the ch!cktionary

I'm Lena Chen, a writer, activist, and media producer who's been called a "skank" (by Bill O'Reilly) and "a small Asian woman" (by The New York Times). My favorite part of my workday is the hate mail.

For the unlikely story that is my life, read on.

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Ask Lena: Reader Questions Answered
Anatomy of an Outfit
Bad Feminist Confessions
Freelance Friday: Career Advice for Young Writers
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Posts tagged "Anatomy of an Outfit"

Anatomy of an Outfit: Jacket by David Benjamin, Yearling Striped Sweater by Laurie B., Lure Skinny Jeans by Goldsign, Oxford Shoes by DV.

The muddy paws are all Hamlet … with a bit of Provincetown muck mixed in. This is what happens when Dog challenges Swamp and Man intervenes so that Dog goes home alive at the end of the trip.

On a sartorial note, I’ve noticed that I’ve started dressing much older over the past year. The above jacket, for example, was a vintage find picked up from Beacon’s Closet a lifetime ago (okay, maybe more like two years, but that’s eons when left unworn in a closet). And a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have even given a second glance to the shoes, which I found on eBay a few months ago. No heel? No embellishments? A fucking Oxford? No way. But I’ve already worn these babies so much (and on so many inappropriate terrains) that I’m thinking of getting them resoled.

I’m also quite enamored with the Laurie B. sweater I’m wearing in these photos (though you can’t see it that well under the jacket). The Yearling comes in a bunch of colors and I grabbed the dark grey version with black stripes last fall. I’d never heard of the brand before but I thought it was time for some versatile grown-up clothes and this was oh-so-comfy I didn’t even mind the high neckline. It’s getting too warm for sweaters these days, but it’s is still being sold at some online retailers (at a hefty discount) if you want to stock up for autumn.

And so it seems I’ve moved away from the girly aesthetic that I practically caricatured in the past. As a result, I am no longer getting regularly mistaken for a high schooler.

(I don’t, as a rule, read fashion blogs, because if I do, I will get sucked in beyond belief and never do anything with my life, but my friend Lingbo just suggested that I check out Extra Petite, which is written by another teeny Bostonian. There’s some great advice on how to look like you’re not 15 when you’re small and Asian. So there’s my rec of they day!)

Photos taken by Patrick Hamm.

I now have a full-blown shoulder pad obsession that keeps me looking like a linebacker at all times. Don’t worry, my friends have already staged an intervention.

In other news, I spent this Sunday in Inman Square where I did some book proposal-writing after brunching* at Olé. I don’t know if it’s my aversion to eggs or a bout of homesickness for LA, but in the middle of my one-woman quest to hit up all the brunches around Boston this fall, I’ve started to zero in on Mexican Restaurants For White People. (Possibly the most fascinating bastardization of ethnic cuisine since Chinese Fine Dining.) Anyway, this is clearly a poor substitute for the real thing, but cut me some slack: I live in New England.

So, I’m kind of wondering how I’m ever going to survive food-wise in Berlin. It’s got tons of Vietnamese options and I’ve had good sushi and Chinese there, but Mexican? Given how long it took for the taco trucks of California to migrate to the East and given the tendency for Germany to adopt American trends years late**, I sort have my doubts about the quality and availability of Mexican food in Berlin. Though it appears, according to the New York Times piece, that there are options in existence, and they aren’t total crap. Then again, one of the Berliners quoted in the NYT recalls eating “an enchilada that tasted like curry”, so I remain skeptical.

* “Brunch” is now a verb, people. My life would be easier if everyone could just accept this.

** No idea if this is actually true. It’s a running joke among the Germans in my life that strange American trends tend to become popular after a couple years’ delay in Europe.

Anatomy of the Outfit: Gabby dress (worn as top) by Torn by Ronny Kobo (via Swirl), Corey Lynn Calter shorts (viaPeachfrog in Williamsburg), stockings by Cynthia Rowley (via Swirl), and stone onyx bead bracelet by Alisa Michelle (via Swirl).

Took a stroll through the Southwest Corridor Park on my way home today from brunch at Toro (very yummy tapas place in the South End). Only thing missing was Hamlet! There’s no more patio seating for the pup anymore :(

Anatomy of the Outfit: vintage jacket by Preen, Isaac Skirt by BB Dakota (via Plndr), Cmon Vogue Tank Dress worn as top by Hellz Bellz (via Plndr), vintage heels by Stuart Weitzman, and Diana Clutch by Lauren Merkin (a recent hand-me-down from a friend).

So .. it’s a little Lady Gaga and over-the-top, but I LOVE the felt jacket I scored on eBay and thought today would be an appropriate occasion to debut these serious shoulder pads.

Trying to remember that fall isn’t entirely mud and muck. Here’s a snapshot with the hound on the Boston Esplanade during the fall of 2009. This was so long ago. (I can tell because Patrick took the picture with his old Leica, a manual camera he was using back then.)

Anatomy of the Outfit: Michel Klein turtleneck, Zara pants, Via Spiga coat, Chinese Laundry boots, English bulldog.

    Belated post, but here was what I wore a week ago to my birthday brunch. Except “brunch” should be plural, because I first went to The Meatball Shop, then to Antibes Bistro, then a quick stop at BaoHaus (for Taiwanese gau bao, which I made at home last night because I am AWESOME), yet another stop by The Meatball Shop, and visits to two bars (The Living Room, Cake Shop) before we settled on Happy Hour at Verlaine … which was followed by my much longed-for feast of Peking duck (yes, with the steamed buns!). Five of us ate this whole thing even after eating the previous 24 hours away. Yum yum yum.

    Other things I did not blog from my birthday weekend:

    1. A lively debate over whether a friend should engage in scat with a partner even if he isn’t into it himself. Naturally, this took place at dinner immediately prior to the serving of the main course to my birthday dinner.

    2. An “after-party” that involved 70% of my guests leaving for a gay club (Urge) and me passing out on Patrick’s friend’s couch after one too many lychee martinis. I’m a little sad I never made it to a gogo dancer for a birthday lapdance.

    3. The opening of red envelopes! I got a few from California last week but was waiting to open the one my mom gave me for my birthday. Whenever I’m home, she always gives me hong bao containing small amounts of money upon my departure, because they’re considered good luck tokens ensuring safe journey. I always keep the most recent one in my wallet. Receiving a red envelope from my mother as a gift, however, is rare and special :)

    Anatomy of the Outfit: Plenty by Tracy Reese dress, Napapijri platform heels. (In a similar look, I wore the exact same designers the day before.)

    I look slightly damp because I am! My hair was not doing me any favors that day.

    Photo Credit: Wesley Wong

    In the Lower East Side with my friend and favorite foodie, Evelina, who was visiting New York from California.

    Evelina and I were co-editors in chief of our high school paper back in 2004-2005. I think I recall us doing a good cop/bad cop routine … or at least being pegged as “bitchy” and “bitchier” by certain members of the staff. Yay for stereotypes of women in power! (Don’t remember which one I was, but if I had to venture a guess, I was probably bad cop?)

    So, first thing out of each person’s mouth when we saw each other for the first time since February: “OH MY GOD, I LOVE YOUR OUTFIT!” I probably should revise history so I sound a little less of a Valley Girl, but I figure I might as well own up to my shallow gut reaction. Also, Anatomy of an Outfit time!

    On Evelina: Forever 21 dress (I know, I couldn’t believe it either), Banana Republic wedge heels, belt of unknown origins (from some store in Boston).
    On Me: Plenty by Tracy Reese dress, Napapijri platform heels.

    And yes, I routinely make my friends describe everything they’re wearing, juuust in case I want to obtain an item for myself ;)

    Photo Credit: Wesley Wong

    Taken at Salinas River State Beach in February 2011.

    California, here I come! Apologies for lack of posts lately … trying to wrap up last deadlines of July and collect on overdue invoices before taking a last-minute trip to to the West Coast on Wednesday. (Very, very last-minute, as we only decided on it a few days ago.) I’ll be in San Francisco this Thursday and Friday, driving down the coast over the weekend, and arriving in Los Angeles on Monday for a three-day stay. In total, seven days of friends, family, sun, and muuuuch needed unwinding.

    I’ve hit a bit of a writerly rut lately, and despite producing a LOT of client work this past month (much more than usual), I haven’t been able to make as much progress as I’d like on my book proposal. Patrick and I spent a night in Big Sur back in February and it was so tranquil and wildly different from my day-to-day. Maybe that’s what I need to deprogram? I’m also quite thrilled by the culinary possibilities that await us in my home state … Mexican, dim sum, and lots of bubble tea! (Though I did just start a weight loss bet with my best friend Jason, and I loathe to lose, so I’ll have to keep up the exercise regimen, even while on vacation, grr…) Still a ton of stuff to get done before I leave on Wednesday, eeeep!

    Anatomy of the Outfit: Rebel Yell tank (online at Plndr), Jane Norman shorts (got these in Germany), Hanii Y cardigan. Not pictured: Rainbow sandals (got these in summer of 2006 and they’re still amazing!).

    Photo credit: Patrick Hamm

    Taken last week at the Tate Modern in London.

    Anatomy Of The Outfit: Kensie dress, Ann Taylor belt, Gianfranco Ferré sunglasses, Napapijri sandals (not pictured).

    The Kensie dress was grabbed during a sale at Rescue, a modern/vintage consignment boutique that opened last year on Newbury Street in Boston. It was like $15, no joke. AND I scored gray platform heels by Lovely People for about the same price there. Maybe there are some instances in which paying retail is justified. I have yet to come across one of these instances.

    Photo Credit: Patrick Hamm

    Pablo Bronstein: Sketches for Regency Living

    Institute of Contemporary Arts
    9 June 2011 - 25 September 2011

    Pablo Bronstein presents Sketches for Regency Living, a groundbreaking exhibition in which, for the first time, an individual artist works across the entire ICA introducing major architectural interventions, as well as choreographing extraordinary art and ballet performances.

    Bronstein draws upon London’s Regency history and that of the ICA building, using a wide range of media to explore his interest in architecture, from performance and drawing to installation and sculpture. His work demonstrates an affinity for how architecture and sculpture intervene in personal identity and inform our movements and social mores…

    Bronstein’s most ambitious exhibition to date, Sketches for Regency Living penetrates every area of the ICA. Throughout the exhibition, existing architecture is embellished with forms that reference the Regency period, while visitors encounter neo-classical structures and daily choreographed performances. Bronstein combines elements of the past with the present, and encourages the ICA to engage with its own identity.

    The exhibition includes a retrospective programme of Bronstein’s dance works; newly choreographed performances; and an original ballet devised by Bronstein and co-commissioned by the ICA and Tramway. Bronstein commissioned fashion designer Mary Katrantzou to create the performers’ costumes.

    Anatomy Of The Outfit. Above: Ted Baker top (eBay), Pleasure Doing Business camo skirt (, Napapijri platform sandals, Leyla studded purse. Below: Hanii Y open back cardigan.

    All photos taken by Patrick Hamm. Text from exhibition website.

    Downing a Framboise Lambic at Charlie’s Beer Garden. (Can’t taste the booze but it’s supposedly there.) A very idyllic Sunday …

    Wearing: JWLA top.