Tulle, lace and the end of the world

Lately, I’ve of seen a couple of depressing movies that featured weddings. Which would be sad if the fashion wasn’t so awesome.

I went to see Breaking Dawn (Don’t judge. It’s one of the most cracked out novels I’ve ever read, like a fried twinkie, a soap opera and sequins all rolled into one. Seeing that on screen provided for lots of giggles.) The one thing that is supremely awesome is the fashion. Whoever is the stylist on that film definitely earned his or her money. The dress was made by Caroline Herrera, and Alfred Angelo produced a replica that hit stores just after the movie premiered.

So here’s what to wear if you’re going to marry your undead fiancé who happens to want your blood:

And check out these shoes. Shiny!

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I Tried Very Hard To Understand Breaking Dawn, Part 1

I am not a Twilight fan.

I read the first two books back-to-back a few summers ago in a fit of reading frenzy—as Erin wrote a few days ago, these books are literary crack. It’s very hard to put them down. Except I got to the third one, read the first chapter, and just couldn’t handle the angst any more. I quit cold turkey.

At some point after the first movie came out on DVD, I ended up seeing that one. It was doofy, for lack of a better word. I did really like the house the Cullen family lives in, though. I want to live in a glass-and-pine house in the forest.

And tonight I went to see Breaking Dawn: Part 1, the penultimate movie. I went to see it partially because I had spent all weekend working and wanted to zone out for a while, and partially out of curiosity. People describe this thing as “bonkers,”  “absorbing, if somewhat slow-paced” AND “ridiculously appealing.”

Well, shoot. Sign me up.

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How to fix the princess problem

Everywhere we look, women are redefining their happily ever afters. And Disney is just the latest to jump on the bandwagon.

Set for release next summer, Brave will be the first Pixar film with a lady lead, and previews hint that it just might put the kibosh on Disney’s princess rules. (Pixar is the Disney-owned computer animation wunderkind behind the past four years’ worth of Best Animated Feature Oscar winners.)

Brave follows Princess Merida as she shuns princess-hood to follow her passion for archery. She’s a fierce, feisty heroine willing to defend whichever nightmare-inducing villain Scotland has lurking in its midst. This isn’t Disney’s first independent-minded lady lead, but it may be Disney’s first film whose ending doesn’t pair triumph with finding Mr. Right. Brave has the potential to empower a generation of girls to shun the princess obsession.

This is a tall order. Can Pixar get it right?

Maybe. So far, Pixar’s been geared toward boys, with cars, action figures and superheroes as its movie protagonists – definitely a counterweight to Disney’s dancing princesses and singing teapots. In “Father of the Year,” Esquire profiles Jon Lasseter, the brains behind Pixar’s “boys club.” Thanks to Lassester, Pixar films have taught boys how to become men by emphasizing community and sacrifice for others instead of individual pursuits.

As Brave’s executive producer, Lasseter has the opportunity to help girls become women, a lesson his Disney predecessors have no interest in (surely all those princess Barbies were quite the profitable distraction). He can show little girls the value of independence, intelligence and self-identity outside of romantic relationships. Translation: no animals bursting into song, no glass slippers, no Handsome Prince, no ending leaving the female lead happily dependent on her new man.

I’m confident that the brains behind Brave can make a female-driven film without falling back on damsel-in-distress plotlines. Pretty sure Pixar wouldn’t call it Brave if they weren’t trying to reassure the boys that this girl is badass. But I have one nagging fear about Brave: At the end, they’ll cut Merida’s hair.

No matter what’s on top of your head, hair is a key part of who you are. Curly haired women have long been shunned by a society obsessed with stick-straight locks. Redheads tend to be portrayed as stubborn, short-tempered outsiders. Pixar’s choice of curly red locks for Merida signals that she doesn’t give a damn about what society thinks.

Maybe I’m showing my bias – my own ginger curls make me a shoo-in to play Merida at any Disney theme park. But beyond my potential career as a fixture in Disney tourists’ photos, I would be heartbroken if Lasseter and company chose to alter Merida’s hair in an effort to signal identity change.  Cutting or straightening Merida’s fiery locks would be a signal to girls that conformity is essential – a lesson, perhaps more than any other, that young girls internalize and allow to rule their friendships, their careers, their relationships, their lives.

Hair, just like boys, shouldn’t define our identity. We can be sassy and self-confident and bold on our own terms.

–By Meg Wiegand

On Two Holly Golightlys

How would you style your Holly Golightly little black dress? I wear mine with a scarf and pearls--I think it's a modern take on Audrey Hepburn's audacious hats. Photo by Erin K. O'Neill

Every woman who has ever worn a little black dress has had to reckon with Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Audrey wore some killer nascent ‘60s threads from Givenchy, and 49 years later, she still looks magnificently current.

I don’t care how bad cigarettes are; I want that foot-long cigarette holder Holly carried around. So glamorous! And “Moon River,” at least when Audrey Hepburn is singing it folk-style on her window ledge in skinny jeans and turban, melts me every time.

But, as fond as I am of the movie, I am infinitely more in love with the novella by Truman Capote. Grittier and set in New York during World War II, the Holly Golightly of the novella has a different style altogether.

Capote’s Holly Golightly was very thin, with hair as short as a boy’s and dyed many colors. She is a glamorous party girl, but with a different fashion edge as shown in the movie. She calls herself a wild thing, and abhors being put in a cage.

“She was never without dark glasses, she was always well groomed, there was a consequential good taste in the plainness of her clothes, the blues and grays and lack of luster that made her, herself, shine so,” the nameless narrator, whom Holly calls Fred, write of her. Without the super-feminine hair and over-the-top accessories Audrey Hepburn sported, this novella-Holly comes off as even more minimalistic and androgynous.

And then there’s her apartment: “Her bedroom was consistent with her parlor: it perpetuated the same camping-out atmosphere; crates and suitcases, everything packed and ready to go, like the belongings of a criminal who feels the law not far behind.” Out of this mess comes another outfit: “. . . a pair of lizard shoes . . . a blouse, a belt, and it was a subject to ponder, how, from suck wreckage, she evolved the eventual effect: pampered, calmly immaculate, as though she’d been attended by Cleopatra’s maids.”

Her calling card reads, “Miss Holiday Golightly, Travelling.” Everything about Holly screams transient.

Her dark sunglasses are described as prescription glasses.

When arrested for involvement with the mob, she is pictured in the papers in blue jeans and a windbreaker. Holly “suggested a gang-moll hooligan: an impression dark glasses, disarrayed coiffure and a Picayune cigarette dangling from sullen lips did not diminish.”

A news article about her arrest says, “Miss Golightly, a fragile eyeful, even though attired like a tomboy in slacks and leather jacket, appeared relatively unconcerned.”

Holly’s makeup is armor. “She powdered, painted every vestige of twelve-year-old out of her face.”

The worst of it all, for me, is the end. Audrey Hepburn may have been a more polished and feminine Holly. The movie may have transformed the nameless homosexual writer narrator neighbor into Paul Varjak, a straight man with a cougar benefactress who falls in love with Holly, played by matinee idol George Peppard. The movie may have upheld sexual norms that Capote’s novella thoroughly subverted (not to mention the extremely racist portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi, the Japanese photographer who lives upstairs). And maybe, I could forgive all that in the film, if Holly had gone to Rio.

In the novella, Holly flees to Rio after her arrest, and then sends the writer-narrator a postcard from Buenos Aires. The first we hear of Holly, in the novella, is that a carved mask of her visage has been spotted in Africa. We know she leaves New York, from the start, and doesn’t come back.

People don’t fall in love. People don’t belong to one another, as Paul Varjak so famously pleads with Holly Golightly in the rain, holding Cat between them in the rain at the end of the movie. Holly is a wild thing, she couldn’t be put in a cage, and that’s what made her great.

©Erin K. O’Neill, 2010.