May I Digress?

prada Spring 2005 loafers

prada Spring 2005 loafers

I know I don't usually talk about shoes here, because so many other bloggers do it so well, and also because I believe someone's shoes are like their children: you should only give praise and never criticism (that is, if you want them to remain your friend!). However, take a look at these! The top pair, are (as the Manolo would say) the shoes of the surpassing comeliness, from the Prada. The bottom pair are the very faithful … homages, shall we say, from Via Spiga. Guess which pair I bought yesterday?

I've been obsessed with the Prada ones since last Spring, when I saw them in the March Vogue (the shoot with Andre 3000 and Liya Kebede) and everyplace else, and I came very, very close to buying a pair until I discovered I am constitutionally unable to spend nearly $400 on a pair of shoes. (I broke out in hives contemplating it.) I am, however, perfectly well able to spend $80 on a pair of shoes, especially when they are on sale at Bloomingdales and are the only pair left in my size …

What does this have to do with dresses, you say? Merely that a little black loafer, with a low vamp and a low heel, is simply the perfect shoe for the day dress. Dressy enough to wear to work, yet nicely informal with bare legs in the spring and summer, comfortable enough to walk long blocks, feminine (it's the low vamp) but not frilly or girly … I've been wearing variations of this shoe for more than twenty years, which I figure makes it a personal classic. There is nothing more universally appropriate before 6 PM than a cotton dress worn with loafers like these and a little cardigan. If I have anything even approaching a uniform it would be this combination.

I've already put together an eBay search for this style name in my size; I'll probably try to buy another pair before spring. When you find a perfect pair of shoes and for one reason or another, can't buy another pair right then, hie yourself to eBay and set up a recurring search for them. Everything shows up on eBay eventually, and with any luck you'll be able to grab another pair, and cheaper, even after they've left the stores.

No More Alibis, by Sylvia of Hollywood (1935)

I got this as a present last night (OMG best.present.ever.) and am already entranced by the absolute sadism of Sylvia. Check this out:

from The "In-Between" Figure
"In-Betweens" have worse problems than the fat or skinny ones, who know their figures are wrong. They don't need anybody to tell them so. But you "in-betweens" often get the idea you're all right. And you aren't. Just take a good look at yourself. No, you aren't fat. And you aren't thin. But look at that chest. It's too flat. your ankles are too thick. Your abdomen sticks out. I haven't space to tell you your other defects. But I bet they are there–and plenty!

from Keep That Perfect Figure!
… you fat babies must always watch your diet. And watch those scales daily just as a scare. Now that your proportions are right, your scales will warn you the minute they begin to go up. That minute, back on the reducing diet for you.

on liquids:
Fatty people must not drink too much water. Two glasses a day are plenty with the liquids I've given you. Too much water enlarges the stomach. …

on foundation garments
I don't believe in trying to hide bulges and bumps of fat by tight corsets. As a matter of fact, they are never hidden, just shifted from one place to another, in most cases making you look worse. The only sensible thing is to get rid of those bumps. Don't misunderstand me. I don't mean that you should go waddling into a room without any corset. I'd call that stupidity.

on swimming
Remember, too, that swimming builds you up. It's wonderful for you thin ones. But it won't reduce you fat ones. For you, sun baths in moderation and cold plunges in fresh or salt water are splendid.

on posture
If you think I am too hard on you or exaggerate, just go to a museum and take a look at the early Egyptian figures. Notice their sitting posture. You will see there wasn't a slumping abdomen in a tombful, and that many thousands of years before Christ, the Egyptians used Sylvia's methods.

on relations between the sexes
I am aiming to please the husbands, too. I don't want them to have to sit across a table from a woman with a mean disposition and hungry, wolf-like expression in her eye. It pays the nationally advertised beauties to take care of themselves because their living depends on their looks. And more and more, every woman's living depends on her appearance. We all have to earn our living one way or another. And men are getting more particular and critical about women every day.

Oh, I could quote Sylvia all day! But I'll stop now. More later.

Black and Blue

Donna Karan Spring 2006 Dress
I seem to be drawn to that bruise color combination lately; maybe it's an outward extension of my inward clumsiness (I still have a bruise on my hip from falling down a flight of stairs MONTHS ago). Anyway, I went to to go find a picture of this OTHER Donna Karan dress, that I saw in Harper's Bazaar, but then was distracted completely by this blue and black number.

I really, really love square necklines — have I mentioned this before? I mean, more than five or six times? And you can't tell from the picture, but the sash goes THROUGH the side seam to tie UNDER the fabric of the dress in back, so that the whole back tents out and streams behind you. So lovely, although I'm sure in practice you would always be closing it in the car door.

I also am a big fan of those square sleeves and a wide hem band, so all in all this dress is nicer than the one that originally caught my eye, because on that one I wasn't completely convinced that the nude fabric over the shoulders (that makes the dress look as if it started abruptly right above your cleavage) was a Great Idea.

Check out the whole Donna Karan slide show. She seems to have gotten over her crazy idea that women only want to dress in beige jersey knit, and the dresses for next spring are lovely! Abstract prints and nice lines. Sure, there's plenty of brown, but in a darker shade, not the walking Band-Aid it seemed she favored before …

Dresses on the wire

The AP Wire, that is. There was an article on how "the cocktail dress is back!" that ran last week. I'm linking to the version from the Winston-Salem Journal as a shout-out to my hometown …

Some highlights:

"We're seeing a fitted bodice, fuller skirt – often knee-length to midcalf – with a raised or natural waist, a very defined waist."

Hear, hear!

But with all the choices available, Andrews suggests trying something other than the round-neck, sleeveless black sheath that's become the standard "little black dress."

Yes, please!

But, in The-Lagerfeld-He-Must-Be-Stopped Dept.

His fall-holiday Lagerfeld Gallery collection features … a brown sleeveless dress with a pleated hemline, beaded waistband and white high-neck collar.

I believe this is the dress in black:

Look how cunningly the armscye is cut into a point, making it impossible to wear an ordinary brassiere under the dress! Look how high the collar is, so that it will make a red mark on the underside of the chin, and create a double chin where none exists! Look how the pleats are placed to highlight the widest part of the thigh! The Lagerfeld! He MUST BE STOPPED.

Suzi Perette!

ebay item 8363565710

Hey, I'm just showing you the bodice of this dress, because really, that's all you need to see, right? You should be clicking on the image right now, actually.

It's from Vintro Modern, and has a BIN of of $62, which seems pretty darn good for Perette in excellent condition; and it's B38/W30. The eBay listing suggests that you be a "full" B38, and looking at the bodice I find that I agree …

I was trying to find some information about Suzy Perette other than "omg so cute! want!" but had no luck with an (admittedly desultory) Google. Anybody got a good link?

Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love

ebay item 8119626857

Smokydiva's got this listed on eBay as a Buy It Now for $55, and it's a B40/W32. And check out the crazy print!

If I bought this, though, I would spend the rest of my life looking for spectator pumps in black and just that shade of blue. I mean, wouldn't you? In fact, the more I sew for myself the more frustrated I become at not being able to make my own shoes. That's pretty much why I'm so excited about desktop fabbing. That's how you know you're an unreconstructed girl geek; you read Wired because you want to apply new tech to making pretty clothes.

Check out Smokydiva's other auctions — there's a ruffled HoJo's-blue rockabilly dress that almost made me forget that I look like a zombie movie extra in that color …

Lucky: Love and Hate

fighting eel dress

New Lucky mag today, which I love. And hate. I love Lucky because their editors find these gorgeous things and present them to you with absolutely no pretense that they are anything other than pretty inconsequential things that give pleasure (that is, they don't have the Vogue disease where everything is Culturally Important). I hate Lucky because their stylists are colorblind pranksters hellbent on playing "exquisite corpse," only with innocent clothes.

I mean, look at this dress above. Nice, right? Great color, elegant lines. Pretty. Maybe I'd leave off the sash, or tie it a little higher for a more empire line, but it's not hilariously wrong.

Now look what Lucky did to it in November:
fighting eel dress
And this is not even an especially egregious example — for instance, they didn't decide to do the timeless yes-I-am-insane-thanks-for-asking combo of tailored short-shorts and random-color tights, worn with peeptoe wedges, that shows up about twice an issue; nor did they swag the model in kitschy theme jewelry like a Liberace-themed Christmas tree, as is their wont. They even refrained from breaking out the Boots of Hysterical Unwearability, of which they seem to have an unending supply. (And they did tie the sash higher.)

I tend to rip out pages from magazines if there's a striking image, or if there's something that belongs in my Binder(s) of Good Ideas, and the pages I tear out of Lucky hardly ever feature a living person, unless by chance what has caught my eye is the topmost stratum of all the layers of WTF? that the stylist has aggregated.

And yet I read it voraciously every month. Go figure. Anyway, if you want this dress click on either image; it's called the "Fighting Eel Dress" (why? I have absolutely no idea) and it's $230, which is an awful lot for stretch cotton, especially when you consider Lucky thinks you have to add a completely incongruous tweed clutch handbag (that is itself $200!), and metallic leather pumps. Me, I say you could get away with ankle-strap round-toed flats (yellow would be cute!) and a little denim jacket in case it got chilly, and a maybe a slouchy bag with a wide strap. Although I'm sure whatever casual bag you already carry would be fine. (Actually, Rio's wonderful distressed white leather handbag — which I marvel at every time I see — would be The Perfect Bag, but since I can't describe it any better than that I shall pass over it in silence.)

Whew. Next time, I'll rant about the Lucky Breaks, and why I don't consider 20% off a $300 item The Deal of the Century …

fine feathers

Stark/Berin Dress

Look carefully — the feathers are satin, not actual feathers. Click on the image to visit and see the details; they're astounding. The dress is nearly $1500 (!) but even at that "price point", it's already reserved.

I love the color, the applique, the tulle … I'm a huge fan of this kind of dress, simple lines with over-the-top embellishment, but monochrome. I think this would make a gorgeous swan-like wedding gown (even though it's not WHITE, go on, defy the bridal paradigm!), but I'm not sure if a swan gown's a good thing or a bad thing. I have a vague feeling that swan brides in folktales usually lead to a lot of unnecessary complications, so perhaps that's not quite what you want to start your married life by invoking.

If you have a little time spend it clicking around on that site and making a list of what you'd buy if you won the lottery … I have my eye on their Ceil Chapmans, but the rest is fair game.

another party dress

ebay item 8305987417

I love this dress from Vintage Martini. The color is amazing and the bodice really interesting. (The only problem with interesting-bodice dresses, though, is you have to be comfortable with people staring at your chest! I guess that's why they design 'em that way, but still …)

It's $95 and 36-26-36 … click on the image to check it out.

I wish that I could have a couple minutes with this dress to figure out how exactly the bodice was cut, but not enough to spend $95, especially as it wouldn't fit me now (although I, like the rest of the world, have high hopes for remedying that in January), and because I absolutely don't need any more party dresses. I did a little check last night to see just how many party dresses/clothes I had, and the count was double digits. The dressy-party count this year, so far? Two. So perhaps I am a little overstocked in the dressy-clothes category. Not to mention a little understocked in the interesting-life category. Not that I'm trolling for invites, mind you. Although my email address is on the right, down at the bottom … I don't drink, so I'm a really cheap guest. 🙂

Seven Dollars

ebay item 8361695457

Check it out — this dress is listed for $6.99. That's right, seven dollars can get you a very nice (if a little small, and if in need of a teeny repair, the kind that even people who don't sew on buttons can make) holiday dress. I love eBay. I also love the balletic lines of this dress — the round neck, the elegant sleeves, and the belled skirt. Nothing's better than a dress that makes you feel like a ballerina, all neck and grace.

Anyway, eBay is JAMMED now with people selling things that have only the most tangential relationship to Christmas. (Seriously. I don't care how emo your Christmas is, an early-80s Le Tigre lime green striped polo dress is NOT a "holiday dress.") And eBay is also jammed with people selling things that maybe, almost, could have been something that Sienna Miller almost once looked at. (Looked at and said "nah …", I hope.) Seriously, in five pages of listings I saw eight Sienna mentions. What is it with "Sienna Miller: Fashion Icon"? I just don't get it. As they like to say in my homeland, "All her taste is in her mouth." And who searches clothes on eBay with the keyword "Sienna Miller"? They're probably not as scary as the people who search clothes with the keyword "Paris Hilton," but they're still pretty scary.

A lot of the vintage fashion books I have are big on developing your own style; you need to figure out what suits YOU, and then work to make it coherent. Every fashion magazine I see now is hell-bent on propping up four or five overly-styled quasi-celebrities and asking you to choose which one you would most like to emulate. ("None of the Above" never seems to be an option.) I believe the next step will be Sienna Miller *kits*, that you can buy in a department store, like those old "Multiples" sets from the 1980s. (Which she seems to be singlehandedly trying to revive, but never mind.) They will include bad pants, a ridiculous and incongruous hat, expensive and ugly shoes, and a random tunic/shirt/dress to top it all off, plus miscellaneous bling. Kind of like this. Ooh, I can hardly wait.