Dress vs Book

Books and dresses battle each other for my disposable income, all the while unaware that they are losing to things like rent and take-out and collision deductibles and horseback riding lessons. I'll post book reviews, and if I actually buy and wear a dress, I'll write about that, too.

Rejoice, for I have returned. Repent, for you did not miss me.

There has been a death in my family. Naturally, it has me thinking about clothes. Miss Plumcake did a very helpful post on funeral attire, and I’ve made my purchases.

Lane Bryant Long Sleeve Cable Knit Sweater Dress, in black. I’m a bit nervous about the quality, the length of the sleeves, and the shape—which is kind of a lot to be nervous about. But it was inexpensive, I’ve been wanting a sweater dress, and it should be comfortable. The Celebration is indoors, but it’s still Michigan in February.

Clarks UN.Glare Black Croc Print shoes. I sprained my foot last week, so none of my current black dress shoes were going to work. I don’t usually do shiny black or animal print, but these shoes made me smile, and I can’t see anybody being insulted by them.

I’m remembering the last death in my immediate family, and how it affected my mood and choices and general outlook for months on end. In some ways, I envy my family in Michigan. They have to clean houses and do paperwork and make phone calls, but I sometimes wonder if the administration of death is an important part of the grieving process.

I mean, in my day job, I do exactly that. I process applications for death benefits, and in nearly four years on the job, I’ve had only one widow break down and cry on the phone with me—yesterday, the same day Grandpa Bob died. For the most part, even when I’m asking intrusive questions, the widows handle it with grace.

Whereas I, while grieving for my grandmother: was miserable during an exotic vacation; promptly dumped the best guy I have ever dated; wasted a summer, made bad choices resulting in bodily injury; got involved in a messy, emotionally self-destructive long distance relationship; and didn’t follow-through on my plans to study for the GRE, delaying my education even further. Do I think all of that happened because grandma died? No, no, of course not.

But I do know that my grief and general malaise intermingled to the point that, despite having horses back in my life for the first time in seven years and having a writing critique group to support my career goals, I was not getting much joy out of my life.

I don’t know that there’s much to be done about feeling cut-off from my family. Facebook helps, but the reality is, Michigan is a long way from DC, and I can’t move boxes or run errands while living here. Without specific obligations to my family, I think I need something to DO in order to grieve.


I’m going into¬†half-assed, demi-Victorian mourning. For? I don’t know. A month? As soon as the clothes I ordered arrive? I’ll try to wear all black at first, and will open it up to grey, lavender, and purple later on.

It’s a plan, at least.

This is a big book victory.

The dress is a nice enough shirt dress. I have a similar shirt dress by Mlle Gabrielle, but it has this zipper that sticks out too far and irritates my arm. Worse, it’s got those god-awful “jeweled epaulets” on the shoulders. I cannot for the life of me understand this obsession with putting jewelry on clothes. If your sweater already has jewelry, where’s the incentive for other people to buy you more?

And the book! Oh my, the book. I’ve always had this love of science that goes unrequited—I missed winning the fifth grade Geography Bee by messing up a question about the atmosphere—and then my lowest ACT score was in science. That portion of my test was so low, in fact, that if my average had been my science score, I would have been lucky to get into MSU, let alone Mt. Holyoke. Actually, that’s wrong, now that I think about it, because MHC doesn’t care that much about standardized test scores. And then, once I was at Mt. Holyoke, I thought about ditching the social sciences and studying Geology, but then I remembered my low Science Reasoning ACT score and my high school pre-calculus teacher who said I would cry if I took Calculus, and I decided that my odds of success in Geology were low. You see how wrong-headed that was, right? I was at an institution that said that my low ACT Science Reasoning scores were basically meaningless, and I let fear and a teacher from my past who just didn’t want me in her class—and had a history of not liking the women in my family—keep me from pursuing a subject for which I had genuine curiosity, as opposed to the mildly amused resignation I felt for Religion and Politics. But my parents said that they would only pay for classes I did well in, and I was already taking on loans …

Anyway. Science! Interesting! Telling it to me in a story? Even better.

Talent Show Dress by Alight

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Tough one.

On one hand, I love love love dresses with pockets, and the shirt dress is easy to dress up and down … on the other hand, a book about gay pigs from a small Midwestern press??? Yes, please.

 Poplin Popover Shirt Dress

The Peculiar Boars of Malloy by Doug Crandell.

This isn’t even a fair fight.

There’s something appealing about the Flutter Sleeve dress, but its materials have a definite “ick” factor, and it borders on the drab.

But besides that, The Art Student’s War is a clear winner against any dress. There’s both a Michigan connection and a Mount Holyoke connection (Leithauser was a professor at MHC for awhile, and he read an excerpt from The Art Student’s War at at Mount Holyoke Club of DC event) and the prose is just beautiful.

Pistachio Flutter Sleeve Dress by Alight

The Art Student’s War by Brad Leithauser

A tie.

I need them both, for they go together.

The stories in If You Lived Here You’d Already be Home sound compelling, but the title itself is what grabbed me. My mom lives in Hawaii and frequently utters some variation of that sentiment. And I kind of want the Global Studies Dress for my next trip to Hawaii. This dress, like the book, benefits from a good title. Global Studies was one of those required classes in high school that everybody else hated but which I loved.

Global Studies Dress by Alight

If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home by John Jodzio

There’s probably something deeply ironic about pairing a $142 dollar dress with Ta-Nehisi Coates’s memoir, but:

1. Both speak to me about some need: the need for the perfect black dress (it’s a human right, ya’ll) and the need for my reading to be more diverse.

2. This dress is beautiful and fluid, and TNC’s prose usually is, too.

Francesca Dress at IGIGI

The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The Red Book Dress by Alight is cute and clearly benefits from having the right name for this tumblr!

On the other hand, Ron Charles at the Washington Post loved Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue.

Alight can sometimes feature dresses that remind me a bit too strongly of arts and crafts projects, but this tunic could be cozy and sweet with a pair of leggings. I especially love dresses that go well with leggings because I try to bicycle to wherever it is that I’m going as much as I can, and leggings are sturdier than tights and hold up against rain/mud/chain grease a lot better.

The dress here is the Navy Tunic dress.

Book is Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives, by Annie Murphy Paul. It’s currently being featured on Slate.com’s Double X blog.

Killer unicorns or totally cute dress? $100 difference, what will she choose?

Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund

The Jackie 2-in-1 by iGigi

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