Full disclosure: this is more of a costume I put together for this book review rather than an outfit, because I couldn’t think of any everyday outfit to reflect this book. More on that later. First, the book.
“We Have Always Lived In The Castle” is a 1962 novel by Shirley Jackson. It tells the story of the Blackwood sisters, 18-year-old Mary Katherine, usually called Merricat, and her older sister Constance, who, along with their uncle Julian, are the only survivors after the entire family died of arsenic poisoning – the arsenic was mixed in with sugar and sprinkled onto their desert, but Merricat was sent to her room without dinner, Constance never takes sugar, and Uncle Julian barely survived. The three of them live a quietly happy life, despite being ostracized by the locals, but all that changes when a cousin, Charles, comes for a visit and threatens to turn their life upside down.
This book is kind of out of my comfort zone, but it’s beautifully written, a super quick read, and the story has the dark, sinister feel that I love, so I really enjoyed it. In a way, it’s like a more twisted version of I Capture the Castle, another of my favorite, and not just because they both have the word “castle” in their titles – two sister living in an unusual place; the story is told by the younger, bookish sister; a newcomer changing their life. Shirley Jackson does an amazing job of letting us inside Merricat’s head that we are entirely on her side before we start noticing that she is the least reliable of narrator. This is the first time I’ve read Jackson’s work, but I love this so much that I already have all of her other stuff waiting on my Kindle, and I’m looking forward to checking them out too.
As for the outfit, I really tried to come up with something that is inspired by the book in some way, and this is the best I could do. There’s a scene in the book where Constance makes dresses for Merricat out of tablecloths, so I picked my shift dress with a pattern that could pass for curtain or upholstery. It’s a 1960’s silhouette too. If I wanted to be even more literal I would go barefoot (because Merricat does), but my sandals will do. Actually I haven’t worn the dress in a while, but I think with different shoes, it’ll work for a spring/summer garden wedding or party. But of course the wedding season in Vietnam is during the coldest months, so… no dice.
Dress: vintage, Necklace: Forever21, Sandals: thrifted
I first found out about Catherynne Valente’s “Deathless”, strangely enough, not from recommendations after reading The Grisha Trilogy (both deal with Russian mythology so you would think it’s natural to go from one book to the other), but from a quote I saw somewhere on tumblr. The language immediately draws me in, so I decided to check it out. And while it’s also steeped in Russian myth, “Deathless” is completely different from The Grisha Trilogy. It is the story of Marya Morevna, who is blessed (or cursed) with the ability of seeing the world as it really is – full of magical creatures, neither evil or benign, but all representing something much more desirable than her own bleak existence in Leningrad during the Revolution. It all changes when Koschei the Deathless sweeps Marya away to his kingdom to be his bride, but Marya learns that even in this Country of Life, her two worlds are still closely linked, and war and death and destruction are never far away.
Now I can’t tell you what exactly happens in the book, not because of spoilers, but because sometimes I’m not entirely sure myself. There is a lot of ambiguity and the characters’ actions don’t always make sense. Usually that would drive me up the wall, but somehow with “Deathless” I didn’t mind it. The book combines the magical elements with some of the darkest pages in the actual history of Russia to create a world that is beautiful, quirky, but also dark and cruel (the way it portrays the magical creatures actually reminds me of the Studio Ghibli’s films a lot), so of course I love it. Plus the writing is so beautiful that I became totally immersed in the story, and a bit of confusion actually adds to the overall fantastical atmosphere. Highly recommended.
As for the outfit, I again tried to do something Russian-inspired (but not too costume-y) with the embroidered peasant blouse, full skirt, and rich colors usually found in traditional Russian clothing. Even my sandals can count as an interpretation of the woven shoes (lapti) usually worn by Russian peasants.
Top: tailor, Skirt: vintage, Sandals: thrifted
The weather has thankfully cooled down (not much, it’s still in the lower 90’s, but that’s way cooler than a couple of days ago when you could fry eggs on the sidewalk, and looks like it’s going to rain later in the week too), so I was finally able to wear something a bit different. When I first bought this shirt, this was one of the combinations that came to mind immediately – there’s something about the pleats and the eyelets that complement each other, I think – and yet for one reason or another, I haven’t remembered to put them together until now. To be fair, during the last two weeks, it was way too hot to think about “putting together” an outfit. All I asked myself when picking out clothes was “Is it baggy?” “Is it natural fabric?” and “Is it not pajama?” I’m crossing my fingers that the cool weather lasts a bit longer, so I can get back to taking outfit photos. I’ve missed it.
Top: Mango, Skirt & Sandals: thrifted, Necklace: hand-me-down
I had the longest, weirdest bout of déjà vu today. I read two scripts, and felt like I’ve read both of them before, but a look at my archives shows nothing with those titles. So maybe I did read them before and the writers changed the titles in the rewrite. Or maybe I’ve read so many scripts that I’ve gotten to a point where they all seem familiar. Or maybe the Matrix just rebooted.
Even this outfit seems familiar too, until I realized I did wear something similar a while ago, except more casual – striped shirt (both from Forever21!), pleated midi (both thrifted!), and sandals. Maybe the Matrix did just get rebooted after all.
Shirt: Forever21, Skirt & Sandals: thrifted, Brooch: vintage