When I first met Ryan, he told me didn’t really understand why anyone bothered with marriage. He didn’t need a party or a piece of paperwork to keep him loyal to the woman he loves. And he wanted me to feel “free” to leave or stay. I agreed wholeheartedly, but secretly I wanted to belong to his beautiful, beautiful beard heart.
In our first year, there was bliss. But there were also tragedies, insomnia, insecurity, habits and complexes gnashing like dull knives. We reinvented the art of the pout. There were moments of ecstatic, twitterpated wonder intermixed with anxiety attacks and emotional shut-downs. But we just kept trying.
It takes time to figure things out.
And goddamnit, we got better at it. We forgave, we supported, we encouraged, we understood. We took long lingering baths together even when chaos charged in. Ryan was patient, loyal and forgiving. He loves me dizzy.
One day, Ryan sat me down ceremoniously on a park bench to announce, “You know what? I get it. I do see why people get married.” I smiled, taking it for a sweet romantic musing. But deeper down I knew what he really meant. My strengths are his weaknesses and my weaknesses are his strengths. We are only beginning to understand how best to love each other and marriage is just an official request for the patience required to keep getting better at it.
When he proposed another year later, I was definitely surprised. And after a lot of waffling, we decided to get married at our favorite place. Turns out we weren’t the only ones who thought throwing a wedding for 100+ cityslickers at our “rustic” family farm was just crazy enough to work.
There is no such thing as a DIY wedding. It’s DIO.
Our friends teamed up, drank beer and conquered. They carved our rugged, dusty, spiky, poisonous little farm into a gentle, lush garden with their bare hands. Andrew built a beautiful bench from locally sourced rocks, Casey spread gravel like a mad man, A pregnant Sonja helped babysit and declutter, Angie reorganized bookshelves, Phil worked the shovel and wheelbarrow like a boss. There was heavy lifting, acre after acre of weed whacking and bulldozing, all of us thoroughly dredged in sweat and red dust. To have a friend contribute his sweat and lower back comfort to the cause of your love was incredibly touching.
So if you want to have a lovely wedding on an impossible budget, all you have to do is put in years and years of fierce loyalty to a circle of friends and family who are amazing at everything. Show up to their weddings, their funerals, and especially their moving days. And if your nearest and dearest happen to live and love on a micro brewery/heritage pig farm with an Tolkienesque tree on a rolling hill overlooking a sunset-reflecting lake, you’re in luck.
Leading up to the date, my twin sister Eve and bro-in-law-of-my-dreams Danny (successful behaviorists/ Dragon Hour Farmers / armchair philosophers/parents of the most amazing kid / busiest couple in the land) grew us a 300 lb. sow from a piglet on a diet of organic veggies, raw milk and spent grain. I named her lovingly, Philipa Seymour Hoofman and Ryan fed her her first and final cupcake. Eve took note of my extensive wish list and Danny brewed a keg of pink saîson with a galaxy of stars as the secret ingredient (we named it after the cologne in Grand Budapest Hotel, “L’Air de Panåche”), made perfect playlists, freaking married us, and then went ahead and made sure every detail was perfect (down to personally editing our feature length wedding video – short version soon to come).
Jamaica, my bridesmaid and bestie (as you should very well know by now) weathered all my wildly fluctuating dream dress ideas and whittled them down to the perfect simplicity my heart craved. The pristine tiffany blue silk 1930s slip dress I bought at Desert Vintage was transformed, via $28 worth of vintage lingerie trim, art deco brooches and some meticulous hand-sewing by a love-filled human, into a zephyr of a gown perfect for a 100 degree day féte. Even my veil was vintage – a yard of pre-WWII lemon-hued millinery veiling.
Wearing that dress was like wearing a cool breeze.
My dear friend Lesli of La Curie, parfumier from Tucson with magically impeccable taste, handcrafted our wedding favors – little bottles of a botanical mosquito repellent Mosquito Non-Grata, which smells like heaven, camping and now, our wedding day.
My dad’s hard work was the grandest gesture of fatherly love I have ever seen from him. The man is a machine. He personally transformed the place with his feats of back-hoeing prowess and went about cutifying every last corner of farm. I get a little weepy just thinking about it.
By wedding time, my friends and family and I were all tan and ripped from manual labor, and our love had inspired the creation of a lovely garden, a legit fire pit, an outdoor kitchen with a huge roasting spit, a dance floor underneath a sheltering oak tree, 9 lbs of wedding cheese (Cypress Grove’s iconic Humbolt Fog cheese with a center layer of truffle chèvre) stacked like a 3 layer cake, four different styles of homebrew, and a whole pig butchered, trussed and guarded overnight by five of the very best men in my life. My friend Kelly died my hair and the kids decorated the “cake.”
A wedding can be a poignant occasion to pay homage to those we miss. The pair of star brooches adorning the back of my dress once belonged to my great grandmother, who has returned to the stars. My little brother Nik, who had died of brain cancer 6 months before the wedding, would have been proud to contribute his truck rack to the pork spit. My other brother Dell, my deceased father’s namesake, wore a vintage shirt with my father’s portrait embroidered on the back and walked me down the aisle.
In spite of a water shortage scare, mystery smells, and 100+ degree heat, July 5th 2014 is now a lush memory of friendly cooperation, pleasant surprises, comfortable comedy, creamy sunlight, and revelations of love from bosom friends. Not a cold nerve for miles. For about 6 hours, our disheveled little farm could almost pass for a schmancy winery party with Wes Anderson on the turntables.
There was an old rowboat filled with fairy lights, oddly colored chiffon hanging from trees like spanish moss, and the tables were decorated with sorbet-hued microscopes, vintage cameras, obscure antique books, California poppies, copper dinosaurs and napkins made from clashing vintage fabrics from the 60s.
Amanda and Joel, (Heroes of Hard Labor) our volunteer bartenders, mixed signature cocktails for our guests. “The Moonrise Kingsley” – rosemary, juniper and rose petal infused gin, made by my sister-friend Angie, with homemade grapefruit or raspberry soda made by Sonya, Andy, and Kim. We drank through paper straws resembling birch trunks.
The dance floor turned into a mini Burning Man for awhile there. People were crowd surfing, hoola-hooping. We were mad for love. To us, it was perfection. Absurd perfection.
It only cost us thrice what we hoped it would and as our bank account began to drain low, we fantasized about an easy elopement. But now we understand why people have weddings. Dear friends who would never have met otherwise now feel like one big curated family circle. Where else besides a wedding can you find your high school bestie and your favorite LA neighbor – strangers to each other, mutual support of our relationship their only bond – doing a running-man-off to your favorite William Onyeabar mash-up?
And for one day we are allowed to forget that life is not easy.
That love fades. That there is no happily ever after. That long term relationships require endless patience.
So far it’s true. Our relationship retains similar ratios of infuriating and blissful. I still have to bite my tongue every time Ryan leaves his beard pubes all over the sink, but he still tells me I look pretty even if I woke up on the wrong side of ugly. He kisses me passionately even when I’m wearing blood orange lipstick.
We know there will probably never come a disagreement-free day. But we have promised to keep trying, to stay true and in love, and to “always choose empathy over fairness” (as Ryan wrote in his vows). I accepted Ryan as my husband with unrepentant gusto because he is always learning, always getting really really good at everything he does. He is loyal because he is.
But something definitely feels different since the wedding.
Maybe we trust each other a little more. Maybe we have roles to fill now. Maybe it’s this:
Relationships are never easy, but now ours has its own little clan of believers.
Photos by Isaac Trumbo, Catherine Plein, Will Wells, and Ryan Flynn
Homeless, aimless and unemployed, I appear to be in gypsy mode once again. But that doesn’t mean I’m going go overboard with baubles (overbauble?) and dress like a schizophrenic costume shop refugee a like I did in 2009. This time I’m taking the high road (well, only clothing-wise. The low road has WAY better bars).
For the past six months or so, I’ve cooled it with my accessory obsession (obsessory? accession?) (sorry) (not sorry) and stuck to a look comprised mostly of dresses and shoes. There is a get-up-and-go simplicity about it, and it’s given me the opportunity to downsize my wardrobe into a travel-friendly two-bag affair. However, I seem to have only collected a variety of short floral dresses and cowboy boots and now I look like I’m wearing a Jamaica costume.
Something must be done, lest I end up an action figure. I can see it now: a displeased plastic frown from juggling my miniature suitcases while trying to find my tiny boarding pass. My haircut comes pre-experimented on by little kid scissors, and if you look in my luggage, there are seven more outfits exactly like the one I’m wearing.
I have approximately one more month in Tucson before I’m truly floating in the wind. Now is the time for reinvention! So stylistically, I’ve decided to embrace the vagabond life in a Kathleen-Turner-in Body-Heat homage to the 1930’s via the 1980’s.
Confused? Good. So am I.
Whilst thrifting in Flagstaff, AZ with my mom, I came across this pattern:
The masculine/feminine silhouette balance and the monochrome simplicity made me weak at the knees, and better yet, this (view B) is one of those easily thriftable looks. A pair of high rise pleated pants can be easily made into shorts with minimal sewing skills. Just cut a couple of inches longer than intended, then roll up, tack down and press. Wear with a brown belt over a simple silk tank and then throw on one of those ubiquitous oversized white button downs and roll up the sleeves. Top with a wide brimmed hat or a pair of big earrings, adopt a breathy voice, and you’ll win/break the heart of almost every character ever portrayed by Michael Douglas.
Want to embody a modern, monochrome Carmen Sandiego, but avoid the Polly Esther Fabrique? If you’re not me, you could try the actual high road and achieve this look with new clothes!
above photos via fashion gone rogue
And if you want to get just crazy high on the high road (at least as far as scoring points with yours truly is concerned), be sure to check out what may very well be my last Tucson fashion show on July 20th. The theme of the night is “future primitive”, and even though I appear to be doing “vintage modern”, I’m sure I can rationalize it all somehow. In keeping with my current approach toward life in general, the best plan is…no plan?
Whispery caresses of late spring breezes and glimpses of maybe-I-wanted-you-to-see-my-lingerie or maybe-I’m-innocently-oblivious gauziness have me feeling carefree and roadtrip-ready (more on that later). This is a fabric of slow glances, of underwater grace, of all those chillwave bands from 2010 that you still listen to constantly.
Chiffon has been too long typecast as sexy sleepwear, curtain panels, and over-layers on formal dresses. Sure, it works well in those mediums, but chiffon deserves a chance to really prove itself. Just think: what if Adam Sandler had never made Punch-Drunk Love? What if Arnold Schwarzenegger had never made Twins? This is bigger than you and me. This is about breaking out of your mold! Achieving your potential! Its time to let your true colors shine through, literally. And while you’re at it, why not let that gorgeous bralette you only wear on third dates see the light of day?
My current chiffascination began early this spring as Tucson began to heat up. The temperature hit 100 degrees in April and there was nowhere to go but inside. Of course, the only way to combat an onslaught of sun rays is to wear as little as possible, but when your work inexplicably has a deadly no air conditioning/no sleeveless shirts rule combo, what’s a girl to do? Why, take advantage of a certain dresscode loophole that fails to specify that sheer clothing may not be food-service apropos, of course!
In the way that California’s outlaw of cellphone car conversations overlooked the act of texting for six months and resulted in overly-distracted drivers, my employer’s overlooking of sheer fabrics has resulted in overly-distracted customers. Imagine a gaggle of twenty-something cashiers clad more or less like this:
And then imagine a clientele of lecherous older men with a false sense of entitlement. Endless adventures in objectification! (You can keep your “maybe you should stop dressing like that” comments to yourself, boys, lest you sound rapey. Sweat stains on t-shirts don’t make for great tips.)
But I digress.
CHIFFON! O, fabric of the heavens! Cover me (kind of) with your gossamer mist!
How to wear? Take a hint from Gucci and pair a chiffon maxi skirt with super short shorts:
Or do as I do and dress down long chiffon blouses with denim cut-offs and sandals.
Either way, a windswept prairie or beach makes a great backdrop, but doesn’t it always?
(photos via fashiongonerogue)
Boys of Summer The Cool Factor in Menswear Detailing
Published by Zocalo Magazine, July 2011
By Amber Mortensen, PainfullyHip.com
Tucson isn’t a town that typically embraces streotypical gender rolls. We have a heavily attended Pride Weekend, burlesque drag troupes (Boys R Us, Wingspan) and last month hosted the Gender Identity Project. While I’m not suggesting you take up cross-dressing at the office, I do highly endorse a smattering of menswear detailing this season.
Trousers of all orientations, wide-brimmed grandpa hats, wingtip shoes, suspenders, and bow ties are the necessary means to rock this trend. Celebrate diversity by cinching a summery frock with a thick leather men’s belt and a pair of oxfords. Feminize those wide leg tweed trousers with a lacey lingerie top. Try tailored men’s shorts as a bikini cover up. Tuck an androgynous silk shirt into a pair of hot shorts. Like most things in life, it’s all about balance.
Photos by Krysta Jabzenski (Don’t miss her exhibit at the newly renovated Café Passe on 4th Ave)
Style and Art Direction by Amber Mortensen
Hair by Stefani Annaliese at Toni & Guy
Makeup by Tony Tulve
Model – Rachel Yampolsky (FORD RBA)
Special Thanks to Abraham Cooper
Clothing from Pour Moi Boutique (1865 E River Rd #141, and Preen Vintage (210 S 4th Ave)
Swimsuit from Rockin’ Queen
And now, if you’ll allow me, I must talk about my new Ray-Bans.
Sale Price $96.75
Aren’t they just made of butterscotch?? Well, velvet smooth (seemingly unbreakable) plastic and tortoiseshell. Somehow both timeless and shamelessly modern.
Never before have I allowed my eyewear-abusing-self such quality, but the nice folks at ShadesDaddy somehow knew that I’d misplaced my $6 sunnies with a premature desert summer and an imminent move to Hawaii encroaching. From now on, I am a reformed sunglass-loser/abuser. My new mantra: “On my face or in the case! If you lose these, Amber, you deserve a firm noogying.” Try it! It’s catchy.
Sunglasses also come in handy for sneaking sideways glances at things you’re not supposed to.
And look! They even look good on future supermodels!
Color me in love.
Photos by Jon Saupe and Abraham Cooper
Model is Rachel Ann Yampolsky (Good Luck at FORD, hun! You’re a shoo-in.)
There is also a super cute collection of sunglasses to be found at www.very.co.uk. Go ahead, check ’em out.
I can say without a doubt that the following shoot was the most death defying to date… and that’s including the time we shot in a haunted antiques warehouse in the bowels of the most crime-ridden neighborhood in Oakland!
After we were forced to abandon our original plan of shooting on top of nearby Mount Lemmon because of severe fire conditions (didn’t think it would be cool to be running a smoke machine up there – we prefer to prevent mass hysteria when possible), we drove wayyyy out into the desert in search of a few trees.
Following several miles of meandering dirt roads we came upon this ominous cracked crater of a pond bed surrounded by sparse mesquite trees in the middle of a known smuggling corridor and thought, “Well it’s no forest, but it’ll do.” Amongst the storm of gunshots we kept hearing with disturbing consistency, this location afforded some pretty amazing captures. David Olsen, the editor of Zocalo, seemed to like it too, he made the first one the cover shot for the June issue! Worth it? You tell me…
Summer’s Hottest Trends, Adapted for Life in the Desert
By Amber Mortensen, Painfully Hip
Photos by Ryan Mihalyi
Wardrobe Styling and Art Direction by Amber Mortensen and Bradley Rhea
Hair by Raul Mendoza at Fringe Salon (4861 E Grant Rd #111)
Model: Jessaca Marie Haag
Special thanks to Abraham Cooper and Jonathan Saupe
It’s June in the desert. The sun is relentless, cicadas are celebrating, and temperatures are rising, but what’s this? Hemlines are descending, modesty is rampant, and …black is the new black? Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but pretty much every trend you’ve come to associate with summer (sundresses, shorts, mini skirts, color, color, and more color) have been sent to trial by fire this year. So how do Tucsonans keep cool when fashion publications are telling us that long sleeves, trousers, ankle length hemlines, and black are haute stuff this season? Anything loose and floaty has risen to the top of my wish list. Especially chiffon, the textile equivalent of whipped cream. It’s cool, breathable, and just plain sumptuous. American Apparel (988 E University Ave) offers loads of the stuff. Maxi skirts, cropped blouses, long-sleeved button-ups and even pants in delicious sheer chiffon.
As far as these allegedly low hemlines go, skirts are especially versatile this season. I recommend the high-waisted variety, paired with a fluttery, cropped top or a fitted tank. I love a billowy maxi skirt as a swimsuit cover-up (as seen at the TYP/TFG runway show last month at the Fox Theater), but really anything below the knee is hip for summer. Just don’t forget to add an airy pair of gypsy-esque trousers to your closet while you’re at it.
Black is in, but so is nude. Now with this list of trends, it would be understandable to just decide to translated this to streaking, but first let me explain. Nudity (as far as I know), is still illegal in downtown Tucson, but anything wearable from light peach to pinky beige to tan is so hot, it’s barely legal. All the way down to your toe nail polish, nude is the new black, at least for us desert-dwellers.
And of course there is always room for color on my spectrum, especially for accessories like skinny leather belts and hats. Mindlessly pairing saturated blues, greens, purples and turquoise with your nude, black and otherwise neutral separates will make you appear as though you’ve got this color-blocking trend on lockdown. The point however, is to take whatever trends you’re into this season and make them your own somehow. That’s something we Tucsonans are best at.
Couldn’t resist including this hotness in conclusion (Abraham was the best fog wrangler in tarnation):
No… I’m not actually back in Reykjavik. It’s pushing 100 here but it kinda feels like I am since I’ve been marinating in Icelandic inspiration for weeks preparing for my fashion show. It’s all finally happening this Friday at the historic Fox Theater in Tucson!
Funny to think I would even attempt to capture the grandeur of Iceland by putting pretty clothes on pretty people, but the venue and the music should help!
Never underestimate the power of Art Deco and Sigur Ros.
It’s been decided. I’ve found 3 of my most favorite (and most comfortable) swimsuits to date in the last few months. So I took it as a sign that I should go ahead and spend one month this Autumn on the island of Oahu, land of coconut breezes, misty rainforests, overpriced milk, and my favorite gay couple. So I’ll definitely be putting my swimsuits (here is the first) to great use, since lounging on the beach eating stolen coconuts with Bradley will be all I can afford to do.
I am beginning to be mildly over the tribal print trend, but it’ll be totally be a go in swimwear for at least the rest of the year. Perhaps the colors are a little, “Body Glove SS1994” but I’m having this total mid-90s throwback phase right now and I think I like it. This monokini can give me an awkward tanline anytime. It fits well, stays put, and, get this: you don’t have to peel the whole thing off when you need to pee!
If you know me, you know how exciting it was for me to put thrift store clothes and seconds-from-the-grave candy apple platforms on a recent Harper’s BAZAAR cover model. Have you ever felt preemptively intimidated by a 16 year old before?
Yeeeah, I mean …me neither…
I could also mention that this editorial was thrown together in less than 24 hours, but I won’t. The inspirations ranged from “punk” and “tomboy” to “feminine 1940s-60s silhouettes,” with sources from American Apparel to St. Vincent de Paul… all with a decidedly juicy color pallette. Our team was perfection and we had a blast.
Photos by Matthew Priestley
Written and styled by Amber Mortensen, Painfully Hip
Model- Jeanne Johnston, FORD
MUA – Lizzy Marsh
Hair – Amy Freudenberg
Special Thanks to Abraham Cooper, Jasmine Jarrett and Matt Wade at American Apparel, Tucson.