wild love: vada sultenfuss & thomas j.

by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Photo by Mary Kathryn Paynter

For the first time, today’s Wild Love is dedicated to a fictional couple with amazing style: My Girl‘s Vada Sultenfuss (played by Anna Chlumsky) and her best friend, Thomas J. (played by good ol’ Home Alone-era Macaulay Culkin). It’s hard to understate how much I loved My Girl when it came out in 1991. I was only a little younger than Vada myself, and I idolized her, listening to my copy of the soundtrack in my Discman on the way to school practically every day and begging my mom to buy me overalls and cut-offs so I could imitate the same tomboy-cool style that Vada rocks. Both of them embody a summery and boyish but sweet aesthetic that reflects a dreamy time to be a kid in America.

Set in a small town in Pennsylvania in 1973, My Girl is about young Vada Sultenfuss, whose father, a widower, runs a funeral home out of their house. Her best friend, Thomas J., lives down the street and is the kind of kid that is allergic to pretty much everything. Vada and Thomas J. are partners in all kinds of typical 11-year-old adventures — from riding their bikes through garages to climbing trees to fishing at their swimming hole. Vada is bold, clever and funny, while Thomas J. is sweet, loyal and patient. Their friendship is just reaching a point when potential romantic interest can’t be ignored, as both of them start to become adolescents. Kids in the neighborhood mock their relationship, but Vada and Thomas J. are charmingly unruffled by it. Instead, Thomas J. just asks Vada to “keep him in mind” if it doesn’t work out with the teacher she has a giant crush on.

In the style of Vada and Thomas J., I made a sweet and simple bouquet to represent their relationship. After the jump, I’ll tell you how I made it and why I chose the flowers I did, and I’ll show you my favorite, sweet scene from My Girl. — Mary Kathryn

The full post and instructions are after the jump…

Above images by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Vada and Thomas J.’s style is representative of a simpler time in America, a time when kids had fewer sneakers to choose from and fewer places to buy their jeans. While many kids of the 1970s chose to follow suit with bright, garish colors and the flower-power feel, Vada and Thomas J.’s style is about classic basics: Converse sneakers, simple t-shirts in muted tones and perfectly worn denim in long cut-off shorts or overalls. It’s practically the uniform of the American tomboy.

I wanted this bouquet to feel like it could have been scavenged by Vada and Thomas J. in their neighborhood or at their local swimming hole. Sunny yellow ranunculus reflect the cheer and optimism of Vada and Thomas J.’s friendship, while tiny feverfew pull in a hint of the 1970s flower-power aesthetic that was on the verge of taking over. Queen Anne’s lace and veronica add a woodland feel that makes the bouquet somewhat wild and sweet. Lastly, blue forget-me-nots are both tiny and sweet while also hearkening back to the great scene in which Vada tries out blue eyeshadow for the first time and crows to Thomas J., “A girl can never have too much eyeshadow.”


Suggested For You


  • I loved that movie so much. I remember getting the novelization before the movie came out and read it over and over until I got to see the movie, which wasn’t until it came out on video, because my parents didn’t like going to movies (and my small town didn’t have a theater anyway). I can still recite her poem at the end and it still makes me cry.

  • Sigh. I just love that movie too. It always makes me wish I was alive during that decade, those simple times. And you’re right, they totally have the most awesome, classic style.

    Great post and beautiful bouquet :)

  • I was 11 when this film came out and my friends and I were absolutely crazy obsessed with it. I’m so glad to know we weren’t the only ones! Thanks for reminding me of it and for honing in on that special quality Vada had. (And now I’m off to see if they have this on Netflix…) ;)

  • Wow. With this bouquet you’ve really managed to artfully, perfectly realize the Vada & Thomas J. inspiration, Mary Kathryn — like a poet! I’ve rarely seen flowers so expressive.

  • One of my first “celeb-crushes”. I was only 10 at the time, but I blame Vada Sultenfuss for the type of women I’m attracted to now. Bold, clever, funny. *sigh* Beautiful bouquet.

  • Favorite movie of all time! Thank you for showcasing it. I still have the signed autograph from Anna Chlumsky when I wrote her a letter….a real live, snail mail letter.
    Your bouquet truly embodies that time and place!

  • I don’t have enough I can say about how wonderful this movie is! I was captivated by everything from the time it came out when I was 4 and had a brand new brother named Tom.
    Such great choices to embody the movie, and I love the way the time and place are so well captured. Beautiful.

  • it’s not hard to believe how much u r in love with this movie… coz for me is exactly the same… and u really made my day by this post!
    although I am not an American but the atmosphere of this movie was exactly wht i had in mind about Amercia of tht time… thx for sharing this…..

  • I love the bracelet. The blue sets off the gorgeous colors of the flowers perfectly and reminds me of the bracelets we made as kids.

  • Very pretty, and it does capture the movie! I was also in love with it as a kid. Interestingly, a lot of it was shot near my hometown, which isn’t in Pennsylvania, but central Florida! The house belonged to a teacher at my elementary school back then, and now it’s a bed and breakfast: http://www.thestanfordinn.com/

  • Love this film, the style so brilliantly described. I idolised Veda a bit too, I wanted the bike with the tassels!

    Lovely flowers too, very natural in the that My Girl style.

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.