The Rational Dress Society

I first learned of the Rational Dress Society by watching a show on Youtube entitled, “The Deadly Fashions of the Victorians”. Not only did it discuss their love of lead paint, and of gas heat which was prone to explosions, and of baby bottle designs that were impossible to clean and were therefore bacteria factories, but it also went into detail about the wearing of corsets.

Corsets were in fashion for 500 years. Heaven knows why. They restricted breathing to the upper lungs, often causing the lower lungs to fill with mucus. There is a reason that women were often described as “breathless” or having a “heaving bosom”. Women practically had to hyperventilate to breathe in one of these contraptions. A recent study shows that a woman wearing a Victorian corset of the most extreme type from the 1860’s had to breathe 25% faster to avoid fainting. Women who wore corsets were prone to lung infections.

Further, corsets caused livers to be squashed upwards. Many Victorian livers, after autopsy, were shown to be deeply ridged as they attempted to push through the rib cages in a desperate search for enough space to function. Corsets pushed the stomach and abdomen down as well, and were the source of many a prolapsed uterus.

According to Wikipedia, some mothers forced corsets upon their daughters at very young ages, and this caused distorted bones. Sometimes women’s rib cages would crack and puncture their lungs, bringing about death by fashion. The strictest of mothers would force their daughters to wear corsets even at night, and some even resorted to tying their daughters hands or chaining their waists to prevent them from taking the corset off for a comfortable sleep.

The Rational Dress Society was founded in 1881 in England, to protest such harmful fashion. The members felt that a woman’s movement should not be impeded, her health shouldn’t be put at risk, and her figure shouldn’t be deformed. I have no doubt that I’d have joined this society, and gladly. I’m all about comfort. I haven’t even worn heels in decades, and can’t imagine that I ever will again. The society also spoke out against high heels, and any clothes that were heavy for any reason other than warmth.

The RDS wasn’t promoting radical fashion changes. They just believed in comfort and convenience, and perhaps a style that wouldn’t render the wearer sterile. Was that too much to ask? Some of the most ardent members of the society were women cyclists, who wanted freedom of movement to cycle, as riding a bicycle was “an opportunity to escape overly restrictive societal norms.”

Unfortunately, the existence of this society didn’t seem to alter the popularity of the corset. It continued to be worn into the early 20th century. What seemed to bring about the change was a combination of things. The hobble skirt came into fashion, and it required a wider waist. In exchange, ironically enough, it severely restricted the legs. That fashion got women out of the habit of wearing corsets for about 6 years, which was the beginning of the end for corsets.

But the thing that really took the corset down was something I love: The fact that women were finding their voices. They were learning to speak out as suffragettes, and when they got the vote for women in 1920’s America, they found the time to look up and say, “I don’t want to be uncomfortable anymore!”

Good on them! We owe those suffragettes a debt of gratitude not only for getting women the vote, but also for taking our bodies back. That is why I look on in horror when I hear girls today complaining about the size of their waists.

I think the Rational Dress Society would be proud of me, sitting here in my t-shirt and baggy shorts and bare feet. No woman should ever be restricted in any way! Never again.

The internal results of tight lacing a corset.

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Finding the Right Hairstyle for You

I had been sporting the same hairdo since high school. That’s rather pathetic, since I’m now in my 50’s. It was time for a change. But such a drastic transformation should not be entered into lightly. It’s really important to do your homework before choosing a hairstyle.

First of all, you need to know the shape of your face. Not all haircuts are created equal. Some will flatter a round face but will look horrible on a square one, for example. This article will help you determine your face shape whether it’s round, square, long, oval, or heart shaped.

I have a square face. When I look at myself in the mirror on a good day, all I see is a jaw. On a bad day, all I see is jowls. But I have good company. Gwyneth Paltrow, Sandra Bullock, Demi More, Angelina Jolie, and Isabella Rossellini, to name just a few. Supposedly we’ll age well and be very photogenic. Go figure.

But it also means I have to be careful. I have to do things to round out my corners. For example, I look horrible in those trendy narrowly rectangular glasses that I love so much. I have to go for something more curved. And hairstyles can be a challenge, too. No blunt cut bangs or blocky styles that end at the jawline. I need more rounded cuts. More asymmetry. Layers. Waves.

Once you’ve determined your face shape, head on over to therighthairstyles.com to see examples of styles that will flatter you. I was thrilled to see that they had 50 ideas for square faces! The possibilities seemed endless.

While I was able to narrow down the possibilities, I still wanted to consult that font of all human knowledge, my Facebook friends. I linked them to the 50 suggestions, and I got an amazing amount of feedback about what I should do. As is normal in life, some advice I took, some I did not. But after all that, I settled upon the one style that I felt would work best for me.

This was going to be a radical change. I didn’t want to rely on some 12 dollar hairdresser-in-a-box franchise place. I wanted an expert. (Look at this as an investment in you. It’s worth it.)

Fortunately, I have a fantastic hairstylist in Douglas, at A Better Day Salon in Lake Forest Park, Washington. I found him by looking for Aveda salons near me. I went to an Aveda salon for years in Florida, and was always satisfied with the results. They have a reputation to uphold, so they tend to go for the best.

Another great way to find a hairstylist is to approach women whose hair you admire and ask them for their advice on where to go. Also, look for feedback on line. Getting the right professional for you is important.

BarbShortHair

So here’s the haircut I wound up with. I’m still getting used to it, after years of long, feathered hair. But I am getting lots of compliments, and I feel like I’m a new woman. It’s fun! And, hey, if I change my mind, it’ll grow out and I can start again.

Good luck, everyone, in finding the look that’s right for you!

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Making a House a Home

In my search for a house to buy, I’ve toured many possibilities, and it has really made me realize that no two people live the same way. Making a house a home is truly an exercise in creativity and imagination. It’s kind of exciting when you think about it. Most of us will never have a larger venue in which to express ourselves than the place in which we live.

There is no telling what will say “home” to someone. I once saw a bedroom with a black ceiling and pumpkin orange walls. What were they thinking? Thoughts of their very own, no doubt.

When I bought my first house, the bathroom had very interesting wallpaper. It was hot pink, with a pattern of silver bamboo and maroon butterflies. The first thing I did when I moved in was peel that paper off the walls. I knew I’d never be able to use that bathroom successfully until I did.

But that’s the beauty of home ownership, isn’t it? I can have the tackiest taste in the world, and it’s nobody’s business but my own. It’s my castle. If I want my bedroom ceiling to have a glow in the dark milky way design (Oh, and I do. I really do.) then why not?

If you feel you do have questionable taste and that bothers you, you can find a lot of decorating advice on line. A Google search of “How to make rooms look bigger”, for example, will yield quite a few results.

I recently lost a bid on a house that I loved absolutely everything about. Heartbreaking. But I did save all the photos of the interior, and I fully intend to take a lot of the ideas and use them in whatever house I wind up with. It’s as if that house has become my style guru.

As a renter, I’ve had to respect my landlord’s choices. All the walls have remained white. I would never have chosen any of the curtains that hang in the windows. And if given a chance, I’d have gutted the entire bathroom and started from scratch. Because of this, even though I do love the place, it has never felt truly like it’s mine. I can’t wait to get my hands on a home of my own!

Home Decor
Your imagination (and your bank balance) is the only limit.

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Your Stool is Worth HOW Much?

My doctor was running late. (Aren’t they always?) So I found myself sitting in a waiting room with nothing good to read. Out of pure desperation, I began flipping through a fashion and style magazine. I figured that would be good for a laugh, and I was right.

It never ceases to amaze me how much people are willing to spend (read: waste) to be on the cutting edge of fashion. I’m sorry, but there are really only so many ways to make pants and shirts and shoes. It’s all been done before. A famous label added to a time-honored tradition of clothing doesn’t render it superior. You can pay a fortune for clothes, unless, like me, your priorities lie elsewhere.

To a certain extent, I feel sorry for people who think “stuff” is important. I inwardly chuckle at people who say, “He who has the most toys wins.” Actually, no. He who has the most toys has less money to spend on life experiences.

Life experience. That’s what’s really valuable. Making memories with people that you love. Seeing new places. Doing new things. Learning. Helping others. Making the world a better place. These things may not take up space in your closet, but they are priceless.

Stuff, on the other hand, wears out, gets outgrown, falls out of favor, takes up space, and will become one more thing to add to the Goodwill bag when the people who survive you are left with the unpleasant task of sorting through your mounds of crap.

While skimming that magazine, I was thinking that I pity those people with their priorities skewed toward accumulation. But then I flipped the page and saw an advertisement for a 3 footed stool. Granted, it was a beautiful stool, but it costs $1,900.00.

That’s when I nearly lost it, right there in the waiting room. In what world must you be living that you think a foot stool is worth throwing away 1,900 US dollars to obtain? It’s. A. Stool. A stool! Come on, people!

How can you be that selfish? How can you buy a stool like that when people are sleeping in the streets? How can you say to yourself, “I know that many children only avoid total starvation because they participate in a school lunch program, but hey, I need a stool.”

And when all is said and done, that stool will wind up in the same place your other stool does: in a landfill somewhere. Let’s face it: you can’t take it with you. That’s all stuff is, really: garbage that just hasn’t reached its final destination yet.

Wake up, people. Please. I’m begging you.

stool

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I Miss Cars with Fins

Is it just me, or are all cars starting to look alike? What ever happened to automobiles with style and personality? Where did they go?

I suppose if I were an auto manufacturer, I, too, would want to play it safe. Go for an efficient design that is going to sell to the greatest number of people. If you get all quirky, you limit your customer base.

And then there’s also aerodynamics. Fins weren’t particularly practical. Neither were cars that were blocky and appeared to be two miles long. But damn, they were cool.

I used to be able to tell a car’s make and model from a quarter mile away. But as we lost our fascination with the jet age, which inspired fins in the first place, those very fins faded into obscurity. Detroit had de-finned itself by 1966.

Now cars are becoming generic. No wonder tattoos have made such a comeback. You certainly can’t express much of your personality with the average automobile these days.

What we’ve gained in fuel efficiency, we’ve lost in panache. How sad.

[Image credit: plan59.com]
[Image credit: plan59.com]

Lifestyle Sanctimony

I love to people watch, and operating a drawbridge as I do, I get plenty of opportunity. Half the time people don’t even realize I exist. They must assume that the bridges open themselves.

I particularly enjoy unique individuals, and as I observe them I make up stories in my head about what their lives must be like. For example, there’s a wizened old man who wears a dark grey trench coat and a blue beret, and has a van dyke beard. I imagine him to be an artist, and I assume he eats baguettes (the bread, not the jewelry) filled with unpronounceable cheese, and he drinks Earl Grey tea.

And then there is the couple who always walk across the bridge holding hands. Or rather, she is holding his hand. She’s also doing all the talking and walking slightly ahead of him. I suspect that if given the choice and the backbone, he wouldn’t be holding her hand at all.

I enjoy watching groups of students and can almost always see who has a crush on whom. Photographers intrigue me. What do their eyes see? And it makes me smile when people walk their dogs, but I hate it when they jog with their dogs, and the dogs are a pace behind, looking desperate, nervous and exhausted.

But now and then I’ll see someone who seems to be trying be someone else. I could be wrong, of course. Maybe this is their style, but I honestly believe that some people are trying too hard.

The other day there were two women who, I swear to god, must have been in their 40’s, and they were wearing spandex exercise tights, brightly colored body suits, leg warmers, headbands, and their hair was in pony tails. Their huge plastic dangling ear rings only added to their ridiculous image. I nearly choked. I said to myself, “1970’s is calling. It wants its neon lycra back.”

And there’s that guy who wears black from head to toe, as if he’s crying for help. “Feel sorry for me. I’m trying to look mysterious but I actually look unhappy.”

And then there’s the student who is trying so hard to look cool that he crosses the boundary and looks effete. He’s probably wondering why he isn’t in with the in crowd. He’d be much better off just being himself.

It’s cool to have style. It’s even cooler to have a lifestyle. But lifestyle sanctimony is just sad.

lycra

[image credit: pinterest.com]

Wearing the Clothes of the Dead

I love thrift shops. It’s a rare occasion when I buy my clothes retail. Why would you, when there are perfectly good clothes out there for one tenth of the price? I must say, though, it’s getting harder for me as I get bigger. Thrift stores are for skinny people. And that only stands to reason, because people tend to cast off their old clothing as their waistlines expand.

When you get to be my size, though, I can only think of a few possible scenarios for the clothes that are available in the thrift store.

  • The clothes are hopelessly out of style, in which case I’m getting what I’m paying for.
  • Someone lost weight and they are confident that the pounds will stay off. Then, yay! Good karma for me!
  • They’ve gained even more weight and have given up hope of ever losing it, which is sad to contemplate.
  • But even sadder to contemplate is that they died and their family gave the clothing away.

Of course, there is no way to ever know. The reason I’m thinking about this today is that while unpacking I came across my mother’s raincoat. When she passed away 24 years ago (my God, how time flies) it was one of the things I asked to have, because I had given it to her.

She once told me that she always wanted a London Fog raincoat, and when I went off to college I was rooting around in a thrift store and I found one. What are the odds? It was in perfect condition except for a tear in the lining, so I paid 50 cents for it, sewed up the lining and gave it to her for Christmas. She loved that raincoat. It’s been sitting in a box on my closet shelf ever since she passed away.

I may just have to take it out and try it on, because it’s possible that I’ll be moving soon to the Pacific Northwest, in which case a good raincoat will come in handy. Odds are pretty long that it will fit me. (My mother weighed 100 pounds soaking wet.) But it will be hard to take it out of the box to find out. The first thing that always assails me when I do, even after all these years, is the smell of cigarette smoke. (Cigarettes where what ultimately killed her.) But then come images of her wearing it, looking quite pleased with herself. That is a nice memory, so I’ll power through that cigarette smell.

The funny thing to contemplate is that someday I will leave behind that raincoat, and no one will know its history. It will most likely wind up in a thrift shop once again. The next person who wears it will have no idea of its significance. That’s the way of things. Inanimate objects are filled with emotions and memories by their owners, but they mean absolutely nothing to other people. It’s as if our own stuff is endowed with some sort of magic that is lost on those around us.

I often wonder about the history of the outfits I’m looking at in thrift stores. How often am I wearing the clothes of the dead? Have I ever worn something and passed a relative on the street, causing them to have painful memories of a loved one whom they’ve lost? I hope not. And I hope if there is some form of afterlife, that person is looking down and is pleased that his or her wardrobe is being put to good use.

thirftshop2

[Image credit: ecommerceboy.net]