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 (DangerDame.com) 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.)

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.)