Mandy Ma, proprietress of the Zippercut fashion blog and party-planning unit, is going through a serious clown phase. “There’s this one clown in particular. Pierrot? Do you know him? He’s so cute and sad. I like the ruffles. I’m not imagining it,” she says. “Clowns are popping up everywhere.”

Fashion is not Mandy’s full-time job. By day she is a chemical engineer toiling away in a Neutrogena lab, a “skin-care CSI.”

“A batch of acne soap was in trouble,” she says one day, back home at her apartment. “The pH was off.”

Before Neutrogena, she worked on sustained-release injectable drugs at Amgen with her friend Camille Vergara. Together they started Zippercut.

Their first obsession was Gothic Lolita. “Well, if we’re gonna do it, we should really do it,” Mandy said. Commitment to a scene while you’re in it is a recurring theme in Mandy’s world. As is instant gratification. “You do it, it’s done, you move on.”

Camille has since moved on to other things, like sleeping and catching her breath, so the burgeoning Zippercut empire is back to just Mandy blogging on the computer on a trolley cart next to her bed. “Things I wish I had bought at the flea market,” she writes, “the perfect circus Siamese-twin costume.” Or, “I thought I was done with checks until I saw this cotton-candied one by Unif.” Or “Fifi Lapin. The world’s most fashionable bunny. . This rabbit’s got mad style!”

When she’s not blogging or solving sunscreen-viscosity problems, Mandy moonlights as a waitress-maid at Royal/T, the favored location of her themed parties. Past themes have included an Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter tea party and a Rococo night where people dressed up as Versailles courtiers and Marie Antoinette. Right before the Rococo night, she went to Japan.

“My plan was to hike up the blog hits and follow the Lolitas around, but I just met up with my parents and ate for five days. I bought a yellow fuzzy jacket with ears. Isn’t it great?” she says, slipping the jacket off its hanger. “I should wear it before it gets warm.”

Now she’s pulling boxes of frilly hats and wigs and feathered headbands out of the overstuffed closet. Mandy is a smart, restless only child, the kind of pretty, elfin person on whom all clothes look good, whether they be puffy Lolita skirts from her mom in Hong Kong, vintage flight-attendant outfits, a dress made out of an old pillowcase, or preppy blazers inspired by Gossip Girl characters.

Last Halloween, the scientists at her office all agreed to dress up. Mandy came as an alien. “And no one else dressed up! There was a big presentation and there were cancer patients in the audience and giving speeches, and there I was in my alien costume. This is what nerds do. I didn’t get the memo!”

Not getting the memo is another recurring theme in Mandy’s life. She hosted a “shiny party,” in which guests dressed up in shiny outfits. At the party, she met some girls who wanted to do a Crazy Cat Lady Day at Disneyland. So Mandy affixed a litter of stuffed cat toys on her librarian cardigan and donned a big, white wig. Alas, the day was cold and rainy. Unbeknownst to Mandy the other girls canceled. She ended up walking around the Magic Kingdom in a cat outfit by herself. Themed fashion can be cruel.

In a few weeks, she is hosting a circus party with marionettes, puppets, balloons, a cotton-candy cart. Mandy is hoping she won’t be the only one dressed like a clown.


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