The Clothesline

Wednesdays for Women #1: Bertha Benz

Call it the prying of destiny, but I am intrigued by exceptional and eccentric women.* I seem to unwittingly scout them out like a puppy on yesterday’s undies– if there is one to be found in the vicinity, the endeavor will inevitably end in my unconscious salivation. What starts as an innocent peruse of Huff Post unravels into the riveting tale of The White Mouse and her gestapo-stumping schemes, a 5-million franc bounty, and the bicycle ride from Hell. I can hardly look for suitable covers of Gene Krupa and Anita O’Day’s “Tea for Two” before I’m thrust head-first into the American tragedy of the Beale family, a Palm Beach modeling gig gone awry and the dilapidated East Hampton home of numerous opossums, raccoons, cats, and, most notably, a mouldering mother riddled by the fear of burglary.

Beset by such a burden, I have decided to unencumber myself in the only way we bloggers know how. Thus, using primarily Wikipedia as a source (and pictures I DO NOT OWN**), I will share some of these weird and wonderful stories of awe-inspiring women with you, beginning with our titular hero, Bertha Benz.

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Now you may be whispering to yourself (like a maniacal villain), “Benz, Benz… I feel like I’ve heard that name before,” and in this case, you would be right. The “Benz” you associate with Mercedes (no connection to the Count of Monte Cristo), began with none other than the husband to our Bertha. But before we come to the car which forms the second object of salivation mentioned in this post (see below for a model “Ford” to frame the third), there was a unmarried trollop in the Grand Duchy of Baden investing in the hottest inventor on the market. While that may be a large exaggeration, it is true that the unmarried Bertha (Ringer, as it were) invested a large sum of her own money into the workshop of Karl Benz, and his vision of a motorwagen. This money made it possible for Benz to patent the first automobile, not to mention the real great American pastime (and subject to German law, after they were married she no longer retained an investing power to her money; after all, she had a husband to take care of that while she saw to their five children).

Nevertheless bored with nappies, Bertha decided to invent the modern marketing industry and the brake lining all in one fateful afternoon. Without telling her husband or the authorities (*gasp*), she decided to take the new motorwagen out for a spin– but not one of the short trial runs they had hithero engaged in– Bertha decided to drive 66 miles with two of her sons to visit her mother. Or could her plans be more sinister…

A considerable number of people in 1882 had never seen a car. Thus, on her dawn to dusk moto-cruise, she did things like clean a fuel pipe with a hatpin and insulate a wire with her garter (#justgirlythings), not to mention her various stops along the way, exposing her life’s investment to the general public. By the time she reached her mother’s house, she had caused quite a buzz over her new decidedly-not-a-Radio-Flyer wagen, and she had become the first person to “drive an automobile over a real distance” (for all the Kerouac haters out there, this is where you pin the blame). Her marketing stunt also garnered a great deal of publicity, which helped to create a commodified demand for the new invention. Investment Genius, Test Driver Extraordinaire, McGyver-prototype Inventress, and Marketing Wizard- need I say more?

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*It’s not that I have anything against exceptional and eccentric men (*cough Harrison Ford*), there’s just a 99.9% less chance that I will become one with the passing of time.

**so don’t link back to me, link to the link I’ve linked to- respect where it’s due, right? Speaking of which, the featured first image can be found here. 

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DSC_0256 Goodbye, old England! The memories I made on this trip will remain as sentimental and nostalgic to me as an aged bird woman on the steps of St. Paul’s, reminding us that sometimes the frivolous expenses turn out to be the most meaningful. I have been blessed by this trip and the opportunities it has presented. Thank you for reading along and sharing those adventures with me. ❤DSC_0234 DSC_0228 DSC_0241 DSC_0246Outfit Details: Hat: vintage from Venice (shown here, Sweater: GAP, Jacket: Barbour, Scarf: Pashmina (bought off the street in New York), Skirt: vintage, Tights: H&M, Shoes: Tommy Hilfiger, Bag: Ba&sh

mary-poppins-feed-the-birdsFun Fact: The Bird Woman was played by Jane Darwell, the oscar-winning actress who played Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath and Ms. Merriweather in Gone With the Wind.

Fireside Chat: Cultural Appropriation

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The fashion industry is routinely harangued for so-and-so designer’s latest cultural appropriation. What is cultural appropriation?  As defined by Susan Scafandi, a Fordham University law professor and author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, it is the

“Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from
someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another
culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols,
etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been
oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive,
e.g. sacred objects.”

Most recently notable, Native American headdresses are sure to stir the waters (whether from H&M or Victoria Secret). Noticing the attention these stunts garner, Urban Outfitters almost bi-annually produces a controversial headline-grabbing garment of some sort, and while not all of these (*ahem* Kent State) involve cultural appropriation per se, it is certainly a tick mark on their list of tactics. However, one of the most high-profile perpetrators of cultural appropriation, is none other than Chanel designer (and superstar himself) Karl Lagerfeld (here is his headdress).

Arguably one of the most productive designers today, Mr. Lagerfeld works as creative director for Chanel, Fendi, and his eponymous line, resulting in quite a few shows when you start to tally, not to mention, the larger-than-necessary number of looks Lagerfeld usually incorporates in each. Lately, he has adopted the practice of designing Metiers D’Art shows (acting kind of like a pre-fall collection) around their upcoming locations (Dallas, Mumbai, Edinburgh, and Austria to name a few). In Dallas, we were given boots, buckles, and prairie skirts galore. Edinburgh brought kilts, puffed sleeves, and collar bibs. Mumbai sported tikkas, lots of gold flourishes, and sarong sandals (despite preparing for autumn weather). And about a month ago, we received Lagerfeld’s “take” on Austria.

The question I’d like to explore is how Lagerfeld’s “take” on different cultures co-exists with cultural appropriation (for better or worse). Further, why has there been no decriers of cultural appropriation accompanying the Salzburg release? What makes us feel (righteously) that headdresses are offensive, while the Austrian — shall we call them yodeling? — hats are just cultural appreciation? How does the majority/minority influence constitute our opinion (and from what perspective do we consider what makes a minority). Does Lagerfeld’s German ancestry provide him an out in regards to Austria?

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So why would cultural appropriation or borrowing be a problem? It would seem that fashion, that steadily evolving amalgamation, depends on borrowing as a form of transformative imagineering to survive… Yet, cultural appropriation can be interpreted as the wealthy majority robbing the disenfranchised of their only commodities (and meanwhile misrepresenting them). It’s also a bit of a power trip, since cultural appropriation serves as a reminder of those who have been in power versus those who were historically marginalized. You can read here for more information.

So what does Lagerfeld do that would make him the exception to the rule (besides his signature look)? I like to think that Chanel is such a beloved global brand that everyone feels a part of it, meaning that rather than marginalization, edification ensues. Still, let’s be honest, when I wear a tikka to go out, I am going to look culturally insensitive. If I dress in the new Salzburg line, I might seem eccentric, but not insensitive. Is it because both American and Austrian culture are predominantly “white” and historically empowered? Then again, India was dominating the power food chain way back when, and far as forming a people majority, has America beat by nearly 1 million. Given that China and India have the two largest world populations, can Americans borrow from them? Should we feel sorry for the Austrians who come in at 95th in terms of population (and never borrow from the Vatican, at 245/247)?

Alternatively, is it okay for Lagerfeld to use these parts of culture because people trust he will do justice to their history? Or do they not feel that he is robbing them and accept that he is melding cultures? Thus, they give him the okay, and it’s not cultural appropriation. Then again, how do people give an okay, here? Just by not dissenting?

How can we positively borrow from another culture in a way that the galloping masses can digest and regurgitate it (as fashion so often does). Is there a positive way to experiment with reference to foreign sources? And if not, what entitles fashion (which is seemingly global) to unjustly ignore the customs of different groups? I am of the opinion that fashion should be a conglomeration of the palate of the world. But if it is, can only locals use it, and/or wear it?

I would love to hear your input. Clearly I haven’t solved anything here, but when I look at the Austrian feather hat, it seems to me the marginalization of a richer culture for the kitschy mass consumer (and let’s throw Sisi in there for good measure), or if it’s not, why is anything else? Thanks for reading!

And I Said What About…

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Happy New Years Again! Though yesterday was devoted to the launch of my new Eccentric Glamour link-up (open through tomorrow!), we wanted to continue celebrating the advent of 2015 by paying an homage to one of my favorite movies: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Specifically, we chose to recreate the scene where Holly and Paul/Fred steal two masks from the Five and Dime (after spending a long morning having a ring engraved at Tiffany’s) and run all the way home. The scene always seems so full of vibrance, life, and adventure. Holly and Fred are only beginning to acknowledge their feelings for one another, and as they run from the store, it’s like they are making the first steps into their new future (a good goal for 2015, we think). We hope we can bring you a better year full of excitement, mystery and panache (even if my European tour is over).

Also, each New Year’s I make a list of 50 movies I’d like to see in the new year. If you have any you think should make the list (and could compete with Breakfast at Tiffany’s), please comment below!

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DSC_0419Outfit Details: Coat: Isaac Mizrahi Live | Dress: Talbots (old) | Hose: Primark | Shoes: Pour La Victoire | Masks: Party City

**I do not own the rights to any of the Breakfast at Tiffany’s screenshots, so use them at your own risk, and please do not link back. Thanks!

Eagerly We Fly Away

IMG_1187 DSC_0542Christmas at Somerset House is absolutely beautiful! Fortnum and Mason sponsors a huge ice skating rink and puts up a huge tree complete with F&M baskets. The sign up says “SKATE” and that is exactly what we did, but not without some trouble. The rink is packed to capacity- so for those of us trying our ice legs after a few stagnant winters, this isn’t the place to learn (though they do keep a little training area off to the side if you are desperate). You are often tripped or tussled by other uncertain skaters or self-proclaimed experts (you can imagine me wagging my fist at the show-offs). But even if you can’t skate, it’s worth stopping by to see the spectacle. With the giant tree and the rink there, it’s the perfect catalyst for Christmas cheer.IMG_1153 IMG_1162 DSC_0552Outfit Details: Hat: Joy (in stores now) | Sweater: Helmut Lang | Jacket: Barbour Wax | Jeans: Acne | Socks & Gloves: Primark | Shoes: Tommy Hilfiger | Necklace: old | Bag: Kate Spade

Then We Open Again, Where?

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As I’ve mentioned, I’m a few weeks behind on updates from my trips (look out for Budapest and Morocco). I got lucky on my outfit here, despite the delay, since cheetah print is booming right now. I’ll try to be better about upcoming Christmas posts!

I arrived in Venice the night before Halloween. When I made the booking, I didn’t mean to plan it that way, and to be honest, I completely forgot (although people in England celebrated way more than I anticipated, adopting it as a veritable week-long festival rather than a single night). But in this case, fate interceded on my behalf. For as Romantic and dreamy as the canals and bridges are in Venice, the ambience of the night could have invented the meaning of phantasmagoric. It is no accident that Poe set “The Assignation,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Masque of Red Death”* here. Walking through the darkened alleys at night they seem to grow narrower and deeper. You pass the same bridges, walking in a circle fueled by the frenetic energy of despair, suspicion, and above all fear. Meanwhile, in glass windows all around hang ominous masks in a variety of shapes, their darkened eyes glaring eerily in the moonlight. With this collection of photos, I’ve tried to capture a bit more of the creepy vibes, but I also included just some of the general beauty of the change to Autumn which November brings. DSC_0350

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DSC_0343Outfit Details: Jacket: bought on a LadyBirdLikes Instagram sale (vintage) | Lipstick: Chanel | Shirt: American Apparel | Necklace: thrifting find | Leggings: The Row | Shoes: Primark (and on sale now for 3 pounds in leopard print and black) | Purse: Kate Spade

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DSC_0324The title of this post is taken from the song “We Open In Venice” from the musical Kiss Me, Kate. Here’s the Rat Pack’s rendition of the song. Also, while I was in Venice, I had the pleasure of meeting Louise, the amazing mind behind Pandora. To see her interpretation of Thomas Mann and the Marchesa Casati, see here.

*The exact setting of “The Masque of Red Death” is in a castle and nothing else is described specifically, but as it doesn’t disclude Venice, and the story has a Venice-esque feel to it, I included it (possibly erroneously) in the list.

It Happens to Hepburn – It Happens in Venice!

Our second day in Venice was quite eventful. Between St. Mark’s square and a tour of the Basilica, wandering through the Doge’s Palace, witnessing a full-on bread attack by itinerant pigeons, falling in love with the Marchesa Casati exhibit, and a dreamy never-ending walk that ended in a candlelit dinner, it was very full but equally fulfilling! Personally, I could have taken a few more coffee breaks, soaking in the city, basking in the sun, languorous in little cafes, but I have no regrets. There is only so much you can do in a weekend away from school!

One of my biggest inspirations on this trip was Katherine Hepburn’s performance in David Lean’s Summertime. The movie itself is rather drab, as she walks around Venice sad and single, looking for love, finds love, drags it out, and is still sad. Luckily, her wardrobe doesn’t share the same fate, making her scarves, knee-length skirts, and button-ups on point. You’ll have to see if you feel the same way about mine.

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I do not own the rights to these pictures.

Here’s my interpretation: Hat: picked up at a street vintage sale while roaming around the city! | Glasses: Chloe | Earrings: vintage | Scarf: vintage (found in the attic) | Shirt: H&M | Blazer: DKNY | Skirt: Joy (there’s one near my apartment and it’s a constant struggle to avoid going in and buying everything) | Purse: Kate Spade | Shoes: Lanvin

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IMG_0640Evening (Finds a Hat)

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For more pictures of Katherine Hepburn in Summertime, see this old Hollywood Reporter set.

Venice (A Vision in Three Parts)

DSC_0496When you are in Venice, there is nowhere else on earth you could be– the mysterious passages, romantically gloomy water around every corner, picturesque bridges, burly, striped gondoliers, and creepy masque shops (coupled with the overall abundance of leather goods). It’s not the destination for the claustrophobic or the penny pincher, but to the dreamer of unrealized visions? Venice is bliss. Venice is the nearest scratch with reality.

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No visit to Venice is complete without a trip to the fabulous Rialto market. While it’s not a prime location for the vintage-seeker, there may be no better place for fresh fruits and vegetables. I was particularly pleased to get three large bags of sun dried tomatoes for 5 euro. In the US, you always pay the same amount for a small jar! Also, if you’re in need of an eel for dinner, this is the place to come (namely because they sell them). While generally I try to err on the side of adventure, on this occasion, I must report a timely abstention.

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In the afternoon, we went over to the Jewish area. A little known and sad fact: in 1516, Venice was the first place to ever instate a Jewish “ghetto” (the English appropriation of the word stemming from the Venetian “ghèto”). Today the area remains Jewish, though less than 500 Jews live there. However, as of 2009, the population of Venice dipped under 60,000, meaning that it may be a higher percentage of Jews in the city than you would expect at first blush. DSC_0490

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Where in the world is Rebecca Santiago?

What I Wore:

Hat: Vintage | Dress: Vintage (and if you like bubbly effect of the bottom, I literally safety pinned the extra fabric up, so it’s not hard to achieve) | Earrings: Israeli market! Shades: Urban Outfitters | Necklace: Anthropologie | Belt: Thrifted | Tights: Gap | Shoes: Primark (still there, I believe!) | Purse: Kate Spade

Stay tuned for more soon, although I may be a bit delinquent over the next few days as the reality of exams sets in– wish me luck!

 Shared to Hat Attack and Trend Spin

Sunday in the Park

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What could be lovelier on a Sunday afternoon than to stroll in the park, visiting Roman ruins in a historic cathedral town? I bring you St. Albans, a gorgeous village thirty minutes outside of London, named after England’s first Christian martyr, birthplace of John Churchill (the first Duke of Marlborough, and as you may remember my previous post, victor of the Battle of Blenheim) and home to the only existing medieval clocktower in England (which was used as a semaphore tower in the Napoleonic wars). DSC_0712Yet the most epic sight of St. Albans is probably St. Albans Cathedral, a Gothic monolith, legendarily built with stones taken from Roman ruins rolled up the (long) hill from Verulamium Park and completed in 1089. It was here that the first draft of the Magna Carta was written, and it was once the largest cathedral in England! We arrived around 2:00 in the afternoon (Blackfriars to St. Albans is about a 30 minute ride for ~10 pound return fare). It’s a ten minute walk up to the church through the village area, but on the way you pass through the adorable square (where you will find the clocktower). Once there, you follow the signs and slip down a side street, and all the sudden the Cathedral comes out of nowhere! We were surprised we couldn’t see it towering over the horizon. Once you’ve found it, you wonder how you could have missed it! It takes a full five minutes to walk around the whole thing! It sits at the top of a hill which slopes down to the Park. There you can enjoy the company of weeping willows, frantic children and Roman ruins alike—we certainly did.

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Sights inside the Cathedral:
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DSC_0701To Verulamium Park (and a stop for ice cream)!

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Remnants of a Roman Town

What I Wore:

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Hat: antique store find
Fur collar: estate sale gem ($7.00!!)
Blouse: Gap
Cardigan: H&M
Belt: Zara
Pencil Skirt: Zara
Wallet/ Purse: Fossil
Shoes: Stubbs and Wootton