Lady Mendl’s Elsa Schiaparelli “Apollo of Versailles” cape

The detailing in Elsa Schiaparelli’s “Apollo of Versailles” cape is exquisite. This piece comes from Schiaparelli’s iconic Autumn/Winter 1938-39 Cosmique collection, which was dedicated to “the worldly women.” Cosmique featured pieces with imagery inspired by the solar system, constellations and astronomy as well as historical events and figures. Schiaparelli took interest in astronomy because her uncle was a renowned astronomer. Elsa recalled in her autobiography Shocking Life, that he told her the beauty marks on her cheek resembled Ursa Major and would bring her luck. She went on to adopt the constellation as one of her personal trademarks and incorporated it into her designs for years to come. 

This cape was imagined by Christian Bérard for actress and legendary decorator Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), who was a devoted Schiaparelli client. The Cosmique collection was Schiaparelli’s most opulent yet, as we see reflected in this lush piece. The embroidery on this black silk-velvet cape was created by Lesage in Paris. It was inspired by the Le Bassin d’Apollon at the Palace of Versailles, which was nearby de Wolfe’s beloved home, the Villa Trainon. 

The cape features Greek sun-God Apollo raising his bow into the air while riding in his chariot. The five stallions gallop forward, leaving a trail of dust, all of which are backed by a giant sunbeam.

The clouds of dust at the stallion’s feet are mirror images of the clouds in the sky. Apollo, his bow, the stallions and outlines of the dust and clouds are comprised of petit round paillettes. The interior of the dust and clouds are dotted with silver round paillettes. Apollo’s chariot and clothing, as well as the horse’s teeth and manes were created using gold bugle beads. Gold metallic thread is used throughout.

The large sunburst shining from behind Apollo is by far the most eye-catching element of this cape. Schiaparelli used it multiple times in her other designs. It was created from alternating rows of gold and silver paillettes, interspersed with gold bugle beads and gold metallic thread.

This unique and over-the-top cape was absolutely fitting for Elsie de Wolfe who was one of the most fabulous women of her time. Born in 1865 in New York City, de Wolfe was educated in New York and Scotland. In 1883 she was presented at Queen Victoria’s court and made her way into London society. When she returned to live in NYC in 1884 she began to have charity fundraisers involving amateur theatricals. When her father died in 1890, the family became financially unstable and de Wolfe decided to use her connections to become an actress. She was assisted in finding work by her close friend Elisabeth Marbury who was a pioneering producer, theatrical and literary agent. The two had met at a party and lived together since. It was an open secret that they were in a lesbian relationship, which was quite controversial at the time. De Wolfe became very successful in theatre and even started her own company to produce shows on Broadway. In 1905 she retired from stage to pursue interior decorating at the urging of Marbury and Sarah Cooper Hewitt, who were both awed by her home decorating skills. 

In the early twentieth century interior decoration was a male only field, but de Wolfe moved forward by using her connections to the rich and powerful. Her first project was designing the interior of New York’s Colony Club, which was the first social club for women. This was a smash success and established her reputation as America’s first female interior designer. According to The New Yorker, “Interior design as a profession was invented by Elsie de Wolfe.” She was celebrated as one of the most influential taste makers of the time.

Around 1906, Marbury and de Wolfe discovered an abandoned house in Versailles which they decided to buy and restore. It had been a part of the original Versailles palace complex, but was near ruins when they found it. The Villa Trainon was slowly transformed by de Wolfe into a dazzling paradise where lavish parties were held. Guest lists included movie stars, designers, royalty, heirs and ambassadors. Elsie’s extravagant summer balls were famous and one of the most exciting society events of the year. When WWI began, de Wolfe donated the Villa to the Red Cross to be used as a hospital to make sure it would be saved. She volunteered for twenty months as a front-line nurse and was eventually awarded the Croix de Guerre for her services during the war. 

In 1926 de Wolfe shocked everyone by marrying Sir Charles Mendl at the age of 61. Mendl was a British diplomat in France, and the marriage was said to have been purely out of companionship and convenience for social connections. The two kept separate residences and de Wolf continued to live with and maintain her partnership with Elisabeth Marbury. During the Great Depression, de Wolfe continued to have elaborate themed parties like “Circus balls” in 1938 and 1939, but her interior design business was tanking. Photos of Lady Mendl wearing her Schiaparelli cape at her Paris home were taken around this time by Cecil Beaton.

When WWII began, Mendl fled France for Hollywood and continued to throw fabulous parties. After WWII she returned to her beloved Villa Trainon to restore it to life after Nazis had nearly ruined it during their occupation. She remained there until her death in 1950. In 1981 all contents of the home were put up for auction. Today the Villa remains in the hands of a private owner. 

Lady Mendl’s Schiaparelli cape, labeled No.1, was gifted by her estate to the Met in 1951, and remains in their collection. It is a truly special piece that is as incredible as the woman it was created for.

A second version of this cape resides in Kyoto Costume Institute, inventory number AC9227 95-19-1.

Sources:

https://www.kci.or.jp/en/archives/digital_archives/1930s/KCI_199

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/81142

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Elsie-de-Wolfe

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1938/01/15/handsprings-across-the-sea

The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, women have been disproportionately affected by its impact. Not only do a high number of women work in essential sectors such as healthcare, retail, and childcare, they are also bearing the brunt of having to make the life-changing choice of leaving the workforce to care for their own children. Many of these industries are also some of the hardest hit from the impact of the pandemic, and as businesses shutter, women are being laid off in masses compared to men. Even those lucky enough to be able to work from home are being tasked with the insurmountable challenge of providing the unpaid emotional labor of raising a family while doing their jobs remotely full time. COVID-19 is leaving women in dangerous peril physically, financially and emotionally.

There is no question that this pandemic is causing drastic gender disparities, especially in America where we have seen a totally botched response resulting in the highest death and infection rates in the world. Douglas Himes states in an August, 2020 article in Monthly Labor Review that “Women held less than half of all jobs (in all industries) in the United States in March, 2020. But more than half of the job losses in that month, the first wave of job losses resulting from COVID-19, were jobs that women held.” This early, disproportionate impact on women points out that to begin with, they were starting on a very uneven playing field. These figures are jarring, and have generally been glossed over by mainstream media. Nearly a year later we are just now starting to see mainstream news stories highlighting how deeply this pandemic is harming women. Himes also noted that “Nonfarm payroll employment (reported by the establishment survey) declined by over 700,000 in March 2020.” The majority of the jobs affected were in travel, retail, hospitality, education and health services [3]. These numbers have only continued to grow in the past year. Women all over the world who were already struggling to stay afloat in these often low-wage jobs are now in serious danger financially. Job losses in these sectors also mean a loss of health insurance for the lucky ones who even qualified through their employment, making these women especially vulnerable. It is likely that with the looming potential of a global recession, many of these jobs will never return. Without ensuring that women with children who try to return to work have access to affordable or free child care, women are looking at returning to a post-pandemic world where gender equality is permanently paused and economic growth is halted.

The healthcare industry employs a huge number of women who are putting their lives on the line daily to save others. The stress and risk involved in these jobs is immense and is impossible to contain to the workplace. These women are facing childcare challenges as well as the stress of often having to quarantine away from their own families due to the exposure level of their jobs. Dr. Inez Miyamoto highlighted in an article for Security Nexus Perspectives that 70% of healthcare workers are women, but only 25% are in senior roles in the healthcare profession. Many of these jobs are unpaid volunteer work or underpaid part-time positions in reception and scheduling [1]. Those who do this type of work receive few benefits and are walking a tight rope with no safety net. If women in these underpaid positions are exposed to or contract COVID-19, taking the necessary time off to quarantine and recover is devastating. This loss of necessary income often means that these women will not be able to pay rent or buy food.

Women who work in healthcare are facing extreme exposure to COVID-19 on a daily basis, often without the access to proper PPE. When it is made available, the fit of the PPE is ne size fits all. Such PPE is often not sealed enough to provide full protection for the female body because it is mass-produced from patterns created to fit men, who are generally larger. S.Nanthini, and Tamara Nair noted in their article, COVID-19 and the Impacts on Women that “This in itself is discriminatory — the assumption that the ‘generic male’ is representative of all. The low availability of properly-fitting PPE, together with the high rates of women involved in frontline health work, may explain why in some countries the infections among female health workers are more than twice that of male health workers.” Many medical staff are having to reuse PPE that would normally be thrown away after one use due to shortages. The rate of female health care workers who are testing positive for COVID-19 compared with men is shocking. Miyamoto states that data from July, 2020 showed that “In Spain 72% of infected healthcare workers were women (5,265) and in Italy 66% of infected healthcare workers were women (10,657). Similarly, in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 73% of infected healthcare workers were women (6,603)” [1]. Ill-fitting PPE is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed, especially considering the fact that the number of women in healthcare outweighs men significantly.

Another major issue that issue that has arisen during this pandemic is that more people are putting off routine health care visits due to fear of contracting COVID-19 from medical offices. This is affecting all facets of the healthcare system. Miyamoto notes, “To add to an already stressful environment, medical staff are facing layoffs, furloughs, or reduced hours as non-essential medical procedures are canceled or postponed. Initial unemployment data in the United States showed more women losing jobs than men in the healthcare sector” [1]. The avoidance of care isn’t just a problem for job losses. Women are putting off critical annual exams including heart health, pre-natal, mammograms and pap smears which can lead to fatal results. In developing countries, women are being faced with disappearing humanitarian resources that they once relied on for non-urgent care. Due to travel and distancing restrictions, aid groups who once were able to help are restricted. Nair and Nathini took a look into these secondary impacts and state that “Health resources that would normally be available for other areas, including vaccinations and reproductive and sexual healthcare, are instead being reallocated towards emergency COVID-19 response, depriving women of vital healthcare and potentially translating into higher mortality rates for women” [2]. We will not know the true scope of the long term effects from the avoidance of care and care access issues for years to come. We can see an example of the outcome of lack of healthcare access when looking back at the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2014–2015. During this period there were an additional 3,600 stillbirth, neonatal and maternal deaths [2].

Emotional health is a key factor to maintaining physical health, and healthcare workers are facing the challenge of trying to sustain their own emotional health while working in these unchartered conditions. The amount of anxiety, death, depression and stress they are facing daily would push anyone to a breaking point. In our lifetimes, there has never been an event that caused so much death for such a sustained period of time. It is hard to fathom how difficult it must be to have to hold an iPad while someone is dying so they can speak to their families one last time. No amount of training could have prepared anyone on how to handle death at this scale, not just once but every day for months at a time. Some healthcare workers have compared the experience to what it must feel like to work in a war zone. When a study of healthcare workers was done in China in March, 2020, it was found that women were experiencing far more severe anxiety, depression and feelings of distrust than men were [1]. The women in healthcare are burnt out, overwhelmed and traumatized. They will need extra mental health care and support to process what they have seen in order to move forward. There is no telling how many women who have worked on the front lines will choose to leave these professions due to PTSD. These decisions will only increase the probability of women being swallowed into the developing gender gap sinkhole that this pandemic has caused.

Normally, going home would provide some relief from the stresses of work, but there seems to be no relief for healthcare workers who are also mothers. The stigma of working in healthcare has made it hard for them to find people willing to risk providing them with childcare. Children being home from school closures is causing women to drop out of the workforce in astonishing numbers that we have never seen before, not only in healthcare, but in all areas of work. Miyamoto states that “In dual-parent households, school and daycare closures and sick family members force couples to choose who stays home as the unpaid caregiver. The burden for unpaid care, however, tends to fall on women, which is especially problematic in single-parent households headed by women. For example, researchers estimated that 1.7 million Canadian healthcare workers are single mothers to young children” [1]. In normal times, being a single parent was incredibly challenging, but now due to social distancing measures it has become hard for women to get the help of family, neighbors and friends whom they once relied on for vital childcare. They are being backed into a corner and faced with the bleak option of sacrificing their jobs to care for their children, or risking their personal and family’s health in exchange for the sparse childcare options available.

So how do we help the women who are on the verge of being erased from the workforce forever? Miyamoto suggests, “By focusing on the development of gender-responsive and gender-transformative policies, institutions and communities, it is possible to build a more resilient society centered on individual health and wellbeing.” We also need to take a good look at the reason so many more women than men work in jobs that are being eliminated. A huge factor is the fact that young girls are steered toward these professions in childhood through gendered play and toys. Making sure that young girls receive equal education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) will be extremely beneficial to closing the existing gender gap in the workforce and preventing a situation where women bear an overwhelming share of the burden from ever happening again.

Whether staying home for caretaking reasons, job loss or safety, women are no doubt spending more time with the men in their lives. For women who were experiencing domestic violence prior to the pandemic, being able to go to work or freely leave the house may have been their only chance of escape. Now they face being trapped inside with their abusers 24/7. Additionally, the stress of quarantine restrictions has led to rising tensions in homes. Where violence my have already been simmering it is now boiling over. Increases in domestic violence are being seen worldwide. Nanthini and Nair report that “The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), a women’s rights group in Singapore, has reported increases in the number of family violence calls since the country’s lockdown began in March, with a 137 percent increase in May 2020” [2]. While some of these women may have once felt comfortable seeking haven in a women’s shelter, they are staying home because of fear of contracting COVID-19. The few shelters that are available are often too full to accept women in need. Many shelters are having to take alternative measures to keep women safe. Nanthini and Nair note that “With social distancing in place, crisis shelters are also experiencing over-capacity problems. In order to deal with the surge in cases, organizations such as Hollaback Jakarta! are pooling resources with other similar organizations to rent temporary accommodation for survivors requiring emergency escape” [2]. With more children being home from school, the increase in violence in homes is likely to be witnessed far more frequently by them and create long-term psychological impact. Unfortunately it is not likely that domestic violence will decrease as the pandemic fades. Nanthini and Nair state “Domestic violence rates are also unlikely to decrease after the immediate health crisis is over as the economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to linger, further stressing households, and the women who bear the brunt of it” [2].

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic will forever change those who survive it, but it is clear that its emotional, physical and economic impact on women will be seismic. This is heightened by the fact that women were not on equal ground with men to begin with. The path to recovery will need to include specific pathways and assistance for the women who have been most affected, to assist them in returning to the work force. Access to free and affordable child-care, mental health services and job training will be essential to empowering women and helping them get back on their feet. If care is not taken to ensure that women have access to these necessary resources, we are facing a setback in gender equality that could take 50 years to eradicate.

Works Cited

[1] Miyamoto, Inez. “COVID-19 HEALTHCARE WORKERS: 70% ARE WOMEN.” Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. Volume 21. 13 May. 2020,

[2] Nanthini, S., and Tamara Nair. “COVID-19 and the Impacts on Women.” S. Rajaratnam School of International StudiesNTS Insight. No. IN20–05. 1, July, 2020.

[3] Himes, Douglas. “Working Women and the Early COVID-19 Shutdowns.” Monthly Labor Review. Vol. 7, No 1. P.1–1. August 2020, Vol.7.

The history of 17th century plague doctor costumes

Read more fashion history at www.fashionwithrenee.com and follow on social @fashionwithrenee

Bird beak masks were a part of the earliest iteration of a hazmat suit. They were designed in 1619 and worn by doctors in the 17th century to protect themselves while treating patients with the plague.These striking, eerie masks had round glass eye openings and fastened with straps that helped hold the six inch beak area over the doctor’s nose.

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The beak contained two small holes and a type of respirator containing herbs, spices, viper flesh powder, wormwood, dried flowers, camphor or vinegar sponge. At the time doctors believed the plague was caused by miasma (bad air) and the scents in the nose case would protect them from getting it. The beak shape of the mask was meant to give air sufficient time to be absorbed by the protective herbs before hitting the nostrils lungs. This idea of air transmitted disease lasted through the germ theory of disease being discovered around 1860.

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An authentic 16th century plague doctor mask on display at the German Museum of Medical History in Ingolstadt.⁣ This was the first design of the Plague Doctor’s mask.

Every beak doctor ensemble was topped with black wide-brimmed Morocco leather hat which indicated their profession. The hooded, ankle-length cloaks were made from oiled or wax covered Morocco leather which was believed to prevent miasma from entering the pores. Beneath the cloak a shirt was tucked into pants, which then were tucked into leather boots. Completing these outfits were goat leather gloves and a rod which allowed doctors to communicate to victims, examine them and sometimes fend off aggressive ones. Some documents say that plague patients who believed their illness to be a punishment from God requested doctors beat them with the rod to whip them into repentance.

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Plague doctors weren’t only sent to towns to help heal the infected, they were also responsible for tallying and burying the dead and to witness wills of the dying.While some historians believe that the plague doctor outfit was invented by French royal physician Charles de Lorme, other historians, like Winston Black find this unlikely. “There are already descriptions from the later 16th century of doctors wearing protective masks. Perhaps de Lorme should be credited with creating an outfit that was supposed to protect the entire body of the doctor. Despite this French claim to the creation of the outfit, most other Europeans agreed it was Italian in origin.”One of the most popular images of a plague doctor costume is that of Gerhart Altzenbach called “Doctor Beak from Rome” (1656), which further supports the claim of Italian origin.

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Gerhart Altzenbach, copper engraving 1656

“Because they were public servants, they probably did not have ‘clients,’ per se,” says Black. “Instead they went around the city during a plague outbreak, making decisions about which houses to lock up or condemn, which neighborhoods to quarantine, and so on.”

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Today these iconic outfits remain popular as a Halloween costume and can be seen annually at Venice’s carnival celebrations.

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A Hamilton first time viewers guide

I am ecstatic that so many people who have not yet had the chance to experience the magic of seeing Hamilton live in the theatre are about to be able to enjoy the entire musical from the comfort of their quarantine. The Hamilton movie was originally set to hit theatres on Oct 15, 2021, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic it is now going to be streamed on Disney+, for all of the world to have Hamilgasms on July 3, 2020. This is basically the only good thing to happen so far as a result of Covid-19.

Hamilton is incredibly special to millions of fans including myself for many reasons. I moved to NYC in 2002 when I was just 18 because of my love for Broadway theatre and have seen many Broadway shows since. I was lucky enough to see the Broadway production of Hamilton twice (once from the front row after winning the $10 Ham for Ham lottery and once from the very last row) as well as on London’s West End in Summer 2019.

Though some theatrical experiences have come close (including HadestownGreat Comet), nothing has ever left me 2000% in awe like this show did. It was like the best of every Broadway show ever had been shoved into a bamboo sushi rolling mat and came out as a perfect Hamilton roll.

So, before you hit play on this stream here is a brief history of how Hamilton came to be, as well as my advice for getting the best viewing experience.

Lin-Manuel Miranda became inspired to write Hamilton in 2009 after he picked up and read Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamiltonduring his honeymoon. Audiences got the first glimpse of his work on May 12, 2009 at an evening of poetry, music and spoken word hosted by the Obama administration. Here, Miranda performed an early version of the song “Alexander Hamilton” which would go on to become the musical’s electric opening number.

After several more years of production, the musical was finally workshopped in the Summer of 2013 at Vassar College. At that point the first act of the current show was performed, along with three songs of the existing second act. Hamilton hit Off-Broadway on February 17th, 2015 and opened on Broadway on August 5, 2015. The musical ignited like a wildfire that could not be extinguished. The Hamilton craze blazed though America and the rest of the world, making children and adults excited about Broadway, rap, American history and the life of this often forgotten founding father. It also set a new standard for diversity on Broadway for having a full multi-racial cast.

Hamilton went on to win a record-setting 16 nominations at the 2016 Tony Awards (winning 11) as well as the 2016 Pulitzer Prize. Soon the muscial branched out with a production in Chicago which opened in September, 2016, followed by a West End London production that opened in December 2017. The first U.S. national tour began in March 2017 and was followed by two more. In 2019 Miranda famously reprised his role as Hamilton for a three week sold-out run in Puerto Rico.

Hamilton means so much to so many people, including myself. Aside from the best preparation (reading the full 818 pages Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton in one day) here are some tips to help make your Hamilton viewing extra awesome. This show is built on amazing lyrics and they sometimes fly by extremely quickly if you have never listened before. Some musicals are ok to go into blindly, but having a bit of prior study time on the story line and historical material you are dealing with will help you enjoy the film far more.

Act one:

Your living room is about to become the room where it happens. Pop some popcorn, make some themed cocktails (Hamiltini anyone?), dim your lights and turn up your volume as loud as your neighbors will allow to try and replicate surround sound. Try to watch the first act uninterrupted with no distractions. I can’t say how these will translate to from stage to film, but my two favorite numbers in this act are “Satisfied” and “The Battle Of Yorktown.” They are both some of the best numbers I have ever seen staged in live theatre. Use the intermission to take a break just like you would at the theatre. The best part is you get to pee minus the long lines! Soak in act one and get a fresh cocktail/snacks before entering act two. Also, grab a box of tissues. You’re gonna need them.

Act two

Shit is about to get real and depressing, but I promise the journey will be worth it in the end. The character arcs in this act are incredible and though the music is less upbeat than in act one there are some real gems here. “The Room Where It Happens” is a highlight, “Say No To This” sizzles and “One Last Time” and “It’s Quiet Uptown” break my heart every time. Of course, even having heard the cast recording prior to seeing the show, nothing prepared me for how moving the closing number would be. It made me ugly cry all the way through curtain call and leaving the theatre.


Watching Hamilton on Disney+ will be my first time seeing the show with its entire original cast and I am incredibly excited. If you have never seen Hamilton before, I hope you love it as much as I do.

My disappearing birthday: What it is really like to have been born on a Leap Day.

I am 35, but have only had 8 birthdays in my entire life.


I came into the world on February 29th, and wouldn’t have it any other way. When you are born a leap day baby it automatically becomes a huge part of your identity whether you like it or not. The odds of being born this day are 1 in 1,461. People who know me often say that they can’t imagine me being born any other day given my unique person and my general opposition to normality. Sometimes I wonder if my rare birthday has helped shaped my personality. When your birthday is only on the calendar every four years, you automatically feel like a bit of a misfit.

When I was born my Mom said the hospital gave her the option of putting Feb 28th or March 1 on my birth certificate. She thankfully appreciated that my birthday was special and kept it accuarate. I didn’t really understand the concept of Leap Day until I was around seven years old. All I knew was that I couldn’t find my birthday on a calender and would cry about it. Being in school only compounded my confusion and anxiety. The teachers would always put out a big “birthdays this month” poster and each kid got a cupcake on their day. Usually mine wasn’t there for non leap years in Feb, and I didn’t get a cupcake. My Mom would call to complain and one would usually apologetically turn up a few days later. Still, taunting by the other kids in school made me feel embarrased about my rare birthday instead of feeling special like I should have. “You don’t have a real birthday! Haha! What are you one years old?” they would yell at me.

But this wasn’t the only phrase I would have to grow acustomed to hearing throughout my life. The reaction bingo card when someone finds out my birthday is Feb 29th looks like this-

  • “So what are you like 2!?” -This is where I have to fake laugh like I haven’t heard this 8 billion times.
  • “Whoa-so like-you basically never age.” -I wish, but if that were the case I wouldn’t be saving for botox.
  • “That is so cool. One time I met one other person met on a leap day. Do you know them?” -Yes, because we clearly must have a secret society similar to the Illuminati and all know each other.
  • “Today isn’t your real birthday.” -Heard on off years on the day I celebrate. No shit. But I am still getting a year older and am going to choose a day to party.
  • “I’ve never met anyone born on Feb 29th!” -Well here I am! Your personal unicorn sighting! We actually exist! Sorry, but I don’t have a pot of gold.
  • “When do you celebrate”-This is another one I have answered at least a half-million times.

So when do leap day babies celebrate? It really is a personal choice. There is a true 50/50 split between “Strict Februarians” and “Strict March 1” people among us rare leaplings. Some people celebrate for two days, because-why not?

I personally have always felt very strongly about celebrating Feb 28th because I was after all, born in February. I was also born around 3A.M. which is technially closer to Feb. 28th than March 1. But there is still something a bit meloncholy about not having my real birthday on the calender. Even though I am turning a year older it doesn’t feel the same.

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Aside from the often annoying questions, my birthday has led me to run into other technical difficulties in my adult life.

When a leap day baby turns 21 it is always an off year. But most bars in America will not let you actually drink until March 1. If you celebrate your birthday Feb 28th, there goes drinking the day you turn 21. Luckily, I spent my 21st birthday on international waters on a cruise ship so I avoided this problem.

Speaking of bars, I have gotten some strange looks in my life when bouncers or bartenders check my ID. Do they really think if I was going to go through the effort to get a fake ID I would get one with such an obvious date? Now that i’m in my mid-thirties this is sadly less of a problem.

When making Dr’s appointments giving your birthday is a neccessity. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have told a receptionist the date and they repeat back to me “You mean Feb. 28th?”, as if I don’t know the date of my own birthday. “No, FEBRUARY 29TH” i’ll repeat. Sometimes there is a moment of silence while they try to input it into their system. Following this they usually have one of the above bingo reactions.

Entering my birthdate online is an issue I constantly run into. Many systems will not give you the option to put in Feb 29th unless you enter in the year first. Some systems don’t pull it up at all and tell you the date is “invalid.”

Facebook does let you enter your birthday as Feb. 29th, but on off years it picks whatever day it feels like to show your friends. This often leads to me getting Birthday wishes on March 1 from people who think it is my actual birthday.

Most birthday clubs will completely skip sending you birthday freebies or coupons on off years because of their computer systems.

Through all of the minor issues surrounding my birthday, I am still extremely proud to say that I am a leap day baby and I wouldn’t change it for anything. It makes me feel like I was born just a touch more unique then people with a normal birthday. Over the years, i’ve had fun throwing kid themed birthday parties for my 6th on 24, 7th on 28, 8th on 32 and as February 2020 rolls around am very excited to finally celebrate my 9th actual birthday.

The History Of The Ballet Tutu

The tutu has become an iconic and integral part of the ballet aesthetic over the years. Though they are now created in thousands of dazzling colors and styles, their origin was originally for function over fashion. The skirt that we know today as the “Romantic tutu” traces all the way back to 1832 to a dancer named Marie Taglioni (1804-1884). Marie was a Swedish ballet dancer. Her father Filippo was an Italian choreographer and her mother was also a ballet dancer. They moved to Vienna when she was very young where she began her ballet training. Her father felt her technique was not up to standard, so he created a rigorous six month training program that required her to hold positions for 100 counts. Because she had a slight curvature in her back, she worked hard to disguise it by increasing her range of motion and strength. At age 23 Marie joined The Paris Opéra. 

Marie Taglioni La Sylphide

It was here that the ballet “La Sylphide” premiered, which her father had created for her to dance in. This was a historic moment in dance history, because it was the first time dancing on pointe was featured in a professional ballet. Prior to this, dancers had worn only floor length skirts- but Marie’s skirt, designed by Eugene Lami, was shortened to calve length to showcase her delicate pointe work. There are several theories of how the tutu got its name. The word is not recorded anywhere until 1881. Some say that it comes from the two layers of tulle in dancers skirts. Another theory is that it derives from the French word “cul” (which translates to ass in English) and was used as slang to refer to women’s crotch and bottom area. This term was used by the rich male patrons of the Paris Opera ballet, who favored the very front rows so that they could enjoy the scandalous view. During that era these men were encouraged to mix with the ballet girls in the foyer and arrange dates. Some theories suggest that the term came from the men playfully patting the back of the tulle dress with the saying pan-pan tutu (French for i’ll smack your bottom). 

The tutu had a slow evolution. Little by little, Marie’s “romantic” tutu was shortened and became more voluminous until it became what it is now the most widespread model, that of the short tutu. Over the years sleeves would also disappear and the décolleté became more pronounced. It took until the 1870’s for tutus to become shortened above the knee for ease of movement, into the “Classical tutu” which exposes the full leg. 

Today, five types of tutus are generally worn in ballets. 

The romantic tutu emphasizes airyness. It is a long flowing skirt typically made from 6 layers of tulle, reaching the mid calf. 

The bell tutu (made famous Degas paintings) is short and stiff. The layers of netting are not supported by a hoop and fall into a bell shape. 

The pancake tutu jets straight out at the hips and is supported by a wire hoop embedded in it’s layers. It is short and stiff. True to it’s name, it looks like a pancake.

The platter tutu is quite similar to the pancake, but has a flat top which is often decorated instead of pleated. It does not have a wire hoop.

The Balanchine tutu (aka powder puff) is a short tutu that doesn’t stick as far out as the pancake or platter. It does not have a wire hoop and has a softer full appearance. 

Degas dancers in bell tutus

Ryerson Theatre School assistant professor Caroline O’ Brien states “As one of the last vestiges of courtly life, classical ballet expresses manners and gesture that are no longer a part of the modern world.  The tradition of ballet costume is rooted in history and has evolved in tandem with the dance and fashions of each period. The tutu as we know it today is composed of short stiff layers of nylon netting attached to custom knickers that project out from the hips parallel to the floor.  The layers are controlled with an intricate system of hand stitches and are supported by a 1/4” wire threaded through a mid layer of the netting.  The tutu skirt is then attached to a basque and a stiff bodice. Now, in the twenty first century, that tight little bodice and plate of frothy net combine to create one of the most evocative and provocative garments in history. The dress moulds to the shape of the dancer, contouring the silhouette, conforming to the implicit form that balletic training has produced.”

After over 185 years, beautiful ornate tutus are still helping to bring audiences into the fantasy world of ballet, where anything is possible. Given their versatility and rich history, i’m sure they will be for hundreds more.

The Evolution Of The Super Bowl Halftime Show

I’m not a sports fan, so on Super Bowl weekend I only get excited for the following reasons.

1-I can eat Doritos without guilt throughout the entire game, because anything you eat during the Super Bowl doesn’t count as real calories.

2-The commercials, and that cute puppy bowl thing.

3-THE HALFTIME SHOW.

When thinking about my favorite halftime shows throughout the years, I started to wonder when this show became such a fundamental part of American culture. This led me down a six hour rabbit hole of watching every Super Bowl halftime show available on the internets. I have for sure earned at least a PHD in halftimes. Here is what I learned.

The very first Superbowl took place on January 15th, 1967, with a halftime show featuring The Three Stooges with The University Of Arizona and Grambling State marching bands. That’s right. Up until the 1990’s the Super Bowl halftime shows primarily consisted of marching bands, drill teams and jazzy tribute groups like “Up With People”. In 1972 Ella Fitzgerald and Carol Channing became the first celebrity singers to ever appear on the show. Next came Andy Williams singing about maralade, molasses and honey in 1972, and it was all downhill from there. In 1973 the big act was Miss Texas playing a fiddle, with the University Of Texas Longhorn band. Another boring decade of themed shows with college marching bands followed.

The 1972 halftime show.

In 1987, the halftime celebrated the 100th anniversary of Hollywood. George Burns introduced the show, while hitting on Snow White. Mickey Rooney pranced around in a band leader uniform and there were DANCING GAY COWBOYS SINGING FOOTLOOSE! Chubby Checker and the Rockettes performed the following year. The most surprising act in this decade is an actual Elvis impersonator in 1989, performing a tribute to 1950’s Rock N Roll.

The 80’s decade in halftime shows makes me sad considering all of the great hair bands and pop music happening at the time. I mean, where is the Queen, Journey, Bowie, Van Halen, Quiet Riot with Cyndi Lauper halftime of my fantasies!? Having been born in 1984, I kind of just assumed that all happened but I was SO WRONG.

Welcome to the 90’s. After the 1990, (almost unbearable to watch), salute to The Peanuts and New Orleans, someone on the production team decided it was time to step it the fuck up. In 1991 the show featured it’s first pop act ever, New Kids On The Block. This halftime opened with all of the contents of Disney’s “It’s A Small World” ride being puked onto the field. About ten minutes in, NKOTB (presented by Coca-Cola, honoring armed forces kids), busted out of a cardboard castle and sing “Step By Step”. The halftime show would never be the same. In 1992 Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill ice skated on a giant snowflake, the USA Olympic hockey team held up sparklers for what seemed like a really, really long time and Gloria Estefan rose onto the field on the Statue Of Liberty’s head.

1993’s show with Michael Jackson is the year that things start to get iconic. A bunch of MJ doubles pop up on all sides of the stadium, before MJ himself pops out of center stage. He stands in silence while the crowd looses it’s shit for two straight minutes. This performance was a game changer in Super Bowl ratings, and at the time was the most watched television event in history. Lady Gaga’s show would later take that title. Though the NFL does not pay anyone to perform on the show, Michael Jackson was an exception. In exchange for his performance, they agreed to make a large donation to his Heal The World Foundation as well as give it commercial time. After this massive increase in viewers, the NFL made a deliberate effort to snag the biggest acts possible for the halftime. Aside from MJ, the other most notable halftime moment during this decade was in 1996, when Diana Ross had a helicopter land onstage for her grand exit.

The 2000’s brought us halftime shows with NSYNC, Aerosmith, Christina Aguilera, No Doubt, Sting, Britney Spears, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen & Shania Twain to name a few. The most notable shows in this decade were the post 9/11, U2 performance and 2004’s “Nipplegate” with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. This was the first time the NFL had ever had any sort of scandal associated with the previously squeeky clean halftime show. The FCC received over 540,000 complaints and CBS was fined $550,000 for the “unplanned” wardrobe malfunction. All for less than 3 seconds of boobage. The NFL didn’t hire another female halftime performer for seven years after the incident.

In the 2010’s we start to see the production design of halftime shows get more innovative, bigger and better. Beyonce took things to a whole new level in her 2013 show, raising the bar for all future performers. Lady Gaga upped the technology game by using 300 Intel shooting star drones in her 2017 show. There were also some unforgettable entrances in this decade, including Madonna being dragged in by 100 man slaves, Katy Perry on a massive golden lion puppet, and Lady Gaga famously dropping from the ceiling.

Despite it’s slow start, the Superbowl halftime show has evolved into an iconic moment, embedded into American culture. It’s one of the few times when pretty much everyone comes together to watch the same thing, and gives us something fun to talk about for the next few days. Though i’m not a big fan of the performers this year (Maroon 5), at least it’s better than Miss Texas and a marching band.

Click here for a detailed list of every Super Bowl performance ever.

How Will Women Ever Be Equal To Men If We Keep Taking Their Last Names?

In a world where we fight against men for jobs, equal wages, raises and promotions, it does not seem logical to me that we are complacent about taking on their last names in place of our own. Upon getting engaged, my fiancé and I didn’t even need to discuss whether or not I would change my last name after marriage. He knew that I was very passionate about keeping my name (which also happens to be my mothers birth name) and never hyphenating. His thoughts on the topic were “Your name, your identity, I don’t care.”

I’m lucky to be with someone as progressive as he is on the topic. After we were married, I quickly realized just how out of the norm my decision was. I find myself correcting people constantly that I am not a Mrs. I’m also not sure why it confuses people so much that they address mail to us in the exact same way they did before we were married -with both of our full names. I clearly underestimated how outdated and old fashioned our society still is today.

When doing some research, it frightened me to find out that HALF of Americans think a woman changing her name to her husband’s at marriage should be the LAW. This seems like patriarchal brain washing from the stone ages. It’s hard to believe that in 2018 anyone would believe this should be required. For years women fought for the right to maintain our names at marriage. We should use that right it far more often than we do, and be proud to not have our identity taken over by a man’s. The history of women fighting to keep their names goes back many years.

In 1856 Lucy Stone became the first women in history to legally maintain her name after marriage. In her era she quickly rose to fame, and became an icon for other women who wanted to buck the tradition of taking a man’s last name. For decades after this, women who followed in her footsteps and kept their last names were known as “Lucy Stoners”.

The Lucy Stone League was founded in 1921 with the motto stating “A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers.” They were the first feminist group to arise from the suffrage movement, and became known for fighting for women’s own-name rights. Sadly, it wasn’t until the 1970’s that laws were lifted requiring a woman to use her husband’s last name to vote, do banking and even get a passport.

Women’s rights have come a long way since the 70’s, yet despite this we are seeing an increase in women changing their names rather than keeping them. It makes me sad to think that despite the struggle of the Lucy Stoners to form a movement that would help future generations, almost 80% of women today still choose to take their husband’s last name.

A Harvard University study found that among its alumni, each year that women delayed marriage or having children related to a 1 percentage point decline in the probability that they would change their names. An important factor was if the women had made a name for herself or not prior to getting married. Google studies show that women who come from wealthy backgrounds, and marry later in life are also less likely to change their names. The New York Times reports only 10% of women actually hyphenate their names. Women interviewed about why they changed their last name gave a variety of explanations. Most were things like: “Everyone else does” “I wanted to be a family unit”; “It’s easier when we have kids” or “It’s easier to make hotel reservations.”

Though many women prefer to take the easy route and not go against the grain of tradition, widespread change can only happen when we dare to be different. In the spirit of those early feminists who fought to keep their names, let’s make it a popular trend not to keep changing ours. It’s time we started re educating society to stop assuming being a Mrs is an accomplishment to strive for. It’s also time we started teaching and empowering little girls with the fact that their name is their name. Not just something they shed when they meet whomever they will marry. It’s time that women became proud to be Lucy Stoners again.

My Day On Brooklyn Jury Duty. Tips & Survival Guide

I recently got the dreaded notice that I had been summoned to Brooklyn jury duty. Sadly, I missed the El Chapo jury selection by a few weeks, because I could totally have been bribed for good Mexican drugs.

Doing your civic duty isn’t easy, so here are some survival tips that I wish I had known before arriving.

  1. Your call time is the ungodly hour of 8:30AM. Don’t arrive too early. They didn’t even take juror cards until 9:45 AM. If you run late no one will notice. I promise.
  2. If you don’t have time to eat breakfast, pack or buy one on the way. You’ll be stuck in there till at least 1PM. Also bring a bottle of water. You can take this all inside past security with you as long as you don’t have a glass bottle. There is no water fountain or cooler in the holding rooms.
  3. Everyone automatically sat in the biggest holding room on the second floor. Being the rebel that I am, I ventured into the smaller empty rooms off to the side. One room has cubicles and plugs so you can use your laptop or charge your phone. I was the only one sitting there all morning and it was private & relaxing. I enjoyed my secluded nirvana until around 11:30AM when an annoying lady came in, started talking to herself, dropping Skittles everywhere, then passed out snoring. The juror instructions, intro video and names called get piped into these side rooms, so don’t worry about missing anything.
  4. There are vending machines by the bathrooms. Bring the equal amount of $1 bills that you would to a strip club, so you can buy coffee and snacks to keep you alive.
  5. What was going on upstairs? Is there a jail cell up there or something? I kept hearing random men yelling and pounding from above. I decided the sounds could also be the ghosts of past jurors who died waiting to be called.
  6. Since I had not been called for the voir dire (jury selection process) yet, I was dismissed for lunch at 12:45 PM and told to return at 2PM. Up until that moment I had thought Voir Dire was an appetizer. This is your big opportunity to blow that $40 check you’ll be getting on lunch, but mostly booze. How the hell else are you supposed to survive this awful tedious process? I personally slugged two overpriced Magaritas at Rocco’s down the street, but there are plenty of other good options nearby.
  7. I returned my pristine private cubicle area around 1:55PM to find it almost completely full of people, with a slew of Fast Food wrappers everywhere! There was only one seat left. What the fuck!? This was a significantly unexpected disappointment. I would now have to spend the remaining three hours waiting to be called smelling McChickens and BO. There were also food wrappers strewn all over the seats in the other rooms. Apparently Brooklyn Courts don’t employ day time cleaners.
  8. Though the lunch return time was 2 P.M. no one was back to call more names until 3:40PM! They were clearly onto juror day drinking and wanted us to dry out. Again, if you come back a bit late from lunch it’s doubtful anyone would notice.
  9. Around 4 P.M. they started frantically calling the names of the remaining 70 people on the room. We were then taken into what looked like a classroom, where a court officer took attendance to make sure we had actually come back from lunch. Then he had everyone cram into an elevator to the 19th floor and barked at us to sit in the waiting area.
  10. We were then herded into a court room where the judge and lawyers were seated. The judge made a speech about how important civil service is while everyone who had just sat in a waiting room for 8 hours rolled their eyes at her. She swore us in and then said we all had to come back at 9:30 A.M. The crowd let out a collective groan. It seemed ridiculous that after a full day of waiting, they would make us spend a second one waiting for the selection process.
  • Outside the court room the court officer was giving people the phone number to call if you had a conflict you could not get out of for a second day. Be sure to get this number and the section of court you are in if you need to call out.
  1. Having several real reasons I could not make it the next day, (including a Dr. appt I had waited four months for), I called the provided number the next morning. They didn’t ask for an explanation and just said thank you for calling. I figured my name would be thrown back in the jury duty pool and i’d have to suffer all over again in a few months. Instead, a week later my “jury duty fulfilled” letter arrived in the mail. Thankfully, my nine hour day of waiting around was enough to complete my required service. I’m safe for six years.
  2. Jury duty sucks, everyone has to do it, blah blah blah, but there actually ARE many valid ways to be excused from service. If you have them (independent contractor with no employees, student, medical/mental health issues, etc.) be sure to email the court with proof before your date comes up. Not feeling like it isn’t a valid excuse. Don’t ever ignore a notice and not show up, because there is a high risk of having a bench warrant on your record.

Overall, the Brooklyn jury duty system is extremely dated and seems like it hasn’t changed since 1960. I am most shocked that with our current technology, that they haven’t come up with a faster and more modern way to deal with the selection process. Here’s hoping the system changes to a more efficient process, before I have to report again, but it seems doubtful.

 

 

 

Could Disney Parks Make Death As Magical As Their Weddings?

In 2016, Disney World announced that aspiring bridezillas all over the work can now plan to have their dream wedding in front of Cinderella’s castle. For just $75,000, you to can pretend to be a Disney Princess, kiss your prince and live happily ever after. So what else do you actually get for this $75,000? Up to 100 people at your ceremony, which must happen at 9:30am sharp (sounds brutal). The rest of the fee is for food and beverage minimums at your reception, which must be held at another location. For a few thousand more, you can make an entrance in Cinderella’s horse drawn glass coach, have fireworks, or add a slew of Disney characters who make $7.50 per hour.
It isn’t really surprising to me that Disney has started to take more advantage of the ridiculous wedding industry. Through their movies, they are partially responsible for perpetuating the stereotypical “dream wedding” into every little girls brain. Years later when these same little girls begin to plan their weddings, Disney can finally cash in.
 
None of this is surprising however, since over the years Disney Parks have started to leave the middle class in the dust, catering more toward the wealthy. So much so that they have raised park prices, which started at $3.50 in 1971, 41 times in the past decade.
Thinking about making huge profits on life events, makes me wonder what would happen if the Disney Parks “magical” experience extended into death. The stark reality is, none of us are getting out of life alive, and what happens after is a mystery to us all. If you could help make the experience more magical for your family and friends, as well as have your “dream funeral” would you? Just think of the huge money making opportunity official Disney funerals could be.

For a moment, let us imagine Disney’s foray into the death industry. 

Disney parks would build several private cemeteries and funeral homes on official property, but not close enough to parks to be depressing. They pump cookie smell all day every day, just like Main Street. The cemeteries would be full of burial plots themed by land. For $300k, you could be buried in the vast cemetery versions of Fantasyland, Adventureland. Tommorowland or Frontierland. 
The options for official Disney Parks coffins would be extensive and just like weddings, come with themed funeral add ons. Most coffins would have Dooney and Bourke interiors. Tombstones would be available in any Disney character or castle form. Disney asks that tombstone themes be kept in sync with the land of chosen burial. No Cinderella tombstones will be allowed in Frontierland, for instance. 

A sample of the many options: 

Package A: Snow White’s glass coffin. Comes with Seven Dwarf mourners to attend your funeral. Must be buried in the Fantasyland section. 

 Package B: Rocket into the beyond in a Space Mountain coffin. Glows in the dark. Comes with a eulogy by Buzz Lightyear and Woody. Must be buried in Tommorowland section. 

Package C: Be buried in an actual retired ride car of your choosing. Burial section must coordinate with ride land. 

 Add ons: 
$3,000, gets you or your loved ones name written in fireworks.*only available on off peak weeknights.
$5,000 gets you a Cinderella’s coach ride to your burial place. 
$8,000 gets you a Eulogy by an animatronic of your choosing. 
$600 gets a tweet shout out of the obituary, from the Disney Parks official twitter of your choosing. 
 
Some VIP fans can choose to have their head cryogenically frozen and placed near Walt’s underneath The Magic Kingdom. *This option would only be available to illuminati members. 
And if anyone could make death, funerals and burials magical, i’m certain Disney could.
 As awesome as this all would be, Disney does not offer any post death services as of yet. I personally don’t see much of a difference in Disney Parks offering death options than wedding ones. Sure, one is a very happy life event, and the other is the saddest, but both require them to sell to people who will pay big money to have the Disney Parks experience. Both also require them to prey on the aspirational hopes and dreams of Disney fans wordwide-even if unattainable.