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Archive for the ‘THE WORLD OF FASHION’ Category

lovers at a ball

Here we are (or I should say “were“)—Joe and I, obviously smitten with each other—at one of my High School formal dances in 1950.  Back then ordinary dresses were called “frocks”, and formals were called “gowns”.  Our life was romantic in the mid 20th Century, and our romance will always flourish.  After 61 plus years of marriage and countless joys and challenges, we are still smitten with each other.  And although currently my closet is void of actual formal gowns, it abounds in frocks which I love to wear.

Dressing with a flair for romance does not have to mean spending a lot of bucks (although it can).  Nor does it even begin to include the “Hollywood Glammy” look, worn by today’s female “stars” with their body parts falling out of the garments.  (In the 1940s and 50s, Hollywood gowns were truly glamorous.  Whatever happened to good taste?)

To me, romantic dressing is simply a matter of what (the colors, styles, and accessories I enjoy) as well as how (with the confidence that I am doing the best I can with what God has given me).  My mother’s classic advice will always ring in my ears:  “Fix yourself up every day (regarding personal hygiene, arrangement of hair, facial cosmetics, a lovely perfume or cologne, and the wearing of apparel) as best as you can.  Then just forget about yourself and have a good time!”  Wise Mom!

Of course there have been times over the years of child raising, when the recipe for looking my best hit the fan.  There were times of mucking out a sheep shed where I was less than cosmetically interesting.  But hey Mom, I was still having a good time!

Which brings me to an important aspect of romantic living:  the zest for living.  For me, God’s Grace through faith in the Lord Jesus has augmented that joie de vivre which has been a common thread running through my family of origin and my parents’ and grandparents’ families as well.  Somewhere back in the Scottish Highlands and the Swiss Alps there must have been some Campbells and Longeneckers who were having a good time.  Maybe they were partially “high on life” because of their hilly or mountainous locales, but here I am—not tremendously higher than sea level, and still “having a good time”.

A zest for living the romantic life translates to daily happiness for me.  Barring horrific circumstances (and the world is full of those!) happiness is a choice.  My  desire to live each day romantically, with a mind to providing a setting which nourishes my soul and that of others around me, is indeed a choice.  But I cannot recall ever wanting to choose differently.

Creating beautiful and useful objects is a huge factor in my romantic lifestyle.  I often wake up feeling less than physically fabulous.  HOWEVER  knowing that I have a garment in process on the knitting needles or a watercolor drying on the work table—or soap curing in the kitchen—serves better than cannon shot to get me out of bed, and almost as effectively as caffeine to sort me out—gimpy body notwithstanding.

Romance can be audible:  from outdoor sounds—wind, rain, birds, insects, coyotes, etc. to the music of man’s God-given creativity.  On a rainy afternoon I love to immerse my head and heart in arias and overtures from Verdi’s passionate operas.  I frequently play romantic old tunes—“As Time Goes By”, “Deep Purple”, etc.—on my piano as well as favorite classics and the haunting ballads from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and other 20th Century musicals.

Joe and I recently attended a fine production of LES MISERABLES at a local dinner theatre.  Fantine’s solo, “I Dreamed a Dream” is among the most poignant vocal narratives I’ve ever experienced—a recital of a clandestine, heartbreaking love affair.  The incredibly tender melody keeps rolling in my head.  I play a simplified piano arrangement of it, while adding interpretive arpeggios and random chords.  Most unforgettable music—whether jubilant, poignant, or just plain sad—will always contain something of the romance factor:  expressing my love for God, for my country or a person—or some statement of the human condition, replete with a life-affirming quality of beauty.

Thus I celebrate romance.  The word “romance” has meant many things to me over many years:  the love which my husband and I have shared since 1950, a love for beauty to inspire the eyes and ears while stirring the soul—and an appreciation for the many aspects of life which add roundness, firmness, tenderness, strength of mind, zest for living, and depth of awareness.

These aspects of romance and thereby human LIFE, are enhanced and perfected by the knowledge that all good gifts—material and sensory as well as spiritual and eternal—come from the one and only Triune God.  Praise Him!

Margaret L. Been, November 2014

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My piano bar

It’s amazing how a “one-liner” can stick with you forever!  Years ago a violin teacher, Amy, shared an unforgettable one-liner which summarizes most everything I have endeavored to do for much of my life.  At a violin lesson years ago I was sawing through a seemingly boring and nondescript exercise in my Kreutzer, when Amy interjected a teacherly command:  “Play it like a love song!”

This concept revolutionized my practice sessions.  Heretofore, violin (and piano) teachers had stressed metronome-driven precision.  Now Amy was setting me free to transform even the most mechanistic of studies into a vehicle for interpretive expression.  The Kreutzer exercises came alive.  Suddenly they were beautiful—as I learned to play them with my soul as well as with my fingers.

I grew up in the era of heart-rending love songs and idealistically elegant films.  The Hit Parade featured pop classic crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como—and the cinema portrayed love affairs framed in romantic settings.  Though some negative-minded folks might bad-mouth my early conditioning as being “unreal”, I praise God for it.  Beauty and elegance via entertainment, along with the beauty and natural elegance which my mother modeled every single day in our home, taught me something vital about living—and endowed me with a working philosophy, as succinctly summarized in Amy’s words:  “Play it like a love song.”

No, beauty and romantic elegance are not “unreal” when we attempt to bring these qualities to the most mundane of tasks, thereby inspiring and uplifting the moment—when our concept of outer beauty mirrors a quality of the inner soul.  We are free to choose, free to create with whatever we have at hand, free to play life like a love song—therefore highlighting our material reality whenever possible, with manifestations of inner beauty.

When we reflect on our loving, creative God—the Author of beauty (material as well as spiritual)—we realize that “playing it like a love song” can radically exceed some merely human philosophy on how to live.  Although beauty and/or romantic elegance need not take the form of a 1940s Hollywood production—or, for that matter, a Kreutzer exercise—the essence of gracious inner beauty can be palpable in diverse forms as well as applicable to most every circumstance and area of life depending on how ardently we love life, how we view life, and most vitally how we think!  Again, we are free to choose.

The intrinsic character of God’s beauty materialized at creation, when He spoke the beautiful Heavens and earth into existence.  Many centuries later, an Apostle whom we revere expressed God’s command for humankind through the priority of the “whatsoever things”:  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”  Philippians 4:8

Are there moments when your life exercises seem drab and routine, and your duties are characterized by metronome-driven precision?  Here’s an idea you might want to try:  Play it like a love song!

Margaret L. Been, 2014

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Above you will see the front view of a tunic, hot off my knitting needles.  I simply have to have color!  

A few browns, greys, and blacks reside in my closet and dresser drawers.  These are quiet, restful colors— lovely in nature, and elegant on some individuals.  I wear the muted tones on occasion in the fall—but always with an accent (a scarf, shawl, hat, etc.) of red, maroon, gold, bittersweet, rust, aqua blue, teal blue, cobalt blue, lavender, purple, lime green, lemon yellow, or rosy pink in any shade or tint.

By this time of the year brown, grey, and black have lost their appeal for me.  I probably will not wear them again until next autumn.

Color is far more than a simple cosmetic or decorative element.  It reaches deep into one’s soul, and makes a difference in a person’s outlook on life.  Color is a tangible expression of God’s over-the-top creative beauty, excitement, and wonder.  Color is one of God’s most loving and generous gifts.

If you deny that statement then quite possibly you have never visited the Grand Canyon, walked in an autumn woods in New England or the Midwest, thrilled to autumn’s aspen gold in the Colorado Mountains, exclaimed over precious green shoots emerging from a spring thaw, or experienced the euphoria of wandering in a flowering garden. 

One needn’t even exit one’s home, to realize the impact of color:  a window view of a sunrise or sunset is testimony to the Master Artist who paints the skies and all the world, for His glory—and our pleasure! 

Thus we lovers of beauty tend to deck our bodies, in celebration of the gift of color.  With our hands, we fashion colorful items.  Just “useful” is never good enough.  Our creations must please the eyes, as well.

For the past four months which some might have deemed “bleak”, I knitted away hours and days as a visitor in Joe’s hospital room.  I spilled my yarns out over the futon, my “home away from home” couch bed in his room—where I read, sketched, and knitted by day, and slept by night while Joe was a patient there.

Time and again nurses and aides (and even doctors!) who came in Joe’s room, would pause and look at the yarns and the piece of work on my needles.  They invariably smiled at the colors.  Just a few balls of yarn can change the atmosphere of most any setting, including a critically ill patient’s room in a hospital!

Last week, on a overcast grey day, I wore the above tunic to a clinic appointment.  One of the check-in desk secretaries kept staring at me.  Every time I glanced in her direction, I was aware of her gaze.  Finally, the woman broke out in a huge grin.  She said, “You are making me so happy with your colors!”

Below, you will find the backside of the above tunic, and another front view of it—with my funky knitted and crocheted scarf—followed by photos of our bay at our Northern Wisconsin home, in God’s magnificent artistry.  Color!  What a GIFT!

 

Our up north bay in autumn ↑

the bay in winter twilight ↑

and at sunset.  ↑

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

P. S.  Don’t forget the birds!  Since September I have been saving hair which I comb out of my brushes and store in a plastic bag.  I do this every year.  In late April I will scatter the hair on tree branches near our windows, so the birds can use it in their nests.

My friend, Elaine, has a beauty salon in her home.  She lives on a beautiful parklike acre, and saves all her customers’ hair cuttings to place in tree branches.  Needless to say, Elaine’s birds have nests of many colors!  🙂 

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Every idiosyncrasy and flaw of man has been around since the fall of Adam and Eve.  Perhaps it’s only in recent history, that we’ve tagged these flaws.  Now we have a variety of “isms”. 

I’ve just learned a tag for one more fallen viewpoint–“ageism”:  the lack of respect for, and typecasting of, individuals who are mature in age.  Actually, this deviation may be far more common today–especially in our United States.  Many other cultures have traditionally honored and looked up to their elderly people, and still do.

Although I didn’t know the term, I’ve been aware of ageism for some time.  A couple of years ago Joe and I waited for our flu shots in a County Health Office when a man, apparently in his 80s, sat down near us in the waiting room.  Presently, one of the County Health nurses came out to talk to the man.  Although he was certainly “all together” and “with it”, the nurse talked to him as if he were a 4 year old child. 

She knelt on the floor so that she was his height, and spoke deliberately and patronizingly into his face as if he were imcapable of being addressed as a “normal” person.  There was no indication that the gentleman was hard of hearing or senile–and even if he had been either of those, there was no excuse for the nurse’s demeaning behavior.  Joe and I were shocked at this insulting spectacle. 

Ageism is born of stereotypical thinking–which is really not thinking at all.  It’s abject brainlessness!  No one should be cast into a mold–regardless of color, age, or anything else. 

Years ago in a public meeting, I heard a woman speaker make a dogmatic statement:  “Older women should always wear their hair short.”  Then the speaker went on to say rather sarcastically, “Can you imagine a 60 year old with long hair?”  I was 57 when I heard this clueless talk.  I had long hair at the time, and I liked long hair.  At that very moment I vowed I would never, never, never wear my hair short (although I had “been there, done that” for years as a young girl).  I decided that my hair would always be long–and if I were to lose my hair due to illness or age, I would wear a long wig!  (Actually, long hair is so much easier for me to manage than short–I wouldn’t trade those inches even if I wanted to.)

Sadly, mature women sometimes stereotype themselves in keeping with the world’s view of how an older woman should dress.  The world and most of my peers expect us to wear slacks and sweat shirts or polyester blouses.  I think I’m the only 70 something woman I know who wears dresses and skirts nearly every day, not just for church!  Jeans are great to wear for scrubbing floors, gardening, fishing, and hiking.  But for every other purpose on earth, I will wear skirts or dresses–long and swirly, beaded and fringy–and funky blazers, vests, blouses, shawls, boots, and HATS!

The current popularity of “slacks for women at all times” is not a matter of economics.  A variety of clothing is readily available at a reasonable cost–in catalogues, discount marts, and resale shops.  If artsy attire is not another woman’s choice–if she prefers pants and sweat shirts–that’s fine!  Personal choice in fashion is priceless. 

But my heart aches for the mature woman who would like to break the mold in which society has cast her:  the lady who wants to dress in youthful, funky styles, yet hangs back due to peer pressure!  Shouldn’t the word “mature” imply that we are free and secure enough to be ourselves, while blissfully ignoring the dictates of ageism or any other doctrine of conformity in matters that are purely personal?  

Whatever her age, every woman’s style (and lifestyle) should focus on whatever is right for her, and whatever best expresses her unique personhood within the creative boundaries of human decency and consideration for other people.  Peer pressure is ludicrous for teenagers.  Conformity is unthinkable for adults!

What some consider to be the “twilight years” are really the “dawning years”–a time when a whole new day stretches out before us.  Free from many of the responsibilities we enjoyed for most of our lives, we can now venture forth wherever our imaginations and creative longings lead us.  We can take classes and join clubs.  We can read 800 page books.  We can travel, or we can thrive on staying at home.  We can compose music, paint pictures, throw pots (on a wheel or at the wall), publish books, or whatever else we desire to do. 

Even if we look old, feel old, and are “as old as the hills” we do not have to think old, dress old, or act old!  As for me (and my wardrobe and lifestyle) I’ve declared an all-out war on ageism!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

NOTE:  A picture is worth a thousand words, or maybe a word is worth a thousand pictures.  Either way, you readers who are picture and word lovers can be my guest on http://northernview.wordpress.com/  where I have matched paintings with poems.

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pict0115

My Victorian era born mother never crossed her property line without one!  She wore precious little pill boxes and birds’ nests of velvet and veil to the meat market as well as to tea parties.  The wearing of hats has been a woman’s gracious custom, honored for centuries up until recent decades.

I love hats, and will never let the custom die out.  However, my tastes run to huge hats with wide brims rather than pillboxes and bits of velvet.  I could have managed the Edwardian era, with its gigantic headgear trimmed with fruit, flowers, birds, and streamers of silk.

The above-pictured hot pink cowboy hat was purchased not “out West” where cowboy hats belong, but in the stressful little touristy town of Minocqua, Wisconsin.  The store where I bought it is always waiting for the Chicago cowboy trade, but fortunately I got there first.

Recently my cowboy hat accompanied me to Colorado, a natural environment for wide brims.  Pictured with me at the Denver BLACK EYED PEA restaurant are two Western born and bred hombres, grandsons Joel and Nathaniel Been.

Hats off to hats!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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