Well, I gather from the chit-chat that a certain fashion subject has been declared off-limits by the management (Dea forfend I should even mention the word!) because a lot of emigree patronettes from a strange province called The Pit have all sorts of complex objections on philosophical and moral grounds. If an newcomer may be permitted an observation, I notice that all those pettes, the ones with the objections, I mean, are also hatless. So I thought I might bring up another important fashion subject - millinery - in the hopes that it is both of interest and completely un-controversial as well.
We here in Kadoria put great stock in hats: a Kadorian girl would not be seen in public without a hat any more than without any upper garment at all, so important an article of clothing it is. Don't all you hatless pettes feel absolutely, well, um, vulnerable and exposed? A Kadorian girl has a large hat wardrobe, as a rule, and can quite easily spend a whole afternoon, (or even a day) looking at dozens of new hats without finding exactly the right one!
As McCall's junior fashion editor, it is my duty to educate all you hatless pettes from strange provinces on millinery matters through a series of didactic and racinating images from our fashion archives. So here is the first one - a pette in the opening phase of the complex ritual of Choosing the Right Hat, a sort of a dance between pette and shop girl. (This could be the interior of any milliner's in any city in Kadoria.) First rule: one never selects the first hat proffered: it may be perfect in all respects save one: it is the first. But I must whizz, more images later, I shall be late for my rendezvous with the blonde of the enormous green inflatable seahorse. (Remind me to show you her picture as well.)
Darling, no fashion subject is off-limits. We are all agreed that in Aristasia it is uncontentious for reasons already explored, so you can wear what you like and talk about it too! What we have stopped discussing is the rights and wrongs of the subject in the Pit. However, hats are much more important. A girl can appear anywhere without a stole, but hardly without a hat.
I'm gonna be a shady lady bird
I got an awful lot to learn
But if you tell me that my heart's on fire
I'm gonna let it burn
I'm gonna be a shockin' mockin' bird
I'm gonna mingle with the best
I'm gonna find my heart's desire:
I'm gonna rob the nest
Just like Little Miss Muffet
Eating her whey and curd
When I try to act tough
I frighten away the bird
I'm gonna be a slummin' hummin' bird
I'm gonna pass along the word
I'm gonna have my fun and never tire
And if the technique seems absurd
That's because I've never been a shady lady bird
[Instrumental, featuring Benita Goodmaid on clarinet]
I'm gonna be a shady lady bird
I hope the payment is deferred
Because if I fly back to my perch
And find the worst has not occurred
That's because I've never been a shady lady bird.
Dateline: 25 November 1951
Of course in Telluria blondes can have dark hair and brunettes can have light hair, but I fancy in a book they would be drawn symbolically very often. So I am thinking the story is set in a school like mine (Maryhill County Grammar) which is the school here the Aristasian Embassy and is mixed for blondes and brunettes, though the brunettes do not treat us like that.
By the way, if any pettes in Pit-england want to come to our school on a Sunday, they should plip us a note.
Welcome Rose - but are you a blondie or a brunette? And might the reason for your unalcoholicity be extreme youth? (Not that that seems to bother young Ellhedrine). A cream soda, dear bar-blonde. I'm afraid we haven't any ice cream, though the way things are going, who knows?
P.S.: Her name is Irene and she does private-duty nursing, too. You can reach her at the Gotham Nurses' Bureau at MUrray Hill 8-2000.
Tear-filled love and gratitude that there is one place where a girl can still be tender,
And thank you for putting me in the cab. I think you must be very good at explaining things, as my brunette Mummie was really quite reasonable, all things considered. I mean I won't say I didn't get a little smack for being so squiffy. I mean, not squiffy really. Mostly just tired. It was late, and, of course that was the other thing 'Nettie was miffed about.
Gosh, I did like those Pink Ladies. But I think I like Ovaltine more. Of course I'll do everything you say. I shan't wiggle and I shall study hard, and I shan't pop in here too often. And I'll see you at Milchers occashe. How utterly ripping!
Can I rest my head on your shoulder again? Ovaltine makes one almost as tired as Pink ladies, you know.
Oh Barbi - Barbi, there you are. Do come and join us. We aren't
being private. You are my other frabjous-day pette, because you called
me exotic. Oh, Miss Barbi, I don't think any one has called me exotic
before. I must be truthful and tell you I am not from the East at all.
The furthest I have ever travelled is Brightsea on our annual holiday.
Brightsea is wonderful, and I just love it, but it isn't travel,
is it. I mean, it doesn't broaden the mind or anything, unless you count
the cheeky postcards in the Gift Shops that look a lot like the ones in
the Pin-Up Room.
But I was called Ellhedrine after the old song. You know:
Ellhedrine, I love you now the nights are long,You know the song, and the wonderful romantic story of Ellhedrine and Princess Merevendra. But all that has been told here ages ago.
More than I have ever loved before. . .
But really, Barbi, do you know what my surname is? Joans! Yes, Ellhedrine Joans. Isn't that a let-down? Blonde Mummie says Joans is a very respectable name, and so it is, and I do want to be respectable. But can't one be respectable and romantic too? I don't mean kissy-romantic, I mean exotic, magical, adventurous romantic?
Oh, Miss Barbara! I am so stupid, stupid, stupid! I just talk and talk. Now I've told Barbi that I am just Ellhedrine Joans from a little Quirinelle town who goes to Brightsea for her holiday. Why did I say it? Barbi! The only pette who ever called me exotic. I've broken the bubble. She'll never think me exotic again. Oh what shall I do with myself!
I am sorry. I didn't mean to cry. You see it isn't getting squiffy. 'Nettie said I was all over-emotional last time because I'd been drinking. But I've only had Ovaltine, haven't I? Nobody gets squiffy on Ovaltine.
But then nobody but me makes such a silly fool of herself. This is the worst night of my life. No it isn't. It's the best. You said you adored me, didn't you? That's what you said.
Well, I shall go now, as I promised, and take my school books to bed. Well, the Ithelia, anyway. Aren't I lucky. Half the girls hate studying the Ithelia, but I'd be reading it even if it wasn't for the exams.
Oh, I do like being among people who love the Ithelia too. I'll recite some more next time, Barbi. Promise.
All the birds of the air She hath fashioned,
All the beasts of the forest She hath made
In the quaint* constitution of every flower
Is the craft of her working displayed
She hath riven &c.
She hath raised up the mountains for pillars
To sustain the bright heavens above;
She hath clothèd the earth in a raiment of green
For a sign of Her bounteous love
She hath riven &c.
And ourselves that are fallen from Heaven
Through the folly of our most vicious** will;
She hath shaped a sweet place of abundance on earth
And doth feed us and bide with us still.
She hath riven &c.
Without end is Her might and Her wisdom,
Without end is Her love's consuming flame;
All the earth gives Her praise and the heavens on high
And the thunder re-echoes Her name.
Now, let us hear all of you this time!
She hath riven the earth from the Heaven
She hath parted the water from the land
And the sun in the morning that riseth on high
Is sustained by the strength of Her hand
Darlings, I do hope you enjoyed that. Unusual, I know, but then we do like to encompass the whole of Aristasia here, do we not?
Oh, I should explain that this is quite an old hymn, ultimately based on the Scriptural passage: "She hath riven the earth from the Heaven, the Spirit my Mother, and the turbulent waters, hath She not cleft them apart?". Two of the words in it may seem a little strange, so here are some notes:
* Quaint: Skilful, knowledgeable: related to can, canny, cunning, know and ultimately (in Aristasia) to High Cairen quinya and (in Telluria) to Greek gnosis and Sanskrit jnana, a root-group meaning light and pure Intellect. These words are also related to "queen" and to a now-obscene term for the female genitalia. This group denotes the close connexion between the feminine principle and pure solar Intellect, the faculty which prehends Truth (as opposed to mere earthbound reason which is the reflected lunar light and in Telluria is denoted by the group moon-mental-man).
** Vicious: "Prone to vice", not "cruelly violent".
With very much love,
There. Oh, don't look so tense, darling. You aren't in trouble, you know. Now, here is your drink. I already ordered it. Don't be too disappointed, child, but tonight it will be strictly Ovaltine. Your Pink Lady days should be left behind for now, with your university days just ahead. The other night, well, yes, I am the one who paid your cab fare and sent you safely home to your anxious Mummies. I called them first, told them of your condition, and assured them I would take care of everything. I stayed at the bar until they called me to inform me that you were snugly tucked in bed.
But that isn't what I called you over here to say. I wanted to remind you of your first visit in the Cocktail Bar, do you remember it? Do you remember how I said that I adored your sweet, innocent, ingénue self because you were such a sweet, innocent ingénue? Well, darling, it seems to me you are trying your best to rid yourself of the very qualities that make me adore you so. Pink ladies. That silly wiggle you tried out on the way over to sit with me. Talk of more lip rouge. Well, that's not so bad, in itself, of course, but, darling, don't you know that innocence is not a lack of experience, but experience is a lack of innocence. Don't go off and lose what I have come to love in you most. I won't adore you any more should you become worldly. Quite the reverse, m'dear, quite the reverse. Now, go on home where you belong and study some more. We will see what you can make of yourself as a scholar in Trent. Above all, you must be very good, dear Ellhedrine, for I will be looking in on you from time to time when my research brings me to the University.
I know that I've explored this issue before, but I am truly coming to the conclusion that since I am, as Alice said, describing blondes with amazing accuracy, "terribly sensitive, sentimental, always trying to be good, never playing pranks, adoring their mistresses and dreadfully upset by the mildest disapproval" (well, overlook the playing pranks part and there I am in a nutshell!), that I have nothing to fear in Aristasia. Oh...I love you all so! I wish that I could hug and kiss each and everyone of you and tell you, really tell you, how much you mean to me...how your sophisticated, feminine, frolicking spirits fill me with delight, warmth, and hope...La!...unless I am mistaken...I just have told you!
My exotic Ellhedrine! Thank you for your comprehensive explanation of Aristasian biology. It is really most reassuring and completely reasonable. Please tell me that Julia is mistaken and that the passage you quoted from the Ithelia is available in Telluria...please...please...please! It was so beautiful and moving...a feminine, homerettic epic poem...if it is not...well...I shall just have to stamp my delicate feet, encased in this lovely pair of lavender, sling back pumps, chew on my knuckles and...well...just be so frustrated that I might have to appeal to the nearest brunette to lend me her shoulder to cry on (and who knows where that might lead!). It is available in the Pit, isn't it? Well, darlings...just a little sip of my martini, here...mmmmm...as usual, absolutely perfect, barkeepette! Well, my dazzling darlings, did you see delicate Diana in the real dress that I helped her buy when we went fleeming! Can you believe how attractive red is on her after all! Why, how silly of me! Of course you can. You already know how she partakes of the beauty of her Goddess namesake, don't you, and, well...red...blue...chartreuse...how could she look anything but attractive and beautiful? Well, she is just the same unbelievable beauty, only decked out in real clothing.
And, maybe, if I stop talking long enough, someone will tell me how I look in this lovely pleated, lavender dress that looks just like the dress my heroine, the divine Miss Monroe, wore in "The Seven Year Itch." The pleated halter top, softly caressing, accentuating and cradling each breast...thus...the snug midriff to the flare of my hips...here...and the swirling skirt, the pleated lines adding to the visual appeal when they are moved about...let me just pull it up and drop it...there!...the effect really needs that grate and the air blowing my skirt up and my hands holding everything down...why...you could get a glimpse of the tops of my self-gartering stockings if I could just get the right effect...See! There! Like this! You recognize it, don't you? If I spin around...just like this! When I looked at myself just before I came here tonight, well, I almost had tears in my eyes as I recalled her iconic image, a stunning model of a vanished femininity that I hadn't really thought about at all until I came here. And now...well...I can almost live it, can't I?
Reminiscently, I remain
P.S.--A very happy Thanksgiving to all!
Sadly it is true that the Ithelia is quite unavailable in Telluria. Perhaps we can prevail upon young Ellhedrine to recite some more. I am sure she will oblige if we all remember to pronounce the "h" in her name.
Your dress is more than delightful. Is it my fancy, Sweetipops, or are you growing more voluptuously blonde as the weeks go by.
Do you girls know what this week is? The most wonderful of all of the holidays in the world, and it only happens in Culveria, and it is called Thanksgiving, because it's the day when we give thanks to Dea for the bounty of the harvest and for the New Land and for the family and friends we are blessed to have. It is a quiet holiday, really, with everyone eating and telling stories of the first ever Thanksgiving when the White pettes sat down and ate dinner with the Indian squaws, and the sqaws taught the Pilgrimettes how to grow corn and the Pilgrimettes taught the squaws how to eat with forks and knives and spoons. And then there is the story of how Prudence and Betsy, a brunette and blonde sister even younger than you, Mina, saw a little cold and hungry Indian brunette, lost in the snow. The Pilgrimettes took the little girl in and warmed her up the fire and fed her their turkey dinner, and that kindness made peace between the two peoples who lived in those woods forever after.
I know most children don't even think about Thanksgiving because they are already thinking about Nativity gifts and trees being brought into the house and decorated, but for Rosie and me, Thanksgiving is the best of the holidays, because it is simple and the whole family is together preparing and eating lots of delicious food!
I do feel sorry for the rest of you pettes who aren't Culverians. But, here, I have a topping idea, as you would say, why don't you all join us for a real Thanksgiving dinner? I am sure Blonde Mommy won't mind, would she, Brunette Mommy? And since you are the one cooking the turkey, you'll just have to find a larger one, won't you? There will be plenty of chestnut stuffing and cranberry relish and mashed potatoes and yams and corn pudding and stuffed squash and hot-from-the-oven bread. Oh, I wish we were sitting down to say grace right now!
Love and Bye!
But such refined cosmopolitan pleasures do not always outweigh the cold and the wet. For Gotham Novembers often bring early snows. Well, sleet would be more exact, thick sleet that leaves busy streets furrowed with heavy gray slush, sometimes rudely sprayed up onto sidewalks by a hustling taxicab or other urban conveyance.
Yesterday was just such a grim, slushy day in midtown Kadorian Gotham; as I left the office for a quick midday bite, a passing delivery van sent a great arching fountain of marrow-chilling slush, like a small wave, really, straight at me, drenching me from top to toe, outside and underneath too! How dreadful to be instantly transformed from a sophisticated Gotham career pette into a drenched and shivering kitten right there on the corner of Park Avenue and 50th Street, the very center of Kadorian civilization!
So who says brunettes are never impulsive? On the spot I decided I needed to be in more warm-blooded surroundings, so I hailed the next cab, wrung out coat and skirt as best I could on the way home (and rolled off my sodden and clinging stockings, cramming them into my outer purse pocket), then, once home, even before doffing my frigid, sodden togs, I called Pan American Airways and booked the last seat on the late afternoon clipper to Bermuda. Then I bathed, had a hot toddy, took a nap, awoke and packed lightly - one chic little blue shantung dress with mandarin shoulders for dinner and dancing, a daringly brief beach outfit, a light cashmere cardigan for evening walks on the beach, a rather naughty brand-new rose silk-and-black-lace cutaway chemise for sleeping and, um, late evening entertainment, and the usual innumerable and dainty necessaries a girl takes on a short vacation.
I grabbed a cab and was at the Art Neo Pan American terminal at La Guardia by four, and by nine that same evening, after an elegant in-flight dinner, I was safely delivered to the Warwick Hotel in Hamilton, where McCall's keeps rooms all winter long, because the fashion department goes down to Bermuda rather often to shoot the next summer's designs. I saw Stephanie G. in the lobby (she is one of the fashion photographers), but she was rather preoccupied ushering an awfully young looking blonde, from hairdressing, into the bar, Sally F., I think is her name, who was fluttering her eyelashes so assiduously that she caught my eye from fifty paces - but they didn't see me at all.
After unpacking and slipping into my brand-new chemise, I crept between crisp sheets and drifted asleep to the sounds of buoy bells and small craft in the harbor, not the honking of taxis and all-night swoosh of Gotham traffic. I dreamt of soft, woolly lambs, of picking up dozens of tiny squirrel coats and of iridescent feminine bubbles that float. Instead of awakening to the clash of garbage can lids and the growling of delivery trucks making their rounds in low gear, I stirred languorously to the soft music of tropical birds. Bars of red sunlight shone in through the shutters, crept across the ceiling, grew yellow as the moved down the wall, then became white on my bedclothes and in my eyes, so then I yielded to the morning and at last sprang out of bed and threw open the shutters: the soft sea breeze wafted the muslin curtains into the room, then they subsided like a sigh, there were geraniums and petunias in the window box, and, just below, a small knot of chattering blondes on the beach. Early for blondes, I reflected, but there they were! One carried an enormous inflated green sea-horse to the water's edge and daintily waded in, calling over her shoulder for the others to follow. I decided to have a morning dip before breakfast.
Here is a special Culverian Thanksgiving poem just for you sweeties:
Well, it's not the Ithelia of course, but we Culverians usually do like our verse a touch more homey.
Happy Thanksgiving, pettes, from your
Some one has described Aristasia as "one long conversation". Well, Aphrodite is rather like that. If you want to catch up on the conversation so far, the Archive is the place to do it.
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