How to Dress Like a Corny Rich Grandma on a Cruise

From left to right: '40s summer babes; grammas cruisin'; amazing style via; grandmas getting their '60s bus tour on.
From left to right: ’40s summer babes; grammas cruisin’; amazing style via Adeline’s Attic Vintage; grandmas getting their ’60s bus tour on.

I don’t know exactly when my style solidified. The signs were all there early on: In high school, there was an extra-fuzzy angora sweater here, a pair of shoulder-dusting gold earrings there. In college, I thrifted constantly, keeping an extra eye out for items with sequins or giant shoulder pads. Over the years, several gargantuan gold necklaces in the shapes of bejeweled panthers and seagulls quietly appeared in my jewelry box. I thought nothing of it.

Yours truly in the early stages of a lifelong style obsession.
Yours truly in the early stages of a lifelong style obsession.

So it was not until two years ago, well into my adulthood, that I understood my whole…Look. I went to a party, and it happened that a girl I vaguely knew thought I was flirting with her boyfriend (I was not). Meaning to embarrass me, she said in a loud voice, “Oh, wow, I like your outfit so much, it’s so weird! You always look like like someone on the set of The Golden Girls, you know? Like a rich retired lady in Florida, haha.”

Blanche Devereaux from The Golden Girls, aka my patron saint.
Blanche Devereaux from The Golden Girls, aka my patron saint.

Friends, I know she meant to insult me, but…I have never been so flattered in my life. That’s me, I thought, blushing not with embarrassment, but with total pride. This girl sees what I’m going for! Finally, someone had named the way I put together outfits. Why hadn’t I realized it all along?

I often dress like a corny rich grandma on a cruise, and it is really, really fun. Grandmas have style. If you’ve ever hung out in a place with a lot of older ladies at once, you know their sartorial flair can be so good it almost physically wounds you as they walk by. My nana, for instance, is 90 and lives in Phoenix, and she and her friends go to yoga class and In ’N’ Out Burger and senior movie matinees every day dressed to KILL. They were raised in a more formal time, when, as Nana says, “People dressed up just to go to the corner store.” Because of this, most grandmas know a thing or two about dressing to impress, color coordination, and statement pieces, and they’ve rocked their particular looks…for decades. TEACH US YOUR WAYS, GRANDMAS.

These lessons are valuable to even the youngest among us, so try them out yourself! Why not? It’s summer and this style is all about looking like you’re on vacation—and it can look so fresh and unexpected on someone way younger (say, a solid 50 years younger) than a grandma! Let’s get cruisin’!

Golden Girls candle set via Etsy.
Golden Girls candle set via Etsy.

When it comes to Retired Resort Wear™, almost anything goes! There are just a few (and only a few) guidelines for pulling off your whole look so hard that other people fall at your feet begging you to take them thrifting next time you go. Here they are:

A.G.E: All Gold Everything

Clockwse from top left: Gold jaguar necklace, $11, Ebay; cuff and chain bangle bracelet, $18, ASOS; vintage big chain necklace, $28, Etsy; vintage mesh snake necklace, $30, Etsy.
Clockwse from top left: Gold jaguar necklace, $11, Ebay; cuff and chain bangle bracelet, $18, ASOS; vintage big chain necklace, $28, Etsy; vintage mesh snake necklace, $30, Etsy.

Grandmas relaxing and living in warmer climates wear gold. BIG GOLD. Period. Fake or real, shiny or matte, think of gold as the signature metal of this look, the must-have that links (ha) your whole outfit together. Bonus points if you can get your claws on something gold that is whimsically shaped like something else, such as an animal, flower, or everyday object. Sure, many grandmas wear silver jewelry, but we are rich grandmas on a cruise. For us, it’s gold or nothin’. When in doubt about whether your gold jewelry is cruise-worthy, think, Would a small child want to grab this necklace/play with these earrings? If the answer is yes: Great, you’re dressed.

Go Big or Go Home

Left: straw oversized floppy hat, $29, ASOS;  Top right: extra large woven basket tote, $45, Etsy. Bottom right: huge cat-eye sunglasses, $8, Forever 21
Left: straw oversized floppy hat, $29, ASOS. Top right: extra large woven basket tote, $45, Etsy. Bottom right: huge cat-eye sunglasses, $8, Forever 21.

Think of the biggest hat you own. Now mentally triple its size. That is the scale of the accessories we are looking for with our Retired Resort Wear. Giganticize everything—outlandish beach hats, enormous jewelry (especially around the wrists and neck), huge straw bags you could fit a toddler in, and HUMONGOUS sunglasses. Big hair? Oversized and obvious shoulder pads? Of course! The bigger the better!

’80s and ’40s—Thank You, Lordy

Top row: 1940s resort wear. Bottom row: 1980s color, gold, and big hair overload.
Top row: 1940s resort wear. Bottom row: 1980s color, gold, and big hair overload.

The ’80s and ’40s were very very good decades for Retired Resort Wear. The 1940s gave us drape-y elegance, peek-a-boo rompers, tropical prints, wicker handbags, and black-and-white movies where starlets cavorted in the surf in exotic locales. The ’80s gave us excess—huge gold jewelry, huge hair, huge shoulder pads, huge amounts of wild color. If you’re thrifting or shopping for vintage (or vintage-inspired) pieces, keep the ’80s and ’40s in the back of your mind as your Decade Style Guides. These were some of the years when our grandmas truly outdid themselves when getting dressed, and they’ve been expanding on what they mastered back then ever since.

Get Loud

Clockwise from top left: Amber Rose nailin’ this look dead; Tropical tank dress, $19.80, Forever 21, Leopard print challis romper, $48.50, Torrid, Matte Lipstick in Shocking Pink Intense, $6, NYX.
Clockwise from top left: Amber Rose nailin’ this look dead; Tropical tank dress, $20, Forever 21; leopard-print challis romper, $48.50, Torrid; Matte Lipstick in Shocking Pink Intense, $6, NYX.

The corny rich grandma on a cruise is not subtle. She practically hits you over the head with her here-for-the-party! aura. She delights in showing a bit more skin than strictly necessary—you might catch gold chains tumbling into a very low-necked shirt, or see a large swath of back in an open-backed ’n’ breezy shirt. She does not shy away from color—she swims in color, especially vivid reds, oranges, turquoises, greens, and purples. She appreciates and cultivates a collection of large, bold prints—animal print! Big tropical flowers splashed onto a solid background! Colorblocking, warm-up and jogging suits in brilliant hues, and hot pink or red lipstick to match—or clash!—with your outfit!

Tiny polka dots, dainty jewelry, nude lipstick, and subtle flower prints?


Oh, just another rich grandma in Vegas. Note the deep neckline held together with a giant gold alligator pin, the enormous glasses, and the lipstick worn off from several trips to the casino buffet.
Oh, just another rich grandma in Vegas. Note the deep neckline held together with a giant gold alligator pin, the enormous glasses, and the lipstick worn off from several trips to the casino buffet.

Dressing for a vacation is one thing, but dressing for a vacation that lasts forever (aka retirement) is QUITE another. No one will be more relaxed, comfortable, and cool than you this summer, in your breezy prints and wild colors, and you’ll bring the party with you wherever you go! Get ready for grandmas in the grocery store giving you subtle nods of approval, and for people constantly asking you the story behind your V. BOLD accessories! Meet you on the lanai! ♦

How to Turn Any Button-Up Shirt Into a Crop Top


CROP TOP WEATHER IS FINALLY HERE! And I feel totally justified in using all-caps to say so because it really is that exciting (at least for people like me who live in places where it’s freezing for, like, at least six months out of the year). To celebrate the arrival of warmer temps, I’m going to show you how to transform any button-up shirt into a summery tie-front crop top. It’s super simple and super cute. By the time you finish reading this post, you’ll probably want to do this to every shirt you own!

What you’ll need:


  • A button-up shirt that is *slightly* loose-fitting

  • Straight pins
  • Tailors’ chalk or a pen or marker
  • Scissors
  • A sewing machine or a needle and thread

How to do it:

Step One


The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out where you want to crop your top. I like my crop tops to hit at my natural waistline, but you can make yours as short or long as you’d like! Try your shirt on and place a straight pin on each side of the shirt, roughly where you’d like your desired crop-top length to be. I’m going to refer to these pins as the waistline pins from now on.

Step Two


Button up your shirt and fold it in half, making sure the side and shoulder seams are lined up as neatly as possible. While it’s still folded in half, lay the entire shirt out on a flat surface.

Step Three


With a ruler, measure about a half-inch down (toward the bottom of the shirt) from the waistline pin and mark it with another straight pin, which I’m going to call the hemline pin.

Step Four


Starting at the hemline pin, use your chalk, marker, or pen to sketch out a shape similar to the one above. It should start as a straight line that eventually curves down and toward the inner corners of the button placket, which will form your crop top’s front ties.

Step Five


Once you have the hemline sketched out, use your scissors to cut along that line through both layers of fabric.

Step Six


Unfold the shirt and you should have something that looks like this! Now, some finishing touches…

Step Seven


Remove any buttons that are below the line where you’ve cropped your top. You won’t need them any longer because they’re on the ties.

Step Eight


Flip the shirt over and cut away any excess fabric that is hanging below the crop-top line on the back side of the shirt—and be very careful not to cut off your front ties in the process!

Step Nine


To finish, turn your shirt inside out, fold over and pin the raw hem, and sew the hem with a straight stitch. (Instead of sewing the hem, you could also try using a seam sealant on the raw edges.)


All done! Now just tie and go. ♦

Because You Can: All Natural

Musically, I am alive for the howling banshees, the witches, the smoky-voiced crooners whose songs help me feel less alone. Grouper, FKA twigs, and Kate Bush all interpret the natural world differently, but they each look to Earth’s bounty as the commonality that brings us all together. I am inspired by the way these artists position themselves in the world writ large, in both fantastical and practical ways; they use their visionary imaginations to craft worlds, but also reference that world so concretely in order to bring it to life. I love the idea of taking these themes and expressing them through clothing—externalizing your inspirations is hugely grounding!

Grouper, aka Liz Harris, is an ambient musician. Her music recalls the feeling of wandering through a haunted forest. Her atmospheric songs are places just as much as they are music. Listening to her album “Dragging A Dead Deer Up a Hill”, you can close your eyes and feel enveloped in the skeletal branches of haunted trees and the scent of moss hanging in the twilight air.

The cover of Grouper's Hold/Sick, 2010.
The cover of Grouper’s Hold/Sick, 2010.

Liz Harris is also an accomplished visual artist. She created most of the artwork for her albums, which are typically hand-drawn black-and-white patterns. Many have a very earthy quality to them, like the shapes found in flora. Her motifs feature leaves, branches, and marble slating, along with ethereal photographs that capture Liz Harris’ monochromatic interpretation of the natural world.
Clockwise from top left: Jumpsuit, $50, ZARA; ring, $35, HVNTER GVTHERER; top, $30, NOCTEX; dress, $70, ModCloth.

I love putting together outfits based on the way the music sounds. The idea is to create a world based on the music’s mood, and translate that through clothing in order to feel more deeply connected with it. Grouper is perfect for this idea because her atmospheric music has such a strong imaginative component—you can project your own visions onto her otherworldly tunes. Channel Grouper’s ambient style with a simple, colorless palette and botanical-looking prints that appear to build upon themselves.

Kate Bush, 1979, by PA via ITV News.
Kate Bush, 1979, by PA via ITV News.

Kate Bush utilizes nature as a living character in her stories. Her songs are not autobiographical—she is a storyteller who weaves complex narratives that could fill tomes, though she manages to fit them into songs just a few minutes long. Her later albums, like Hounds of Love and Aerial, are Kate’s homages to the grandness of the world around her. The natural word is just as much a breathing entity as her fictional heroines, with moods just as complex. And there are so many moods to choose from! “The Sensual World,” the title track from the album of the same name, imagines nature with its own blossoming . The latter half of Hounds of Love is a small collection of loosely related songs called the Ninth Wave Symphony. It tells the story of being lost at sea, but the water as an element tells its own story, too: In “Under Ice,” it is a frozen, oppressive thing; in “Waking the Witch,” her trembling voice climbs laboriously out of the ocean.

Stylistically, imagining nature as a character means you get to be fun and inspired with the way you dress. Kate Bush took the natural world and used it to tell a story, and you can do this, too. Themes that call upon the four elements—earth, air, fire, and water—work well for these purposes, as do references to Kate’s fantastic ’70s/’80s look. She loved to dress as opulent as the characters in her stories, with long gowns, bell sleeves, and sparkling embellishments. You can find lots of vintage ’70s dresses with wide sleeves on Etsy. Don’t forget the poppy-red lipstick!

Clockwise from top left: deep V dress, $50, ModCloth; white dress, $66, Urban Outfitters; coral dress, $15, Etsy; poppy duster, similar from $21, ASOS.
Clockwise from top left: deep V dress, $50, ModCloth; white dress, $66, Urban Outfitters; coral dress, $15, Etsy; poppy duster, similar from $21, ASOS.

We often think of nature in terms of plant and trees and forests, but there’s an entire other ecosystem that often goes forgotten: the desert! I picture endless sand dunes, brilliant sunlight, and glittering gold tones against a bright blue sky. The desert has a stunning duality: the sweltering heat during the day is balanced by cool, breezy nights. No one captures this better than FKA twigs.

FKA twigs photographed for The FADER by Charlie Engman.
FKA twigs photographed for The FADER by Charlie Engman.

Her music has such a dry quality—her smoky, barren voice is enhanced by stripped-down crackling beats. Sartorially, she calls to mind the extreme fires of the desert, wearing sandy earth tones and flowing garments that seem to catch the arid wind. Of course, twigs grounds it all with giant jewelry and a sizzling little black crop top!

Clockwse from top left:
Clockwise from top left: necklace, $32, Urban Outfitters; black dress, $40, ASOS; shirt, $17, ASOS; skirt, $50, ZARA.

Transport yourself to the desert plains by wearing dusty colors and pairing them with clothes that resemble prickly plants like cactus and aloe. Rich metallics offer a nice contrast that mimics the intensity of the sun. If you want to go full-on twigs, take a solid foundation of black dresses or cropped pants, then pile on the desert vibes. Stick to clothes that are simple and freeing, and you’ll be the magical desert sprite of your dreams! ♦

Stars in My Eyes

How to Wear Flowers in Your Hair


This is a simple DIY for quickly dressing up your hair with fresh flowers, which I’d recommend for prom, a graduation party, or any time you want to feel like a nature goddess/woodland fairy/garden nymph. The style will hold the flowers securely in place but is easy enough to undo if the blooms get droopy.

What you’ll need:

what you'll need

  • The flowers of your dreams, freshly picked or purchased in a bouquet

  • Bobby pins (optional)

How to do it:

Step One:

step one

Near your center part (or wherever you want to place your flowers), make a roughly two-inch section of hair. I started with hair that was freshly washed, conditioned, and blown out on my blow dryer’s hottest setting. Clean hair is optional, but for this style it helps to avoid oils, serums, or slippery products.

Step Two:

step two

Separate the section of hair into three strands.

Step Three:

step three

Braid the three strands, starting from your hair line and stopping when you have about two to three inches of braided hair. Pull the braid tight to your head (this will be the cradle for your flowers!), and leave the pieces at the braid’s end loose.

Step Four:


Break off a piece of flower with some stem attached.

Step Five:

step five

Slide the flower stem-first into the braid’s center root.

Step Six:

step six

Adjust the stem so that it is covered by the braid or by loose hair behind the braid. If the stem is still poking through, or your hair doesn’t securely hold the flower in place or stay braided on its own, you can discreetly bobby pin the stem, or make another braid over it.


Repeat the same steps on any other part of your head where you want to tuck a cluster of flowers. Congratulations: You look as fresh as a daisy! ♦

How to Make Your Own Fake-Fur Sandals

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.45.23 PM

Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of Lizzie McGuire, but lately I’ve been so taken by fashion of the early 2000s. I’m ready for the revival of blue tinted sunglasses, Sketchers, and Cam’ron’s plush pink headband. If you’ve been feeling those looks, too, you can easily turn boring old shoes into glam fuzzy sandals that would be especially cute for prom. I’ll show you how!

What you’ll need:


  • Paper

  • A pen or pencil
  • Scissors/shears
  • Fake-fur fabric in the color of your choice (I used one similar to this.)
  • A thrifted pair of high-heeled shoes or sandals, or a pair you don’t mind gluing fur to
  • Strong glue (I used Beacon 527 Multi-Use Glue.)
  • A blow dryer (optional)

How to do it:

Step One:


Line an edge of your paper up with the top edge of the sandal’s strap, and wrap the paper from one side of the sole over the full length of the strap. With the paper, you’re going to be making a pattern that will give you a rough estimate of the top of the sandal’s shape and length.

Step Two:


Use your pen or pencil to make marks on the paper that correspond to the top and bottom edges of each side of the shoe, starting and ending at both sides of the sole, then draw lines that connect those marks.

Tip: It’s better to make the pattern a little too big and size it down later than to make it too small!

Step Three:


Cut out your pattern.

Step Four:


Place your pattern on the fake-fur fabric and cut around its perimeter, then do it again. You’ll end up with two pieces:


Step Five:


Place a fur piece over the straps of one shoe. It should line up with the soles on both sides—if it’s too long, adjust by cutting it down until it’s the right size. Now repeat the same step on the other shoe. (Optional: Blow-dry the fur to make it stand up all fuzzy and ridiculous!)

Step Six:


Fold over the short sides of one fake-fur piece an inch and glue them down; then fold over one of the long sides a half-inch and glue it down, too. Repeat the same steps on the other piece. (You’re about to use a lot of glue, so make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area.)

Step Seven:

Apply glue all over the straps of both shoes, like so:



Step Eight:

Carefully place one piece of fur over your first sandal, so that it lines up with the straps, and then firmly press it into place. Repeat with the other piece on your other shoe.


Don’t they look SO CUTE?! Resist the urge to try them on for a couple hours, so the glue can dry completely—then you’re done and ready for fun! ♦

Because You Can: Wild Out

Animal-print clothing can be associated with all sorts of qualities, depending on your point of view: An attention-getting leopard-print dress might be considered tacky or garish to some people, while to others, it could evoke a sense of luxurious elegance. Other people might just find it sexy, seductive and a bit thrilling. Whichever way you interpret the pattern for yourself, one thing is certain: Wear this shit loud and proud.

Animal print is the nemesis of normcore, the archenemy of athleisure, and the bête noir of the basic. It has been embraced by starlets, punks, goths, pin-ups and anyone else who tends to favor dressing up on the more adventurous side of life. Though wearing animal prints is a timeless trend that has been popular for decades, not everyone feels like they’re able to pull it off. I’m here to tell you that you totally can! If you’ve been curious, yet a teeny bit scared about adding some leopard print into your life, the time to hesitate is through.


In the ’60s and ’70s, actresses, singers, and other glamorous ladies had very stylish approaches to wearing primal prints. Eartha Kitt, left, wore a long, leopard-print dress with a slit and a matching coat and accessorized with an actual leopard. VERY FITTING, since she played Catwoman in the Batman television series. Both the First Lady of Fashion, Jackie Kennedy, top right, and the actress Sophia Loren, bottom right, were seen riding around in cars, wearing coats that would make any leopard print–lover jealous.


Blondie’s Debbie Harry, left, traded in her punk T-shirts to strike a coquettish pose in a leopard-print jumpsuit during a photoshoot in 1979. Dynasty’s Joan Collins, top right, embodied ’80s excess by wearing diamonds, fur sleeves, and a leopard bustier. And in 2009, the vintage goddess and burlesque artist Dita Von Teese, bottom right, modeled a red Jean-Charles de Castelbajac number that featured two leopard heads facing each other on the shoulders.


There are certain sitcom characters who constantly don leopard print onscreen, particularly Peg Bundy (Katey Sagal, left) in Married With Children and Fran Fine (Fran Drescher, right) in The Nanny. While these characters live very different lives, they have a pivotal thing in common: Both women are unforgettable, opinionated scene-stealers. It made sense for the shows’ stylists to highlight an element as vivacious as leopard print as recurring parts of their respective costumes.


Recently, a brand new animal-print fan was introduced to the small screen. Every single episode of Empire featured the character Cookie Lyons (Taraji P. Henson) in a parade of fierce outfits, including a collection of leopard print in a rainbow of colors, sparkly, sequined tiger stripes, and even a snakeskin blazer. THANK GAWD FOR COOKIE. We’ve been needing someone like her to come along. She’s a badass matriarch and a businesswoman who gets things done and doesn’t take crap from nobody—the perfect arbiter of leopard print. She even looked impeccable coming out of jail in a white fur coat, spotted bodycon dress and a high ponytail. Dreamy.


Nicki Minaj has been seen strutting her stuff in a full leopard suit, a spotted bustier with matching hair, and a cute snakeskin mini. All three looks incorporated animalistic elements in their own ways.


Just because leopard reigns over the animal-print kingdom, amazing cow patterns shouldn’t be ignored. The blogger Jasmin Rodriguez of Vintage Vandalizm , left, wore this adorable skater style cow-print dress by Kenley Collins, while Rita Ora, center, rocked a cowgirl look in a cow-print jumpsuit and fringe boots. One of the other dream items for my closet is the perfect cow-print miniskirt, entirely inspired by the character Alabama Worley (played by Patricia Arquette, right) in True Romance.

Now that you’ve got a little bit of animal inspiration in ya, let’s figure out what to wear!

Far left: Plus-size ankle pants, $43, Eloquii. Center: leopard shirt, $84, ASOS; Far right, from top: leopard flats, $55, ModCloth; crossbody bag, $34, Nordstrom.

If you’re not ready to take a cue from the advanced moves of Eartha Kitt and dress in head-to-toe matching leopard print, I won’t blame you. Instead, try a single animal-print item, like leopard pants or a spotted button-down. Or wear all black, and let your sartorial wild side shine through accessorizes like leopard flats or a tiger-striped purse.

Far left: bikini top, $44.50, Torrid. Center, top to bottom: jelly iPhone 5 case, $9, ASOS; jelly sandals, $18, ASOS. Far right: monokini, $14.50, Sears.

Poolside leopard looks are a good way to try it out your animal instincts, especially if you usually play it safe with a black swimsuit. If you’d rather subtly accessorize the suit you’ve already got with wild spots, leopard up a phone case or simple jellies!

Far left: shift dress, $45, ASOS. Center: sleeveless shirt, $60, Topshop. Far right, top to bottom: cat-ear sunglasses, $14.50, Torrid; temporary lip appliques, $10,

For those of you who have no fear: Here are three looks you should definitely try! First, get loud in a brightly colored leopard-print shift dress or top, like the ones above. Second, double up on your print by wearing an animal-print shirt with matching sunglasses. Bonus points if you get some with cat ears! Finally, make your lips leopard print! You’ll do both me and Nicki Minaj proud, pussycat. ♦

Uh, What Should I Wear to Prom?

The school-dance canon offers an abundance of practical answers about what to wear to prom or other formal dances: stick to something classic, find a dress that flatters your body, wear pantyhose (hahahaha, jk, nobody says that anymore). But what if you don’t have the money to spend on a dress that you’re only gonna wear once? What’ll you put all your crap in? What if you want to go buck wild and dress in a bonkers theme?!

Hello! We (Gabby and Marie, prom experts) are here to help you with those kinds of prom-related queries! We’re going to cover every potential prom-style scenario we can think of—accessories-related quandaries, how to match your look with your date’s or pal’s (if you want to), how to find a prom outfit you can wear again…how to choose your dancing shoes! If you’re going to a formal dance this spring and need sartorial support: Read on.

What if I don’t have much money to spend on a dress?

Gabby: Some prom dresses are so expensive that I’m shocked they don’t come with a voucher for free party-bus rental and complimentary sparkling apple cider. Formal gowns have some of the worst cost-per-wear ratios! Like, a $60 pair of jeans strikes me as kind of expensive, but then I think about how I’ll wear those jeans at least twice a week for a few years. It’s unlikely that you’ll wear a gown more than once. On the other hand, there is a good chance the pictures taken of you in that prom dress will live on in your parent’s living room (or at least on the internet), so in that sense it’s like you’re wearing it…FOREVER. Most of the looks here won’t set you back more than $100, $200 tops. Vintage and thrifted dresses tend to be even cheaper options, or you could spend zero dollars and borrow a dress from a friend who already did the whole prom thing.

Ugh, what is formal attire, even—like, what vibe should I be going for?

Gabby: Due to the overwhelming influence of the Disney Princess Industrial Complex, you may feel pressure to wear a big fancy ball gown to your prom. I wore one, and—I’m glad I did! I’d always browsed 1950s prom dresses online for fun, so when my prom came around I decided that it was time to wear one. I mean, the layers of tulle obstructed me from walking, which was a bit of a safety hazard, but I really didn’t know when I’d have another chance to wear a dress like that. I cared much more about finding the perfect vintage dress than finding a date:

World-renowned heartthrob, left, with her prom date.
World-renowned heartthrob, left, with her prom date.

I bought my dress at a vintage store in rural Pennsylvania for about $75; the zipper was broken and it needed to be hemmed, so I ended up paying a tailor another $50 to fix those problems. I wore some thrifted earrings and a pair of glittery heels I got at T.J. Maxx for like $17. But dresses are most definitely not the only way to go. You can wear whatever you want! Unlike high school, THERE ARE NO RULES when it comes to your prom ensemble.

What if my look is butch or androgynous?

Marie: If you want to be dapper as all get-out, you could splurge on a tux from a place like HerTuxedo, which tailors its suits to women’s proportions, or an awesome tuxedo jacket like this one and go cheaper on the pants and shirt. Fourteen carries formal jackets, pants, and shirts that you could match with dressy clothes you’ve already got in your closet, and HauteButch has dress shirts that are so fance you wouldn’t even need a jacket. (If you go sans jacket, adding some suspenders would be killer.)

Left to right:  Leighton Meester, Lea DeLaria,  and Samantha Ronson.
Left to right: Leighton Meester, Lea DeLaria, and Samantha Ronson.

You could also look for a vintage suit or tux and have it tailored to you (Fourteen has a list of a few LGBTQ-friendly tailors around the U.S.).

In terms of accessorizin’, I love these printed bow ties from St. Harridan, and HerTuxedo has cute bow ties and cravats, too (with matching handkerchiefs!).

What if I just want to be comfortable?

Gabby: Maybe your goal is to wear something that helps you achieve maximum danceability. In that case, might I suggest a formal jumpsuit?

Left to right: V-neck jumpsuit, $30, Motel Rocks; side-slit jumpsuit, $88, Nasty Gal; one-shoulder jumpsuit, $68, ASOS.

These jumpsuits have got all the glamour of a gown, plus the comfiness of pants. If you’re not already sold, just let this girl or this girl convince you.

Wait—could I maybe wear my prom outfit again?

Gabby: I think a gown paired with a denim or leather jacket is a classic, albeit not always practical, look you can get away with wearing in non-prom settings. But if getting your money’s worth from your prom outfit is a big factor for you, then forgoing a traditional ball gown might be your best bet. A jumpsuit, mini dress, or fancy top-and-skirt/pants set that you can mix and match later with other, more casual clothes are great choices. Coordinated separates sets especially are looks you can recycle without having to worry that someone will ask you, “HEY DIDN’T YOU WEAR THAT OUTFIT TO PROM?” (Though people who think it’s weird that you’d want to reinterpret your prom look outside a hotel ballroom are likely just haters who envy your ability to exude a party-ready elegance at all times.)

The internet has a truly amazing selection of dressy, coordinated separates right now:

Left to right: Quilted bralet, $28.50, and pleated metallic skirt, $69, ASOS; skirt set, $45, Pixie Market; flower-print bralet, $40, pants, $63, and blazer, $109, ASOS.

These sets are from ASOS and Pixie Market, but Missguided and Topshop also have tons.

Hero Status: Medusa

by Kelly.
Illustration by Kelly.

“I am writing as an ugly one for the ugly ones,” Virginie Despentes begins her 2006 book, King Kong Girl. “The old hags, the dykes, the frigid, the un-fucked, the unfuckables, the neurotics, the psychos, for all those girls who don’t get a look in the universal market of consumable chick.” I read the book in 2013, the same year I was devouring classical Western mythology through writers like Ovid. At the same time, Rookie writer Arabelle Sicardi was building and blogging what she called “girl monster methodology,” an exploration in terrifying beauty and opting for vulnerability and monstrosity over classical prettiness. It was the year I found women who were writing about and representing what I was always looking for: in King Kong girls, in monster methodology, and in Medusa.

The myth of Medusa goes thusly: She was a beautiful woman who garnered many suitors, but after being raped by Poseidon in Athena’s sacred temple, Athena decided to curse Medusa with snakes for hair. The legend asserts that she was so horrific-looking, men turned to stone when they looked at her. Medusa, for me, began to represent the double-edged sword I’ve been faced with when I try to understand beauty. When she was gorgeous and sexually desirable, it only led her to be cursed with an ugliness so terrible it killed men in her path. She represented how female beauty can only exist in the strictest of ways, and when it fails, ugliness, and therefore monstrosity, is the inevitable outcome.

I’m not sure what kind of girl I am. I wish I could say I knew for sure—that I could put a name to my feelings like Despentes and Arabelle have. But for the entirety of my teen years, I sincerely thought one thing: I was not a pretty girl. In fact, I was sure I was definitively ugly. And while I possess what is, by mainstream standards, a celebrated body (white, thin, cis), the moment I grew out of childhood I became someone whose existence was deemed unacceptable by an influx of seemingly invisible standards. I failed to make the smallest marks: I felt like my hair was wrong; my face was always over-flushed and embarrassed; boys didn’t kiss me, and when they did, they had kissed everyone; girls didn’t want to be me.

In reality, my conviction of my ugliness wasn’t unusual. I was a teenager poking my way around my body, sex, and beauty, all of which is almost aggressively normal, but somehow my failures to be traditionally pretty and desirable made me feel grotesque. But the truth is that every girl has some Ugly in her. It’s because we’re constantly taught not to be. If the girl is acceptable by the standards of the world (and largely of men) she isn’t Ugly, and so it manifests in the corners of our minds and our hearts. The ugliness of Ugly Girls ends up an umbrella for everything we’re not supposed to be: loud, messy, clingy, smart, queer, unshaven, fat, etc. “I think monsters trump the binary of smart and pretty and instead adopt power as the ultimate makeover,” wrote Durga Chew-Bose on ’90s teen movies for Cleo Journal. “Maybe I’m just living in a post Nicki [Minaj] ‘Monster’-verse era where I think it’s important to fully inhabit all of our many contradictions and missteps, and if doing so, we as women become so-called monsters, why not?”

I wish someone had told me when I was 13 that it was OK to be a monster, because the truth is, you’re going to feel like one a little bit, some more than others. And everyone will tell you you’re not one, or that you’re bound to be pretty eventually. But what I wanted was for someone to tell me not just that I was fine just the way I was, but that there was something more to attain than just prettiness. That the other end of the spectrum, ugliness, could be a source of strength, a way to turn the men who could merely objectify me into stone simply by existing in a way that didn’t meet their sexual expectations. “I am writing therefore as a woman incapable of attracting male attention, satisfying male desire, or being satisfied with a place in the shade,” wrote Despentes of her ugliness. “It’s from here that I write, as an unattractive but ambitious woman, drawn to money I make myself, drawn to power, the power to do and to say no, drawn to the city rather than the home, excited by experience and not content with just hearing about it from others.”

I can’t tell anyone, especially people with bodies maligned in ways that mine will never be, to reject sexiness and embrace ugliness. But for me, I love this ever-growing space. I needed Arabelle’s monsters and the King Kong girls and Courtney Love screaming “Is she ugly?” over and over on “Pretty On the Inside,” like a war cry. It’s not a place of self-love and it’s not a place of self-hate—it’s between the two. It’s basking in the feeling of being perceived as a monster. It’s a celebration of all of your unruly parts, the parts you keep untamed, the parts you don’t have figured out. If anything, it’s an attempt to escape the scale of fuckability that you’re automatically placed on as a young woman. “Beauty is, in some way, boring,” the art historian Umberto Eco wrote in his book On Ugliness. “Ugliness is unpredictable and offers an infinite range of possibility. Beauty is finite, ugliness is infinite like God.” ♦