Thursday, September 24, 2009

Off on a Ride

It's been a month since I came to college, and everything's finishing its shift into full gear right about now. Orientation, with its open houses and club fairs, is buried far in the past; the class shopping period ended a week ago, and there are no more excuses for missed assignments or classes. Clubs have been meeting for several weeks now, and paper assignments and problem sets in French, English, and obnoxious linguistics IPA symbols are piling up on my desk. But I love it. No professor will be checking names off an attendance sheet here. My slate is clean, and it's my responsibility to hold myself to the standards others - parents, peers, teachers - might have imposed on me back in high school. I have to launch myself now, and luckily, I think I'm ready for takeoff.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Taking Flight

Pure Wonder by Vain and Vapid.
I've been having a lot of Ballon Rouge moments lately, here at college, being swept up into something great. It's not support or a push upwards from the bottom, but rather a big tug from above, a call to my own special adventure. This swirling optimistic energy just comes barreling through and lifts me along. Whether it's the muted excitement of other teenagers at Fashion Week dreaming of the collections to come and trying not to look starstruck, or the organized chaos of class registration and each class's promise of fascinatingly obscure knowledge, the balloons have descended, and all I can do is hold on tight and begin to fly.

Friday, September 11, 2009

First Days

Going to a woman's college, and one affiliated as it is with a world-class coeducational university, is as Romantic and lovely as I might have imagined. These past two-and-a-half weeks, time has begun to unveil for me the cast of characters of the next act of the Life and Times of Hannah Serena. I have retained some of my happiest memories from these short weeks but, because my camera has sadly been obsolete due to a missing battery charger, I fear that I have lost some other moments in passing and may only retrieve them, with the prompting of some sort of keyword, decades into the future. What I can remember is this:
A dance party at the Central Park Zoo. A toga party at a Columbia fraternity house. A fruit and chocolate crepe on the Low Library steps with all the other denizens of my Barnard dorm. A chance encounter with my old camp friend Jake on the Columbia pavilion. 3 AM delirium with my most favorite floormates under the soft midnight glare of ensconced lighting fixtures. Goofy adult mad-libs. Evening a cappella auditions that lasted for hours. The subway ride home from Magnolia, suspended in chocolate cupcakey bliss, as a new friend's nineteenth birthday faded away.
Mornings filled with French. Afternoons filled with studiousness and banana cake at the campus café. Nights filled with laughter, gossip, giddiness, and popcorn. Sleep filled with wooziness and finally, after all these years, ecstasy. I can't describe it quite - it's this sense of closure, that I'm finally learning what I want to learn, being with the people I deserve to be with and not the petty ones who have always tried to bring me down. I stroll around the halls and hear snippets of Korean, Arabic, Hindi; see colorful clothes tumbling through the neverending cycle of a front-load dryer. Style, sophistication, is everywhere, and confidence fills the air. The confidence is infectious, and all of a sudden I'm beginning to love myself.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Residential Life

One of the most difficult things about college for a visual person like myself is making a dorm room look and feel as pretty and comfortable as a room back home. This is something I'm working on. Though I've collected piles of fashion photographs and obtained a large supply of tape, I don't want to overwhelm my tiny, light-filled space.
Still, there's something so nice about having this space to ourselves ("us," of course, being my roommate and I), as s small as it is; in fact, I find that open spaces can be much more anxiety-inducing than small and intimate ones like these. Every night, I snuggle into my jersey sheets and polka-dotted duvet and wake up with sunlight pouring through the window facing the Columbia College campus. Maybe I'll still rearrange it - hey, maybe I'll try that feng shui thing - but right now, it's really not so bad at all.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On the Move

Moving into my dorm room (or half-room, to be exact) took ages. There were floor pillows to unload, clothes to unfold, accessories to untangle, a minifridge to unearth from its tightly taped package. I accidentally ripped my vintage Moulin Rouge posters as I tried to unwrap them from their casings and nearly lost all hope. But after all the bags had been emptied and my parents had finished attending special move-in day meetings and took off for the ride back home, I finally began to organize, and my house of a room became more like a home. I've still got some work to do, but it's getting there...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Brinks


So here I am, toeing the line between summer and fall, between childhood and adulthood, in fidgety and nervous anticipation of my first week of college. My feelings are mixed. I will never have another childhood, and this makes me all the more nostalgic and despondent - I never lived my child star dream, and as many Fourth of Julys and and Halloweens and Valentine's Days as I might have left, I only had one of each for every year of my life: my fourth year, my eighth year, my seventeenth year. . . And yet I have a stretch of years before me filled with unwritten memories and unachieved achievements. One day the world will know who I am, and one day, after my story is finished, I will finally sit down and tell it all.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Summer That Might Have Been

This summer was a pleasant summer. Bill Cunningham took my picture at a twenties theme party on the beautiful Governor's Island. I worked, I stopped working. I saw a spectacular nighttime fireworks show in a local park on the Fourth of July. I took a lovely beach trip with my mother and danced in and out of foamy waves. I spent a week with my wonderful aunt in the Berkshires, watching breathtaking dance performances on the outdoor stage at Jacob's Pillow, spending evenings nibbling on rhubarb spice cake with whipped cream, picking wildflowers at her farm share, sitting on her old sofa and reading novels, swimming in the local pond and taking hot showers outdoors afterwards. My Italian friend, whose family had hosted me during my exchange trip in Calabria, came to stay with my real family and we celebrated her birthday American-style, with dinner at the Shake Shack and a homemade cake with Coca Cola frosting.
I am so fortunate to have such special memories, but sometimes I wished my handful of memories covered more than a handful of glittering summer days. There were stretches of time that I wasted away inside, with only dreams of Impressionist afternoons flitting and floating through my mind: the Munich Beer Garden, the Luncheon of the Boating Party, La Moulin de la Galette. I might have liked to have my own boating party at a nearby lake filled with peddleboats, or a picnic at a nearby arboretum, and for that I feel as if I may have wasted a precious chance. Now I enter college, rested and ready for fall. I guess there's always something to come back for.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Won't Grow Up

My parents, ever the modern architects, always ask me how I, their daughter, could have developed such a so-called mind for intellectual pursuits yet exhibit such an attachment to "cute" fashion. Not Harajuku District cute, per se, but ruffly, feathery, polka-dotsy cute. I can see how it strikes them as a contrast, yet I really don't choose to dress childishly at all. I dress coyly, playfully, with sweet frills and earnest details, but always in an age-appropriate fashion. Why? Because it brightens my day.
Photo
My aunt has this fantastic pair of rompers she bought in San Francisco, her former residence. She said she found them at a store that sold strictly children's clothes for adults. And why San Francisco? Because, I presume, at risk of generalizing, San Francisco is overflowing with quirky free spirits like my aunt. There was a genuine consumer base for this original little shop.
If my presumption holds true - and I can't see this store surviving in, say, Omaha - I see a bit of an association here. Youthful people gravitate towards youthful clothing. You see, I don't believe clothing is merely self-expression, but also self-realization. When we put on a piece that makes us happy, that happiness is an acknowledgement that we are addressing some special facet of our wonderful multifaceted selves. Clothing is freeing. Childhood is freeing. So why, O minimalists of the world, deny ourselves the joy and freedom of old-fashioned, pure, innocent, sweet clothing if an old-fashioned, pure, innocent, sweet person is whom we wish to be?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thinking Out Loud

I just wanted to thank you all – readers and followers alike – for your love. I know my blog isn't the most popular fashion blog out there by any means, and it wouldn't be right if it were! I'm happy to have my blog be our little secret. Since À la Mode differs from other blogs in a number of respects - it's not a lookbook, for one; it's not focused on the latest fashion gossip, for two - I am grateful that you all appreciate it for what it is: an inspirational montage filled with nostalgia for childhood, for eras we missed, for magical places that don't really exist.
I apologize for my lack of posts lately. Summer - hazy beach swimming, late-night stargazing, and drippy-ice cream-licking - the closest to a world of magic I have been in real life - has drawn me away from my online world of pretend. Be sure that I will resume my regular posting in the near future, with reasonably sporadic posting for now. Rest assured that I do not plan to abandon something this special to me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Joyeuz Quatorze Juillet! (Francophilia, Continued)

Sorry, again, for my tardiness. I should have posted this earlier (even though, as you know, I stopped posting for about two months), but happy Bastille Day to all mes lecteurs français. . . et mes lecteurs francophiles, comme moi!
Joyeuz Quatorze Juillet!

Friday, July 17, 2009

La Nouvelle Epoque

I already mentioned how bummed I am to have missed the Nouvelle Èpoque Cabaret-Salon at The Players NYC, but I'm confident this won't be the last the world sees of Belle Epoque fashion. As the Times wrote in its review, "the 1920's to 40's are so totally over, darling." It pains me to say goodbye to the Mary Janes of the twenties and drop-waist sashes, to utility clothing and rag curls, but the early 1900's are so hot right now.
Look, here's how I see it: the farther forward in time the edgy designers take their inspiration, the farther back in time the nostalgic designers go. (And you probably don't even need me to tell you which designers I like better.)
There has to be an equilibrium, you see: with all these bleached eyebrows and shrouded faces and bizarre lace-up pumps on one side, there has to be some hardcore antiquey-ness going on at the other extreme, to balance it out. So bring on the corsets, the bustles, the plumes, the poufs, the tea gowns, the Edwardian hats. Let's give a nice, hearty shout-out to the turn of the twentieth century before we wrap up the turn of the twenty-first.