Monday, May 11, 2015

Lily White Skin and a Passion for Pastel

This may come as a surprise to you, but not all of my style inspirations are vintage. I do, in fact, keep up on contemporary fashion trends, though I don't always follow them. But, if one captures my fancy, I'll go for it and make it my own. Thus my current passion for pastels, which have been all over the spring fashion magazines this year.

And, yes, as fraught as my relationship is with them, I do buy and read fashion magazines. Vogue and Harper's Bazaar are my favourites, but I admit that I like a dose of In Style from time to time too. As long as the magazine sticks to fashion, beauty, and the arts, and doesn't give me all kinds of advice about how to get and keep "my guy," I'll give it a read.

Aside from this season's pastel trend, it was this advertisement that was in the back of my mind when I put my outfit together. I mean, gosh, how cool are these old ladies?

Then, of course, there's the queen, who seems to wear nothing but pastel. Beau, chart maker, chart and graphic information lover, turned me on to this amusing colour wheel and, yes, I had this in mind too when I got dressed.

In keeping with the ballet inspired pale colours and skirt, I put my hair in a classy, simple, twisted and bun.

Notice the red in my hair? I have the very white skin to go with it. It may not seem like it, but I was actually being a bit brave wearing pastels. Because my skin is so incredibly pale, I've always shied away from very pale colours near my face. Somewhere along the line, it became my personal, accepted wisdom that pale shades and pale skin should never mix. I believed they made me look washed out and unwell. I even said so in a recent post. At some point, I stopped even giving these colours a chance.

But I took a risk when I ordered this shirt. It was so pretty -- just look at those sleeves! -- and the colour was so sweet, I thought, maybe, just maybe I'd been wrong about pastels. 

In looking at these photos, I think I was indeed wrong about white skin and pale colours. Granted, this shirt is not pink and thus does not too closely mimic my own skin colour, which would be more risky. It's a pastel lavender and I think it makes my skin look really lovely, like what they used to call a "peaches and cream" complexion.

Elizabeth Taylor

Looking around, I note that, after all, other women, including some iconic beauties, wore pastels with their pale skin.

It can work.

Blouse: Reitman's; Shoes: Mod Cloth; Large right hand ring: Effy; Cane:; Jacket, skirt, sunglasses, pinkie ring, and bracelet: vintage
So I went all out, head ...

... to toe ...

... to cane. I felt so pretty, it was ridiculous. And, for once, my very pale skin was part of what made me feel so pretty.

I am far whiter than either of my parents, or anyone else in my family, for that matter. I got my father's reddish hair but not his dark, Jewish skin, because my maternal line is only distantly Jewish and mostly WASP. My ethnic combination created someone often mistaken for Irish, of all things!

I've never hated my pale skin but I've never loved it either. I've been mostly indifferent to it, as with my freckles. As a child, I was frequently teased about both, but it was always good natured teasing and I took it as such. When we played Sardines at night, my cousins said I was easy to find because I glow in the dark. My much older step-brother said the freckles under my eyes were so dark in the summer that I looked like a raccoon.

Pale skin has its definite downsides. Any blemish is visible like a pink beacon. We bruise easily. We scar easily. We blush so easily, it's embarrassing (which can cause further blushing). It's not even so much blushing as it is flushing and blotching. I go blotchy red at the merest hint of a strong emotion. Just imagine how I'll look at our upcoming wedding!

Worse, though, very white skin makes for a great deal of discomfort on summer days. Sun and heat can feel like an assault, leaving me feeling sick and limp, even if I've stayed in the shade. It's not just about getting a sunburn. Even if my skin is protected, I feel like I have the flu: sick, drained, and incredibly uncomfortable. I would no sooner spend a holiday on a hot beach than in hell; the two are pretty much the same thing for me anyway.

On a side note, check out my triceps! It's the cane use, I guess, and all the things I use my arms for now that my back doesn't work properly. My arms are more powerful than you'd expect. I'm hoping to get them a bit more toned for the wedding, but, if I don't, that's okay too. I'm a disabled, middle-aged bride; perfection is not necessary for me -- or for any bride, for that matter.

As is my custom, of late, I make my disability needs a part of my fashion expression. This cane is a case in point. Isn't it pretty? Doesn't it add a nice touch to my outfit? You're jealous, right?

That's exactly what I was saying when Beau took this photograph. Another disabled friend, a man's man in his 80s, was going by on his mobility scooter when I held up my cane and said, "You know you want it!" His cane is a wonderful, twisted carved wood, with a metal eagle's head as the handle. Suffice to say, my cane is not quite his style.

But back to the pale skin, pale colours conundrum. Just guess what I found while thrift store shopping on the very day I was wearing this outfit. Just guess!

This pink leather jacket, that's what! It matched my outfit so well that the salesman said I could have walked out wearing it and he wouldn't have even noticed that I hadn't been wearing it when I came in.

And the funny thing is: it's pale pink but it actually looks good on me, even near my face (although, in this photo, I'm blushing/flushing red). What do you know? I was wrong about something. It happens -- occasionally.

This jacket gives me an extra chuckle because I used to have a very butch friend who said that I'm so femme that, when I wear a black leather jacket, it turns pink. If I ever run into her again, maybe I'll tell her that this jacket was black when I got it.

She's right, of course. I am one of the femme-iest people I know, male or female. I always have been, but it took a long time to make my peace with that. The women on my maternal line, coming from farmer stock, are decidedly unfeminine and rather proud of that. And feminists often say that femininity is not feminist.

Even In Style magazine repeatedly recommends that we "temper" our pastel outfits with a bit of grit because, after all, "pink looks cute but not cloying" when thus tempered. Okay, In Style, will this motorcycle suffice in "tempering" my "cloying" pink?

Oh whatever! I like pretty colours!

And I'll wear them from head to toe if I want to.

Isn't that one of the joys of freedom: doing just what we want, as long as we're not hurting anyone?

Ingrid Bergman evidently felt the same way and anything that's good enough for her is good enough for me.

I'm a femmey femme ...

... who understands when people call me a "girlie girl."

There's nothing wrong with that.

I'm also one of the strongest (and most feminist) people I know.

A passion for pastel in no way contradicts that. Those who wear pastel can be powerful. Pale skin can look beautiful with pale colours. Things we once thought could never go together do. Imagine that! 

(I'm sharing this with Sidney Fashion Hunter, Patti's Visible Mondays on Not Dead Yet, and A La Plage.)


  1. Hi
    Lilly here.. Just wanted to tell you I love the blouse. I seen it in Rietmans, but it was to small, thought about buying 2 of them and making one out of them.. I did this already with 2 lovely blue blouses. but will have to wait till they go on sale. Also wondered if I found some lace like this ,it wouldn't be to hard to make one.. also the colour is so feminine and soft.. love it.

    1. Hi Lilly. The Jessica Simpson line has shirts similar to this in plus sizes. I just got one in 1X and it's much too big on me (even though other 1X clothes fit me well), so I'll bet you'd have good luck with them. They're very pretty. I kept the one that's too big for me because I like it so much and it doesn't come in a smaller size. You'll see it in an upcoming post.

  2. Beautiful post, in every way! You look awesome in these colors, the blouse is perfect! I also loved your cane, even before you mentioned it in writing. :) Canes absolutely can add to style and personality. Justin has a few carved wooden canes that he adores (he's got problems with his knees, but he also just like canes, even though doesn't use them a lot - Mr Poirot, on the other hand, does :) and why can't we do the same just for style). You will be pleased, I think, to learn that I have a similar outfit in store. :) Very feminine, a little Poirot-esque (I mean the era, not the character), and also pastels. I know exactly what you mean about the pale skin - I also have mine from my Dad who is redhead with freckles and burns the first 5 min in the sun (my Mom has a beautiful skin that never burns, but gets an even tan). But I learned to like my skin, and we absolutely can wear pale colors - after all, we do look good in our own skin, don't we? So why shouldn't we look good in nude clothes or pastels? Much love xxxx

    1. It's fun to know another style blogger whose colouring is so similar to mine, Natalia. We spur each other on to try new things. I'm looking forward to your upcoming pastel outfit.

      I read (past and present tense, because I re-read them) all the Agatha Christie books. Poirot is represented as being quite old fashioned in his dress and that includes his "stick" which would have been more common in the previous century. I heard that all the movies are set in 1936 and, indeed, light, fluttery tops and dresses were in style then.

  3. fabulous outfit!!!! i´m glad you gave pastel a chance - it suits you so very well!!!!
    and the flowery cane is the cherry on top!
    i´m a very pale and feminine woman too - and i love my pastels! of cause people will think that i´m weak and they can mess with me - but not for long :-)))
    where can i find a pink plissé skirt now......

  4. I am so pale my sister called me fluorescent. I know th digs about glowing in the dark! :-)
    This light lavender is perfect on you, and so gentle and soft. I love it.
    I am also stretching my colour rules. Not that I've been that strict.
    An all pink outfit would be a stretch! Maybe a dare?!! xo Jazzy Jack

  5. Like you, I have very pale skin, and I always gravitated toward pastels in the past. The last couple of years I have been preferring darker blues and greens - jewel tones. After seeing you looking so lovely in these shades, I think I'll bring back some pastels while they are widely available, because before you know it, they will be "out" and hard to find! Love that cane. It has attitude among the floweriness.