Friday, January 11, 2013

Betsey Johnson's Comeback - Why Full-figured Girls Should Care

Back in February when Betsey Johnson filed for bankruptcy and closed down all 63 stores the internet exploded. Where would all the kitsch-loving retro-inspired fashion bloggers buy their cupcake dresses and rhinestone cat necklaces? As a fan of the brand for years I have amassed a sizable collection of Betsey Johnson necklaces, bracelets, shoes and bags. As a full-figured girl I was dismayed at the lack of sizes in her clothes--all her stuff only went up to a junior's size large, her bras only to a modest C-cup, some dresses went up to a very slender size 12. When Betsey Johnson stores closed down I did not weep, the one and only time I was in one the only clothes on the sales floor were in sizes 0, 2, and 4--if you wanted a larger size the salesgirl would have to pull it from the back. As someone who works in retail I know these decisions are not arbitrary, Betsey Johnson LLC was clearly sending a message to women everywhere: they don't want chubby women to wear their clothes.  The brand was tailored to Betsey-clones with skinny bodies, small frames, and preferably blonde hair. Girls like me could only stand outside peering through the frost-crusted window into a warm world full of pink tulle, roses, glitter, and lace.

See this dress? It's authentic from the 1950's but there is only one.

This is Betsey Johnson's Tea Party dress. She made it every season in a  new color, just not in my size. 

While Betsey Johnson LLC tanked my local Macy's still carried the jewelry and handbags. Before the announcement of the bankruptcy Betsey fans may have noticed a steep price drop in the brand's shoes and handbags, that's because the accessory part of the brand was sold to Steve Madden in 2010. Steve Madden scaled back the brand considerably and a few months after the bankruptcy announcement the Betsey website was up and running again, minus the clothes. Betsey herself blamed corporate structure and the "stores [that] started knocking off my $250 prom dresses for $49.” I find the statements by the designer very short-sighted when it comes to the changing climate of American retail and the shifting attitudes of the American buyer. Women interested in Betsey's clothes could afford her dresses in the failing economy if only the garments fit and flattered a more mature body, as one analyst said "the younger women that buy her don’t even have jobs anymore, let alone income.” In other words the American women with buying power are not young, rich, AND skinny anymore (arguably the BJ-trifecta necessary to wear her clothes.)

Send in the Betsey clones! Young, rich and skinny only please!

Lucky for us ladies with meat on our bones Steve Madden acknowledges this shift in the buyer's market and will be resurrecting the clothing brand in Macy's and Nordstrom stores. “ 'They’ll be young in spirit like Betsey is, but accessible for women up to 40 years old,' said Lisa Andriulli, a vice president of Macy’s. [She] added that the dresses have classic Johnson touches like fun prints and petticoats, but are sized more generously." Hopefully this means more wearable clothes for a wider variety of women that will still retain that retro aesthetic and young party-girl sensibility. However this is not the first time Betsey has promised diversity in her clothing line only to release Pink Patch in the same old tired junior sizes. Hopefully under the influence of a successful mass-market retailer like Steve Madden Betsey Johnson's resurrection will mean I can finally buy her iconic Marilyn sweater in a misses size large or extra-large and a tea party dress in a proper size 14. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Farewell, 2012!

Looking back 2012 has not been a bad year but it hasn't been a great year either despite all the life-altering choices I've made. I've never been one to look back, or regret anything I've done, so the idea of resolutions and reflections is foreign to me. New Year's sails by with little consideration except for a drinking binge and then a family dinner the next day. Not a very anachronistic way of celebrating! In my attempt to return to tradition I will start reflecting yearly on what I've done, where I've been, and where I am headed. I've always felt that progress is evident, that is doesn't have to be measured. I'm realizing now that celebrating progress and victories is a form of motivation and I can use all the motivation I can get! So there is resolution #1 - Track my progress and celebrate my victories.


  • The biggest milestone in my life this year was definitely getting married. After an eight year relationship this seemed the most natural thing in the world, yet we put it off for years due to financial constraints, family pressure, and career instability. We finally tied the knot on May 19th, 2012 by getting dressed up in our 1940s finery, going to a quaint little wedding chapel, and then going to dinner with our parents. I'm convinced now that this is the best wedding one can have and I would definitely do it all over again!
  • 2012 was yet another year that I let my friendships slide. I find the more I work the less energy I have for the women in my life, the only one I keep in contact with semi-regularly is eden, and considering we saw each other thrice in 2012 that is saying something! I dream of hosting soirees for friends, having glamorous teas and luncheons, and planning shopping trips. Resolution #2 - Have a meaningful encounter with a woman in my life while optimizing fabulousness every month.


  • After getting married my finances changed dramatically in 2012 when my husband took over. He now gets 70% of my paycheck for bills, savings, and expenses while I get 30% for gas, lunches, shoes and clothing. I've had to learn to spend on a budget when before I would just dip into my living expenses if I found something I really wanted. Mr. Anachronistic Style is more fiscally responsible than me so he is concentrating on making our money work for us. We are now saving for a new car, a house, and a yearly vacation!
  • 2012 has also been the year I've done away with credit cards. My husband paid off the last card for me and we closed the account. My buying habits have changed dramatically since price is an issue and I do have a budget without my credit cards. I should have more money in the long run since I don't have a 25% APR hanging over my head but when I'm faced with a fabulous pair of kate spade sunglasses that is cold comfort indeed. Resolution #3 - No store credit cards.
  • Career-wise I will make more money this year, whether it is through a promotion with my current company or jumping ship to a new one. I need more money, I will make more money, that is not a resolution that is a fact.


  • This is the dead horses we beat every January 1st and is usually the first resolution we break. 2012 has not been a successful year for my health, and by health we all mean our weight don't we? I weigh more than I ever have and some of my favorite clothes don't fit me any more. My Achilles heel is chocolate, I cannot go a day without a rich and chocolatey dessert and some days I have dessert with every meal. This year I will tell myself no, in fact I've been doing it for the last week since I weighed myself after Christmas. Resolution #4 - Control my sugar intake, only have a small portion of chocolatey decadence and try to limit it to once a day.
  • I will never exercise because I hate sweating with the passion of a thousand suns. However I can control my food intake and that is the other half of my chocolate-problem. Since I took a new job this year I eat lunch out five days a week, which is expensive and fattening. I hope that by packing my lunch instead I'll save money and calories. My eating strategy is crowding out the carbs and cheese by favoring fruits and vegetables first. Resolution #5 - Always eat my vegetables. Eat them first, grab seconds, then eat the rest of my food. The goal is to leave less room for the bad stuff!


  • I finally realized in 2012 the art of the perfect cat-eye. I've decided that the cat-eye is the best way to create drama, shape the face, and look polished with very minimal effort. Good skin, defined brows, bright lipstick and the perfect cat-eye are my go-to beauty staples when time is an issue. After fooling around with creams, felt tip pens, and liquids with a tapered spongey applicator I discovered the quickest and cleanest cat-eye is achieved with inky liquid eyeliner and a fine script brush. My favorite are these from Lime Crime ($14). Speaking of good skin my struggle with oiliness has not abated, for 2013 I hope to find the perfect concoction to keep me matte for 8+ hours. Resolution #6 - Find the perfect foundation primer and make-up setting spray to keep my oily skin in check.
  • My skincare routine has been adjusted in response to changes in my budget. I've switched to drug store Cetaphil since many dermatologists and actresses recommend it. It is cheap enough that I can keep a bottle in the shower and one on the sink to make twice-daily cleansing easy. Since I'm using a cheaper cleanser I find exfoliating more important so I use Margarita Bloom's Prom Queen Micro-Dermabrasion Creme ($30) that comes in a huge jar and smells like lemon meringue. The thing missing from my beauty routine is a moisturizer and an SPF. Resolution #7 - Find a daytime moisturizer with SPF and a heavier night-time one.
  • Fragrance has played a big part in 2012. My discovery of Margarita Bloom has entertained my nose AND made me proud to display the products on my sink and vanity. The Wanderlust Hibiscus and Ginseng conditioner in "roses" ($22) has brought me to new heights of olfactory pleasure. I also discovered hairspray in 2012 (late to the party, I know!) and my obsession with Kenra #9 took off. Since the Kenra smells like cotton candy I combine it with Bedhead Candy Fixations Totally Baked prepping and volumizing hair meringue so my hair smells like fresh lemon pound cake! With my discovery of hair products all those retro hair tutorials became a million times easier!

Elle Denmark


  • In 2012 I felt that I've purged more clothes than I bought. I'm still refining my style and I don't buy anything unless the fit or quality is impeccable. Quality over quantity has been my mantra for a few years now and I'm having fewer Old Navy or Forever 21 purchases in moments of weakness. My basics are slowly being built up and I'm purging items I've only worn once or twice. Every six months I switch out my closet from winter to summer and create piles for donation, for eBay, and for consignment. I hope to continue this tradition until I have a closet full of good-fitting and wearable separates and great quality dresses. Resolution #8 - Purchase only the best I can afford, no cheap thrills or moments of fashion weakness!
  • Speaking of summer I have traditionally failed at summer dressing. Few people know that I moved to Hawaii for graduate school and didn't last a month in Hawaii's tropical heat. Ohio has hot summers but we also have air-conditioning everywhere, I found myself in the tropics with a wardrobe full of synthetic fabrics and black spandex leggings. I was utterly unprepared for the indoor-outdoor living but when I looked at the other girls in cotton dresses and no bra I realized something about dressing for the heat. Since then summers have been less soul-sucking in Ohio and I've worked on mastering the art of summer dressing--each summer I cultivate city shorts, espadrille sandals, knit dresses and gauzy tops. In 2013 this dress from is going to be my savior, I'll probably need it in all three colors. 
  • I need more retro kitsch in my wardrobe. Now that I've built up retro-inspired basics I need more blatant retro separates in my closet. I want to build a retro silhouette with more obvious pieces instead of relying on my favorite pencil skirts. Resolution #9 - Integrate full skirts and fitted bodices into my style.

Marie Claire


  • In 2012 my blogging took off for the first part of the year and then tapered off dramatically the second half. There's no coincidence that my blogging tapering off coincided with switching to a new company. My hardest resolution of all is identifying what it is about my new job that detracts from my blogging and fixing it. Blogging in a creative outlet, a form of self-expression, a way to share my interests whether anyone is reading or not. Resolution #10 - Blog consistently, at least once a week with original content and regular features.
Here's to a fabulous 2013!