Monday, August 24, 2020

Pleats: How the book The Help and Vintage Dresses Coincide Perfectly

In my last post, I discussed the interesting overlap of two novels in my reading world. I went over a few of the similarities of two very different books, with very different genres and subject matter, but also pointed out that the tone and type were the same.

This happened to me ... again. How apropos. Only, this time, it was the merging of my reading and vintage worlds. As I have mentioned before, I sell vintage clothing. This November marks ten years of selling vintage clothing and it's still one of my most favorite "jobs" of all time.

For those who haven't read the book The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (there has been a huge debate over it due to the resurgence of the racism topic in America, but I loved the concept, as well as the history and highly recommend it), this book is an interesting look at life for working black American women (working for non-working white American women) in the early 1960s. 

While I was getting ready to take pictures of an early '60s dress in order to list it on my vintage shop site, I had to iron out numerous pleats to get the dress to sit straight and beautiful for photos. I had plugged in my hand-held steamer and was systematically going through each pleat, which was taking forever! 

This is that dress. Pleats galore.
This is that dress. Pleats galore.

Ladies, if you ever complain that you can't find the right hat to wear over your four-day-old hair, while wearing yoga pants and sweatshirts, just don't. The women of the 1960s, to look decent, had to iron their pleats. (Mom, you're amazing.) We've got it good today. Or rather, we have it very relaxed. Too relaxed in my humble opinion, but that's another post for a different blog. 

Later that afternoon, in the very first chapter of The Help, I read how one of the main characters is ironing pleats, and I couldn't help but relate to it in a small but varied way; in a completely contrasting time, as a completely different woman, in a completely different decade.

"She already got the blue dress on I ironed this morning, the one with sixty-five pleats on the waist, so tiny I got to squint through my glasses to iron. I don’t hate much in life, but me and that dress is not on good terms" (The Help, page 2).

Those pleats are from the devil. I know this, now. They are nearly impossible to get right. There's so many of them, it's like I'm trying to brush my dog's teeth -- while she insists on not holding still -- thereby rending me useless. And it's never-ending.

I'm not sure if the pleats came out right, but I sure tried. 

Living in a different decade -- in current time -- is somewhat normal for me as I wear vintage almost every day. But, getting a small glimpse into how much work goes into looking right from the 1960s, well, let's just say I'm now beginning to understand the yoga pants appeal.

Happy reading. ♥

Friday, April 10, 2020

When (Literary) Worlds Collide

Blood, Bones & Butter
I just recently read this fantastic book by Gabrielle Hamilton called Blood, Bones & Butter. If you want to indoctrinate yourself into the world of cooking, how to be a gourmet chef, and perhaps get a glimpse of the life in the world of restaurant kitchens, this book is it.  Gabrielle is a chef whom I'd originally seen on the PBS show, Mind of a Chef. That show, by the way, is phenomenal. Hosted by the late Anthony Bourdain, the episodes are short and sweet and stuffed full of new foods, cooking techniques and recipes from all over the world.

Gabrielle's down-to-earth way of cooking, speaking, and her style in general, are what drew me to her. She also happens to be a literature graduate student, so from the moment I heard her speak, it felt like I'd known her for years. But, I suppose it feels that way to all who listen to her. She's that familiar and comfortable. She's someone you'd want to have coffee with.

Are you familiar with a famous person about which you feel the same? It could be a chef, musician, actor or singer. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, you click with their career and way of presenting themselves. And though you may not know them, a part of you does -- that intrinsic, silent one.

Beverly, Right Here
While reading her book, I was also reading Kate DiCamillo's latest book, Beverly, Right Here. This book too is fantastic, as is all of her writings. She's a middle grade author, but I dare you to read any of her works and not think they pertain more to adults.

In this book, the lead protagonist's name is Beverly. She is head-strong, feisty and extremely observant (with an extensive vocabulary for a twelve-year-old). She is also alone, abandoned by her family, and left to fend for herself as she transcends into a teenager.

As I was a quarter way into the book, I realized why it felt like I already knew her: it was Gabrielle. It was the grown up, famous, television-worthy, book-writing celebrity chef Gabrielle. And it was my perception of her that now lay on a child-like version named Beverly.

Has this ever happened to you before? Where the characters and backgrounds of one story could literally be swapped for another story? In this case, we have a grown-up world contrasting severely with a child's world. And though I don't know the real person Gabrielle, I think if she read this book by DiCamillo, she would agree with my take.

I also think Beverly would greatly approve of Gabrielle.

I know it doesn't happen often, this interchanging of characters, because not only do you have to get the right books at the right time, but you have to be reading them at the same time. I read enough to remember some books and enough to forget a lot! So, the real-time evolution of both stories cemented my thought process on it.

I think it's also good to pay attention to why this happened. Perhaps it's creating a character in my own mind, one that needs to be put to paper. Perhaps, it means this character reminds me of someone I need to reach out to. Perhaps it means I need to meet (or will meet) both Kate DiCamillo and Gabrielle Hamilton. (And if that's the case, I'm all for it!) It's being aware of what we read and how it relates to us that as a reader or writer, will benefit us as future readers and writers. Can I use this? Can I learn from this? Can I apply the lessons learned or experienced in the story to my own life?

As we live through this unprecedented time with this Covid-19 pandemic, the world has traveled back in time. We have gone back to a simpler "slow-living" time where cooking is normal, baking is extra normal and reading is an integral part of every day life. If our world keeps anything from this pandemic, it would be a life filled with renaissance living: very full, very creative and very full of family.

Full of the things that matter.