Feisty in the ’50s

Shoes, Payless; tights, Ardene; skirt, Suzy Shier; blazer, H&M; belt, Le Chateau; clip-on earrings and watch (that doesn’t work but I wear anyway), vintage.

As an editor and writer by day and a blogger by night, I have to admit that correcting the (many) mistakes of others has kept me busy lately (hence the – *deep sigh* – weekly-ish posts). While it is satisfying to find the errors in manuscripts and make them neat and tidy and ready for the reading pleasure of others, the effort leaves my eyes exhausted, and the cold I picked up this week hasn’t helped matters. Late to bed and early to rise has been my mantra, and I don’t like it one bit! “Good morning, dragon bitch” is what I’m sure the boyfriend has been thinking for the past week.

But, I am back today – and with a new outfit! I was inspired to put this outfit together from two sources: my black-and-gold lady brooch and an outfit worn by Danielle from Fell 4 Fashion. Both the brooch and Danielle’s ensemble have a distinct retro vibe, and I’m pretty sure her shoe booties are the Payless ones I also own and am wearing in the pictures above. (I just wish I also had my lady brooch’s fabulous fur-and-diamond neck stole!)

The whole below-the-knee skirt, leopard-print coat, cinched-waist thing made me feel like a ’50s secretary, or maybe a stenographer who, when not efficiently typing court proceedings, peers with superiority over her glasses at the court audience. “Minions, all!”

P.S. You can now become a fan of “De Facto Redhead” on Facebook!

It’s a Barbie world … and I like it!

When I was young, I loved my Barbies. Dressing them up, dressing them down, bending their legs, playing with their hair (once even cutting it), experimenting with different footwear (like heels, flats, skates, rollerskates, and more), and making up scenarios in the car, at the salon, at the beach, and at rock concerts (I had a Barbie corvette, a Barbie salon, a California Barbie surf-store set, and a Barbie and The Rockers stage setup, complete with instruments). I also had an open-faced homemade Barbie house that my dad built for me and my ladies, and in this house many tasteless meals were cooked, many invisible stairs were climbed, and many restless nights were spent by Barbie, as she slept with her eyes wide open, every night.

All of these memories and more came flooding back once I started to read Barbie: All Dolled Up, Celebrating 50 Years of Barbie by Jennie D’Amato. I suppose you could classify this a coffee-table book, because of its size and shape and large number of pictures and illustrations, but there is also a lot to read and reminisce over. The book begins with the debut of Barbie in 1959, and a Barbie quote at the top of the first page of the chapter reads, “I don’t know what size I am. All my clothes are made to order.” Oh, if I could!

I found it really fascinating in my continued page-turning to read about Charlotte Johnson and Carol Spender, two of the first designers to dress Barbie. Imagine landing a job as a fashion designer for Barbie! The outfits they designed are absolutely gorgeous, and the original sketches in the book, along with pictures of the clothes and Barbie in them, display many, many pieces I want hanging in my own wardrobe. The now-retro style catalogue of Barbie’s sixties-style hand-tailored (!) clothes is chock-full of the looks we all covet on Mad Men (favourite styles, Joan’s and Betty’s. You?). And besides, who wouldn’t need such a fabulous wardrobe when you’re an astronaut, stewardess, nurse, ballerina, and much more? Barbie must have so many social engagements through work and her personal life, I believe it’s just that she never shows up in the same outfit twice (well, she did in my house, but there has to be some limit to the toys!, right mom?).

I read Barbie: All Dolled Up over Christmas (it was a present) and looking through it again now to write this review, I keep getting stalled because I’m intensely studying and reading the pages all over again! Ken, Skipper, Barbie products galore, Malibu Barbie, Barbie’s friends Stacey, Casey, and Christie and cousin Francie (all of whom I didn’t even know existed!), details about how subtle changes over the years have shaped Barbie’s face into what we see today, media stories about Barbie … it’s all detailed in this fun, colourful book of all things Barbie.

What also makes this book unique are the inserts smattered throughout that reveal little tidbits about how Barbie has been shaped into the woman and icon she is today. These exact replicas feature, for instance, the letter and memerbship card that the Barbie Official Fan Club sent out to its first-time members, the patent drawings for the new, innovative, bend-and-twist-at-the-waist Barbie, etc.

The last Barbie I bought for myself was Totally Hair Barbie (pictured below) in the early nineties. I was 10 years old, and I purchased it at Eaton’s. I remember telling my mom I wanted it, and she asked me if I thought I might be too old to be buying Barbies anymore. I stuck to my guns and spent my allowance money on Totally Hair Barbie, probably exiting the store walking proud with Barbie in hand. Now, 17 years later, I can say with confidence that I was not too old for that Barbie – look at me, I ‘m still raving about her and her many incarnations!

Barbie gets a bad rap a lot of the time – i.e. she  pushes stereotypes and represents a female ideal that isn’t realistically achievable. And, everyone knows Aqua’s satirical song Barbie World that typifies the oft-used derogatory phrase, “She’s such a Barbie doll.” Well, I say to hell with all the naysayers! Barbie: All Dolled Up is an amazing book that showcases how magical and inspirational Barbie’s world can be to young girls, and how Barbie’s beauty, fashion sense, and flawless figure are often secondary to her drive, success, kindness, and general sunny nature. Barbie is no flake, and even though her head won’t literally stay on her shoulders (don’t pull too hard!), I still think it’s safe to say it’s on there solidly in spirit.

Now, if she will just let me go up to her Dream House attic and borrow some of her sixties-era clothes, my life-long friendship with her will be truly cemented …

Right: My Totally Hair Barbie being introduced to her book-page debut. Left: My Barbie collection – Ken tries to contain himself in the face of such beauty.

Top, clockwise: A snapshot of Barbie’s messy closet at my house; Barbie’s skateboard from her California-girl days; Barbie’s shoes for a dainty look; Personalized hangers – you know you’ve made it.

What are some of your Barbie memories?

Right on Target

This coat was a Christmas present from my mom. Way to go, mom!

Demonstrating with the hidden straps how I could roll up the sides and arms of the dress, if I so pleased.

Coat, Smart Set; scarf, vintage; gloves, gift; purse, Aldo; boots Steve Madden via Winners.

Dress, Mossimo via Target; tights, Ardene; brooch, earrings, bracelet, and watch, vintage; shoe-booties, Payless.

*Dress and shoe-booties from 2010 Tally It Up experiment.

I wish, wish, wish there was a Target store in Edmonton! I had the good fortune to get into one on a little day trip to the U.S. a couple weeks ago, and I was amazed at the variety and prices of clothing! Much more exciting than, say, the closest Canadian equivalent of perhaps Wal-Mart or Zellers. The clearance racks at Target had amazing pieces on them, and even though I tried on about six things and only came away with the dress above, I left the store with a new-found respect for it. It didn’t hurt that I got to paw over the Rodarte for Target collection, either. So pretty!

Another note: I spotted these Steve Madden rubber boots in the Winners clearance section ($27!) last month and made a beeline for them that would have had me shoving children and seniors out of the way, if such a situation would have arisen. Things are pretty high-stakes at Winners, you know! Anyway, I think these rubber boots can be classified under the “fashion coup” variety, and I wear them loud and proud!

Suspended in 2009

Pants, Forever 21; top, Urban Planet; heels, Guess via The Bay; earrings, gift; bracelet, vintage.

I waited a long time to find a pair of pants like this – wide leg with suspenders. But now that I have them, I don’t know how great they are. I’m only 5’4″ and I’m thinking these pants might make me look stumpy. What do you think? I do, however, like that I can pull the suspenders out, as pictured above, and say things in a Cockney accent, such as, “Bloody nice mornin’, ain’t it?”

I am big fan of this top, though. The neck-tie on it can be styled all sorts of ways, making it extremely versatile with work pants, jeans, skirts, etc. And it was only $9! This outfit is another one of the lost ensembles from 2009, but I plan this week to get back on a real-time track with new outfits from 2010. Hark! Clothes for everyone!

I wear trash

Making adjustments for a picture that is essentially the same as the first.

Boots, Aldo; leggings, Dynamite; top, Costa Blanca; belt, bracelets, and clip-on earrings, vintage.

In the days leading up to Christmas, I had time to get pictures taken of a few of my outfits, but no time to blog about them. Above is one of the forgotten outfits of 2009 and I thought it deserved better than to be filed away as detritus of the past. This is the last picture you will see of these boots, though. I mentioned in previous posts how ragged they were becoming and sometime between those posts and Christmas, a hole was created in the toe of each boot. I didn’t have another pair of flat black boots on standby, so I admit that I wore these a few more times after the hole discovery and even brought them home to Ontario with me. Bad idea. My mom took one look at them, ordered them banished to the basement, and then my dad threw them out with the garbage without even notifying me first! Goodbye, black boots! You served me well!

And now the impossible search begins for another pair…

Tally it up

My mom forwarded me an article from the Toronto Star the other day. It was about two best friends, Perdita and Alison, who are in their early 30s and decided to put a halt to their frivolous spending for exactly one year, starting last May 15. No shoes, dresses, shirts, pants, purses, socks, accessories – nothing. Both, it seems, have overloaded closets of non-designer and designer goods, and Perdita mused in the article that she might have enough for a down payment on a house in Toronto if she hadn’t bought so many clothes, etc. If you’re interested, the friends are blogging about their experiences as shoppers in lock-down at www.365fashionrehab.com.

Perdita’s comment about a down payment brings to mind the Sex and the City episode in which Carrie receives her “eviction” notice from Aiden and has to either find a new apartment or buy hers. While shoe shopping with Miranda, Carrie comes to the terrible realization that she would have enough money to buy her apartment if only she hadn’t purchased so many pairs of shoes at approximately $400 a pair. She quips that she will be the old woman who literally lives in her shoes, and while this is an extreme example of over-shopping and overspending (especially on a newspaper columnist’s salary!), the reality is in there somewhere and can be found in the closets of women all over Canada who buy, buy, buy and then wonder where their money went.

I admit I, too, love to buy, buy, buy, but you will not catch me purchasing anything with a designer label, or paying more than $25 for shoes, if I can help it. I’m all about buy, buy, buying the sales, sales, sales, and it seems to have become a running joke among my friends that I am cheap. Case in point: a few weeks ago, a friend of mine equated my clothes to costing “bargain basement” prices, and on a birthday card back in August, another friend, who gave me a $10 Urban Outfitters gift card, wrote that I could probably find multiple things to buy without going over said amount.

OK, yes, it’s true – I am bargain shopper who never looks at anything hanging on the regular-price racks. I go straight to the sale racks, and if there’s nothing there that catches my fancy, I leave the store. I can’t justify paying regular price when things are either going to go on sale in a few weeks, or I can find something else just as good for a lot less. I do, however, buy a lot of things at these low prices, so after reading about the Fashion Rehab ladies, I have decided to keep a running tally of every clothing-related item I buy in 2010. This includes all undergarments, coats, socks, tights, belts, hats, shoes, jewelry, gloves – everything. I couldn’t even guess how much money I spend on these things in a year, so why not find out and let you follow along?

So far in 2010, I have bought three things, all in the U.S. during my Christmas vacation. Those items and their prices are:

Tank top with flowery blue, turquoise, and white design, American Eagle Outfitters – $4.47

Black shoe-booties, Payless – $11.03

Red plaid shirt-dress, Target – $6.31

TOTAL: $21.81

I will let you know whenever I buy something new, and when I wear my items from 2010 I will flag them in my Fashion and Me posts so you know what’s what and how much I paid. It’s difficult to showcase clothes without actually having them on as complete outfits, but I will take pictures of easier items when I can, like my Payless shoe-booties, seen above. Ah, I *heart* clearance!

Get spooked!

As I mentioned in my post from Monday, two of the used books I bought while I was home were young adult novels by R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike. I read these authors voraciously when I was younger, tearing through multiple books in a day. Road trips with my family were particularly fruitful when it came to this. My mom always said I never saw the sights because my nose was always in a book. Well, all I can say to that is at least my nose was, indeed, in a book!

I wish I had the time to read like I did when I was a young adult and teenager, whiling away huge chunks of my spare time with a book … or two. The books I read now are, of course, longer, and I probably couldn’t get through two entire books in a day, but it’s the principle that counts! Stine’s books run at about 145 pages and are printed with a large font size, and Pike’s novels are approximately 215 pages with the same-size font. The same can’t be said for many “adult” books.

No matter. I was excited to sit down once again with The Fire Game by Stine and Scavenger Hunt by Pike and devour them the way I used to. I was finished The Fire Game in about two and a half hours, give or take, and much hilarity ensued. Take, for instance, this paragraph:

Jill glanced up, half expecting to see the fire chief. The door had just swung open, and a tall, muscular boy stood framed in it against the setting sun. He was dressed in faded 501 jeans and a gray rugby shirt. His thick, sandy hair curled above a broad, handsome face.


The premise of Fire Game is centred around a group of teenagers who accidentally cause a fire in the high school library and then continue to challenge each other to start bigger and more serious fires around their town, Shadyside. The cast of characters is made up of three girls and three guys, and it’s easy to recognize who is acting as a foil for who. We have the new bad boy in town, Gabe – is he the crazy pyro? The guy who spouts inspiring lines such as:

“I was just in the gym doing some extra crunches and chins. You know, the phys. ed program here is pathetic. They must be trying to turn out couch potatoes”?

And then there’s the rebellious girl, Andrea, who thinks the fires are funny, dangerous, and exciting – is she the firebug setting things aflame all over town? Or is it the main character, Jill, whose innocent demeanour is a ruse? The other members of the group who are under suspicion are Diane, who mysteriously won’t wear a bikini or change in front of the other girls in gym class, Nick, who is always trying to out-alpha-male Gabe, and Max, the easygoing guy who is basically just a floater character.

The conflict between the sextet starts when someone goes too far and sets fire to an abandoned home where a homeless man was hiding out. He later dies and everything goes loco. Accusations fly and quickly escalating scenes of high emotion like this one play out:

“What do you want?” Andrea snapped. “A full confession? Well, you won’t get one, because I didn’t write any notes and I didn’t do anything else wrong!”

“All we want to do is stop the fires,” Diane went on, her voice trembling. “And we want you to know that we’re your friends and we’ll stand by you no matter what.”

“Some friends!” said Andrea. “Just go away and leave me alone!”

“Andrea, please-” said Jill.

“Get out!” Andrea screamed. “Didn’t you hear me? This is my house and I don’t want you in here! Not now – and not ever again!”

Andrea’s face was so distorted with anger that Jill felt she hardly knew her.


There are also some other amusing lines that deal with the technology of 1991:

“I almost forgot. I’ve got to show you what Dad got me for an early birthday present,” said Andrea. “You’re not going to believe this.” She went to the modular desk unit in the corner and opened the door, revealing a new laptop computer and printer.

“Wow!” said Jill.  ”Look how little it is!”

“It’s got lots of power,” said Andrea. “It can do calculations and play games, and it’s got a word processor. Dad thinks it will help me with my grades.”

“Turn it on,” said Diane. “Let’s see you print something out.”

Andrea switched on the computer, then put a disk in. After a few seconds the disk booted, and the cursor blinked, ready for input.


As much as I mock, my 12-year-old eyes read these exact words and I guarantee I was lovin’ every minute of it. It’s possible I might have even been a little bit in love with Gabe and his extra crunches that gave a big eff-you to the couch potatoes of Shadyside High. Stine’s words and writing are elementary, as I realize they are meant to be, and as I read more and more of this book the motivation to finish was for the nostalgia factor rather than my actual interest in what was happening. My waning interest was all the more clear once I finished Fire Game and started Pike’s Scavenger Hunt.

When I first thought about Stine and Pike, I was sure that I had read these authors at the same time in my life, but after reading only the third page and seeing the word “genuflected” I wasn’t so sure about my recollections. Stine and the word “genuflected”? I don’t think so! And while the Shadyside crew was looking at each other with what equated to puppy-dog eyes, the characters of Scavenger Hunt had a distinctly sexier vibe, as on page 24, I came across this:

When she reached the side (of the pool), she held up her arm for a helping hand. The top of her right breast lifted above the water line, and a very fine top of the breast it was. Cessy was built.

Yowza! I’m a woman now!

Before I go any further, yes, there is a plot to Scavenger Hunt. It revolves around a decidedly more mature group of high-schoolers who are divided into teams to participate in an end-of-the-school-year – what else – scavenger hunt that could win them a trip to Hawaii. Say, what?! The book quickly focuses in on two particular groups, one whose main character is Carl. He lost his best friend, Joe, while on a hiking trip in the desert, and since the death hasn’t been the same. Also on his team is Tom, who was injured in a football accident and is now a bit on the odd side,  and Cessy and Davey, siblings who are of the perfect-people persuasion and one of whom is the person who possesses the aforementioned very fine right breast.

In the other group is Tracie, who is in love with Carl (but he doesn’t know it!), Paula, whose boyfriend was Joe and has since turned into a cigarette-smoking rebel whose favourite word is “goddamn,” and Paula’s brother Rick, a high-school genius whose greatness is restricted by his pesky wheelchair.

Now, who in this cast of characters is the bad guy? The scavenger hunt quickly narrows down its focus to these two teams, and the story moves along from clue to clue as Carl feels uneasier and uneasier about the whole situation. Tracie’s team picks up the slack behind first-place Team Carl, but they, too, begin to sense the ominous cloud  in the air. And then something happened to me that didn’t with Fire Game, and that’s that I was interested and invested in what what was happening with Carl, Tracie & Co. Pike does a great job of heightening the tension, and with paragraphs like this one, how could I not be wild to know what was going to happen next?

She dropped the flashlight. It went off.

The face vanished.

Too late.

Her heart stopped pounding. It stopped beating – period – and the blood backed up inside her brain and her thoughts exploded in a million directions from an insane core. She would have dashed from the house if she’d had the wits. Pure terror consumed her.

Anything that’s bursting from an insane core has to be at least a little intriguing. I definitely thought so, and ended up turning the pages quickly and with purpose, and concentrating intently on what was coming next. Who was leading these kids on a scavenger hunt that brought them deep into a hidden mine/ancient temple in the middle of the desert? Well, I’ll give you a clue. Carl and Tracie aren’t responsible. Neither are Paula and Rick. Or Tom. But if you want to know the explanation behind why Cessy and Davey are from a reptilian race and need a human sacrifice to stay on Earth, then you will just have to go to your local used bookstore and pay $1.95 to find out.

All in all, Pike’s writing beats Stine’s by a mile, and I was infinitely more interested in reading his story than that of what was going down on Fear Street in Shadyside. Pike’s book was more mature (he even used the word “bitch” once!), which is probably why I thought it was better than Fire Game. Thinking back, I must have had some overlap into Christopher Pike’s books while leaving R.L. Stine’s behind with my Sweet Valley Highs. Pike was more in the league that led me to the world of Sweet Valley University and all it had to offer. And from there, the world of books and reading grew and grew into more books on my shelf than I could handle. Yet I keep buying more … and then going back and buying books that I’ve read before …!

I know Stine’s books – and probably Pike’s – might seem oddly puerile and short to the young adults of today who are reading Twilight and the many other books and series out there for YA readers that I haven’t heard of and might never find out about, but to me, both authors will always hold a special place in my book-lover’s heart.

De Facto Redhead is back!

Happy New Year, De Facto Redhead readers! I took a little hiatus from blogging while I went home to Ontario for Christmas, so please forgive me for the lack of posts over the past two weeks! One good thing about not blogging for that long, though, is that I have stored up quite a few things to write about, so check back in the coming days and weeks for the first posts of 2010!

Going back to my vacation in Ontario: it was wonderful! I hadn’t been home since August, and I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more. First off, however, I had to get out of Edmonton. I left on Christmas Day, and rather than take a taxi to the airport (which costs $50 from where I live), I booked the Sky Shuttle to pick me up at one of their curbside locations. Their cost for a one-way trip from anywhere in the city to the airport is a comparatively measly $15. Sure, I had to get to the pick-up location, but I will lug my suitcase for 5-10 minutes – even pull a muscle or put my back out – to save on a trip to the airport that should be cheaply serviced by Edmonton transit in the first place!

Once I got to the airport, I found out my flight was delayed about an hour, which did not bode well for my connection in Toronto. I had to catch a Greyhound bus after my flight landed, and by the time all was said and done, I had about half an hour to make it to the bus station. Two friends picked me up in Toronto (thanks PP and NB!), and it was like a raucous Cruella De Vil ride from hell as the three of us hightailed it across rain-soaked highways to the bus station. We made it with about 10-15 minutes to spare, and I thought I was home-free. Au contraire!

I had ordered my Greyhound ticket online a few days previous to my ride, thinking it would save me time. Well, it didn’t because I wasn’t given the option to print my ticket, only to “will-call” at the station. You can’t pick up your ticket at the regular window, either – you have to deal with a special Greyhound representative. My particular Greyhound representative got angry with me the instant I gave her my ticket receipt because I wasn’t at the station the requisite hour before the scheduled departure of my bus. I tried to explain that my flight was delayed and I was coming from Alberta, for god-sakes, but she was having none of it and proceeded to attend to her other business even though my bus was already boarding. I stood in line with my luggage while everyone who had their tickets passed me by. Soon, my forlorn feeling turned to frustration, then annoyance, then anger, and I stormed over to where my “service” rep was checking the passports of people going to Detroit. I admit I was less than friendly this time, but when I’m frantic and stressed and going home for Christmas, didn’t I have at least a little right to turn out some attitude? I finally got my ticket without so much as a cursory glance from the Greyhound rep. I was the last one on the bus, and I had to face down the accusing eyes of the other passengers waiting for me to get on. Eeek!

Notice the “last min.” notation.

My parents and brother picked me up at 6 in the morning on Boxing Day, after which we went home and had a 24-hour delayed Christmas morning. One of my favourite (and standout) gifts was two felt-covered foam boards of vintage jewelry that my mom scored on an eBay estate sale. Every piece is amazing! I also received a boxful of old jewelry from a friend of my mom’s (thanks, CB!), so I was completely inundated with jewelry this Christmas, and I love each and every bauble. Storage of said pieces is going to be a problem, though. Forget clothes – I need a jewelry closet!

Keep in mind this is a picture taken immediately after four hours on a plane and then five hours on a bus.

While at home, my family and I also got into the Olympic spirit with T-shirts my mom bought for all of us. Beforehand, though, we went to see the Olympic torch pass through town. We saw it go by quickly, and then … nothing. It all felt kind of anti-climactic, and after analyzing the route of the torch through surrounding towns and cities, it didn’t really seem possible that the torch could have been everywhere without a duplicate torch in there somewhere. Suspicious torch-fraud alert on behalf of the Olympic committee? If there isn’t one true torch that passes through each stop on its route to Vancouver, the whole idea loses its lustre to me. Does anyone out there know the real ins and outs of the famed Olympic torch relay?

Left: Olympic torch relay. Right: My family celebrating Vancouver 2010!

My New Year’s Eve was pretty low-key – some wine (“some” is vague enough – I don’t need to reveal everything!), board games (Partini Mixers – has anyone played them? They’re pretty good!), and chatting with friends. I did choose a new outfit to wear that night, and it wasn’t complete until I decorated myself with many of my new jewels. Wheeee!

The long purple necklace was good in theory. In practice, it got caught on a lot of things.

My boyfriend and I started a new tradition this past summer, and that is to buy a used book whenever we go on vacation, and we’re supposed to read that book no matter what, even if it ends up being horrible. I got three books this trip, and two are from my youth: an R.L. Stine and a Christopher Pike. I have read them both already, and will be blogging in the coming days as to who won the Stine versus Pike head-to-head match-up. Creepy stuff. In the meantime, though, who out there has any memories of these authors and their books?

That pretty much concludes my journey to Ontario. I was all over the place, from five hours north of Toronto and then back down to four hours south of Toronto (and even into the U.S.!). It was a flurry of family, friends, and pets. Two weeks went by in a flash. A lot of it was spent playing board games with my parents, and we tried (multiple times) two newly acquired word games: Word Rummy and Take a Letter. Both challenge the mind to manipulate various letters into words, and then add on, in various capacities, to the words of other players. If you’re fan of Scrabble, Boggle, or any other word game, these two are definitely worth checking out!

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas break, and I look forward to all of your comments in 2010!