Monday, February 25, 2013

Valentine's Day: in which Charlotte Issyvoo feels like a real grown-up lady

Earrings and necklace: vintage; Ring: Birks
I know that I always say one needn't wait for a special occasion to dress well. Still, it is nice to have a special occasion every now and then, especially when you're as housebound as I generally am.

Valentine's Day this year was just such a treat. (And don't worry; I've had my fair share of crappy Valentine's Days, just like everyone else.)

Shoes and clutch: thrift; Coat and brooch: vintage
This was an occasion to wear this great early 60s coat as it should be worn: with a little dress, nylons, and...

... kitten heels! Yes, you heard me right. Kitten heels!

This was the first time in four in a half years that I had attempted to wear any footwear that is not entirely sensible. Before my injury, I wore heels a LOT. After a few years of being disabled, I got a friend to put all my heels in boxes and put them in storage. I didn't want them in my closet anymore mocking me for my infirmity.

But I spotted these for only $10 at a thrift store and I thought they were worth a try. In the past, I would have scoffed anyone who called them heels. They are, after all, very low, but they do look pretty heel-ish and I was damned excited to wear them.

In the background, the wonderful French and Tunisian restaurant that we went to... and a tattoo and piercing parlour.  This is my neighbourhood and I love it.
I think I pulled it off relatively well -- if a bit pigeon-toed, a stance that I've unconsciously developed to relieve back pain.

I felt like a real, grown-up lady, and I haven't been able to feel that way in a long time.

I also felt a little teetery in my shoes, something else I haven't felt in a long time. I'd forgotten what a skill it is to walk in heels. Even if my back were in perfect condition, I'd have to practice a lot to relearn that skill after all these years.

You may be wondering why, in a post about Valentine's Day, there are virtually no photos of Beau and me together. Well, I'll tell you why.

Barrettes: Stylize
It's because this is what I look like after I've had a glass and a half of red wine. We did get our waitress to take some photos of us together, but my face was so red, and my cheeks were so puffy, that Beau and I both decided that those photos should be burned directly.

I've heard that many Jews lack the right enzymes to properly process alcohol and I believe it. This is why I get drunk so easily and why I turn so very red.

Sweater: Columbia; Shoes: Ecco; Glasses: Geek Eyewear; Shirt and pants: thrift
By the time my face had cooled down a bit in the night air, we had no-one to take photos of us together, so we contented ourselves with taking photos of each other. I can't say Beau is much for posing and this is the best I got of him.

Dress: Kara Girl; Belt: thrift
When I first got this coat, I wore it with jeans but said I knew how it should be worn. This is the kind of look I had in mind.

And, yes, my cheeks are still a little red and puffy from the wine in all of these photos. Oh well.


I'd bought this dress quite a while ago but not yet had the chance to wear it. I think it makes me look all grown-up and, well, classy. It also went with the early 60s look I was going for with the coat. If you must think of a modern reference for this look, think Mad Men, which is set in the 60s. It's a show I don't actually watch but whose influence on today's fashion can't be disputed.


The dress originally came with a black belt but I really wanted a red one. I thought the red would prevent it from seeming too drab or office-y. Luckily, I was able to find this belt at a thrift store that very day.

My self-confidence must really be improving. When I look at these photos of me in this form-fitting dress, it's hard for me to imagine why I ever think I'm fat or even chubby. It's true that my curves are far more ample than they were before my injury, but, when I look at this photo, I can only see that as a good thing!

Besides, the 50s and early 60s were not times when the skinny female form was much admired. This was a time when the Cadillacs were big and the women were even bigger.

Beau was particularly pleased with the posterior view of me in this dress so I obligingly gave him my best Betty Grable pose (and, if you "like" my new Facebook page, you'll see a bonus image comparing this shot to the famous Betty Grable one). He was terribly and sweetly embarrassed taking photos of this particular pose. God forbid anyone think the poor boy was objectifying his girlfriend!

He's such a nice feminist.

"What? I blinked in every shot? Seriously?" Luckily, the answer turned out to be no.

Of course, for me, the details make the outfit and no outfit is complete without jewelry. I got this necklace for a few dollars at a charity thrift store the other day, and I had fun wearing it.

Ring: heirloom
I've had these clip-on earrings forever but I think this is the first time I'd ever worn them. I was averse to wearing clip-ons for a long time, but, if I want to wear great vintage, I've got to learn. They're nowhere near as uncomfortable as I thought they'd be.

Did I mention how excited I was to wear shoes even resembling heels?

I was very excited about that.

I actually clicked when I walked! I haven't clicked when I walk for years. I felt like a lady, a real, grown-up lady. Did I already tell you that?

I found myself almost strutting, not an easy trick when your back is as weak as mine is.

As I said, I felt classy.

That was the second best part of the evening. The best part was this look in Beau's eyes when we got home.

The look of love, indeed!


  1. Wonderful! And yes, those do qualify as heels. Absolutely.

  2. I really relate to aspects of your post Charlotte. I feel like I almost want to apologize for my feminism to vintage enthusiasts, and apologize for my feminine choices in clothing to my feminist friends. I think you should be assured that there are others like you who wear the clothing they wear for their own sake/art/joy. We aren't living in the 50s when we'd feel out of place if we weren't strapped into the latest fashion, we have a choice. I like to think of it as a time for self-invention of all kinds, including style. It is great how you express your own style, in words and photos!

    1. Interesting theory. I teach college and I do worry when I see my young female students feeling a need to conform to such a narrow definition of beauty and femininity. I feel we're going backwards.

      I'm dismayed to hear that feminism is not welcome in the vintage community! I had a young, retro gal the other day tell me that she "knows how to be a lady." I didn't know what she meant. Now maybe I do.

  3. I wouldn't go so far as to say "not welcome." I know many people like me, feminists who feel they should and could express themselves through their style. There are some however—men and women—who take the vintage ideal as going back to the way we never were: The world of Leave it Beaver, where men were breadwinners, women were housekeepers (...and sheep were nervous.)

    1. "... back to the way we never were..." Yes, exactly. I'm always amazed by both idealizations of the past, and depictions of the people of the past as barely human in intelligence and compassion. Humans have always been flawed and wonderful and horrible and, mostly, pretty stupid. I'm kind of amazed that some are wanting to implement "traditional" gender roles. What a drag. Through Beau, I've learned of all of that in the right wing Christian scene, but to find it in the vintage scene too? Blech. But, obviously, we're not all like that (and neither are all Christians, for that matter).