In Which I Buy A Sweater (Harder Than It Sounds Dept.)

ebay item 8305987417

Last week offered me a $100 gift certificate to try their new clothing shopping "experience", and, after thinking about for a while (Pro: I like shopping online in general, and the Zappos interface in particular; Con: will it damage my Walter-Cronkite-like credibility to take free stuff to write about a shopping site?) I decided that sure, I'd give it a shot.

Honestly, after about an hour of browsing, I almost wrote back and said "thanks but no thanks" — let's just say my taste in clothing and what was available on Zappos didn't have a lot of overlap. (Which is odd, because I can find a pair of shoes I desperately want on Zappos merely by clicking randomly on any page …) There are a lot of very trendy clothes on Zappos, which would be a huge selling point for anyone whose fashion sense didn't crystalize roughly twenty years before they were actually born.

I thought for a while about this sweater (also gray, highly rated, and heaven knows I love cardigans) but I haven't been impressed by Three Dots stuff before, so I didn't hit 'buy' on that one.

This morning, though, I realized that I had never replaced my favorite "cozy for around the house, but nice enough to wear out to the post office" gray hooded sweater that got eaten up by SOMETHING (I refuse to countenance the possibility of MOTHS) winter before last. All last winter I tried to find a replacement, but my heart wasn't in it. But now I'm ready to move on.

Finding a gray hooded sweater on Zappos was really easy — there's a nice drill-down interface, so you don't have to sort through too many irrelevant options. (It did take me a minute to figure out how to filter just for women's clothing, but only a minute.) The *huge*, well-lit, all-angles photos were great, too.

I wish there were actual garment measurements (or, if there were, that I could find them), but looking at the general cut of the clothes on the site (narrow, narrow, and narrower) induced me to order the Large (and Zappos has free shipping both ways, so it's not like making the wrong size choice is gonna cost me another $8.90 in postage).

The price points were a bit towards what I consider the "higher end" (this sweater was $104! Which I would not otherwise spend without a subsidy of at least $50); about the same as a mid-level department store, like Macy's.

Finding a sweater that had a kangaroo pocket was a bonus. I love kangaroo pockets. So cozy …

In short: Zappos has a lot of clothing-type stuff, mostly geared (as far as I could tell) towards juniors/young misses. (Which is smart on their part, that's who spends a lot of money on clothes!) Their search system is clever and easy to use, which won't surprise anyone who has ever looked for shoes on the site. I would definitely use it again if I were looking for something in particular (like, say, a gray hooded sweater) … I'm not much for just browsing, though, so I don't know if I'd go to their site just to hang around. I think it will improve as they add more vendors; I would much rather shop at Zappos than on most crappy, Flash-heavy, badly-organized boutique/manufacturers' sites …

If I had to suggest a feature, I'd love something where I could ask to be notified when something came in that they didn't have any current listings for, like a red short-sleeved cardigan or a kimono-sleeved cardigan, or a way to suggest categories …

Thus endeth the review. In other retail news, Little Hunting Creek is having a sale this week: ten percent off everything (to make room for holiday merchandise) through October 5 at midnight. The discount code is LHC10.


Advance 5112

Rita sent me a link to this pattern, saying she thought I'd like it … which I do. A great deal. I'd like it even more if it were MY SIZE, but you can't have everything. (Unless YOU are a B40, in which case, today, yes, you can have everything. Don't worry, I'm sure it will be my turn to have everything again sometime next week.)

I love the high roll on the collar, and of course the stripey inset yoke, and double-of-course the pockets. I like how the woman in the green dress seems to be sizing you up for membership in their Advance 5112 Dress Club. Membership obviously also includes that softly-waved bob, a hairstyle I have coveted for years and have finally determined is an illustrator's fiction, like the Gibson Girl knot.

As so rarely happens, I think I would make the green version as-is; it's a perfect Christmas Peppermints dress. (This would also be the perfect dress if I were the costumer of a 1940s screwball romance between two of Santa's elves at Gimbel's, right? The guy would have to be in green velvet knickers, which is a terrible impediment to romance but an accelerator of screwballitude, for sure.)

On a more sophisticated note, this dress would be lovely in a fine black faille with a gray organza yoke and collar …

Oh, and if you're reading this late in the afternoon, I have a small bonus for you — Jen at MOMSPatterns is having a sale! She says: "From now until midnight EST Monday, September 29, 2008, save 25% at on ANY sized order! There's vintage patterns, Halloween costume patterns, Barbie patterns, new old stock Vogues and a TON more … simply use coupon code 'momsweekender' to save BIG!"

[And once more I promise pictures of myself from last week and don't deliver. Tune in tomorrow for another episode of "Erin forgot to unload the camera theater!"]


Andrew Henry Exclamation

Kathleen (and possibly one other person, I'm sorry, I can't remember!) gave me the heads-up about this fabric, and I finally got around to buying some today. I think I bought five yards, which is A LOT, but then again, you can't skimp on a dress made with EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! Exclamation Points need a lot of *volume*, I think.

Although, in fact, the first thing that comes to mind is to make the yellow-birds dress again, in black (or maybe red?), with the exclamation points as the collar, cuffs, and pockets. What do you all think?

I also secretly want (not so secretly now) but I don't know why. And usually I don't have a thing for butterflies. I think it's the deep plum color.

Of course, I completely forgot to take a picture of my dress yesterday, but there was somebody taking photographs at the event, so I have high hopes of getting one somehow. Photos from last week Thursday and Friday to come soon …

Meet Our Advertisers #9: Elisa of Mad Fashionista's Plus Size Boutique

Elisa Dress

how long have you been in business?

I have been an Ebay seller since 2002, running Elisa’s Bodacious House of Style, and started selling on Specialist Auctions on 2007. My store there is the Mad Fashionista's Plus Size Boutique. SA is a far more humane environment than Ebay, that’s for sure, although I still sell on the Evil Empire. The emphasis at the Bodacious House of Style is on contemporary clothing, although I sell vintage there as well. Mad Fashionista’s Vintage and Modern is an outgrowth of my blog, “Diary of A Mad Fashionista". My fabulously glam alter-ego needed an equally fabulous vintage store!

What motivated you to go into the plus size vintage clothing business?

Being a large-sized woman and having a terrible time finding the kind of vintage clothing I like to wear. I love bombshell 40s and 50s things, lots of cleavage; I’ve been (pardon the pun) heavily influenced by old movies. I decided there had to be a market out there for women like me, and I was right! Also men who want to look like women like me. (The Internet is a wonderful thing.) I also sell other vintage from other decades, up through the 80s. Whenever I find something I like, I grab it. Being large has other advantages; I can body-block other buyers at estate sales!

What did you do before this?

For years, I was one of those show biz people who had “other jobs” (i.e. temp work). Then I became disabled in 1999 and needed to work out of my home. I became an abridger of audiobooks, mostly. Audiobooks are those books on CD that you listen to in your car. I would take the original manuscript, which would be, say, 154,000 words, and cut it down to 56,000 words for six hours of listening pleasure. I used to refer to myself as “The Book Butcher.” But the audiobook business stopped using freelancers. I’m also a professional writer, have published two novels, and am a professional actress. I refuse to let my disability get in the way of making an exhibition out of myself!

Where are you based?

Big Bad New York City, along with my CEO, Bucky the Wonderdog, and my husband, who thinks I sell “old clothes.”

More fun questions:

What's the weirdest/best/craziest/most beautiful thing you've ever

A 1940s navy crepe halter dress that fit like a glove. The bosom was navy floral lace over nude ‘soufflé’ and incredibly low-cut, and the back had a butt swag! Best of all, it had a bolero jacket that you could button over the dress and it looked like a one.jpgece. That was one of the sexiest dresses I have ever owned. I have no idea what happened to it, however I do recall one New Year's Eve when the men present played a game that involved throwing peanuts into my decolletage. This is not the place to reveal what the winner received.

What do you have in stock that you can't believe hasn't sold?

Just about everything in my store, The Mad Fashionista’s Vintage and Modern. Sometimes I think Specialist Auctions is a “buried treasure.” However, I’ve been very surprised that this beauty hasn’t sold. It is a two piece cotton jacket dress with gorgeous embroidery and beading, in great condition.

What do you dream about finding?

Where to start? A huge rack of plus-size 1950s shelf-bust evening gowns with full skirts in near mint condition! An Adrian gown or suit, even if it was a small size; a real Dior, ditto; an armoire of plus-size fur coats. For myself, I want a 1940s black silk evening gown and a mink coat like the one Bette Davis wore in ‘All About Eve’.

What do you enjoy most about working with vintage?

I love turning the clothes inside out and looking at the construction. I don’t sew, so you might say I’m a seamstress wannabe or a vintage voyeur. But nothing amazes me more than the inner construction of a really beautiful dress. I had a Paul Parnes two.jpgece blue dress that was a masterpiece.

What is your dearest wish about your site?

That it's discovered and I sell everything on it in less than a week, and have an excuse to shop some more!

It’s a good day at work when …

Somebody buys something.

If I ran the internet for a day I’d …

Abolish Ebay and send all of the Ebay sellers their fees for the last two years.

The blogs I read (other than ADAD are …)
Always Playing Dress-Up
Fat Chic
Project Rungay (the funniest thing on the web!)

You’d laugh if you knew this about me …

I was one of the first women to do male drag professionally, in the late 1980s; now they are referred to as “drag kings,” like drag queens, but with the obvious difference! I think I’m still the only heterosexual drag king.

For some reason I thought today was Thursday. I love the mirror pictures! You should look at my "About Me" page on Ebay … I added a picture of myself with "I CAN'T SEW!" across the top. I first made it for a sale I had of damaged items a year or two ago.

Also, Elisa will have a booth at the MANHATTAN VINTAGE SHOW!
The Mad Fashionista's Plus Size Boutique
The ONLY Plus-Size Vintage Booth at the Entire Show, of over 85 dealers!
Booth #17
Metropolitan Pavilion
125 West 18th Street, between 6 & 7 Avenues, New York City
Friday October 10 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Saturday October 11:00 am to 6:00 pm
Admission $20.00

Mark your calendars, she'll have an amazing selection of plus-sized vintage, including coats, furs, suits, evening gowns, and day dresses! Not to mention fine and costume jewelry, vintage designer handbags, and hats!

[Mirror photos — actually, I figured out how to use the timer! — will return tomorrow, or maybe later today. I forgot to take a picture on Wednesday but there was a photographer at the conference where I was talking, so maybe I can get one of those lovely pictures where I'm making a funny grimace as I'm trying to make a joke. We can only hope.]

Mirror Photos Day Two

Erin in alphabet dress

Sorry for the "Let's all go to jail!" expression on my face here; I was rushing to get *something* shot before heading to the airport. (Also, usually I have feet.)

This dress is fantastically comfortable; it's this one again, Butterick 7513. The only flaw in it (for me) is that I set the zipper in too low on the left side, and so the fabric is stressing there — not when I put it on, but when I take it off. So someday soon I have to take the zipper out, reinforce that stress point, and put the zipper back in, only higher. (And if you think that sounds like fun, email me and YOU can do it. And then you can whitewash my fence, if you give me your apple.)

Sweater is, again, from Lands' End. I keep buying their sweaters, especially once they go to $20 on clearance, but I really wish they would put a "true red" in their color lineup.

The bag (you can see it on the table) is a Fossil I bought on eBay; the leather is really nice — soft but sturdy — there are a lot of pockets, and my laptop + power cord + notebook + something to read fits in it just fine, but the crossbody strap is a bit too thin to be comfortable, and so I end up holding it over my bent arm a LOT, Mary-Kate Olsen style. (Which I hate.) Also, it snaps shut instead of zipping shut; ten demerits. I switched back to my Chrome laptop backpack for the plane, and shoved the handbag into my luggage.

Oh — I almost forgot. When I was getting on the plane, the crew member at the door said "Hey, you look like that educational play toy stuff I buy for my kids!" So I told him that yes, I WAS very popular with infants. That's me — forming young minds. Scared yet?


Laura Dern at 2008 Emmys

Mindi sent me this picture of Laura Dern at the Emmys — obviously, because it has pockets. I'm not a fan of purple (although it looks great on Ms. Dern!) and I admit to having an urge to yoink that bodice up a bit, but for pockets, all is forgiven.

(Do you think the woman in the background carrying a wrap in the same color and two clutch handbags is Ms. Dern's assistant? I do.)

And now, to go from the sublime to the ridiculous, I present the first bad mirror self-portrait of the week — taken, not in my hotel room, but in a fairly posh corporate bathroom.

Laura Dern at 2008 Emmys

This is this dress; I've been trying to wear it on days when I think good things will happen, and so far it's working. The sweater is from Lands' End. I'm pretty sure the light wasn't good enough in the bathroom, thus the fuzzy photo, but the flash reflected in the mirror, so … any self-portrait photography tips are appreciated. (I have a Canon PowerShot 1100 IS btw).

The Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

[Whoops, edited to remove picture, sorry folks … nothing to see here, move along … okay, if you need something to see, you can check out this rabbit in a dress.]

So, I'm pretty sure that the penalty for single-handedly declaring International Wear A Dress Week (oh, the hubris) was that I was roundly and soundly smacked down by an enormous toppling pile of work, to the point where, one morning, I had to actually stand still and think: "Did I just take a shower, or not?" (Luckily, my hair was still damp, so I was able to answer that question. When the question is "Did I brush my teeth?" I just go ahead and brush them again, but it seems wasteful to re-shower.)

Although I did not post ONE SINGLE TIME during IWAD week, I did wear dresses every day, except for Friday, when I wore a skirt. (I was finally at home on Friday.) I am willing to submit signed affidavits, or I could tell you that I don't even remember the last time I wore a bifurcated garment that wasn't intended for sleep. (Ah: I wear dresses all day, but prefer to sleep in pajamas. There's a contradiction for you.)

The dresses in the Flickr stream (135 at last count!!!) are FANTASTIC. Check out this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and oooh, don't forget this one … heck, you might as well go and check them all out!

In other sewing news, I bought three different colors of denim (orange, teal, and black) and am going to make some hard-wearing dresses out of them, I hope. (I spent some time sewing today but got frustrated and decided that I should stop before inadvertently driving the seam ripper through soft tissue.)

I am traveling again this week, and, as penance for not posting during IWADW I will commit to taking a terrible hotel-room-mirror photo of my outfit every day. (Look, this is me programming a reminder into my phone!) Be afraid, be very afraid.

Guess What Monday Is?

Evening Dresses for September 1818

It's International Wear-A-Dress Day 2008!

Although, really, to give people more of a chance to participate (and as long as we're creating our own occasions) why don't we call it "International Wear-A-Dress WEEK 2008"?

I made a Flickr group for people to upload photos to, it's here, and I'll try to post great examples next week if people upload them, hint hint. (If you don't want your dress blogged, please tag it DNB — for DO NOT BLOG — when you upload your picture).

I will most likely be wearing this dress.

For more about the genesis of International Wear A Dress Day/Week, see the comments on this post.

Ten Reasons Skirts are Better Than Pants

Butterick 5282

[*for UK readers, please substitute "trousers" for "pants" throughout. Or just giggle, I don't care.]

1. Drawing your pants legs back from someone in disgust as you pass them is insufficiently scornful.

2. Studies have shown that wearing skirts is 90% effective in preventing VPL (visible panty line).

3. Ditto for "plumber's butt," "whale tail," and "camel toe."

4. Ruffles on a skirt can be over-the-top glamorous. Ruffles on pants are only acceptable if your name is Mary, and a little lamb follows you everywhere you go.

5. It is impossible to smuggle someone in — or out — of prison, a masked ball, a hotel room, etc. by hiding them under your pants. (Plus, there is no such thing as "hooppants."

6. When you strap a gun to your thigh in pants, you lose the element of surprise.

7. You don't have to have skirts hemmed differently for flats or heels.

8. Twirling in a pair of pants results in 87% less happiness.

9. The word "skirt" has both a singular and a plural form, usable by all ("I am wearing a skirt today." "Instantly Mrs. Bagnet put some pins into her mouth, and began pinning up her skirts all round, a little higher than the level of her grey cloak.") The word "pants" has a singular than can only be used by fashion-industry people ("Designers are showing a high-waisted, wide-legged pant for fall").

10. Skirt blowing up, revealing underthings? Sexy. Pants falling down, revealing underthings? Humiliating.

[Pattern from MOMSPatterns.]

Meet Our Advertisers #8: eVintage Society

Past Perfect dress

Dress from Past Perfect Vintage, a member of the eVintage Society.

What is The eVintage Society?
eVintage was founded in 2006 as a on-line community in the form of a sellers collective.
By collaborating on informational projects we create bonds of partnership within our member community, helping each other to foster each of our own unique on-line vintage businesses. We continue to grow and build vintage fashion resources for everyone to enjoy. We want to not only bridge the community between sellers, but between buyers and sellers too.

Why do people join eVintage?
The opportunities at eVintage for exposure really are only limited to each member's imagination! We have so many ways to promote and participate our members and each of us contributes in some way: whether it's through style sites, blogging, research, newsletters, advertising and special promotions, eVintage wants small vintage sellers to succeed.

How can people join eVintage?
eVintage has an application page here. To apply for membership please email us at: info at evintagesociety dot com.

What does eVintage do for buyers?
eVintage offers a wealth of knowledge and resources for the buyer. We have designer bios, a vintage resource library, and we offer a streamlined portal with a great selection of sellers all in one place. We also have interactive communities on MySpace, Facebook and Squidoo. We have multiple blogs as a collective such as eVintage Village, Vintage or Bust, and eBetty DIY as well as individual sellers' blogs. Buyers can access all this info and links from our homepage at

And a few more pieces of eVintage Society eye candy wouldn't hurt, would it?

Hotchpotch Vintage Pattern Simplicity 3448

Isabella's Vintage dress

Damn Good Vintage dress