Handmade Holidays: Etsy Edition
You want to give beautiful, one-of-a-kind handmade gifts. Of course you do. But maybe you’re insanely busy this season, or just not feeling crafty. Etsy to the rescue! I’ll be posting some more handmade ideas soon, but today I’m introducing you to some of my favorite Etsy shops. It’s an odd little mix, and you won’t find something for everyone here. But you might find something perfect for someone—maybe even yourself.
Eleneetha Aromatics is my preferred purveyor of handmade soap, and possibly my favorite shop on Etsy. I love Anastasia’s scents because they are deep, earthy—sometimes even a little dirty—and thoroughly grownup. I generally have at least one bar of her Old Whore soap on hand. I like to let it cure on my bedside table before I use it. My bedroom smells like a seraglio—or, I guess, what I imagine a seraglio might smell like. But that’s what Anastasia’s scents are like: They inspire. Just read a few of her product descriptions and you’ll see what I mean.
Hand-carved rubber stamps are my new little obsession. I like making them myself, but I also like to see what other folks are up to. Tyr at This Is Just to Say has a wonderfully eclectic mix of imagery, and the quality of her work is excellent. I’ve purchased the moon set which is—obviously—fantastic. I also bought Huginn and Muninn, which is mounted on a piece of tree branch and really satisfying to use. It is, alas, a little late to be ordering Christmas presents from Sweden, but Tyr also does kickass custom stamps—portraits, pet portraits, Lego guy of your choice—that you can purchase now, give as a gift, and let the recipient send Tyr the details—kind of like a gift certificate. (I checked with Tyr, and this is totally cool with her.)
Swoon Fibers offers the kind of luxury that’s hard to buy for oneself—even for me, and I’m pretty good at buying luxuries for myself—so it’s an ideal place to choose a gift for the yarn-crafter on your list. This is the only place I’ve ever seen mink yarn. I bought a few skeins to make a scarf and it’s delicious. (Like I said, buying luxuries for myself is one of my special talents.) The baby camel is also divine, and the skein of yak-bamboo I have in my stash is one of the softest, springiest yarns I’ve ever handled. And if you’re thinking “Minks! Baby camels! Jessica, how could you?” I can assure you that these supersoft fibers are brushed from living animals—just like collecting angora. UPDATE: Mink and camel yarns are 10% off until December 25!
A couple of years ago, I went looking for moonstones, and I found Puffluna. I’ve probably made more purchases from Julie than I have from any other seller on Etsy. I just love her mix of vintage findings and semi-precious stones. Her pieces are charming—even a little whimsical—without being fussy or too-cute. I would link to my favorite necklace currently at Puffluna, but I think I might just buy it for myself...
MORE HANDMADE HOLIDAYS!
The Fox Face ring is part of the Spirit Animals collection from Species by the Thousands. (It looks like this ring is no longer available, but this design house is still most definitely worth checking out.) Mine is bronze, and when I pair it with butter LONDON’s Wallis, I feel like a barbarian queen.
An Amusing Situation of which I Was Reminded by a Recent Facebook Exchange
Last summer, my sister came home from the mall with a bunch of clearance items. She was feeling a little dubious about some of her purchases, one of which was an embellished T-shirt with some insets made from really crappy nylon lace and floral appliqués that looked like they had been cut from thrift-store sheets. It was just a hideous mishmash of bad or, at best, poorly executed ideas. As my sister held this garment up for my opinion, I pretended to consider it seriously for a several moments and then I said, “You know what would make this totally work?”
My sister gave me a penetrating look and said, “If I cut up the hem to make fringe?” Which was totally what I was going to say, so I cracked up and she gave me the finger.
Fashion Review: Empire Line Tunic from Boden
Her usual look—low-slung jeans and clever T-shirts—wasn’t working anymore. It wasn’t just that her midsection was expanding at an astonishing rate, obliterating her waist. It was also that, approaching forty, she was occasionally seared by the white-hot suspicion that she was no longer dressing her age. She imagined a future of kaftans. She considered vests, and she shuddered. Then she saw the Empire Line Tunic, and she thought, “Maybe”.
When her Boden order arrived in the mail, she rushed upstairs to her room before she opened it. The fabric felt like cool water as she tried on the tunic, and she was pleased to see that it draped nicely without being heavy. The empire bodice was generously cut —it accommodated breasts that had nursed a child—while the skirted graced her curves without being clingy.
She felt good about the way she looked, for the first time in awhile.
I Give Up
I’ve been thinking a lot about Eileen Fisher lately. Not the woman, but her clothes. The ads are so seductive: Lovely women, not grotesquely young, dressed in steel-grey linen sheaths and mushroom-hued merino cowlnecks, striking relaxed poses against a serenely blank backdrop. The clothes aren’t exactly timeless, but they’re not overtly trendy either. Eileen Fisher ads present a world in which it is possible to be comfortably elegant and unobtrusively fashionable, a world in which body-image issues might be resolved with high-quality fabric and artful draping.
This world is, of course, a fantasy world. While it’s true that Eileen Fisher’s models look more “natural” than most, they don’t look like any of the women I’ve ever seen actually wearing Eileen Fisher. A friend of mine characterizes the Eileen Fisher look, as worn by real women, as “potato sack.” Another friend suggests that Eileen Fisher is “for when you’ve given up.”
And that leads us to the question that I find myself asking, ultimately, as if I gaze long enough at an Eileen Fisher ad: Am I ready to give up? And, if I am, what exactly would I be giving up?
I’m about to turn 40. I am occasionally startled by crows’ feet, and I just discovered that my chin—never strong—is getting a bit wobbly and indistinct. I lost a lot of weight when I breastfed my daughter, thereby ushering in a sort of mid-life hotness heyday, but I have, all of the sudden, recovered all those lost pounds and then some, and they seem to be relocating primarily around my middle. None of my clothes fit right. I am not feeling terribly attractive these days.
One course of action would, of course, be a rigorous fitness and diet regimen. My other choice, as I see it, is tunics and sweatercoats—which is to say, Eileen Fisher.
The latter option has a lot of appeal—and not just because I’m lazy and enjoy refined carbohydrates, although both those things are true. I look at those simple, flowing, body-obscuring clothes and I think, Yes, I am ready to give up.
This does not mean that I am ready to let myself go. What it means, instead, is that I am ready to deal with the body that I have, rather than hate my body because it’s not the one I want.
I know, I know. This is Female Empowerment 101, right? I’m a graduate of a women’s college. I’ve read The Beauty Myth. I’ve seen Killing Us Softly. I’m a not just a feminist, but also a feminist critic—which is to say that I get occasionally paid to write about how our culture makes women crazy. I say all the things I’m supposed to say to my daughter to help her grow up strong and confident and at home in her body. But, still, in my head—and, really, somewhere much deeper and harder to get at—I harbor this idea of myself—my true self—as thin and gorgeous. And tall! That’s how absurd this vision is. Every spring, I believe that this goddess is going to materialize in time for swimsuit season. The fall fashions worn by the ideal me change over time, but there is one constant: The ideal me can wear knits fearlessly, with never a care about bulges.
But here’s the thing: I have never been thin. Not ever. I was a chunky baby and a chubby toddler. I had, in childhood, period bursts of lankiness, when my legs outpaced the rest of me, but I never stretched out to thin. Since junior high, I have vacillated between curvy and Rubenesque. So, what I imagine to be my true self has never been. That’s awful, by which I do not mean that it’s sad that I’ve never achieved the awesome goal that is being a size 0, but, rather, that I have rejected my actual body in favor of an impossible one.
It occurs to me, as I write this, how spiritually impoverished I must be if I equate thinness and a flawless face with my best possible self. There are other fancies that I entertain, unrealities that get in the way of forward momentum and emotional growth, but the idea that I will never achieve my full potential—never be happy, never be satisfied, never be authentically myself—until I am someone I have never been and will never be is the killer.
I may start working out. I may amend my diet. I may or may not start wearing tunics. But, as I approach 40—a dubious milestone, and one that’s not altogether easy to embrace—I find that I am most definitely ready to give up. Ready to give up a bullshit version of myself and be who I am.
I enjoy fashion. I have a lot of respect for Miuccia Prada. I find it exceedingly tiresome when people object to, say, color field painting because their kid could do that. Nevertheless: If you’re thinking of spending $1400 on a Miu Miu burlap sack, I’ll sell you one for half the price, and I’ll even give you the jasmine rice that came in it.
Kiki Smith T from The Gap
So, I was flipping through a recent issue of the New Yorker when I saw very fetching Stephanie Seymour wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a stag’s head. This caught my attention because it made me think of the sculpture Seymour’s husband, Peter Brant, commissioned from Maurizio Cattelan, in which a wax replica of the supermodel’s naked torso rises—gracefully arched like the neck of a trophy buck—from a wooden plaque hung from the wall. I saw that the T-shirt was designed by Jeff Koons for a series of artists’ Ts celebrating The Whitney Biennial—that show everybody loves to hate and hates to love!—and sold by The Gap. I decided that I wanted it. Koons used to drive me crazy—much like the Biennial—but, after Puppy, I decided to just give in. It’s true that John Currin seems to be edging Koons out of his place in my heart, but, still, I liked the T-shirt.
A quick trip to gap.com revealed that the Koons shirt was sold out, but, by the time I had gone online, I had already kind of decided that I might like the Kiki Smith shirt better. I dig Smith. In her ad, she models her own work, and she really looks like the kind of old lady I’d like to grow into—kind of witchy, possibly crazy, and pretty hot. So, I bought her shirt instead. I got it in M and L, and I still can’t figure out which one I’m going to keep and which one is going on eBay, because this one appears to be sold out now, too. My size dilemma aside, this is an awesome acquisition.
Having a baby upended me, existentially. I understood that having a child would change my life. I think I even understood that it would change my life in ways that I could not fully anticipate. What I didn’t expect was that becoming a mother would make me feel instantly old—actually, I kind of expected the opposite. I thought having a little kid around would be rejuvenating. Instead, it’s left me feeling pretty ragged, body and soul.
Part of it is just being exhausted all the time. In the early days, there was the prodigious lack of sleep, and now there’s the constant work of chasing after a toddler. The various physical changes wrought by pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding have left me a bit haggard, too. I am not, frankly, feeling especially hot these days. But the really difficult transition has been adjusting to my new place in the universe—a universe which is, itself, very different now that it has Frances in it. In the circle of life, motherhood is one step closer to crone than my previous position, and it’s kind of freaking me out.
Having a baby has also ruined my knees, and trying to address that physiological issue without exacerbating my mental, emotional, and spiritual wobbliness was something of a challenge.
In the past, I tended to choose shoes that were basically unobtrusive. I was dedicated to rubber flip-flops long before they were ubiquitous (I only became aware that there might be something kind of white-trash about wearing 99-cent sandals while not walking to or fro a dorm shower circa 1995, when my friend Sarah said, “One of the things I like about you is that you think flip-flops are shoes.” Time and the vagaries of fashion have, of course, vindicated me). I wear Vans slip-ons until my big toe pokes a hole in the canvas, at which point I replace them. I’ve had the same pair of Doc Marten T-straps for, like, a decade. I tend to choose shoes that ask little of the wearer, but that offer little in the way of technologically-advanced support. While I was carrying a giant fetus in my belly, such shoes became insufficient, and my need for more space-age shoes did not end when my weighty offspring was lifted from my uterus, as her not inconsiderable—and, I should add, not unadorable—bulk was merely shifted from my insides to a sling wrapped around my middle and, later, to my right hip. (I didn’t truly become aware of just how painful carrying Frances around was until the first time I put her in the jogging stroller. Running—an activity known to be rather hard on the knees—felt delightful relative to babywearing.)
Even though I wasn’t used to wearing towering, punishing heels in my life before motherhood, committing myself to comfort over cuteness was a still difficult philosophical shift. I was, as I say, already feeling old, and making the move to comfortable shoes felt kind of like picking a burial plot or, at the very least, investing in a lot of stretchy pants. It felt like letting myself go.
Then I remembered that it’s not just the aged who buy comfortable shoes. It’s also the hippies—not just the hippies who smell bad and have no fashion sense, but also the overeducated, upper-middleclass hippies with lots of disposable income and an interest in ergonomics. Having spent several years living in Ann Arbor—haven to hippies of both varieties—I knew exactly where to start shopping.
The first shoe to catch my eye was a maryjane by Merrell. It’s sporty without being athletic, the exposed seams and ragged edges make it a little punk, and I really liked the hints of green in the felt interlining and topstitching. These are shoes I might have bought even before I was on a quest for comfort, and I’ve been quite pleased with them.
I wasn’t quite as sure about the Earth shoes. They’re so sleek—especially in the steel grey I liked best—that I couldn’t quite picture how they would look with the T-shirts, cardigans, cords, and calico A-line skirts that comprise my everyday look. I was kind of worried that these shoes would be the first step in the Eileen Fisherization of my wardrobe, and I’m just not ready for earth-tone tunics. I bought the shoes anyway, and I’m glad I did. They’re working out just fine with my existing style—or studied lack of style—and walking in them actually seems to be repairing my knees.
My final purchase—boiled-wool clogs—was both the most crunchy and the most elderly, but I don’t care. I wore these slippers around the house all winter long, and they’re awesome. My feet were warm, my arches were supported, and I barely felt a twinge when I carried Frances up and down the stairs.
I can’t say that comfortable shoes have utterly restored my spiritual and philosophical equilibrium, but I can say that I don’t feel nearly so old when my knees aren’t aching. And the fact that I managed to save my joints without beginning the inexorable slide into fashion senescence has allowed me to hope that maybe the ongoing transition into motherhood and the next stage of my life might be a little less rough than I had feared.
Unretouched: Jezebel on the Airbrushing of Faith Hill
I know that airbrushing happens. Nevertheless, I find it difficult to keep that in mind when I’m standing in the checkout line, staring at the covers of the women’s magazines and thinking, “Isn’t she, like, at least as old as me? Why doesn’t she have any crows’ feet? She doesn’t have back-flab pudging out over the top of her strapless dress, either. And look at those arms! They’re the arms of an undernourished adolescent. Jesus, I am such a fat, fucking hag.” That’s why Jezebel’s analysis of the July cover of Redbook is so awesomely valuable. I realize that this has already been all over the Internets—and even the TV—but I really consider it a public service to make sure every media-consuming woman in America sees it. So, here’s the original post, here’s a helpfully annotated version of the un-retouched photo, and here’s the Today Show segment with the adorably naïve title, “Are Magazine Covers for Real?”
Who Wore It Better: Nip Slip Edition
[PHOTOS VIA EGOTASTIC.]