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“From the moment I was six I felt sexy. And let me tell you it was hell, sheer hell, waiting to do something about it.” - Bette Davis (Sidenote: Slow your roll, Bette Davis)
So. I have spent most of my year studying Old Hollywood and its wanton starlets (PS—what a great word in that it hints of both lasciviousness and greasy takeout), and I’ve also spent that same time doing it alone, in various offices (home with its toppling book piles and easy access to frozen Thin Mints, coffee shops with their mustachioed screenwriters and earthy baristas who use the phase, “sure thing, chicken”, the Allen Room at the NYPL with its oak paneling and old men who belch and we aren’t supposed to say anything about it because it is always silent study hour Coney Island of the mind in there, and various archives, where the male employees still wear tweed and can only be described as persnickety). When you work by yourself, you are (the luckiest girl alive but) also your only coworker, and you are in danger of resenting the person sharing your meta-cubicle. One too many days of showing up to work with bedhead and lycra pants and you find yourself gossiping about yourself, to yourself, very loudly. “Can’t she pull it together? This is a lovely profession, and she’s living like we are the worst-performing salesperson at LuluLemon.” And then you remember it: GLAMOUR. You study it everyday, Rachel. Bette Davis apparently felt sexy and glamorous as a first grader. You can do better. Remember who you are.
I have always had a weakness for the little trinkets of femininity — perfumes, powders, pointelle socks, lavender sachets. And as I have been confronted with myself so much more often this year than most, I really found it an essential thing to tighten up my elegance game and prove capable of smarting myself up in the face of the ability to wear pajamas to conference calls. I figured, how are you supposed to write about Old Hollywood if you can’t channel it, at least in some small and elemental ways, every day? So I have gathered around myself an arsenal of things that snap me back to life, as flimsy as they are, things that make me feel swaddled in a bit of the glittery patina of a different life, one that I have to disappear to in my mind so often. These things are super silly, and mostly unnecessary. Exercises in frivolous consumption. But BUT! I do think that they do something, and might have magical powers. We live in a scary and confusing and insane world. Sometimes you have to bolster yourself up against it with something shiny. I think there really is something to this. Still trying to sort it all out.
In the meantime I am sharing my arsenal! Consider this my Best of 2012 list. My R’s favorite things. These are the ridiculous indulgences that I find one most needs to feel that daily injection of allure, even if your goal is just to bewitch yourself while dancing to Nancy Sinatra records at 3am. Not that I do or have ever done that.
Also — these are all affordable/accessible! I may love Mae West’s quote about how “the only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond,” but who can afford that? And also, I love baby carrots. Those are fine. You can get me those. Here’s to a more glamorous (and also, better in every way) 2013.
(PS—This began as an email and grew into this monster that I wanted to share. Sorry it is such a behemoth.)
1) Hair Powder
Hair powder is one of those cyclical beauty products that is all the rage for a few decades, then goes back underground, then arises like a phoenix made of miracles and talc to alleviate our shampooing needs. The current version that is en vogue are organic powders in tiny, beautiful salt shaker boxes (as opposed to the garish 70s version called Psssst!), and I am in love with them. That sounds like overstating it, but no. I am in a lasting and deep relationship with mine (currently: Lulu’s). Here are the things hair powder does: Makes unwashed hair look clean and fresh, adds Texas-style volume at the roots, makes blowouts last forever, makes your scalp smell like a dream, negates the walk of shame. If you never have to walk in shame again, then that, in itself, is a glamorous development.
2) A Vintage Nightgown
I had a chronic aversion to nightgowns, forever. I was always one of those
girlswomen (I’m a woman now?) who was content to do the ratty old bleach-stain T-shirt and $8 sale Xhilaration pants printed with monkeys thing, or you know, the lingerie or bare thing, given the circumstance. Nightgowns were the stuff of my Polish landlady, who knows her way around a mumu like she is a spokesperson. But in a moment of improvisation at a New Mexico vintage store last winter, I picked up a 1960s gown in the peignoir style, with a matching chiffon houserobe (or as my friend calls them “whore-capes”), and let me tell you, it changed my bedtime game completely. I now have an Ebay wish list of these things that is embarrassing in its clear time investment, but it’s part of my life now. Have you ever gotten dressed up to go to bed? That sounds like a nightmare to you? THINK AGAIN. Suddenly your nighttime routine becomes this reenactment of that Being a Girl song from Flower Drum Song and you sort of float through your apartment and almost hope that some delivery man comes at 6am because answering the door in a Rosemary’s Baby outfit is one of the more exciting things you can do when you work from home (or really, anytime). Trust me on this. But be warned: It inspires you to improve everything surrounding the wearing of it. Your night creams must be creamier, and I actually bought a breakfast tray so I could eat buttered toast in bed in one of these, just because that’s what you do in it. And should you decide to do an adorable chore (like say, dusting) while wearing it, well, you just might reach nirvana.
Rachel knows what is UP.