Friday, September 24, 2021

The Summer of Freedom-ish: Wearing it Well

It was my summer of freedom. Ish. Covid is far from over, but my province lifted enough of its restrictions, and enough people were vaccinated here, that I finally felt safe to venture out of the house a little bit. It's been lovely to wear pretty outfits again, and to see friends I haven't seen for a long time.

It's done wonders for my mental health, not just because Covid isolation measures have put us all under severe strain, but because, even putting Covid aside, global and local events have felt downright apocalyptic. I suppose by now we should be getting used to living in the end of days, but I'm not. Are you?

My plan for this post is to show you some of my summer outfits, paired with some of the the new-to-me jewelry I've found online during Covid isolation. Focusing on frivolities like pretty jewelry has been my way of staying sane in a very insane, historical moment. I'm not ignoring the insanity. I'm just finding ways to nourish my soul in the midst of it.

But, before I do, will tell you of some of the things that have made this past summer feel so damned apocalyptic. Because, as you know, one of my greatest forms of therapy is the creativity and beauty I find in style. To really appreciate why my outfits were so therapeutic for me, it's helpful to understand why I felt in so much need of this therapy. 

As always, I tell my tale because I know it's probably your tale too. Times are tough all over. If you're reading this blog, there's a good chance that style is therapy for you too. 

Dressing as we please it a kind of freedom unto itself.

It's a freedom that the women and girls of Afghanistan have again lost. If there is such a thing as dedicating a blog post, I want to dedicate this one to the women and girls of Afghanistan. I watched the news in horror last month, as the Taliban immediately moved in to fill the void left behind as American troops left Afghanistan. 

The restrictions women and girls will now face are almost beyond imagination. (It's very difficult to avoid thinking about the chilling novel, the Handmaid's Tale.) Except we don't have to imagine it. We know what's coming, and what is indeed already beginning, because we've seen it before, the last time the Taliban had control of Afghanistan. (The Taliban claim they've changed, but recent events strongly suggest otherwise.) Women will not be allowed to leave the house at all without a male escort. They will be forced to wear a full burqa when they do go out, and may be severely punished if they don't. Women and girls will be forbidden from being athletes. Girls will not be allowed to get an education. (Remember: under Taliban rule, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head when she was 11 for the "sin" of speaking out of favour of education for girls.) Although the Taliban claim otherwise, women are unlikely to be allowed to have jobs, or, at the very least, will face severe restrictions as to what jobs they can hold, and how they can do those jobs. 

It has already begun. People have already gone missing for the "crime" of simply being related to teenage girls on soccer teams. 

Photo by Johanna Geron

Is it any wonder that women are frantic to get out of Afghanistan? This photo of an Afghan refugee family arriving in Belgium with their daughters gets me in all the emotional spots. The weariness of the parents. The joy of the little girl, and the way she appears to be flying. I feel great respect for what her parents chose to do, in large part for their daughters. As the descendant of Jewish refugees, I know how much courage it takes to do what they did, and how subsequent generations will thank them.

That little girl's seeming ability to fly brought to mind my love of bird jewelry. As a child sex slave, I was born into bondage. My freedom has been hard won. As with all bird jewelry, this Scottish brooch from about 1915 signifies freedom to me, a freedom for which I am very grateful.

Being allowed to wear what we want affords us the ability to assert our personhood, and that counts for a hell of a lot. In this photo, instead of the bird, I'm wearing another sign of my own freedom: a gold "C" for my name. I feel like this celebration of one's own name is another way for someone like me to say, "I'm still here, no matter what you did to me. I'm here, and you cannot silence me."

I hope that soon the women and girls of Afghanistan will again have that same freedom. 

Yet another unjust loss of freedom was front and centre in the news this summer when, in May, the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced that they had found the remains of 215 Indigenous children in unmarked graves at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. As I write this, a total of about 1,800 Indigenous children's bodies have been found in unmarked graves outside of residential schools all over Canada. (A similar reckoning has not yet begun in the United States, but it seems immanent.)

Starting in about 1880, Indigenous children were stolen from their parents and incarcerated in these residential "schools," the express purpose of which was to destroy Indigenous culture. Survivors of theses "schools" have long spoken of the extreme physical, emotional, sexual, cultural, and spiritual abuse they suffered as children. They have also long spoken of deaths, children's deaths, from neglect, abuse, malnutrition, medical experiments, suicide, and outright murder (as if all those other deaths weren't also murder!). They have spoken of the many, many bodies buried outside of these "schools".

The question is: Who was listening?

Judging from the shock with which non-Indigenous Canadians reacted to the news that the bodies had been found, it seems clear that we were
not listening until now. Despite the fact that generations of Indigenous survivors have spoken out about them, most white Canadians had never even heard of the dead children's bodies surrounding the residential schools. I had, but I clearly hadn't grasped the scope, and meaning or what I was being told, because I too reacted as if it was brand new news, even though it wasn't.

I wrote to some of my Indigenous friends to see how they were doing. They were, of course, extremely upset. One Indigenous friend was mostly angry, angry at white people for not listening until now. 

Another Indigenous friend asked me how I had coped when I'd learned of my Jewish relatives murdered and dumped in mass, unmarked graves in the Holocaust. Of course, I was thinking about the Holocaust. Genocide reminds one of genocide. And that is what we're talking about here: genocide. 

Many of us reacted by refusing to celebrate Canada Day. Instead of wearing the traditional red and white on July 1, many of us instead wore orange. Orange is the colour worn to honour the victims of residential schools, both those who survived, and those who didn't. Our anger and disgust with our country was far too little, far too late, and I wonder how long it will take for it to fade.

I too wore orange. It felt like a shamefully small gesture. I added this brooch as a pendant because, to me, it looks like a flame, and, to me, that symbolized the perseverance of the human spirit, the Indigenous spirit, even when the body has been killed.

I also vowed never to celebrate Canada Day again. After I'd made this decision, the Indigenous friend who had asked me about my family in the Holocaust posted on Facebook that anybody planning to celebrate Canada Day should unfriend her immediately. Yes, I thought, this is as it should be.

Right after Canada Day, the very land that we have stolen from Indigenous peoples suffered the worst heat wave on record. It killed about 500 people in Western Canada. In Lytton, British Columbia (how's that for a colonial name for a province?), the temperature reached 49.6 degrees Centigrade, 121.2 Fahrenheit. Just as the heat started to abate, Lytton caught on fire and the whole town burnt down in minutes. 

The summer was one of choking wildfires. This has become the norm for summers here, or so it seems. Yet again, it felt like the end of the world.

Because it is.

Photo from my post, My First Shot: Joy, Gratitude, and the 1918 Influenza Epidemic - a Sartorial Ode to Nurses Past and Present

In the midst of all of this, I was overjoyed that the vaccine, late to Canada, was finally here, no longer in a trickle, but in a mighty river of hope. One thing was going right, finally

I thought, finally, this whole Covid nightmare is almost over. 

I was wrong. I am completely and totally gobsmacked by the selfish, hostile, superstitious idiocy that has led so many people to refuse to get vaccinated. In their stupid, cruel, selfish assertions of their supposed freedom, they are taking everyone else's freedoms away. My province had lifted its indoor mask restrictions, but it had to reinstate them because Covid infection rates were going back up. Where? In conservative parts of the province, where there are more Covid deniers. (It's been far worse in the States, but it's not great here.)

In some places, hospitals are now so full of the dying unvaccinated that hospital workers are having to work under the kind of triage conditions usually reserved for war. What does this mean on the ground? People with cancer are being denied life saving surgery. Doctors are having to simply provide palliative care for people whose lives they could save - if it weren't for all the unvaccinated taking up hospital beds.

I am beyond furious. I am livid. I'm also completely baffled. What is wrong with these people? What on earth makes them think what they're doing is the right thing to do? How can anyone be so stupid!

It is not lost on me that the very people who are wanking on and on about their freedom to choose are the same people wanking on about how great it is that Texas has virtually removed women's right to choose abortion.

Me, on Rosh Hashana, pissed, and wearing my shema ring. For more on the ring, click here.

These are the same people who are wanking on and on about how having to carry vaccine passports is just like being Jewish under nazi rule. How dare they?! These are the people who made it impossible for those of us who are actually Jewish to celebrate Yom Kippur in synagogue - again. This was our second virtual Yom Kippur, and I'm pissed!

Is it any wonder that, with all this going on in the world, I've grabbed hold of whatever small moments of joy and freedom that I can? 
That freedom began with my second shot. This is what I wore the day I got my second shot.

I had been planning to wear this dress (a size 14!), because it's so beautiful, and so festive. 

I'd been planning this for a while, which is why I wore the dress's matching mask when I got my first shot. It was meant as a sort of sartorial foreshadowing of things to come.

But, on the very day of my second shot, my perimenopausal hormones decided to have a little renaissance, which, for me, meant that my endometriosis pain made a comeback too. In other words, I had killer cramps. Endo cramps are their own, special beast, making ordinary cramps seem like a joke.

Clearly, then, overalls were the order of the day. With a view like this, who could really even mind? With Covid isolation, I hadn't seen this view for quite a while. I'd honestly forgotten how wonderful it is.

I added some mirth to the outfit, with these little, silver ...

... Bugs Bunny earrings. 

When I was a very small child, I thought that Bugs Bunny and MASH's Hawkeye Pierce were the same person. I really did. They both have the same sort of insouciant irreverence in the face of danger and hostility. 
I've always wished I could be like that too.

I did have fairly significant side effects for several days after my second shot: I ached all over, and I was both extremely tired and ravenously hungry.

But it was so worth it! All hail modern medicine!

(If you'd like to see more of some of my vintage, Red Cross pins, you can watch this video.)

I didn't start going out again until I was two weeks past my second shot. Of course, I followed all Covid safety restrictions. Even so, I was nervous. I knew my risk of infection, especially serious infection, was very low now, but it just felt so weird to be out at all, talking to people and everything. 

On my first day out on my own, I didn't want to have to live up to a great outfit, so I dressed down, but I was excited to add one of the many jewelry steals and deals I'd found during Covid isolation: this set of hand made, "end of the day," art glass beads.

I've been really into art glass jewelry these days.

You can see more of my art glass finds, and many other finds, in this video.

They can run to a fair amount of money, often selling for over $100, so I snap them up when I find them at a good price. 

I'm pretty sure I planned this whole outfit around the necklace. The outfit was a big hit with my Facebook friends, especially all the family I've found doing my genealogy. I wonder if a love of bright, festive colours runs in the family. I know a love of style does. 

Art glass comes in many forms. One of my favourites is wedding cake beads. They're hand blown, hand "painted"...

... and soooo pretty! When I wear them, I feel like a six year old who finally gets to play with the toy her parents kept from her for fear she'd break it.

When I got this necklace, I thought these beads were also art glass.

They're cold and heavy like glass ...

... and they have an amazing luminosity to them that no plastic could ever have. I posted photos of them in one of my vintage and antique jewelry groups, and everyone suggested that I should test them to see if they're actually lavender jade! So I got out my handy dandy, gem tester, and lo! they are not merely glass. Now all that my gem tester can tell me is that these are naturally occurring stones and that they are as hard as jade. I'll have to take them to an expert to find out if they actually are jade. But, regardless, they're special and I love them.

To see more of this necklace, other vintage finds, and how to use a gem tester, you can watch this video.

But back to art glass. I got this lovely string of green, wedding cake beads just before Covid hit ...

... so this was the first day I actually got to wear them. 
With their graduated sizes, tiny at the ends and large in the centre, they're a particularly fine set.

If you read my blog regularly, you've seen this dress before. As with some of my other new, clothing purchases, it's a size 14! That's fun for me. Gallbladder disease with its attendant, frequent pancreatitis attacks had caused my body to bloat and I was almost up to a size 20. My frame is on the petite side, so being a size 20 felt quite unnatural for me. Of course, that may simply have been because my weight gain was caused by an illness. Who knows?

At any rate, I liked the size 14 dress so much, I got it in two fabrics. Here's it is in a festive floral ...

The relaxing of Covid restrictions has meant that I could finally get a much needed hair cut. But I wore my hair up or back most of the summer anyway, because heat.

(... ornamented with simple, enamel earrings, and a green shoe string worn in my hair as a ribbon).

This summer was the first time I've been able to go out since my weight loss. Last summer, it was not as safe to go out, and, besides, I was still losing more weight. My body had not yet settled into its new normal. My point? This summer, I was able to discover which of my summer clothes really are too big now. This dress is a case in point. It's really not working for me anymore, especially in the ribs. I'm thinking of turning it into a skirt.

But I digress a bit. Back to jewelry, and art glass.

The beads on this 1920s necklace are the prettiest art glass beads I've ever seen, and were a bit of a splurge. Even the actress Mira Sorvino likes them! (I'm totally name dropping. Mira follows me because she and I are fellow, anti sex trafficking activists.) 

Did you notice the vivid, blue butterfly on my overalls earlier in the post? This butterfly matches it. It's also by a Scandinavian jeweler, but not the same one who made my other butterflies. Scandinavian, enamel pieces like this often sell for over $100, so, when I find a good deal, I snap them up.

To see another great steal of a deal on a Scandinavian, enamel brooch, check out this video.

The green butterfly arrived in the mail along with these pieces. The brooch on the bottom right is by Krementz.

I am on a total Krementz kick these days.

They're from the 60s and 70s, gold filled, and very well made.

I just love their delicate, feminine beauty... 

... and the way they combine rose and yellow gold together for a dainty, nuanced effect. 

I got it in a "junk" lot of six brooches. I bought it mostly for the Krementz brooch on the bottom left. It's like the grandchild of the Victorian, pansy brooch on the top, which I'm quite sure the seller did not realize was Victorian.

I liked the pansy so much, I wore it immediately, even though I was having a really awful day, as evidenced by the expression on my face. (Do also note my amazing opal ring, which you can see more of here, and here. You can see more of the dress here.)

When I got the pansy, it was extremely dirty, but, even so, when I posted it in an antique jewelry group, they strongly recommended I test it to see if it's gold. I'm terrible at testing for gold, and I'm still avoiding most, indoor public spaces, so I have yet to take it to a jeweler to confirm that it really is gold.

Most of the photos in this post were taken using my phone, not my good camera. Beau and I also need new glasses (yet another thing we've put off during Covid), so please excuse the blur.

But I gave it a really good bath and polish, and I agree with those who said they think it's real gold. It sure is beautiful at any rate!

I beamed as I wore it again the next day ... 

... with a pretty dress ...

.. to match.

I am so into Victorian jewelry. I have to stop myself from buying every single Victorian piece I see that's selling at a great price. But, a deal is a deal. A steal is even better. And this Scottish, silver and agate, Victorian brooch was a steal. It's circa 1860-1880. Imagine the history in a piece like this!

I'm trying to wear more silver these days. I always think that it doesn't suit me as well as gold does ...

... but the artistry in silver can be so amazing ... 

I don't know about you, but, with our mask mandates, I find that I seldom bother with lipstick these days. I miss it, actually, but it's a nuisance with masks.

... that I'll wear it just for that. Both the vintage, hammered, silver earrings, and the vintage spoon ring are also silver.

The ring came to me looking like this. Some people prefer the patina of silver. 

I am not one of those people. So I put a fair bit of effort into bringing this spoon ring back to its original gloss and gleam. 

Yes, I have maintained my feminist resolve not to shave anymore, neither my legs nor my underarms. I think this is the only photo here where you can actually tell.

But back to Victorian jewelry. I find that a lot of people who sell jewelry don't recognize Victorian pieces, and that almost always means they sell it for less than it's worth. I live for that sort of thing.

This piece is a great example of that. I can see why the seller didn't realize how old it was. I can't believe how well the paste stones have maintained their clarity and sparkle for at least 120 years!

For more of this brooch, and how to identify Victorian jewelry, try this video.

For more on my weddings rings, click here. For more on the ruby ring, click here.

I don't wear a lot of blue, as it's not really my colour, and some shades of blue are very triggering for me, but royal and navy blues can be so vibrant, I'm more than willing to make exceptions to my colour "rules." 

The harder my life gets, the more colourful my outfits get. This has always been true for me, but it gets more true the older I get. Maybe it's a Jewish thing. Who knows? At any rate, my love of deep, vibrant colours has led me re-evaluate my feelings about cloisonné. Cheap and fake cloisonne can be uncomfortably reminiscent of tacky, 80s fashion, but I could tell this black bracelet was very good quality, and the price was so good, I broke down and bought it. 

To my surprise, I've been wearing it a lot. Here I paired it ...

You can see more of this dress here.

... with more art glass beads.

But, you know, I'm about more than just florals and pretty colours! I like some grown up, sophisticated geometry from time to time too.

At a bit over $100, this rolled gold and agate, spinner, watch fob was a both a major splurge and a great deal at the same time. Originally a form of men's jewelry, they don't come cheap. This one has carnelian on side, and bulls-eye, black agate on the other. It also opens as a locket, but I don't want to force it open for fear of breaking it!

My talk of geometry brings me to Mid Century Modern, or MCM, jewelry. 

This silver, Aksel Holmsen pendant is not my usual style. But it was such an amazing steal at $10, I could not resist. (This was another example of a seller not knowing what she had. She didn't spot the hallmark on the back.) Besides, it's fun to branch out and try new things with style.

The pendant makes me feel all grown up and sophisticated, and I've received several compliments on it. (If it reminds you of a certain part of the female anatomy, both Beau and I are reminded of that too. Down the road, I may or may not chose to write about the personal symbolism I have given to this piece.)

MCM jewelry is not understated. It's bold and brash and often a bit or a lot weird. 

It turns even a simple, demure outfit into something a bit over the top. (To see this dress worn to better effect, click here.)

But, in my opinion, it invites us to wear over the top outfits to go with it. I gotta tell ya, I have a blast doing my very best, 1970s, retired to Miami, New York Jew looks. My grandma was just such a woman. 

It's aspirational!

For more of this dress, click here.

Although it's been great fun to dress for my jewelry this past summer, sometimes the jewelry isn't the point. The dress is. 

It's so wonderful to be able to dress up again!

But even when the dress is the focus, I'd feel naked without at least a little jewelry ...

... like this tiny, vintage, gold and ruby pendant that Beau bought for me to match my ruby ring. (It's so tiny, it's pretty much impossible to photograph.)

And this gold rose and ruby, single stud earring I got for next to nothing. (Yes, my other earrings is flipped around backwards. Oh well.) 

Speaking of rubies, check out this amazing, 1940s, 14k gold and ruby brooch I got for $20! It was part of a junk jewelry lot on ebay. I cannot believe the seller didn't see the 14k mark, but I'm sure glad he didn't.

I am capable of dressing down. You saw the overalls, right? This outfit also fits my idea of dressing down ...

... for the most part. 

It's cut is so simple, it reminds me of 1930s house dresses

I liked it so well, and it was so cheap, that I bought it in peach too ...

... and dressed it up with necklace. 

But summer is over now. The days are cooling and I needed to pair my dress with a jacket.

Will the freedom-ish that we have gained over the summer continue into the fall and winter, or will Covid restrictions once again be increased? The way things are going, I think increased restrictions will be necessary. But as long it's still safe to enjoy a little freedom, I'm going to do so. I'm stocking up on the joy, in case I need it later.

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