Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What a Year: Sublime Mercies 2016

From Versatile Feminine Frills: The 1930s Daydress
My God, what a year! 2016 has been a doozy. In this post, I'll recap some of the issues, events, and styles that found their way into Sublime Mercies this year.

And I'll feature some of my favourite photos as well. Not all of the photos are of me. Not all of them are flattering. I didn't choose the photos that make me look the prettiest, or the most stylish, and I didn't choose the photos that make life look endlessly lovely and happy.

I chose the photos that are the most honest -- in their fun, in their playfulness, in their realism, and, yes, in their pain and struggle too.

For instance, take the above photo, from Versatile Feminine Frills: the 1930s Daydress. I'd been so excited about this new, 1930s style dress, but I was having a day when being disabled, and having to depend on Beau for so much was driving me utterly mental. I think the photo captures that mix of emotions quite well. It's funny, but real too.

I hope this post draws your attention to some posts you might not have seen yet. More and more, people are reading my "heavy" posts about child abuse issues, political issues, and such. I think that's great, seriously wonderful. But I do still write about style, and style history, and I love those posts too. In fact, they also often include a lot of cultural commentary and "heavy" stuff. But they're also often a light, pretty respite from the harshness of our world.We needed that in 2016.

And I fear we're going to need it just as much in 2017.

From Getting Inspired: Four Things You Must Do to End Child Sex Trafficking
But first, I want you to read my most important post -- ever: Getting Inspired: Four Things You Must Do to End Child Sex Trafficking. I have become so tired of people telling me I'm an inspiration and yet taking no action whatsoever, in word or in deed, to end child abuse. This post offers practical advice. But, to be honest, it came from a place of anger and frustration about human passivity and indifference in the face of suffering and cruelty -- even the suffering of children.

There's been a lot of that in 2016. 
From Getting Inspired: Four Things You Must Do to End Child Sex Trafficking
Beau, who makes charts for a living, made this little chart to illustrate the problem. They seldom do so, but, if people expand their world view to allow for the suffering of others, and the knowledge those others have gained from that suffering, they have no choice but to act. Inaction and indifference in the face of evil are forms of evil unto themselves.

From The Good with the Bad, Haunted by Christmas
Inaction and indifference are what have hurt my heart, hurt my soul, the most this year. I do not believe Trump could have been elected without it. And I'm angry. Really really angry.

This photo is from a recent post in which I was so frustrated by my disability, and so haunted by its cause, that I really could not bring myself to smile. But I could bring myself to snarl, and maybe that's okay too.

From the Ditsy Dress and the Dirty 30s: Honouring the Women of the Great Depression
I find that I'm not smiling in most of my favourite photos from 2016. But I still do my best to find comfort. I might not be smiling in this photo from my post about what real women wore during The Depression, but you can bet I'm drinking in my 20 year old cat's love, drinking his warmth right into that hollow spot in my chest that hurts when I'm upset. I call it my soul spot. Do you have one too?

From The Edwardian Brooch and Its Outfit
This photo, from The Edwardian Brooch and Its Outfit, seems ready-made for ruminations on the stuff of the spirit. This year, I've found myself thinking a lot about the soul, and God, and faith. So many horrible things are done in the name of God. 

From The Ugly Reality of Chronic Pain: Another Flare
And yet it is my own, very different faith in a very different God that helped and still helps me survive those horrible things -- things like the church organized, gang rapes that caused my constant pain. 

Up till now in this blog, I've only alluded to my own faith, because it's personal and private, and because people have a lot of preconceived notions about faith that in no way match my own. But I'm starting to think it's time to wrestle the definitions of faith and God away from the violent, the bigoted, and the oppressive. It's time to open up and show the world that not everyone who believes in God believes in repression, and rigid rules. Some of us believe in justice and equality and work for it as our service to God. Not all of us are Christian either, or any religion at all.

So, if I have the courage, you might expect me to write more about faith in 2017. We'll see if I'm brave enough.

From Believe! Rape Culture and Disbelief
In 2016, the bravest thing I did was to carry this sign at a rally in support of Ghomeshi's victims, who courageously came forward and were pilloried and disbelieved for their efforts to speak truth to power. That was bad enough, but, when Trump won the election, after he'd bragged about sexually assaulting women, I knew rape culture was winning, for now. 

But not without a fight. From me. From you. From Beau. From good people everywhere. It was important to me that you see this photo again, to see that women are not alone in this fight. Men like Beau may be rare, but they exist. It's time we started expecting more of men, expecting them to fight rape culture as much as we do. If they won't, they have no place in my life -- or yours?

From Gorgeous, Golden Light: Loving Autumn
But I do know that Beau is special. Everyone loves Beau. I adore this photo of his cat, Milo. He's refusing to look at me and is instead listening to Beau's every move in the kitchen, hoping he'll return and pet him again. Everyone knows that Beau gives the best pets. He has an amazing loving nature and everyone, human and animal alike, feels calmer when he's around, even when Beau himself isn't feeling calm at all! He has that healing quality about him.

This photo isn't actually from my blog (though it gives a sneak peek of an upcoming outfit) but I wanted to include it anyway. In the midst of all the craziness of 2016, Beau and I were living our first year together as a married couple. It was good, very good. Now that we're not planning a wedding, we're getting along so much better! I'm only half in jest when I say that. Wedding planning ain't for sissies!

I'm loving being married to Beau, but the world has been getting us both down and that does reflect itself in squabbles and struggles from time to time. When Leonard Cohen died (such a loss), I listened again to kd lang singing his song Hallelujah. To my mind, nobody sings it as well, as powerfully, or as meaningfully as she does. This time, I was struck in an entirely new way by these words:

Our love is not a victory march
It's a cold and and it's a broken

In the past, I've always understood this to mean that love is painful and tragic and unhealthy and terribly imperfect. But now, with Beau, I feel like these lyrics are about good and healthy love -- in a broken and cruel world. Our love is not victorious over hatred. Our love cannot banish pain from our hearts. But we do our best. Together.

When we got married, our vows included the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, healing the world, when we said to each other:

Together, we will build a home filled with ... compassion. Let us join hands to build a world filled with love, peace, healing, and justice.

The bigger world, how it affects us, and how we affect it, matters to us. 

From Darkness Descends: Life Under Trump
And I do think that, together, our best is better than it was when each of us was on our own. Very soon after Trump's win, when I felt that I had no fight left in me, I woke to find this note from Beau on the kitchen table. 

Beau is my number one fan. He's so supportive. I couldn't be so strong, I couldn't speak out so loudly, if he weren't there to hold me when I'm weak, and comfort me when my voice is gone.

From Gorgeous, Golden Light: Loving Autumn
But our marriage is not just about supporting each other through the hard stuff. We have a lot of fun too. One of our autumn traditions now, is to celebrate our Vogue-iversary. This year was our fifth! 

I love that Beau loves my passion for fashion. He doesn't just love it. He respects it.

From Disability Style: What I Wear When Everything Hurts
Combining fashion with disability is not always easy. This year, I got even more explicit about how difficult it can be. I did this both in Getting Inspired, and in Disability Style: What I Wear When Everything Hurts, where I got right down to bras, stockings, and all the other things we "spoonies" have to think about when getting dressed.

I like that my demonstration of the frustrations of stockings led to this unexpectedly sexy photo. 'Cause, you know, the disabled can be sexy too. And, yup, we do have have sex lives. How strange!

From The Ugly Reality of Chronic Pain: Another Flare
But, oh my God, the pain can be bad! Sick of feeling like the chronically ill and disabled need to hide our pain from the world, I wrote the The Ugly Reality of Chronic Pain: Another Flare

From The Ugly Reality of Chronic Pain: Another Flare
Chronic pain changes everything, including the way our bodies look. I wanted to be brave and show myself at my very worst, heating pads, knee pillows, defeated expression, unshaven legs, newly double chin (because I can't exercise anymore), and all. This is reality. And I wanted to show it.

A lot of people thanked me for my courage and even sent me photos of themselves at their worst. 

From The Good with the Bad, Haunted by Christmas
I also wanted to show the reality of PTSD. We shouldn't hide that from the world either. There is no shame in it. It's not like we're the ones who caused it. Even though I find it very hard to look at, of all the photos we've taken this year, I think this one is my favourite. 

I'm all dressed up in my winter finery, but my face has PTSD written all over it. The terror, the grief, the flashbacks, the alienation, the indignation: it's all there, and more. So often, it's hidden, even when I wish it weren't, but it's here, in this photo, plain as day.

From On the Road: Fashion, Death, and Distraction
Even when I'm feeling very weak, apparently I give the impression that I'm strong. I like this photo because I think I look motorcycle tough in it. In fact, though, we took it soon after my abusive father died, and, despite my best efforts, I was thrown into contact with other abusive family members I have not spoken to in 15 or more years. It was awful!

But it made one thing very clear to me: I made the right decision in cutting off contact with my family all those years ago. I think it's a very important step in healing.

From The 1950s: the Dress, the Dream, the Reality
This was an awful year for so many people. I've always been the type to speak out against the oppression of others, but this year, doing so felt even more important. I love the above photo because it looks like real life in the 1950s, not the cookie cutter image of the 50s that many so admire. Racism was a big part of that rality and this post is in large part about what real life was like for African Americans in the 1950s. 

When Trump said he wanted to make America great again, was he talking about the 1950s? Was he talking about the overt, systemic racism (and sexism) of the 1950s? WTF?

From Race, America, and Canadian Patriotism: Reflections on a Chosen Country
As a white person, I feel it is my duty to speak out against racism. After all, just as rape is a man's issue, isn't racism a white person's issue? I wrote this Canada Day post in direct response to a Native friend's request that white people speak out more about racism. In it, I enjoy my Canada Day outfit, and my great aunt's wonderful, 1960s daisy jewelry -- and I talk about my love of Canada, the Black Lives Matter movement in the States, and Canada's own racism.

It took some courage. Living according to one's principles does take courage. I lost friends this year because of it, and it hurt, a lot. But it was necessary, wasn't it?

From Moving Targets: Homophobia and the Orlando Massacre
Not all issues that came up this year were about the oppression of others. Some were about my own oppression, as a woman, as a disabled person, as a queer, as a Jew, a child trafficking survivor. 

Fashion can be a direct political statement and this rainbow outfit is a very clear case in point. I wore it the day after the massacre of queer people in a bar in Orlando. It already seems like so long ago, doesn't it? The terrors and heartaches just kept hitting us long before we'd even begun to grasp the ones that came before them.

From Darkness Descends: Life Under Trump
This image is from my post about Trump's victory. I was and am scared. Whenever I put a scarf over my head, I instantly look more Jewish, and I like that. But this year has been very scary for me as a Jew. Anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise and I have been their target.

From Believe! Rape Culture and Disbelief
I feel like I've aged about 10 years this year. Don't you?

From The Lost City, the Found Dress, and My Beautiful Revenge
As always, when life proves difficult, I retreated into the world of fashion and fashion history. I sometimes call it Aesthetic Escapism. Though you can see a modern car in this photo I somehow feel that this image is kind of timeless and I like that. I was so excited to find this 1960s housedress. I used it as an opportunity to write about my city in the 60s, and my mixed feelings about its recent, rapid gentrification and skyrocketing real estate prices.

From Dropped Waists and Miss Fisher's Earrings: The Highs and Lows of 1920s Fashion
As much as I fancy myself an articulate woman, I have a hard time explaining the thrill I get from fashion history. Little things like matching a 1920s style headband to a 1920s style outfit just make me feel better.

From Dropped Waists and Miss Fisher's Earrings: The Highs and Lows of 1920s Fashion
Sometimes the details are the best part, like the shoes I wore with my 1920s outfit. They proved to be a real hit with my readers. Thanks guys!

From Ration Fashion: A Wartime Dress
I get a particular thrill out of jewelry, like these dress clips in my post about World War II style.

From Gorgeous, Golden Light: Loving Autumn
Or these wonderful autumn shades and my clever use of my aunt's pin to keep my wrap-around skirt from flying open.

From the Ditsy Dress and the Dirty 30s: Honouring the Women of the Great Depression
But I was particularly proud of my post, The Ditsy Dress and the Dirty 30s, Honouring Women of the Great Depression.

From the Ditsy Dress and the Dirty 30s: Honouring the Women of the Great Depression
Beau and I modelled our own photos on documentary photos of poor women surviving the Depression. I could swear this woman has or is getting a migraine. I know the feeling.

From the Ditsy Dress and the Dirty 30s: Honouring the Women of the Great Depression
Given how difficult my own life has been, it wasn't hard for me to mimic the sad and worried faces of the women of the Depression. I didn't want to look glamorous in the these photos, though I do think my authentic, 1930s housedress is beautiful. I wanted to look real.

From My Valentine's Day Dress, Sort-of
More and more, I took my main inspiration from old photos of "real women," not movie stars, fashion shoots, and fashion illustrations.

From My Valentine's Day Dress, Sort-of
I found myself particularly taken by this old woman wearing a dress so like my own. I still plan to tell you more about her in a future post, perhaps one about the women's suffrage movement.

From The Lost City, the Found Dress, and My Beautiful Revenge
Filling out the practical, vintage, cotton dresses, and seeing how women really wore them, makes me see my own body differently.

From The 1950s: the Dress, the Dream, the Reality
The more I look at this woman's curves, the more I look at her face and the way her hair is swept back from it, the more beautiful and, yes, sexy, she becomes to me. I'll bet someone loved her very much.

From The Lost City, the Found Dress, and My Beautiful Revenge
Amplitude is good! If you have it, enjoy it!

From Versatile Feminine Frills: The 1930s Daydress
After all, you come from a long line of real women ...

From The 1950s: the Dress, the Dream, the Reality
...who had real curves, and really did age.

From You Don't Have To Be Beautiful; or, Go to Hell, Trump!
Trump's intense misogyny also caused me to look at myself differently. In You Don't Have to Be Beautiful, I slammed his attitudes and asserted women's worth, not as objects of lust, but as complete, well-rounded, ageing, thinking, and feeling human beings.

From Versatile Feminine Frills: The 1930s Daydress
I love this frilly, 1930s style dress, and I think I look pretty in it. It's nice to be pretty, but it's not necessary.

From Ration Fashion: A Wartime Dress
Some women like feeling sexy, and that's just fine.

From On the Road: Fashion, Death, and Distraction
But it's not necessary.

Sometimes, like when my father died, I'd rather feel and look tough. Sometimes, I just don't want to think about how I look, but women aren't afforded that luxury, not without suffering derision and scorn. 

Most of all, I'd rather be a good person than a pretty person. Isn't that much more important?

From Emerald Green for the Haunted Heart
I'm probably not at my most beautiful in this photo, but boy, am I ever real. I like my intensity of emotions here. We women are not just somebody's decoration. 

From Emerald Green for the Haunted Heart
I think this feeling may be part of why I tend to dress modestly, with prim little buns and old-fashioned dresses. I have nothing against sexy clothing. But I like the subtlety and sophistication of less flashy looks too.

Don't get me wrong, I have my vanity, and that's okay. I like my hair, for instance. I really do. This photo is what caused me to realize what green does for my hair and, trust me, I'll be wearing more green in the future. 

But I do it for me, not for anybody else.

From Dropped Waists and Miss Fisher's Earrings: The Highs and Lows of 1920s Fashion
I've been having fun with my hair, like I did creating this faux bob.

From The Good with the Bad: Haunted by Christmas
This year, I got an actual bob! I've always had my hair long so this should feel like a big change for me, but, oddly, it feels quite natural. What do you think of it?

Another big change this year? I finally got a real camera! Suddenly, I could do the impossible: photograph my hummingbirds! I get crazy amounts of joy from feeding my birds. 

See? 2016 wasn't entirely bad.

From Pretty Pictures and Pleasing Diversions
This photo was the first one we took with the new camera that I think really showcased how much better it makes me look. It's weird: you can see my skin better, and perhaps see my age more, but I still think I look better with this new camera.

On another note, have you noticed that I went a bit wild for small, floral prints this year?

From Fashionable Cheer in the Drear of the 30s and 40s
I think my months-long obsession with ditsy prints may have started with this photo. If you know anything about this young woman, please tell me!

From Fashionable Cheer in the Drear of the 30s and 40s
I was absurdly excited about this dress ... 

From Fashionable Cheer in the Drear of the 30s and 40s
... and even more excited by its strong resemblance to this one. Isn't it amazing?

So, yes, as you can see, I did still use some fashion plate images as inspirations for my own outfits and posts.

From Ration Fashion: A Wartime Dress
This was especially true when I was down. Sometimes, real life is just such a damned downer, I'd really rather distance myself from it. Even though Ration Fashion was about wartime fashion, I deliberately avoided writing about the war itself. As I explained in the post, this was when people on Twitter had begun calling me a "genocidal Jew" and such, and I just needed a break from it all.

From The Good with the Bad, Haunted by Christmas
An image like this, for example, is quite delightfully distant from reality, something I really needed badly after Trump's victory.

From The Good with the Bad, Haunted by Christmas
When the world is just too much, and I'm haunted by hell, there is always fashion.

From Darkness Descends: Life Under Trump
But there is no denying that it's been a very hard year.

From Gorgeous, Golden Light: Loving Autumn
Now what?

Well, even if the world keeps crumbling around us, you can expect some more style posts from me. Here are a few sneak peeks.

You can expect to see this incredible, vintage cape in an upcoming post.

And I'll soon be showing you this 1930s, sailor-inspired look.

But I'll probably start with this bold departure from my ditsy print obsession. I'm quite taken by this season's geo-prints, which clearly hearken back to the 60s and 70s, so expect more of them in 2016.

From Gorgeous, Golden Light: Loving Autumn
Beyond that, I don't know what we can expect from 2017. I'm not terribly optimistic about it, to be honest. But we can hope, at the very least, for some new reasons to smile.

(I'm sharing this with Sydney Fashion Hunter, Fashion Should Be Fun, Style CroneRachel the Hat, Not Dead YetTina's Pink Friday, Not Dressed as Lamb, Fine Whatever, and High Latitude Style.)