Gown Hall of Fame

Let’s be honest, the only thing anyone is going to be searching the internet for right now are pictures of the best and worst Oscar gowns. I personally prefer the Met gala since those dresses tend to be more outlandish. For that matter, I also can’t get enough of the Miss Universe national costumes. Here are some of my favorite dresses from various award shows over the years.

I’ll keep this simple because I want to get back to the show, but let’s just say I would happily accept the wardrobes of Cate Blanchett, Dita Von Teese and, surprisingly, Anne Hathaway. So without further ado…

The power of red.

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Pale and lovely in pink…

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Orange is a hard color to pull off but these are beautiful.

Jennifer Hudson 2011 Sexy V Neck Orange Red Oscar Taffeta Red Carpet Evening Formal Gown

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Yellow is equally challenging and not a color you often see on the red carpet which is too bad.

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Green is also not terribly common.

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Blue is my favorite color.

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Purple, the color of royalty…

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Silver and white definitely pulls focus.

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Brown is not a color you associate with sexy and yet…

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And, of course, black.

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Nina Dobrev Black Evening Prom Dress 2012 Elton John Oscar Party-500x500

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xoxo

 

 

Australian Sex Appeal, It’s Deadly

I love weird, structural plants and anything that attracts hummingbirds or has alien looking flowers. Where does one find such specimens you may ask? It seems Australia has a plethora of them. Not only are they weird and even (swoon) toxic, many of them happen to be well suited to our climate here in LA. While I’ve mostly stuck with California native plants, I admit I have been flirting with Australia lately. I’ve always been a sucker for an accent.

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Some of the oddest looking plants in the world can be found in the land down under and lucky for you, they are showcased in this article by Nadina Hughes. I love her blog, you too will love it.

This plant is called a Desert Pea and is protected by the Australian government. No picking these little aliens, no sir. I’d love to have an army of these crawling across my yard. I wonder if I can find seeds for them.

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Here are a few more weird plants, some from Australia, some not. I love the bat faced one.

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Bat Faced Cuphea Photo by JKehoe
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Cannonball Tree Photo by Wahj
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Swaddled Babies Photo by Tim Waters

Then there’s this…  This is an Australian Baobab tree and that’s pretty much all I can say definitively about this picture. Why is this girl being swallowed by it (birthed by it?) and why does she look like Laura Ingalls Wilder? Apparently, these trees were used as jail cells once upon a time!?!

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This is a Corymbia Ficifolia and it’s a beautiful Australian tree, indeed one of the most spectacular in all the world. So fuzzy.

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And more fuzzy: Acacia trees. There are so many different types. Make sure to do your research though, some of them can be invasive in southern California. That means they can be bad breaker-uppers too.

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I’m having a love affair with Grevillea right now. I planted a Grevillea Long John in my front yard and it’s seductive. Grevillea have pine tree like needles on them and require very little water. They love full sun and scorching heat. Their best feature, however, would have to be the flowers that spring magically up and out like exploding firecrackers or caterpillars. There are so many different colors it’s dizzying and hummingbirds love them. Thank you, Australia. Behold!

Now, let’s not skip over the Australian plants that can kill you…or at least make you violently ill.

This pretty little Black Bean tree produces large pods filled with toxic seeds from March-May and will make you very very sick. I hate myself for loving you…

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One of the ten most poisonous plants on earth, the Strychnine Tree, also known as the semen strychnos (let’s be adults please) produces orange like fruits that contain neurotoxins. Ingest one of these and you’ll likely experience convulsions, paralysis, or may even die. It’s used in small doses in homeopathic medicine and in large doses in rat poison. I’m intrigued but I have to pass.

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There are over 2000 types of Euphorbia, most of which contain a toxic sap known to irritate the skin, eyes, and even cause blindness. I planted this Blackbird Euphorbia in my yard so yeah, duly noted.

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I see Angel’s Trumpets all over Los Angeles. Guess what? These Australian imports can be poisonous.

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Pitcher Plants are found in many places, not just Australia. They trap insects in their evil little vases and have been known to devour whole rats. You can buy them at California Carnivores.

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Deadly Nightshade and Oleander also call Australia home. Can everything in Australia kill you?

If danger and beauty are your thing, you can find many Australian plants at the magnificent Seaside Gardens in Carpenteria. Not only do they sell rare imported plants but they also have demonstration gardens for Australian, South African, and California natives. They were doing drought tolerant before we had a drought. You can also go to australianplants.com and order some plants online.

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Finally, may I recommend Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart. Witty, informative, and chock full of great illustrations, Stewart will take you on a tour of the villainous botanicals lurking in your own back yard. Yes, Australia, we too can be devious here in the states. Maybe it’s because you’re beautiful, bad, and mysterious, but I believe you and I are made for each other, mate.

 

 

Put a Bird on It

My wedding dress had a train of ethically acquired peacock feathers on it. I’m going to let that sentence sit there for a minute for you to absorb…

Shall we continue? If I read that sentence I’d hate the person who wrote it but alas, it’s the truth. Were they really ethically acquired? Well, at least the woman I bought them from swore they were. She also charged me what I like to call the “not plucked premium.”

The feather has a long and storied past in the fashion world dating back in the Middle Ages and has primarily been a sign of social status. From Venetian masks to the boas of Cancan dancers, the feather has tickled us for centuries. Read all about it here.

There was a time when wearable taxidermy was all the rage, friends.

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Actress Christie MacDonald, circa 1902.

 

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Clara Bow

 

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Louise Brooks
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Jean Harlow

It fell out of fashion largely because of what might be the first recorded animal rights campaign.

Today there are plenty of folks making hats from actual roadkill they come across like this beauty by James Faulkner:

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Or perhaps this one by Margot Magpie for that special gent in your life.

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Photo by Dafydd Owen

Or this peaceful white winged bride by Bat Cakes Couture. You can read her artist statement on her Etsy store.

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Or the evil twin. The model looks a little like Tippi Hedren.

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The undisputed king of feather fashion, however,  is Alexander McQueen. When I saw his exhibit in New York, I actually got teary. Just magnificent. It was as if he reached into the back of my brain and pulled out everything I always dreamed of.

Don’t go hungry, model girl. You can cook and eat the eggs in your hat.

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This bird is soaring on the sky of my torso, bucko.

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Look to the future…far into the future.

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This is exactly how I get dressed in the morning, truly.

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This.is.beautiful. I can’t even think of a sarcastic thing to say.

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Head explodes in pure joy. I need a minute.
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But let us not neglect your feet. You will be feathered from head to toe by the end of this piece.

These are fabulous. These are Dior.

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Pretty pretty by Pedro Garcia.

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Clips you can put on any pair of shoes by Kathy Johnson. Yes please.

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Ok, these are scary. Yet magnificent. No, still scary.

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I present you with a foundation garment.

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And those zany Victorians and their morbid jewelry. Hummingbirds. I saw a necklace just like this in the hunting museum in Cairo. I stood there feeling guilty but completely mesmerized.

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And now, I take my leave of you. Go. Dream of birds.  xoxo

Happy Birthday, Edward Gorey

The king of creepy himself. The duke of dainty death. He inspired a generation of illustrators and storytellers. He thrilled and terrified children across the globe. The one, the only, Edward Gorey.

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He had a lot of cats.

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I’d bake him a cake if I could.

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Kafka had nothing on him.

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I bet he knew how to treat a lady.

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He looked fantastic in fur.

People like really really looove Edward Gorey. There was an Edward Gorey Ball in LA. It was before I moved here. Let’s have another!

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He loved Halloween. He inspired Tim Burton.

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What are these creatures? I love them.

Check out 13 Facts You Didn’t Know about Edward Gorey

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I hope he is in heaven covered in cats, drinking tea, and eating cake just as I shall be this evening.

 

The Prettiest Abandoned Asylum Ever

“The intersection of stardom and madness, mystery and decay meet at the crossroads of Rockhaven Sanitarium. The once-thriving refuge for troubled minds now sits fallow, crumbling and silent as it awaits an uncertain future, much like its past residents.” -Sezin Koehler, author American Monsters.

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I recently had the privilege of touring the abandoned Rockhaven Santitarium with Atlas Obscura. Hidden away in the quiet Crescenta Valley, it’s quite a gem. While I anticipated a creepy good time when I signed up for the tour, what I got was a lesson in feminist history.

In the early 1920’s Agnes Richards, a widow and single mother, worked as a psychiatric nurse at some of the most notorious asylums in the country. Agnes was appalled by what she saw at these facilities, specifically the treatment of female patients. Remember that these were the days of “female hysteria” where anything from lesbianism to menopause or even your husband’s affair with his secretary could land you in an asylum. It was not uncommon for men of means to have their wives committed when they found a new girlfriend as it was considered quicker and tidier than a divorce. There are even stories of families sending their children to asylums for the summer so the parents could travel unencumbered through Europe. It was terrifying easy to have someone committed and nearly impossible to be released on your own accord.

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The treatment of patients was deplorable in asylums. There was little expectation that the patients would recover and therefore little or no regard to their health or safety. These were still the early years of psychiatry and mental illness was viewed with great shame. Once someone was committed they were often forgotten about, deemed an embarrassment to their family.

Agnes Richards founded Rockhaven in 1923 to be the antithesis of these asylums. With the intent to cure the women (and the occasional man) rather than hide and control the “mental defectives” as they were called in the system. She sought to treat people with dignity while they were in residence. To begin, Rockhaven was more of a spa or a retreat than an asylum. To look at the rooms today, while they are indeed in need of repair now, you can still see the happy colors and attention to details meant to cheer up the residents. Never referred to as patients, they were simply called “the ladies.”

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Rockhaven founder Agnes Richards

The ladies of Rockhaven were expected to dress themselves and attend three meals a day in the cafeteria and to contribute to the best of their abilities. They were also expected to engage with their surroundings in the hopes of reintegrating back into society as soon as they were able. Gardening classes in the three-and-a-half acre meticulously manicured property as well as day trips into LA, music and art therapy were all offered. Again, this was groundbreaking in the world of mental health where caged beds and electroshock therapy were still the norm.

Rockhaven was the first mental health institution for women by women and was founded just three short years after women gained the right to vote. This was almost unimaginable at the time yet Agnes maintained Rockhaven until 1967, then passed it on to her granddaughter.

The original building and grounds were lovely:

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Now, let’s talk about the parties. Agnes believed it was important to remove the stigma of mental illness so family members were invited to visit every day and there were parties held for every possible occasion. Mother’s day, birthdays, practically every day was a reason to celebrate.

Among Rockhaven’s famous residents was Marilyn Monroe’s mother, Gladys Eley, who resided there for 15 years and was a bit of an escape artist. She once ran away and got married then returned of her own accord. Billie Burke, best known as Glinda the good witch also stayed at Rockhaven. It seems Rockhaven was the precursor to all those Malibu rehab centers. The view sure is pretty.

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And now, without further ado, let’s head inside Rockhaven Sanitarium:

Clothing left behind. Apparently they found fur coats and makeup too.

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Two of the bathrooms. Every single one has a different color scheme with matching wallpaper and tile.

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This room:

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It’s important to wash your hands, ladies:

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The ladies’ names are still in the closets:

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The hallways are pink, SUPER PINK.

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There’s wallpaper everywhere.

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Rockhaven is currently owned by the city of Glendale and is in a state of disrepair. The Friends of Rockhaven, a non profit organization have been maintaining it as best they can and are lobbying to have Rockhaven added to the historic register due to its place in feminist history. Its fate is uncertain but I can say it would be a huge tragedy for it to be demolished and replaced with condos or a shopping mall which is precisely what the The Friends of Rockhaven fear will happen. I personally would love to see an investor with a love for historical detail buy it and turn it into a spa or a hotel.

I think this fountain is a great symbol of the work Agnes did at Rockhaven.

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Rockhaven is rumored to have its fair share of ghosts and I think that’s a selling point honestly. What’s interesting about the stories is that they aren’t menacing but rather conjure up images of women who wish to return to a place where they found sanctuary. If you’d like to learn more about Rockhaven, check out this documentary. There’s also a coffee table book of photos coming out by writer Emily Lanigan and photographer Jason House. You can see some of those photos in this eloquent article by Sezin Koehler.

Last, here is the memorial rose garden, each rose bush has a plaque:

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Off I go for my daily constitutional. xoxo

 

 

Freaky Fridays

Welcome to Freaky Fridays where I post links to the odd and the fantastic. Thank you to my friends, especially Sally and Andrea, who provided me with pure gold this week. Have a weird news story? Send it to dearmisshavisham@gmail.com

Breaking News (hardly): George Washington’s teeth weren’t made of wood says Smithsonian.

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Curbed wants you to party like the Bauhaus did and so does Miss Havisham.

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If you ever find yourself in Budapest, you simply must go to Memento Park which is essentially where all communist statues go to retire. After the fall of communism most of statues and monuments pertaining to that period of history were immediately removed from around Budapest. Here they now live for your viewing pleasure.

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The controversial practice of sin eating existed from Medieval times up through the early 20th century. Believe your sins can be consumed by another person leaving your soul free to enter the kingdom of heaven? The church sure didn’t think so.  Read all about it here.

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I am obsessed with this story. Read about the Russian family who lived alone in the Siberian wilderness for over 40 years then watch the video by Vice of the last surviving member of the family. They had no idea WWII ever happened.

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Love taxidermy, hate the idea of dead animals? These beautiful pieces by artist Kelly Jelinek may even be better than the real thing.

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And another:

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I’m not going to lie, I hate this furry nail trend as reported by Bored Panda. No person who actually needs to USE THEIR HANDS could have these. It has to be a joke or some runway fashion gimmick, right? Very teen wolf, baby.

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Only slightly less practical are the Guinness Book famous nails of Lee Redmond who owned the longest natural lady nails in the world. Sadly, Ms Redmond lost her nails in a car accident. She tells of her tragic loss here.

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Want to stay young forever? Try the vampire line of cosmetic procedures where blood is injected into your various body parts for a youthful undead glow. I’ve been bathing in the blood of doves for centuries, dearies. How do you think Elvira stays so young?

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And I leave you with some real life haunted houses for sale.

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May your weekend be fantastically fanatical.  xoxo

Let Me Eat Cake

Today we’re going to talk about cake. I love cake. I love art. I love cake art.

How about this octopus cake rendered in the vivid tones of my nightmares from Karen Portaleo of Highland Bakery in Atlanta, GA.

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Behold his tower of wedding terror from Sweet Lakes Cakes.

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Or this one by the same folks.

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Here is what we believe to be the world’s oldest wedding cake. Baked in 1898 and still standing. Read the full story at the Daily Mail.

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Love Poe? How about this one from Blue Note Bakery in Austin?

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Who doesn’t love a red velvet? This recipe from Say Yes will make you say yes, yes, yes, oh yes!

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Here’s a tutorial for a do-it-yourself Miss Havisham’s wedding cake from Craft Hubs. The mice are a nice touch.

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Be still my heart. This one is from Erin Gardner of Wild Orchid Baking Company and Erin Bakes. There isn’t an ugly cake on this woman’s site.

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Baby head cake pops from Conjurer’s Kitchen. She started out as a taxidermist. Heaven.

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And more taxidermy crossover: This past weekend I went to Break Bread at the Think Tank Gallery in downtown LA and saw these masterpieces by Scott Hove.

Last, but certainly not least, Christine McConnell who is one part baker, one part photographer, one part pinup girl. If you don’t know her, get in the know. She bakes the cakes, styles the photos, stars in the photos, and takes the photos. Pre order her book, follow her on instagram, invite her over for tea (Come on over, Christine).

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I leave you in diabetic shock and awe. xoxo