Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, The Wonder Years before the Condescending, Egomanical, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase

Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, The Wonder Years before the Condescending, Egomanical, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase

by Jen Lancaster

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Overview

Jen Lancaster's cultural inferiority complex had to come from somewhere...and now fans can find out where in this hilarious New York Times bestselling memoir from the author of Bitter is the New Black.

Before she was bitter, before she was lazy, Jen Lancaster was a badge-hungry Junior Girl Scout with a knack for extortion, an aspiring sorority girl who didn't know her Coach from her Louis Vuitton, and a budding executive who found herself bewildered by her first encounter with a fax machine. In this hilarious and touching memoir, Jen Lancaster looks back on her life—and wardrobe—and reveals a young woman not so different from the rest of us.

Prepare to take a long walk in her (drool-worthy) shoes in this humorous and heartwarming trip down memory lane.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451228536
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/04/2010
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 790,248
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jen Lancaster is the author of Bitter is the New Black, The Tao of Martha, Twisted Sisters, and many other bestselling works of both memoir and fiction. Jen can often be seen on The Today Show, as well as CBS This Morning, Fox News, NPR All Things Considered, among others. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and her many ill-behaved dogs and cats.

Read an Excerpt

November 6, 1974

Dear Mattel,

Your Bella Dancerella Barbie is junk!

Just today the head fell off her. Yesterday, her body fell apart. I do not have any of the pieces to send you because they are junk now.

Maybe you should send me a replacmat riplacemint repleasement another one immediately before I tell all my friends what shoddy products you manufacture.

Your friend,
Jennifer Lancaster

P.S. My Dawn dolls fell apart in the tub when I tried to take them swimming. Please send two Dancerella Barbies to make up for this tragic loss.


October 1, 1976

Hi, Mrs. Cummings,

You don’t know me but I am my brother Todd’s sister. My mom says Todd is failing your Spanish class. She yelled at him a bunch for getting an F on the test and he was mad. He kept saying “no bueno.”

My mom is probably too emotional about Todd’s grades to discuss the situation rationally, so you should probably work through me. I am enclosing a blank piece of paper so you can give me a progress report on Todd.

Okay, thank you,
Jennifer Lancaster

P.S. Hola!

P.P.S. Look at me! I’m already bi-lingual!


December 12, 1980

Hello, Brooke Shields!

I’m a big fan even though I’m not allowed to see The Blue Lagoon. Plus you’re from New Jersey and I used to live in New Jersey and we have the same eyebrowns, so it’s like we’re already kindred spirits.

Anyway, I saw your commercial and I like the Calvin Klein jeans you advertise. I figure you probably have some extra since Mr. Klein likely gave them to you for free.

You’re in luck – I happen to need some Calvin Klein jeans and no one will buy them for me so why not solve both our problems and send me some? Seriously, no one in this stupid cow town has Calvins and I’d be the first if you sent me some and I’m pretty sure that would catapult me to instant celebrity.

Your friend,
Jennifer Lancaster

P.S. My auntie says your ads are kitty porn, but that makes no sense because you’re totally wearing pants! Also? There are no cats!


February 14, 1981

Brooke,

I am not saying “dear” because you are not dear to me. I ask you for extra pants and you send me back a frigging postcard?

You are NOT COOL.

And I totally pluck my eyebrows now. You should, too.

NOT your friend,
Jennifer Lancaster

P.S. All is forgiven if the pants are in the mail.


January 28, 1984

Principal Stern,

I’m sorry you had to take time out of your busy day of principal-ing to deal with such a trivial matter.

Honestly, I have no idea how or why Justine Moore got the idea that I hated her and that I specifically carried nail scissors around to simulate snip-snip sounds whenever I was behind her in the hallway. And I couldn’t begin to tell you who started the rumor about people wanting to hack off a chunk of her hair ridiculous red hair to punish her for being such a b-i-t, well, you know, female dog.

These allegations against me are hurtful and untrue even though she TOTALLY tried to get with my date by grinding on him when I hit the bathroom at the last school dance. As you can see, she’d have it coming if someone were to give her an unexpected haircut, but it wouldn’t be me.

Your student,
Jeni Lancaster

P.S. She has NO proof.


December 15, 2008

Dear Self,

Someday in a fit of nostalgia, or perhaps after watching Gross Pointe Blank again, you will be tempted to attend a high school reunion.

Before you load up the CD player with eighties tunes and create a triptych, please read this book and re-familiarize yourself with all the smack you talked about your classmates and hometown.

And then take yourself on a spa weekend instead so you don’t accidentally, you know, get lynched.

You can’t go home again.

At least not after mocking the prom queen.

Best,
Jen


PROLOGUE

When I was a kid, my mother’s mantra was You are what you eat.

Considering that I broke the long silence from birth until my thirteenth month of life by uttering the word “cookie,” it was safe to say even then that it would not become mine. I knew I wasn’t a bruised banana pulled from her handbag while waiting on line at the post office, nor was I an unsweetened bowl of Cheerios topped with wheat germ from the foul-smelling hippie health food store. Sure, I’d have happily been a Hershey bar or a bowl of mouth-shredding Crunch Berries, but a poorly boned bowl of homemade chicken soup or a salt-free lentil casserole? No.

Right about the time I was able to cut my own meat and make my own sartorial choices, my Auntie Fanny gave me some of my cousin Stephanie’s old clothes. I was instantly enamored; there were colors and styles I’d never seen before.

Instead of the ducky-and-moo-cow tops my mother bought or made by hand, I took first grade by storm in Steph’s old purple suede fringe vests and rainbow-striped corduroy bell-bottoms and peace symbol T-shirts. I mean, why would I dress like a baby when I could look like an extra from Sonny and Cher Show reruns?

I may not have been able to tie my shoes or spell my last name, but I knew one thing for sure—I was not what I ate.

I was what I wore.

You never can tell when nostalgia might strike. For many people, it’s triggered by a long-forgotten scent, say the nose on a glass of wine that evokes the aroma of ripe grapes hanging from the arbor in their great-grandmother’s backyard. For others, memories come flooding in when a fancy small-plates restaurant conjures up an ironic bread pudding that happens to taste just like the one Mrs. Maguire brought to that block party the day Nixon resigned. For some, it’s a snippet of a song: Three bars from Toto’s “Africa” broadcast from a passing car and they’re no longer swinging a Halliburton briefcase down Michigan Avenue to get to a branding meeting. Instead, they’re huddled in their high school commons at lunch, cramming for a fifth-period chemistry test.

And me? Well, more often than not a piece of clothing will spark my memory.

I clearly remember what I had on when I learned the Challenger exploded, and I know what I was wearing when President Reagan was shot. I saw my husband, Fletch, for the first time when I was waitressing in a pink polo and low-waisted men’s green chinos, and a year later when we had our first kiss, I was in a red Ralph Lauren turtleneck, loose sand-colored 501s, and had a red and blue grosgrain band around my watch. I can even tell you the exact gauge of the sweater set I wore the day I made the mistake of carrying a Prada bag to the unemployment office . . . no matter how much I’d like to forget.

The sizes on the tags of my clothing may have changed over the years, but the memories are a constant.

In Pretty in Plaid, I recall the outfits (and events) that ultimately made me the kind of condescending, egomaniacal, self-centered smart-ass who would bark orders at waitresses and make assistants cry. My road to hell wasn’t paved with good intentions—it was cobbled with gold lavalieres and Gucci purses.

As I examine my life through this book, I can’t help but wonder if my mother was right. Maybe I really was what I ate. And maybe if she’d let me eat a little more sugar, I’d have come out sweeter.

But, really, who knows?

All I can say for sure is that my story begins with kneesocks and a lobster bib. . . .

Customer Reviews

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Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, The Wonder Years before the Condescending, Egomanical, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 158 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lancaster is always hilarious. This details her early years. While funny, it's not quite as satisfying as her first two books. Still, it's Lancaster and when is that girl not entertaining? Was hoping for a better ending or transition between her childhood and adult years she's already covered. She has an amazing memory of her childhood, and as with all of Jen's life, it's comical and great reading.
MamaBing More than 1 year ago
I read the beginning of this book on my Nook and finished reading it hardcover which was way easier due to the writing style (lots of footnotes which are generally hilarious and not to be missed). Not quite as funny as Bitter is the New Black, but definitely a quick and entertaining read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Jen Lancaster's writing--but I really couldn't get into this book. I just wasn't feeling it. Maybe because I wasn't in a sororiety?
See_Jane_Read More than 1 year ago
So terribly disappointing...I enjoyed Bitter is the New Black immensely and while Pretty in Plaid is mildly amusing, the snarky humor is ineffective without a heartfelt story. There's no real triumph in Pretty in Plaid, no obstacle to overcome, no character growth occurs. It's just a mouthy, vain, and shallow recounting of an unremarkable child and young adulthood. I'm afraid I can't recommend this one folks.
PaulaAnnP More than 1 year ago
I love this woman and her writing. She says things we all want to say but in a much better way than any of us can communicate. Her books have me so engrossed and laughing out loud. I am of the baby boom generation and my daughter is in her late 20's and we both love all of her books. We can't wait for the next one!
Dr_Arrival More than 1 year ago
Jen Lancaster's books are hysterical. Anyone with an above average intelligence level mixed with an enviable ability to appreciate real wit & humor will LOVE them!!!
Aunt_J-ha More than 1 year ago
Having read and loved all of Jen's previous memoirs as well as being addicted to her snarky website, I knew I was going to enjoy this one. However, I have to say hands down it is the best Jen Lancaster I have read. Jen perfectly describes the decade (along with a good chunk of the 90s) which took my generation from elementary school to our first jobs with her trademark wit and sarcasm. My first laugh out loud moment (and there are many) happened on page 76 as a 10 year old Jen gets badgered on the school bus by 2 popular girls. Jen's childhood seems to be remarkably like my own, although I never realized how dorky I was until 7th grade. For me, the the early 80s signifies a time when even though I couldn't afford new clothes and cool sneakers, with a pair of home-made braided ribbon barrettes holding back the sides my permed mullet and 3 pounds of friendship pins on my generic K-mart Keds I felt pretty and loved. Pretty in Plaid takes me back to those days and the confusing times later when I was desperate to be accepted by the popular pack and for a cute guy to like me back. Jen also perfectly describes what it was like in the mid 90s starting entry level jobs where your co-workers don't take you seriously and your corporation was flooded in new technology at the same time clinging to their bottles of white out and 1950s filing systems. If you got to know Jen in Bitter is the New Black, you will love reading about her formative years. But if you haven't read bitter, don't worry...You won't be lost as you laugh along through young Jen's journey cause it is probably similar to your own.
AuntJha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having read and loved all of Jen's previous memoirs as well as being addicted to her snarky website, I knew I was going to enjoy this one. However, I have to say hands down it is the best Jen Lancaster I have read. Jen perfectly describes the decade (along with a good chunk of the 90s) which took my generation from elementary school to our first jobs with her trademark wit and sarcasm.My first laugh out loud moment (and there are many) happened on page 76 as a 10 year old Jen gets badgered on the school bus by 2 popular girls. Jen's childhood seems to be remarkably like my own, although I never realized how dorky I was until 7th grade. For me, the the early 80s signifies a time when even though I couldn't afford new clothes and cool sneakers, with a pair of home-made braided ribbon barrettes holding back the sides my permed mullet and 3 pounds of friendship pins on my generic K-mart Keds I felt pretty and loved. Pretty in Plaid takes me back to those days and the confusing times later when I was desperate to be accepted by the popular pack and for a cute guy to like me back. Jen also perfectly describes what it was like in the mid 90s starting entry level jobs where your co-workers don't take you seriously and your corporation was flooded in new technology at the same time clinging to their bottles of white out and 1950s filing systems.If you got to know Jen in Bitter is the New Black, you will love reading about her formative years. But if you haven't read bitter, don't worry...You won't be lost as you laugh along through young Jen's journey cause it is probably similar to your own.
Leeny182 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Let me just start off my saying "I LOVE Jen!" But this is the 4th book of hers I have read and I have to say this is my least favorite. I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 cause I dont find it as entertaining and as funny as the others. Don't get me wrong, its funny and has its good parts but overall not as good as the others.
mcelhra on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed learning about Jen's formative years but I didn't think this book was as laugh out loud funny as her previous books. If you haven't read any of Jen's other books, I would read them first. I don't think this book would be very interesting to someone who didn't know about Jen's rise and fall in the corporate world as an adult.
skinglist on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Before I read this boook I didn't know it was a look back at Lancaster's history, but I enjoyed it anyway. She' s a little older than I am but I identified some of her fashion points although I was luckily spared sororites and Indiana. It was interesting to see what shaped her into the person she became in her later books. I loved the touch points that carried through many lives - girl scouts, bus teasing, first jobs, etc. Agree with some of the other reviews that it isn't quite as good as her adult stories - but I like it. Will be interesting to see how here NYT moment shapes her future
tipsister on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a regular follower of Jen's website and a huge fan of her books, I was really excited to run out and buy Pretty in Plaid. I didn't even mind that it was a hardcover. Even though all of her other books are paperback, which is going to seriously mess up the aesthetics of my book shelf. Jen makes me smile and laugh, and frankly who couldn't use a smile and a laugh these days.You don't need to be familiar with Jen or her story to be able to really enjoy Pretty in Plaid. Pretty much you just need to have been alive and over the age of ten at some point in the 80's. I really enjoyed learning more about Jen's background. The book starts with Jen as a young girl, upset about her Brownies uniform, longing for a pony, and cheating her way through Girl Scout badges. It covers life in Indiana, the trials of high school and her quest to find a sorority in college. Eventually the book hits the 90's where Jen graduates from college and starts her career.I really loved this book. In my opinion it might just be her best. I still think we could be friends.
indianajane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I almost never buy hardback books, but I was not waiting for Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster to come out in paperback. This is the fourth book of her memoirs, and is a prequel of sorts, carrying us back to her '70s and '80s childhood. I put it at the top of my reading list for the year when I found out back in January that it was coming in May.I'm sure that Jen isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I love her books. Maybe it's because I can identify with so much of her background. Maybe it's because she has done a lot of things that I would have liked to do, but didn't. Maybe it's because she can be so honest about her failings and still have such unfailingly high self-esteem.Or maybe it's just because she is absolutely hilarious.I laugh out loud when I read her books, and that is a rare thing. And it was totally worth it to go ahead and buy the hardback.
eenerd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jen Lancaster has sealed her place in my heart as the queen of memoir. This book examines her "early years", which she only visits in brief vignettes in her prior books. You should almost read this before the other three, in order to gain a broader view in your study of Jenology. It is a very fast read, as the writing is like buttah. A funny, fun, read. But with Jen Lancaster, you'd expect nothing less.
kmoellering on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It was laugh out loud funny, especially for someone (like myself) who grew up in the 70s and 80s - what with Jen's references to Kristy McNichol and Dorothy Hammill haircuts. I will definitely recommend this to readers at my library looking for something funny. Also? I will be going back and reading her other books. Such. Fun.
suefernandez on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love Jen Lancaster...her humor is caustic, but hilarious. I literally gain stomach muscles laughing so hard. There are some parts 2/3 through that weren't as funny, but at her LEAST funny, she's the funniest person I know
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Bitter is the New Black, Jen Lancaster gave us the brief details of her bio before she was famously fired from her high-powered job. In Pretty in Plaid, Lancaster illustrates some of those moments, from growing up in Cow Town, Indiana, to her life as a sorority girl during her eleven years of college, to her first job post-college. Like her previous books, Pretty in Plaid is written as a series of essays, all of which are connected by the theme of clothing. From her Girl Scout uniform¿covered in (il)legally earned patches¿to her first job interview suit, Jen illustrates how clothes shaped the way she views the world.I was extremely entertained by this book. It¿s a fast read¿I read it in less than two days¿and it¿s just as funny, if not funnier, than some of her other books. Jen Lancaster definitely has a unique voice that¿s very witty, and her thoughts, as usual, are uncensored¿good for the reader, since it meant that I was belly laughing all the way through. In fact, in places, I had to put the book down, I was laughing so hard. No matter what situation Jen finds herself in, she¿s always got a positive attitude about it. Although the present-tense narration got a little irritating in some places, I simply couldn¿t stop turning the pages. It¿s a nice, light read that¿s perfect for spring.
sunfi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The fourth book by Jen Lancaster, this one is about her childhood and growing up. The story begins with her family moving from Boston to Indiana and continues through her first couple jobs after college. While she is a humorous storyteller, she is also very observant and a little mean. Most of the funny experiences that she writes about happen to everyone (in one form or another) she's just observant enough to notice them and then writes about them.
Oreillynsf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite of Lancaster's books thus far, based not only on the content but also in the way her writing style is deepening and involving. Oh, it's not a deep book, but it is a lot more complex that most of her readers have come to expect, in my view. Aw heck, it's funny as all get out, and such an on-the-money chronicle of the young lives of today's 40-somethings...
ReadingWithMartinis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was actually the first Jen Lancaster book that I read, though chronologically the fourth she had written. It remains my favorite. Each chapter or individual story in Pretty in Plaid is tied to or told around a specific piece of clothing from Lancaster¿s youth. As usual, hilarity ensues as Lancaster tells the tale of each piece of clothing (or accessory). I simply cannot stop laughing when reading her books. She is one of the first recommendations I give when people tell me they need something to read. If you haven¿t read this book or any of Lancaster¿s books, stop what you¿re doing and get yourself a copy!
hankesj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jen Lancaster's writing is like a drug. You start on page one and suddenly you're out of control trying to inhale the pages as quickly as possible. Pretty in Plaid is the story that leads up to Lancaster's first book- Bitter is the New Black. She actually is a very intelligent, witty woman despite how she may come off in her books. She does seem kind of ditzy and snarky in her books, but its all in good fun. She started out in business and when she was unemployed she started her blog, got so many followers that she got an agent and then wrote her books. Now she's fricken superwoman. She is pretty much my hero and she gives me faith that someone like myself can be as successful as she's become.
LadiSteele More than 1 year ago
I love her outlook and voice in her books, great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will be a medecine cat apprintince -PebblePaw32
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Hello. May i join?" The white she cat meows
Sherri_Hunter More than 1 year ago
When I read a Jen Lancaster book, I have come to expect to be entertained. This author has a unique voice in her writing that draws the reader into her world. I don't feel like I am reading a book but instead am sitting in a Starbucks with Jen Lancaster, laughing and giggling over foo-foo coffee drinks. In PRETTY IN PLAID, we are given a front seat view into how fashion shaped Jen throughout her life from Girl Scout to college coed to career woman. From Jordache jeans to designer Prada handbags, this book is an adventure in fashion that will appeal to the girly girl in all of us.