thefashionmagpie

On Writing.

In Accessories, Americana, Beauty Products, Brights!, Dream Wear, Fresh Combos, Gym Gear, Home Decor, Magpie Must, Magpie Nest on January 20, 2017 at 7:00 am

I used to teach writing to Georgetown University undergraduates, both in a traditional “writing 101” classroom and in the writing center at the library, where students could drop by and solicit help and feedback on their papers.

It’s an odd thing, teaching writing.  So much of it is personal aesthetic and voice, especially when you’re talking with smart undergrads who have the mechanics down.  (Although — it was surprising how few of them knew how to parse a sentence, or identify the parts of speech, or even distinguish between an adjective and a verb.  I assume practices and philosophies around grammar have changed a lot since my Catholic school days, which involved diagramming sentences on a black board ad finitum.  Maybe modern pedagogy de-emphasizes these structural elements–maybe it’s not considered as important to have students be able to identify the apparatus and machinery of writing, and it’s more about articulating a clear thought.  But I digress.)

I was thinking about a few of the conversations I had back then with students the other day, after writing this blog post, which I consider to be one of my best.  I was reflecting on why it had felt so easy and natural to write, and why I was mentally positioning it as one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written.  Even setting the poignant topic aside, it just reads better than other posts.  I realized there were a couple of things I’d done differently, and they all looped back to the advice I used to give my students:

+That writing is a process, not a product.  So many of my students would arrive, harried (and likely hungover), the day before a paper was due, foaming (slightly) at the mouth.  They’d be so focused on getting to the finish line but would be staring blankly at a white page, unsure of how to start.  I always encouraged them to just start writing–just put a few of your initial thoughts onto paper, no matter how disjointed or disorganized, and to think of it as priming the engines.  Sometimes those initial fragments would turn into theses, and sometimes they wouldn’t.  But if you worry too much about nailing the central thesis or getting the whole shape of your paper just right from the start, you’ll get stuck.  It’s almost like writing in a strait-jacket.  I always found it much easier, more pleasant, more fruitful, to just begin writing about the component of the topic that was most interesting to me, or that felt easiest to write about.  Sometimes I’d even co-write with them at this point — just start talking out loud about the topic and take notes along the way.

This was true, too, of the post on my parents.  I started writing about my mother and just could not stop.  (She’s that amazing.)

+That in order to write well, you must read well.  This is less medicine, more vitamin, and irritating advice when you’re burning the midnight oil with a deadline peering over your shoulder.  But before writing any major paper myself, I’d turn to a few of my favorite authors for inspiration.  Back when I was pursuing my M.A. in literature, the two that REALLY got me into a good mental headspace for writing were Seamus Heaney and Joseph Epstein.  Heaney’s a bit of an unusual muse for lit crit writing, as he’s a poet, but I would frequently re-read the phenomenal acceptance speech he gave when accepting the Nobel Prize, “Crediting Poetry.” It is gorgeous, and, like much of his poetry, so visceral and earthy and tactile.  And, also, deeply stimulating: there is one line in it that I still linger on, slightly stuck, but mesmerized: “I credit poetry, in other words, both for being itself and for being a help, for making possible a fluid and restorative relationship between the mind’s centre and its circumference.”  I can’t quite unpack the concept of the mind’s “centre” and “circumference” but I love the structure of this sentence and understand the meaning.  {Also: unsolicited advice: you should read some of his poetry.  I know: it’s poetry.  Poetry is hard.  But it’s approachable in the best way.  I had the insane opportunity to hear Seamus Heaney read some of his poetry while at UVA.  He visited and I went with my friend Peter and it was standing-room-only, and the entire audience was hanging on his every word.  He had a gorgeous, Irish lilt and he read his work so evocatively.  Ah, to be an undergrad again, when such once-in-a-lifetime experiences are thrown at your feet every day.}

At any rate: Heaney’s acceptance speech is pure art, and reminded me to strive for beauty and flow and rhythm in my writing, and Joseph Epstein’s work bears a bright, erudite wit that nudged me to keep things conversational, even when discussing seemingly arcane topics.  (Epstein is a professor and I really enjoyed his book of essays, “Snobbery,” at the time.)

Nowadays, I’m more likely to turn to a new cast of characters on my contemporary Mount Helicon: Nora Ephron for humor and poignancy, Roxane Gay for intellectual intensity, and Molly Wizenberg for poetic self-reflection and a certain level of border-crossing (she’s a food blogger, but her writing is so much more than that).  If you’re looking for some inspo, read Ephron’s I Feel Bad about My Neck, Gay’s Bad Feminist, and Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life.

I’d just read a huge backlog of Wizenberg’s blog before writing the post on my parents, too.

+That all good writing is in conversation with a good audience.  Self-explanatory, but so many of my students would forget that they were essentially writing directly to a professor.  And that it’s worth getting to know that professor and her preferences and interests.  And if you can’t figure that out by reading something they’ve written or reading between the lines in lecture, think about other similar professors.  But everything you write has an audience.  Even a journal, where you’re writing for a future you.

Before writing the aubade post, I was thinking a lot about you, my readers, and about what felt important to share about the enormity of the change that is happening in my life.

So: there it is.  Some rambling thoughts on writing that may or may not inspire one or two of you to sit down and write, whether in a diary or on your own blog or just in the notes section of your iPhone.

And for the rest of you not quite in the writing mentality, some gorgeous points of visual/shopping inspiration to keep you going all the same:

This striped, tie-waisted tunic top from J. Crew ($78) is perfect.  Who doesn’t love the slightly longer length to cover the ol butt butt?  This would look so crisp at work with black cigarette pants or, in summer, with white skinnies.

I got a handful of these woven baskets from Target for various storage reasons around the house and they are SO affordable and cute!  $10 for the navy medium oval bin, $13 for the larger gray bin.  I love you, Target.  But also, I hate you.  I know so many of you can relate when I say that I will go in there with the intention of purchasing “just some batteries” and wheel out a cartful of items I had no idea I “needed.”  Note the quotation marks: I use the word “needed” very loosely.

Case in point: did I need the MILKBAR (!!!!) cookie mix ($5) I found at Target last week?  I was so dorkily excited.  In case you’re not familiar, MilkBar is an epic bakery in NYC and they make these amazing manna-from-the-heaven confections called cake truffles that are basically cake balls but the most incredibly dense and awesome thing you’ve ever had, among other things.  I first encountered this delightful devil when an intern of mine had a whole box of goodies shipped to me (so freaking generous — best intern ever!), and I basically died and went to heaven.  I then had a cake from them delivered to my mother-in-law and she went wild over it.  (You can have their goodies delivered anywhere in the US by clicking here.)  And you can also order their cookbook here.

So, yeah, I guess you could say I *needed* this cookie mix.

I’ve been on the hunt for some new stationery, and this emoji-adorned set ($88) might be the winner.  Although I also love this set with its elegant monogram ($88).

My bestie gave me this body cream from Rituals ($33) as a part of my Christmas gift, saying only–and cryptically–“it’s just…the best.”  She was right.  It smells SO good and moisturizes so well.

 

Under $100 and just about the chic-est dress you can find right now.  Love those of-the-moment bell sleeves, and the cutout in the back.  By the same label — and bearing a similar vibe — check out this white lace stunner for only $52 (!!!)  Perfect for those of you with legs for dayz.  Also: this blush pink dress from Tularosa channels a similar look and, to my eyes, looks just like something Zimmermann might make.  But it’s on sale for $71.  This is one of those dresses I always punch myself (?) for not buying out-of-season.  I know that if I buy it now, I’ll find 23 events to wear it to this summer.

I’ve been seeing a lot shearling on street style stars this season:

I’m going to get the look with this $145 steal from J.O.A., on sale in select colors for $86 here.

These funky little plates from Anthro ($14 each) are so fun.  I kind of want to get four of the sardine ones.

Do you follow the blogger Damsel in Dior?  She is so chic and down-to-earth and I love her voice on social media.  She was in Aspen (aka, my favorite place on earth) last week, and I loved following all of her adventures on Insta and Snap.  It made me daydream about taking a little ski trip myself, and I REALLY want to buy this retro-chic base layer ($105) by Sweaty Betty.  This one is also super fun.  (Very Mara Hoffmann, right?)

 

The mule obsession continues: I need these in the cheery pink color from Malone Souliers ($475).

Other finds of the week:

+A chic pleated skirt on sale for less than $50 (!!!!)  So pretty with a white button-down blouse and pointed toe heels.

+I bought a striped shirt-dress like this ($30) last season and got a ton of wear out of it — it was a nice, heavy weight and it looked really cute with gray Supergas for running errands/taking Tilden to the dog park.

+Love this embroidered dress ($78).

+I’ve been looking for a fun accent rug, and this zebra style for only $179 strikes me as just right.

+This lace-up wool sweater ($98)!!!!

Hospy Bag.

In Accessories, Beauty Products, Magpie Must, Mini Magpie, Mini Magpies on January 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm

You may have gathered that I am a master list-maker and, generally, a Type A freakazoid.  (I got it from my mama, the most organized person on this planet.  If you ever think you’ve got your life together, meet my mom.  She’ll make you realize you have a long way to go.  Her purse is immaculately organized, everything in its own pouch and pocket, and her drawers and cabinets would make Khloe Kardashian look lame.)

So anyway — I’ve had a list of all the things to put in my hospital bag for weeks and weeks and finally gave myself license to pack it when I crossed over the 30 week mark (I’m now 33 weeks!).  One of my friends (hi, M!) told me this was a good idea because she went into labor early and had not packed–and her husband “went home and brought a very large, very random assortment of things to the hospital – including a fine tooth comb instead of a hairbrush.”  HAHA.   I’m just imagining Mr. Magpie totally confused by which robe to bring, what tinted moisturizer is, and where I might keep Mini Magpie’s “coming home outfit.”  Here are the pretty, cute things that will go in the bag for Mini Magpie:

But below, a full list as to what’s going into my Louis Vuitton 55 Bandouliere ($1,760).

For me:

+Robe ($126) — I’ve heard a lot of women like to have these to keep warm / stay comfy post delivery.  Slightly snugglier than a hospital gown.

+Warm socks (Ugg, $20).  I’ve heard your feet get cold (and gross?) if you need to walk the halls during labor.

+For the same reason, J. Crew slippers ($49).  I swear I go through a pair a year, and I loved the pink color.

+Lip balm ($30) — hospital air is super drying.

+One of my good girlfriends strongly recommended these Coobie nursing bras ($22), so I snagged one of those, along with this one ($44), which I thought was surprisingly pretty and non-orthopedic looking.  But I should also say that a LOT of my research pointed me in the direction of this one ($49).  So we’ll see what I end up liking!

+I packed a pair of nursing/maternity pajamas (finally just splurged on the Cosabella set I wanted).  One of you ladies mentioned that having good nursing PJs is sorta crucial, because the last thing you want to do in the wee hours of the morning is mess with PJs that aren’t intended for that activity.  I’m having the damnedest time finding other pairs I think are cute, though.  So many of them look frumpy or oddly childish (like, with rosebuds and frilly sleeves?), so I splurged on the set I really wanted.  I dunno.  Recs?

+Cosmetic bag ($110), filled with my beauty essentials and some travel-sized shampoo/conditioner/etc.

+To wear home, the lady in my birth/labor class was hilarious–she said she’s seen women bring their normal size jeans to wear home, and she insisted that we “pack reasonably.”  So I’ll just be bringing my maternity leggings ($110) and a favorite sweater ($100) with my sturdy snow boots (Loeffler Randall, on sale for $150; you just never know in March in Chicago…)

 

 

Also packed: an extension cord (a lot of ladies complain that you can’t plug your phone in and access it otherwise!), some snacks for Mr. Magpie, chargers for phone and laptop, this and this for breastfeeding, and a change of clothes for Mr. Magpie.

For Mini Magpie:

+I’ve heard such good things about the brand KissyKissy — apparently super soft, and just the sweetest print.  I found a newborn layette onesie that has a bunny print on it, but the one shown below ($30) is super similar.

+Little Giraffe blanket ($72).

+Cashmere hat and bootie set ($95).

+Pacifiers ($3) just in case…?  A friend told me to pack ’em, so I did.

+A hair bow (for fashion shoots…)

 

 

Mamas, set me straight: what am I missing/what am I mis-packing?

Simon Says.

In Fierce, Fresh Combos on January 19, 2017 at 7:00 am

PSSST.  Like last week, I’m posting TWICE today.  This second post will be #minimagpie-centric, so tune back in if that’s of interest to ya.  Otherwise…

Have you fashionistas heard of Simon Miller?  I hadn’t until about six months ago, when suddenly I saw his ring-handled bag ($390 — more colors here; larger size available for pre-order here) popping up on chic peas and street style stars left and right:

 

The ring handle and the micro-mini size feel so fresh and whimsical and at the same time retro.  Speaking of rings: I have also been digging the adjacent circular bag trend, seen below:

All of these ladies are sporting the Mansur Gavriel circle bag ($1,095).  A smaller size is available in the light brown color shown below ($795).

 

 

Get the look for less with this mini canteen bag from new-to-me line Sancia ($350):

Or these Baggus ($160):

Or, this stark white Clare Vivier style ($345):

 

For warmer climates, this straw variation (also Clare Vivier — $199):

Also check out this ring-handled straw bag ($112) — such a fun twist on a classic straw beach bag — or this epic Sophia Anderson find ($245).

Finally, I also dig this oxblood leather tote from Future Glory ($350):