McCalls 3070

Isn't this, like, the prehistoric cave-painting version of the Duro Olowu dress? Note the modesty panel in the vee — that's what really marks it out as belonging to another time.

I really like the effect of the striped version, although, of course, it's so much easier to make the stripes on a striped dress match and look good when you are drawing them on. (This is why I spend a lot of time, usually when I'm behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, trying to figure out in my head exactly how many yards ribbon/braid/trim etc. I'd need if I wanted to, say, make a simple dress of lightweight broadcloth and then do the stripedness afterwards. I always get as far as trying to remember the equation for the surface area of a cone, and then either I get to where I'm going, or somebody in the back seat demands that I tell him a story, a story "NOT ABOUT DRESSES!" — although, to be fair, I only tried that once.)

Anyway, I see this for summer in black lightweight linen with either café-au-lait or stark white as the bands, depending on your skin tone, of course. Or, for those of you with those fancy sewing machines that embroider, in white with multicolored floral motifs on the bands. It would also look great in a madras plaid, with bands of white pique or the same plaid running at angles.

If any of those options appeal to you, this pattern (B34) is $22 at So Vintage Patterns. In the meantime, I continue the search.

Coffee, Tea, or …

vogue 6785

I am a sucker, a complete and absolute holding-the-title-deed-to-the-Brooklyn-Bridge sucker, for a genre of dress patterns that can only be described as "Space Age Stewardess."

Like this one (which is $12 from Mrs. Cleaver's Kitchen on Ruby Lane). I saw this, and my first thought was "silver Lurex!" As if I ever have an occasion to wear silver Lurex. (We will see Halley's comet again before I have a good excuse to wear silver Lurex. I predict a lot of comet-related fashion then, anyway.) The last time I wore silver fabric of any description, it was a Halloween costume. "Bond girl." And nobody remembers that costume of mine anyway, because my escort to that particular party was Mr. Dress-a-Day, who was wearing black socks, wingtips, a fedora, horn-rim glasses, and an orange polka-dot dress … he was J. Edgar Hoover. (He also carried a pocket tape recorder and asked fellow party-goers if they wanted to hear "Bobby Kennedy doin' it.")

Anyway, I love these dresses (even though I don't think I can wear them especially well) and if I had the time to sew things for a highly speculative career change that involves as a necessary preliminary the development of the interplanetary tourism industry, I would make this up in silver, with a pale blue lining, with some kind of abstract planet-y logo on the matching belt. And then I would float effortlessly through the cabin, reassuring the first-time visitors to Luna Colony that it was an easy flight, nothing to worry about …

Sometimes it's just the hat.

ebay item 6169133687
Okay, you can't tell me that the illustrator of this dress didn't have a side bet with her officemate as to whether or not she'd get this hat (on the left) past management. Looks like she won.

And check out the woman NOT wearing the space alien hat. She is obviously (judging from her silver hair and fierce expression) the leader of the invasion team. Furious that they have landed on a planet where their outward appearance subjects them to second-class treatment, obscene propositions, and hats such as this, she has decided to override the suggestions of her superiors and schedule this planet for immediate invasion. (C'mon! It would explain SO MUCH!)

Anyway, I really like the waistline of this dress, and the little jacket. And the of-course-aliens-invaded explanation of why things have been so crazy lately. The pattern is $8.80 (I'm sure the numerologists among you will let me know of the significance of this number) on eBay. Click on the image to buy.

(I have been trolling pattern listings this weekend–not for the Duro dress, surprisingly, but for a pattern I can see absolutely clearly in my head and which seems not to exist. I want one of those suits where the jacket has raglan sleeves and a pronounced swing in the back, like a trapeze coat, only hip-length. Yeah, you can see it too, right? Damned if I can *find* it.)

Sometimes you gotta let 'em go.

ebay 8388513720

I really love this dress. I mean, it's adorable, isn't it? Look at the tucks, and the pleats on the skirt, and the print of little white diamonds (instead of round dots). The collar's rounded, and so are the dress cuffs, which fold back. The fabric is heavy, and the buttons nice. All in all, it's really a great dress! So why don't I ever wear it?

Well, it is a little too big for me. Not enough to make it look weird, but just enough to make it impossible for me to forget that it's not the right size. And it's not quite dressy enough for what I like to wear to work, but a mite too dressy for the school drop-off/grocery-store/post-office round.

So, I've decided to let it go. It's part of the next round of dresses I've released from the depths of my closet onto eBay (my seller name is, big surprise, dressaday). Some of the other listings are total "why did I buy this"? moments — I hate purple, why on earth did I buy a lavender dress and jacket combo? What mysterious forces led me to buy an earth-tone Eileen Fisher linen turtleneck? (Was I, at that instant, feeling a very chic 55?) Why did I buy a navy dress at the GAP? (Was it a Monica Lewinsky moment? Or was I just seduced by polka dots?) I even listed something I made, this go-round — a blue paisley minidress with vintage buttons. I just never wear it anymore — but somebody should! Anyway. They're all out there now, looking for someone who will love them and wear them, and not someone who will shift them around her closet in exasperation while looking for something else.

I just hope the person who buys this one really loves it, that's all.

A Net Loss.

tasteless dress
Well, you know it's a successful dress when you have to beat up a sailor AND a tourist-trap "Indian" to get the raw materials. Jesus Hieronymus Christ, this is the ugliest thing I've seen since the 1972 Naugahyde Alive! Festival.

I'm sure very few of you will be surprised that this gem is from Victoria's Secret, whose clothes often cover (or rather, don't cover) the large and expressive range between "skanky" and "trampy". (And I suppose the few of you who are surprised are wondering, jeez, how would you build a pole-dancing routine around *that*?)

Now, I'm not against sexy dresses — but you have to admit there's a gulf between "sexy" and "gynecological", and VS dresses often leap that gulf and keep right on running into WTF?-Land. And do you know why all the VS models have that exaggerated head-tilt? They're trying to keep their precious gray matter away from the clothes, that's why. It's not provocative, it's *protective*. They actually wear lead aprons between shots.

In fact, this dress is so horrible, I feel as if I have to present an antidote. Here, look:
Elie Saab dressWhew. Thank you, Elie Saab. Thank you.

The Secret Lives of Dresses, Vol. 3

ebay item 8386483033
She didn't dare sit down, all the way in on the streetcar, for fear of creasing me. I think her feet must have hurt, too, in her neighbor's shoes, but she quickened her step when she saw the man at the door, unlocking it. He looked kind, but then so many did these days, who weren't anymore. They just hadn't had a chance to get their faces out of the set of kindness.

"Mr. O'Halloran?" she called, when she was a few steps away.

"Yes, miss, may I help you?"

"I've come, sir, about the job? Miss Hartigan's job?"

"As a checker?"

"Yes, sir. I'm Mary Malley–Miss Hartigan recommended me? I brought my references." Works of pure fiction they were, but certainly they proved she was an excellent typist and full of initiative. Miss Hartigan, however, now Mrs. Weitz, and on her way to the Far East with her new husband, had no idea the pale quiet girl who helped her mother run the boardinghouse was visiting her old place of employment today.

"Well, come in, and we'll see what we can do. You're up and about early, aren't you?"

"I'm an early riser, sir. I don't like to be late." She'd been up before five, to get the laundry and the breakfast well underway, while the boarders and her mother slept.

She waited while he locked the door again behind him. He motioned her through the main floor, to his office in the back. She didn't gawk at the display cases. "Sit, sit."

She sat primly, on the edge of her chair. She leaned forward to hand him the envelope with her references, and watched him look through them.

"These all look in order — it's odd that Miss Hartigan didn't mention you before she left, but I suppose when young girls are getting married, filling their old jobs for their old employers is not the first thing on their minds, eh?"

Miss Hartigan was no longer within hailing distance of thirty-five, but then, Mr. O'Halloran must have been nearly sixty. Mary herself was barely twenty-two, and looked younger.

"Well, with these, and Miss Hartigan's recommendation, I think we'll take you on trial, Miss Malley. You'll work eight to seven, every day, and eight to twelve on Saturdays. In a few minutes Mr. Kane in Personnel will be here, and you can get your timecard and your uniforms. We provide the uniforms, you understand, but you must have them laundered yourself."

"I understand, sir, thank you!" There was a tremor in her voice that touched the old man.

"Been out of work long?"

"Not too long, sir. But I'm happy to have found such a good position. Miss Hartigan — I suppose I should say Mrs. Weitz, now — said such nice things about this place." Miss Hartigan, had, in fact, run down the place loudly, and frequently, and with a horsey laugh that set Mary's jaw to clenching — but then again, Miss Hartigan had preferred marriage to a widower with vague shipping interests and clacking dentures to an honest day's work. That was the kind of man you met in her mother's boardinghouse.

"Well, I see Mr. Kane now — go fill out his forms and introduce yourself as the girl who is taking Miss Hartigan's place." He dug into his pockets and produced a worn billfold. He opened it and took out five dollars. "Here's an advance on your first week's salary. Buy a pair of shoes that fit — you'll be on your feet all day."

"Thank you, sir."

He may have seen that she was wearing borrowed shoes, but he couldn't have known I was borrowed, too. She made it back to the boardinghouse in time to return it and the shoes before my owner, or her mother, even knew they were missing. I wish I'd heard her tell her mother she wouldn't be running the boardinghouse any longer; that she'd have to find someone else to do the cooking and the laundry and to help evict the sobbing girls who'd lost their jobs, but I never saw her again. My owner left in the middle of the night to escape her bill, and we went back home to Sacramento.

[Click on the image to visit the eBay auction for this dress.]

The Future is NOW!

ebay item 8305987417
Check it out! This site lets you design your own dress (from a fairly broad template of silhouettes, necklines, sleeve lengths, and skirt lengths), choose your fabrics, and enter in your measurements! You can even ask for pockets! Then they custom-make your dress and send it to you in three weeks. The whole thing costs $189.

I've seen this sort of thing for bridesmaids' dresses before–in fact the models here look fairly bridesmaidy–but expanding to day dresses is a great idea.

Okay, so I have a few caveats: first, I see that you can pick some fabrics that aren't really great for the style of dress. For instance, I could have had this one done up in silk chiffon, which I think would have looked like crap — not enough body, and no mention was made of lining when I chose it. It would also be better if you could send them your own fabric, although I'm sure it would be a pain to figure out yardage for individual sizes. And if this were my site, I would have a page that shows the best dresses for certain body types: apples vs. pears, tall vs. short, busty vs. not-so, with both line drawings of the different types and real people wearing the dresses.

Other than that, though — this looks great for people who are hard to fit and don't sew themselves. The interface is intuitive and, unlike some other design-it-yourself sites, it didn't force me to use IE, nor did it assault me with a three-minute Flash animation.

The dress on the left is their "Christine," with the vee-neck changed to a scoop. I have made about ten dresses pretty much exactly like this, only with fuller skirts (and no belt) and different neckline variations, and I wear them constantly in the summer. In fact, I'm planning a white eyelet version for this summer …


Newport News dress
This dress (in poly/rayon, and a weird color, too) is $44 at Newport News.

I find Newport News frustrating. They often have vintagey, retro-styled clothing and even shoes, but done just a teensy bit too cheaply. Like: poly/rayon, or bad fake leather, or really, really bad buttons — and only the last of those is fixable by me.

Now, in black, this dress, even at $44 and even in poly/rayon, would be worth it. In the weird green — well, you really have to love weird greens. And not just as a friend.

I really wish they'd angled the bottom of the shawl collar in to follow the vee of the neckline, but I do like the cap sleeves, the shirred midriff band, and the nice drape and length of the skirt.

Perhaps this is not so much a "Inexpensive Dress Alert" as it is a "Yay or Nay?" voting opportunity …


Forever 21 rayon dress
That's how much this dress from Forever21 will set you back. (If you are actually over 21 yourself, there's no telling how much actually entering a Forever 21 will set you back emotionally — sensory overload much?)

For that price, you're getting a pretty good dress, as far as I can tell without touching it. It's rayon, not polyester. There's contrast trim on the midriff band, surplice neck, and sleeves. It's a nice print, too — I wish it were a bit more colorful, but baby steps, baby steps.

Maybe this week should be cheap dresses week here at A Dress A Day; what do you all think? If you've found something under $50 (at a retail outlet, not eBay) that you want me to feature, let me know …

Actually, lots of folks are sending me links lately, which I really appreciate (even if I don't have time to post them all!). If you send me a picture in an email, please send me the URL where you found it. If you want me to link to an eBay listing, please make sure it has at least a couple days to run (posting completed auctions feels like taunting to me!). Please note that I am unlikely to link to eBay auctions that have huge flashing animations, "buyer rules" longer than the text of the auction, random capitalizations, or that have misspelled words in the auction title. (Call it a point of personal privilege.) It's fine to send me links to your own auctions if you do so INFREQUENTLY, and if you don't use any of the deprecated techniques above.

People who add me to their mailing lists without confirming first (BEFORE subscribing me, not just by allowing me an opt-out) will be forced to wear parachute fabric purple jumpsuits with uncomfortably placed zippers and will be marched through the public square, going 'swish-swish' as they walk.

A Coup in a Banana Republic

Banana Republic DressI bought this dress the other day. For $17! Plus tax!

I don't usually go into Banana Republic — not because I don't like their clothes, I do! I just don't think of it; they're just not on my shopping radar. But I had a few minutes downtown after my dentist appointment the other day, and I ducked in to check out the sale racks.

Seriously, the only upside to the 28-day horror that is February is the omnipresent sale rack. Sure, they can be full of tired, raggedy, stained and shopworn items, but every once in a while you rescue something that was wrongfully overlooked.

I may not wear this dress as a dress — I'm not one for low-cut backs — but for $17 (plus tax) I can alter it into something that I have wanted for a while: a pleated dressy skirt. Pleating is enormously tedious; even worse than alteration. A new zipper (70), an hour or so of time, and I have a new fancy skirt. I'd wear it with a crisp white shirt (maybe one of the girls' white Peter-Pan collar uniform shirts I bought at Target — the only upside of the childhood obesity epidemic, in my heartless and self-centered opinion, is that the biggest girls' size is now a LOT bigger) and a fancy black cardigan, very Carolina Herrera, or maybe very simply with a black cashmere short-sleeve crewneck.

Of course, you may ask — do I NEED a new fancy skirt? Sadly, the answer would be a resounding NO. (Especially if you asked Mr. Dress A Day.) I have on hand, for sudden fancy parties (of which I go to very few; invitations may be sent to the email address on the right):

  • three ballgown-length fancy skirts: black silk (Lauren, $20 at Marshalls), pink taffeta (which I have only ever worn on Halloween, at the request of my son, who wanted me to be a fairy princess) and a curious green taffeta that goes with no color known to man (think Kryptonite, if there were a kind of Kryptonite that made Superman unable to accessorize), but which I cannot discard because it was $2 when the Esprit outlet store in San Francisco went out of business
  • tuxedo pants (silk-wool DKNY, $30 at Filene's, only ever worn to a drag-king show)
  • a turquoise silk 1960s hostess coat, made in Hong Kong (estate sale; I think it is terribly disappointed that I don't play mah-jongg)
  • a black heavy silk 1950s dress with velvet trim (eBay, I think, very cheap, in perfect condition with POCKETS)
  • a black, lightweight polished cotton, pintucked, full-skirted dress with a round collar and which fastens up the front with hooks and eyes finished with rhinestones (this is quite possibly my favorite dress in the world and feels fabulous on)
  • and a bronze satin and taffeta 1930s belted formal afternoon dress, with pockets and collar, and a TIE. The back of the skirt has a pleated insert, and it is astonishing. Not necessarily attractive — the whole effect is very "Young Margaret Dumont." I've worn it twice: once to give a talk (it was at the Smithsonian, I thought the dress would feel at home) and once to my brother's wedding in Boone, North Carolina (it was not so much at home there).

So. I didn't need it, certainly, but c'mon — $17? I do not have the strength of character needed to NOT buy it at that price. (In fact, once I realized I could blog about it with headline, I was sunk.) And after I grabbed mine, I told the two other women browsing the sale rack about it and had the gratification of seeing them BOTH grab one. If any of you get one too, let me know, okay?