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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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

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: 1,022,430
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


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.



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. 144 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.
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.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This memoir was like reading candy. Jen Lancaster may be one of the funniest gals around. I admire her willingness to be who she is and to share that person with all her quirks and neuroses intact. I'm not sure I could face myself in the morning had I been the Rush Tyrant she was for her sorority, but then I wasn't in a sorority. Her college stories did take me back to those heady days of easy college living, particularly that whole plaid thing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jen lancaster is an incredible writer and I'm so happy to have found her books. Her mouth is as dirty as the martini in her not-so-well-manicured hand (there's a story about it in this book). She will make you laugh out loud at her trials and tribulations. I can relate to her ups & downs and most women probably can.HIGHLY reccomend her books- ALL of them!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jen Lancaster is a master when it comes to honest, comical, memoir writing. No detail is off limits to her reader, which makes her even more relateable! Pretty in Plaid is just another example of how Jen's real life is more entertaining than any fictional piece of work I have read! Her sharp tongue and hella funny wit will have you reading from cover to cover in one sitting!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love love love Jen Lancaster and this book was just another in a line of great books by her. I adore her, reread every book and tell everyone they should read her books. And her blog!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must say I didnt read any of the previous books and the reason i got this one is because of the cover *haha* but I really did LOVE this book and would recommend any & everyone to read it. MORE THAN ONCE. i've already pre ordered her next book :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Too funny! Loved every word!
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