Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Talisman Dressing

My lucky socks. They're starting to look a little worn!

I'm wearing my lucky socks right now. We're leaving on a flight to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in a couple hours and these are the socks I like to wear when I begin a trip. It's not so much about the fear of flying, it's more about the whole journey. Things seem to go right when I wear them. They're comfortable,  they are the right thickness for my boots and having the Virgin of Guadalupe on them doesn't hurt either.

For the last couple of days I've taken an informal poll of friends, asking them if they have a lucky item they wear and if so, what is it and on what occasion do they wear it. It's about 50/50. Half of them said no, but from the other half, I got some great responses. Seems like luck is more than carrying a rabbit's foot, it's about something that one connects with a strong positive feeling. 

Belva: "I had a pair of red silk underwear with a small black flower. And everytime I wore them I had great sex."

John: "Red socks"

Debra T: "Lucky red shoes. I spotted them in a shop window and couldn't pass up. I also have a lucky hat. A Susan Hayes richly colored simple thing that went with everything. I gave it to a friend after she had chemotherapy. That means the luck is all the further reaching. Oh lucky me!"

Jennifer: "My mother's charm bracelet. It's very noisy--jangly--but for any occasion when I feel I need extra support, out comes the bracelet."

Debra L: "I actually have a bottle of TABU Dry Perfume by Dana that my dad bought me years ago in my little home town. I remember walking into the old style drugstore in downtown Salina, hanging out with my dad. It was a sweet experience and I think of him and feel nostalgic each time I wear this perfume."

Lizzie: "I'm more apt to select jewelry that is either a family heirloom or something very special, unique or beautiful.  For me it is the finishing touch to an outfit that makes me feel special and as a result shine when I wear it."

I'd love to know, do you have something that you wear because it's lucky?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stay Warm: Do the BV Loop with a Twist

Each time I tie a scarf this way and someone sees me, they exclaim "that's so cool, how did you do that?" So I thought I would share the technique with you. I'm calling it the BV (Bien Vestido) Loop. It's my current favorite way to tie a scarf and it's perfect for the chilly days now. It works best with a long scarf, but I've had success with shorter scarves too. This technique keeps you warm and adds a little fashion flair but it lays flat and it's not bulky around your neck, making it perfect for under a coat or with a sweater.

Fold long scarf in half and
drape around your neck.

Pull one end through the opening. 

Give the opening a little half twist, creating a loop. 

Pull the other end through 
the opening you just made.

Adjust as you like. And don't be surprised if you're asked to demonstrate the BV Loop to friends.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

La Catrina, Style Icon

Dream of a Sunday in Alameda Park, by Diego Rivera, 1948. Rivera is holding hands with La Catrina. 

Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican celebration on All Souls' Day, November 2nd, pulls at the heart and soul. It's when we the living prepare a welcome for our deceased loved ones and reflect on our own mortality. On this night the spirits are thought to return to enjoy the pleasures they once knew on earth. There is a serious, somber side to Day of the Dead, but parallel to that is a lighthearted celebration where observants dress up as various types of skeletons to play with the idea of death. It's a recognition and acknowledgment that life and death exist side-by-side.

Jose Guadalupe Posada's La Catrina

Wearing an elegant long gown and an elaborately feathered hat, La Catrina is the dressy female skeleton, the bien vestida, who makes an appearance every Dia de los Muertos. Jose Guadalupe Posada created her to represent the rich folk in his political satirical cartoons in the late 1800's. She's a humorous reminder that everyone, rich or poor, is equal in the end.

My friend Jennifer and I dressed in our D.O.D. finery.

I celebrated Day of the Dead for the first time in 1990 when I attended the annual procession in San Francisco's Mission district on a chilly fall night. When my friends and I arrived at the corner of 24th Street and Bryant, we found a couple hundred people mingling on the street and sidewalk. Many people had their faces painted chalk white with black paint recessing their eyes and cheekbones to resemble skulls. Each person carried a lit candle and some touchingly carried a photo of a lost loved one.

We walked slowly with the crowd down narrow heavily muraled Balmy Alley. Skeletoned drummers played a soulful beat with some saxophones making it lively. At the end of the alley, someone had fashioned a giant arch decorated with colorful paper flowers. Hanging from the arch was a papier-mache skeleton with legs spread wide giving birth to a baby skeleton. The image was shocking, playful and potent. Death begets life. It  was a powerful reminder of the cycle of nature. The evening was mysterious, magical and exciting.

I was naturally drawn to the stylish La Catrina and the next November I created my own version of her, staying up till 3 am completely engrossed in the sewing, painting and feathering. I was also inspired to create an altar in my home to display remembrances of my ancestors. On the night of D.O.D., I invited friends to bring photos and mementos of their dead loved ones to add to the altar. It was a natural process for guests to share stories of loss and it became a profound and moving experience. We have had this celebration many times since. It's a rich mixture of music, food, drink and an audience for memories that often have no other outlet.

Every year my friend Karen and I attend the procession, wearing a new version of La Catrina and photographing the other Catrinas. The procession this year was the largest ever. My guess is there was about four thousand attendees. There was a great sense of camaraderie as we commented admiringly on each other's costumes or sympathetically as we were told the stories behind the photos they held.

Here are a few of the fashionable Catrinas from over the years. Viva La Catrina!

"To the inhabitants of New York, Paris, or London death is a word that is never uttered because it burns the lips. The Mexican, on the other hand, frequents it, mocks it, caresses it, sleeps with it, entertains it; it is one of his favorite playthings and his most enduring love. It is true that in his attitude there is perhaps the same fear that others also have, but at least he does not hide this fear nor does he hide death."
--from Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz