1. Thrifted What I Wore: Thursday and Pregnant Edition. Everything thrifted but the shoes and accessories.


  2. Thrifted Dress Wednesday: Full Throttle ‘70s Primness (by HMK)

    What: Crazily festive cream-colored dress, complete with hectic brown-and-gold leaf pattern, via Goodwill

    Price: $4

    I recently read a style guide which was FULL of hate for the ‘70s.  To be fair, a lot of books (and people) are full of hate for the ’70s.  Such an ugly time in American history, in all ways, after all.  And I will not dispute that ugliness, on most fronts.  There have been better presidents than Nixon.  There are better colors out there than avocado.  There has been better music made than at least 85% of ‘70s rock. 

    However.  I will defend much of the ‘70s aesthetic from its many detractors.  I like garments which are long and droopy, and come in dreary colors and eye-assaulting patterns.  (I didn’t say I would do a GOOD job of defending the aesthetic, just that I would DO it.) I like hippieish skirts and burnt-orange garments.  If the “floppy hats for ladies” trend were to come surging back, I would be one happy camper.  You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to the actual ‘70s.  (Vietnam War still in its full, vicious swing, and Second Wave feminism just starting to get its hands dirty? Noooo, thank you.) But the sartorial ‘70s? Sure.  Sign me up.

    I thought this dress was actual ‘70s when I first beheld it, rather than ersatz ‘70s, as it subsequently proved to be. (Clever H&M designers; silly fashion historian self.) But really, in the end, who cares? I lovvvvvve this dress.  I love that it looks like the kind of ugly wallpaper once beloved by my grandmother.  I love its “dying leaves” color palette.  I love that it is so defiantly designed to NOT be pretty. 

    And most of all, I love its PRISSINESS.  Of course, in many ways, the ‘70s was not a decade known for prissiness.  This was the era that gave us the wrapdress and hot pants and all manner of short and slinky silhouettes for the womenfolk, to be sure.  But it also had its flashes of pseudo-Victorianness, with its high-necked blouses and low-hemmed skirts.  And I love both sides of that coin—I am a magpie who will purchase any garment if you put sparkly things on it, but I am also a nineteenth-century-obsessive who is cold all the bloody time, so garments which are long and all-enveloping possess a very definite charm for me. 

    This summer, I worked to embrace the short.  I wore dresses and skirts which crept well north of my knees, pushing aside a lifetime’s worth of conditioning that short skirts equaled woman of dubious virtue equaled bad.  I still felt uncomfortable, sometimes, wearing things which were “too short” for me.  But I still did it, and took great glee in the whole new world of fluttery garments which consequently opened up to me.  (And there are few things which I love more in life than the addition of even more fluttery garments into it.)

    This fall, I am not turning my back on the World of the Short, entirely.  My newly-found skirts will be perfectly delighted to be thrown over some leggings in my non-academic hours, I imagine.  But I am also looking forward to sinking back into the prim, sometimes.  Because there is something charmingly restful, in wearing a garment which covers you from stem to stern.  You won’t even be able to see the top of my throat or the bones of my wrist when I am wearing this sucker.  I will not so much be wearing this dress as it will be wearing me. 

    Some dresses put us on display; some dresses are the display, in and of themselves.  And bless them, regardless of the decade from which they hail, for that. 

  3. Thrifted Sweater-Cardigan-Type-Thing Tuesday: The Katniss Effect (by HMK)

    What: Insanely warm and cozy sleeveless cardigan, via Goodwill
    Price: $3

    Ways in which I am notably unlike Katniss Everdeen, the super tough heroine from the insanely popular (and, as the series moves forward, just plain insane) Hunger Games books/movies/overall money-generators:

    -Am not super tough. Katniss marches knowingly into danger, endures and triumphs over extreme physical duress, learns to kill people. I recently had a bat trapped in my house (poor bat, poorer me), and my super tough reaction was to scream, lock myself in my bedroom, and hope that it would magically disappear. Not very Katnissian of me. (Though perhaps it is lucky for the bat that I am not, as it did not end its evening as a bloody, once-bat pulp, in consequence.)

    -Have never had a boy best known for his cake-decorating skills madly in love with me. That I know of, anyway. If there had been such a boy, and I had known about any and all torches he carried on my behalf, I would now be living above a bakery/be a diabetic.

    -Cannot French-braid my hair to save my life. It would be too short to even try, now, but even when it was long, I was all thumbs, and couldn’t even normal-braid my hair well. There is a reason I dropped out of Girl Scouts after, like, a minute and a half. Practical life skills and manual dexterity? Not things I possess. I can tie no knots, I can wrangle no hair—and it really would be better for all concerned if you kept me away from any and all fires/attempts to start same.

    Despite my fundamental un-Katniss-hood (I would have lasted about a minute in the Hunger Games, and that would only be if one of the psychopaths had wanted to torture me a bit for sport, before knifing me), this knitted lovely does remind me powerfully of this gorgeous knit shrug that Movie Katniss wears in Catching Fire which I would killlll for. (Though, not being Katniss, not literally.)

    I suppose you know that you are a thirtysomething clothes fanatic when you attend a film and swoon over, not its pretty twentysomething heroes, but rather its pretty, who-cares-how-old-they-are clothes. (Though to be fair, I would have done the exact same thing as a lass in her teens and her twenties, likewise. I will always notice clothes before I notice gentlemen, unless the gentleman in question is my boyfriend Jon Stewart. He always wears good ties, but is more beautiful even than they, bless him.)

    I hastened to purchase this strange sweater because it spoke to me of Katniss’ knitted insanity. I covet precisely nothing about Katniss’ life. But I did covet her wardrobe (hellooooo, boots and lots and lots of earth-toned garments!) And I coveted them in part because they spoke of a kind of striking, pared-down simplicity quite unlike my usual aesthetic. (I am a historian of Victorian Things who owns no pants, you may recall.) And as such, I tend to like fussy and lacy and conventionally fluffy, feminine things. This sweater is the opposite of that, and for that, I bless it.

    Unlike Katniss, I will never need to hunt down my dinner (tofu is harder to catch in the wild, I suspect), or fight for my life in a game devised by a crazy totalitarian regime to keep its downtrodden populace properly trodden down (I mean, I hope not, anyway. 2016 may bring some surprises with it!) But I WILL have to battle autumn winds and semester fatigue and drafty offices.

    And in the waging such mundane and slight battles, a beautiful sweater can be a wonderful companion, for the un-tough among us.

  4. This Week on Thriftanthology: School, It Appears, Is Back (by HMK)

    Signs that fall is almost here:

    -The influx of pumpkin beer into virtually every grocery and liquor store, and of Halloween candy into every virtually pharmacy and convenience mart (yay to the former, meh to the latter. Call me when Halloween sugar gets more interesting than candy-corn Oreos.)

    -The fact that I can stay in my house for more than five minutes without air conditioning, without wishing to flee said home in distaste and despair.

    -The mobs of children who have recommenced their tromp to school, down my street, past my house, each and every morning (their backpacks: brightly colored. Their hair: meticulously smoothed and wrangled. Their conversation: about how they wish they were walking anywhere else, to do anything else. Poor book-laden lambs.)

    -The constant flutter of anxiety which has lodged itself somewhere under my ribcage, pulling me out of my sleep in the middle of the night and making it hard for me to sit still in the middle of the day, just now, when I most have to do so. Fall is coming, and it is bringing a new semester with it. I can feel it, the way some people claim to be able to feel a thunderstorm coming, just from the texture and scent of the air.

    And already, the summer garments in my closet are starting to feel alien to me. I look at the light, wispy dresses and the bright, cheerful fabrics and the willful, casual slouchiness of them all, and I know them not. They no longer have anything to do with me, nor me with them. Summer—this strange, restless summer—is coming to an end, and with its end, a new year is beginning. A new year during which I will go I know not where, and wear I know not what.

    What do I have, for the fall? And what do I want? Does what I desire align with what I possess? And if not, can I make it?

    Let us step into our (suddenly chillier, less brightly-hued) closets, and find out…

  5. Thrifted Should-Have-Been Sunday Shirt: Glittering, Dormant (by HMK)

    What: Really quite absurd sparkly silver top, via Goodwill
    Price: $3

    The object: This pile of glitter which has, through some magic or other, been formed into an actual, wearable shirt.

    Reasons to love it:

    -GLITTER. This is basically every art project I ever made as an (inept, radically-artistically-untalented, but sparkle-MAD) child, turned into a shirt.

    -Errrr… that’s basically it, come to think of it. Glitteriness is the only virtue which this stunner possesses. It is not practical or comfortable, or even very interesting or original. It is just glittery. But sometimes (at least for the magpies amongst us) the glitter is enough.

    Why it is patently unsuitable for me to wear, come the fall:

    -GLITTER. There is no way I can justify this beauty for my educational life. Not even as a confirmed sartorial eccentric. Not even as someone who studies fashion, and can sometimes pass off the odd clothes that she wears as an occupational hazard/experiment. There are no excuses for this love, in a professional setting (or at least, not in my particular professional setting.)

    Happily, I know for an absolute and unshakeable fact that this shirt will give me just as much enjoyment (if not more enjoyment—this sucker is HEAVY and it ITCHES) hanging in my closet than it does hanging off of my body.

    I know that the weeks ahead will be busy and book-laden, with an ever-increasing nip to the air and an ever-darkening cast to the sky.

    And I am not sorry for this. I love my arms being piled high with books and my neck being layered deep under scarves and settling into the comfort of the autumn dark.

    I know that this summer is dying, and I am not sorry to see it die.

    But like the heartbeat of a hibernating animal, pulsing dim and distant in the depths of some unremembered cave, this shirt will hold its glitter in reserve, biding its time in the depths of my untidy closet, for the summer which it knows will return to it, one day.

    Which will return to us all, one day, when we are ready.

  6. Thrifted Should-Have-Been Saturday Earrings: The Gold and the Garish (by HMK)

    What: Really quite stunning, huge, gold, vintage earrings, via Recycled Records
    Price: $2

    The objects: These dazzling vintage monsters—heavy to hold in the hand, heavier still to place on the ears

    Reasons to love them:

    -I love that they randomly have pearls in the center. Pearls are so ladylike and delicate, and so seeing them in the midst of these massive, glittery, attention-demanding terrors makes me very happy, indeed.

    -I love how very gold they are. I objected to gold jewelry for a long time, having been given the impression, from some quarter or other (probably from multiple quarters) that gold was unsuitably “flashy” and “vulgar.” Silver was for ladies. Gold was… well, for other sorts of women. But I ask you. What is dubiously, uneasily being able to lay claim to the (in and of itself, dubious, uneasy) title of lady, compared with getting to wear something that lights up like the sun with every turn of your head? Not much, I’d say.

    -I love how heavy and solid they are. These are earrings with HEFT—and they correspondingly make you feel like a person of substance each and every time you wear them. I knew plenty of blokes who wore heavy gold necklaces when I was in college (I did grow up in New Jersey, after all.) And these earrings feel like my own version of those massive, rope-like chains—jewelry as (possibly unearned, but nonetheless enjoyable) swagger.

    Reasons I cannot wear them once the semester is under way:

    -These earrings are, quite simply, too much. Too much for my ears to handle, for hours at a time. Too much for my students’ eyes to handle, given how violently they would glitter under the classroom’s bright fluorescent lights. Too much swagger for the classroom environment. Professors have to be confident, but it is not quite as useful for us to swagger. Teaching requires tact, patience, the ability to be still when required.

    All things that these earrings sneer at.

    And these see you in next summer, monsters. May you lose neither your sparkle nor your sneer before then.

  7. It’s Hot So Let’s Go Thrifting (by Kelli Oliver)

    What: Pic 1: winter boots and clothes for me (brands: Kinney on the boots, About a Girl on the denim, Lily Star on the dreamy blouse); Pic 2: winter clothes for the boy child (brands: the usual suspects for kids clothes); Pic 3: vintage glories
    Where: Savers, eastside Madison
    When: Aug 2014
    Price: $18 total for me; $14 for the boy

    It’s not really that hot yet ( I don’t even have our one air-conditioner unit on right now), but it’s going to hit 90° later this week, and that’s just awful. So, as I will not be leaving the apartment and said air-conditioning unit after Wednesday, I thought Luther and I should go thrifting while we have the chance.

    This was the first time I’ve had Luther try on clothes before I buy them for him, and he was quite the trooper, as usual. He is particularly fond of the badger shirt—a true Wisconsinite.

    Oh, and that price for the boy clothes also encompasses two PJ pants, two PJ shirts, and a crib sheet. Not a bad haul. 

  8. Thrifted Dress Friday: Fragility (by HMK)

    What: Quite ludicrously delicate, fragile, yellow and gray sundress, via Goodwill
    Price: $4

    Being tough is, I think, widely agreed to be a virtue, in our culture. Certainly much more so for gentlemen than for ladies, but still, something of a positive for everyone, regardless of sex. While women are certainly often thought to be less capable (and more hysterically volatile) than men, there are still some solid examples of Tough Women out there in our pop culture. (Granted, the Tough Women of movies and TV still have to be conventionally hot and often wear impractical, revealing garb for their Tough Adventures, but still. They do get to have them, sometimes. Which is something, I suppose.)

    I study the Victorian era, when female toughness was most emphatically not a part of the feminine ideal. Actual Victorian women were very tough, of course. They worked in fields and in factories and in houses, and bore children without anesthetic and entered into marriage without rights and lived in a world which had no sympathy for women who wanted more (more education, more control, more safety, more chances, more… everything. More anything.) Tough.

    But the imagined, idealized Victorian woman was anything but. She was a fragile creature, slight of body and delicate of mind. She needed to be protected and sheltered from the rough and tumble of the harsh, unfriendly world, kept off the mean streets of the public and away from the ugly realities of money and power.

    This stereotype of what women were (or ought to be), as all stereotypes do, masked the truth—which is that all of us (men and women, Victorian and not) are inevitably both fragile and tough. Our bones and our hearts are strong, but they do break, sometimes. And there is nothing we can do to prevent such fragility, however much we might wish to do so—however tough we might wish to be (and indeed, however tough we actually are.)

    We are about to descend into fall, and to the tougher garb which comes along with that season. To skirts and jackets designed to protect our legs and arms from chilly autumn winds. To shoes which are more solid and to jewelry which is more weighty. To clothing which is more armor than it is ethereal.

    But I will not forget about dresses like this one, even as I make this turn. I will not forget about dresses which are visibly and unabashedly fragile—dresses which offer you no protection and precious little shelter—dresses designed to put you at the mercy of the elements and the open sky—of whatever beauty or mischief nature may currently have in store.

    My Victorians thought that fragility was a weakness. But it’s not. It’s openness. If we wear dresses which expose our skin, we may get burned. If we wear dresses made of airy fabric, they may fall apart. If we love a dress which is loosely woven or poorly made, we may lose it, to the careless washing machine; the unexpected tear.

    Perhaps toughness does not lie in denying such fragility. Perhaps it lies in accepting it. Our light summer dresses may (and probably will) unravel. Even our heavy fall tights may (and probably will) one day come undone.

    But if we are tough, we will wear them, and wear them with joy, nonetheless.

  9. Thrifted Shoes Thursday: Comfort, Glamour, Gone (by HMK)

    What: Delightful burgundy sneakers, and pink high heels, via Goodwill

    Price: $6 (for both pairs of shoes)

    The objects:

    -Wondrously cushy sneakers and not at all cushy pink high heels

    The reasons to love them:

    -Lord. So many. I love that the sneakers are comfortable (because I have very few pairs of comfortable shoes in my life, alas. That this is through my own fault, I admit, but still—I reserve the right to incessantly complain about same.) I love that they are a dark color which refuses to commit to being either deep purple or faded red or… anything, really. (I called them “burgundy” for convenience. They alone know what they really are.) I love that they are as “masculine” as they are (insert mandatory feminist/fashion historian statement about how “what counts as ‘masculine’ continuously shifts according to region and culture and era, rather than being a real or fixed category” here. Duty to the Gods of Social Construction—paid.) For someone who never wears pants and always wears jewelry and is obsessed with frilly Victorian things, it is rather nice to wear something which is so square and muted and boyish for a change.

    And I love the heels because they are pink, and I never wear or like pink, yet somehow found myself unable to help liking and wearing these. (Always a fan of the unexpected.) I love them because they are an odd combination of would-be suede fabric and pseudo-wooden heels which should be tacky, but somehow isn’t. (Or if it is—I will confess myself a big fan of this particular brand of tacky.) I love how loud they are—these are clacking shoes, which cause quite a commotion when one gads about in them. I can be stealthy in the sneakers and spiky in the heels. Perfect.

    Why I need to wear them now, rather than once fall is well and truly under way (which is in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS, HEAVEN HELP ME):

    -The sneakers are too comfy, bless them. When I am teaching, I need to be on my toes [winces at unintentional foot/shoe pun; carries on], and cannot wear clothes which are too slouchy or shoes which are too cozy. Next.

    -The shoes are too girlish and giddy, the dear things. Goodness knows I already find myself acting ditzy and scattered in front of my students more than I would like. (“And that assignment will be due during our next class on… Wednesday, I guess? Or wait, is Wednesday today? I know Wednesday is involved somehow. Anyway, just write the paper, okay?”) But one seeks to keep such things to a minimum. And donning pink heels which are redolent of pastel cocktails and airy words—does not seem designed to help in this endeavor.

    And so, to the pretty but muted flats and the intriguing but more subdued heels, then—let our academic minds now turn.

  10. Vintage Necklace Should-Have-Been Wednesday: Summer Round, Fall Sharp (by HMK)

    What: Gorgeous vintage blue beaded necklace, via… my mom. Who, admittedly, is not a thrift store, but who does very much enjoy them.

    Price: Free (because I am a person entirely devoid of shame re: purloining jewelry from even from members of my immediate family)

    The object:

    -This stunning, multifaceted blue beaded necklace. My mom has a muzzy sense of when she obtained it, apart from “sometime in the 1970s.” I am guessing when she was in college, since she never, to my knowledge, wore jewelry either before or since then.

    -It is a total cheat of me to include this stunning object on our thrifting blog since it is not, of course… thrifted. However, since it is vintage, and epitomizes The Summer That Is Quickly Dying to me, I decided cheating was okay. (We make the rules; we break the rules.)

    Reasons to love it:

    -How very, very long it is. I usually detest long necklaces (feeling like they are always in my way/like I am a dolphin who has somehow gotten tangled up in a ropey fishing net), but for some reason, I just love this one. I’m not even remotely Catholic, but somehow this necklace feels comforting to me in the way that I imagine rosaries might feel comforting to Catholic folks—having something solid and earthly to hang onto, when one is in a contemplative mood.

    -All the many shades of blue it possesses. Blue is my mother’s favorite color and not mine, but I do love the nuances contained within these little beads—the flickers of white and gray and all kinds of blues, both dark and light, spinning around these beads’ surfaces. These beads remind me of the marbles that I used to play with when I was a kid—playing with them, not in the way that a normal child plays with normal things, of course, but rather meticulously sorting them out according to which colors I thought were prettiest, and then putting them in rows. (The most popular girl at preschool, I was not.)

    Why I need to wear it now, in these fading days of summer, rather than once the semester is in full swing:

    -It is this necklace’s very looseness and untidiness which makes it speak so powerfully of summer to me. This necklace refuses to the tidiness of easy categorization—I call its beads blue, but someone else might think them lavender or gray. It is not quite nicely made enough to count as “fancy” jewelry, and not quite cheaply made enough to be costume jewelry.

    This is not a necklace which hems you in, but a necklace which lets you out. It doesn’t cling to your throat or constrain your neck or stay where you put it. It does as it pleases, and encourages you to do likewise.

    My fall necklaces are quite different—heavier, bigger, closer-fitting. They hang precisely and neatly, their edges sharp and geometric. I cannot wear those necklaces, when it is summer outside.

    And, just as surely, this necklace refuses to be worn when it is anything but.

    And so, in the face of such an impasse—it seems we must part. Farewell, beads. See you when The Suns of 2015 start to shine…

  11. Thrifted Dress Tuesday: Dressing for One’s Inner Louche ‘60s Divorcee (by HMK)

    What: Dress Barn brown pseudo-‘60s dress, via Goodwill

    Price: $5

    The garment:

    -This really quite remarkable brown sack dress, made in the 2000s, but speaking oh so very vividly of an era which came some forty years before that.

    The reasons to love it:


    -It has a giant bow upon it.

    -I very much enjoy wearing things with giant bows upon them.


    -I appreciate that it is brown. I don’t often wear brown, and that is a great pity. Brown is a fine color, after all—the quieter (but equally intriguing) cousin to black, which surely deserves more of my attention than it typically receives.

    -I love how ‘60s-esque it is. This dress makes me feel as though I ought to 1) have a frosted beehive, 2) be smoking a cigarette which came from some manner of glamorous lacquered cigarette case, and 3) be about to be lazily seduced by Don Draper (not because he actually wants me, of course, but just because he is angry at the world, and has some maaajor lady issues. Fair enough!)

    -Wearing this beauty means that you are basically wearing a parachute as a dress. Some dresses make you stand to attention—you need to sit and walk and move in very particular ways for the dress to “work.” And if you slouch, it will pucker. If you eat a plate full of sandwiches (which is not without precedent), it will pinch. If you stand or sit a certain way, the lines of it will go all wonky. But this dress—you can sit the way you want and stand the way you want and eat whatever you want, and it will still smile, and love you. And heaven bless it for that.

    Why I need to wear it now, in these dying days of summer, rather than once the semester is in full swing:

    -Waaaaay too short to teach in. My knees are fully out and about in this sucker, as are several inches of flesh above them. Nyet for the academic life.

    -It is super, super light. Perfect for 90 degree days and 80 degree nights—a few degrees under that, and—brrrrrr. Wearing this is like wearing a parachute in multiple ways—this garment offers you zero in the way of protection.

    -This dress is pure frivolity, with its glittery surface and its superfluous bow and its giddy, floating-tent-like structure. And while the semester ahead will certainly involve things that are fun, I need to put the purely frivolous behind me, for a bit. To wear garments which will help me to focus, rather than encourage me to drift.

    And so, farewell, shimmering sack dress. See you when the weather once again turns warm, the calendar once again clears out, and it is once again time for a little bit of loucheness, in my life.

  12. Thrifted What I Wore: Monday and Pregnant Edition. My shirt is thrifted. Luther’s ensemble is all thrifted except for the shoes and backpack.

  13. This Week on Thriftanthology: Farewell, Summer (by HMK)

    I started school when I was six, and I never left. (To put this in context, I am nearly thirty-three, and will be working/educating, I imagine, until I am… well, dead.)

    As such, my sense of the seasons is (like all teachers’) more than a little skewed. “Fall” is August to December. “Spring” is January to May. “Summer” is June and July. The length of the days has nothing to do with it. The temperatures outside have nothing to do with it. The presence or absence of snow has nothing to do with it. It is all about school. Am I teaching? What and who am I teaching? Am I on campus? Am I not on campus? Do I need to know what day it is, or do I not? Do I have classes? If so, which classes? When are these classes? And where are my classrooms? And why are there never any functioning markers in said classrooms???

    My new semester starts in two weeks. [Clutches desk, to prevent self from fainting with thoughts of syllabi work yet to be done.] So the days (SO FEW DAYS) ahead represent my chance to say farewell to summer, and hello to fall. To start looking for glamorous new teachin’ clothes at Goodwill, and to start shoving my summer clothes to the back of my closet.

    As we contemplate this shift, I cannot help but wonder about these garments are about to be put by for another year. What renders them ill-suited for my return to campus, and my teaching life? What made them perfect for my non-teaching life? Huh.

    This week on Thriftanthology, let us muse over and celebrate these garments that are too [fill in the blank—and there are many ways to do so] for the fall. How have these garments helped me to celebrate summer? Where have they demanded to be worn in this time in between semesters? Let us find out….

  14. Thrifted Book Sunday: Travel and the What-the-Hell Principle (by HMK)

    What: 1923 copy of Villette by Charlotte Bronte, via The Book Barn used bookstore
    Price: $3

    The first trip I ever took overseas was to England. Not entirely surprising, since I was raised by Anglophile parents, and was (and am) something of an Anglophile, myself. I still know more about ’70s British sitcoms than I do about contemporary American ones, and more about British history than any American historian really needs to. (Though to be fair, everything I learned about American history, I learned from school. Everything I learned about British history, I learned from trashy novels and TV shows about sad, rich people. Sooo… maybe one knowledge-set is slightly more on point than the other.)

    On that first trip to England, I went to the Bronte Parsonage up in the wilds of northern Yorkshire, and I brought this little baby copy of Villette (Charlotte Bronte’s last novel ever; my favorite novel ever) with me. While there, we stared at Bronte’s wedding dress (so tiny!), the creepy, remaining locks of her hair (so red!), and a manuscript copy of Villette (so… swoon.)

    And I have carried the book around with me on long trips ever since. When the Internet connection goes wonky, and the flight gets delayed, and I simply cannot listen to any more podcasts—Villette is there.

    The last flight I took got delayed four times. I was supposed to be home by 3 in the afternoon. I got home at midnight, and my bag had still not appeared in my tiny local airport. I turned my phone off to avoid the temptation to text/wake up my friends with my asinine whining about same. And I opened Villette, instead.

    As I have discussed elsewhere on this blog, I love, love, love this book. Its school teacher heroine, Lucy, is a plain, crotchety lass living in a world where prettiness, pliability, and pleasantness are considered the paramount feminine virtues. And she is spiky and sarcastic, with boring hair and an unremarkable face.

    And she is the best.

    She falls in love with a very beautiful man who treats her like dirt, spending the whole book thinking of her a useful tool rather than as a human being, flirting with a pretty, shallow girl, and then marrying a beautiful, angelic one (perfect face, elfin figure, no will or desire in life other than to make the men around her happy.)

    He sucks. And the distasteful culture of entitlement which has taught him that women exist purely for his amusement and convenience—sucks harder still.

    Despite all of that (and the novel’s grrrrrindingly depressing ending—thank you, gloomy Victorian era and Bronte’s innate pessimism!), I have always found the book curiously reassuring and uplifting. After all, the second man whom Lucy loves loves her back, and he is bookish and prickly and difficult, and values exactly those qualities in her. He has the chance to have a self-denying, angel-on-earth type girl, and he wants Lucy, instead—not in spite of who she is, but because of who she is.

    And it is awesome.

    Because Lucy really is rather remarkable. (Not just because she snarks on Victorian ideals of femininity throughout the book, though that it is admittedly pretty fun.) She is alone in the world, with no money or family or beauty to help her out. The only thing she is is smart, and willing to take risks, even when she is very well aware that they might well be dumb risks.

    Early in the book, she leaves England behind to head off to climes unknown, for a future unknown. She’s spent the last of her money paying for a sea voyage, and has no idea what she’s going to do, when she reaches that journey’s end. But before she sets off on her ship, she spends a day and a night in London. And yes, she is terrified, and yes, she can’t stand thinking about her shaky future, and yes, she is haunted by her unpleasant past.

    But mainly, for that day and night, she is happy. She gets to see the great buildings and paintings and streets she’d always read about in books. She gets to get lost in the hustle and bustle of a city filled with more people than she’d ever dreamed existed in the whole world (let alone in one place.) She tastes strange foods and meets intriguing people and listens to the bells of St. Paul’s Cathedral chime.

    And for that day and night, she is happy. So, so, so happy.

    It’s that part of the book, which makes me carry Villette with me, when I travel. Yes, when stuck overnight in small airports and held for takeoff on small planes, I like rereading the parts where Lucy realizes the Pretty Boy Character is a dipshit (he has sooooo many monologues about how girls who are sweet and selfless and more fit for heaven than earth are the only girls worth knowing, I hate him), realizes the Cranky Male Character is awesome (he gets her and appreciates her and does some of her least-interesting grading for her unbidden, I love him), and just generally being High Victorian Bitchy (ranting about the virgin-whore dichotomy as depicted in art in grand style, for example.)

    But the best parts of the book are the “what the hell” parts of the book. When Lucy decides that, what the hell, she is unhappy in England, maybe she’ll be happier in Europe. When Lucy decides that, what the hell, she can either definitely be poor in England, or try to make a decent living elsewhere. When Lucy decides that, what the hell, yesterday was wretched and tomorrow is scary, but today she is in London and SHE IS GOING TO HAVE FUN, DAMMIT.

    So, what the hell. Let’s pack our bags, throw Villette in the carry-on—and go.

  15. Thrifted What I Wore: Saturday and Pregnant Edition. Every thing on me but the shoes are thrifted. I told Luther to smile for the camera, and he obliged.