Archives for posts with tag: manic pixie dream girls

I’m thinking about a certain kind of older woman and wondering, for reasons that aren’t very nice, if they can be an Old Babe.

The boiler room girls are the prototype I’m thinking about, old groupies, kind of, and Esther Newberg is the only one who could possibly be considered an old babe. Mimi Alford, the well-bred intern who slept with JFK and recently wrote a memoir, is not one. Old Babes do not dine out on who they slept with in 1961.

The meditation is inspired, as so much is, by the femme edition of The New York Times, with a piece called “Starting Over at 48” about Kim France. She is the founding editor of Lucky magazine, a revolutionary — not least because it is making money — format for fashion mags, and one of the many revolutions caused by Jane and Sassy in the ladies’ mag market. I find it unreadable. One good reason for her candidacy as an Old Babe is that, like the graduates of Sassy, France claims she doesn’t mind being called a feminist.

The nail in the Old Babe coffin for Kim France is when she says, “I’m 48, but I’m an immature 48. There are people in this city who work in creative businesses whose interests are still very youth-ish. They like rock music, looking cool, but they are not kids anymore. They don’t, you know, respond to crotch high skirts on a style blog, no matter how cute they look.”

Kim France has left Lucky and started over, in her West Village apartment, as a blogger.  She calls her blog “Girls of a Certain Age.” I am thinking in this unnamed sub-species of Old Babe, inspired by Kim France, of Vivienne Westwood, who always appears to be a candidate for an old babe, but is not, and the Guardian’s Invisible Woman, who is not, but writes about it.

As you know, Princess Lilian of Sweden is the captain of the old babe team, along with Iris Apfel, and we must consider both what Lilian and Iris, the floral life leaders, would do about Kim France.

What binds Vivienne Westwood, the Invisible Woman, and Kim France together is being old rock chicks, still trying, it seems to me, to make it on those terms.* The terms are murky, one of them being one’s former career as a groupie, and dining out on who one slept with in 1961. I can’t say for a fact that any of these ladies but Westwood was an actual groupie. I have read the memoirs of Pamela des Barres, Patti Boyd and Bill Wyman, so there’s nothing I don’t know about groupies, including a close encounter when Stephen Tyler and I were young and I was interviewing him for the Great Metropolitan Daily. He thought I was a groupie because that’s the only kind of women he was meeting.

I don’t think Vivienne Westwood is an old babe. While she looks like a chewed rawhide bone with orange hair, and what she wears is old but not babe, she’s not emanating fashion, but rather parroting the 50-year-old rock epigrams which passed for revolution in the 60s. She is, in a young friend’s immortal term, a rock gorgon, mimicking half-a-century old hipster gestures.

Westwood looks 100 per cent better than usual here, in this Guardian video clip, because her Gorgonesque ’70s orange Three’s Company ponytail is covered up in a chic black do-rag, and she’s not wearing a slogan t shirt. She looks chic, but her garrulity, and the idiocy of what she says, which was cute when she first said it in 1964, has worn rather less well than her eyebrow pencil. She did not wear underpants when she went to collect her OBE from the Queen, which is just about the feeblest non-punk gesture I can think of. Any self-respecting punk or Old Babe would omit one or the other, preferably the OBE.

The Invisible Woman excited me with her Ralph Ellison reference, but basically writes,  timidly and 30 years behind the times, about the issues. The Land’s End tugless soft cup tank suit, for example, is known to every woman who put away the bikinis at age 21, because a black tanksuit on the beach where everybody else’s greasyass stuff is all dangling in the sand is 10,000 times hotttter. Trust me.  But not to the Invisible Woman. The Invisible Woman is broken by the tragedy of having to put the bikinis away at 50 — which there is no reason to do, whether or not your breasts and your belly hang down to your knees. Unless you want to be chic and not have the decolletage of a baseball mitt. The Invisible Woman is British; the British are sun whores; think an Ibiza tan is paradise; and must be forgiven. Or Jade Jagger NSFW, perhaps not. (Pippa Middleton, this is your future.)

She writes about bullshit fashion panels convened to discuss the pros and cons of Botox and diet — except there are no cons, and the prospect of old age anorexic and on the needle is clearly and uncompromisingly promoted. There’s a pressing-her-nose-on-the-glass-of-youth tone which is neither old nor babe-ish. Truthfully, I suppose I’m a bit put out because I feel a tiny bit excluded but if I can’t make a grand entrance perhaps I can sneak into the party by the side door? Oh Jeez. She really wrote that, and her circling about parties is at the core of my revulsion. An Old Babe doesn’t go to parties, unless they’re for the arts of seated conversation, business, or ceremonial purposes. She is the party.

Princess Lilian, our leader, emerges briefly, on the arm of her great-nephew, to celebrate the millenium.

Which brings us to the case of Kim France, who, having been at the helm of the hot fashion rag quit Planet Conde Nast recently to become a blogger. She had daily migraines and felt she had to quit. Her blog is for women who wanted, she says, to be Tatum O’Neal in Bad News Bears, whatever that might mean. I think it means ’90s feminism as per the Australian-founded magazine, Sassy, a mesmerizing feminist girl power magazine of the ’90s edited by Jane Pratt. It was famous for enterprising girl reporters, and much more than its one true take on the groupie disaster that is Courtney Love, and I miss it.

Sassy discovered Chloe Sevigny, which may have been a mistake. And now they’re all grown up, or grown old Kim France and the Sassy girls, reading the Janedough on line, secretly praying to Tien Hou their grateful thanks that their Rielle Hunter/Mr. Big instincts didn’t work out, and quitting a real magazine gig for the pale simulacrum of the Bohemian life in the West Village, where rich people live. Kim France jokes that she’s starting a Tumblr page called “I Preferred the 90s”, because, as France says, “it sort of was the last time before things started being super adult.”

I don’t know if the manic pixie dream girl is a version of Candace Bushnell’s famous Peter Pan boy — in her immortal piece on the Manhattan biciycle boy — or if the Kim France Peter Pan Girl of a Certain Age  is a new breed — the 21st century version of the Boiler Room Girls. Who stayed waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long at the fair, kicking around Georgetown, doing married men a la Rielle, pretending to be connected. Getting drowned at Chappaquiddick. Esther Newberg got the hell out of Dodge, left for New York, reinvented herself as a ball buster, and started a whole nother non-Kennedy, more or less, life. That’s what an old babe does.

You can become a Bohemian at age 48. And I have hope for Kim France, based solely on her post about the immaculate white cloth flats worn in sooty early summer Manhattan by the girl who waxes her eyebrows.

They’re $6.79 from K-Mart. Princess Lilian and Iris Apfel would say, I think, there was a glimmer of hope here. ________________________________

*I’m still thinking about whether Gracie Slick is an old babe. She has famously retired from the stage, let her hair go white, gained weight, and paints pictures. She says, we didn’t have to be good-looking ’cause there were no music videos. She says, repeatedly, that performing is not for rock gorgons. “God bless The Rolling Stones, but I think old people doing rock and roll is kind of pathetic.”

 I think she’s getting there; much depends on the quality of her paintings and whether or not she’s hiding. I don’t think she is.–rock-and-roll.html

I’m very interested in y’all’s take on granny chic, or, as my sharp-eyed London friend stipulates, The New Frump.

To sum up your insights, a combination of crowdsourcing comment from my private blog and FB:

  • wearing skirts is a backlash against the boomer feminist Hillary pantssuit
  • no real granny would wear droopy cuffs, as they interfere with her “generational duties” — this, I think, emphasizes the fashiony and slacker/pixie aspects of The New Frump
  • it’s a scenester look pegged, at least in London, to drinking too much, not eating enough, and having a cool dead-end job
  • its untidy hair and orthopedic shoes connote disability, perhaps of slacker origin
  • the twee is manipulative rather than sexy
  • the sexy aspect of hand-crafted clothes is partly based in feminist, peasant, artisanal, upcycling, frugal/poverty-stricken origins of the proletarian women’s work the punk knitters are honoring, and
  • its heroic, art-therapeutic properties for its makers to
  • enliven, dignify, classify and nationalize prole surroundings and their bodies with signs of their artistry
  • the sexy/manipulative range of motion much depends on whether the look is defiant (clothes as armor) or insouciant (clothes as vulnerable/flirtatious).

I think the twee is armor, manipulative, and not sexy. Think about Warren Jeffs’ 50 Mormon wives in identical, baby girl/Jordan almond colored, dresses, with sexy, shiny, pinned-up hair in big Elvis quiffs. I think they’re definitely clothed for Eros and scrubbing floors. They have anti-feminist agency. And are probably sexier than The New Frump girls, who seem armored and yet insisting on disability, as if they were playing dumb blondes and their fingernails are too long, and too crusty, to type. The twee thread of Granny Chic — the manic pixie dream girl aspect — also subverts feminist agency — no second-wave feminist pantssuits for me — without substituting corn-fed prelapsarian Mormon randiness.

Whussup? Y’all are being very smart about these readings. I think there are a couple of threads: the difference between

  • the New Frump and the 50 year trend of vintage wear;*
  • the New Frump and artisanal punk hand-crafted/upcycled/retailored “granny” wear
  • the twee pastiche vs. the polychrome Old Babe Iris Apfel pastiche
  • the defiant, Mormon granny/prairie sexy look vs. the twee/disabled/slacker/manic pixie dream girl manipulative look.

I have to add the heroin chic aspect that mitts, sleeves (tatts or textile), cuffs, shrugs, all hide needle tracks and the tecatas, at least in New York City, all have an entire wardrobe of shrugs. This was one of the fashion messages of Rent.

Heroin chic: Daphne Rubin-Vega and her latex sleeves in Rent: Rock that navel but never ever reveal your brachial arteries.

Am I getting it right? Tell me more. I’m also getting the strong sense that the twee is partly anorexia armor, its droop calculated to replace secondary sexual characteristics in the way polychrome Old Babe wear asserts a third gender, if not a third age.

What is the New Frump’s art school claim? It is carefully curated, people.

Old Babe Iris Apfel

Polychrome Old Babe Iris Apfel. By Chester Higgins Jr., The New York Times

* For example, early ’60s body con modernist vintage, tailored, well-groomed, knee-length, now all the rage on account of Mad Men, is also called Granny Chic:

There’s a permutation known as Grampa Chic, which has to be thought through on its own terms. Depending of course on whether it’s a girl or a boy who’s wearing it.

I am thinking about granny chic, inspired by this bad avatar:

One fashion maven friend says all the girls in his hip neighborhood in London are doing it, and that its fashion message is vulnerability instead of armor.

From the ’60s, I bring this news dispatch. There was, first, Granny Takes a Trip, the famous 1966 King’s Road boutique which claims to have started it all, long before Vivienne Westwood, with the velvets, the Edwardian coats, and clothing the Beatles and Rolling Stones for their Revolver and Between the Buttons album covers.

I’d just like to point out that the Cockettes and the Pointer Sisters were simultaneously discovering the thrift shops of San Francisco, and one in particular which was loaded with panne velvet — the foundation stone of rock chic (with the special left coast twist of the Pointer sisters’ sharp, tailored, high heeled, skirted ’40s vintage wear as opposed to the Stevie Nicks/Talitha Getty drapey pants path).

Then we had granny dresses. Mine was not vintage, but purchased in a department store. Ankle-grazing, Empire waisted, with a high ruffled neck and long sleeves with ruffled cuffs. It had an ankle-grazing grosgrain ribbon bow under the bust. The essential gran elements were the high neck and the midi-length.

This vintage ’70s pattern gives the trope. It’s pastoral, pioneerish, possibly anti-capitalist, certainly communitarian:

And can be seen in its apotheosis on the backs of Warren Jeffs’ 50 Mormon wives:

Here, another London fashion observer friend has stipulated the valuable aesthetic criteria of defiance and insouciance. I’d say the Mrs. Jeffs were in defiance, yes?

We further had granny glasses — I remember in particular a hott pair of zinc wire frames with brown tinted lenses, kind of John Lennon meets Yves Saint Laurent — which were meant to detract attention from my then-resemblance to Bette Davis, and assert my resemblance to Trotsky.

Along the way there were granny boots — pre-Doc Marten, tight, over the ankle lace-ups, which looked hott with the long skirt.

Twenty-twelve brings us at least three permutations of granny, one of which, I do believe, is the 21st century London version the girls in the street are wearing. Fifty years after the founding of Granny Takes a Trip, it’s less about the panne velvets, the Edwardian tailoring, waistlines, and even those ’40s lace berthas a lot of the left coast vintage hipsters, legatees of the Pointer Sisters, can be seen jitterbugging in. It’s more about a layered pastiche, with the Doc Martens.

Sprigged and midi length have remained. This chick expatiates on the romance of how the skirt swings when you walk, and butches out the femme with the ubiquitous motorcycle jacket, always present when steel-toed boots are not:

She found it in a thrift shop in pastoral West Virginia, and emphasizes the little girl playing dress-up element we find going rogue when it crosses the line into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl:

The floral dress is vintage by All That Jazz found at a Salvation Army in West Virginia. Long dresses aren’t exactly in my comfort zone. They’re ok, but I usually chop long dresses shorter. Since this isn’t my favorite dress I’m going to add it to the vintage store because it’s quite lovely. It flatters the feminine shape by flaring at the hips, but being tight across the waist. Plus, I enjoyed how the skirt flounced up and down when I walked. I felt like a kid playing with a toy and my toy was my skirt.

The difference between this and the ’60s granny dress is, I grew up wearing dresses. To school. Pants not allowed. Wearing skirts and dresses was quotidian until about 1980. Wearing them was not the gender-bending, shape-shifting event — whether insouciant or defiant — that it now is.

Then we have Cate Blanchette’s artisanal granny square dress:

From the Australian label, Romance Was Born, this dress of Ozzie Blanchette is firmly in the artisanal punk tradition. The founders of the firm were both offered internships by John Galliano and turned them down to stay in Australia and pursue what they call more “laid back” Oz fashion energies. These appear to be carefully connected to a local artisanal aesthetic, descended from the pioneer Granny chain smoking, drinking tea, and embroidering crinoline ladies on the dish towels after a day of shovelling sheep shit alone in the outback.

There’s wildness down under, and my impression is that the punkness and the fiber arts are — like Oz’ special film aesthetic — encouraged by state supported art schools. There is, for this new nation, the romance of everything up in the attic. The Australians are the great hyperbolic knitters, the originators of the crocheted Great Barrier Reef, of the immortal Native Blossom Hat, by Lynne Johnson, in Jenny Dowde’s revolutionary book, Freeform Knitting and Crochet, and of Killer Tea Cosies which is probably the best and most expensive Granny Takes a Trip publication of all time.

Here, Australian mathematician Margaret Wertheim, the founder of the crocheted Great Barrier Reef, discusses her inspiration, and sounds the clarion manifesto for the feminism and environmentalism in punk artisanal fiber work:


Crusty enviro punk knit sculpture is a far cry, however, from granny chic. Just to make sure you understand, here is the photograph of a knitting militant in her wedding dress.

Oops, that’s not it. Couldn’t find it. But you get the pic.

Finally, the annals of 2012 granny wear uncover a prejudice among young men that any pair of underpants worn by their girlfriends which is not a thong is a granny panty. In other words, any coverage of the buttocks, much less the navel, is considered buzzkill.

What are granny panties?

So boyfriend always calls my underwear granny panties even if there not… what do you guys think granny panties are because i need to prove him wrong… he says granny panties are any underwear that cover your butt… but i tell him that its underwear that sags and sits up by your belly button…. what do you think?

Best Answer – Chosen by Asker

So…string bikinis…low rider boy shorts…are all considered granny panties!! I think not!! Tell you BF to wear a thong all day in jeans and see how comnfortable he is!! You’re right. Granny panties are for girls what tightie whities are for boys!!

This vista of a whole generation of young men schooled to internet porn standards depressed me so I had to go think about my granny’s panties.

She wore pink silk tap pants practically ’til the day she died. Old school is a good school. And definitely not granny chic.

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