SKIRT OF FACES

Outfit

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(Pardon the blue painter’s tape in the background-we’re having bookshelves built (yay!) and those are the possible height and depth visuals. (Bah!) I’m losing my blank background wall!)

In honor of GOT starting soon (and Arya and her Hall of Faces), I’m wearing my Skirt of Faces. Again, this is what called to me this morning when I opened my closet. I know I just did a painted denim post, (and I considered that) but this said, “Wear me.” So I did.

I got this skirt in Canada last summer at a cute little boutique. I took off by myself while John was getting his hair cut—

Let me just interrupt myself to say that everyone should have some time by yourself when you go on vacation, doing what you want to to. The boys in my family tend to be movers and shakers; the girls, putzers and pokers. To keep resentment at bay, take some time to yourself (a couple hours if that’s all you can grab) to fill your soul. Everyone will be happier if you do.

Okay, so saw this skirt along with other painted clothes on a rack and immediately fell in love. All different designs, textiles and sizes. This skirt fit me (barely) and I bought it with my own money. (Another thing we all should have, our own account with money that we can spend to treat ourselves. I don’t have a ton, but when I get a residual check, or some Christmas money, I put it in MY account and then pull it out for cases like this and not feel guilty.)

When I bought the skirt, I asked the young woman who rang me up about the designer. She said (in a whisper) that she’s an older woman who’s very secretive about her identity. Her pieces are all one of a kind b/c she buys the clothes from thrift stores and then paints on them. Love it. I’m wearing art.

The top was an interesting choice to call out to me from my closet, (pattern against pattern? The skirt is busy enough? Really?) but I gave it a go and it works. My guess is it works b/c the bottom is a wiggle skirt (reminiscent of the 1950’s/1960’s) and the top is very secretarial and vintage-looking. Color wise, the top and the green belt bring out the brighter colors at the bottom of the painted (and muted) section of the skirt.

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Give it a go. Bring out the many faces of your clothing by mixing it up. Pairing things that aren’t traditionally put together but that when worn, actually bring out the best in each other. Opposites attract after all.

Thrift: Pins and Needles (Anthropology) shirt and belt.

With love, Nina

HATS ON TO YA’!

Outfit

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Wore this outfit to NYC on Saturday night and then again to a parent teacher meeting. Yes, the hat too. Love hats. Love vintage hats.

Vintage hats don’t always fit…those ladies had smaller everything back then—smaller waists, smaller heads, smaller feet, so you have to try hats on before you buy them, but so worth it if you find one that works.

And don’t think you don’t have a head for hats. You do…you just have to find the right hat. There’s a lid for every pot and a hat for every head.

I’ve found myself tucking the price tag of my hat on the inside, it was accidental the first time, but then it was such a thrill to remember what a find it was, so now I always do it if possible. Channeling my inner Minnie Pearl from Hee Haw. Unknown.

Look for hats. Wear hats. Be bold.
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With love, Nina

SLOWING MY ROLL

Outfit / Writing

I’m approaching my new manuscript a lot differently than I did my last one…I’m taking time beforehand to learn about my characters. To have tea with them. To find out why they’re acting the way they’re acting. I’m asking each one what they want. Why they hurt. What would make them feel better.

By doing this, I can put them in a scene and automatically know how they’ll react and why. Of course I’m the one that’s going to have to poke the bruise, pour salt in the wound, and take them to Hell and back before they get to their happy place (or some semblance of it) but it sure is going to make it easier if I know their bruises, their wounds, and what their Hell looks like, right?

You know how when you’re talking to a friend who’s having relationship problems and you want to help but he doesn’t know why his partner is acting the way she is, so you (an objective outsider) have to guess. You suggest: “Well, maybe it’s because she hates her job and she’s unhappy so she’s taking it out on you.” Or “Maybe she’s upset because you’ve been spending more time at work,” or, or, or. You don’t know the facts, so how are you going to offer reasonable help for the relationship? You can’t. You can help your friend make HIMSELF feel better because you know HIS side of the story, but you can’t offer possible solutions for his relationship woes. Same with a character. You have to REALLY know the people she interacts with (nemesis and friends) before you can put them all in a scene together and expect fireworks.

One could also think of it in the same vein as an actor. When a good actor prepares for a role, he does everything he can to walk in that person’s shoes so he can portray his part in the most authentic, honest way. He knows he can’t just show up on set and expect the character’s essence to simply slide into his body and control him like a puppet. It doesn’t work that way. And I’m not saying you need to become an alcoholic to portray an alcoholic (sometimes method acting can be a slippery slope) but I AM saying, it’s probably a good idea to go to some AA and Al Anon meetings, read some science behind alcoholism, speak to family members, interview some recovering alcoholics, hang out at some bars, wake up with a hangover and consciously work to notice and remember how that felt, etc.

If you don’t, you go to the stereotype of a drunk, which is so over-the-top that it’s a caricature. I remember one time in acting class, a teacher said, when playing a drunk person, the actual best thing to do is play it down. Subtle, subtle, subtle. Slur a little, but don’t be a slobbering, falling down fool. It’s painful to watch that. Acting authentically drunk (or tipsy) is hard.

So, I’m taking my characters to tea. I don’t necessarily interview them (although I know some people do that), mine is more third person. I sit and wonder about them. Why is she controlling? Why is he so careful? Why does she like him? Why doesn’t he like her? I view them from outside. I see them in my mind’s eye, sitting there, or pacing, or frowning or cowering, and I wonder WHY?

The answers come and I write them down without hesitation because there is no wrong answer at this stage. I haven’t started writing it yet, so ANYTHING GOES!

In past books I’ve put my fingers on the keyboard and waited for something to spring into my mind. Two things happened 1) tropes and 2) nothing.

Tropes: I think we defer to stereotypes in our writing when we haven’t taken the time to get to know our characters (just like actors in the drunk example above). We force them into a role. And of course, our characters fight us, because who wants to be pigeon-holed into being THAT person (dumb jock, mean cheerleader, nagging mom, absentee dad) when there’s so much more to them. So they fight us.

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Nothing happens: They just don’t do anything, plopping down obstinately, and refusing to wear that face. Then we (with fingers posed above the keys) get frustrated because the words are not getting written and we feel like a failure.

Elizabeth Gilbert says (in BIG MAGIC) that she now researches before writing. She reads about the era, the clothing, the food, the politics, the news, what her character is passionate about and when she’s fully saturated (when what she reads is all repeated stuff) then—THEN, she starts her story. And she said it became fun again. Writing became fun.

So I’m giving it a go. It’s hard to calm the results-obsessed side of me down but I want to bring the fun back to writing again too. And frustration isn’t fun. Sub-par crap writing isn’t fun. So I’m playing Oprah. Or Dr. Phil. Or maybe I’ll put on my red glasses and channel Sally Jessy Raphael and chat with my new co-workers. I want to know everything about them b/c we’re going to be hanging out a lot together.

Today it’s Green Tea Kombucha with my MC because she’s less interesting than ANY of my secondary characters and that can’t be right. Right?

Fashionwise: Here are some real-life characters for you. FABULOUS FASHIONISTAS. Love these ladies. I aspire to be them when I’m 80+

With love, Nina

SOB STORY

Outfit

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When I was fifteen years old, I saw an ad in Seventeen magazine for a hand-painted denim jacket—excuse me, oversized denim jacket (this was 1986, after all.) I wanted it. Badly. It screamed to me. I saved my money and since I didn’t have a checking account, asked my parents to write a check for me.

They were having none of it. “Send a check to a complete stranger? What if she just cashes it and never sends you anything. It’s New York City; how do you know it’s not a scam?”

After explaining to them that it was a reputable magazine, they compromised. “Ask if she’ll do it Cash on Delivery (C.O.D),” they said. I wrote the woman (text/email wasn’t around) and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally the answer arrived, No, she wouldn’t do it.

End of story? Ha.

I was determined to have this art on my back. So I bought my own UNION BAY jacket, bought my own fabric paint—hey (remember, I had $65 saved up) and hand-painted my own.

My sister is the artist of the family, but I was giddy proud when I finished. I wore the hell out of this jacket in high school. I loved it.

Would I wear it now? No. It’s too pale for my skin tone and it’s TOO oversized. BUT…I would not be against making another one…maybe with my own quote this time.

(Note: apologies to Wendy Grossman for the obvious plagiarism of her design by my fifteen year- old self. Eek. I’m really hoping there’s some statute of limitations on this.)

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With love, Nina

TICK TOCK

Outfit

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Tick Tock. Gotta get out of the house and get some words in today. Pony-tail time.

Big layers here. All thrift store finds—from the vintage velvet belt to the Anthropology clock top and the J Crew vest. Second hand scores.

I got the top about a month ago and, I don’t know about you, but when I find something cool, the first thing I do when I come home is rush to my closet and figure out what I have that goes with it. Yup, that’s my idea of fun.

I found that paired with the cream skirt, the outfit looked washed out:
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But the blue skirt looked too plain: IMG_0035

So, I wore them both. You can do that you know.
Remember when you got new clothes and you wanted to wear everything AT THE SAME TIME because you were so excited but then your mom made you pare it all down because it was “too much?”
Pair it UP! I say. Pair it up, friends and let your inner child twirl with glee.

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Reading: CROAK by Gina Damico. Needed some fiction in addition to my non-fiction #GIRLBOSS and my audio TALE OF TWO CITIES.
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With love, Nina

RIDING HIGH

Outfit

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Really felt the need to go baggy with the pants again today. Not sure why. Just haven’t felt like pulling out the old jeggings lately.

When I saw these MARNI pants at the thrift store last year, I was thrilled—I’m constantly on the lookout for wide-leg trousers. Katherine Hepburn made them look fabulous.

After trying these on, I found they were high-waisted. High waisted, wide-leg, AND made in Italy. This was a find. And comfortable. But a challenge to style.

Why? Crop tops and jackets are a popular way to go with high- waisted pants, which can be hard for those of us not in our 20’s who don’t own a whole lot of those belly-baring options. No fear, you don’t need to show skin. I paired this with a crop-vest. The nice cashier at Trader Joe’s will not be staring at my pasty-waisty as we wait fifteen minutes for the new chip machine to read my debit card.

Thrift Store find: MARNI pants. $4 Hint: European-tailored clothes fit differently than what you might be used to. For something a little less Banana Republic “classic” and a little more bellissimo, do yourself a favor and add them to your dressing room stack. I promise you’ll be surprised.

Book: Still #GIRLBOSS and also (AUDIO) TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens

With love, Nina

Flower Power

Writing

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While packing for our annual Easter trip up to Vermont, I knew I should wear something nice—like skirt or dress nice, but ugh…I totally wasn’t feeling it. I actually tried some skirts on and right back they went on the hanger.

Here’s the deal. I’m going to Vermont. I’m going to be with family. With family, you can be yourself. You can wear your pajamas for half the day. You stay up late talking, you sleep late. You cook, you clean up dishes, you talk the entire time. The last thing you want to do is fix your hair, put on makeup, and get dressed up.

Yet…it’s a special occasion. A family get together, pictures will be taken. A little effort should be taken for the meal at least. For me, it’s out of respect for my host—in this case, my mother-in-law.

But I was feeling like jeans. Comfort. So here’s the compromise. Dress it up with an accessory. For me, it was this green felt brooch. That’s it. Got it at my thrift store for free (it was supposed to be $2, but the lady, just gave me a look, pushed my hand away and said, “Take it”). I <3 my thrift store. So tomorrow, if you feel like jeans, go for it, but pop on a nice scarf, belt, necklace, etc. IMG_9811

With love, Nina

TODAY IT’S GOING TO BE IN THE ’50’S

Outfit

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Spring time means Prom time and Prom time means the thrift stores will be pulling out all those fancy dresses they’ve been storing in the back for occasions just like this (this also happens around any holidays where you need to dress up-Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Valentine’s Day).

On Saturday, there was a entire rack of Prom dresses at my store, all for $15.I found this 1950’s gem from designer henry a. Conder. Never heard of him? Me neither, but if the dress fits, it’s in good shape, and it’s from one of your favorite decades, you buy it. Especially when it’s only $15.

So go now. You’ll have to flip through some interesting (and sometimes stained) gowns, but you can bet, each one has a story to tell and it probably involved a romantic last dance and a kiss.

With love, Nina

BACK IN BLUE

Outfit

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Lots has happened. I finished my book, I’m 17 months into Topical Steroid Withdrawal and feel the end in sight, and I’ve decided to combine my love of photography, thrift store fashion, and literature in this blog.

In order to do this, I had to make it simple for myself so it took me an hour from photos to posting. My prior way of breaking down the outfits and explaining everything with multiple pictures was a blast but it took too much time—time that I needed to use to cook, shop, write, exercise, read, and take care of myself and the fam.

So I gave up the blogging.

Then someone told me on Facebook they liked when I posted outfits. And someone else said at a book launch that they missed my fashion posts. And another someone chimed in that they’d been inspired. My heart warmed. And the next time I’d put an outfit together, I’d think, “I wish I could post this…but I don’t have time.”

But I do. I just need to K.I.S.N-Keep. It. Simple. Nina. Simple location to take pictures. Simple layout. Simple explanation. So here it is: I’ll post an outfit, why I chose it, a recent thrift store find and what I’m reading.

Let’s give it a shot.

Today’s outfit is nothing fancy. You’ve seen this plaid shirt before, and the cowboy boots. The pants are Banana Republic cargos that one can fold and button into capris. This is what I reached for today. I’m writing and I wanted to be comfy. So what’s so special?

The blue scarf.

I really, really wanted to wear this baby blue polka-dot scarf with this outfit. But did it go? I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t pulling blue from anything else…I put it back on the hanger. And tried another one. Too matchy-matchy. Back that one went.
I took out the blue one again and put it on.

Lesson: if you want to wear it, wear it. Listen to your gut. I’m not sure why I’m wearing this blue scarf or if it really goes. Who cares. If I own it (meaning walk around owning acting like I’m the boss), then it goes.

Head to your closet and see what calls to you. Put it on. Now own it.

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THRIFT STORE FIND (SATURDAY): Hobo International Bag. Brand freaking new. Look at the details. $4. Gah!!! It’s a beast! I can’t stop wearing it.

BOOK: #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso. Got it from the teen section of my local library. She’s a thrifter, a non-conformist, and makes millions doing what she loves. She’d say wear the blue like a boss too.

With love, Nina

Fingerless gloves—A Winter TSW Sufferer’s Best Friend

Topical Steroid Withdrawal

Faces and hands are usually the worst hit areas for people going through Topical Steroid Withdrawal. Even if you’ve never applied steroids to either of those places, for some reason, that is where our bodies suffer the most.
This sucks because, even in the winter (which is when I’m going through the worst of this) those two areas are the most visible.

I’m also using Moisture Withdrawal to get through my journey, which makes the skin even dryer and ouch…makes it impossible to bend the knuckles without causing a chasm to bloom open.

Then there’s going out in public and signing a receipt at Trader Joe’s or checking out a library book and seeing the mess that is your hands. I flinch at the sight myself, how can I blame others when they skeeve out too.
It looks gross, it looks painful—and let’s be honest—it looks contagious.

I always try to use my own pen so people don’t throw away the one I just touched…hey, you never know how others will react, right? Why make a hundred pens suffer unnecessarily?

Wintertime is a double-edged sword when going through TSW. On the pro side, you can hide behind bulky sweaters, scarves, gloves, long pants but on the con side, the air is dry, it’s cold, and that combo makes for skin that cracks and splits and just can’t seem to heal.

Here are pictures of my hands progressively getting worse (and thus getting better) over the last 3 months…my right hand is the worst (of course b/c I’m right-handed.)

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Based on other TSW folk’s advice, I’d ordered a 60 pack of white cotton gloves from Amazon before I even started. I cut off the fingertips (which my son then drew faces on) and donned the gloves…feeling a bit like a magician with no tricks.

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Not only does this hide how bad your skin looks but it also protects your sensitive, open sores from getting infected. I’ve read stories of folks getting staph infections from those open cuts…ouch. No thanks.
However, one feels a bit like Michael Jackson and you actually draw attention to your hands when actually, you want to defer it.

I admit, I like fingerless gloves. My normal winter gloves are the kind that you can turn into fingerless by buttoning one part back and I’m into accessories, so I already had 2 pair. Then the other day I was at the thrift store and found 2 more for $2 each. Brand spanking new!

So yes, when I’m home, and typing away, I let air get to my skin (I was raised by a German mother who eschewed band aids because she believed air needed to get to the wound) but when I’m out, I mitten up my mitts and protect them from public view.

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If spring comes and my hands still aren’t better, I’m not sure what I’ll do.

I guess I better learn how to moonwalk.

Next up, you get to see my mug. Yep, the other part of my body that has been hit pretty hard by TSW…although that too is slowly improving.

With love, Nina