For the next installment of The Authors (see the first here), I designed an outfit inspired by Sylvia Plath. Naturally I wanted to incorporate a few of my favorite female authors as well. Sylvia was an American novelist and poet working in the ’50s and ’60s. Her life was fraught with mental illness and personal difficulties which led to her suicide at only 31.
To channel the refined feminine styles of her time, I dressed Sylvia in a taupe midi skirt and a soft vintage sweater. The lace up flats and leather texture on the skirt give it a more modern vibe. Sylvia was talented from a young age. She excelled at her writing in school and won a summer internship at Mademoiselle magazine in college. The protagonist of her novel The Bell Jar goes through an almost identical experience. Both Sylvia and her literary double Esther are then institutionalized for feelings of depression and undergo shock treatments. In fact, The Bell Jar is largely autobiographical which gives us some interesting insight into Sylvia’s state of mind. In The Bell Jar and much of her other work Sylvia discusses feeling trapped and suffocated in her everyday life. She attempted suicide several times in fairly gruesome ways throughout her life. In her poem “Lady Lazarus” she says, “Dying/Is an art, like everything else/I do it exceptionally well/I do it so it feels like hell/I do it so it feels real.” I find Sylvia’s use of language incredibly beautiful. And I think, especially in today’s society which increasingly emphasizes perfection, her story of a protege pushed too far is very relatable. Even at times when I’m professionally spot on, I sometimes feel empty. I think we all have those moments, for Sylvia they were just too often to ignore.A big part of Sylvia’s struggle was being a woman in a man’s world. She felt trapped by the expectations put on her gender and her constant fear of pregnancy made it difficult for her to express herself sexually. Even in 2015 there are certain risks and standards that only women have to deal with. I can only imagine how hard it must have been sixty years ago.
Ultimately I think we should take what positivity we can from Sylvia’s story. She may have had a tragic life, but from that tragedy grew some of the most beautiful poetry in American literature. For some more reading on Sylvia, check out this insightful article in the Atlantic.
Sweater: Thrifted, Skirt: Nordstrom Rack, Shoes: Primark, Belt: Thrifted, Notebook: Gifted
Photos by Stephanie Krist.