[Alternative Muses] Writerly Style: The Sharp Dressing Nancy Cunard

Nancy Cunard-poet, publisher, and activist-was famously fashion-forward. In this photo, she looks like she could step out of the current issue of any high fashion magazine.

Nancy Cunard

Nancy Cunard, looking quite editorial.

That sleek belted-jacket is everything, with the statement necklace and her signature piled-on bracelets both coming in a close second.

Perfection.

[Alternative Muses] Artistic Style: Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe is so intrinsically and eternally elegant that mere fashion doesn’t matter; it’s a blip on an inconsequential radar. Unlike aesthetic conformity, personal style effortlessly squashes large spans of time into nothingness.

Don’t believe me?

This image of the legendary artist is 97 years old.

Georgia O'Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz, 1918

Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz, 1918.

There’s so much to love about this look, this vibe, this scene.

Where to start?

  • Her focused and intelligent gaze?
  • The uplift of her eyebrow?
  • The sublime beauty that attends every artist as they are working on their craft, which is powerfully evident here?
  • That luxuriously thick and practical sweater, with its large buttons, worn over a thin throw-it-on-and-forget-about-it dress?
  • Those boots? Those boots.

Fierce. Every last bit. Fierce.

[Alternative Muses] Writerly Style: Dressing Like a Work of Art with Djuna Barnes

“One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”-Oscar Wilde

Our dear Djuna, who wasn’t always so dear, encompassed both of Wilde’s dictates.

Why wouldn’t she?

Djuna Barnes was not afraid to overstep the accepted boundaries of writing, art, behaviour, or fashion. She knew that, sometimes, too much wasn’t nearly enough.

Our favourite tetchy lady knew what she was doing. Here’s why.

Lessons in How to Dress, Djuna Barnes-style:

Tip #1-It’s okay to wear too many layers and accessories, as long as it is artfully done:

Djuna Barnes

Djuna, daring you to find her anything short of magnificent.

A lesser woman would be weighed down by all those layers and accessories, but not our Djuna. She looks resplendent. The open collar, delicate jewelry, and commandingly vibrant lipstick pull everything together.

Tip #2-The key to wearing a bold print is to conquer it by the pure force of your personality:

Djuna Barnes, circa 1921

Djuna Barnes taking charge of some giant dots,  circa 1921.

Clothes smell fear. If you’re scared to wear something, you probably shouldn’t. Otherwise, don it with the conviction that no one else on earth could ever pull it off like you can.

Surrounding a huge pattern with solids never hurts, either.

Tip #3-Shoes and Hats! Shoes and Hats!

Solita Solano and Djuna Barnes

Solita Solano and Djuna Barnes were exceptionally chic in Paris, 1922.

Shoes and hats are all you need to be stylish and memorable. It doesn’t matter if you are wearing a ball gown or a T-shirt dress, as long as you are shod and topped with wit or taste, or even creative vulgarity. Swap those gorgeous 1920s frocks for  modern minis and logo shirts, and Solita and Djuna would still look phenomenal.

Think about that.

Now go out there and face the world with confidence and a bit of writerly style!

[Alternative Muses] Writerly Style: Dressing for the Four Seasons with Sylvia Plath

Reposting in honor of Sylvia’s birthday!

A Small Press Life

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”-Orson Welles

Sylvia Plath is best remembered for the sharp-edged precision of her poetry: word-vessels that are hard, clear, and passionate examples of literature’s trickiest form. Her style, although of minor importance to both literary historians and laypersons, remains fresh and appealing fifty years after her death. The timeless quality of Sylvia’s wardrobe is easy to emulate, and personalize.

Four Seasons, Five Photographs, Forever Stylish:

Sylvia Plath: SpringSylvia Plath: Spring

 A crisp white tee, corset belt, and floaty high-waisted skirt is the perfect outfit for the windy days of spring. She finishes it off simply with lipstick and a hairpin. Typewriter: optional. [This is my favourite photograph of a writer caught in the act of writing. I’ve always envied the imagined comforts of working in a garden setting. Sun-on-skin; light, earth-tainted breeze; a lounge chair to sink…

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[Alternative Muses] Style Guide: Schokko with a Red Hat

 Schokko with a Red Hat by Alexej Jawlensky is my favourite painting. She lives at the Columbus Museum of Art: I like to visit her when I go home.

Schokko with Red Hat by Alexej Jawlensky, 1909

Schokko with a Red Hat by Alexej Jawlensky, 1909. Columbus Museum of Art.

Schokko was an artist’s model. She adored drinking hot chocolate so much that it inspired her quirky nickname. I wonder if it kept her warm during long hours of working in drafty ateliers?

Her gaze in this painting is simultaneously direct and circumspect, which nicely mirrors her unnaturally presented yet magnetic appearance. She’s a woman with something to say, but what?

Did Schokko like or care how she was presented to the world, through other people’s eyes?  Was she a fan of modern art? Was drinking cup after cup of hot chocolate, between poses, the highlight of her day?

What did she look forward to, go home to, do in her spare time? Did she even like the colour red?

*****

A MODERN GUIDE TO DRESSING LIKE SCHOKKO:

There’s more to style than what they tell you about in the pages of Vogue. Inspiration is everywhere. In this case, it shines at us from inside a picture frame. 

What does it say?

Colour is expression. Hats are relentlessly chic. Boldness is armour.

Building an unusual colour palette, deliberate and nuanced, isn’t just for paintings. Continue reading

[Alternative Muses] Writerly Style: Françoise Sagan

Re-posting in honor of the tenth anniversary of her death.

A Small Press Life

“Fashions fade, style is eternal.”-Yves Saint Laurent

Françoise Sagan was the ultimate cool girl writer. If you believe that style should be effortless and detached, then she is your muse. Even today, a wardrobe like hers can take you almost anywhere, and anywhere it can’t you probably don’t want to go.

Sagan The writer looking brilliantly modern. Oh, that skirt! That shirt! That hair!

Her uncomplicated look remains fresh more than five decades later. Who needs nail varnish and lipstick when you can look like this? She is proof that decadent lives do not need visible gilding.

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Shopping for the Bookworm: A Literary Road Trip #3-Poetic Travels, Classic American-Style

In case you are just joining us: A Literary Road Trip #1-A Dream of Travel and A Literary Road Trip #2-The Beat Travels On

POETIC TRAVELS,CLASSIC AMERICAN-STYLE

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery-air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

It’s time to hit the road again. This week, we are traveling with an extra dose of hearty American vigor: mid-century style. Think laid-back glam, poetic, unforced. Casual yet calculated.

Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!

Writing and reading whilst lounging in the front passenger seat is obligatory, and so is saving room for any possible bookish road purchases: 

Roam Far & Roam Free Market Tote Bag by Belles and Ghosts

Roam Far & Roam Free Market Tote Bag by Belles & Ghosts. $35.00+. 

Anne Sexton A Self-Portrait in Letters at Pistil Books

Anne Sexton A Self-Portrait in Letters at Pistil Books. $14.95. 

Continue reading

Off Topic Post: Happy Birthday, Paul Newman!

Happy birthday to my lifelong favourite actor, Paul Newman! He would have been eighty-nine today.

Paul Newman in 1954

Paul Newman in 1954.

“If you’re playing a poker game and you look around the table and can’t tell who the sucker is, it’s you.”-Paul Newman

What is your number one Paul Newman flick?