Musings + Essays

Hearing Music on the Bottom.

By: Jen Shoop

Earlier this week, Mr. Magpie and I spent a few nights at the Inn at Perry Cabin on the Eastern Shore. One of the unexpected highlights of the trip was an afternoon spent at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, whose exhibit labels were wonderfully written — full of colorful details and artful language. It was evident that the curator had taken some delicious liberties in their authoring. His or her spirit shone through, as did the voices of many Chesapeake Bay watermen, crab pickers, sailors, shipyard laborers, etc. The exhibit showcased the people behind, or rather, of the place, foregrounding rich details that would otherwise be long forgotten. As an example, one placard noted that, at the end of a day of exhausting labor picking blue crabs to be canned or otherwise sold, you could tell which pile of lump meat belonged to which picker, as each woman (and it was nearly always women who did this work) had her own style of picking and cutting, and you could likewise tell familial relations, i.e., “this pile of crab looks similar to that one — must be her daughter/sister/mother.” Another noted that “there are two ways to shovel oysters into a basket: shoved in every which way, or in the style of the Chesapeake Bay oystermen, where nearly every oyster is tail to tip, or vertical, meaning you can fit about half the oysters you would otherwise be able to.” (Ha! Sneaky!)

My favorite placard spotlighted “Oyster Talk,” or the vernacular of the Bay oystermen. Fragments of oral history like this always fascinate me, and I was arrested by the artfulness of their shorthand for weather patterns, i.e., “oilskin jackets” are “clouds that break apart really rapidly when a front is approaching” and “slick ca’am” refers to weather that is “calm, with no wind.” Poetry, truly! But I was positively transfixed by the phrase “hearing music on the bottom,” an expression for “locating oysters in the water.” I haven’t stopped thinking of it since. What a beautiful analogy for the joyful, auspicious sensation of honing in on something you’ve been searching for — whether seizing upon the right words while writing, narrowing in on a professional opportunity you’ve been chasing down, or even that vague, stirring sensation that you’re in the right place at the right time and you’re not quite sure why. Since moving home, I’ve felt as though I’ve been planted where I’m meant to bloom, that I am here for reasons I can’t yet surmise but intuit that they are good and sound ones. I guess I’ve been waiting for the right coat to throw over the shapelessness of that feeling, to help me wrap my arms around it, and here, suddenly it is:

I’ve been hearing a lot of music on the bottom.


+I’m a late bloomer.

+If you’re in the midst of starting something new

+On just focusing on what’s immediately in front of me.

+On my undying effort to live in the present moment.

+On blooming where you’re planted.


+Ordering myself these under-$100 statement earrings for the holidays, but these reasonably-priced pearl and crystal ones will be a total MVP. I own a similar vintage pair that go with absolutely everything from casual sweaters like this fair isle to cocktail dresses.

+Speaking of fair isle, I wore a gray and white fair isle cardigan in a recent Instastory and received a record number of DMs asking for its source. It’s an old J. Crew, but there are so many fabulous similar styles out now…a few favorites:








+Further speaking of fair isle, just discovered that KJP makes the most adorable fair isle knits for children — I ordered this fox style! Boden also makes some whimsical styles.

+This full skirt would be so fabulous for the holidays in either ivory or red. Just pair with a matching cashmere crewneck and some statement earrings and you’re done!

+You know I’m obsessed with my Boll & Branch bed blanket — just discovered you can get it for 25% off with code LIZ25. Truly MAKES the bed, especially in winter. It’s the perfect weight, ultra-soft, and adds a nice level of texture to your bed setup.

+This chic quilted coat you all loved is on sale for under $100!

+Chanel vibes from H&M. Would wear this over my shoulders paired with a turtleneck, casual jeans, and pointed toe boots or flats.

+Shopbop just discounted a bunch of its Daphne Morris slippers and I’m finding it hard to resist this black velvet pair at 50% off!

+River Island has a floral embroidered sweater that nails the Shrimps vibe for under $100.

+These suede flats have been a mainstay in my wardrobe this fall. I love pairing with long, floaty dresses like this or this or this.

+A chic solution for that door that always swings open/closed.

+This velvet dress is $$$ but !!!!!

+A cute add-on if you’re giving a Starbucks gift card to someone on your list — I know they’re popular teacher gifts, and how cute tucked into a monogram mug (only $5)!

+Just got the cutest gift idea from Caitlin Fisher: I’ve been looking for one more gift for my MIL (one of those women who has it all) and I’m going to give her a classic boat tote with her grandmother nickname (“Gigi”) on the side. Perfect because she is often coming by with her arms full of surprises and activities!

+I did end up buying this plaid dress for the holidays! I couldn’t resist. Love the plaid, love the style, the sleeves! This $128 dress nails the look for less.

+These gingham trim socks for littles are sweet.

+Another fab H&M score. This is the kind of thing I would have been all over while pregnant and then nursing — perfect for layering over maternity tees/nursing tanks (I lived in these Gap maternity tees — had them in like 34 colors and stripes) and leggings and finished off with statement footwear. Trust me, go cheap on the maternity clothes and invest in great footwear that makes you happy…good shoes always fit 🙂

+These trousers are nearly sold out but mama mia are they chic! Would pair this with a classic cashmere crewneck in ivory and a braided velvet headband.

+Cute bottle opener as a hostess gift!

+Intrigued by this limited edition Laundress detergent. I like to use my Laundress detergents only for bedding and towels — items unlikely to need heavy laundering and where I’ll notice and enjoy a slight scent.

+Eyeing these blue cords from Oso and Me for micro. This brand is so thoughtful about the design of its children’s clothing. Many of their items are specifically designed to last multiple sizes/seasons, i.e., the pants can be cuffed, the waist is intentionally elastic, etc. Have heard the best things about the quality.

+LOVE this velvet mini! Would pair with patterned tights and suede pumps or booties.

+Some cute Ugg accessories on sale at Off Fifth — consider these cute mittens or earmuffs for littles!

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

2 thoughts on “Hearing Music on the Bottom.

  1. Question:
    I’m curious as to why you would wear that H&M Chanel vibes jacket over your shoulders and not on to get the whole effect? Hmmmm.
    Would you wear the buttons out/showing? I’m just curious, as I love your style and was just wanting to explore that idea a little more.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Cynthia! I don’t know why, honestly — just a styling detail I’ve been liking this season, perhaps because you can still get the slender silhouette of a thinner-cut cotton shirt but with the added texture/contrast of the sweater (minus the bulk of an added layer)? Would look chic on, too, though and I definitely am wearing a lot more layers ON my arms now that the temperature is cooler!


Previous Article

Next Article

Discover more from Magpie by Jen Shoop

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading