Privilege Blog

The Artsy Cousin Explains It All For Us*

How many Artsy Cousins out there read along and, in a kindly sort of way, wince when I approximate your style? Come on, ‘fess up.

In fact, one of your number has been so kind as to send along her lesson book. High WASPs believe in homework, studying, and getting an A. We like a voice of authority.So when Flo spoke up in her comment on last Thursday’s shirtdress post,

“See me after school for artFUL cousin remedial work, no way would we show up in a military-derived ensemble, how would we be able to stack our Senegalese and Tibetan necklaces all down our front and around the neck with a button placket and epaulets in the way. And, really, nor would we cut you.”

I listened. I emailed her for direction. With alacrity she set up a Polyvore account under the name “Artsy Cousin,” and put together a veritable, Audubon-esque, “The Artsy Cousin In Her Native Habitat.” She even agreed to let me share same, adding that as she was new to this the Polyvores did not include the usual backdrops etc. I like them just as they are, and was nodding, and exclaiming in recognition as I read.

With no further ado, I give you, Flo, The Artsy Cousin. Also, I want all these bags.

The Artsy Cousin Views New Shipment At Her Favorite Antique Shop

Artsy Cousin Views New Shipment at Favorite Antiques Shop

Artsy Cousin views new shipment at favorite antiques shop by ArtsyCousin featuring glass shades

The Artsy Cousin Receives Last Minute Symphony Tickets (and as she says, would rather have earrings by the maestro, Robert Lee Morris, maker of the cuff)

Artsy Cousin receives last minute symphony tickets

Artsy Cousin receives last minute symphony tickets by ArtsyCousin featuring rock tops

The Artsy Cousin Agrees To Assist At An Historic House Tour

The Artsy Cousin Has A Few Folks In For Drinks

The Artsy Cousin Goes Into Town to Sign Will At Her Lawyer’s Office

The Artsy Cousin Attends Quarterly Colonial Dames Meetings

Artsy Cousin attends quarterly Colonial Dames meeting

Artsy Cousin attends quarterly Colonial Dames meeting by ArtsyCousin featuring dolman sleeve tops

And finally, with notes from Flo on Artsy Cousin customization at its highest level,

The Artsy Cousin Plans Ahead For A Black Tie Event


So reassuring to know I didn’t make it all up. Note that in a High WASP culture, even Artsy Cousins are hard-pressed to wear anything but clear nail polish. Flo, I am deeply in your debt. ArtFUL Cousin indeed.

*What would an Artsy Cousin post be without an actual artsy reference?

52 Responses

  1. My mum is an artsy cousin (combined with something outdoorsy, involving horses) and all this looks gorgeous, and very mummie.

  2. I’m THRILLED that the Artsy cousin would wear Crocs :D but would she truly wear a thong sandal to a Grande Dame event? Hmmm…I guess that’s what makes her an Artsy Cousin.

    I am going to post about my latest footwear tomorrow. Be forewarned: you’re going to think I’ve gone off the deep end.

  3. Flo is one very chic and sleek artsy cousin! She is a tad more minimalistic than most artsy cousins I know, which, oddly, makes me very curious about her hairstyle.

  4. Wow, that’s STYLE!
    I’m blown away by looks number 2, 4 and 5 and I would also want all bags and all jewelry ;)
    I must admit, however, that I don’t think I have what it takes to wear those clothes (the necessary allure). But I definitely I wish I could have that sense of style!

  5. Lisa a fabulously Artful Cousin. I would wear every single ensemble shown!

    Art by Karena

    Come and enter my New Giveaway from Serena & Lily! You will love it!

  6. Oh now this is really interesting…

    Artsy cousin has a very keen eye for detail…she has great taste in her choice of garments and accessories.

    You might consider collaborating on a regular basis for future posts!

  7. Still tad slow in understanding ‘sturdy’ ‘artsy’ gals,now show me a sloaney and am full on!!

    Great post love the bags.Ida

  8. I love every one of these outfits and Artsy Cousin has impeccable taste in jewelry. I’m a wannabe Artsy Cousin, but my recent immigrant and rural roots will forever brand me an outsider. No matter, I still stack my bangles high!

  9. Perfect. I’d have to say my kind of artsy cousin as well. I’d reluctantly come to accept that I am the artsy cousin type, but most of the artsy cousins I know are far more artsy and less minimalist. I had come to define myself as artistic modern, and this fits. I admire Flo’s sensibility as a more casual “sister”.

  10. While I really do like the Artsy Cousin outfits that Flo chose I find them just a tiny bit tame. I had previously claimed to fit your Artsy Cousin mold. I now wonder if I’ve slipped into the dreaded bag lady category. I don’t suppose High WASPS do bag lady.


    1. I’m thinking there are different sub-strains of Artsy Cousin (as well as the other prototypes), and you may fit into a different one than Flo.

    2. DEFINITELY “different sub-strains of Artsy Cousin”! Lisa will separate them out later using her cultural anthropology genius, she knows everything about all of that. I admire her ability to grasp and define overarching truths while simultaneously making sense of the disparate pieces of conflicting understory.

      All I know, for better or worse, is that my upbringing was this thing Lisa calls High WASP. But I failed miserably at getting myself up in the High WASP-preferred uniform of seersucker, chino, patch madras, surcingle belts, pink/green, blue/yellow, Lilly anything, sweet little golf shirts with logos, pearls, diamonds, all the WASP signifiers of approved Good Taste.

      Long ago they’d just lock a WASP failure like me in the attic, now I get this lovely designation of Artsy Cousin allowing me out on the street ;-)

  11. WHAT FUN I HAD with this! Thank you for such wonderful remarks.

    Polyvore is my new best friend. If PV can make my choices look good, then PV can do the same for you, I highly recommend it as an unemotional thinking tool. And addictive, I had to set goals to be sure I’d get up from my desk and actually WALK during my 24 hour virtual shopping binge.

    And to T&C Mom, my hair is shortshort as of this past weekend, not quite used to it yet.

    It’s a PRIVILEGE to be here, thank you for inviting me Lisa.

  12. Most of my aunts are “Artsy Auntie”s one in particular is a big-time lady in Ohio + Florida and beyond! Check her stuff out because it is super cute and artsy.

    Great post, love the outfits because it looks like what I see during holidays! ha!


  13. Looking at this I can now say that the artsy cousin style of dressing is alive and well in rural Australia (or at least my husbands side of our family!) Sturdy girls are ubiquitous.

  14. I agree that they do seem a little tame. Artsy Cousin isn’t just a younger version of Grand Dame, and I’m thinking Grand Dame with several of those outfits.

    I kind of envisions the AC as bordering into something Southwestern with maybe a crystal or two.

    I love those shoes!

  15. What a great post — so fun to see a series, enough material to really understand Flo’s reading (and ideal performance) of Artsy Cousin, through Polyvore. Like other commenters, my first thought was that this was a different version of Artsy Cousin than I’d envisioned (I think of the character Patricia Clarkson played in Six Feet Under, for example), slightly more austere, perhaps, edited. But Flo’s comment that she hails from the same High Wasp background that Lisa analyses reminds me that our wardrobe choices and personal style are not just a reflection of personality and individual preference but that those interact with our upbringing and cultural background — as well as with our present lifestyle. An Artsy Cousin living on my island, going to house concerts and book club meetings and jazz clubs — and perhaps writing for a living so on a limited budget — would interpret the look differently. Thanks so much to Flo for giving me such a comprehensive look at one version — and as always, Lisa, thanks for providing the wonderful forum of your blog!

  16. Lord, but I enjoyed this, “High WASPs believe in homework, studying, and getting an A. We like a voice of authority.”

    Artsy Cousin had me until those clogs, which just . . . I can’t. I’d gladly claim any of those dresses, however.

  17. Welcome Flo! So glad you spoke up. Very interested to see your choices…must work some colour into your nail polish collection though!

  18. Hmmm, this is such a mystery to me. I knew artsy cousins in college. Back then I was a straight ahead prep, then a sloppy prep. Then I went to Europe and came back with a new wardrobe and because a lapsed prep. It still interests me though all these years later.

    xo Mary Jo

  19. Colored nail polish – no. A henna tattoo after travel to an appropriate part of the world – yes. My version of the artsy cousin is certainly less minimalist. On the other hand, she has to stay hidden at work, so perhaps I overcompensate.

  20. Hannah – Well thank you!

    Jan – Thongs to an event, that’s what impunity is for:).

    Belle – She’s got some fabulous taste.

    Town and Country – Yes, this is a very refined version indeed.

    Marcela – That was my exact reaction. Like how someone gets it so perfect I do not know.

    Karena – An artist confirms!

  21. Hostess – I’d love to hear from Flo again. Thank you.

    Deja – The color palette too, right?

    Ida – I do have a page about the Archetypes on the site, but that said, as long as you like some of the items the rest can be seen as just entertainment:). I think they are all version of Sloaneys, perhaps.

    Jen – We are pitching a large tent here. If you wannabe, you are. One of my primary goals with Privilege was to chip away at the illusion of exclusivity. Not to get too serious or anything:).

    Mardel – I would say you are certainly an Artsy Cousin. There are degrees, as you say, along artsy to minimalist, and from casual to elegant.

  22. Darla – There is a spectrum! From highly ornamented to rather minimalist, and from quite casual to very elegant. To say nothing of the regional variations. In California we always put our own spin on things. No bag lady. Surely no bag lady. Although if a happy bag lady, why not? The Artsy Cousin spectrum does lead us to the Eccentric Great-Aunt, a revered icon in my culture:).

    Danielle – You are so right. The Urban Artsy Cousin, for example, is an adaptive response to living in a big city. She’s the one who wears studded black booties. I too hope we hear from Flo again in future.

    Flo – Thank you again, so much, for sharing your aesthetic with us. It’s quite spectacular.

    Kiki – She doesn’t think of it as you stealing them, she feels she sets them free.

    Worthy – I love to hear of other families where this all resonates. I couldn’t quite follow the link, it was an odd interface?

  23. Jessica – :).

    Flo – It’s all about getting out on the street more often:).

    Preppy 101 – Thank you!

    A Farmer’s Wife – I’d love to see the Australian versions.

    RoseAG – Let’s just say this version is extremely refined and elegant. My college roommate, who went on to curate a collection at a museum of contemporary arts, dressed like this. I was always jealous. Couldn’t do it. But the more exuberant versions leave more room for approximation, so I focus on those. And say yes to crystals:).

  24. Mater – Exactly. Constructs are starting places, we all interpret and implement them separately. I can say that from my background Flo’s stuff absolutely resonated, although I could never recreate what she has done here. I keep thinking of the French term, raffinée. Which of course only means refined, but sounds fancier:).

    Legally Blonde Mel – Believe it or not, she actually had me thinking maybe I could do clogs, were they in a nice enough leather.

    T&C – I agree, shortshort places this squarely in artist territory.

    Laura – Perhaps we all need nail polish training!

    Mary Jo – I know! Although your clothing line has such great details, clearly you have an artistic sensibility.

    DocP – Bwahahahaha. Mehndi. Absolutely.

    1. Eccentric Great Aunt? I like it and think it fits. It means I can drink martini’s for lunch be quite vague in my conversation doesn’t it?


  25. Love it, love it, love it. Go Flo!
    My mother is an artsy cousin, but she has settled her long limbs into boxy 1990s black and stretchy items. Maybe I will share this with her in hopes of fanning her flame.

  26. Great post! I agree that my version of Artsy Girl is much less minimalist. I am often on guard against the Artsy Cousin in my wardrobe as I see it to a fault in woman of a certain girth and age who often employ it for the ease of formless dressing verging on sloppiness. (Think Crocs, prairie skirts, and shawls, or Eileen Fisher overload.) And frankly, I haven’t met too many Artsy Girls who would actually attend a Grande Dame meeting.

  27. I am this sort of Artsy Cousin. I have, or would like to have, everything in this collection. Heretofore I figured that I was Sturdy Gal because I don’t go for frilly or bold, but this minimal look resonates with me. Somehow knowing that I’ve found my personal style niche makes me day! Thx to you and to Flo.

  28. Artsy Cousin really is making some style statements! I think my favorite is the ensemble for the Will Signing, I love the way you detail having the dress done in the heavy silk, all of it is spot on. Not all of it will work in my very own closet, but then that’s what makes these so fun, the opportunity to think in possibility and promise, it doesn’t get much more fun than that. :)

  29. Love these Artsy cousin outfits and agree that the bags are particularly splendid. Would very much like the one which is being taking to the lawyers ovfice to sign the will!

  30. Oh this is wonderful, now I can really see the Artsy Cousin and I do indeed see her type around often. What wonderful style Flo has.

  31. Lovely. I want all shoes immediately. They may be the single most important clue to the character. Thank you Flo for the lesson in taste.

  32. I always assumed I fit the Artsy Cousin category…but, as these ensembles are perfect, they are not me. I love the muted colors, the jewelry, the “artsy-ness” of it all. Now, I feel adrift in the style archetypes!!

  33. Darla – But of course;).

    Genuine Lustre – I hope your mother enjoys.

    Loretta – That’s what is tough for the High WASP Artsy Cousin. Her mother prefers she attends:).

    Stephanie – Thank you.

    Allie – Bwahahaha.

  34. TPP – Thank you!

    Sarah – I know!

    Tabitha – She does indeed.

    Vivelavie – I agree, it’s as though the true self shows in the shoes.

    Jill – Oh, no, you are an Arch-Artsy Cousin, in my opinion. Flo has explicated the “Minimalist Version.” Maybe you could do a Polyvore for us on the other part of the spectrum?

  35. the most pared down artsy cousin ever. it is really very waspy in a sense, very entertaining!

  36. Marianne – I concur:).

    La Victorienne – It’s the kind of stuff I dream of being able to wear.

    Little Augury – Exactly! Pared down, truly High WASP.

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