Fashionista Flashback: Normal American Girl Edition

Happy Independence Day!

Later today, I’ll be going to a Twins vs. Yankees game, enjoying a dinner of pizza and beer, and watching fireworks. What could be more American than that, you ask?

How about…THIS?

Sugar Beet days

It’s possible that you would like some context.

I am from a small town in southwestern Minnesota, and like all small towns in southwestern Minnesota, mine celebrates its heritage every summer. We have a parade, a street dance, flea markets and games. We used to have a Junior Miss pageant that was exactly like the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous, minus the murdering, but sadly no longer.

In DDG, the theme of the pageant always incorporates America (“Amer-I CAN! Proud to be an American! Buy American!”). In my hometown, the theme of the entire celebration incorporates our town’s key crop: the Sugar Beet.

Look, anything can seem normal when you’re raised with it, including a week of celebrating beets, okay?

The pageant was always my favorite part as a kid.  But my second favorite part was the kiddie parade.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: all the kids in town are woken up early, dressed in costumes made by their aunts or mothers, and encouraged to walk down Main Street carrying signs incorporating puns on the word beet. Then they turn around and walk back up Main Street because it’s only about a block long. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes and is a general confusion of cuteness and tantrums.

Pictured above: the “prize winners” of the Sugar Beet Days kiddie parade in about 1989. My brother and I are on the far right, dressed as Polyester Captain America and a Precious Moments figurine. No, actually, according to our sign, which we must have ditched at the end of the street, we were “Uncle Sam and the Pioneer Spirit.”

It actually just occurred to me this morning that the Pioneer Spirit might not be a real character. Google seems to think the Pioneer Spirit is a bunch of buffaloes, not a four-year-old in an over-sized bonnet and what appear to be tap shoes.  My mom made it up just to give me a reason to walk down the street with my brother.  Again – anything can seem normal when you’re raised with it.

Anyway, I think we came in second that year, between Mr. and Mrs. Sugar Beet (who still haunt my dreams) and the three little pigs (who were the other kids who showed up).

The kiddie parade still goes on when there are enough kids to participate. The Uncle Sam costume (made by my aunt) actually made its third appearance a few years ago on another generation of my family and once again took home a prize.

What I’m trying to say is that my hometown is weird in the way that all small American towns are weird. Nothing ever really changes, and that’s comforting. I biked every street within that one-square mile. I swam in that town pool a thousand times, then walked to the Malt Shoppe or the pharmacy to spend my twenty-five cents on candy. I didn’t worry about politics, or war, or whether or not I’d be allowed back in to school in the fall because I was a girl. And of course my school would still be there, and no one would stop me from going to church every week, and there would always be food in the fridge and I’d always be safe and happy and free.

Anything can seem normal when you’re raised with it.

Happy birthday, America. You are weird and flawed and my home. Thank you for my happy childhood.

Well, mostly happy childhood. I think I was pretty over the parade scene by this point.

I will end you

Fashionista Flashback: The Ninth Day of Christmas Edition

Uh, hello. Have you seen eight other ladies dressed exactly like me, maybe dancing around a pear tree? I got distracted by some lords a-leaping.

Rachel as a dancer

My friend Ben calls this my “Palestinian Ambassador of Dance” look.

This Christmas, laugh, be merry, give thanks for all that is good in your life, and make sure your jaunty cap coordinates with your sash.

And dance.

Fashionista Flashback: The Girl in the Yellow Dress

Because the Red Balloon Bookshop was kind enough to put my blog On Reading on their Facebook page, and because I’ve been thinking of my meeting with Barbara Cooney anyway, I dug this photo up:

Rachel and Barbara Cooney

The date on the back is May 7, 1992, so just over twenty years ago. I remember being pulled out of school, and wearing that yellow dress (my favorite) for the full 2-hour car ride to the Cities. I took all of my personal books by Barbara Cooney as well as a bunch owned by the school for her to autograph, which she did. I still can’t believe she wrote to me more than once.

Every little girl should get to meet one of her heroines, and every heroine should have the chance to make a little girl’s day.

Fashionista Flashback: Rocking a Lot of Polka Dots Edition

We’ve been experiencing some fabulous weather here in Minnesota for a few weeks (changing our state motto from “How about this weather we’re having, then?” to “Dontcha just love this weather we’re having, then?”).  My neighborhood is covered with sidewalk chalk, and I love it.

I was an avid chalker back in the day.  My best friend and I once spent an afternoon covering each of the bricks of my front steps with different, unique bits of art (or solid blocks of color depending how bored we got with the process).

The artist and her work

Behold! Co-artist cropped out since not everyone likes their childhood business published on the internet, and I do have tens of blog followers.

A lot of my outfits in this era matched in the most literal way, and this was a favorite.  There are enough polka dots on that thing that it’s practically a magic eye illusion. I could probably induce seizures by doing a cartwheel.

The point is: my childhood was awesome.

Zombie Fashionista!

Last weekend, my friends and I did terrible things to the Disney genre at the annual Zombie Pub Crawl.

Zombie Disney Princesses

Sorry for ruining your childhoods just now.

Even though I was Minnie Mouse and not Snow White, it made me dig through the RachelArchives for this:

Rachel as snow white

1990. Sweet, innocent, adorable Snow White. What happened.

This was my third year in a row at the ZPC.  In 2009, Sabrina and I decided to answer the question: “What if Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana were two different people? And also, zombies?” I was Miley, and you could tell because I was wearing a sticker that said “Secret Pop Star.”

ZPC Year One

No explanation for the Margaret McPoyle eyebrows

Last year, Sabrina and I did the Zombie bridesmaids thing.  At the :36-mark in this video, I walk directly at the camera for a hot second:

No McPoyle brows that year! (I actually had no eyebrows.  We overcompensated.)

You don’t have to believe me, but I was actually the DZD (Designated Zombie Driver) both those years.  I wasn’t this year but that’s not the point.  The point is that whether I’m Miley Cyrus or Minnie Mouse, as long as I’m all gored up and with my good friends, I’m having fun.

Uh….apparently at the expense of the Disney channel.

Fashionista Flashback: “Summarizing My Entire Being” Edition

Little kids are my fashion icons.  They wear whatever they want and they know they look good in it.  How can they not when the outfit involves tiaras/tutus/Superman pajamas/all of the above!  Little kids think, Yes, this multicolored swimsuit with the ruffled skirt would look just fab paired with my bright red roller skates!


This is a look that doesn’t care what you think.  From the Zooey bangs to the yellow laces to the how-are-you-not-falling-over pose, this chick knows what’s up.

The day I manage to achieve this level of confidence again is the day I win.

skating away

Don't worry, world. I got this.


Fashionista Flashback: Firestarter Edition

So, speaking of my childhood adventures in pyromania, when I look at this picture…

Rachel the Firestarter


This is all I see:

Firestarter Poster

Nothing scarier than Drew Barrymore

The back of the picture of me and my bro says “First day of Sunday School, September 1988.  Notice the high level of enthusiasm.” Good one, ma!  But why did you dress us up like we’re Amish?  And is that a 3-piece tan corduroy suit K is wearing? I think it is!  This would be adorable if it wasn’t so “Children of the Corn.”

Rachel on fire

Seriously, though, I would consider running.

Fashionista/Best Things

I had initially planned to do a “Fashionista Flashback” every Friday, but didn’t last week because a) I found something more important to write about and b) I can’t even honor arbitrary deadlines I make up for myself.  So let me preface this Best Things of the Week post with this:

Sweet Yellow Cardigan

As Michael K would say, this is The Look.

Fact: I did not wear jeans until about age 12.  So pants like this happened a lot.  I’m not really sure about the tiny old man cardigan, though.  Another fact: the back of this picture says “first day of 2nd grade,” so you know I picked out this outfit ahead of time.

Best Things of the Week!

1. A great day for America

Rae, Ma, and A

As my mom (Miss America in the picture above) said, America is a better place today now that we’ve officially got my sister-in-law.

2. My high tech lifestyle continues

On Thursday, my phone learned a new trick:

cell phone down

Man down.

I tend to wear things out well beyond the point of sense, but after two days this was too much for even me.  Upside: I got a new phone! Downside: still not a smartphone!  It turns out I like being cheap more than I like being cool.

3.  All these things also happened.

Friday: birthday pub crawl (Billy’s and The Onion…we didn’t crawl very far)
Saturday: bachelorette party (The Shout House, with at least 20 other bachelorette parties)
Sunday: Uptown Art Fair and sushi (Sushi Tango)

Weekends like this make me happy I live in the Cities.

Fashionista Flashback

Because this week a coworker said to me: “Rachel, your outfit yesterday was so cute! Today, not so much, but as long as you enjoy looking like that,”  I present Fashionista Flashback #3: 1992 High-Side-pony Edition.

Rachel age 7

"Look, I'm going to make myself taller than these plants even if it takes every scrunchie I own!"

Do you see that smile?  So yeah, coworker, I do enjoy the way I look.  Even when I shouldn’t.