sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

May 23, 2013

Style and Fashion: Just Add A String of Pearls

Filed under: fashion, politics — Tags: — edge of the sandbox @ 12:39 pm

What scandals?  We went to a bni mitzvah last weekend.  Turns out, “Tonight Is Gonna Be A Good Night” is big on bni mizvah circuit, which is why when we walked into the ballroom, my 6-year-old said: “Where is the pretty music?”  Smart girl.  I shouldn’t pass judgment on the music selection because a) the party was fabulous, just like my extended family, and b) what *do* you play for the 13-year-old kids?

I’ve been meaning to write a Maggie Thatcher pick-me-up fashion post.  Although I said in the past that the late prime minister will be dismembered first and foremost as a champion of freedom, being a fashionista myself, I figured I could do a style tribute.

unsurprisingly uninspired mainstream commentators do the Thatcher style wrong.  When they try to channel the Iron Lady, they usually come up with something drab.

Like this

Or that

In reality, Thatcher knew that blue is not the only color.  In general the 80’s hues were beyond vibrant, which many commentators see as an expression of optimism inherent in the era ushered by Margaret Thatcher.

These 7 outfits, worn by the baroness at defining moments of her tenure, were auctioned off at Christie’s last year

Another problem with suggested Thatcher-inspired styles is that they are too literal; their appeal to women in the age of business casuals is highly limited. (I’m actually not a fan of business casuals, but, hey, take it up with Steve Jobs!)  There is no way a woman under 50 can wear something like that unironically, and the Iron Lady’s role in history is not too terribly ironic.

It might just be that young women are ripe for picking.  A May 18-20 Fox News poll shows younger voters are more skeptical about the Obama administration.  Only 17% of those in the under 35 category believe that the White House has nothing to do with the IRS targeting of the Tea Party groups.   The number of true believers increases with age, reaching 29% in the 55+ demo and 28% in the 65+.  Interesting.  Although it remains to be seen if the promise of free contraception outweighs the dangers of the assault on liberty in the eyes of our younger compatriots who may remain fans of O, no matter how Nixonian he appears.

If fashion editors failed to create an appealing Margaret Thatcher style guide, it’s up to little me to make up for that.  What I’m going to do is take the 7 outfits above and an iconic photo for inspiration and head to the Anthro sales racks (I’m sure Mrs. Thatcher would have admire my frugality).

Yep, that’s my inspiration

Anthro is certified cool and ostensibly unironic.  In keeping with my inspiration above, I’m going to find lots of blues, but also yellows and mint greens, feminine yet bold shapes and patterns and perhaps a certain British feel.

Starting with a blazer.  Sure, the blazer is made of soft romantic lace, but, being a navy blazer, and Thatcher didn’t  shy away from texture.  I’m not trying to copy Margaret Thatcher’s style; I’m updating it.

Actually, the whole outfit will work with strong horizontal stripes on the dress and a prominent necklace

Also soft and feminine, but very workplace appropriate:

Again, the whole outfit can work for my purposes

For a casual day, I’m going to chose a sweater with an print evocative of the British Isles:

Horse races, they say, are the sport of kings

An elegant navy dress with contemporary detail:

When it fits to a tee, this dress can be a staple of anyone’s wardrobe

A brocade pencil skirt in brilliant mint green:

Bold and feminine at once

Peplum top in bold pattern brings a current feel:

Probably not the yellow jeans — it’s too Mooochelle, and, lets face it, rather ugly

Margaret Thatcher wore scarfs, and scarf prints are in.

But for God’s sake, wear a tee-shirt under it!

The pearl color and pocket trim on this cardi make for a nice homage:

classy, and with a twist

For a final splash of color I’m going to add a bright yellow blouse with ruffle:

Notice that all the blouses are either bursting with color or patterned — or both

What you notice I don’t have is a pleated skirt, like the one the newly elected prime minister wore in that famous picture.  I’d like to be very literal about that particular detail, but unfortunately Anthro doesn’t carry any at the moment — and I don’t know who does.  I personally happened to have one, but if my readers need one they will probably have to hit the vintage boutiques.

On to the accessories:

A dash of bright blue for the earrings

And a pair of classy pumps

Classy shimmer

What so you think?


May 8, 2013

American Zoo

Filed under: education, politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:02 am

Once upon a time in Boston a colony of Russian-speaking Muslims assimilated a Colombian student.  Some of the young men planned to bomb a 4th of July event, but built their bomb quicker than expected.  You know the rest.

And why would that Colombian fellow choose to be an American anyway?  Well, yes, technically, he, like the younger Tsarnaev brother, had American citizenship, but quite obviously his heart was elsewhere.

The other day Drudge had a headline about “Redneck Day” in some educational establishment in Arizona:

When members of the student council at an Arizona high school organized a schoolwide “Redneck Day” and encouraged classmates to dress — and spoof — accordingly, they hoped to build school spirit leading up to prom week.

Instead, “Redneck Day” at Queen Creek High School has angered African-Americans and civil-rights leaders and touched off a debate about free speech, social stereotypes and good taste.

Drudge’s headline was about somebody being angry, and, I assumed it was the people who object to terms “redneck” and “white trash”.  The reason public schools no longer celebrate any meaningful holidays is because they bound to make somebody offended — or at least “not included”.  My daughter’s elementary school, for instance, doesn’t celebrate Christmas or Halloween.  Those are called — I kid you not — “winter festival” and “fall festival”, and the later has a whiff of Day of The Dead for a good measure.

Oddly enough, the school finds it possible to celebrate Chinese New Year.  At the party one of the teachers felt obliged to read a segment that sounded suspiciously like a Wikipedia entry.  She informed us that other countries have holidays at around that time too, like the Vietnamese Tet.  (She didn’t mention Purim which we celebrated the following day — tisk-tisk-tisk.)  Why should Chinese New Year get special treatment, I don’t know.  There is a very large Asian community in our town, but doubt a single town resident of Asian extraction lobbied the school district to celebrate Chinese New Year.  Plurality of Asian Americans are Christian, and there is no lack of churches around here that advertise services in Chinese or Korean.  And in any event, I noticed that Buddhists find it very easy to have Christmas trees in their houses.

Kindergarten students get exposed to several other holidays.  Since Fourth of July festivities take in summer, the school district is not obligated to deal with that.  Presidents’ Day hardly gets a mention.  Thanksgiving is the occasion to chastise the Pilgrims.  Martin Luther King looms large. Per their recollection, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s on-again, off-again mosque once praised the civil rights leader.  But MLK was not interesting enough to this hothead, and who can blame him?  While the preacher was an important historical figure, he’s hardly a foundational leader.  Plus, his non-violence (and there is place non-violence in this world) has limited appeal to boys.

Once all references to Christianity and patriotism are removed, the school builds “school spirit” with an array of inconsequential elective carnivals.  Children are encouraged to wear pink and red on Valentine’s day.  Then there was the dreaded pajamas day and a multicultural picnic, for which we, the foreign born moms, are expected to bring exotic dishes.  The only festivity we could get behind was the Read Across America Day that falls on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday.  We love Seuss, and reading is a worthy cause.  Apparently, the kindergarteners spontaneously engaged in some sort of Cat in A Hat game — how cool is that?  And how lucky was Dr. Seuss to be a liberal.  Had a conservative wrote the same poems (and a conservative could easily write most of them) he’d never get this kind of appreciation.

Our school is hardly most ridiculous.  A friend’s daughter is attending a public elementary school in Orange County.  There, the school district holds regular anti-drug theme days.  Children are encouraged to dress up in costumes and teachers lead discussions about why drugs are bad.  One of such theme was the 60’s.  No, really.

One of my pet peeves is absence of school uniforms.  In another recent news, Jared Marcum, a high school student in West Virginia was arrested and suspended for wearing an NRA t-shirt.  I sympathize with Jared’s cause, and an NRA t-shirt is far more innocent than, say, a band t-shirt because all band t-shirts refer to controlled substances and promiscuity inherent in rock-n-roll.  (Yes, my children will be allowed to wear band t-shirts).  Some schools, particularly the ones with gang problems, prohibit all writing on articles of clothes.  That’s a good start.  Day-to-day experience of grade schools students should be less about self-expression and current happenings and more about academic excellence.

In American public schools juvenile self-absorption and ironic pop culture references loom large and cliques rule.  It’s a hard landscape for a foreigner to navigate, even if he wants to assimilate and is eager to learn English.  Many on the left ditch any discussion of assimilation; they take it as a given that American mass culture is omnipresent and will absorb everyone.  While there obviously exists a global market for blue jeans and increasingly moronic Hollywood cinema, the culture of this country can not be reduced to these.  And contemporary public school culture promotes cliquishness, including ethnic cliquishness.

Russian speakers like to describe American public schools as “zoos”, and we don’t have private schools in high regard either.  There is little wonder that Tamerlan Tsarnaev bragged about not having American friends (even if he had no problems making a white American woman his first bride).  Instead of figuring out how to bring more people into the country or how to pass naturalization certificates to those who came here illegally, we should figure out how to assimilate the new-comers already on track to citizenship.

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