - or, even better, a wood-grain pattern like a well-oiled antique table - and all would be in different handwriting styles and signed by those who wrote them. They would probably be too small to actually read, but they would be strewn over this table cloth as well as daisies, roses, and various other flowers associated with love. This would come in a variety of colors of gingham (or woodgrain), but the main image itself - the letters and flowers - would hardly have to change per color.

See what everyone else had to say!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why Every Lolita Should Read "Lolita"

I'm pretty sure every follower of lolita fashion is familiar with the book we so often get likened to. Plenty of us yell and scream about how the conventional definition of the word is completely off-base, and we can tell people we aren't sexually-provocative young girls until our throats bleed, the only way we can truly understand the difference between ourselves and the characters in the book is to, you know, actually read it. That's what I was thinking the first time I picked up the book.I first read Lolita when I originally got into this fashion, to arm myself against what I imagined would be an onslaught of pedophiles as soon as I uttered its name. I went to my local library. I read the first page. I was hooked, and the addiction would last a lifetime.

It isn't even so much that it's a good story. For me, that first time, it didn't even have a story. I was so entranced by the beauty of Nabokov's language, his flowery descriptions and elegant prose, that my first time reading the book I couldn't have told you what it was about. I registered nothing but the words- beautiful words I had never heard of or seen before, in English, Latin, and French.

But then, the second time I read it, I picked up on the plot: the beautiful, heartbreaking, incredibly disturbing plot. You may have heard that Lolita
is a troubling book, not just in the sense of being a mentally-taxing read, but also in that you find yourself rooting for the bad guy-- a bad guy who is so far from most civilized morals that, before reading, you think he's the type of character you could never feel any sympathy for. Of course I won't go into details or give anything away, but anyone who has experience with incest, sexual trauma, rape, or even kidnapping, please be warned that this book could be highly triggering. However, if you're a bibliophile, this piece is practically required reading. It was through Lolitathat I learned to think critically of point of view, that I learned that the narrator is not always trustworthy, that I learned to think outside of the box which was instilled in me during my middle school English classes. When I'm a literature teacher, I'll probably assign this book for these reasons if nothing else.

But I digress. The point is, there's more to this book than racy thematic devices. This piece is an excellent read for anyone interested in vintage fashion (Oh, if I had Dolly's wardrobe!), psychology, literature, or even just people who like long books full of fancy words and beautiful prose which borders on erotica. If nothing else, read this book to arm yourself against the fight our name has destined us for; I can almost guarantee you'll enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Her Lady's Chambers: Keeping Your Space Tidy

One would think that, as detail-oriented as lolitas are in our fashion, we'd be that driven to keep every aspect of our lives impeccable. Our cars would be shiny, the foods we cooked would always be beautiful as well as delicious, and our rooms wouldn't have so much as a stray speck of lint on the floor, let alone half our wardrobes. Funnily enough, it seems to be that many lolitas - myself included - are the exact opposite! It's like we can only focus on so many things, our perfectionism can only be spread so thin, and if we go out for the day with perfect hair and make-up it'll look like there was a mini-earthquake in our bedrooms or apartments as a result.

As someone who spent much of her life treading carefully around little piles of books, papers, and clothes stacking on the floor, I've had a lot of experience with clutter. For a long time, I just accepted it - it's part of my personality! "Organized chaos" was a perfect phrase for the rest of my life, why balk at the idea that that would apply to my personal space as well? But when I first moved into my own apartment back in 2007, I realized that the cramped, cluttered, precarious form of "organization" that I'd used in my bedroom was not going to work for my kitchen, bathroom, or living room, and it was time to make some changes. In the years since then, though I've been in and out of various living arrangements - dorms, house-shares, even back in my old room at my parents' for a few painful months here and there - I've found some tried-and-true techniques for keeping the clutter at bay.

♥First and foremost, make your bed! The easiest way to make a room look cleaner is to have a made-up bed.  It's easy, quick, and makes hitting the hay in the evening way more tempting - I love the idea of getting into tight sheets and mussing them up!

A place for everything, and everything in its place - isn't that the old adage? Well, it's true - especially for lolitas! Having a place to store your jewelry, hair accessories, socks, and shoes makes tidying up a messy room that much quicker and easier, especially if your places are quick things - bowl on your vanity for rings, an old hat box for headbands, and a dolled-up shoe rack - where you can just toss things without having to worry too much about organizing them, etc.

♥Obviously, though, having too much of anything can be a bad thing, so if you find yourself completely unable to keep up with your possessions, it may be a sign that it's time to de-clutter.  Go through your problem spots and get rid of anything that you honestly, truly don't need - being brutal with yourself at this point is the only way to truly beat your inner pack rat!

♥Have some type of chair or bench in your room. It's for more than just sitting! This is a great place to put lolita garments for a while before re-hanging them, or to keep piles of laundry off the floor or your bed (which is usually just a halfway house before they end up on the floor for me). As long as you're strict with yourself and make sure you actually put the clothes away at least twice a week, this keeps your floor AND your laundry cleaner!

♥And speaking of laundry, having a cute laundry bin is a great way to keep on top of those dirty socks and bloomers. I usually hang a mesh bag for laundry on the inside of my closet where it can be kept out-of-view easily, but, you know the other old adage - out of sight, out of mind! It's too easy to forget about laundry if it's secreted away somewhere, so instead, find or craft yourself a cute hamper that will enhance instead of detract from your decor, and you'll be much more likely to actually use it! The adorable one to the right was customized by Violet LeBeaux.

♥Also, you'll be more likely to keep things off the floor if your floor is nice to look at! We aren't all lucky enough to have beautiful, antiqued hardwood floors, so the rest of us can improvise with cute rugs. These can cost you anywhere between fifteen dollars and hundreds - mine is a nice, neutral grey one with big, abstract flowers on it from Ikea a few years ago. Even subconsciously, I'm less likely to clutter it up, so it always surprises me that it's the tidiest part of my floor!

♥Similarly, having a well-decorated room which suits your aesthetics is an often-overlooked part of keeping your space clean. It should go without saying, but you're more likely to take care of and keep tidy a room you love. Great reasoning to paint your room bubblegum pink, right? I dunno, I wouldn't try it on MY landlord!

Readers: What are your clutter-busting tips? I'd love to hear them, because though I've certainly come rather far in the past few years, I'm still quite the clutter-bug!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Lolita Blog Carnival: Three Budget-Friendly Coordinates under $100

This week, the Lolibloggers of LBC are blogging with the budget-conscious in mind! Our challenge this week was to create a fab coordinate for less than $100. Well, as everyone here knows, I have a problem with designing coordinates - or, more accurately, with stopping. I was designing these with a beginner lolita in mind, so I thought, why stop at one? Someone new to the fashion is going to want ideas on building their wardrobe; they're not going to want to buy a single-use outfit that doesn't have any other practical application. So I took one skirt - $40 by the Etsy shop Eat Me, Ink Me - and built three outfits that are definitely different and aimed towards different temperatures/times of the year, but that still have the cohesive style which we recommend that newbies develop so that coordinating within their wardrobe is that much easier.

An easy way to do this challenge would've been to hop on any of the awesome, wallet-friendly lolita shops on TaoBao. However, because my first priority is always to support small artisans when possible, I decided that this would be a great opportunity to represent some of the amazing crafters and vintage shops on Etsy, so I took as many items as I could find that suited the aesthetic and price point, and then filled them in with easily-accessible Western stores, some of which sell online, others which populate every mall worth its fluorescent lighting and fatty food court. The key to these coordinates is accessibility, because for so many girls who are just starting out, the idea of buying a full outfit online and then paying all those shipping fees/customs can be really intimidating. So instead of just designing a cheap coord, I took it a step further by making three $100 outfits using only items from easily-accessible stores, because god forbid I let anything be easy on me! But I love making coordinates, so the challenge just made it even more enjoyable for me!

Before I get to the outfits, you may be wondering- what on earth is a Lolita Blog Carnival? Well, it's a group of Lolibloggers like myself who all blog together about the same topic on the same day. The topics are voted on at the Facebook group and a deadline is set, and everyone works on their articles until the posting deadline. At the end, we all link to each others' entries at the bottom of our own, so all of our lovely readers can see what other participating Lolibloggers had to say.

skirt  ♥ hair clip ♥ blouse ♥ shoes ♥ socks
This first example uses a vintage blouse, glittery flats from Forever 21, thick ankle socks from Sock Dreams, and an adorable hand-crafted leaf hair clip to echo the floral pattern in the skirt. I see this as being a perfect outfit for early summer, when it's just warm enough to feel the breeze on your calves, but not quite warm enough for short sleeves.

blouseheadbandtightsearringsshoes ♥  skirt

This time, I went for a more toned-down approach, opting for a cheaper blouse from Forever 21 so I could give my newbie loli a little wiggle room with her accessories. For a casual summer outfit like this, I wanted something that would be easy and breezy (and certainly beautiful!) for long, hot days spent at ice cream parlors or boardwalks.

skirt ♥ ringheadbandsocksblousenecklaceclutchbelt
With this last one, I cheated a little bit. I figured, at this point, our lolita had invested in a proper pair of shoes for herself, or that she could reuse one of the two other pairs of flats I've already given her, so I gave her some more budget-room to build up a collection of accessories which would work with almost any of the other coordinates. This outfit reminds me of early fall, the type of weather I'm in right now - sheer fabrics because it's warm in the sun, but you can still definitely feel a nip in the air that warns of changing winds. I hope my budget-loli is saving up for a winter coat!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lolita Makeup Review: They're Real! Mascara by Benefit

A few weeks ago, I was killing some time downtown while waiting for my boyfriend to get off work, and somehow I ended up, after a good bit of coaxing, in the makeover chair of a Benefit boutique. While we began by discussing concealers, after hearing that I had a couple minutes to waste, my sales associate ended up going to town and showing me a huge host of her best-sellers du jour. One of these was the brand new They're Real! Mascara, which I was told is currently the best-selling mascara in the world - and let me tell you, I can see why!

The marketing for this product is something I'm still on the fence with- it plays off of aspects of femininity which are often "faked" by women, alluding specifically to plastic surgery such as boob jobs, to go with the false-lash effect the mascara imparts. On the one hand, it's sexy without being demeaning, and in my opinion, kind of empowering - it says that whether you're "real" or "fake" (eg, whether yours is natural or artificially-enhanced beauty) is your own damn business, not the casual observer's, so why not keep them wondering? On the other hand, it does hold up this obsession with secretly-artificial beauty which, masquerading as natural, therefore means that people have to work harder to be considered attractive to society, which distances themselves from their own natural beauty.

However, as someone who really doesn't mind looking "fake" sometimes, I'm not terribly bothered by this. Which is convenient, really, because this mascara is honestly mind-blowing! As a lolita who's always had problems with false lashes (*shakes fist at latex allergy*), I'm a huge fan of over-the-top mascara. My associate put the mascara first on only one eye and held up the mirror - and I must admit, I was so shocked I burst out laughing! It honestly looked like I had just put on a pair of large and noticeable but still natural-style false lashes, and I immediately demanded the product be sold to me - after, of course, it was applied to my left eye as well as my right.

The mascara itself thickens, lengthens, AND curls- my eye shape is slightly asymmetrical, so I usually have to curl my left lashes even when I'm not curling my right so they look the same, but I was impressed to see that I didn't need to do that with this! My naturally long, thickish lashes were enhanced to falsie-proportions as well. This is combined with a pretty interesting wand, which has little spikes sticking off the ends- hard to see in this picture (indeed, hard to photograph at all, especially when you forget to clean it off first...). These are designed for getting in really close to the shorter, thinner lashes on the inner corners of the eyes and also the lower lashes, if you swing like that. It leads to greater accuracy when detail is needed and, therefore, a better end result with fewer mistakes.

Left: just with mascara. Top right: totally bare. Bottom right: with full make-up

It's a bit hard to see in these pictures, as, well, I'm still getting used to my new phone's camera (fancy phones with fancy phoneography! Welcome to the 21st, Lumps!), but even still, you can see how much thicker my lash line looks, as well as how much wider it makes my eyes. Combined with full make-up, my eyes are more prominent, rounder, and more doe-like.

As much as I love this product and don't regret the impulse buy, it's probably not something I would have bought if I'd thought about it a little more. I'm more inclined to buy mascara that can be layered so that I can put a less noticeable coat on for work or casual wear, and then add a bit more for nightwear or lolita, and at $23 a pop, this mascara isn't exactly as multi-faceted as I would have hoped. However, it works amazingly at what it's intended for. Also, it's worth it to point out that you're gonna wanna go with the industrial-strength makeup remover for this bad boy - if I don't, or if I only give it a quick, lazy wipe, I'm left with black gunk under my eyes for about three regular soap-and-water washes. While this reflects well on how long-lasting this mascara is (definitely not going to need to reapply over the course of the day!), it's also kind of frustrating, as it deters me from wearing this product on lazy days when I may not want a whole face-load of makeup. Again, works great, but makes it a much less versatile product than I'd prefer for the price point.

Verdict: Four out of Five. This can do amazing things, and I definitely recommend it, but its lack of versatility means it didn't deserve a perfect score, in my book.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Calling all Creators - EGL's 11th Anniversary!

Can you believe it's already been eleven years since the egl community on livejournal was born?! I absolutely can't! It's nice to know that, despite having been pointedly inactive in the past few years, I've still been one of a memeber for almost two-thirds of its life. It's with much excitement that I announce on their behalf to all of my lovely followers, for those who've forsaken the community in favor of fashion hermitage (such as myself- totally would've missed it if Caro hadn't messaged me about it this weekend!), that they're holding a call for creations in honor of their faithful followers! They're also going to be doing contests and giveaways over November and December, so personally I'm adding them back to my blogroll, and you should too! As for the potential prizes, everything will be products from community-based indie companies - it's possible that my own brand, Amaranth Opulent, may have a few pieces in the mix as well.

Heads up, cuties- this is an awesome way for loli-bloggers or creative entrepreneurs to get your name out there, and also to give back to the community! Even though I've had a rocky relationship with egl in the past, I can't deny that I certainly owe them a lot from my own days as a newbie, just discovering the fashion, lost down a dark, winding road of scratchy lace and square dance petticoats with no hope of finding the light, except for the loving, caring community of egl. (#hyperbole!)

So far, I'm planning to submit two pieces: one for the "lolita and feminism" prompt and another that Caro suggested, "lolita and sexuality," which will probably either be for the former,"Thoughts on EGL & the internet Lolita community," or "Thoughts on the Lolita Lifestyle." Either way, I am super excited to see what everyone thinks! Here's a snippet from the second of the two, the first draft of which is already finished:

"A pretty big proportion of a lolita's time discussing the fashion with those not in-the-know is spent saying things like, 'Lolita is not a sexual fashion. No, seriously, it isn't.' I'm pretty sure that most psychologists would say that, the more one says something aloud, the more it's internalized in one's own mind, too, meaning it's not a far jump from 'Lolita is not a sexual fashion' to 'Lolitas are not sexual people.' From this, it isn't hard to begin vilifying any lolita who associates with deviant sexuality, and from there, any openly sexual lolita at all."
 Information on how to enter can be found here, in the main post on the egl community.

By the way, the main article makes it sound like they only want writing samples, but in her post on our local community, Caro says anything like art, comics, creative writing, etc will be accepted, so bear that in mind when deciding if you want to take part! Want to contribute, but not sure how? Here are some ideas, ranging from quick and simple to more elaborate and impressive:

  • Write a short essay about your first time wearing lolita on public transportation
  • Paint a picture depicting the way it felt to put on your first lolita coordinate
  • Write a series of haiku about the importance of bloomers. Or on anything, because haiku are awesome and always appropriate.
  • Bring a sketch pad to your next lolita meetup do quick sketches of your fellow guests - ask permission first, of course!
  • Take your first picture of yourself in lolita, mimic it in pose, location, lighting, etc with your current style, and juxtapose them next to each other in the same image with photoshop or similar
  • Write a short story or poem about a lolita at a museum whom everyone thinks is part of an exhibit
  • Turn the fable "The Tortoise and the Hare" into an allegory for coming into your own as a lolita
  • Compose a rap about the first time you wore lolita, and set it to Japanese shamisen music
One of my favorite things about lolitas is the immense amount of creativity they're capable of- everything from coordination skills to crafting to my fellow loli-bloggers, all of it seriously blows me away. I find I'm constantly stunned at what this community is capable of when we funnel our energies into positivity instead of negativity, so I am beyond excited to see what we can come up with.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Historical lolita: Henna for hair

Henna has been around for ages- literally. Ever since the Bronze Age, the Lawsonia inermis plant has been used for dyeing everything from hair and skin to leather and silk. It grows in tropical and sub-tropical arid regions like Southern Asia, Australia, and much of Africa, and people there have been using the plant for beauty for over 6,000 years. In many places, its use is tied to rituals and celebrations such as marriage, but people all over the growing region have used it for its anti-microbial properties as well as its powers of beautification on their nails, their hair, and their skin. It even followed trade routes to Europe and the Americas, and was a popular tool of the upper echelon as early as the 18th century. Even Lucille Ball was said to have used it to change her blonde locks into the flaming coif we know so well today! However, when chemical hair dyes became safe (well, safer than they had been) and cheap (well, cheaper than they had been), the practice of using henna faded out in favor of more easily-accessible means.

However, it's never been completely gone from the beauty scene, and in the past few decades, the earthy-crunchy crowd (into which I proudly include myself!) has led a resurgence in this little powdered plant's popularity as a rejuvenating natural hair dye that can really restore luster to lacking locks. But it doesn't only dye: henna also makes hair soft, shiny, and supple, curing dandruff and making heat and chemical damage less noticeable. The glorious, natural-ish red sheen is only one of the many perks.

Since I've been red for about two years now, with an interlude of bright blonde, my hair has definitely seen some damage. A few friends have been urging me to try henna for quite some time, but I have to admit, the length of time necessary for the dye has always turned me off to it - hey, I'm a busy lady! I don't get many days off, so I had to decide whether or not I wanted to sacrifice a whole day to getting goo in my hair. After a while and some more research, though, I decided that it was a jump worth taking, and I'm certainly glad that I did.

The first step was buying a teeny test-size amount of the henna I wanted to try. My henna came from Henna for Hair, a great resource for buying as well as step-by-step instructions and lots of other information. I chose Ancient Sunrise's Rajasthani Jasmine, which the website says is good for damaged, fragile hair, and originally only bought a few of the 3-gram tester packs. I did a gloss over my hair to make sure I liked the color/process and also to test for allergic reactions (super important! I wasn't too worried about it, but if you are, only do a small test patch). No pictures of that process, because it was pretty unremarkable- I had to dilute the henna a lot with conditioner to cover my whole head, so while I loved the parts that had a higher concentration of dye, the majority of my hair had nicer quality but little color difference. If you're curious, I mixed the henna with lemon juice as the package suggests and let it sit overnight; before applying it, as I said, I mixed it with an increasing amount of conditioner, starting at the front so my bangs would have the highest concentration (though you're supposed to start in the back). I covered it in plastic wrap and a towel for heat and let it sit for six hours.

A few weeks after the gloss- it felt much nicer, but looked mostly the same as it had before.

Last week, I decided to go balls-to-the-walls and dye my whole head. 100 grams usually works well for collar-length straight hair, but mine is quite wavy, so I bought two packs and probably used a little more than 150 grams total. My original gloss had only been mixed with lemon juice and then diluted with conditioner, so I went a little crazy with this one, using all the citrus in the house (two lemons, a lime, and an orange) as well as a strong brew of black tea, chamomile flowers, rose hips, and lemon rinds. I mixed in a little bit of conditioner right before I applied it, as well. I let the original mixture sit for about six and a half hours, though leaving it overnight would've been better, then applied to my hair and let sit for about three hours - if I weren't on a time crunch, I definitely would've left it on for far longer. I wrapped it in plastic wrap, and blasted it with heat from my hairdryer every so often- probably five minutes under the dryer every forty or so minutes it sat.

How sexy do I look?! Ladiiiiies....

Rinsing it was a bit of a shit show- I took off the plastic wrap and stuck me head under the shower, which I immediately regretted, because I suddenly found myself with handfuls of wet, vegetal-smelling brown goop.  I hopped out, and removed a bulk of the goop with paper towels before washing out the rest. I don't use shampoo, so I just rinsed until the water ran clean and poured on some conditioner afterwards. Then, of course, I had to clean the shower, which kind of reminded me of that scene in Spirited Away wherein Chihiro cleans the dirtiest tub in the bathhouse. You know the one...

Anyway, here's my hair immediately after rinsing:

Remember, never dye your hair in nice clothes! This tank had a huge gloob of henna from the first application.

The color is always far brighter immediately after dyeing - if you don't like that orangey hue, don't worry, it'll fade. And if you do like it, as I did... tough cookies, kid, 'cause it's gonna fade whether you like it or not.

Twenty-four hours later, in my normal-person disguise:
Three days later, the final product!

As you can see, the henna evens itself out to a very natural-looking shade of red. My job loves it. I, personally, am kind of torn. While I really like the shade, and it's definitely office-appropriate (which I really need it to be), it's just... dammit, I wanna be one of the cool kids with the crazy hair, too, ma! I miss my fire-engine red...

However, I am very happy with it, and will almost certainly be experimenting with more henna in the future.

♥ For more information ♥

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Disney Debate

To children all over the world, there are few archetypes which end up shaping their world views more than that of the Disney princess. Think back for yourselves- whether you were the target market (read: little girl) or not, almost all of us can recall the first of these characters for whom we first fell, and often it's a lifelong love affair. One of my friends collects Ariel memorabilia ad nauseum even today. For one reason or another, there are few types of heroines which end up imprinting themselves so much on the minds of our youths. Maybe that's why there's also so much resistance and controversy over what values the megalithic corporation extols to children through its movies.
We can't deny that the older Disney princesses were anything but role models to the young women of today. Snow White's constant refrain of "Someday my prince will come" was nothing if not personified in the princesses who followed immediately after, Aurora and Cinderella. All three of these ladies exemplify the old-fashioned stereotype of women as the helpless, hapless victims of circumstance, of a fate enacted upon them by an evil older woman of great power and even greater corruption (sometimes the only other woman we meet in the movie), who need men to sweep in and rescue them from their trials and whisk them away to Happily-Ever-After-Land.

The reason why these movies have come under scorn, in the past few decades especially, should be fairly obvious. Wave after wave of feminism has been paving the way for women to move beyond those conventional stereotypes, to embrace their power over their own destinies, and, most importantly, to teach them that their power to do both of those things is not based on the affections or attentions of a man.

Thankfully, though, the next wave of movies rolled in with sweeping changes in characters and themes, all of which were much more fitting to the mindsets of the eighties and nineties. Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine were independent, confident young women who stood precariously with one foot on the solid ground imposed by their patriarchal societies and one foot dangling dreamily into their own hopes for the future. Ariel wants desperately to join the utopia she perceives life on land to be, a flame which is fanned by her attraction to the human Prince Eric. Belle would happily reject society altogether in favor of fairy tales until she sacrifices her quiet life for a stay in the Beast's castle, where if nothing else she can escape the pressures put upon her by her pastoral French village. Jasmine is the impetuous princess of Agrabah who refuses to become some entitled sultan's trophy wife and demands instead that she marry for love. I think it's pretty obvious why these princesses are by far the most dearly-loved by my generation: they have the same values of curiosity, loyalty, and honesty that so many of us have grown up with, even if their stories do hinge greatly on "getting the guy." However, they've also got huge character flaws- Ariel leaves behind her home, her family, and everyone she loves for a guy, and Belle is nothing if not a textbook example of Stockholm Syndrome. Even Jasmine, it could be said, sacrifices her deeply-rooted desire for honesty by taking back the guy who lied to her over and over again about his very identity. I mean, sure, he saved her life, so that helps, but still, it's not a move I'd respect very much in a real person.

These characters also mark a huge shift in the heroines with which we are provided as young people. While these characters certainly still have their problems, and the romantic lessons one gleans from these stories aren't the best (ie: they can lie to you, verbally abuse you, and take you away from your family forever, as long as it's in the name of love), but as far as their predecessors go, they're an absolute grand jeté in the right direction. They tell young people that it's okay for you to want something more than you're given by circumstance, and to strive for the type of future you truly feel you deserve, no matter what the people around you expect. Thinking of my friends who identified most with these princesses in our youth, they're all strong, independent people making their way in the world, no matter what their friends or families think of them for it. I'm not saying that these Disney movies caused this mindset, but they certainly could have contributed to it.


A third, more recently-concluded wave of princesses featuring Pocahontas, Mulan, and Tiana follow in the footsteps of those who came directly before them. They have the same struggles of personal independence against the rigid societies they've been born into and the same romantic, masculine-driven undertones to their stories (ie, they owe a huge change in their fortunes to the men they encounter; without those men, their stories would have been totally different or completely unremarkable). However, there is one key difference to these princesses: they aren't white. Pocahontas is a Native American in what would soon become Virginia, Mulan is a Chinese warrior in the imperial army, and Tiana is an African-American waitress in New Orleans circa the jazz age. Before this, Jasmine was the only non-white Princess in the Disney line-up. And aside from Pocahontas, who, by being the daughter of a chief, is the cultural equivalent of a princess, none of these women have typical royal blood, but all of them have the same strong family ties that their immediate predecessors also possessed.

Each of their movies also deals with unique forms of discrimination as well: Pocahontas chronicles a clashing of two cultures, one of whom defends the rights of their ancestral land, the other of whom pushes for expansion and exploration in the name of their monarch. Mulan shows the struggles of a young woman being oppressed by gender roles and traditions which threaten her family's very wellbeing. And Tiana, of course, is fighting for her dream of owning a grand restaurant on the New Orleans waterfront while dealing with just how little is expected of her as a southern Black woman. They also have strong wills, backed mostly by deeply-rooted ambitions or a sense of justice and honor, and are more than willing to step on some powerful toes to fight for what they know they deserve. This is incredibly poignant when one considers the target market of these princesses: young people of color. While these three women definitely don't accurately represent the demographic of their viewers, having four non-white princesses is certainly a lot better than having none. First Jasmine, and then Tiana, Mulan, and Pocahontas don't solve some the problem of under-representation, but they absolutely do pave the way for even more princesses and heroines of color in popular children's movies.

Warning: Brave discussed ahead! I'm trying to keep spoilers out of it, but proceed only with caution if you haven't seen it!

As Disney Princess movies progress through time, they also become more socially progressive, and the last handful of heroines certainly break the molds set by the originals. However, even the contrast between the two most recent princesses, Merida and Rapunzel, shows an interesting shift in mindsets. Both are princesses by birth, though Rapunzel doesn't know it, both have rather remarkable hair, and both are white. However, Rapunzel's world is literally confined to her tower and visits from her mother (not counting, of course, her charming chameleon sidekick, Pascal), and the only "society" she bucks against is the upbringing her guardian imparts to her, in which fear and uncertainty are instilled in a headstrong and ambitious young woman with only varying degrees of success. Merida is actively rebelling against what one may assume is centuries of tradition, not to mention the expectations of her own parents, by refusing one of the most important rites in a young princess's life. Now, the biggest uniting factor between these two princesses is their fierce desires to take control of their own destinies: Rapunzel's one dream is to see the lights which float in the sky every year on the evening of her birth, and Merida's desire to discover who she is as a person and where that person can fit into the traditions of her home speeds her on a journey through magic and mythology. It's unfortunate that Rapunzel would probably never have had the confidence or means to actually achieve her goal if the charming renegade Flynn Rider had never stumbled upon her tower and whisked her away; however, the voyage is very much about the two of them working together so that she can achieve her life's goal. It's refreshing to see a story about a driven young woman being supported by her romantic interest so whole-heartedly, no matter what other forces come into play throughout the story. And, honestly, as far as Merida goes, I have so many things to say about this wonderful Princess that she really needs her own article - it's in the works, though, so keep an eye out for it!

These two young women are the type of heroines I would be delighted to show my own future children because they have a very definite moral: whoever you are is an excellent person to be, no matter who tries to hold you down or change you, and having goals to work towards make that person an even more spectacular one, as long as you don't let your dreams control your life and keep you from smelling the roses. This moral is much, much healthier than anything gleaned from the movies which came before it (excepting maybe the third wave's sweeping themes of diversity and acceptance), and is one that I would be happy to impart to any youth of any age or era. 

In the end, after all, it's important to remember that that's what all movies and media are, especially those meant for children: a way to communicate ideas to an impressionable audience, and some of those ideas - the importance of family; the necessity of being true to oneself; the audacity of believing in yourself, even if you're the only one who does - would benefit any of us to be reminded of. However, it's important to take those wonderful themes with a grain of salt and be conscious of what else is being communicated in these movies - especially when all of these life lessons are being imparted to children who don't have enough experience of their own to act as a foil against those harmful ideas that they're seeing. It's especially easy for lolitas to appreciate the sweet romances, the awe and respect of magic, and the childlike simplicity of these movies; however, when we consider the impact they can have on society and those more impressionable than ourselves, it can be easy for us to understand the intense scorn with which many adults regard them. There's nothing wrong with enjoying Disney Princess flicks- as long as we remember that, no matter what we may get out of them, sometimes there's more to it than what we're perceiving, and those other messages really shouldn't be looked past because of our appreciation of the fairytale fantasies portrayed therein.

All art in this post from ~agusmp on devianart, posted with permission!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The More I Learn About This Country: The Importance of Travel

The more I learn about this country, the more I think I should live somewhere else.
Hunter S. Thompson

The impulse to travel is a deeply ingrained one. Whether we get it from the old hunter-gatherer instinct to follow the migrations of our food sources, or if it's more similar to modern-day escapism, the need to explore has become as quintessential to humanity as empathy is. And well it should be- there's nothing that broadens the horizons more than putting yourself somewhere you've never been, surrounded by a language you don't speak and smells and sounds you've never encountered before. It's marvelous, exhilarating, and terrifying, and if I ruled the world, I would put it at the top of everyone's to-do list.

It seems, lately, like I've been seeing a lot of similar statements. However, a lot of the time, they're different in one key aspect: many of them say something along the lines of "Travel is my biggest priority and you're wasting your life if it isn't yours too." Here's the thing: as much as I'd like to tell everyone that their money is only worthwhile if they're doing something to expand their horizons, I don't know them. I don't know their lives, their jobs, their family situations, or anything else about them- who am I to say what they should or shouldn't be spending their money on? I've been incredibly privileged my entire life: my parents retired younger than most, have always put a huge emphasis on the importance of exploration, and, though money was never plentiful, were able to save up to take us away on nice vacations that I took for granted for far too long. I'm also very thankful that, as an adult, I've never been out of work, have always had enough money to feed myself and pay my bills, and was able to save up money and take time off for work with relative ease. I don't have kids to leave at home, a job that would fire me if I tried to take time off, or trouble making ends meet as it is. Basically, what I'm trying to say is, if you can travel, you're lucky. Privilege 'n stuff.

However, I do think that exposing oneself to new cultures is something that's important enough that everyone should make a point to do, whether that means flying thirty hours away (Hello, Australia!) or one of these much simpler and cost-effective ideas:

  • Find yourself a nice day trip or two! Visit a neighboring state/province and go to a museum or sit in a cafe. This is one of my favorite things to do- I've always loved picking an exit at random when I'm driving off the highway and just discovering what there is to do there, but you could do this by train, bus, taxi, or whatever else it available to you.
  • Find a really, really excellent restaurant of an obscure cuisine you've never eaten. I went to a tasty Afghan restaurant in the city a year or two ago, but other cuisines to check out could be Ethiopian, Nepalese, Swedish, or Basque. Just remember that it's likely that you're getting a watered-down version of whatever you're eating, especially here in America- it may or may not actually be legit!
  • Go to the library check out a book of fairy tales from a country you've never heard of. While you're there, try picking up a travel guide and maybe a history book or two. Turn yourself into an expert!
  • Google and find the arts and crafts of a specific region you're interested in. Usually you can find some easy, inexpensive ideas meant for kids that can be fun and enlightening for creative types of any age.
  • Research upcoming holidays. It's often thought of as disrespectful or inconsiderate to try and celebrate a holiday that isn't your own culture's, so be respectful, but learning about a country's important days and the mythology behind them is a great way to learn more about a society's values.
Readers: do you often find yourself suffering from wanderlust? How do you cope? And while you're at it, tell me the one place you want to go first and foremost, above all others!

PS- Sorry I've been so dead lately! Getting into the swing of the semester is always hard, but I have a handful of articles already started that I'd like to get to in the next few weeks, and then an important announcement! See you soon~

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Back from NZ and an Amuse-Bouche, of sorts!

Yep, I'm back stateside (for some reason. No one has been able to convince me yet why.)! After about thirty hours of transit each way, I'm safely back in the USA and am about to sift through two weeks of missed life. I know I said I'd probably be able to update while I was there, but... I lied. I'm sorry! Please don't hold it against me!

New Zealand was amazing. It was beyond amazing. This picture was one of hundreds I took just of the mind-numbingly beautiful scenery hidden behind every other curve in the road- crystalline beaches sparkling under summer sunshine; cliffsides made spiky by a covering of flax and manuka trees; swamps overpopulated with mangrove trees under the grey skies of a summer storm; pastoral hills that look eerily similar to those of my own state, except elongated into craggy peaks that reminded me what sheep's hooves evolved to grip, so unlike their American cousins existences.

Not to mention the people. The individuals I encountered on this trip were some of the kindest and most sincere of any I've ever met, and I've done my unfair share of traveling and meeting people from all over the place. Everyone from the baristas in the cafes to my flight attendants to the amazing individuals who introduced us to their indigenous Maori culture just went above and beyond all of my expectations of how people treat each other. But I guess when you live in perennial summer, there's no real reason to treat strangers as hostilely as we do here in the Frozen North.

Speaking of summer, I came back to my computer to realize that my amazingly talented friend Kayla had found time to edit some of the pictures she and I took at a pastoral-themed photoshoot in... July, I think? So, while I fight jetlag and get back into my normal blogging schedule, her's a little bit of an appetizer for you!

The idea behind the photoshoot was to echo the heavily natural aesthetic of the pastoral convention of literature (think Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and anything about shepherds and shepherdesses and their comparatively innocent lives in the countryside of England and Europe). Hence the natural makeup, mishmash of layers, and hippie-dippie hairstyle. I'm planning on writing more about the pastoral convention and how you can incorporate its aspects into lolita, mori girl, and a slew of other fashions, so keep an eye out!


For more, check out Kayla's post on the photoshoot, or her Flickr! IMG_4977_2


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