Tag Archives: family

Beauty in the Movies: Little Women

Next Friday is Christmas Eve, so I’ll be taking a break to eat some Christmas cookies, partake in merriment, and watch the yule log with my lovely family. So, today I ask you to take a trip back to Orchard House with me and spend this week’s Beauty in the Movies with the March family in the 1994 screen adaptation of the classic Louisa May Alcott coming of age novel, Little Women.

Little Women is a story in two parts, the first opens on a cold Christmas Eve in Concord Massachusetts. There are no gifts this year and Mrs. March, “Marmee” (Susan Sarandon), and her four daughters must spend the holiday without the company of their father who is away fighting in the Civil War. The eldest daughter, Meg (Trini Alvarado) is clear-headed, beautiful, modest, and kind. Her younger sister Joe (Winona Ryder) lacks her sister’s propriety, she is a head-strong author, adventurous and unconcerned with society or vanity.  Next is Beth (Claire Danes), who is sweet and generous, she is a talented piano player and often helps her mother with charity work. The youngest of the March girls is Amy (Kirsten Dunst), who is babied by her family and a constant annoyance to her sister Joe. The four girls entertain themselves during the long winter months by staging plays in their attic and writing stories, calling themselves ‘The Pickwick Society’. They soon notice the arrival of their wealthy neighbor’s nephew, Theodore Laurence (Christian Bale), who prefers to be called “Laurie”. Joe and Laurie soon grow close and after some skepticism she convinces her sisters to allow Laurie to join the Pickwick Society, and in effect their family as well.

The second half of the story takes place four years later, Amy is now played by Samantha Mathis and the girls have grown up a great deal. Most of you already know how the story goes, many of you probably know it by heart, but if not, I’ll still leave the second half of the film a mystery for you to watch yourselves—just make sure you’ve got a big box of tissues ready. I will say that as someone who read and loved the book as a child, this adaptation is done with a care and a thoughtfulness which is rarely seen in Hollywood. The movie feels like the book, the costumes, the coziness, the love of the March family and the pain of their losses are all wonderfully captured in this film.

There is so much to say about Little Women that it’s hard to choose what to write. It is a classic novel that continues to be popular and widely loved by many. To me, the most interesting aspect of the book was the way it resonated with its audience (myself included). I had a friend in 5th grade who carried around her copy wherever she went. It was always tucked in with her other school books, just in case she needed it. Though simple in many ways, Little Women strikes a chord in each of us, especially young girls. It is truly amazing that Louisa May Alcott captured something about the spirit of young women and the dynamic between sisters that continues to be relatable today.

The March family is genuinely good, but not so much that they seem one-dimensional or sappy. They do good deeds, refuse to buy silk made with slave labor, and help out the terribly poor Hummel family, going so far as to give them their own Christmas breakfast. Marmee is also quite the feminist, and raises her daughters with that same ideology. She shuns corsets and sends Joe to try her had as a writer in New York, telling her “you have so many extraordinary gifts; how can you expect to lead an ordinary life?”. She encourages her daughters to make something of themselves rather than raising them to marry well.

When I was researching this post I found some information about Little Women I had never heard before. Apparently Louisa May Alcott was approached by one of her father’s friends, Thomas Niles,  who was a publisher. Niles thought there was a ripe market for a novel about young women, and he wanted her to write it. Alcott was resistant but finally accepted, yet in her diary she claimed “I don’t enjoy this sort of thing”. She completed the first part of the book, but both she and Niles agreed it was dull, however Niles gave the book to his niece, she took to it immediately calling it “splendid”. They published the first half of the story to instant success and acclaim, it seemed that Alcott had unknowingly delivered exactly what Niles was hoping for.

Though over a hundred years have passed, Little Women continues to inspire re-tellings, there have been stage plays, anime adaptations, and this version is only one of several films made. What makes this story so remarkable is the realism with which it is told. It isn’t so pinned up and proper that it appears stuffy, but it isn’t unbelievably romantic either. The story is simply about women living their lives, taking care of each other and figuring out who they want to be—what is sad is that this still remains a little-seen genre today. I don’t think girls continue to read Little Women because of the romance (although we all love Laurie), I think they continue to read it because of its spirit. They read it because these characters want more than just to fall in love or be rescued by a prince, they want to do something meaningful, they want to be a part of this world in a real way. All we can hope is that this novel remains a classic and continues to inspire all the little women out there for many generations to come.

Happy Holidays everyone!!

Raw Edge Collar Blouse
38 GBP – topshop.com
3 4 sleeve blouses »

J.Crew Cable-knit cardigan
$170 – net-a-porter.com
Cable knit cardigans »

Victorian Blouse by Manoush
137 GBP – my-wardrobe.com
Puff sleeve blouse »

Crinkle velvet jacket Black
109 GBP – houseoffraser.co.uk
Black jackets »

LINEN WOOL LONG SKIRT
125 GBP – toast.co.uk
Linen skirts »

Stir and Blend Shawl
$28 – modcloth.com


Small Fabric Box Bag
30 GBP – topshop.com
TopShop handbags »

Solid Knit Wool Shawl
$135 – forzieri.com
Knitted shawls »

Hot Fudge Ripple Scarf
$25 – modcloth.com
Knitted shawls »

Wilmot Hooded Scarf
$70 – allsaints.com
Hooded scarves »

Vintage Black Top Hat
250 GBP – mysugarland.co.uk
Top hats »

Urban Outfitters – Locket Velvet Choker
16 GBP – urbanoutfitters.co.uk


+++ Innocent World +++
innocent-w.jp


Parchment Style Writing Paper
distinctlybritish.com


pantaloons
cowboyoutfitters.com


Straw Old Fashioned Bonnet
riverjunction.com


Settler Bonnet
riverjunction.com


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Filed under Beauty in the movies

Ghosts of Grandfathers Past

I know this blog is usually about beauty, cosmetics, acceptance and all that, but today that stuff is the farthest thing from my mind. I spent the past two days with ghosts, my grandfathers ghosts to be specific, so I’m putting a hold on the makeup and the fun stuff for a moment to talk about loss.

On Sunday morning I stood there at the Free Hebrew Cemetery in Staten Island for indigent Jews (one of the most depressing places in the world) as we buried a grandfather who didn’t want to know me. He was an abusive and complicated man, and I met him no more than three times in my life. I’m not sure he even knew my name, but my sister and I stood there with my mother and the nine other attendees, and watched as the dirt was thrown on his grave as we mourned the loss of a grandfather that could have been.

The next morning I woke up and headed over to my Grandma’s house, the house where I’ve spent every Christmas as long as I remember, a house full of warmth and joy where my father and his four siblings spent their entire young lives, where my grandmother has lived now for nearly 60 years, and I helped her pack up the place until there was nothing left but the memories in the walls and a resounding echo of a family all grown. Amid the boxes and the clutter was the ghost of my other grandfather—the one who mattered, the one who not only knew my name (even if he mixed me up with his 6 other granddaughters sometimes), but also what my favorite stories were, and how much I liked to draw, and sing, and dye my hair crazy colors. He was a grandfather who died years ago, much too soon, but he loved, and was loved, so deeply his spirit has never left the hearts of all those who knew him, and it never will.

As I was packing up my Grammy’s house, stumbling on old notes my Grandpa had written, thinking of the man he was, it struck me how lucky I was to have known him at all, and how the rejection of my other grandfather only emphasized that good fortune. Like so many things in life, the death of an estranged family member brings a mess of complicated emotions to the surface—at least when my father’s father died (my real Grandpa) I knew how to feel, the loss was deep but I understood it, and so did the world around me. In some ways it’s harder when you barely knew a person who should have mattered to you, but in my own way I did know him, even if he didn’t know me. I knew the pain he caused my mother, my aunt, and my uncle all their lives, I knew the handsome man he was in pictures when he was young, and the detached, strange, person I met years later who was my grandfather only in name.

So today, I’m not really sure what I feel, but I do know how grateful I am for the family I have, and have had, and for the loving grandfather we lost too soon. We can dwell in the sorrow of lives lost, missed opportunities, and the death of hope, but it’s better to remember the love we have, even from those who are gone. That love leaves an indelible mark, a trace of knowledge that you hold with you forever without question, it comforts and it protects, and if you’re blessed enough to have it, you should appreciate it. Better not to brood over the people who haven’t been there, whether they be friends who’ve faded, or relatives we barely knew, it’s so much better to focus on the people we do have, the ones who make us laugh for hours and who hug us when we cry, they’re each a blessing. If I learned anything from staring at that lonely grave on Sunday morning it’s never to take those people and that love for granted, because someone may be your grandparent, or your mother, or your friend, but it doesn’t mean they have to be there for you—but the fact that they are there, in spite of everything, well that’s truly remarkable.

I promise to post on something more fun soon, and to all of you who’ve lost a grandparent, or parent, or friend, or anyone—my heart goes out to you today.

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Post Bridal Shower Daze

My living room looks like a warehouse, there are empty boxes, ribbons and tissue paper which my cats have been enjoying as they rip it to shreds. There are Hawaiian leis and dozens of rolls of toilet paper (from our toilet paper wedding dress competition), there is left over carrot cake and huli huli chicken and I am sitting here in a complete daze. I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have received so many beautiful things, and I have no idea where to put any of them—we have to buy more shelves.

While Chelsea Clinton was getting married upstate in Rhinebeck this weekend, down here in the southernmost part of New York, I was thrown an amazing surprise island-themed bridal shower. Though I’m sure Chelsea’s wedding was incredibly elegant and beautiful, I’m willing to bet we were having more fun down here. I was surrounded by generations of women (and a few men) who are all unbelievably kind, generous, and supportive, some of which have known me since long before I was a twinkle in my mother’s eye.

(my mom pulled the whole thing off, it was a perfect day!)

I sat there with my future husband on Sunday night, looking at the epic pile of amazing gifts we had been given and I just couldn’t understand what we had done to deserve them all. We made a big decision, we decided to choose each other as partners, and obviously that’s important, but so are dozens of other things. Starting a business, graduating from law school, moving to a strange country, these are all major life changes and accomplishments, and we should really be celebrating all of them. Deciding to marry my fiancé seemed so easy, I  can’t believe people do such wonderful things for you just because you’re happy. Looking around my shower it was easy to realize that weddings aren’t just about the bride and groom, they’re about all the people who love them. Weddings are way bigger than just you, and not because they’re expensive or over the top, but because it’s a happy occasion, and unfortunately, sometimes the joyful times in life are far outnumbered by the painful, and that’s why the good stuff is always a big deal.

(My friend, and bridesmaid, Jessica made me this gorgeous sign)

When we went around looking for wedding venues, the place we finally chose isn’t the hippest, it’s not slick, or cool, or modern, but it is welcoming, warm, beautiful, and has amenities like huge amounts of parking, and lovely clean bathrooms. Those might seem like little things, but while a wedding is a big party for you and your future spouse, it’s also really for your guests, and all the people who love you and come to celebrate with you. That’s not to say that if you want a small wedding at city hall you should go all out just because your family wants you to, but it does mean that you should consider all those people who are coming from all over the world, taking off time from work, dressing in fancy clothes, and giving you not just their time and love, but generous gifts too. My goal for my wedding is fun, my fiancé and I want to have a big party to give back to all the people who have supported us and cared for us throughout our lives, and I want them all to be happy and comfortable. When they look back twenty years from now, I don’t think people are going to remember if our chair covers were tacky, but they will remember if they had an awesome time, felt welcomed, and maybe danced their butts off too.

Weddings bring people together, they have for thousands of years. We need joy in our lives, with all the suffering and sorrow, it makes sense that when there is occasion to celebrate we tend to go a little overboard. Everyone has different opinions about what a wedding should be, to some it could be a simple dinner with friends, and for others it’s an event worthy of a lifetime of savings, either way you’re surrounded by your favorite people and the only goal is to witness your happiness and then celebrate it with you. When I think about the ban on gay marriage, or even marriages where families disapprove for any reason, I find it hard to understand how anyone’s joy can be seen as less worthy, how a celebration of happiness can ever be a bad thing, and how love can be contingent on who a person chooses to be with. If you love someone, a child, a friend, a sibling, how could you ever deny them the joy of celebration, and how could you not want to rejoice right along with them? I can’t think of anything more important.

(toilet paper wedding dresses; Tim Gunn would have been super impressed!)

(it’s called teamwork people!)

Before I got engaged I never fully understood why people got so misty over weddings, but now I know I’ll probably cry at every single one I attend. It’s not just two people getting up in front of everyone they care about and professing their love and commitment, it’s not that simple. A wedding (and all the excitement that surrounds it) is a true celebration of life, it’s the beginning of a journey, it’s a demonstration of love not only between the couple, but between family and friends. Watching all these women I know from so many different places come together to have silly bridal shower fun, I was surprised how deeply I was touched by it. So many of the wedding shows that are on today, Bridezillas, Say Yes to the Dress, Rich Bride Poor Bride, they all focus on the drama, and yes there is a lot of stress and drama that goes into getting married, but there is also a whole heck of a lot of joy and excitement, and I think we sometimes lose sight of that.

(yes I was made to wear a silly bow hat, but it’s pretty isn’t it?)

Today I feel exceptionally lucky, and eternally grateful. Even if there are parts of my life that cause me major stress and worry, I have some phenomenal people in my life, not only my fiancé, but so many more. I can’t wait to celebrate all the happiness in their lives, I’m prepared to go all out, just like they did for me, because simply being together is reason enough to celebrate!

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Filed under acceptance

Beauty in the Movies: Mermaids

Looking back at images of beauty that have made a great impression on me throughout my life, I’ve noticed that there are films which have left a permanent mark on what appeared as beautiful to me, both in ways that I could relate to, and also in admiration of the beauty of others. As Netflix likes to tell me, many of my favorite films feature “strong female leads”, which is true. Unfortunately, they make very few movies that fall in to that realm. In fact there is this thing called the-Bechdel-test which is a way of gauging the prevalence of female representation in movies. It was created by a very smart woman named Allison Bechdel. You can read all about it here, but the basis of the test involves asking these three questions about any movie:

1. Are there two or more women in it who have names?

2. Do the two women ever talk to each other?

3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?

When you first read these questions you think, “God that’s silly, of course tons of movies must answer all three of those questions positively” and then you stop and think for a minute and go “wait, oh my god, that sucks, why are there no movies for women that don’t revolve around men or shopping? AHHH” and then you get really upset until you go watch Mermaids and Cher sings and cheers you up, and you remember that there are some good movies for us females.

We should promote and encourage more films that explore all aspects of female existence to be made. Because really, as much as relationships are a part of life, there are so many more topics to cover, and women really seem to just get pigeonholed into these love-sick shopaholics, and we are all so much more than that aren’t we?

So anyway, my point is, every week (on Friday because it’s movie night, duh!) I am going to post about one of these great movies that actually show the diversity of women, and also gives us inspiring images of beauty both in and out. So send me your suggestions too! I’ll make fun collages, it will be great!


Now let me get to Mermaids, this movie had a profound effect on my life when I was 7, I wanted to be Cher, Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci all at once. I loved this movie so much, and still do, that I’d like to share a little anecdote.

Here is a picture of my sister and I in matching outfits (my mother claims this only happened a few times, but I think it happened more) you can see by my sister’s dress that the skirt is supposed to be loose and A-line. Well, I wanted to be just like Cher, so in this big family photo, I decided to knot my skirt in the back so it would be tight like Cher’s right before my dad snapped the photo. I was a pretty bad ass kid. Nobody even noticed, but I was happy, and I still get a kick out of looking at it.

Mermaids centers around the story of Rachel Flax, a single mom who moves to a small Massachusetts town with her two daughters (Ryder and Ricci) in 1963. She cuts sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters, wears fabulous outfits, and actually has a realistic relationship with her kids. Winona Ryder’s character, Charlotte, falls for the hunky groundskeeper (Jake from Sixteen Candles) at the nearby convent, and struggles with questions of religion, sex, and abandonment by her father. The movie also covers Kennedy’s assassination, an adorable Christina Ricci as a swimming champion, Bob Hoskins making an amazing night-light, and so much more.  There is a great soundtrack too, my favorite camp counselor used to have us sing The Shoop Shoop Song (Does he love Me?) on the bus, it was the best summer.

So if you’ve never seen Mermaids (or even if you have) I highly recommend checking it out, and if you find yourself as inspired by Cher’s sexy, fun, 60’s looks in the film as I was, here is a little shopping guide to help you get the look:

Puckered Sleeve Dot Cardigan
$24 – canada.forever21.com
More cardigans »

Cornelli Cardi
30 GBP – missselfridge.com
More Miss Selfridge cardigans »

Top
$650 – marni.com
More Marni tops »

 

darla bracelet
25 GBP – coast-stores.com
More bracelets »

Black False Lashes
$6 – mydivascloset.com


Have a great weekend everyone!

11 Comments

Filed under Beauty in the movies