Noir Alley February 27, 2021: Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)

This is an exercise to write a review each week of the films of Noir Alley, the weekly broadcast of a noir or noir-adjacent film on TCM hosted by Eddie Muller. I’m borrowing an idea from film & TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz and limiting each review to roughly 30-40 minutes of writing, as much because I’m not up for a long writing stretch at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night as for any real discipline.

Odds Against Tomorrow is a use of the heist-gone-wrong trope with some intriguing twists: it pairs an unrepentant racist (played by Robert Ryan, who excelled at furious, self-loathing men who wrecked their own lives) with a black jazz musician (Harry Belafonte) and a dirty ex-cop (Ed Begley Sr) in a heist plot that would, in theory, solve all their problems. Slater has no job and is being supported by his devoted wife (Shelley Winters) but hates it. Ingram (Belafonte) is deep in hock to a local crime boss because of his gambling addiction, and has put his ex-wife and beloved daughter at risk. And Burke (Begley) has run out of options due to his own corruption; somehow, stealing money from a bank in a small town in upstate New York seems like the best option to him, and he cajoles Slater and Ingram into helping him.

This isn’t a new or innovative story; what makes it work is the dynamics. Slater’s fury at having to work with a Black man who is in almost every way superior to him drives the story forward. His racism gets in the way at nearly every turn, causing him to make choices that jeopardize the heist plan, and make Ingram distrust him. Ingram himself feels trapped into needing to take this job because of threats to his family, and he resents needing to rely on a racist and another white man who doesn’t grasp the threat of the racism. It’s all explosive (kind of literally) and leads to a powerfully tense and upsetting final act.

Belafonte produced this film and was adamant that he wanted a story that dealt realistically with the racism and the heist. There’s a complex and fascinating back story that I don’t have the capacity to detail; you can find it from a variety of film history sites. But the film doesn’t go easy on the complexity of the racist dynamics. Ryan’s character is introduced using a deeply upsetting slur to refer to a little Black girl, and it’s not the last slur he uses. There’s a series of scenes that start with Belafonte discovering his ex-wife working with a multiracial PTA council, and when his ex criticizes him for his gambling and drinking, he goes off on her about “collaborating” with white people in an attempt to be more palatable—he’s not wrong, but his own personal choices complicate the criticism he’s making. It’s powerful language and provocative concepts for a film made in 1959, and could easily be used in a contemporary story with few changes.

But the film is about more than the racist dynamics, and all of it is beautifully woven together by director Robert Wise. If the general public knows Wise’s name, it’s most likely for his work in musicals or maybe The Haunting or Star Trek: The Motion Picture. But he worked on an enormous range of genres, including film noir, and he understood the tropes and conventions of every genre in a way not many directors manage even today. This film is a feast of shadows and light, moments of tenderness and tension, contrasts between the harsh reality of Slater’s rage and loathing and Ingram’s life as a jazz musician and divorced father. The film is full of sharp lines and harsh contrasts; sometimes it can feel overly obvious, but it never feels pedantic the way some race-focused films can be.

Ryan, Belafonte, and Begley are all excellent, but they’re not the only greatness in this. This may be my favorite of Shelley Winters’ films. She is warm, fiercely devoted to her husband, working two jobs to make sure they get by, but keenly aware that her successes feel like humiliating failures to him. Too many directors took advantage of Winters’ emotional openness and overt sensuality to have her play characters who feel desperate and cheap. Lorry never feels like this; there’s a dignity to her, and deep authenticity in her affection for Slater and her understanding that her professional success feels like a slap in the face to him.

And Gloria Grahame, in a role developed specifically for her by Wise at a time when she was nearly unemployable (thanks to Eddie Muller for explaining this), has a small but powerful presence as Slater’s odd, kinda kinky neighbor who is desperate for a man to look at her as a worthwhile sexual being. The role isn’t vital to the plot, but it adds dimension to Ryan’s character, and provides Grahame the opportunity to demonstrate that her femme fatale style and presence still mattered. In a different time and with a different director, Winters and Grahame might have swapped roles; but they’re both perfect in these parts and add enormously to the texture of the film.

Kim Hamilton as Ruth, Ingram’s ex, is also a strong presence. She clearly still cares for him, but her priority has to be their daughter. In some ways her role is somewhat thankless; she offers the perspective that dealing with racism is a price she has to pay to protect their child, and that her responsibility compared to Ingram’s recklessness is what matters most. But in a film that’s largely focused around the men, she and the other two women demonstrate that the choices of the men are reckless and harmful.

There are also some really excellent scenes set in the jazz club where Ingram performs. The film has a truly spectacular jazz soundtrack by the Modern Jazz Quintet and two sterling songs by Belafonte and Mae Barnes. These scenes give us a real sense of Ingram’s context and life, and contrast with the strangled miserable racism that Slater engages in; Ingram has his problems and poor decisions, but he’s living a life full of music and passion, which is one of the things Slater hates him for.

I had seen this movie once before, when it aired on Noir Alley a couple of years ago, and I found that I remembered beats of it (fitting due to its jazz grounding) but not as much specific scenes. It’s considered one of the last films of the “classic” film noir era, and a major influence on nouvelle vague filmmakers in France. The film’s tone is definitely influenced by the aesthetics of the Beats and the jazz and Black culture it draws from. It’s both a classic noir story, and a glimpse at the post-noir future. It definitely deserves a higher profile among noir fans, in large measure because of its willingness to include race in the story it tells.

Noir Alley February 20, 2021: Native Son (1951)

This is an exercise to write a review for each edition of Noir Alley, the weekly broadcast of a noir or noir-adjacent film on TCM hosted by Eddie Muller. I’m borrowing an idea from film & TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz and limiting each review to roughly 30 minutes of writing, as much because I’m not up for a long writing stretch at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night as for any real discipline.

This is an attempt to put Richard Wright’s renowned novel of the same name into film. The novel’s plot and themes were so incendiary in its era that a film of it couldn’t have been made in the U.S. This production was filmed in Argentina, by a French director, starring Wright himself as the lead character of Bigger Thomas, despite being both too old for the role and not an actor. The production story is remarkable in itself. And it’s an intriguing choice for Noir Alley, especially in the context of Black History Month; very little traditional noir features or focuses on Black stories or characters.

There’s no question this film fits the canon and themes of film noir. Bigger gets into a bad situation and makes decisions that compound the awfulness of his circumstances; it features shadows and neon, double-crosses and police misconduct, and even a blonde femme fatale. But the context of the story, of a Black man who is brought into the world of wealthy white people and immediately falls into danger, is genuinely extraordinary in this genre. If this story featured all white characters, it would have gone differently. But Bigger, as a black man reliant on the favor of his white employers, doesn’t have the privilege of refusing their requests, and the choices he makes are all to some degree driven by the knowledge that if (when) he gets caught, there will be no mercy for him. The setup of the story is fairly standard noir; the structural racism that suffuses it means it feels far more serious, and far more upsetting, than a standard noir plot.

This is not, technically, a good film. It’s stagy, deeply self-conscious, overly earnest, and substitutes awkward speechifying for what ought to be nuanced dialogue. (The courtroom scenes are particularly uncomfortable in this regard.) The plotting doesn’t convey much of the seriousness and complexity of the story. Many of the actors didn’t speak English and had to be dubbed, and the lack of language context affects the performances. Wright himself is aware that he’s wrong for this role and his discomfort with acting is often evident in how he stands and the way he speaks a lot of his lines.

And yet, none of this is as important as the context. Wright understands and portrays Bigger’s fear and desperation in a profound and intuitive way, not just because he created the character but because he’s also a Black man in America. In the early part of the film, after he first gets the job as chauffeur to a wealthy white family and takes his girlfriend for a trip in the expensive care he’s been hired to drive; these scenes carry a sense of giddiness at how the car enables them to move in white spaces they might otherwise not have access to, but also an underlying anxiety, glances over the shoulder, at the possibility they’ll be called out.

The instrument of Bigger’s downfall is his employer’s party-girl daughter (and her Communist-playacting boyfriend), and the scenes in which they demand he goes with them to the good clubs around town, including the one he hangs out at, are uncomfortable from the start and get increasingly anxiety-making. These wealthy white folks fancy themselves as allies, saying they understand what it’s like for Bigger and urging him to rebel against Jim Crow, in language that can still be heard from these types of white people 70 years later. But they do nothing to actually help with this struggle they supposedly support, and they’re oblivious to the dangers their behavior presents to him. There’s a scene in the nightclub where the party girl demands to be introduced to Bigger’s girlfriend, who refuses, but the party girl just pushes her way into the dressing room and starts fawning all over her, touching her and offering her things. This behavior is so predatory it’s painful to watch, and it’s depressing that this kind of behavior still happens.

From there everything goes rapidly downhill, and the scene that seals Bigger’s fate is both agonizing in how tense and upsetting it is, and infuriating in how pathetic and stupid the decisions are. It’s obvious early on that the blonde party girl will wreck him, and that’s the most depressing thing: It would happen one way or another, because she’s a young, rich white woman, and he’s a Black man.

I think a better film could be made from this material (and I’ve seen some discussion that the 1986 TV movie does that). But I’m not entirely sure one could be made that feels as urgent and harrowing as this one. There’s a scene where police are sweeping the floors of a Black tenement, driving the terrified residents through the hallways for no reason but intimidation; the camera work pans across the exterior windows and zigzags up the floors of the building, showing how brutal this action is. In another scene, a fire hose is turned on Bigger, and it’s impossible to watch this without thinking of footage of protests during the civil rights movement and how this was a tool for controlling and harming Black people. Despite the flaws of this film, it’s immensely powerful as a visual representation of structural racism.

For additional context I recommend film writer Odie Henderson’s article about his reaction to the film when he first saw it in 2013. I can give you my impressions, but I’m a white woman and there are things I can’t fully grasp, regardless of my commitment to anti-racism.

February 2021 Get Out of a Rut Project day 12

Well, I got out of a rut today: Instead of numb depression and fuzzy executive function, I zoomed straight into unmanageable rage and despair. There are so many things happening right now that are horrible beyond words, and I am under major pressure around work responsibilities, and I couldn’t handle it. When it came time to choose an outfit I decided I wanted one that makes me feel sleek and badass (even though I’m never going to actually look sleek and badass because of how I’m built). Then that nearly fell apart when the boots I wanted didn’t fit, since shoe manufacturers don’t believe women with big calves deserve stylish, quirky leather boots. So I just picked something else and here’s what it came out as.

Purple velvet dress: Lane Bryant via Goodwill
Black knit cami: Soft Surroundings
Black leggings: Roamans
Black wedge boots: Miz Mooz
Amethyst & onyx cabochon jewelry: Angelwear Creations
Makeup—Aromaleigh except lips and mascara
Foundation, concealer, undereye: standard
Contour: Orpheus & Eurydice Deathly Pallor
Eye shadows: inner half of eye, Irregular Impulse; outer half, Lost in Faerie Caelia; crease and under lower lashes, Mythos Erebos (all discontinued)
Liner on top lid: Tesla Alternating Current (LE)
Mascara: standard
Rouge: Get Cheeky! Smolder (discontinued)
Highlighter: Fatalis Solanum dulcamara
Powder: Glamoured Avena
Lips: NYX Cosmetics Suede Matte Lip Liner Amethyst, Black Label Lipstick Seduction (discontinued), Shimmer Down Lip Veil Fortune Teller (discontinued)

At the time I bought this dress, it wasn’t a style I typically wore: too straight, too short, high waistline. But I ended up pleased with how it fit. Flashing back to my rants about waistlines early in this project, it turns out that this type of high waistline that curves up under the bust and then lower in back does work on me. The typical straight empire waist is impossible for my build, but this style (which is more Regency-influenced) provides more definition and lets the skirt flow in a way that doesn’t highlight (what I think is) the worst about me. This discovery was also happy because waistlines like this are common in many 1930s and 1940s styles, and helps me find dresses that can go with my Noir Dame aesthetic.

There’s nothing wrong with these boots in and of themselves; you’ve seen the style already in another color. But this particular outfit, to me, calls for a tall boot with a tallish heel and more pointed toe, and the pair I have that meets those criteria is not fitting these days because of pandemic bloat. When I was already feeling on a razor edge of emotion because of other things, having that happen made me fragile and self-loathing. Since I barely hold those feelings off on good days, there was no way I was going to be able to manage them productively today. And that just increases the feelings of self-loathing, because vicious cycles are durable.

I’m questioning whether I have the fortitude to continue this project. The last few days have felt stressful and unpleasant because of other responsibilities and doing the outfits hasn’t been fun. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow.  But it could end here.

February 2021 Get Out of a Rut Project day 11

As you can see from the numbering, not only was there not a bonus outfit, there wasn’t even an outfit on a scheduled day. A weird combination of things on Monday gave me all the effects of a migraine (though it was not one in practice) and I just couldn’t deal with outfitting. I was able to sketch out the outline of an ensemble for today before bed last night, which was helpful when I woke up more than an hour before my alarm this morning and developed a bunch of additional aggravations over the course of a day. So at least I was capable of doing the project today.

Sentence-diagram knit top: Svaha USA
Long knit skirt: April Cornell
Plum & lilac striped socks: Sock Dreams
Shoes: Fluevog Wicked Thanks
Knit & lace scarf: Target
Iridescent glass flower bead pendant & earrings: Designs by Victoria (no longer operating)
Makeup—Aromaleigh unless otherwise stated
Foundation, concealer, undereye: standard
Contour: Medousa Menagerie Amphisbaena
Eye shadows (all discontinued): lid, rocks! stillinhollywood; browbone & inner corner, Lost in Faerie Rosina; crease & outer corner, Eye Lustre Isabella
Liner: Gothic Lolita Elegant Reverie (discontinued)
Mascara: standard
Rouge: rocks! wildflower (discontinued)
Highlighter: Catherine of Aragon Humble & Loyal
Powder: Gothic Lolita Moonbright (discontinued)
Lips: NYX Cosmetics Powder Puff Lippie Senior Class

In retrospect, this outfit leans a bit “ceramics teacher at the new age women’s center,” which isn’t entirely my style, but I think it’s coherent within itself. I don’t wear long skirts these days as much as I used to, but this is one of my most reliable pieces and it’s comfortable when I’m dealing with tired and achy days.

Svaha USA, where I got the top, specializes in nerdy STEAM designs; most of their ideas are inspired by hard sciences, but there’s a subset of their designs that comes from various facets of publishing. This top features that hardcore and now little-scene grammar process, sentence diagramming, and the sentences diagrammed come from works including Alice in Wonderland, Anne of Green Gables, and Sense & Sensibility. Being a writer and editor, I was tickled by the concept, and the fact that it was purple made it a must for me. Svaha’s clothes are made well and a lot of it is in soft organic cotton knit, and many of their items come with pockets (though not this top, as it happens). And their sizing goes up to 4X, plus they have kids’ clothes and fun accessories. I like them a lot and have several other pieces, including a skirt with proofreading marks and another with typewriter keys.

I love these shoes so much. They’re the most comfortable heels I’ve ever worn. I randomly bought them off eBay when I found them for a fairly low price (for Fluevogs), and when I got them immediately regretted that I hadn’t bought every available color and style when they were in stores. They hit everything I need in shoes: a distinctive, quirky style; wide enough for my cranky feet; arch support; super comfy rubber soles; and a thick, solid heel that doesn’t strain my feet or my back. I continue to hunt for other styles, but more than a decade since they were released, I know it won’t necessarily be easy. Today, they were right for how tired and aggravated I was.

Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Of fairy tales and happy beginnings

Originally published elsewhere on October 13, 2004


My love is like a storybook story,
But it’s as real as the feelings I feel

Once upon a time, there was a princess whose heart had become encased in ice.

Once upon a time, there was a knight who had fallen short in his quest for love.

They met on a night of masks, and neither quite saw the other, though they each remembered meeting.

They met again in friendly contest, and the knight thought he saw something lying underneath the ice around the princess’s heart. They met again several times after that, in conversation and companionship, and the knight became more certain of what he thought he saw. The princess was intrigued by what she saw in the knight, but the ice around her heart held her back.

At the height of winter, there was a grand ball, and the princess sparkled and shone, surrounded by people and ideas she held dear, and she was filled with warmth, and at the end of the ball she embraced those around her, including the knight.

And at the moment of their embrace, a thunderbolt struck, and cracked the ice around the princess’s heart. And for the first time, they saw each other through the ice, and the world was suddenly about nothing but what was between their eyes. But they said nothing of it.

In the light of morning, the princess was almost certain she had imagined it all. Yet the knight kept finding his way into her dreams, and what she had felt seemed oh so very real. Finally, fearfully, she sent a whisper out onto the wind, only half-certain herself of what she was whispering, and why she was sending it.

Somehow, the knight caught it, and understood it, and brought it back to her. And they both saw that what had been between their eyes hadn’t been imagined.

But the knight had been called to war, and they had been given only a few days before he had to leave, and he was determined to show the princess the power of what had erupted between them. The princess tried to be prudent in all things, but there was no time for prudence here. The ice tried to hold her to it, to hold her back, and she fought valiantly, but the ice was already cracked.

I’ll be fine
I’ll be waiting patiently
Till you see the signs
And come running to my open arms
When will you realise
Do we have to wait till our worlds collide
Open up your eyes
You can’t turn back the tide

The first day, he kissed her under the leading edge of the moon, and the ice began to melt. The next day, he took her breath away to a song, and the ice melted further. The day after that, he showed her the depth of his heart, and the ice melted completely. And on the final day, before he rode away to war, she gave him her heart, now warm and alive, to take with him.

My love is like a storybook story,
But it’s as real as the feelings I feel

Even the storybooks have sorrow, and for a time, the knight broke the princess’s heart, the one she had given into his care. She tried in fury to take her heart back, she tried to grow the ice around it again. But her heart wouldn’t come back, and the ice wouldn’t grow. And the knight, his eyes opened by war and by what he had nearly cost himself, vowed to repair what he had broken. And over the long months of war and separation, the princess’s heart was repaired, not just from what the knight had done, but from things that had torn and scarred her even before the knight came to her, and the knight began to see new purpose in the quest he thought he had failed.

When the knight at last returned from the war and to the princess’s arms, her heart blossomed, and with every day that passed, she found herself grasping more and more of what she thought had been lost to the ice. With every day that passed, they both became more certain of the love they had once thought beyond them.

Don’t say you’re happy
Out there without me
I know you can’t be

On the night that the princess celebrated all the joy and blessings of her life, the knight asked the princess to dance with him to the song that he had taken her breath away to all those months earlier. And when the song was over, he asked the princess if she would give him her hand as she had given him her heart, and take his in return, and share the rest of her life with him.

Isn’t it strange how sure you can be when you find the one you want…

And the princess looked in his eyes, and she answered, “Yes,” because there could be no other answer.

And he said:
“Don’t you know I love you oh, so much,
and lay my heart at the foot of your dress.”
And she said:
“Don’t you know that storybook loves,
Always have a happy ending.”

Will they live happily ever after? No one can know that. But they’re going to try with all their might, as hard as anyone has ever tried.

My love is like a storybook story,
But it’s as real as the feelings I feel.


Lyrics–all rights and credits to original authors:
Mark Knopfler & Willy DeVille, “Storybook Love”
Depeche Mode, “It’s No Good”
Lene Lovich, It’s You, Only You (Mein Schmerz)

February 2021 Get Out of a Rut Project day 10

This was a day when I did not even manage to get dressed until I finished work, because it took every resource I had just to keep up with the work day. Not only did I not get dressed, I didn’t even have an outfit planned. When I finished work I stood in my dressing room for 10 minutes, picking at various pieces of purple clothing until I managed to assemble an ensemble, and another 10 minutes fussing through jewelry because it was absurdly difficult to find a necklace that felt right. I like this outfit in concept, but it was so much effort to put together that I feel kind of resentful of it.

Black knit neo-Victorian top: eShakti
Dark purple skirt: eShakti
Cabled sweater leggings: Roamans
Shoes: Fluevog Mini Bunny
Necklace: Fred Meyer
Earrings: 1928 Jewelry
Makeup—Aromaleigh unless otherwise stated
Foundation, concealer (forgot the undereye!): standard
Contour: Orpheus & Eurydice Deathly Pallor
Eye shadow (all discontinued/LE): inner lid, Moulin Rouge Soiree; browbone and down to inner corner, Earth Sea Sky Petalsweet; crease and outer corner and under lower lashline, Starry Night Shaula
Liner: rocks! blackangel (discontinued)
Rouge: Jane Seymour Sweets and Wine (discontinued)
Highlighter: Galactic Stelliferous Era
Powder: Orpheus & Eurydice Beloved
Lips: NYX Cosmetics Soft Matte Lip Cream Transylvania

I’m sure there’s someone out there thinking “Caterpillar sleeves were two years ago.” But I was SO THRILLED to find this neo-Victorian style in comfy jersey knit that I bought it in every color they had, because neo-Victorian is forever and not having to feel constricted is a big bonus.

The Fluevog Mini family is my last hurrah for high heels. I wrecked my feet wearing cheap pointy-toed pumps with high spike heels and cheap no-arch-support flats in the 1980s, and arthritis and knee injuries finished what the bad shoes didn’t. My body called foul on anything over a 3-inch heel years ago, and even much over 2 inches has been difficult the past few years; and any kind of slender heel has been no go for ages. But somehow, the 3-inch Mini heel works, with the wide stable base helping to spread out the heel pressure. It’s not “walk a mile” comfortable, but for a typical single day with ordinary walking around, it works. (It helps that the shoes are wide and have good arch support, so I don’t feel uncomfortable in other ways.) And I love the playful neo-Victorian feel of this style, especially in this warm purple/warm rose/powder pink combo.

Yes, I coordinated my eye shadows with my shoes. I have warned you about my matchy-ness. It’s not uncommon for me to build an entire outfit or color scheme around a single item.

There may be a weekend outfit, depending on whether the pending winter storm wrecks our Valentine’s Day plans and I get too petulant about it to bother. Considering that I was almost too cranky to bother today, I would recommend not getting your hopes up.

Get Out of a Rut project day 9

Snow! We’re having our first snowstorm of the winter. This one isn’t expected to amount to much, which is my favorite kind of snow. It’s also quite cold, so layers and warmth were called for. I was thinking about a version of this outfit for yesterday before the meltdown happened; today was better, so I thought I’d go ahead and do it today.

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Black velveteen jacket: J. Peterman
Purple silk/cotton turtleneck: Chadwicks
Burnout velvet skirt: Value Village
Swirly purple leggings: Woman Within
Black ruffle & button boots: Miz Mooz Bloom
Black metal baroque pendant: Fable & Fury
Black metal baroque earrings: Fred Meyer
Makeup—Aromaleigh unless otherwise stated
Foundation, concealer, undereye: standard
Contour: Orpheus & Eurydice Deathly Pallor
Eye shadows: lid, Hot in the City Girls Night Out (discontinued); crease, Ciao Italio Fruitti di Bosco (discontinued); browbone, En Pointe Dulcina (discontinued)
Liner: Butter London Glazen liner Ultra Violet (LE)
Mascara: standard
Rouge: rocks! wildflower (discontinued)
Highlighter: Fatalis Solanum dulcamara
Powder: Gothic Lolita Moonbright (discontinued)
Lips: NYX Butter Gloss Gelato (shade may be discontinued by they still have this line)

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This outfit features one of my other personal motifs: swirly designs that feel rococo and/or evoke vines and leaves. I really love 18th century style (my wedding dress was based on an 18th century robe anglaise design), and the vine/leaf thing is another side of my goblincore tendencies—vines always feel wild and vaguely ominous to me, the potential for out-of-control growth smothering all else. (As I mentioned earlier in the week, Maleficent was my first goth influence.) I’m also very fond of spirals, and that can be reflected in vine patterns as well.

I don’t have a lot else to say on today’s ensemble. I like it and it’s good for the weather. And I enjoyed taking some violets out into the snowstorm.

February 2021 Get Out of a Rut Project day 8

Today has been hard. We have winter storms on the way, and the falling air pressure and rapidly-dropping temps have my arthritis in overdrive. Combine that with stress about deadlines at work and I slept VERY badly and woke up too early. The day continued with more thwarted deadlines and wrecked plans and an inexplicable internet outage, and it all piled up to induce a quiet sobbing meltdown. I came very close to not doing today’s outfit at all. But sometimes I feel better after I get the whole thing together, and it’s at least one thing I can complete right now.

Purple cotton sweater: Value Village (label is Blue Sky)
Black & white stripe ponte skater skirt: Torrid
Leggings: Carousel Ink
Purple nubuck boots: Hotter Shoes Belle
Black fleece arm warmers: Talismana Designs via Sock Dreams
Silver & black star diopside “Orbits” neckace: Angelwear Creations
Black onyx & silver wire cabochon earrings: Angelwear Creations
Makeup—Aromaleigh unless otherwise noted
Foundation, concealer, undereye: standard
Contour: Medusa Menagerie Amphisbaena
Eye shadow: front of lid, Pure Eyes Frost Hyacinth (discontinued); rest of lid, Crystal Fretting (LE); browbone, Spring Solstice Larkspur (discontinued); crease & corner, Medusa Menagerie Sthenno
Liner: Holly-Days Midnight Mess (LE)
Mascara: standard
Rouge: Goddess of the Month Iris
Highlighter: Galactic Gravitational Lensing
Powder: Ultra Resolution English Rose
Lips: NYX Cosmetics Matte Lipstick Up the Bass

Today’s outfit is basically a color variation on the one from last week: long sweater, short skirt, leggings, boots. As I said then, some days I just need to be able to be comfy and quick when I get dressed. I decided to go with the B&W skirt to break up the palette a bit; I would have done B&W jewelry as well, but I wore it all when I did this last August and I’m trying not to repeat clothes or accessories.

The arm warmers are for my arthritis. I have it bad in my hands, and the pain refers up into my forearms. Nice cozy arm warmers like these help mitigate that, and provide a little stylishness too. I have them in a few colors, because, as noted several times during this project, when I find something that works for me, I get multiples. They’re out of stock at Sock Dreams, which is where I bought them; a few other colors are available from the Talismana Designs Etsy shop, linked above, and there are some other styles as well.

And yes, the hair is the same as yesterday. You’ll probably see this more times before the project is over. As with most things in my outfits, there’s a reason.

There was a meme on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that asked what your two accessories would be if you were an action figure. Mine were a mug of tea, and an octopus clip. I have a lot of hair, very dense and heavy, as well as prone to Medusa-esque qualities, and when it gets more than a couple of inches past my shoulders, it becomes hard to wear loose and down. Thus, when my hair is as long as it is currently, it needs to be corralled.

I am capable of doing a lot of cool things with my hair; I can do numerous kinds of updos, braids, and twists. However, a lot of those cool things require a lot of pins and clips to manage, and there are days when having to stick all that stuff in my hair becomes a source of discomfort. And on days when my arthritis is active, forget it, there’s no way I’m managing the effort of twisting and wrapping and folding and holding to do something cool. Also, a lot of those cool things take time, and some days I don’t have or don’t want to spare the time required.

Doing a basic ponytail with an elastic or large barrette is an option, but my hair is so heavy that it’ll pull these fasteners down unless I can fasten them very tightly, which goes back to the “source of discomfort” issue. And a low ponytail is prone to the Medusa problem, with my hair wrapping into and around neck, collars, and jewelry.

The one tool that address all of this is an octopus clip. The design and the way it holds my hair doesn’t give me quite as many issues with pulling or discomfort as other hair accessories, and it gets my hair up and away from my neck well enough that my hair is less likely to wrap around other things. And on top of everything, it’s quick: gather the hair up, twist a big elastic around it a couple of times, flip it up and clip it. So it’s the best option for days when I hurt too much or my hands won’t cooperate or I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it (or all three). Therefore, an octopus clip is one of my action accessories.

February 2021 Get Out of a Rut Project day 7

Today was my second (and last) day this month to be onsite at work. We’re also entering a cold snap. So today was very much about easy and cozy.

Black cotton corset-waist sweater dress: Torrid
Bright violet leggings: Woman Within
Knee-high silver hardware boots: Miz Mooz
Violet mixed-stitch scarf: New Zealand, gift from MIL
Mixed crystal necklace and earrings: Fred Meyer
Makeup—Aromaleigh unless otherwise stated
Foundation, concealer, undereye: standard
Contour: Medusa Menagerie Amphisbaena
Eye shadows: Les Papillons Butterfly Kisses and Victoria’s Revenge Mourning’s Whimsy (both discontinued)
Liner: Victoria’s Revenge Poison Utopia (discontinued)
Mascara: standard
Rouge: Brilliant Deductions Purple Shirt of Sex (discontinued)
Highlighter: Anne Boleyn Marquess
Finishing powder: Fatalis Convallaria majalis
Lips: Revlon Colorburst Matte Balm Shameless (discontinued)

This dress is another example of a thing I buy multiple times; I have it in three other colors and I’m trying to find the remaining one on eBay. Sweater dresses are pretty much the best thing in the world this time of year.

I mentioned a few entries back that I own A LOT of cotton leggings. I don’t have any particular preference on those; I like a variety of colors and patterns, and I like them even better for a low cost. So I tend to buy a lot of them from the discount plus-size catalogs. That’s the case here. That said, Roamans (which isn’t really discount these days) has the softest cotton leggings I’ve tried, while Torrid has by far the best fit and quality.

Here is my confession about makeup: On days I have to be onsite, I don’t do a full face in the morning. These days it doesn’t make sense to; masks make lipstick, rouge, highlighter irrelevant, and I’m usually there by myself so the only person who might see me is the mail carrier. But even in the Before Times, when I had to be onsite five days a week, I didn’t do the level of makeup I describe in these posts. The need to get up early along with my general lack of Morning Person inclination meant the last thing I wanted to do was add extra time to my routine. Back then the usual routine was foundation, concealer, two eye shadows, liner & mascara, and something on my lips (that more often than not I would fail to reapply after having breakfast). I had the routine down to 10 minutes at one point, because cutting out extraneous steps meant sleeping a little bit longer.

For onsite days, I still have to get up an hour earlier than is normal for pandemic life. So today, I followed the old routine, minus even the lip color, but I’m out of practice at it and can’t get it done quite as fast anymore, which is an additional reason to not do the full complement. The face you see in these photos was done after I got home this afternoon. Maybe it’s cheating. (Though I probably can’t really cheat at something I made up the rules for and that I’m the only participant in.)

Here’s another confession: On days I’m at home, I don’t usually do the makeup until I’m done with work around 3 p.m. (That’s why these posts happen in the evening.) It’s for the same reason: Doing a full face in the morning means getting up earlier, and I value sleep more than having my makeup done early in the day. I envy morning people—I genuinely do. It must be great to be able to get up with plenty of time before you need to be ready to work and have the capacity to be productive for that part of the day. But I am never going to be a person who can do that.

February 2021 Get Out of a Rut Project day 6

(Reminder that the parameter for this project is outfits guaranteed on weekdays only.)

I knew that I wanted to get some color into this week’s outfits, since the first week was all shades of gray and black. And I remembered that I hadn’t worn this dress in a while. So it’s dark cool purples for this outing. FWIW, I would (and have) worn this outfit to my workplace; this is a nice example of the spectrum of how I define corpgoth.

Rayon/spandex knit dress: Disney via Torrid
Cotton knit cami: Newport News Clothing (out of business)
Boots: Fluevog Enneagram Optimist
Jewelry: Treasured Finds Silver Jewelry (out of business)
Makeup:
Foundation, concealer, undereye: standard
Contour: Aromaleigh Orpheus & Eurydice Deathly Pallor
Eye Shadow: Aromaleigh Valentine Digital Romance (LE) and MEOW Winter Coat (LE)
Liner: Aromaleigh Moulin Rouge Garter (LE)
Mascara: standard
Rouge: Aromaleigh Get Cheeky! Smolder (discontinued)
Highlighter: Aromaleigh Goddess of the Month Nyx
Lips: Butter London Plush Rush Gloss Ultra Violet (LE)

Yes, I am matchy-matchy in this. I own it. I don’t tend to do a lot of color mixing and I like doing a coordinated color palette with a range of shades in the same base tone. I tend to do this most often in purple since I am one of Those People about my favorite color and because of my hair, but my idea of purple can range from basically mauve to blueberry to almost burgundy. And sometimes I’ll do it with red or pink, and even with very dramatic lipstick shades like gray or green.

The dress is licensed Disney and if you look closely at the hem you’ll spot some low-key Villains symbols. I am not a Disney Person as such, though I do have affinity for Maleficent since she was my very first goth influence when I was a whole four years old. (My feelings about art that matters to me being in the iron control of ginormous, IP-hoarding corporations are something I wrestle with regularly, and it’s rough, but in-depth discussion on that is better suited to its own blog post.) The main reason I like this dress is the design of branching brambles, which is among my personal motifs; the goblincore in me finds something deeply compelling about images or silhouettes of bare branches and brambles. And the indigo color is a nice bonus.

Remember back at the beginning of the project when I mentioned that I keep stuff for a long time if it fits? Yeah. I don’t remember exactly when I bought this cami, but I’m confident it’s been a couple of decades. And, in a callback to my gripes about the inconsistency of sizing, it’s tagged M. But it still fits.

The necklace and earrings are iolite in sterling. The vendor for these has been gone for quite awhile as well; I believe I bought these pieces in the early Aughts. I fell in love with iolite as a kid, when my mother inherited some gorgeous floral-motif custom pieces that had belonged to my grandmother. I love pear and marquise cuts, and the settings and links on the necklace give it the feel of stones in chainmail, which appeals to my weird aesthetic sense of jumbled influences.

Yes, the boots are only laced partway. This is because Fluevog, despite my love for them, continues to think that people with powerful calves don’t buy their boots. Every time I wear these I tell myself I need to get longer laces. And then I forget. But partially-laced boots are their own kind of statement.

My hair is out of control. I really need a haircut but I’m not willing to go into a salon yet. None of the options for putting it up felt quite right for this outfit, and/or put too much strain on my head and neck for me to tolerate when my pain is being insistent. (Tangent: When I was considering this I started thinking about how the hairstyles for female Disney villains tend to fall into two motifs: Tightly controlled/covered [Maleficent, Evil Queen] or utterly wild [Ursula, Cruella de Ville]. Feels like there’s some subtext to unpack there.) So today I just let it be wild, kind of like the brambles on my dress.