Sunday, June 26, 2016

Blair Reads Books #5: Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman

Hello, friends!  Here comes another edition of the newly retitled, Blair Reads Books!  I'm going to take a hiatus next weekend due to the holiday and will be traveling the following weekend, but come mid-July this series will be back!  This week I cover the book, Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman.  It is a memoir about growing up Hasidic Jew and ultimately leaving the religion.  Because religion and politics make for awesome (sarcasm...) dinner table topics, I keep this written post light.  That said, because my new YouTube channel will not just be about fashion I delve more into my thoughts there if you are curious.  And please subscribe, as over the next two weeks I will be posting other things despite taking a break from the book series!

Why anyone would like this book: I find that most people are intrigued by lifestyles that are not their own, and find more simple lifestyles fascinating.  Deborah grew up in a orthodox sect of Judaism where technology was not used as frequently, despited having been born in the 80s and living in New York City.  This reads like she grew up in another time entirely and anywhere but modern New York City, so it is a good cultural read and reality check that not everyone has the same lifestyle as most people.

How polarizing is this book? Out of a lot of books about religious escapees, I find Unorthodox to be relatively benign.  (Trust me, I'll review others...)  Anytime someone leaves a religion they usually have less than kind things to say about the religion, but I find most people can also be sympathetic to a bad experience.  So this book is either polarizing or not, depending on how you digest stories like these.

Points of interest:
  • Her account on 9/11 was fascinating!  Without technology she nearly spent a whole day not knowing what had happened while the rest of the nation remained glued to their television sets.  Her grandfather actually bought a radio that day so that they could be updated.  That whole account was mind blowing.
  • She relays when hipsters became interested in Williamsburg, where she lived, and couldn't understand why they wanted to live there.  This was interesting and kind of tickled me.
  • The sexual education in her community was atrocious and it led to problems in a lot of women's, including Feldman's, early days of marriage in the most horrifying of ways.  I go a little more into that in the video...
Would I recommend this book and if so, to who? Recommendations may not be off the tip of my tongue, but anyone who is interested in cultural and religious studies should absolutely read this book!

Things to look out for: 

  • She uses yiddish words when quoting people or explaining things sporadically and does not typically explain them.  I'm well versed in Judaism and regardless a few went over my head.  If you're not as religiously literate you may find yourself looking up several words.
  • When reading other reviews and alleged accounts from people who knew her, there are a lot of mixed reviews and accusations of falsifying things.  I take a lot of it with a grain of salt as many things did represent aspects of what I knew of Hasidic Judaism and even fell in line with experiences of sub-sects of other religions that are extreme (I'm well read on these topics, for what it's worth).  And because religion is such an intense and emotional thing for people, naturally there will be criticism no matter what is written.  But, it would be remiss of me not to mention these findings with you.
Readability:  Pretty fast read!

Did I like it?  Yes, a lot.  Not necessary a new favorite book of all-time, but I did like the book!

Outfit Details:
Necklace- Ann Taylor
Dress- Hell Bunny
Brooch- Deer Arrow
Shoes- Chinese Laundry

Similar books I'd recommend: 
  • The Caged Virgin by Aayan Hirsi Ali: This is one of the books that I'm reading currently.  Ali was born in Somalia into a Muslim world and recounts her experiences in a pretty explosive way in the name of feminism and more.
  • Escape by Carolyn Jessop: This one has been sitting on my bookshelf for forever, so I can't fully recommend it (yet).  BUT several friends have read and discussed it with me and I believe this is a good one to bring up in this section as it's a book on escaping fundamental Mormonism.
  • The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Denise George: Not an escape book, but this book is a memoir on a specific historical time in Judaism.  It's about a woman who survived the holocaust, moved to America, and never even told her husband and kids her experiences!  After her death her family discovered journals that relayed her experiences.  I read this on a plane several years back and it was heartbreaking and a beautiful read all at once.
Wahoo for another book series AND video published!  I'm very much enjoying chatting about books on YouTube and am looking forward to exploring that more!  Right now I'm a little scattered and not yet working ahead of schedule, but eventually I want to get to a point where I can announce what books are coming up within a month or so in case any of y'all want to read along with!  Currently a rough estimate of what's next starting in mid-July are On Bowie by Rob Sheffield, Cults and New Religions: A Brief History by Cowan and Bromley, Words that Change Your Brain by Newberg and Waldman, and as I mentioned above, The Caged Virgin by Aayan Hirsi Ali.  Have a great start to your week!!
~Lauren-Blair Donovan

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Unique Vintage Flamingo Skirt Review

Greetings, friends!  I'm about to review this amazing skirt from Unique Vintage, but first I wanna do my Thursday Announcements, as I have a few things worth noting!

Thursday Announcements:
  • For one, in case you missed the latest Blair Reads Books post, I opened a YouTube channel for this blog and more!!  I reviewed the book Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon for my first video, and I have more coming.  Some videos will be fashion etc based, some will be cultural reviews, and I have some other stuff in the works that will hopefully surface sooner than later!  I struggled with knowing if I should do YouTube for this blog for some time now, but finally a light bulb went off in my head with how to make it my own, so I'm really excited.  Please follow the Lauren-Blair Donovan channel, and if you're a fellow YouTuber I know from blog etc land, let me know and I'll follow back!
  • I've added two pages to my blog, an archive of any tips and how-to posts that I've done, and a collection of the Just Shair videos.  Speaking of...
  • My comedy project, Just Shair, has a follow up video to our Roller Skating...Where Did it Go? video, but while we are still talking about skating we kind of lose our minds in this video!!  Basically, I have A HUGE laughing fit on camera and it's closer to a blooper video that stays on topic than a true topic based video.  I was in FINE FORM during this filming and completely lost my marbles when we brought up 70s sitcom, The Facts of Life (Tootie was on roller skates the whole first season).  If you like watching people cracking up to the point of tears and have trouble getting through bits on camera, this video is for you!

All About the Outfit:
...and now back to your regularly scheduled programing!  So, I own A LOT of flamingo gear.  Like, I pass up the chance to purchase more flamingo gear all the time because I have so much.  The exception is that if the color scheme seems different, I'm more quickly to get it.  I'm kind of over the teals with pinks, as I have a few pieces like that.  But this blue fading white print from Unique Vintage really struck me, so after waiting for forever I finally purchased it on Memorial Day.  It does not disappoint!  Here are some points about the skirt, as it's Unique Vintage brand and I don't believe I've spoken about them too often:
  • The fabric is a great sturdy cotton!  For some reason I thought it would be closer to a ChicWish skirt fabric.  One may say I should have, you know, read the label on the Unique Vintage website to see what kind of material it was made from, and one would probably be right!  IDK, I can't explain it.  I've seen several girls on Instagram wear this and it (and the sister watermelon skirt) always looked so shiny to me.  I was in for a surprise when I got it, but it was a good one because I prefer cotton prints a little more.  
  • Pockets!  Always worth noting since pockets in dresses have become so popular and are in demand.
  • Easy to iron.  It was pretty wrinkled when I got it but one brief trip to the ironing board was all it needed!  
  • I think it runs big.  This is my only "bad" point, but it's not terrible.  The sizing said that an XS was a 24 inch waist and the Small was a 26 inch waist.  I'm a 25/26 inch waist so I got the small, but it's kind of big.  You can't tell in photos (I spaced on showcasing the size by pulling it out with my fingers in a snap as it was 100 degrees when I took these pics and my brain was melting), but it's not tight.  Luckily it doesn't sag and droop lower on my waist than I want it to, but this is worth mentioning nonetheless.  If I go back for another print I'm honestly not sure if I'll go with small again or downsize to XS.  Anyone have any thoughts on this based on their experiences?
Style Details:

Necklace- DSW
Shoes- G by Guess

Hope everyone is excited for their weekend!  On Saturday I'm going to do another post/video in the Blair Read Books series called Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman.  It's a memoir from an escapee from a hasidic Jewish community.  Hope you come back to take a gander! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Gaga for...ModCloth's Miami Moments Tops

The past year I've been more turned onto shirts, after being a dress and skirt girl almost exclusively.  Being such a skirt queen, obviously I own shirts to go with them (otherwise that'd be scandalous).  But they were more of the basic variety: tanks from Forever 21 and Old Navy, some button downs with fun patterns from J Crew, and about a zillion concert tees.  Lately I've been trying to invest in blouses--a decidedly new word in my wardrobe vocabulary-- and one of the kinds I've gotten hooked on is the ModCloth names South Florida Spree Tops Miami Moments Tops (ModCloth literally just changed the name of this item last week.  

I enjoy finding brands and styles that I like, so I can go back to them and know they're going to work and I have found that with these Miami Moments Tops. The brand is technically Poema, but upon investing the brand's site, they don't appear to see this style on their online store.  The gist is that they are sleeveless blouses with tame to fun prints that are baggier, but upon tying up the front and tucking in the shirt, they fit perfectly.  I wore the Sassy Girl print before recently in this post and more of these will be coming down the pipe because I'm addicted!

The Good:
They are silky to touch, adjustable by using the tie, and they tend to have really fun patterns.  I also find the quality to be pretty good!

The Bad:
As I mentioned above, they don't seem to sold anywhere but ModCloth.  That would be fine, but I've next to never seen them pop up on eBay from either other vendors or girls selling their clothing that they don't use enough...OR in swap/sell groups.  Maybe that would be fine, but these shirts sometimes sell out rather fast on ModCloth!  These shirts occasionally get restocked, but that doesn't happen too frequently.  So if you want one, get it!

The Ugly:
It's not "ugly" but as a chronic sale shopper, purchasing these shirts are stressful for me!  Are they going to sell out?  Will they eventually go on sale?  It's hard to know when to pull the trigger with buying one of these, and once they're gone they seem to be gone forever, so it's not a fun game to play with oneself!  And if it's not in the budget at the time, it's heartbreaking to watch a print you want slip away.  

That wraps up another Gaga!  I haven't written one in a while, but have some more in the works.  I'm doing a follow up to the Modcloth post I did nearly two years ago and have my forever delayed part II of my Gaga for Pinup Girl Clothing coming down the tracks sooner than later too.  Hopefully by the next Gaga for... I'll have a page on my blog dedicated to these so they're easy to peruse for those searching/curious/skeptical about brands and styles!  Have a great Wednesday, folks!

~Lauren-Blair Donovan

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Here Comes Alice

All About the Outfit:
Hello, one of my favorite dresses!  This was one of my first purchases in full on quirky/vintage reproduction land a few years back.  I'm a lifelong Brady Bunch fan so I was attracted to this Brady house-esq print, but I went back and forth so much that it sold out and I had to find it on eBay!  I was initially hesitant because I wasn't used to such, um, loud prints and I had no idea if I could pull it off or what.  (Oh, how the mighty have fallen!)  The brand of the dress is Retrolicious and I believe this was my second or third item from them at the time (the number since then has increased...greatly as the prints are so fun and they are the PERFECT summer dresses).  Initially it was a little too big, but I was a little underweight back then and got it roughly a month after my heart surgery where I wasn't rocking much of an appetite.  Luckily I was able to shrink it in the wash, and it fits quite well now, even at a healthier weight!  
#transformationtuesday: Please excuse the see through skin, as my first outing in this dress back in March of 2014 was probably the second time I had seen the sun all year ;-p
Outfit Details:
Sunglasses- Forever 21
Dress- Retrolicious (currently out of print, but both Retrolicious and sister site Folter have a plethora of amazing prints if that's your jam!)
Brooch- Erstwilder (sorry, I didn't realize how well it blended in with the outfit in photos until well after this shoot!!!)
Belt- ModCloth
Bag- Kate Spade
Shoes- Nine West
Music Time:
One of my favorite bands of all time, maybe second only to Sonic Youth, is The Jesus and Mary Chain.  I was fortunate enough to see them last year and it was super emotional for me.  ANYWAY, they have a song called "Here Comes Alice" and I perfect?!  Get it?  Alice was the house keeper on the Brady Bunch and I'm wearing a Brady Bunch house print dress!'s always amusing in my brain!

Have a wonderful Tuesday, friends!  Hope this week is treating you well, though it's still early!  XO
~Lauren-Blair Donovan


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Blair Reads Books! #3: Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

First off, I (slightly) changed the name of this series to the Blair Reads Books.  Less pretentious, more alliterative, etc.  Also, I'm nixing the documentary series part.  I want to find a way to maybe still include documentaries in the future, but for now it was reading a little too wordy doing both in one post.  Also, I've added a VIDEO feature to this series!  I'm trying to get a feel for if people like reading about books or would prefer something more interactive like a video.  I'm testing the waters with a solo YouTube series that will cover normal fashion blog gone moving picture topics, but it will host an array of cultural and lifestyle points as well with my own unique spin.  Stay tuned as I get my feet wet and please subscribe HERE!

Secondly, this week I review a book by one of my idols, Kim Gordon!  For those unfamiliar with her she was in the band Sonic Youth (my favorite) from it's inception to it's breakup, and has had a host of other side projects throughout her life.  

Why anyone would like this book: It is lost on me why anyone would not want to read the biography on Kim Gordon!!

Semi kidding, but honestly I found this to be a very interesting book and would have been fascinated even if I had never heard of Sonic Youth.  Kim Gordon is an original and interesting personality, and yet her writing is accessible to all.

How polarizing is this book? Not.  It's a biography written in accessible language, and the person the book is about is not an across the board offensive human being.

Summary and points of interest:  Honestly, I think I put off reading this book for about a year because I was afraid of not liking this book.  Sonic Youth and it's members are somewhat elusive, especially Kim, and lifting the curtain on your heroes can be a scary thing as there's no guarantee that you're going to like what you see.  Plus, they are broken up with no current signs of a reunion so this may be one of the last morsels left to enjoy.  (Not counting their side projects.)  Choosing to read this was an adventure in "high risk/high reward" territory for me.

Once I began reading, I was hooked on the first page and was nothing short of impressed with Kim's writing style.  She was accessible without being overly detailed, explained who and why she is the way she is without being defensive, and even in effortless ways I saw a lot of class in the way she dealt with life.  Kim Gordon was always a hero of mine because Sonic Youth means the world to me and unlocked something within myself that I couldn't quantify before finding them.  But after reading this book, I consider her a mega hero because I believe her to be the kind of woman any woman should look up to.  I remember at one point her now ex-husband, Thurston Moore, talked about how friend Kurt Cobain really respected Kim a lot and now I totally get why that was probably the case.

Would I recommend this book and if so, to who? Probably anyone.  If Sonic Youth isn't your jam, I still think it would be an interesting read.  Most people like to read about lives that are filled with complexity, introspection, and a little bit of rock and roll is thrown in there never hurts.  But obviously if you're a SY or big music fan in general, as well as someone who may be in the arts of some kind, I'd definitely recommend Girl in a Band.

Things to look out for: I can honestly think of nothing to warn you about.

Readability:  Pretty easy read.

Did I like it? Yes, in a "I need to rearrange my top 10 favorite books of all time way to make room for this book" kind of way!

Outfit Details:
Brooch- Erstwilder via DNJ Retro
Suspender Skirt- Unique Vintage (similar and similar)
Shoes- Nine West via Amazon

Similar books I'd recommend: 
  • Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth by David Browne- This is a Sonic Youth biography that I read years back.  I found Gordon's book to be a far more enjoyable read, but this is a good back to basics of the Sonic Youth history book.
  • Love is a Mixed Tape by Rob Sheffield:  This is one I'll reference for most books about music, as it's my favorite book of all-time.  Instead of being an autobiography about a musician, it's a memoir about a music critic and journalist who relates his love of his late wife through the music they loved.  
What are some of your favorite biographies/memoirs by people YOU admire?  Have any recommendations for me?  Have a wonderful weekend, friends!