That Would Look Great on Elke

by Erin on March 30, 2009


Calvin Klein spring 2009 RTW

It might come as a surprise to some of you that I *love* modernism in dress. Clean lines, abstraction, angles, a palette of neutral colors … basically everything you never see on this blog. You mostly don't see them on this blog because all of that? Looks like hell on me. Pure, unadulterated, where's-Virgil-when-I-need-him, ooh-look-there-are-the-blasphemers Hell. I could handle the looking-like-hell part (I often look like hell now) but I couldn't handle the part where I FELT like hell — this stuff just isn't me.

And it not-being-me used to really bother me — I know, really, that I'm much more of a cardigans (ones with the usual number of sleeves) and bright-colors kind of person, but I still drool a bit over stuff like the dress in the picture above.

But instead of mooning helplessly over these things, or, worse yet, trying to remake myself into someone who looks good in an asymmetrical cream-colored wool ANYTHING, I've invented my dear friend Elke.

Elke, I've decided, looks FANTASTIC in this stuff. Slash of brightly colored eyeshadow? So Elke. Vertiginously high shoes with geometric heels? Elke's signature! Camel-colored anything? All Elke's cup of tea (and she even drinks chamomile, which I can't abide).

Elke can rock both the pixie cut and the long straight hair; Elke can carry a beautiful, elegant squared-off leather tote without being forced to lean to the other side to counterbalance it; Elke has even figured out how to wear those swimsuits with metal trim without it getting too hot in the sun. (And she has a sense of humor, too.)

The reason I've invented Elke is that I find it helpful to imagine SOMEONE loving those clothes and really enjoying them, even if it's not me. The models wearing them always look as if they'd rather be subjected to electric shocks than wear an exquisite dress, and when they're pictured on starlets or socialites those women only seem to be thinking "I really hope this doesn't show up on the DON'T page of Glamour".

Not Elke. She revels in this stuff! She wears it to the grocery store! Her friends all know that what she really wants for Christmas is jewelry made out of a single slab of something that's never been used for jewelry before, or a hat that's indistinguishable from a science-fiction movie prop.

So now, when I see something like this dress in the "editorial" of the fashion magazines, I can think "Ooh, that would look *GREAT* on Elke," and flip on by to the pages where they show the clothes I might actually wear. (If, in fact, they have any of those pages in that issue, which, usually, they don't.)

I highly recommend you get to know Elke — she always has time for her friends.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Sal March 30, 2009 at 1:33 pm

What a fabulous way to cope with lusting after a style that does your OWN figure no favors! I’m so pleased to meet Elke.

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Birgit March 30, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Lovely to meet Elke! Can she be my friend, too? I imagine she is tall but not too tall, and has a lovely warm skin tone that does not look like the underbelly of a fish when paired with beige, chartreuse or hot pink?!And, oh my, that model does look miserable. She is probably worried about the belt gliding off her hips at any moment…

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Anonymous March 30, 2009 at 1:56 pm

I wanna be Elke when I grow up.-Shaun

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Anonymous March 30, 2009 at 1:59 pm

I hope Elke will wear a proper bra when she glides out in this number…

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Marjie March 30, 2009 at 2:38 pm

She looks like my anorexic niece. I’d rather see a real person wearing real clothes, instead of anorexics not filling out things.That said, I agree that simple lines are lovely. Good for you, inventing a “wear anything” friend.

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Susan W. March 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm

But how did you figure out who you are and what looks good on you, Erin? Because when I really like something I see out in the wild, I am blind to how it looks on me… I just can’t grasp that it doesn’t suit, not till many years later when I am going through the photos. What is the waking-up process?

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What-I-Found March 30, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Years ago I heard that the best part of a donut was the smell. And it’s true. Works for lots of things, the best part of many things is the seeing of them, the enjoying the details, but you don’t really HAVE to eat, wear, own the item. You can just enjoy it and keep moving. I owned an antique store in the past, now I live full time in an RV. I find fabulous things all the time that I would have bought in a hot minute in my former life. Now I can just “smell” it and let somebody else store, dust and deal with owning it. Elke eats donuts so we don’t have to. ;-)

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kathy March 30, 2009 at 2:47 pm

I knew there must be someone out there who actually wore those styles. Good to finally know her name!

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Anonymous March 30, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Dear What-I-Found,You are a genius! That was very well said. We are about to embark on a very deep clean-out-and-re-decorate-the-house adventure. I shall repeat my new mantra “smell it and let it go” often as I toss things into the yard sale box. Ha! If I say it out loud what will my family think? :-)And Elke is a great idea. My imaginary fashion friend can wear high heels (they hurt my real feet) and lots of other things, like chunky white summer bangles. Dawn

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Cel Petro March 30, 2009 at 3:51 pm

OK! I’m getting my own imaginary friend who will wear all the things I love that don’t love me back. Boy, she is gonna be a clothes horse, too, and have great fun thinking about clothes and spending entirely too much time shopping and the like. Right now, she’s getting a pair of 50′s high heel gen-u-ine spectator pumps, camel and white. She’ll probably wear them with a new Easter ensemble that has something orange going on.

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gchick March 30, 2009 at 3:51 pm

I always knew you were a Bunburyist.

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goldilocks March 30, 2009 at 4:20 pm

What-I-Found, that IS brilliant. The most brilliant thing I’ve read this month, and probably all year. As for that dress, I love the shape of it, and the color of it, but not the shape and the color together. And it would be totally unsuitable for me, too. Both the shape and the color. And the belt, too. LOL.

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goldilocks March 30, 2009 at 4:23 pm

And you DO almost feel sorry for the little socialites and starlets. They are lovely and lithe and young and ought to be having the time of their lives wearing all kinds of beautiful things… but they hardly ever look like they are really having a good time. “Women learn life too late.”

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anthrokeight March 30, 2009 at 5:03 pm

gchick, Bunbury TOTALLY wore the checkered trousers and outrageous cravats Jack could never dare to wear around Lady Bracknell!Elke also probably likes to read books like Carole Maso’s Geek Love- things I am pleased exist but haven’t really loved reading myself.

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Liz March 30, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Elke also listens to the music you’re “supposed” to like but don’t. For me, that would be Kate Bush and P.J. Harvey.

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gwensews March 30, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Elke, your “alter ego”! I love it! Make sure she gets your wadders also!

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Virlomi March 30, 2009 at 10:10 pm

I love this idea! I have been both Elke-shaped and Un-Elke-shaped and have the problem of always liking the clothes that compliment the figure that I don’t currently have (i.e. skinny jeans vs. wrap dresses, back-less vs. cleavage baring) An imaginary Elke (or Veronica) is perfect for my window shopping woes!

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Lory March 30, 2009 at 10:58 pm

An alter ego, how cool! Just for kicks, we should all have one.

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Vivienne March 30, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Elke sounds like she’d be a great influence on both of my alter egos – the Inner Italian Princess and the Exterior Granola Princess.

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Anonymous March 30, 2009 at 11:22 pm

IF this happens to be Elke could you please remind her to put on a bra next time…or at the very least wear a sweater and leggings with that dress so she pokes out a little less please :)JenL

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Jen March 31, 2009 at 12:02 am

She doesn’t need a bra, she needs chain mail to wear under that tabard.Take a peek at Alex (whom I have never met), he really knows how to rock a tabard…http://alextown.com/maillearmorshield1.html

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Anonymous March 31, 2009 at 1:36 am

My alter ego’s name is Britta. Have you seen the Roz Chas cartoon in last week’s New Yorker? It’s a one page discourse on style. My life, exactly.

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prairieknitter01 March 31, 2009 at 5:04 am

My “Elke” has to be Jane Fonda circa 1964 in “Sunday in New York”. Orry-Kelly was amazing, and she looked so lovely and elegant in his simple, pretty clothes. I am short and stout, but Jane was/is long and languid, and she was born to wear Orry-Kelly. Not me. Jeans and sweatshirt. But…I love looking at Jane!

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oracle March 31, 2009 at 6:14 am

Erin, I love the direction of humour and style that some of your recent posts have taken. Like this one, they’ve been giving me a great morning laugh with my coffee.I love all your posts, anyway.And What-I-found I’ve copied your post to store in my private archives so that I can look back at it and enjoy it sometime in the future.

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AmandaMay March 31, 2009 at 8:17 am

Elke is fabulous. And you are fabulous for having her! I have often felt somewhat miffed that my one chance for a body I get the 5’1″ peasant-type, which obviously the fashion magazines don’t often feature. It makes me sad that there are clothes I will never get a chance to look good in (I don’t dwell on it, of course, there are more important things to think about usually). Anyway, I think Elke is someone I also will think of often. Thank you!

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Gracie March 31, 2009 at 8:26 am

I thought I was the only one with an alter ego! I’ve kept her secret for years. Mine has dark hair and has nice, small pert bosoms – unlike my carrot-top-with-a-matronly-frontage real self. If I could only somehome become her, I’d be blissfully happy! How I’d love to wear red (no, it doesn’t work no matter how much I’m told OTHER red-heads can do it, they have nice pale skin while mine is always flushed a rosy red) and how lovely to wear nice tops with out the gapping at the front of blouses and the major upholstery requred to hoist these melons up. *sigh* At least my imagination is a fun place to live!

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Riva March 31, 2009 at 8:36 am

Erin,I love the idea of a fashion alter ego! I’m going to get to work on my own FAE’s wardrobe today. Just because my closet is bare doesn’t mean hers needs to be.Riva

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tea March 31, 2009 at 8:57 am

Love this! What a great way of dealing with desire. And yes, What-I-Found, excellent words of wisdom! I will take these to heart as I do my spring cleaning. :)

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the_lazymilliner March 31, 2009 at 9:13 am

Elke…do you mean Elke Sommer, the actress? Your description of your Elke sounds much like the actress. Exactly the kind of stuff she would wear!

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Maija March 31, 2009 at 9:14 am

While I’ve been known to wear Elke-type clothes, I definitely need an imaginary friend who looks fabulous in camel. Oh camel, why do you taunt me so?

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Deirdre March 31, 2009 at 9:38 am

Oh, I love Elke. She’s awesome.

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Crystal Arcand (3Stairs) March 31, 2009 at 10:04 am

Oh, I’m So Glad to meet Elke. It’s nice to have another chamomile tea drinker in the mix.

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HollyP March 31, 2009 at 4:06 pm

When I was thin, I would have totally rocked that dress (even if, unlike Elke, I can carry off neither the pixie cut nor long straight hair.)Thanks for sharing!

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Anonymous April 5, 2009 at 3:13 pm

So, imagine my surprise, Erin, when doing my catch-up reading on your blog, the March 30th tagline caused my heart to flip-flop.For you see, I am an actual Elke: popular in Germany, perpetually mispronounced and misunderstood here in the good old USA. Funnily enough, I have probably worn most of what you describe in your post at least once in my life, because it is true that I like the visually interesting attire, colorful, and absolutely suited to my unapologetic I-am-who-I-am personality. But you should also know this: I never pay retail prices, I don’t do trends, and I only wear what makes me happy — which is why I read “Dress A Day” so faithfully. Oh, and just for the record, I’m not a 6-foot Amazonian blonde; I’m 5′ 8″ and 20 pounds heaver than I should be. What can I say: I’d rather enjoy dessert than be fashion-svelte. So, for what it’s worth, Erin, you DO have an actual real Elke friend, even if only here on the ethernet. Just know I have appreciated all your work all these years.Elkep.s. I love this blog because my mom used to sew my wardrobe growing up, and some of my favorite dresses, EVER, were ones she made for me :D

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Ruth July 6, 2009 at 5:02 pm

And i was so hoping you would give us the name/number of the pattern for this dress! lol Elke is FAB!

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