From left to right: 1) Great turnout despite the cold at yesterday’s Planned Parenthood rally. 2) Surprise presents from Marc Jacobs. 3) One of my favorite pieces up now at the ICA Boston. 4) Another ICA goodie, one of a series of “hinge” paintings. 5) My friend caught me at peak journalist, shaking down the Seaport for the arts beat. 6) Newly inspired about my latest project after dinner with a writer friend.
Just when you think The Authors can’t get any better, it does. Following Leo Tolstoy and Sylvia Plath, I styled a looked based on the infamous Lolita author himself: Vladimir Nabokov. Although he was born in Russia he lived much of his life in Western Europe and in America, and didn’t achieve literary prominence until he began writing in English. In this way he straddles the two worlds of Russian and American literature. Nabokov worked during an extremely turbulent time, publishing most of his famous writings between 1930 and 1970.
I’ve done many posts inspired by Nabokov’s Lolita, which is one of my favorite books and his most controversial work. Told from the perspective of middle aged Humbert Humbert, the novel catalogues his obsessive passion for pre-teen Dolores, or Lolita as he calls her. It’s here that you can see Nabokov’s true talent as a wordsmith. He takes a gruesome subject, the physical and emotional abuse of a young girl, and makes it sound beautiful. His other writings are also known for their hallmarks of literary progress. Pale Fire, another of his most famous books, is written in the form of a 999-line poem of the same title written by the fictional John Shade, and lengthy commentary by fictional colleague Charles Kinbote. Together these two parts create a disparate narrative around the two characters. Nabokov was a pioneer in this new, abstract structure and received significant critical acclaim for the novel.
Nabokov’s style was fairly conservative and typical of a man at this time. He frequently wore suits, button downs and sweaters, and occasionally, when participating in sports, a polo. I interpreted this with black trouser pants and a simple white button down, now a uniform for business casual workers. For some extra interest I styled it with blue snakeskin heels and a vintage gold belt. And naturally, I couldn’t style the outfit without my Lolita book clutch.
Nabokov was an avid collector and student of butterflies. He wrote extensively on his observations of the creatures and this attention to detail is translated into his fictional writings as well. Syntax, sentence structure, word choice, the devil’s in the details in his writing, much as in the the anatomy of the butterfly. Take this famous line from the beginning of Lolita, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” It’s not merely a sentence, but a melody, a feeling, an experience.
For additional reading on Nabokov, check out this New York Times obituary, it gives an extensive overview of his life and work.
Shirt: H&M, Pants: Zara, Shoes: Shoedazzle, Book Clutch: Etsy (available here)
Photos by Stephanie Krist.
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.
I’m so, so excited to announce the first post of an exciting new series: The Authors. This series will feature outfits inspired by my favorite writers. I’ve styled them very specifically to express the personal history and passions of my literary role models. Fittingly we’re starting with the love of my life, Leo Tolstoy. Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy has been a guiding force in my life for many years. His books have gotten me through good times and bad.
Tolstoy was born into an aristocratic family in Russia at their estate Yasnaya Polyana outside of Moscow. Russian winters are notoriously brutal so I started the look off with a heavy wool coat and fur hat. The formal structure is reminiscent of Tolstoy’s time in the military as a young man. And look, he was cuuuute! About mid way through his life Tolstoy went through a moral crisis and renounced the trappings of wealth that he’d been raised in. One way he did this was with clothing. He retreated into baggy, simple, peasant garments. Here’s a photo of him and his wife. In his mind, simple clothing indicated a clean conscience. His books follow this same rule, the extravagantly dressed characters tend to be the most corrupt (think Anna Karenina or Helene from War and Peace). The New York Times Magazine wrote an excellent article on the subject, you can read it here.
In keeping with this philosophy I wore loose pants and a top in neutral colors. Tolstoy may not have been the most stylish, but man was he comfortable! If you want to know what other books to read by Leo, check out my guide to Russian literature.
I got this beautiful notebook on Etsy. It has a quote in Russian from his play The Live Corpse. The translation is “Music is the shorthand of emotion.” This play was one of many pacifist works Tolstoy wrote. His call for non-violent resolution would later influence Ghandi and Martin Luther King.
This bracelet was another Etsy find. On it in Russian is the confessional scene from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy were contemporaries. They moved in the same circles and even went to a lot of the same events, and yet, they never met. It’s fascinating. They wrote to each other and admired each other’s work immensely. They tried multiple times to meet and were thwarted repeatedly. I wore the bracelet as an homage to their friendship.
Coat: Gifted vintage, Hat: Vintage, Trousers: Zara, Shirt: Thrifted, Shoes: Primark, Necklace: Forever21, Bracelet: Etsy, Notebook: Etsy
Photos by Stephanie Krist.