Soul Mate.

Lord Whimsy

Meredith was kind enough to send me an oblique reference to Lord Whimsy, which of course I pounced upon like a ravening police bloodhound. And I was not disappointed. In fact, I think I might have a slight but pervasive crush on Lord Whimsy, for several reasons. For one, he wears green ties (love!). For another, he says stuff like this:

What I find personally distasteful is when people add to the banality of daily life by not putting anything of themselves into their appearance. When they do put thought into it, it’s often a regurgitation of someone else’s idea of style, letting brand names do the work for them when they could come up with a much more tasteful outfit at a fraction of the cost. We now live in a time when jeans, t-shirts and sunglasses can run into the hundreds of dollars, yet it amazes me how such expensive items can look so cheap. The most tastefully dressed person in a room is now sometimes the one who has spent the least money on his or her clothes, but has expended the most thought.

Which is quite like what I said a few days ago, only I didn't say it as well. Click on the image for more such Whimsy.

He has a new book coming out in August. Which happens to be the month of my birth. Coincidence? I think NOT.

DVF with butter or hollandaise

DVF Blondelle dress

Well, thanks to Lisa, I was at the Diane von Furstenberg site, and saw this. Hoo boy, do I love this fabric. The dress is just 'eh', but the FABRIC — who doesn't want to swan around in artichokes bigger than one's head?

Somewhere, I'm sure, there is a fabric store with some roll-ends of this, the proprietors shaking their heads and wondering how they're ever going to get rid of it. I mean, it's not even right for quilting, and quilters will buy anything. (No, seriously. Think of the most appalling fabric possible — maybe dead babies, outlined in gold paint — and someone, somewhere, will have made it, and someone else will have bought it and done a quilt themed around it, and complained that there wasn't matching thalidomide baby fabric to REALLY set it off.) But perhaps this fabric store will be innovative and google "artichoke fabric", whereupon they will find ME, and they will email me to ask if I'm interested, and I will buy six yards and make an enormous circle-skirted artichoke dress and matching artichoke bolero (with the biggest artichoke very carefully centered over the back so as to make people walking behind me ravenously hungry) and I will be happy for the rest of my days.

Hey, it could happen, right? I'm not looking at how much this dress costs, because I don't want to be doing the mental math about how POSSIBLY I could buy one (or three) and take them apart for the fabric. Sheesh.

So: thanks to Lisa for the crazy-making, not that I needed all that much help, actually, and thanks to DVF for GIANT ARTICHOKES!

Duroesque (again)

new look 6515
The amazing Helen in the UK sent me a link to her dress take on the New Look 6515 blouse pattern — isn't it great? (Now I really want to make the one I talked about here.)

Helen also let slip in her email (but I didn't pick up on it until now) that her MOTHER owns a FABRIC STORE. That is the coolest thing ever.

Anyway, she says this one is patterned viscose (that's rayon to us on this side of the Atlantic) and chinese silk, and that next time she'll make the midriff band wider. She also said she made it in two days, but don't hate her because she's talented and the dress is beautiful.

In order to get this effect, not only do you have to put a skirt on the blouse pattern, you also have to flip the facings to the outside, which needs a fairly steady hand for the topstitching. But, as you can see, it's worth it. I really want to get organized and do the paisley one linked above, and also a Liberty one in brown and maroon. (Yes, it's almost spring, which means I think it's a FINE time to do a brown and maroon wool dress. Me = Idiot. But the heart wants what it wants.)

This makes TWO dresses inspired (at least in part) by my Duro obsession. (Remember Caroline's?) Keep 'em coming, folks!

Physically impossible.

book dress
Thanks to Sarah Mitchell for this image.

The dress and hat are by designer Andre Tan, and were shown at Kiev's Fashion Week. (Don't even breathe "Kiev has a fashion week?" unless you WANT to be inundated with stirring nationalistic email from the Ukraine.)

I like the dress quite a bit, but I'm not so sure about the hat. First of all, I'd be completely frustrated by this both as a wearer and as an onlooker. How could I read it either way, unless the person wearing it was exactly the right height to put this at my eye level? And are you allowed to turn the page of a book when it's resting on someone else's head, or is that an invasion of their personal space? And is it removable, so that you can coordinate the content your bookhat to the rest of your outfit? Obviously, I'd like to wear retro cookbooks or romantic-advice books with some of my 1950s dresses, steampunk science fiction with my more future-Victorian outfits (okay, I don't HAVE any future-Victorian ensembles, but if I could wear a book on my head to match you'd know damn sure I'd get some!) and so on. The Great Gatsby with a white linen shift dress. Catch-22 with anything with militaristic detailing. Oh, god, stop me! Stalky & Co. with schoolboy chic. Clan of the Cave Bear with anything furry.

Anyway: too many questions, not enough answers. And even if all the answers were in THAT BOOK, I'd never know!

Misallocation of Resources

ebay item 8305987417

Probably one of my biggest pet peeves is designers who mess up good prints. Look at this number from Alessandro Dell'Acqua. This is a really gorgeous, elegant print, and he ruined it. Why the neckline approaching the navel? Why the gathers enlarging the waist? Why the blousyness? I just want to take the man by the shoulders and shake him, yelling "Hey! Why? What do you have against letting prints be prints? For the love of god, man, why?"

If I had access to significant yardage of this, I'd make a dress with high round neck and little cap sleeves, with either a 3/4 circle skirt or a pencil skirt. Something very simple, so that the print carried all the work of the dress. This the dress equivalent of a committee working at cross-purposes. Somehow the working group on fabric didn't check in with the neckline subcommittee, and, once they discovered the problem, both groups got pigheaded and wouldn't budge. It's a shame, really.

Dresses in Poetry, Billy Collins edition

Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer's dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

The complexity of women's undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.

Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything –
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.

What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.

So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset

and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.

Taking off Emily Dickinson's Clothes,
by Billy Collins

Charlie Brown and the Football

newport shirtdress

This dress (thanks to Herself for the link, and those of you who are both plus-size and on LiveJournal should check out the blog she moderates, Fatshion Victim) is from Newport News. Now, I know we've had this conversation before — Newport News, like Lucy, is not to be trusted. I mean, it doesn't have the near-100% guile rate of Lucy Van Pelt, but, really, I've said and you've said in comments that sometimes the dresses are great, and sometimes you get something that was sewn together by hyperactive five-year-olds with a record player needle out of plastic carrier sacks.

This is actually a very powerful idea from psychology: intermittent reinforcement. You're more motivated to persevere when the reward is variable then when it's predictable. Scary, huh? I picture the Newport News headquarters being full of experimental psychologists in white coats, randomly assigning dresses to "good" and "crap" piles and then watching our ordering patterns. And laughing, definitely laughing.

I would hope that this one would be one of the good ones, especially because of the print. But I don't think I'm going to order it, even though it's only $49. (If you want to — and it goes through a size 18), let me know if when you pushed the lever you got a reward this time, okay?

A highly developed dress aesthetic.

Alice Awaits Danger Dame Dress

That's what I am really liking about LA and Pasadena — not just the weather. I am seeing more people than I usually do who seem to have a highly developed dress aesthetic. That is, they seem to have chosen their clothes with extreme mindfulness — not necessarily of fashion, but of the clothes themselves and the way any particular garment will "read" on them. Needless to say, I love it.

This mindfulness reminds me that I really don't buy the concept of "fashion victim" or "fashion mistake". There's really only paying attention to what you're wearing and not paying attention to what you're wearing. I don't care how much your aesthetic runs counter or orthgonal or just plain cattywumpus to my aesthetic as long as I know you THOUGHT about it. It drives me nuts when people tell me, as if they expect a cookie, that they "don't really pay any attention to their clothes." Oh, so you TOTALLY IGNORE A MAJOR ASPECT OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION? And this is a point of pride for you? You might as well be a bonobo. (You'd probably have better sex if you were.)

That said, I can certainly list many, many outfits of my own that reflected either a lack of mindfulness or a misplaced aesthetic. In fact, I could probably give you a top five:

Top Five Misconsidered Clothing Choices of Mine, To Date

  • ripped extremely large jeans (originally belonging to my father), cut off above the knee and worn over long johns, with a white men's undershirt and boy's vintage cowboy boots. I'm not really the ripped-denim type.
  • extremely tight white t-neck ribbed-knit minidress. Note: this was about eight years before Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct". I was not then and am not now right for this kind of dress.
  • ankle-length abstract-floral voile tent dress. Too much of a great fabric can be a bad thing.
  • Gray miniskirt worn with seafoam green cotton camp shirt, seafoam green ankle socks, and gray jazz shoes. Matching gray hoop earrings. Okay, this was in 1983, but there is still a psychic scar from this level of coordination. It was like my clothes had a Stalin-era work plan.
  • Putty-colored Lands' End pantsuit, with three-button classic jacket (hip length) and side-zip pants. This was so incredibly boring I fell asleep wearing it. I thought I needed to wear a "serious" suit, but it turned out to be a "soporific" suit. I wore it once, and still have it. I think it needs to be set free on eBay.

Ironically, this dress, which absolutely says "LA aesthetic" to me, is on a site ( with a 718 contact number and is the subject of a photo shoot in Grand Central Station. But it's $99 and is sized up to 40/32/42. If this fits your aesthetic (*cough* midriff band *cough*) go grab it!

Sunny California.

Whirling Turban dress
I'm in Pasadena, it's 70 degrees outside, and there are palm trees, and azaleas in bloom, and roses everywhere. (Not to mention fish tacos.) Considering I left a frigid, gray Chicago where the appearance of a single wind-scoured snowdrop was cause for jubilation, can you fault me for rubbing it in a little?

This dress is 100% pure California, to me. It's all of old-Hollywood sex appeal distilled into five yards of fabric. (Thanks to Li in Malaysia for the link!) It's from Whirling Turban. There are no prices on the site, so I emailed them for their price list, which is a TEN PAGE WORD DOCUMENT. But it's worth reading, because for what you get, their prices seem very reasonable, and there's a ton of valuable information about what body types will be best suited by which dress — I think it's a good sign when a business doesn't say "Oh, sure, we can please everyone!" because, of course, that's impossible. Better to say right out "This doesn't work for a D cup" than to get the D-cup's hopes up, and deal with the angry D-cup returns. It's much less "buyer beware" than "buyer make an informed decision."

Anyway. Prices. It looks like most of their list will set you back about $200, although some styles are much less. They also say that they welcome special orders and requests, so if you have something you want copied, or sewn up from a pattern, it might be worth dropping them a line and seeing what you can work out.

Seventy degrees. Roses. Dresses like this. Mmmm, California.

What Dead Men Don't Wear.

Yellow Plaid Dress
Remember this fabric? And this pattern, which I made into this dress? Well, I didn't have enough of the car fabric (damn directional print!) so I thought, oh! PLAID! Of COURSE!

But there was no way in hell that I was going to match a plaid with a large repeat across eight gores, so I put a modified circle skirt on it, instead.

I'm not quite sure I did a good enough job on the plaid (it matches PERFECTLY at the BACK, I swear! Across the zipper, and everything!) but it's too late now, and besides, there's piping at the midriff! That should break it up a bit. I have realized, actually, just now, why I am so obsessed with midriff lines — I'm so shortwaisted that breaking it up makes me a bit longer from shoulder to waist. Or, at least, that's the idea.

I'm wearing this to give a talk on Saturday. The idea is: if you can't be entertaining, be eye-catching (although, I promise, I am going to try for entertaining, too!). Once, for presenting an academic paper, I wore a BRIGHT green 1960s Jackie O.-style shift and jacket. The jacket had jeweled buttons and I had, by complete coincidence, matching green and white shoes. I remember the outfit in more detail than the paper!

It needs a good pressing but even I'm not masochist enough to iron something tonight that will be in a suitcase for twelve hours tomorrow. (And even hotel irons can press well if you use a damp washcloth as a pressing cloth.) I really wish I had grey suede wedge heels, but that's pushing it, even for me. (I *do* have a yellow bag.)