Everything I Remember Buying At Claire’s, 1994 – 1999

Claire’s has filed for bankruptcy, and my 90s self would be shocked.  Claire’s was a boutique in the loosest sense of the word – it was more like a Toys R Us of tween accessories, and if my niece’s recent purchases of JoJo Siwa bows and unicorn hair extensions are any indication, it still is. Claire’s may be the latest victim of private-equity fund stewardship, but I think they may emerge victorious — after all, no store is better at giving tween girls exactly what it’s told them they want. I was never one of those kids with an allowance or parent-funded spending sprees, so each of my Claire’s purchase was long-coveted. That’s why, in 2018, I can still remember everything I bought at Claire’s during my childhood:

A Heart-Shaped Locket With Nothing In It

The nostalgia machine remembers the 90s in a few ways: bright and neon in the post-80s years, earth-toned and grungy in the middle, and pop-y and futuristic at the end. However, there was also a weird kind of neo-Victorian thing happening if you looked hard enough (see: country geese , Little Women, Titanic mania). Case in point: lockets, which always seemed kind of important and mysterious even if you had nothing to put in them. We can thank Annie and the American Girls Collection for this.

Mood Ring

You always blushed a bit if it landed on In Love. As a cold person with a low heart rate (actually… what do mood rings even measure?), I think the technical term for my mood ring results was Clinical Death.

Sunflower Hat

The sunflower hat was THE must-have accessory when I was in second grade, c. 1994. Different versions were out there but the staple was a denim bucket hat with a yellow sunflower on it. A little bit Michelle Tanner and a little bit Blossom, you could be any middle-class girl from a family sitcom you wanted in this number. The decision to wear it straight versus tilted was hotly debated … in the before-school lineup at Sacred Heart Cathedral School, anyway.

Confession: I scoped out sunflower hats at Claire’s but mine was actually from Bloomingdale’s. It was Quality Millinery, thank you very much.

Scrunchies

They were gentle on your hair and you could buy one in any finish or pattern you wanted. Bring back the scrunchie.

Velvet or Lace Choker (Cameo Optional)

This was the more early-90s choker. Like the locket, it was part of the Interview With A Vampire aesthetic that was totally appropriate and not at all creepy for tiny children to be into.

Fake Tattoo Choker

This was more late 90s, and I only wore it once because I thought it looked cheap.

Which it did.

You could get them from gumball machines.

Fimo Necklaces

Popular in the 1996-1999 range, these necklaces had a nylon cord or stringed beads and a clay ‘hippie’-esque pendant.

In my personal suburban mall, there was a kiosk that sold these and also wizard candles. For the uninitiated, yes, I actually do mean candles that were shaped like an elderly wizard.

A Piercing

Thing 90s Kids Will Remember: getting your ears pierced by a teenager with a piercing gun and trying not to cry because strangers were eating Auntie Anne’s pretzels on a bench 5 feet away. My ear piercing was a First Communion present and it closed up within a few years, so I am in fact the proud owner of TWO Claire’s piercings. You had to search the earring racks specifically for the ones labelled stainless steel or else your ears would start burning. We had fun.

Headbands Headbands Headbands

Soft headbands, hard headbands that would dig into your temples, plush puffy headbands – if there was one constant in my life from 1995 to 1999, it was that my bangs were in a weird place and I needed hair accessories to deal with them. The worst ever, for my particular frizzy hair and iffy hairline, was the stretchy headband with teeth. They never looked good on me but I bought like 5 of them anyway.

I preferred a classic Alice band because I was a goody-goody, obvs.

Embellished Snap Clips

Remember those flat clips that all the gymnasts wore in the 1996 Olympics? Then, remember the teeny tiny version with daisies and stuff on them? You’d wear them right next to your part.

The real theme here is that as a people, we were dealing with a collective weird bangs situation for the better part of the decade.

Butterfly Clips

The last member of the wonky bangs starter pack, the butterfly clip spanned the difference between headbands and hair clips so you didn’t have to choose. I was pretty sure they looked rocking in my hair and in hindsight, I was entirely correct.

Butterfly Everything

Butterflies were so cool in the late 90s, and I’m so grateful that I was only in Junior High or else I definitely would have left the decade with a butterfly tattoo.*

*  I remember my junior high friends and I declaring that we’d totally get butterfly tattoos and belly button piercings when we were old enough. Now I can have as many butterfly tattoos and belly button piercings as I want, and it turns out I want zero.

Pen with marabou poof

You felt like Cher Horowitz until the ink ran out in a week and you were back to your Bics.

See also: gel pens, despised by every teacher I ever had. Now that my eyeballs are three decades old I Get It.

“Retro” “70s” Stuff

Especially during the 1996-1997 school year, 60s and 70s-inspired accessories were all the rage. We’re talking psychedelic colors, daisies, smiley faces, peace signs. The yin yang was pretty big starting in the earlier 90s but I seem to remember it fading out sooner.

I also remember combing my grandparents’ house for 60s-70s stuff during this time, only to find that most bona fide retro accessories were in the pukey oranges, avocados and browns of old appliances. Claire’s all the way.

Puka Shell Nonsense.

As of high school I had been to like 2 beaches and they were in New England, but still.


My Claire’s years mostly ended around 2000, when I started high school. Yesterday, today, and forever, Claire’s was a store that sold the idea of being a cool teenager to 7-13 year olds — not so much a store for real teenagers. Their financial situation may be bleak, but as long as 10-year-olds long to look 17, I think Claire’s will have a place in children’s fashion mistakes for years to come.

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Baby Boom Is Our Aesthetic

If Baby Boom (1987) isn’t on your pre-Valentine’s Day rom-com lineup, it should be. It is the romantic comedy for cozy, wintery-but-not-Christmas vibes. First of all, it’s a Nancy Meyers flick so you know the kitchen’s gonna be on point. Second, it’s from 1987 and lovingly skewers the aspirational yuppies of the era – including a wholesome, organic baby food business that would STILL draw the devotion of upper-class yummy mummies today. Third, it has all of the romcom features you’ve come to know and love: a career woman who doesn’t have time for love! Unexpectedly becoming the custodian of a baby! A handsome man with a romcom job! A charming old farmhouse with problems! I am the same age as Baby Elizabeth, so the sweet pastel baby clothes are like looking into an old family album. For some reason Baby Boom seldom comes up in conversation about ’80s romcoms, but give it a watch or rewatch … it just might be your February romcom aesthetic, too.

The opening new segment

Women have jobs! They’re doctors AND lawyers! Ladies having it all! It’s SO ’80s. The higher the shoulder pads, the more cushion busting through the glass ceiling?

J.C. Wiatt (Diane Keaton) works 70-80 hours a week. I’d rather be middle-class.

J.C.’s menswear-y satin robe and tortoiseshell glasses

It’s like she might get called to a board meeting pajama party and she dressed for it just in case.

Spoiler: her robe gets more cozy when she inherits a baby and moves to New England

Elizabeth’s  and J.C.’s “Inheriting A Baby Outfits”

J.C. inherits a baby, which is truly my dream scenario – not having to be pregnant, go through all the steps of fostering or adoption, or make an affirmative decision about whether or not I want a baby. Elizabeth (Kristina and Michelle Kennedy) wears a classic baby coat and hat and J.C. wears my favorite of her businesswear outfits, with a floppy bow, Peter Pan collar and oversized belted jacket that has almost Edwardian vibes. The shoulderpad/belt combo makes her waist look tiny, so that’s why people used to do that. She changes back into it at the end to turn down the offer to buy her baby food company, because it’s her main outfit to do important things in.

Another great one. When did we stop wearing brooches?

P.S., I get that J.C. has never held a baby before, but she has presumably held an object before and this isn’t how you do that, either.

By the way, J.C. name-drops two local-for-me companies, reminding me of how awesome my city was doing in the ’80s, comparatively.

Elizabeth …. MUDGE?!

Elizabeth almost gets adopted by two dustbowl people who come straight out of the Fake Annie’s Parents lineup in the Warbucks mansion. J.C. can’t do it. Guess she has time for love after all.

These Spiky Moms

These moms are all live-action versions of Angelica’s mom from Rugrats. They go on at length about all of the activities their toddlers are enrolled in and the extensive intellectual standards their 3-year-olds have met. Hey baby boomers, if you don’t like millennials just remember that you made us this way.

Hadleyville, In General

J.C. and Elizabeth arrive in town during the fall because Nancy Meyers knows what’s up. There’s a general store and a church, and it looks like a living history museum.

I love that J.C.’s plan for what they’ll do in New England is “get into quilts,” which should be timeless but feels very 80s Businesswoman Who Has Had It.

J.C.’s Yellow Farmhouse, Exterior

J.C. buys a dollhouse-looking yellow clapboard farmhouse. I want it. It’s cheerful and sweet with tasteful landscaping. There are window boxes and real shutters! However, the plumbing is shot and will cost $7,000-8,000 which feels steep for 30 years ago? For reference I recently repiped only my basement (copper, because go big or go home) and it was maybe like $1,500. Oh, and she also needs a new roof and well. But it looks so nicely-maintained?

It’s even cuter in spring because this house was made to have tulips and rabbits around.

As usual, our __ Is Our Aesthetic posts feature movies with absolutely delightful houses. That’s why images of the Baby Boom house will take you to the Hooked On Houses post for this film. It’s one of my favorite blogs and they do a great job highlighting some of the most charming homes in TV and film.

J.C.’s House During The Snowstorm

Living in a snowy city, sometimes it takes seeing it onscreen to remember how pretty it is.

The Richies From NY

Some rich people go to the local general store and can’t get enough of the authentic boots, plaid shirts, and baby food that J.C. made. They’re exactly like the 2018 version of yuppies, honestly.

The whole movie feels really modern because the home business is so familiar today — but in a time before Pinterest/Etsy moms and Whole Foods in every city, J.C. was seriously cutting edge. When I was watching I was reminded of a later Nancy Meyers film, The Intern, and apparently that was no mistake. The kitchen from The Intern even echoes the muted blue cabinets from Baby Boom!

The Hadleyville maple festival

This small-town maple festival is exactly how I want my parties. All the ladies wear big Sloane Ranger dresses, there are twinkling lights, and everyone just kind of talks and has snacks. There’s a mural with a barn and some geese on it. Nobody’s suit fits right. Get into it.

J.C.’s Nancy Meyers Kitchen

Nancy was still new to the charming romcom kitchen game in 1987, but all her talent was there from the start. Vintage-style fridge, exposed ceiling beams, baskets, fireplace and clapboard. The cabinets are painted the exact powdery blue I keep seeing in chalk paint now. Windows everywhere. There’s enough space for a work table, an eating table, a couch, hutch and a rocking chair, plus space to tap dance around all of them if you’re so inclined.  The cabinet fronts are fitted with gingham. J.C. and the handsome vet have their first kiss in the kitchen because all any woman wants is to have a first kiss in a Nancy Meyers kitchen.

The Yellow Farmhouse, Interior

First of all, I love how the woodwork isn’t perfectly freshly painted, so it looks like someone actually has lived there a long time. Second, check out these wood floors, comfy Laura Ashley-looking furniture, natural light, and worn-in looking antiques.

 

 

Dawson’s Creek Is So Old That…

How old is Dawson’s Creek?
At 20 years old this month, Dawson’s Creek is so old that (in my subjective memory)…

I started watching Dawson’s Creek on Episode 4 … so I had to wait until summer reruns to see episodes 1, 2 and 3. No DVR, On Demand or Hulu!

But not to worry, because people online actually transcribed the episodes and posted them on angelfire/ geocities. (So Many Old Sites still exist! It’s like time travel.)

… And I got in trouble for tying up the phone line reading those websites.

If I missed an episode, I would read the recap on Dawson’s Wrap, the pre-pre-precursor to the long defunct Television Without Pity.

TV soundtracks were a big thing, and the WB would announce the songs featured in the episode, along with the albums they appeared on, at the end of the episode.

Speaking of which, the Dawson’s Creek Soundtrack was THE must-own album in 7th grade and I bought it at a mall in an actual CD STORE. And I didn’t know each jewel case had a different picture inside, so I was bummed to get the Joey one instead of the Pacey one.

Today, an actress the same age as youngest main cast member Michelle Williams would have been born in the year 2000.

Oldest main cast member James Van Der Beek is now 40 years old. If you’re keeping track, that’s only about two years younger than John Wesley Shipp was when he played James’s Dad.

(It’s also only about 18 years younger than Grams, but to be fair Mary Beth Peil was not really old in 1998, they just wrote her like she was 90.)

Dawson’s Creek was the anchor of the teen block on the WB, which hasn’t even existed for the past 12 years … aka, since today’s teens were babies.

There was a guide to the Dawson’s Creek stars – with full color pages! – in the paper Scholastic book order.

Two of the main characters – Dawson and Pacey, but you already knew – worked in a video store, which truly seemed like a cool job to have.

Dawson didn’t shoot on film because he was a hipster. He shot on film because it was the only way.

Also, the kids didn’t dress ‘normcore’ because they were hipsters. They dressed normcore because the show was literally sponsored by J. Crew at that point. Remember when Gap’s big campaign convinced middle school and high schoolers that frumpy khakis were cool? It was right around then.

Do yourself a favor and click on this to go to Buzzfeed’s post about the D.C. J. Crew catalog

Katie Holmes was so young then that she delayed her audition because she was in her high school play in Ohio.

It had only been two years since Joshua Jackson appeared in D3: The Mighty Ducks, and only 6 years since he was a tiny scamp in the original The Mighty Ducks.

The hot new musical of the year was …. Ragtime.

Teletubbies, a children’s show from a very long time ago, wouldn’t even premiere for another few months.

The furby hadn’t been introduced yet, but Beanie Babies were still a hot item.

 

What Your Childhood Halloween Costumes Said About You

In celebration of Halloween, we’re pulling this one out of our archives. It’s all in good fun – your childhood costumes meant NOTHING – but it sure is fun to look back at the best afternoon party of the whole school year.


Your childhood never really leaves you. As we discussed in What Your School Portrait Backdrop Said About You, the choices that you – and your parents – made in your early years say a lot about who you were then, and who you were likely to become. This is never so true as with Halloween costumes. What you wore on October 31 really laid it all out there – your finances, interests, skills and beliefs.

The Super Deluxe Tier at Party City

This is either called Georgia Peach or Disgruntled Bridesmaid.

Remember when those Halloween costume mailers would start coming with the Sunday paper?  The company used vague category names so nobody’s feelings got hurt – but kids aren’t dumb. The “quality” costumes were for normals, and “super deluxe” costumes were for rich kids. Scarlett O’Hara, Southern Belle, Pretty Witch – these costumes were the best.

If you wore one of these, you probably came from a family with disposable income or were an only child. But there’s also a chance that your non-crafty parents felt bad they couldn’t make your costume, so they only bought you the best. Or maybe you were just really into Vivien Leigh. Either way, you probably knew that some of your friends were shopping in the Quality tier, but you didn’t let that stop you from going for what you really wanted. You had money, and you had ambition, and you were raised to believe that you deserve the good costume. None of those are bad things.

Elaborate Hand-Sewn Costumes

These costumes really meant you had it all — a high costume budget, a parent with advanced sewing skills, creativity somewhere in your family line, and a parent with enough time to devote to making it. In my day, big plush M & M costumes were in vogue. In fourth grade, one girl was a Queen of Hearts – she was not only dressed as a queen but her face was somehow embedded in a big playing card. One kid was Mini Me from Austin Powers, with a metallic jumpsuit and bald cap. If my awed tone 20 years later didn’t tip you off, these kids were pretty damn enviable. Money, imagination, and a quality family situation – these kids were on the road to success.

Low-Budget Costume You Made Yourself (usually with thrift store involvement)

Faces covered to protect the innocent. I’m the tiny apprehensive one.

As a person whose childhood costumes all came from Goodwill, household items and borrowed clothing, this is me. One thing that cobbled costume kids have in common is a sense of silliness and imagination. How about the year my whole family dressed as a six-pack of Diet Coke? Or in sixth grade, when I created an over-the-top Marge Simpson costume complete with a two-foot-tall hairpiece? My mom even got in on the action in a sort of Andy Kaufman-esque way. She was a teacher and would dress up as Mrs. O’Brien, an elderly ‘substitute’, every year. She had a voice, mannerisms, everything. A good subset of the kids could never figure out if it was really her. The kids who did know were sworn to secrecy for the next year.

It hasn’t stopped. A few years ago I dismembered a cheap baby doll to become Junice from SNL. The year before, I mined a Goodwill to become Clarissa Darling. A while ago, I took my nephew to Salvation Army, where we pieced together a curly-mustached villain from a 1920s silent film. We didn’t break character for hours. Cobbled costume kids: we may not have had the most money or skill in our corner, but we worked hard and weren’t afraid to look goofy.

Dollar Store Costumes

Not even Joanie loves Chachi enough to wear this mess.

Oh, you poor dears. You didn’t have a costume budget, you didn’t have time or inclination to make something, and nobody in your family could sew.  These were the costumes that had a cheap, hot mask was secured with one of those white elastic strings that you find on birthday hats, and it always broke. The worst part was the plastic smock that came with these. It was a tunic that was about the same consistency as a plastic grocery bag and – most offensive of all – it usually had the name of the character on it. Come ON. Spider-man doesn’t walk around wearing a shirt that says spider-man. Holly Hobby doesn’t wear a shirt that says Holly Hobby.  Dollar Store Costume Kids had some good qualities, though. They had to be content with what they had, and appreciate the joy that even a low-budget costume could bring.  I bet most of these kids are non-materialistic, well-adjusted adults now.

Half-Assed “Scary” Costumes

You all were playing lip service to the spooky part of Halloween. You know who you are – the boy with the cheap nylon vampire cape and a single streak of red lipstick as “blood.” The girl with the regular black dress and the witch’s hat. The zombie who was just wearing normal clothes with a latex mask. You don’t shun the crowd – you dressed up, after all – but you don’t get all swept up in it either. These days, you use your trusty Nokia and shake your head at the folks waiting for the new iPhone.  When your friends reminisce about stupid trends they followed, you laugh with them – but you are secure in your knowledge that nothing about you has been so over-the-top that you’re embarrassed later.

Legit Scary Costumes

Sometimes a kid would come in looking so creepy that even though you knew who it was, you were still skeeved out by them. These guys had the same creativity as the Goodwill costume kids, but with the budget of the Party City Deluxe Crowd or the skill of the Elaborate Hand-Sewn kids. But they had something else that set them apart — a sadistic joy in creeping out other people. These kids had to be innovative, but they also had to know how to read people in order to know what would sketch people out the most. They took an idea and really ran with it.

Superheroes Or Disney Princesses

You were maybe guilty of a little hero-worship, but you were drawn to charismatic characters and you emulated them. That’s not all bad, and can serve you well in your adult life.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Did you get your Batman costume from the Dollar Store? Did your parents buy the Super Deluxe Jasmine? Your childhood interest in popular characters is only part of the story – you have to look at what KIND of superhero or princess costume you had. It’s like when you’re born at the cusp of two Zodiac signs – you will have traits from both categories.

Occupation Costumes

well this is adorable.

These can be a tough sell with kids: it’s Halloween, not a Social Studies unit on community helpers, right? But kids who went in for these are probably the ones who had researched colleges by Sophomore year of high school, never changed their major, and update their five-year plan every six months. The closest I came to this was one (non-Halloween) day in fifth grade, when my friend and I decided to dress like teachers, with turtlenecks, thick tights, and embroidered vests. I get the appeal — when you’re not a grown-up yet, it’s fun to play at it. Plus, if you actually dressed up as something you became as an adult, that’s adorable.

 

A Fall-Themed Outfit Instead Of A Costume

Your parents were the reason the school had to change it from a Halloween Party to a “Harvest Celebration.” Your very presence – and the letter your parents sent the school board – reminded us that not everyone celebrates Halloween.  If you were a kid whose parents didn’t believe in Halloween, but you wanted to dress up and trick-or-treat really badly, you probably learned how to do without and then asserted the heck out of your independence once you were 18. If you agreed with your parents, I have to commend a kid who sits out of something that all of your friends are excited about because you think it’s wrong. So, I kind of hate to be the one to tell you this, but Halloween is the coolest. I think you always suspected that, though.

Pop Culture Blind Spot: Teen Witch

It’s October, and I am continuing to tackle my Halloween movie pop culture blind spots. As a person who loves Halloween but hates to be scared, it’s a chore. A neat trick I learned with Teen Wolf is that if a movie has the word “teen” in the title, it’s probably not that scary … and with that, I delve into Teen Witch.

What I Think It’s About: An ’80s teen learns that she’s a witch, like in Halloweentown or Twitches or Worst Witch or Harry Potter. She raps at a mean boy. That part, I HAVE seen.

Hulu short description: A high school student who is a descendant of bona fide Salem witches uses her magic to snag a football star as a boyfriend.

Okay, I’ve mentioned before how far down the Salem Witch documentary/podcast/google hole I’ve fallen, so this sounds pretty cool. Except for the second half, anyway – even a dopey teen has better uses for magic powers than “snagging a football star as a boyfriend.”

The movie opens with 80s sexy smooth jazz saxophone, which I hate. Two teens hang out in blue lighting on a rooftop. The first FOUR minutes look like any generic music video of 1989. It’s just a dream, we learn as Teen Witch wakes up in her Laura Ashley bedroom.

Also my bedroom style c. 1989 – 1999.

The family all sits around the breakfast table at the same time, being formal at each other.

Teen Witch’s best friend has dark hair and is 100% the person I thought was the Teen Witch based on the rap clip I’ve seen.

Anyway, Teen Witch (Louise) and Best Friend (Polly) wear those oversized, menswear, Annie Hall-type 80s clothes, which I find really underrepresented in the 80s-inspired fashion universe.

Cute look!

Teens just rap in the hallways. White boys. They’re dressed like the Uptown Funk video, or more accurately, the Uptown Funk video is dressed like them.

The cheerleaders sing and dance ‘I Like Boys’ in the locker room. THIS IS A MUSICAL?! This is a musical! I didn’t know.

I have so many things to say about the I Like Boys sequence, none of them probably search engine-friendly. You don’t strictly see anyone singing it, they just sort of prance in the locker room, having antics. As gals do, while telling you over and over that they like boys.

I probably don’t have to say this, but the ’80s teen hunk Louise is obsessed with is named Brad.

Louise goes to a creepy unpainted Victorian house to see someone named Madame Serena. The Victorian House trope is always interesting to me. By, say, the 1950s an 1890s Queen Ann Victorian was already known as a creepy witch/ ghost house. But in 2017, a house the same amount old (built in the 1950s) isn’t considered creepy. Our scary movies don’t involve a foreboding ranch house.

Madame Serena is a small psychic woman with a high voice, like in Poltergeist. She refers to Louise’s “cute little Punky Brewster face.” Ha.

Is Louise’s little brother going to turn into a rat ever? I feel like that happens in a lot of these kinds of movies.

Casting breakdown: Twerpy Younger Brother Who Gets Turned Into A Rat

An elderly health teacher has the kids chant ‘condom,’ which probably doesn’t happen in public schools? Or does it??

I think the only thing in the school’s soda machine is regular Coke.

Louise’s vest from her mom is “dorky” but with 28 years’ perspective, it doesn’t look any worse than anyone else’s outfits. Her dad has a big poinsettia sweater.

Wait but the nerd assuming Louise wears glasses, when she does not, is my whole life. Does this happen to everybody?

The nerd boy just looks like a hipster.

He’d be the hot friend on a CW series today.

“You think you’re hot stuff because you went to a dance. Nobody wants to date you because you’re a dog.. a dog… a dog!” That’s what kid brother says in that wavery scary voice before he TURNS INTO A DOG. I know I said rat before but I feel like I was close.

There’s a witch yearbook – “new faces of 1632” – and I choose to find it unrealistic that (1) they’re photographs and (2) not in 1600s-style clothing. The witch part is fine. Louise and Madame Serena are both in there. Does that mean all witches are reincarnated? Or they’re both 400 years old but went dormant and lost their memories for a while? I have questions.

Surely you all realized this already, but Madame Serena IS the actress from Poltergeist! I haven’t seen it since I was 7, but I was so certain it was her I had to IMDB it. What a very specific role to be typecast in.

It’s been almost an hour but I just realized that the character breakdown for Louise was absolutely “Molly Ringwald type.”

Louise has gone full witch, with love spells and a poppet.

Anyway, Louise voodoo poppets her awful English (?) teacher, a man whose classroom includes some weird stage with a desk and bookshelves on it, and who openly torments Louise every class. She makes him strip. ‘S funny.

Mean Teacher gets poppetted through a carwash on foot while the song “All Washed Up” plays, but the beginning of it sounds so much like Bad Romance. So much!

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve ALL been waiting for:

I thought there would be more context but, no. Also how I said it was a musical earlier? There was really just the locker room I Like Boys scene, then this. It’s like if I dreamed a kind-of musical about a Teen Witch, and an hour into the dream I realized I forgot to do songs.

Polly’s my favorite. It didn’t sound like the guy’s voice was coming from him?

Louise gets an ’80s perm, AKA she looks exactly like me if I air dry my hair, and a tapestry vest and a flouncy skirt. Hot stuff, indeed. She’s like Tiffany now. There’s a montage and all her outfits are super cute now.

It’s just Grease with witches, isn’t it?

The Sexy Sexy Saxophones are back, but this time Louise isn’t dreaming. She kisses Football Brad near a plaster-and-lathe wall.

Louise accidentally (?) magics the lead of the school play into breaking her leg, thus getting the lead role. I just thought witches had more control over their magic? Like with spells and wands. Louise is running this operation on poppets and hormones.

I’ve been checking how long there is left every 15 minutes or so.

Never have I ever seen a school dance scene that felt like it was the appropriate length. Like real school dances, it just goes on and on and on with very little happening.

In 1989, the bigger your hair was, the lovelier you were. Must have been nice to have such a clear formula.

I thought we’d get more clarification on the popularity-doesn’t-matter thing, but like Grease the messaging is not all that great.

To that end: the closing theme is “I’m gonna be the most popular girl. Gonna change my hair and makeup, soon you’re gonna see…”. There was nothing spooky in this whole movie – it was way too un-scary, actually – but this theme song would be PERFECT playing at the end of a dark, Black Mirror-y study of popularity at all costs.

Takeaway: I really like a lot of kiddie ‘scary’ movies, and I think witches are the coolest thing ever, but this didn’t 100% do it for me. Judging by my love for Hocus Pocus, I probably WOULD have liked this if I watched it first as a kid, though. It’s almost like it needed to be more witchy, or at least for the witch to have a more interesting objective than Football Brad.

 

EDIT: It’s been like 3/4 of a day since I watched Teen Witch and I find myself liking it more and more. Maybe it’s magic after all.

TTYL, AIM. LYLAS.

Well, it’s the end of an era. Our childhood is dying and we are all dinosaurs.

Last week, the folks at AOL announced that its trailblazing program, Instant Messenger, would be shutting down for good in December.

Like many millennials, I haven’t used AIM in years, but it was such an integral part to our lives when the internet was just becoming a thing in the late 90s/early 2000s. Before Snapchat, Instagram, GChat, Twitter, Facebook, and kinda before texting, there was AIM. It was social networking before we knew what social networking was. We’d spend all day at school with friends, only to go home and turn on AIM to talk to friends some more. We’d perfect our AIM profiles with the right quotes and shoutout to friends using their initials – it was a precursor to perfect a Facebook profile. It’s where we first learned how to abbrev – “brb”, “a/s/l?”, “nm, u?” etc. AIM let us make our first internet identities with vague SNs (screennames duh) that gave others a hint of our interests and/or hobbies (one of my first ones had “BSB” in it). We’d sneakily put our crush’s SNs on our buddy lists and get giddy when we heard the sound of the door opening and their name flash up on our ~*u kNo wHo*~ buddy list (1/1). If we were super bored, we’d open a new window for Smarter Child and see what they were up to. We’d put up elaborate away messages with way more info than we ever should’ve given out. Or if you’re like me, you’d just keep an away message on 24/7 even though you’re sitting in front of your computer and not, in fact, away.

Because I’m a hoarder of sorts – I like memories, OK – I was one of those people who installed a secondary program which automatically logged conversations with my friends. My archive only goes back to like, 2004 right before I started college, but boy oh boy did I find some gems. Re-reading all these got me thinking – why? Just why? But also, making an away message was like a first generation Facebook status update (IE: “Traci is… really upset that her VCR decided not to tape the last 5 minutes of the American Idol finale.”) It told a story about your mood, what you were doing, where you were doing it, who you were do it with, who you were thinking about while doing the thing – it gave a lot of details away – information superhighway, amirite?? After going through my archives, I noticed a few trends that made AIM the iconic fly trapped in amber that it is. Here are some of my favorite/questionable away messages, not only of my own, but also of some of my friends. Don’t worry, your identities are protected. To reiterate, these are REAL.

Various Ways to “Hit the Cell”

Following the popularity of AIM, cell phones became more and more common, specifically for use of the texting feature, which was basically like a portable version of AIM. So when you couldn’t sit and have a conversation with your friend because you’re in class, hit them on their Motorola Razor and you’d get in touch instantly. But what we needed to put at the end of the away message was the prompt. And as for me, I know I wanted variety. I can’t say, “leave love or hit the cell” all the time. Which is why some popular variations of this included, “cells good”, “hit the digits”, “make it vibrate” “make it ring”, “cell’s avail”, just in case you were confused that my phone WASN’T available. These days I don’t want anyone to contact me at all.

Deep Song Lyrics

“Deep” is a relative term. Here I am using lyrics from underrated Journey song “Don’t Stop Believin'”, which in my defense, was like our high school group’s theme song.

Ashlee Simpson? Yeah I guess I can’t really defend that.

I was a theater nerd. I went to a college with other theater nerds. This is actually too mainstream theater for school standards.

A Convo Between Friends IRL

First off, I’d like to say I was not offended by this conversation. Second, this was what AIM was really for. Having funny convos with friends and showing it off online to your other friends.

A Convo Between Friends on AIM

And the other half is having “hilarious” convos with friends online and copy and pasting into an away message because that’s cool. This isn’t even that funny. But it was funny to us at the time. A majority of our away messages were inside jokes that 5% of your buddy list would understand. But we did it anyways.

Taking a Shower

Like, why? Why did we do this?

Legitimate Schedule of Events

To continue from the shower bit, why? It was certainly a different time in terms of people being able to easily find your information and cyberstalk you, but we got so specific with our schedules. This was my friend’s day as an acting major.

this is my friend/co-worker who specifically asked his friends to call him, because, yes, that’s right, he has a life.

Meanwhile, I also gave a breakdown of the imporatant events in my day – a nightly TV schedule. And the last line isn’t a shout out to my homestate. It’s literally the VH1 reality TV program “I Love New York” featuring Tiffany “New York” Pollard.

Some Kind of Countdown

The away message not only told people when you were away and what you were doing when you were away, but it told a story of your future. Another popular trend was a countdown to whatever event you were looking forward to. “6 Days Until Spring Break!”, “1 More Day Until DF, TW, & SP ARRIVE!”, and “T-Minus 4 days until Project Turkey”, which was a thing I used freshman years of college for a v embarrassing thing.

Elaborate Text Art

I was such a sucker for these. It took creativity and skill to make an elaborate away message, even if it was just a few words (that could’ve been shortened to BRB).

Remember wingdings?! Or was this a webding? I could never tell the difference.

Farewell AIM, we’ll miss you. Put up a good away message for us before you go, ok?

Pop Culture Blind Spot: Practical Magic

I have never seen Practical Magic. This, despite my love for Sandra Bullock (a love so deep I call her Sandy), comfy 90s movies where people wear sweaters, and witchy things. Most of my knowledge about Practical Magic comes from surfing past it on HBO during my childhood, and commercials for Charmed, a TV show about sister witches that is a different thing entirely from Practical Magic. Anyway, it feels like fall here in upstate New York, which means it feels like time for a fall movie… which I assume Practical Magic is, based on the witches.

The Netflix blurb:

Thanks to their powers, things come easy to these sisters… except keeping a man. Alive, that is.

First of all, this is some of the Netflix copy writers’ best work. Second, hard same.

We learn that the women in the Owens family have been witches since puritan New England. Oh, I love this already. If you haven’t gone down a Salem Witch Trials documentary spiral yet, I suggest it. Your YouTube suggestions will get a bit weird for a while but it will be worth it.

There’s a Victorian house, too! [Profiled here on my fav, Hooked on Houses]

The girls move there with their aunts after their dad falls victim to a centuries-old curse. Everyone wears draped, lacy dresses and florals with scarfs and floppy hats and statement earrings, exactly how you’d want witches in a Victorian house to dress. [I already feel a Practical Magic Is My Aesthetic post coming on.]

 

Work those April Cornell catalog vibes, ladies.

Child Sandy Bullock (Sally) looks like adult Sandy Bullock. Child Nicole Kidman (Gillian) does not really look like adult Nicole Kidman, but even casting directors are victims of All Redheads Look Alike Syndrome.

Child Sally, by the way? None other than little Camilla Belle, who actually DOES resemble adult Sandra Bullock these days, now that you mention it.

Adult Camilla

We’ve circled back to the late ’90s, fashion wise, and I like Sally’s straight-leg jeans. She also has one of those sweaters with the big stripe across the middle. REAL thing 90s kids remember: those sweaters with one big stripe across the middle.

IMPORTANT: There’s a scene where This Kiss by Faith Hill plays as Sally falls in love with a handsome man and, over time, marries him and has two kids. Practical Magic and This Kiss have definitely lived in the same mental file folder in my brain for these two decades. Meanwhile, Gillian leaves New England and dances whitely by a pool. Just watch it, it’s the best of comfy ‘normcore’ 90s romcom montages:

Like all of us, Gillian sings the soprano parts of Case Of You while driving and feeling some feelings.

On one hand, Gillian and Sally have a horrible curse wherein every man they love is doomed (RIP Gillian’s husband, Minute 5 – Minute 7, roughly). On the other, they have gorgeous, full blowouts and a bedroom fireplace.

If you didn’t get enough Practical Magic interiors from Hooked on Houses, click on this pic. I’m obsessed.

Whoopsie! The sisters killed a man by accident. He was Jimmy, Gillian’s garbage love interest who she drugged and brought cross country, but don’t feel too bad because he was secretly a killer as well . The gals take a real ad-hoc, non-Hogwarts-approved method of resurrecting him, doing the spell on their ample kitchen island. It doesn’t go great, so now they have to cover up his death. It’s a drag.

It’s not a movie about ‘strong female characters’ (TM Netflix) without a scene where they dance around the kitchen. Just ask Hidden Figures (a movie I loved, for the record).

A longer stretch of this movie than I expected is centered on covering up an accidental death. It’s fine but not what I was expecting. Aidan Quinn arrives to investigate Jimmy’s disappearance but also to fall in love with Sally. He is unusually handsome for someone named Gary. He’s ALSO the dream man Sally described as a child.

The reanimated corpse of Jimmy confronts Hot Gary  in the beautiful attic. I don’t know if witches need money, but they could rent that thing out for some serious bucks.

This is not an attack on anybody named Kylie or who named their daughter Kylie, but man, Kylie is NOT something a witch would name a child. [:Your Kris Jenner joke goes here:] I guess she was born during Sally’s trying-not-to-be-witchy phase.

The witch sisters need to expel Jimmy’s spirit and to do that they need a coven, which is basically like a quorum. Sally does what any small-town single mom would do: activates the school phone tree.

PS guess who Kylie is? A baby Evan Rachel Wood. I had no idea, this whole time. Along with All Redheads Look Alike Syndrome is the related Red Hair Renders You Instantly Unrecognizable Syndrome (hers is dyed, to perpetuate the one brown haired kid/one ginger kid thing her family has going).

She looks exactly like she does now, just with red hair.

In case you were worried, there’s a great witches-with-brooms scene. They just sweep with them, but still. They sweep OUT an evil spirit. The family curse is broken and now Gillian and Sally can fall in love without casualties.

The witches dress up as witches (but stereotypical ones) and fly from their roof on Halloween. The neighbors EAT IT UP. Just as I did this movie. It was cute.

 

P.S.: Not all of the music was by Bonnie Raitt and Mary Chapin Carpenter but it was all LIKE that.

 

Catholic School Back To School Shopping: Myths vs. Realities

Ah, Back-To-School Shopping : such a gentle, consumeristic way to get over the end of summer vacation. However, as two life-long Catholic school students, our experience wasn’t everything the Staples and J.C. Penney commercials led us to believe. I’m watching the cycle all over again with my nieces and nephews – the public schoolers getting cute new outfits and the Catholic school kids getting their first necktie at age 5. [Find me something cuter than a kindergartener in business casual.] In honor of our ’90s and ’00s memories, here is a study in the contrasts between back to school shopping for Catholic schoolers and, if not real public school students, at least the too-cool public schoolers we saw on TV.

Clothing

File under: My childhood as a walking Irish Catholic stereotype.

Expectation: I’m going back to school with a new wardrobe that will mark me as one of the cool kids!

Reality: I am wearing the same plaid jumper from the same Plaid Jumper Store as all of my classmates. Somehow, kids manage to sort themselves into Cool and Uncool anyway.

[Note: there is a 50/50 chance your uniform is a hand-me-down, or your mom bought it at the used uniform sale your school holds at the end of the school year.]

Expectation: At least maybe some fun, cute outfits for after school!

Reality: Those are called “play clothes” and they don’t come from the store, they come from a trash bag your aunt drops off every time your next cousin up has a growth spurt.

[Note: I realize there are Catholics without cousins but I’ve never met one.]

Accessories

Expectation: And don’t forget the accessories!

Reality: … Which are knee socks, a navy blue cardigan, and a shirt with a Peter Pan collar during that five-decade range after Peter Pan collars went out of style in the ’60s and before they came back in style on Zooey Deschanel.

If you’re fancy, please add a headband in the same plaid as your uniform.

Jewelry

Expectation: Wearing some jewelry, I guess.

Reality: Bracelets are not allowed. Non-post earrings are not allowed. Necklaces are a pendant on a thin chain. If you want to consider rosaries jewelry (“WHICH THEY ARE NOT” – every Catholic reading this post, before I could even say it, right?), you can have those. But you cannot wear them, for Pete’s sake.

School Supplies

Expectation: Lisa Frank binders! Lisa Frank notebooks! Lisa The Frickin FRANK IT ALL UP.

Reality: There is a specific, solid color that every subject uses. Does The Vatican secretly operate the Mead company?

Expectation: Don’t forget a trapper keeper to stay organized!

Reality: Trapper Keepers strictly verboten.

Hair

Expectation: It would be so much fun to try a bright color or a crazy new ‘do to show people how much I’ve changed over the summer!

Reality: “No extreme hairstyles” – Catholic School Student Manual 29:11

Shoes

Expectation: I will narrow down the most in-style looks and then pick out some sneakers, a pair of cute shoes, and maybe something a little dressier.

Reality: Your uniform requires shoes that meet all of the following criteria: black or navy blue. No laces. No wedges. No mules. No sneaker soles. Heel must measure less than one inch at the highest point. No ballet flats.

You are left with orthopedic nun shoes.

[Note: If you’re really wondering how we sorted out the cool kids, their moms bought them cute shoes that skirted the Shoe Canon of the student handbook, whereas uncool-kid moms followed it to the letter. As to what camp I was in, let’s just say I still like a sturdy pair of Clarks.]

 

 

The Parent Trap Is Our Aesthetic

It’s summer, and our aesthetic is The Parent Trap (1998): a rustic cabin in a pine forest, a kicky new summer haircut, a sedate London home, secret twins, a sprawling Napa estate, getting your ears pierced by a child, comfy yet timeless sundresses, midafternoon dips in the pool with your dad’s too-young fiancee, casual camping gear, finding out your parents were totally OK with never seeing one of their children again… The Parent Trap has it all.

Although remakes usually pale in comparison to the original, The Parent Trap is different. The Hayley Mills version is fine, but it’s the Lindsay Lohan adaptation that I go to time and time again. It came out when I was 11 – the same age as Hallie and Annie, and could have passed as their triplet – and although almost two decades have gone by, it feels ageless. It’s no mistake that this is our second “___ Is Our Aesthetic” post featuring a film from Nancy Meyers, romcom queen and kitchen guru extraordinaire: all of her movies feel fresh and current when they come out, and thanks to her use of timeless and playful styling, they stay that way.

The Entire Camp Experience

I never went to sleepaway camp: not rich enough to afford it, nor poor enough for a scholarship (even at 11, I was able to recognize that the Parker-Jameses were seriously loaded). But maybe that’s for the best, because I am free to imagine summer camp exactly as it is in The Parent Trap. Camp Walden is everything you expect in a New England summer camp. Nestled among tall trees, the girls really do bunk in rustic cabins, wake up to bugle calls, eat at a mess hall, swim in a lake, hold unsupervised poker tourneys and engage in elaborate prank wars.  It’s the kind of low-tech, high-fun camp I could imagine generations of the same family attending.

Even the preppy-yet-simple uniforms are great, and those little touches like how Annie always chose the more formal version: the polo shirt instead of the tee, for instance.

To get it out of the way: those twin scenes were filmed with the help of Erin Mackey, Lindsay’s double and now a theater actress, who is sort of the Kathryn Alexandre of the Parent Trap universe:

The Handshake

Annie and her butler Martin have a secret handshake, which Hallie must learn to replicate in order to impersonate Annie. Not sure what is cooler: having a butler, or having a secret handshake.

MAKEOVERS!

Whether it’s The Parent Trap, Clueless, The Princess Diaries, The Breakfast Club, She’s All That, or one of our many other throwback favs, we loved a makeover scene 20 years ago and we love them still. There was something so satisfying about Hallie getting the haircut and ear piercing just right… thank goodness.

The Soundtrack!

Not strictly aesthetics, but music is a big part of the timeless summertime vibes in The Parent Trap. I’m not ashamed to say I owned the CD. (Off topic: Mid-to-late 90s: the golden age of movie soundtracks?) The score even has the whimsical, pretty sound of The Holiday, another of our Nancy Meyers favorites, although The Holiday was a Hans Zimmer score and The Parent Trap was Alan Silvestri.

Hallie (And Annie-As-Hallie)’s Relaxed Wardrobe

(Links to a Hallie Parker-inspired look. I always loved those multi-colored beaded bracelets and the plaid shorts and denim jacket combo)

hello, moto jacket.

Hallie is a laid-back Napa girl: she’s outdoorsy and informal, but she wasn’t exactly wearing hand-me-downs like the rest of us poors (not that she could have, as her sister was a secret).

Annie (And Hallie-As-Annie)’s Classic Style

Don’t panic, but the headband matches. This is why I matched my school uniform kilts to a headband with the same plaid. Also because I was a dork.

This is how I’d love to dress my children, who will hate me.

Blair Waldorf’s style inspiration.

Oh, to have Annie’s upper-class, finely-tailored, utterly timeless wardrobe: tweed and Peter Pan collars and A-line dresses as far as the eye can see. If you weren’t one of the fanciest children in all of London town, it was probably just a dream for you, but it was Annie’s reality.

The Napa Ranch

I’m floored Hallie even GOES to camp, because her real home has an in-ground pool, horses to ride, acres of land and a Nancy Myers kitchen. I especially love her lived-in, pretty bedroom:

The London House

Like the girls’ respective wardrobes, Hallie’s is the one you can imagine possibly having in an alternate universe, but Annie’s is the unreachable goal.

[All house images are sourced from and link to a page on Hooked On Houses about the Parent Trap homes. Hooked On Houses has been a favorite of mine since I bought my house – I seriously cannot get enough.]

Sister Act 2 Is Our Aesthetic

Sister Act 2 is the closest thing I’ll get to a time machine to my childhood. I’m definitely not from San Francisco, but I grew up going to Catholic schools and living in the “inner city” in the 1990s — so, pretty damn close. It’s also pure proof that the ’90s fashion revival is warranted. Those fashionable teens are still cooler than me at 30, just like they were in 1993 when I was 7. Our previous aesthetic posts include The Holiday (winter), Matilda (Back To School) and The Witches (Halloween). It’s been a while, so let’s get back in the habit (SORRY).

Lauryn Hill At Full Lauryn Hill

Just had to discuss this right out the gate. Lauryn Hill will always be the ultimate teen vocal/rap/songwriter sensation, even though she’s a grandma now (yeah. I feel old too. Remember To Zion? He’s a dad!). Sister Act 2 marks the musical moment when His Eye Is On The Sparrow entered all our favorite hymn lists. Sister Mary Round-Brush Bangs is right. Please don’t stop.

Everyone’s Under-Choir Robe Outfits

When the instruction comes to take off the choir robes, my teen reaction would’ve been “oh, no.” That’s because if I was wearing a choir robe, underneath I’d have on either something boring and schlubby, or something that was guaranteed not to peek out from the gown. These kids are in their full 1993 mall-outfit best. The two young ladies at far left ALONE. They look like they crawled off of 2017 tumblr and onto the screen.

 Specifically Lauryn Hill’s Outfit

It’s not so much that it’s classic – those mom jeans would’ve been majorly out of style for a good decade plus – but that this outfit has completely circled back into looking current again.

How The Choir Room Is Some Sort Of Attic

You keep waiting for the scene where they paint it or at least knock down the cobwebs, but nope. It’s always just kind of an attic for some reason. It’s a look.

This Rooftop Situation

It always seemed so cool to have a rooftop at school to hang out in. Not sure why everything at this school is so high up, but not complaining either.

When Ahmal Gets Really Into It In Oh Happy Day

He might be crusty, but Ahmal’s got that joy down in his heart. Did you know that actor Ryan Toby went on to sing in City High, who did that song “What Would You Do” (if your son was at home, crying all alone… yeah, it’s in my head now, too)? It was totally new information to me.

Ahmal’s Cultural Appropriation Speech

Ahmal was the woke one. You can tell because he is wearing the Woke Kid Uniform of 1993 and because he delivers a speech on cultural appropriation, which, yes, was a thing in the ’90s as well.

Can’t you come up with your own thing? Why must you continually come behind my people and steal our expressions? First jazz, then rock n roll, now rap? What’s next?

The Way Fancy Hotels Looked In 1993

We touched on this in our discussion of Curly Sue: fancy looked different in the early 90s. I’d almost say the era was peak fancy. There was a lot of gold plating and dusty pastels. I don’t know. I just love how this was the epitome of a really good hotel in 1993.

Sister Mary Clarence’s Minimalist Nun Cell

In 1993 this was like a prison room to die in; in 2017 it’s a minimalist studio to die for. And in San Francisco? The Catholic Church could only afford it by selling some Vatican artwork.

Richard’s Outfits

I feel like when anyone talks about ‘classic style’ they mean, like, polo shirts or suits, but consider this: this movie turns 24 years old this year (?!) and in any point since it was released, this outfit would’ve looked current.

Bonus: Baby Jennifer Love Hewitt smearing her mascara (?) behind him.

Uniform Adaptations

Never would’ve been allowed in any of my schools, but lots of fun and very reflective of real-life 90s style. Round sunglasses, hat bills flipped up, backwards snapbacks.

The Credit Sequence

So iconic, it was spoofed on Broad City and we all instantly got the reference.

Everything

From my notes during my rewatch: “The best part of Sister Act is the montage where they fix things up. The best part of Sister Act 2 is EVERYTHING.”