Great Dresses of Song: The Sack

The Sack

I had a figure problem with the fashions of the past
But no more figure problem–now my shape's in style at last

In the sack
In the sack
No one knows that I'm poorly designed
I'm a runt in the front
And there's too much behind what's behind
But who knows
And who sees
Underneath my Parisian chemise
Who can tell what I lack
I'm in perfect design
Every fella of mine
Says I'm simply divine
In the sack

I'm a mess
In a dress
With a peck-a-boo split up the side
And I frown on a gown
Where there simply is no place to hide
So blow horns
Wave the flag
I'm the belle of the ball in the bag
I'm the pick of the pack
Since I took up the trend
Every gentleman friend
Says I'm simply the end
(In the sack)

For the new look
I was much too dumpy
I could never get a sheath around myself
For the flat look
I was much too lumpy
But I found myself
When I found myself

In the sack
In the sack
I am burning my old basic black
Each designer I see
From New York to Paree
Wants to throw little me
In the sack.

Lyrics by Jerry Herman (click on image to go to a book of his lyrics).

Another Theory Bites the Dust, Goddammit

A bit of backstory: I am fairly nondescript-looking. Really. I mean, sure, my glasses are pink (or green or blue, or yellow) and I wear the kinds of prints that insensitive pranksters like to hide in the closets of blind people, but physically, I am not all that striking. Which means that folks often say that they know someone who LOOKS JUST LIKE ME. Really! Their cousin's friend, a girl they went to high school with, someone they knew vaguely at their first job … who could be my twin.

So my jokey answer, of course, is "Oh, yes, that must be my good twin." (Evil twin references ALWAYS equal comedy.)

But today, searching on the phrase "the most gorgeous dress ever", I found her. My spiritual twin: she writes a fashion diary/blog. However, she's my EVIL twin. How do I know she's evil? Because THIS is what what she thought was "the most gorgeous dress ever":

the horror!
For once, I'm not going to apologize for how small the pic is. Any bigger and you'd be looking at permanent damage to your optic nerve. Maybe even hallucinations.

Oh yes, this is one of those smocky "dresses" — I use the word "dress" for this only because she does — that people wear belted, over jeans, like so:

the horror!
She describes this as "pretty without being too heavy, comfortable without being too casual, and incredibly workable – can be worn alone as a dress or skirt, with jeans, belted, you name it". (My name for it would be "anathema," frankly.) Question: this is a strapless smocked cotton housedress–how is it not too casual? Oh, it must be because (you can't tell from the pic) it's SEQUINED. So you have to hand-wash it.

And she says the sizing is good, because the S/M fits her perfectly. I'm sorry. S/M is not a SIZE. S/M is a punt. S/M says "Oh, I'm sorry, I only design in two sizes, one for me, and one for my one friend (whom we call "plus-size" because she wears a size 10). She wears the M/L."

One other thing: it was $120. Yes, that's right. $120. C'mon, people! Paying $120 for this makes (choose one): the baby Jesus cry; America weak and our enemies strong; no friggin' sense.

Of course, she posted about this last January, so perhaps she's had a come-to-Jesus moment and is now featuring vintage (or at least actual dresses) on her site, right? Right?


the horror!
(Do not adjust your set: the picture was like this when I got it.)

Ah well. It was fun being the evil twin while it lasted. I suppose that now that I'm the good twin I should bone up on past eps of The Patty Duke Show, which I only have to think of to be horribly earwormed with the theme song ("They're cousins, identical cousins …"). Goddammit, again.

Click on any of the images above to visit the Style Diary site. Just remember that while I may not agree with what you choose to wear (and might mock you), I will defend to the death your right to wear it and post fuzzy pictures of it on the internet.

Ooh! Mod!

ebay item 6239679416

Okay, one more from Macojero's, inspired by Madelene who bought a different mod dress that I won't taunt you with (even though it was supercute) because she already bought it. (Duh.)

This one is so nice, with the completely non-functional shoulder tabs (to evoke epaulets?) and the diagonal lines, and no real place to put a pocket. And I've always loved that just-over-the-shoulder-point sleeve, although it's hard to make that look good without putting in a lot of time in the gym. Basically, I've just said I love this dress although it is: 1) non-functional 2) inconvenient and 3) unflattering. (To which I say ::bronx cheer::)

I have a ton of mod patterns, but I don't really ever sew with them. I just like to keep them around in case I miraculously turn into Jean Shrimpton overnight. Although even being Jean Shrimpton wouldn't make up for having to wear sticky plastic shoes and accessories. Vinyl is for records, not for shoes (or handbags).

Okay, back to the patterns.

ebay item 6238792328

Yet another variation on the midriff band, this one on eBay from Macajero for the unbelievably low price of $5.00. Considering I finally figured out what my first attack at the Hot Patterns Hippy Chick Dress would consist of (I woke up from a deep sleep last night with the idea — the leftover Liberty dot-swirl-star print twill matched with a deep red heavy cotton/lycra, and let's just hope I have enough of each), you'd think I'd be leaving the midriff dresses alone. Ah, but you see — this one is SURPLICE! The lure of the surplice cannot be underestimated, despite the inevitability of having to sew invisible snaps in them so that they don't come un-surpliced.

The red floral with the white bands seems very eastern-inspired, and is much better than the beige with a beige-ier ribbon, although I also like the orange and brown combo. You could even Lilly-Pulitzer it up in pink and grass green.

And while I'm nattering on about patterns, has anyone seen one for a pencil skirt with a very wide, convex waistband? I'm talking the kind that is nearly empire. I though I had such an animal, but the pattern I was thinking of was just very high-waisted, not waistbanded. I'm assuming you have to bone those kinds of waistbands so that they don't roll, and that the overall silhouette demands to be worn with bolero jackets, but I'm willing to make those kind of sacrifices for the greater good.

The Secret Histories of Dresses, pt. 1

ebay item 8367312434
I knew there was trouble when I saw the grocery store. I mean, look at me, I'm not a grocery-store kind of dress. I mean, maybe now you'd wear me to the grocery store, kids today and so on, but when I was new — no. But there I was, in the grocery store, with house slippers, no less, and her husband's windbreaker. No one said anything. We bought three cabbages, five bags of marshmallows, and beef bouillon cubes. The cashier rolled her eyes, but I didn't know why that was unusual–for all I knew that was a week's shopping. I was more of a cocktail-party dress. I knew weiners on sticks, and little cubes of cheese, and crudités.

After the grocery store, we went home, and lay on the sofa, watching television, until the man got home. There were a lot of nice dresses on the television. "Where are we going?" he asked. He didn't notice the house slippers, or the lack of makeup. He just saw me.

"Hell!" she shouted, and threw her drink at him. None got on me, not even a spot, and I was thankful, because bourbon stains.

He just stood there for a moment, dripping, and then walked into the other room. I heard him dialing the phone, but I couldn't make out what he was saying. He didn't come back in the room, even though she was sobbing. She wasn't watching the television, although it was still on. Soon she stopped crying and then she was asleep. I don't like being slept in. It makes creases. When she had been asleep for a while, the man came back in with a nightgown, and took me off her. He was pretty gentle. I'd heard stories of men ripping dresses, but he didn't. He was upset that she wasn't wearing anything under me, not even a slip, but he just sighed and went off for a minute. He came back with a bra and panties, though they didn't match. I guess he hadn't noticed that hers always matched, or maybe he didn't think it was important. Then he put a coat around her and carried her out.

I didn't get hung up until the next day. It was odd to spend so much time off a body but not hung up. She always hung me up right away.

He hung me up, but put me way in the back of the closet, not near the other dresses I'd been by before. That felt strange. And then no one opened the closet for weeks and weeks. When the door opened again, she looked in and said "Oh! None of these will fit now, I've lost so much weight." She didn't seem happy or sad about it, either way. Her voice seemed kind of flat, not bubbly like it was before. Anyway, she never wore me again, and I was given away a few months later, to her sister who lived in Tucson.

Cat Chow: My Hero

Cat Chow Zipper Dress

Have I mentioned before how much I love the artist Cat Chow? This is her Zipper Dress, fashioned from ONE hundred-yard-long zipper. To get into (or out of) it, you have to unzip it down to the hips.

Click on the image to read a wonderful article about her, and see the Zipper Dress in red, as well as the dollar bill dress and the artist wearing a dress that I think is made from woven tape measures (and is gorgeous).

The closest I've ever gotten to making an art dress is making my friend Vanessa a Halloween costume out of bubble wrap. But I really enjoy looking at Cat Chow's work …

By the way, A Dress A Day is taking Christmas off, and possibly the day after Christmas (I refuse to call it Boxing Day, I am also not eating any "figgy pudding," so there) too, depending on whether or not I can get internet access. (I've TRIED updating my blog by concentrating really, really hard, honest I have, but so far, no success.) However, check back in on Tuesday for a new and exciting variation on the A Dress A Day format, if I can get around to it. Otherwise it will the usual exciting format.

Another Office Dress

brown severe dress

Here's another Take Me Seriously dress, this time from Woodland Farms Antiques (this dress, I need hardly add, has never seen a farm, much less a woodland one, but I digress).

This dress has an entirely different narrative: this is the dress that the assistant wears. Wait. This is the dress that the assistant wears in the last scene of the movie, the one after she's taken over the whole office while the overbearing, martinet boss (older, male, chauvinist) has been (ill/stuck overseas/unlawfully imprisoned). He comes back to find the office running better than it ever had, the big client landed, the big deadline met, the president overjoyed … and himself now the assistant. "Are you ready to take some dictation, Mr. Elway?" the erstwhile assistant asks sweetly, wearing this dress and handing him a steno pad.

I have watched entirely too many screwball comedies, haven't I? But can't you see Myrna Loy in this dress? Who plays the poor blowhard Mr. Elway?

It's 34/26/35, and $125. It's also item #20 in the 1950s category, which is important as the site is frame-laden and you can't link directly to a product page (… have they never HEARD of bloggers?) Anyway. There's a lot (a lot a lot) of other wonderful stuff, too, but there's no search function, which is okay because they can't really spell ["umpire" waists abound] and they don't list sizes in a consistent format, so if even if you did search you wouldn't be able to find anything, anyway.

Thanks to Madelene for the link!

No Nonsense

pintuck dress

I hope you can get a good enough idea of the gorgeousness of this dress from this slightly washed-out photo. This is the perfect dress to wear with an insouciant air of extreme competence, while still projecting that essential "I could crush you like a bug" vibe. This dress needs serious glasses, high round-toed heels, a pencil behind one ear, and a healthy dollop of Fracas or Chanel No. 5. Sexy secretary is not in it — this is sexy BOSS.

It's 34/25/35, and $68 (including shipping!) from Penny Lane Vintage, and it's magnificent. I would buy it myself (I'm a sucker for pintucks), and if it's still around in January I just might. I have two very similar dresses, not tucked, but with that high round neck and long lines, both black. I wear them when I need to be taken VERY SERIOUSLY INDEED.

Click around in the Penny Lane listings, there's some nice (and nicely priced) stuff to be had. It's not too late to make amendments to your Santa list. I hear he has an email address now …

Walter Lippman wasn't brilliant today

Anthony Price dress

Ten points for the first person who can tell me, without Googling, the source of the subject line and why it relates to this dress. I am inexplicably drawn to this acetate dress from Lost Horizon Vintage; it's calling to me, and not politely, either. This is a "Hey, you! Yes, I'm talking to YOU!" dress. If I had a spare $375 it would be mine; if you do (and can fit into 36/26/35) it could be yours.

Be sure to click through to Lost Horizon site, not only so you can see how the zipper goes around the back and over the curve of the lower back, but also to check out her other dresses. There are some amazing things there …

I can't tell if it has pockets or not but I just don't care, it's cheering me up and that's good enough!

The Lagerfeld … ah, you know the rest.

Fendi dress

Don't get me wrong–The Lagerfeld Must Still Be Stopped, but there's one point of redemption on this dress. Can you guess what it is?

Yes! The midriff band! (Okay, and possibly the round collar). Take away the godawful puffed sleeves and what can only be described as a shoulder peplum; remove (with a plastic fast-food knife if there's nothing else to hand) the apron detail and the ruffles on the skirt, and concentrate seeing a dress with that ruched midriff band and deep front slash. You could even leave it in that fabric, it's not at all bad, although I don't know if I would pair it with those sandals (and I even have a pair much like those!).

In my fantasy/theory, some design assistant at Fendi put together the dress I describe above, with simple cap sleeves, maybe, and the Lagerfeld swooped in, clanking (as he does, with all that extraneous metal, god forbid you're ever behind him in an airport security line) and says "Not enough random fug! My god, have I taught you all NOTHING!" and then he proceeds to add crap until the good dress underneath is completely obscured.

Of course, this is all pure speculation mixed with not enough sleep (and truly terrible dreams) on my part. Perhaps there was even more fug on this dress (although where you could put it, I have no idea) and the Lagerfeld, he used his weird sharp rings to pare it away. But I doubt it.