Wrong Menu.

Orvis Liberty Tatum Dress
Mr. Dressaday and I used to go to one particular Cantonese restaurant all the time. (This would be BEFORE it burned down.) The staff held advanced degrees in "surly" and the entire place was decorated in Early Colonial Formica, but the food was sublime — if you ordered it off the right menu. When you went in, they handed you a giant red tabloid-size Standard Chinese Restaurant Menu, with Chop Suey and Egg Fried Rice and whatnot. You were supposed to put that ostentatiously to one side and order off the small red menu, which was really just a bunch of typed pages in a report folder. That was the menu that had Smoked Oysters with Green Onions and Ginger and Crispy Shredded Boneless Chicken.

Anyway, once we recommended this place to someone, and forgot to give them the menu protocol. We figured it was obvious — you'd take one look at the spotless totem menu, and then order from the menu that was stained with black bean and garlic sauce, right? Well, no. So they had the world's worst General Tso Chicken (we actually theorized that perhaps they sent someone out the back door to order it from a Szechuan takeaway place down the block) and reported to us that we were crazy, the restaurant was terrible! What were we thinking?

This is all a very long way of pointing out that when I say I love Liberty prints, I don't mean stuff like this dress. This is the generic General Tso Chicken of Liberty, right here. I mean that I like stuff like this:
Liberty Sholto
or this:
Liberty William
or this:
Liberty Splash

Which are all Liberty fabrics I'm currently coveting.

This dress? It's not horrible, but it's not wonderful, either. It's the sartorial equivalent of mediocre takeaway General Tso Chicken. It's also $50 at Sierra Post Trading Company, a catalog that fascinates me although I never buy anything from it. It's like a J. Peterman bizarro world where everyone cross-country skis instead of staying inside with hot cocoa and really nice cookies, like sensible people. To give you an idea of just how bizarro, the catalog has four pages of socks — and only one of dresses. The day I need ergonomically shaped socks, imported from Ireland, no less, with "2250 loops per square inch," whatever that means, is the day when I officially have nothing significant to worry about. Just linking that took me longer than it usually takes me to actually purchase socks. Including how long it takes me to drive to Target. (And I know, I know, you hiker people are all going to inundate me with stories about how if you hadn't had EXACTLY THOSE SOCKS, you would have ohmigod DIED of HYPOTHERMIA, forreals, but instead your feet were warm and dry and you ate some gorp in good health. It's okay. I believe you.)

So: to recap:
All Liberty is not good; you want the stuff off the special menu.
I wish Hong Min would find a new location in Chinatown, already.
Socks are funny. Especially geeky socks.

More of the same.

ebay item 6262577279

Well, yeah, as you might guess, I'm still more-or-less obsessed with this empire-bust, tight-waisted silhouette. I like the red version here, especially the almost-cowl neck. It's B31, and $5.00 — click on the image to go to the eBay auction.

I'm not sure how much longer this particular obsession will last. I have already mentally tried and discarded my entire fabric stash against this silhouette (although I had to give myself a stern talking-to yesterday so that I wouldn't dash to the fabric store and buy that brown gingham that is calling to me. I still might do it, but not this week).

Also, I saw, while wandering downtown on Saturday, a lightweight jersey wrap dress with serged outside seams and kimono sleeves, and it was CUTE. So my spare brain-cycles have been spent wondering if I could make one with that deep pink jersey I bought on a whim and have lying around, WITHOUT buying a new pattern, or worse, getting my serger serviced. So expect a spate of wrap-dress patterns over the next few weeks.

Oh — and before I forget, I'll be traveling again in a few days, so new posts after Wednesday will happen on Pacific time.

E for effort.

ABS dress
Thank you to the anonymous commenter who pointed out this dress, which belongs firmly in the "close, no cigar" category. I mean, obviously I am on the side of pockets. Good pockets are good. Bad pockets are worse than no pockets — kind of the way crappy chocolate is worse than no chocolate, because it takes up space without actually satisfying the underlying need.

These are not cute enough to be decorative (and I abhor strictly decorative pockets anyway) and you couldn't put anything of substance in them without weighing down the dress unattractively. Even the model isn't *really* putting her hand in the pocket — she's just holding it there awkwardly, almost as if the pocket were someone she didn't really like but was being forced to take a chummy fake-hug picture with.

This kind of pocket is really just for little-girl dresses. On little-girl dresses they are small enough that you really can't put anything heavy in them (the odd rock or marble notwithstanding) and they are allowed to be patterned, edged with ruffles, appliqued, you name it. When I was five or six I had a dress that was an "artist's smock" with an appliqued pocket in the shape of a palette. Man, I loved that dress, and I loved that pocket, but–I was five. When I was five I also loved the Brady Bunch, scaring myself silly imagining that Dracula was REAL, "Encyclopedia Brown" and green Starburst, none of which I enjoy today.

So. Ten points for Gryffindor (or, I guess, ABS Allen Schwartz) for trying pockets, but five points off again for screwing it up.

Prison Break!

Forever 21 striped dress
Okay, who thought this was a good idea? C'mon, fess up. You're not in trouble. I'm not angry … I'm just disappointed. I think you might have to have a time out, think this over, and figure out where you made some bad choices, all right?

As I've said before: if they can't get the catalog shot right, when there are stylists and alterations people and clothespins and hot and cold running fussing, the actual dress itself is doomed. This one is especially doomed. The skirt isn't hanging evenly, and it's off-kilter at the hips, too. I won't open up the horizontal stripes flamewar jumping-off point, except to say that just like people, there are bad stripes and good stripes and these — well, these aren't helping old ladies cross the street.

The worst part is that, because this is at Forever 21, I will probably see this out and about quickly. I bet someone busts this out the first warm day in April. I see it happening (in slo-mo, just like a car crash!) with a red zip-front hoodie, some inappropriately sequined footwear, and an armful of bangle bracelets or a tangle of cheesy necklaces.

I'm thinking about getting some tracts printed up to hand out to any poor unfortunates I see wearing this, encouraging them to get saved, and to renounce the horizontally striped poly-rayon jersey dresses and all their works. Something along the lines of a Jack Chick booklet, although, unlike Mr. Chick, I probably won't blame the pope. (He's much too stylish! He would never countenance this.)

There is no St. Patrick's Day dress today.

ebay item 6262747873

I don't care if this one IS green. I don't do St. Patrick's Day. When your name is Erin, you either embrace or avoid this Holy Day, and when your name is Erin and you don't drink? Avoid is the best and wisest choice. I do not wear green, I do not respond to calls of "go bragh," and if you kiss me because I'm "Irish," I will probably knee you in the groin. Just a friendy warning.

Anyway, enough of what is not. What is? A midriff band, that's what. Although I suppose this is really more of an empire line. It's hard to make out, but click on the image to go to the ebay auction, because the seller also scanned the back of the envelope (I love people who do that) and you can see the lines better that way. It's got four days to run (and, at this writing, only one bid). B34.

It's by Simonetta of Italy; I have several of her later patterns, but none really stand out to me. I'd be interested to learn more about her … for vintage, this dress looks really modern to me (not so much the cape, obviously).

Search Over.

ebay item 8305987417
You know, last week, how we were talking about our ideal Oscar dresses? I think (thanks to Helen, who sent me the the link to this site) I found mine.

Wouldn't this be stunning in a true garnet red, with antique garnet jewelry (or, of course, one enormous ruby pinned right at the deepest point of the neckline)? It would also be fabulous in a Pucci-esque print, for maximum craziness. And, of course, I'd put pockets in it.

I'm not quite buying this yet, for several reasons. For one, there's a better-than-average chance that, in order to BE a glamorous movie star attending the Oscars, I would have to be at least a size or two smaller than I am now. So there's no point buying this now, in my actual size. (Ha.) Another is that it's $32, which is slightly too much for me to pay for a theoretical gown for a theoretical event, no matter how gorgeous it is.

The site, Paper Pursuits, is mainly a magazine-and-print ephemera site, but they have tons of Vogue Designer patterns, mostly from the 1960s. They *only* sell Vogue Designers.

The only thing I don't like about this picture is how the photographic model looks as if she's just dropped some popcorn in her cleavage and is unsure how she's going to get it out. Do they let you eat popcorn at the Oscars?

This is your countermission.

Gaultier Spring 2006

I don't know who the costume designer for ALIAS is, (okay — wait, thanks to Google, now I do. Laura Goldsmith). Anyway, Laura needs to take a look at the Spring 2006 Gaultier couture collection, because doesn't this dress look like Sydney Bristow is about to open up a giant-economy-size can of whup-ass on some baddie? Preferably just seconds after picking up a champagne flute?

Actually, now that I look at it again, perhaps it is not quite tight enough or garish enough or made of enough pleather to qualify as an "undercover" outfit on ALIAS. Although it's certainly eyecatching enough.)

ALIAS dress

ALIAS dress

It's certainly an interesting confluence. So many of the high-fashion collections seemed to be aimed at amazingly-fit superspies, yet so few of us actually ARE amazingly-fit superspies! Luckily, amazingly-fit superspies seem to need a LOT of changes of clothing.


I'm now roughly ten days behind in answering comments, and there is no point at which I think I'll be caught up, so if it was something important, or even unimportant but funny, email me, okay?

Helen very kindly sent me a nice picture of her skirt made from a William Morris tablecloth, and it's lovely. She says it's Burda 8677 (and, woman after my own heart, says she also has made "a turquoise with white spots and white piping, a plain purple taffeta, a burgundy with gold sequins, a red stripe yoke with red roses skirt, a linen with woven rainbow stripe, a blue and brown wool tartan that i've altered into a puffball, a red linen with vintage embroidered trim, a denim with pink net underskirt,[and] a black with rockin' robins print.") Wow!

I think there are also several people to whom or for whom I promised suggestions or advice of various (although all dress-related) kinds; if you are one of the unlucky people languishing at the bottom of my email inbox, feel free to send me a reminder!

Bill Blass for Spring

Bill Blass Spring 2006

Msbelle sent me a link to this dress (thank you!). I like it a great deal, although of course I'd make some changes. Like, those sleeve ties have to go. And, like Msbelle, I'd like it slightly longer, although, of course, on anyone not six feet tall, it would be. Probably the most appealing part about it is the print, which is near enough to Liberty to make no difference. I swear, you could do up anything short of a halter-topped hotpants-jumpsuit in Liberty and I'd be there going "ooooh, pretty!"

This dress, from the same collection, also caught my eye:

Bill Blass Spring 2006

Now, the model desperately needs a bra (I know they don't have time to switch undergarments between trips down the catwalk, but sheesh, maybe for this one they could have made an exception, or put it on a different person?) and it's oddly shaped on her even taking that into account, but something about this calls to me. And I'm not usually an epaulettes person, unless they are on Horatio Hornblower, but somehow the shoulder treatment here works.

This dress would be better on (dare I say it!) Sienna Miller, or Kate Moss, or someone slightly smaller than this particular model. This would be lovely for some 1920s-themed party, with bronze satin round-toed mary jane shoes and a brass cigarette case as a purse. (I would probably take off the belt.)

There are lots of other interesting prints in this collection, which seems to see-saw desperately between Palm Beach and the fundraising season in New York (much like many of the label's clients). Ah, well, if it were better themed this particular dress wouldn't have shown up, and that would be a loss.

from Are Clothes Necessary?

Most people allow themselves to see the past only in the current romantic-patriotic de luxe edition of moving pictures and best-sellers. A more realistic approach is needed for a true comprehension of the dress characteristics of past periods. For instance, the clothing-minded should have a more critical view of that period which loving nostalgia named the Gay Nineties. It was a climax of elegance and savoir vivre, a time of prosperity and majestically sweeping female dresses. The following snapshot is handed down to us by the observer of a trifling incident: A lady, attired in a dress with a train that answered the dictum of fashion, boarded a cab after a short walk and left on the curbstone the rubbish she had collected while sweeping the street. The onlooker, without doubt an analytical-minded person, made this inventory of the refuse:

  • 2 cigar ends
  • 9 cigarette do
  • A portion of pork pie
  • 4 toothpicks
  • 2 hairpins
  • 1 stem of a clay pipe
  • 3 fragments of orange peel
  • 1 slice of cat's meat
  • Half a sole of a boot
  • 1 plug of tobacco (chewed)
  • straw, mud, scraps of paper, and miscellaneous street refuse, ad.lib.

A still-life of less prosaic nature was painted by one Dr. Casagrandi in 1900. Reading a paper before the medical association in Rome, he reported on his bateriological examinations of trailing skirts, for which experiments he had employed a number of women to walk for one hour through the city streets. To his satisfaction he found large colonies of germs including those of tuberculosis, typhoid fever, tetanus and influenza, not to mention lesser bacilli, all of which were represented on each skirt.

from Are Clothes Necessary? by Bernard Rudofsky (Paul Theobald 1947).