Sunday, May 17, 2009

Polyvore, J.Crew blogging and the legacy of paper dolls

So I'm putting this "out there", ladies (and gents, perhaps?), feeling a bit like I'm tossing flower petals into the breeze and wondering where they'll land. Being past 50 makes me a bit longer in the tooth, you might say, than the average J.Crew Aficionada (JCA, I proudly know to abbreviate). But it doesn't make me any older at heart than all of the 30- and 40-something (and younger) JCA's whose blogs I have recently discovered and spent WAY too many hours browsing. A special hat tip to A Bigger Closet (here's a gal who could accessorize a flour sack), Gigi, Heidi, FFM, the original J.Crew Aficionada blog hostess, and so many more. You ladies are feeding -- nope, not accurate; you are accelerating -- my long-time J.Crew habit. American Express thanks you.

And Polyvore? Ohmigosh. How can I thank you all for introducing me to that wonder? Most of you JCA's out there are too young to remember "paper dolls". But if there any other JCA's out there of a certain age, you'll know what I mean by this in the MOST complimentary way: Polyvore is the Paper Dolls of the internet. Wahoo to that!

Like most women my age, I spent many a happy young childhood hour "playing" paper dolls. There wasn't much "play" about it, actually, but it was a humdinger of a hand-eye-coordination exercise, and it nurtured my whole generation of clothes hounds. Paper dolls were purchased in booklets that looked like comic books and cost a few bucks, and you could find them almost anywhere. Each booklet came with a cardboard two-dimensional doll (the heavier the cardboard, the costlier the booklet). And each booklet had pages and pages of colorful clothes and accessories. If you were lazy, you'd pay extra for the paper doll booklets that had clothes you could "punch" out -- they had perforated edging around the clothing. But my pals and I thought that was some kind of SERIOUS cheating. For us, the whole point of the exercise was to use your best, sharpest scissors expertly so that YOUR fashion pieces emerged from their paper cocoon with absolutely no white edging. And anybody who knew anything at all knew that punching out perforated-edged clothes left those annoying little white nubbies on the clothes. Kiss of death, those nubbies.

We, the more discerning paper dollers, would carefully -- ohhhhhh so carefully -- snip the white boundaries from around the clothes (except for the critically-important paper tabs, the "bra straps" of paper doll clothing, if you will). This could take a very long time, and little fingers cramped up, but we didn't complain. We gently placed our finished clothing into piles around us -- tops here, pants there, jewelry alongside. And when all was cut out and the floor and table around us was a wasteland of white debris and used-up paper doll booklets, then and only then did we get to dress our always perfectly-coiffed and impossibly-tiny-waisted paper dolls. We folded those little paper "bra straps" into place for each piece, added jewelry and shoes, and voila, instant outfit.

You might wonder -- as do I, actually -- what was so fascinating about this time-consuming endeavor, seeing as how at the end of all that labor you had
laying on the table in front of you a two-dimensional girl, precariously and temporarily dressed in two-dimensional clothes. Your coiffed, dressed and accessorized paper doll didn't move, bend, or even stand up. But the deeply satisfying thing was this: your own unique fashionista touch was right there in her outfit, ya know? You might look over at your best friend's paper doll and silently think to yourself "Gee whiz, I can't believe she put THAT top with THOSE pants". Out loud, of course, you'd say to your best friend "That's neat" or "That looks good" -- because much as you didn't love the ensemble, you loved your friend that much more and wanted to encourage her fashion experimentation. So you didn't insult. Instead, you might just say "Hey, try this top on her with those pants... See, awesome!"

I've always had a strong sense of my own style, and it's pretty J.Crew-ish --- clean-lined, simple, not a lot of frou-frou but with a touch of feminine. Nowadays, though, I am navigating the treacherous waters of trying to dress well as a young-at-heart 50-something. Like so many of my friends, I'm walking a tightrope: I want to dress fashionably and with a classic yet fresh look, but I do NOT want to make the dreadful mistake of being one of those moms who tries to wear clothes that are too young for me. This is far easier said than done. When your birthday says 50-something, your heart, soul and self-image don't necessarily keep pace, and those cute little low-rise jeans still look awfully cute on the hanger. That's where all of you JCA's and Polyvore come in, and why I so love this newfound hobby of keeping up with your blogs and your Polyvore sets. You are the paper dollers of your generation, ladies. You put together your ensembles with such care that I can practically FEEL those sharp scissors in your hands trimming the white edges off the beautiful clothes. I look at your Polyvore sets and your wonderfully descriptive blogs (verbal paper dolls, truly). And I learn. And I remember. :-)

Thank you. I hope these floating flower petal words find some of you.



  1. I am always glad to welcome a fellow tarheel to the blogsphere. I look forward to following you!

  2. Welcome to the world of blogging, and to an entire universe of new friendships.

  3. Welcome! Happy to see another J Crew addict join the party!

  4. Hello! As another JCA balancing near that 50 mark - it brought a huge smile to my face to read your post on "paper dolls" as that is what I call Polyvore. Several months ago, my husband leaned over my shoulder to see what I had been spending so much time on, on the computer - and I answered him "paper dolls". So that is what he calls it.

    I look forward to reading your blog/ we seem to have much in common! Take care!

  5. Welcome to the neighborhood. Thanks for the shout out - you are so kind! Polyvore is just so addictive, isn't it? But very helpful. I haven't started the bad habit of Polyvoring potential purchases yet - I have enough trouble with the impulse control!! My daughter (almost 7) has played with PV once or twice. She is fascinated with it, as I would have been at that age.

    So looking forward to keeping up with you here!

  6. Beautiful. Nice sets. Up until Saturday, I didn't even know what sets were.
    My niece and I spent a nice couple of hours this weekend while she introduced me to the remarkable designs on Polyvore.
    Unlocking the mysteries of Polyvore.


Welcome! Your comments are invited and I look forward to seeing you here!