Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tales Of The City

Those of you who have managed to read through this curious little blog regularly may have picked up on my fluttering love of a few certain things - the adorable, the embellished, the imaginative - especially when it comes to fashion. I'm a little girl at heart who secretly craves big wedding cake dresses frosted in pink and white, a modern day princess who dreams of falling asleep in a wardrobe filled with rose-water cakes and rocking horse shoes. I love everything over-the-top and frosted with fairy-tale grandeur, which might explain why six years ago I was instantly drawn to a sleepy little movement in Japan called, quiet simply, Lolita.

Lolita is based on the fashion, architecture, and aristocratic lifestyle of 18th century France, a period which historians have dubbed "Rococo". From France to Japan, the Lolita movement took the Rococo idea of filling life with everything sweet and delectable and drew it into the twentieth century in the form of candy-colored dresses and a positive outlook on life.

A slew of brands emerged, propelling this moment out of obscurity and into history. My personal favorite, one that I feel truly represents everything Lolitas believe in, one that paints its stores pink and fills them with everything that little girls could only dream of, one that sells the most beautiful and child-like dresses that I've ever seen, is a little-known brand called Baby, the Stars Shine Bright.

Last night, through some magical twist of fate, I stood in the presence of the CEO and head designers of Baby.

Remy and I rode the F train to Bryant Park with the intent of making our way to Kinokuniya, an incredible Japanese bookstore that sells everything from manga to magazines. It's one of my favorite spots for picking up interesting gifts, as well as catching up on Japanese trends, so I always make a point to go there whenever I'm in town.

We wandered upstairs, threading through isles of comic books and figurines, only to find the café section of the store blocked off. Instead of the usual brood of business men and twentysomethings pondering over newspapers and noodle bowls, a panel of Lolitas perched carefully in the dining area with a camera crew in tow. These quiet American girls dressed in full Lolita garb nibbled on salads and sipped down lemonade, huge slices of strawberry cake in front of them, while four alert Japanese women and one man sat across from them. I peeked through the chest-level glass dividing the cafe from the rest of the store, eyeing the scene curiously, when suddenly the translator caught my attention. "We here at Baby," she spoke, hands folded, "are completely open to American suggestions and would like to know if you have any questions or comments." I slammed my face against the glass, covering my mouth to quiet my incredibly obvious gasps. I eyed the Japanese panel carefully and realized that in this city of nearly nine million people, in this world of more than six billion, I was standing before Akinori and Fumiyo Isobe, creators and current CEOs of Baby, the Stars Shine Bright.

I stood behind that piece of glass for more than a hour, ecstatic and thrilled and uncontrollable in my mental backflips and jumping jacks. Here I was, dressed most un-Lolita-like in a simple blue dress and a faux-fur jacket, staring down the prince and princess of a sub-culture that redefined my life.

While these American girls chattered about how Baby's clothes were too small, for most of them couldn't fit into them, and too expensive, for most of them spent about $6,000 a year on dresses and the like, I felt this incredible ping of jealousy deep down inside. These girls, these upper east side eighteen year olds, could not only afford a closet full of Baby wears, but they were also seated right in front of Mr. and Mrs. Isobe themselves, yet all they could manage were complaints.

And that's when it hit me like a lemon-soaked dart: being a Lolita is not about being able to afford the dresses - it's not about wearing Baby every day and always taking tea at three o'clock on the spot - it's about being yourself, whoever you may be. Lolitas come in all shapes and forms, and shockingly enough not all of them can be found in Vivienne Westwood shoes or Baby frock. Lolita is a mindset, not a conscious choice - maybe not all Lolitas can afford sparkling dessert-like dresses or lace-covered cutsews, but that doesn't make them any less passionate about the lifestyle or, for that matter, any less Lolita.

I am a Lolita. Sure, I didn't get a council with Mr. Isobe, and sure, I may not own a single thing from Baby, but I am still a Lolita. And I will find my own drum to march by in my unique, Rococo-dusted world.

Because I am a Lolita, and I always will be. And I never needed a dress to give that kind of passion to me.

Penelope ♥

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Daily Outfit - September 23rd

So the whole "daily outfit" thing has definitely turned into a not-so-daily outfit, especially since my last update in this vein was back in June. But! I have two brand-new and beautiful Betsey Johnson dresses that I'm absolutely dying to show off, so I figured I would document what I wore with one of them today (along with a few pictures of the other!)

+ Librarian sweater from Evie
+ Betsey Johnson dress (Eek!)
+ Jeans from the Gap
+ Gladiator sandals (which, regrettably, you cannot see) from Marshall's

I'm so incredibly thrilled! Usually Miss Johnson's luxuries are waaay out of my price range - but through the miracle of designer outlets, I managed to get both of these stunning gems for a total of $180. (The price tag on the blue one alone was $379! Eek!)

But here's the catch - I'm one of those kooky girls that thinks owning a beautiful dress isn't worth anything unless you give it an equally beautiful name - something to distinguish it, personalize it, give it a life all of its own - and because I'm such a fan of Betsey Johnson's designs I want to give each of these extra wonderful names. I've decided that since a lot of you are way bigger fashonistas than I could ever be that I would ask you incredible bunnies what you think the perfect names are. Audrey? May? Sabrina? Whatever you think fits, let me know! Get to it, go-go girls, and name these gorgeous dresses!

Penelope ♥

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Brief Word On Style

I'm a simple girl - I can't afford designer heels or a wardrobe filled with Betsey Johnson dresses (as much as I'd like one), I hardly ever buy anything full price and I'll forever be a lover of thrift store shopping sprees. I haven't looked at a fashion
magazine in years because I truly believe that clothes are hardly interesting without seeing the people who wear them - the real-life women who make them beautiful.

But I love what I wear, and I have a passion for clothes, and I think the trick to true style does not lie in being able to afford the high-end and haute couture but rather in the ability to fall in love with what you wear and to wear it with confidence. No, I've never been to Fashion Week, but does that make me any less passionate fashion?

I feel oddly alienated from people who see the extent of beauty only in where their clothes came from and how much they paid for them - the kind of girls who tote around Coach bags simply because everyone else does it. What you wear should never be a status symbol, it should be an expression of who you are, of how you feel about life. True style is magical, blissful, an art form that you can't simply cut out of a magazine and paste over yourself. You are not a blank canvas for others to put their picture of style onto. You are unique - a creature all of your own, and what you wear is entirely yours.

Trite but true, Yves Saint Laurent said it best - fashions fade but style is eternal.

Penelope ♥

Weekly Wishes

Photo by Lady Vervaine

I wish...
I worked for NPR. It's kind of become a new dream of mine. In-between baking bite-sized cupcakes in a tiny pink shop and singing front and center in a midnight ska band, I want to make tiny commentaries and interview curious folk on NPR. Something about the company as a whole seems very relaxing yet very vibrant - much like the station itself, the atmosphere is the kind where you can discover the most curious things that you never would have known otherwise. Not to mention the fact that I think radio is a forgotten art, one with so much heart and soul in it - so much history.

I wish... I could eat at Pizza Fusion every day. I would trade culinary diversity in for a lifetime supply of their soy cheese pizza any day!

I wish... there were more nights like tonight. I spent my evening lounging around outside a local coffee-shop, sipping green tea and listening to a boy who used to go to my high school play the guitar. There's something so marvelous about live music - it wakes you up from the inside, filling you with life. It's as though you're sharing something spectacular, something intimate and close, from one human being to another.

I wish... for powdered dreams and quiet thrills.

So what do you wish for this week, my glorious bunnies?

Penelope ♥

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Daily Inspiration - September 6th

Photo by Kate Andrews

It seems that every night recently I find myself having these cherry champagne dreams - these dizzy illusions that leave me nostalgic in the morning, dying for more. I dream of holding hands and chattering to strangers and performing hoodoo rituals in the grass, trying with all my might to float up towards the ceiling and out into somewhere new. I dreamt that I was standing on the trellis, knees shaking in the breeze, and as I looked out to where the concrete and rust of the city used to be, instead I found this great expanse of green - tiny hills and bubbling fountains that covered my backyard and beyond. And the wind swept me away from my unstable perch, whispering in my ear, "Come away, sweet Penelope. Is this really anything new? Believe it or not, this has been here all along - but maybe you were just too blind to see? The world will always be beautiful in one way or another and the people you meet will always have a story to tell. So look past your glorious backyard and look towards the horizon - find that sleepy everyday magic."

And so I fell. And I fell forever and so quickly at the same time, daydreaming whole novellas in the half a second it took me to fall, yet for one reason or another I never hit the ground. I landed in the arms of all those I had ever loved, of those who had slipped gently into my life and seemed to fit so perfectly. Looking around, I realized that there was always someone there to catch me, one of those glorious souls with a story to tell, those beautiful folk who have made an impact in my life, and it occurred to me that in this crazy world none of us really ever hit the ground. We can fall, spinning through space like mad cosmic frisbees, but in the end there will always be someone to complete our grand finale. And we will spin wildly right into their arms.

That great everyday magic is discovering those who are strong enough to catch you. Those who care enough to reach out their arms and cushion your fall. And I think that's what's so wonderful about life - you never know when you'll stumble upon these kinds of marvelous people, or when they'll stumble onto you. And as terrifying as it sounds, the greatest thing that could ever happen to us is to slip up in the wind and float down into that fall. Because you never know who will be waiting for you at the bottom.

Penelope ♥

Friday, September 5, 2008

Weekly Wishes

I wish...
I could live in New York full time. Those of you on the Cocoa Kisses mailing list might have heard that I'm going to be visiting up there for a few days towards the end of the month and I cannot possibly explain how excited I am. Something about that city is mesmerizing, hypnotizing, like no other place on Earth. It's my perfect fit, my high-speed dream world, my late night walks through the park and early morning bagel runs. I miss it and all the other wandering souls that it takes in.

I wish... I could play the guitar. I've had late night dreams since I was a little girl of jamming out acoustic tunes on the beach or of strumming happily on a ukulele while strolling through the park.

I wish... someone in my immediate family or circle of friends was a world renowned chef. Sometimes I have these insatiable cravings for having wild dinner parties filled with crazy, out of this world food - the kind that only a highly trained culinary artiste would be able to make. Think late nights spent laughing and drinking fizzy drinks while making zucchini lasagne and coconut thai noodles. Think chocolate macaroons filled with super sweet sorbet and mango ice cream for dessert. Think Nutella and banana crepes in the morning stacked up so sweetly like tiny cakes and frosted with homemade whipped cream. It would be culinary perfection!

I wish... for a henna set! I've always thought that the delicate henna patterns traced across palms is one of the most beautiful things in the world.

What do you wish for this week, bunnies?

Penelope ♥

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cocoa Book Club Book of the Month: Howl's Moving Castle

The Cocoa Book Club is back yet again with another fantastic read to offer! The second pick for the CBC and our Super Secret Book Clubber for this month just so happens to be a reader who graciously volunteered for the job. Picking our book this month, Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, is Ashley!

"One book that I always read time and time again," she says, "is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s a wonderful tale full of magic, romance, adventure, and even seven league boots! What I like most is that Sophie, the main character, is just a regular girl who thinks she’s nothing special and well, maybe even a little bit boring. She’s the oldest girl in her family and makes hats for a living, which she enjoys, but she wonders what else is out there for her. Her tale begins when a visit from the Witch of the Waste leaves her as an old woman..."

For those of you who are a bit curious, there was a movie version made by the incredible Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki a few years back. I've yet to see it personally, but according to Ashley "’s a wonderful retelling, but I think you should watch it after you read the book."

You can read all of her thoughts on this spellbinding book at her blog, Bookworm Lola, and it can be purchased through Amazon (or just previewed on Google Books!)

Thank you so much, Ashley, and we can't wait to read it!

If you've got a spectacular, inspirational, or just plain wicked cool book in mind and would like to volunteer to be a Super Secret Book Clubber, send me an e-mail with your name, e-mail address, and blog (if applicable) and I'll get in contact with you ASAP!

Penelope ♥