Mollie Parnis pattern

I know, I know, I said "no more patterns" a while back, but frankly, I don't think any of you thought I meant it. I certainly didn't. And how could I hold to that resolution, when confronted by this pattern, from eBay seller stevijean?

Spadea N 1338

It's by Mollie Parnis, who I admit I knew nothing about before googling her. (And I still don't know that much, except I know I like this dress.)

I didn't think I was a big ruffle person (parsed either as "person who likes big ruffles" or "person who really likes ruffles") but for some reason this dress just seemed really FUN. Like, make it in blue gingham fun. Like, laugh a lot while wearing it fun. Just plain FUN fun.

And I think it would also be charming in a nice thin black batiste, very summery yet not too girlish (despite the ruffles) worn with a black grosgrain ribbon belt. And if I could find dark-gray-on-black seersucker? THAT would be perfect.

The only thing I don't like about this pattern is how deep the vee is in the back, but I'm pretty sure I can fix that in the cutting-out.

Sorry no dress yesterday; it was my first day teaching (a class on dictionaries at Northwestern) and I wanted to be overprepared. (I think I missed overprepared and skewed right into "brain dump" but we'll see.) I'm also going to be scarce here until at least next Tuesday; we're taking off tomorrow for a family visit and I'm toying with the idea of Not Bringing My Laptop Along. It's scary (well, not too scary, I can check email on my phone) but the point of vacation is to vacate, yes?

Offering a Bounty

DVF ginkgo dress

Check out this dress, from Diane von Furstenberg (click on the link to visit the sale page at Bloomingdale's, where it's $325).

I'm not a huge fan of this style of dress, but the fabric … I *REALLY* want this fabric. I really want about five yards of this fabric! I've been looking for ginkgo fabric forever.

So I'm offering a bounty. If you can tell me where the DVF sells her bolt-ends, and I am able to find this fabric off your clue, I will make you a circle skirt. Seriously. (And I *never* sew for other people, except very occasionally my sister.)

(Thanks also to everyone who commented on Saturday's puzzle dress! I had a great time at the tournament, but I fell short of my goal … I wanted to finish as contestant 666, but I only managed to come in at 609. So about 55 fewer people than planned can now say "I beat a dictionary editor at crosswords!" Of course, there's always next year … )

4 Across: Prepare for Roasting

puzzle dress

I am not a puzzle expert. People are sometimes disappointed to learn this, because, obviously, as a lexicographer, I should be good at everything to do with words, including crosswords, Scrabble, and handwriting. (Note: I am not good at any of the preceding.)

I enjoy crosswords, but I'm not competitive, and if it's a choice between spending two hours hurting myself with the Sunday puzzle, and making a new skirt, I usually go for "make a new skirt."

So why am I wearing this dress (RIGHT NOW, I'm wearing this dress) at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament?

Well, it's complicated, but it boils down to "I'm working for some folks making a words documentary and they got me to talk puzzle-guy-extraordinaire Francis into making a crossword with a bunch of underused words in it for me, and they're filming people solving it tonight."

Of course, once I knew I would be attending, the important question was "what will I wear?" Then I saw this fabric and, well, I *never* turn down a chance to make a stunt dress.

This is roughly the same pattern as this dress, which I made last year, but I couldn't find the skirt pattern pieces, which I think I had reassigned to another pattern last summer. So I Frankensteined it up with a different skirt pattern with has a scalloped bottom. (Which: never again! I had to HAND-SEW the edge binding on it! The skirt sure looks cute, though, so I'm sure I will eventually forget what a pain in the ass it was to do and try and make it again someday. Although you can't really see the scallops in the picture.)

Anyway, since I'm here, I thought I may as well compete, and thus give a whole lot of people the joy of beating a real, live dictionary editor in a crossword puzzle contest. Perhaps next year I will extend my altruism to the Scrabble tournament, where I would also be roundly shellacked.

Here's a closeup of the bodice (which is not exactly perfect, just like my puzzle-solving ability!):
puzzle dress

The piping's a bit uneven (again, like my puzzle … you get the idea).

I'm having a great time here so far, though! Although that's probably because the contest hasn't actually started. I expect to be tearing my hair out and groaning within the hour.

Pockets = Freedom

V&A pockets

(Above illustration from The Workwoman's Guide [and it's a downloadable PDF, thank you Google Book Search!])

Are you unsurprised, as I was, to learn that the V&A website has a whole section on pockets? It's a good one, too (also unsurprising) and traces the initial demise of the pocket and rise of the handbag to the radical change in women's fashion of the 1790s, when dresses became too narrow to admit of the wearing of separate pockets tied around the waist under the dress. Because of this, women began to carry little bags, called reticules, which accommodated much less than the capacious separate pockets.

Last night I walked about fifty blocks (intentionally, and with a glad heart). The weather was beautiful — it was a warm soft wet night (okay, I admit it, I like walking in a light rain), and I wasn't carrying a bag.

I had ditched my purse-cum-laptop-bag as it was just too big to dangle off me all night while I stood around clutching my club soda at a party (and I didn't bring a smaller bag with me on this trip). Besides, between the pocket in my skirt and the pockets of my coat, I could carry the essentials (ID, money, lipstick, treo, ipod).

Without a bag, I barely noticed those fifty blocks. It was amazing how freeing it was, to not have a bag to deal with, to shift, to move around to the front of your body and then to the back, to switch from arm to arm. Your arms swing unencumbered; you walk differently, faster. You can shove both hands in your pockets; you can put your hands on your hips while waiting impatiently for a light to change. I also noticed that some people gave me funny looks; whether it was "There's a woman without a bag!" or "Why the hell is she wearing a circle skirt in a grass-green camouflage print?" I couldn't tell.

On my way uptown, as an experiment, I counted women without bags. I saw one. I think she was eight years old, but she could have been nine. (Since this was about 11:45 p.m., I don't think this was a representative sample, and it's not like I stood around the busier intersections making sure I checked everyone, but hey.)

Now, I love bags, I obsess about bags (mostly about whether they have the right size and number of pockets …) and I carry a bag most of the time. But when you have enough pockets, or the right kind of pockets, you can escape the bag and just enjoy the freedom to stride along unencumbered. You should try it …

Buddha Dress

Buddha-print dress

Marie-Christine sent this, and, alas, it's sold. (But there's plenty more good stuff where she found this, at Kitty Girl Vintage!)

I was going to make a ton of dorky jokes about this dress ("it's the 'one with everything'" etc.) but really, I just wish I'd known the woman who designed this ("Dorothy O'Hara" is the label, and she seems to have been a costume designer for the movies) or any of the women who bought & wore it when it was new. I bet I would have really liked them.

Of course, the other thing this makes me want to see is other religion-themed dresses. I'm assuming the Prophet, Jehovah, and Jesus are unlikely candidates for fabrics, let alone dresses, but surely there must be more-or-less inappropriate fabrics with Hindu figures on them, or perhaps figures of Greek and Roman mythology, and of course the Flying Spaghetti Monster … I bet the FSM wouldn't mind being on a dress. If there were a religious-dress meetup, would the atheist dress be a pure black, or a pure white? The agnostic dress gray? Would the animists have trees and rocks and plants and things? Leave suggestions for other (irreverent, impious, I know) suitable prints for the various religions in the comments, if you like.

In One's Salad Days

Wish-Bone dress

Kate (of Hats by Katrinka) sent me this link to yet another company making dresses out of food (remember the Celestial Seasonings Dress?).

This one is from Wish-Bone, to promote their new sprayable salad dressings. I did almost bail out of watching the video when I realized it was hosted by Richard Simmons (my junior high school, in a move to encourage poor body image, eating disorders, and self-loathing among adolescent girls, had us do his "aerobics" LP in gym class. Many years later, in a fit of Stockholm Syndrome-induced thrifting, I bought a copy of that LP, which will really come in handy if I ever need to blast it from speakers to make teenagers or Noriega or whoever get offa my lawn).

Anyway, click on the picture to see the fashion show, where the models gamely wear cabbage leaves and spray salad dressing into the air. (If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you like.)

I'm really not sold on the cherry-tomato jewelry. I hope they're plastic, because otherwise … just too much sticky and itchy to contemplate. And a waste of good tomatoes.

That's Liza with a 'Z' (and Marisa with one 'S')

Berenson Ferre dress

Robin sent me this link, from Doyle Galleries.

This is a dress of Marisa Berenson's, and was worn when she was matron of honor (!) along with Elizabeth Taylor (!) at Liza Minelli's wedding in 2002.

Me, I'm just happy that we live in a world where this is considered a BRIDESMAID'S DRESS. (Okay, okay, MATRON of HONOR.) Do you think Marisa sat down and said "Liza, I'm so happy for you, darling, but no butt-bow on the back of my dress, please" and Liza got a little vague and thought she heard "No back"?

Leaving aside my well-known prejudices about black dresses at weddings (although this falls under the Bridesmaid Exception, to be sure) I'm not sure I'd ever wear this (not that I'd ever get the chance, it's both $4K and a size 6) unless I was trying to costume a play in which all the characters were animated gothic furniture. Although maybe if I were in a wedding where the best men were Michael and Tito Jackson, I'd just say "what the hell!" and go for it. Luckily I've never been in that situation. Who among us knows what we'd choose at that point?

Click through to the news story, if you dare, just to see a picture of co-Matron-of-Honor Liz Taylor's hat. Liz Taylor, is, in my opinion, one of the most technologically advanced cyborgs among us today, and I love her for it.

Oh, Liza and David, those crazy kids! With all this fashion around them, why couldn't they make it work?

Enormous Dress Art Post

Leigh Pennebaker

Nancy sent me the link to the artist above, Leigh Pennebaker (warning, Flash-heavy site; easier to read about her here) who makes wire form dresses. I think this one is called "Bridget."

Sandra (and others) sent me a link to this marvelous artist, Susan Stockwell(very sensible site) who makes dresses from maps, like so:

Susan Stockwell

Theresa sent this, but it was forwarded to her without a good attribution; if anyone knows anything about the artist will you tell me, so I can link it here?

wood artist

And George (link is to his wife's new book, Momfidence) sent me a reference to the Zenith Gallery in DC, where Donna M. McCullough is showing her dress-themed work. This piece is called "Dancing With the Moon":

Donna M. McCullough

Got any other dress artists you'd like to recommend? Leave links in the comments …

Secret Lives of Dresses #12

ebay item 260097663640

I don't drink the cocktails, of course, but I like them anyway. I like the sweaty short fat glasses that look so sure of themselves and smug, their little swords impaling the glossy maraschino cherries gleefully. I like the graceful martini glasses, too, with the smoky olives lurking in their depths, or the tiny onions. "Like eyeballs!" she said once, and I agreed with her. After that I was happy that she didn't drink the ones with the onions. Sometimes he makes her one of the short fat ones even before they leave for the party, when she's running around in stockings and no shoes, putting her earrings in while trying to find her favorite lipstick, which she was sure was in the pocket of her coat, but which usually turns out to have been left in the car.

On the way they don't usually listen to the radio, but when they get to the parties there's always music. I like that man with the sad voice the best, but I like the dancing songs, too. She's a good dancer, and she knows how to use me when she dances, how to make my skirt swirl just so. I especially like that moment when the dance has just stopped but she's still standing there in somebody's arms. Usually they're his arms, unless there's a card game starting up, and then it could be anyone. I like him the best, but there's another one, Bill — he's a very good dancer. Sometimes, when they're dancing, he whispers into her ear. I can't hear what he says but I can hear what she says back. "Oh, Bill, you're terrible!" is what she says, but she doesn't sound upset. She's usually laughing.

I like seeing the other dresses, too, although of course we don't really talk. It's more like a series of little nods; I might nod to Alice's black crepe, as if to say "nice seeing you again," (although of course you see her everywhere, she really deserves a rest). I might give a little acknowledging nod to a new dress; there's usually at least one new dress at every party, and the new ones always get the most scrutiny. Everyone wants to make sure the fashion hasn't changed so much that their wearers will think they've become dowdy. I'm not one of the oldest, but I'm not one of the newest, either. I hear from her other dresses that sometimes the ones that have been to too many parties here go to her sister in Baltimore. I'm not sure where Baltimore is, but I hope they have parties. They must, or why would she send her dresses there? I don't want to go anywhere that doesn't have parties.

Sometimes unexpected things happen at parties — there was the time that Gerry decided he didn't want to wear pants, for one. (I always wondered what the other suits thought about that, but of course we hardly ever talk to them, even when we share a closet. They're so uncommunicative.) Once she walked in on Phil and Amelia in the spare room. I thought they were dancing, but it seemed odd for them to be dancing so far from the music. Amelia's dress was all askew, too. It wasn't hanging right at all. And I'll never forget the time, at Harold and Pat's Christmas party, when Pat brought out that flaming dessert and the dangling ball fringe on her party apron went right up, just whoosh! Harold had to squirt her with the soda siphon. Luckily her dress was okay, it was a bright red polished cotton. I don't think cottons make very good party dresses, but maybe that's why Pat went all-out with such a fancy apron. After that party, on the way home, she laughed so hard I thought she was going to split my zipper.

On the way home from the parties he holds her hand, and they talk about everyone they just saw. "Can you believe he brought that woman from his office, and the divorce not final?" and "Jeff's not doing well, not doing well at all. Putting on a brave front, though, for Georgia." Sometimes they're quiet, and then I know they're tired, or that they had too many fat little glasses.

When we walk in the door her shoes come right off, and her coat goes over the nearest chair. Her earrings land next to her bag on the table in the hall, right by the mail. She whispers hello and goodbye and thank-you to the babysitter. Sometimes she and the babysitter yawn at the same time, and that makes them both laugh. The babysitter just lives two doors down, but he always walks her home. As soon as the door shuts again behind them, she rushes up the stairs to his room. First she stands in the doorway for a minute, making sure he's still asleep, that the noise of the door opening and closing didn't wake him.

I can see him in the dim light of the bunny nightlight, so I'm sure she can too, but she always goes closer. Sometimes I'm a bit afraid of the little boy; his hands are always so dirty! But I'm safe when he's asleep. She sits on the edge of the bed, and brushes his hair away from his forehead. Every time I see him, he needs a haircut. She always bends to kiss his cheek, something he usually doesn't allow before they leave for the party. His face is slack with sleep, and he doesn't turn away.

Then she just sits and watches him. I never thought watching someone sleep would be interesting (I think pajamas are really boring) but watching the little boy is, somehow. Maybe it's just feeling what she feels that's so interesting. Once, I remember, he laughed in his sleep. He must have been dreaming. I'll never forget that sound; it was so beautiful, like something made of crystal suddenly turning into bubbles and floating away.

She sits there until she hears the door open. Then she leans over him and whispers "I love you, darling boy," kisses him again, fusses with his covers, and heads downstairs. Sometimes he makes her one more drink, they sit on the sofa, talk a little, but usually she just helps him lock up and turn out the lights, before going to take me off. She always hangs me right up, which is nice. It's not comfortable to spend all night on the floor, especially after a party. I hope if I go to Baltimore her sister hangs up her dresses right away, too.

[Click on the image to go to the eBay listing for this dress.]
[Edited to change # — this is actually #12, #11 was here.

Back to the Source

Duro Olowu

Madelene (and several other folks, but I think Madelene was first) linked me to the coverage of Duro Olowu's recent London show. There were lots of gorgeous fabrics and some really lovely coats, but this was the only dress close to the iconic "Duro"-type.

I like the longer sleeves and the longer length — I think this is great as an evening gown, very easy and comfortable yet glamorous, too (and for a shortish person I'm unfortunately enamored of maxi-length dresses). I also like the double-banding (it looks like) on the sleeves and at the hem.

The whole show is worth checking out … I really wish I needed one of those coats. I mean, I *want* one of his coats; I just don't need it.