Thursday, March 30, 2006

Things I don't get now.

This post is going to mark me as a hopelessly out-of-step fuddy-duddy (actually, I think I’m branded just by using the term “fuddy-duddy”) but I simply do not understand the current obsession with status bags. You know, those honking big purses with names: Chloe Paddington, Vuitton Murakami, Hermes Birkin, Kelly, whatever. My aversion to these bags arises not in small part from their size. There should be a rule, let’s call it Gidget’s Second Rule of Proportion, that no one may carry a handbag larger than her torso.

And not only are said much-desired bags often large, they’re often large and UGLY, covered with more straps, o-rings and padlocks than heavy-duty bondage gear, like the Chloe Paddington bag pictured. I'd rather haul a small dinosaur around.

But most of all I hate the messages that the hottest hippest handbags send me. The messages I get, in no particular order, are:

1. “Look at all the money I have!” -- My response? So what. Conspicuous consumption is so last millenium.

2. “I’m a celebrity who was given this handbag so that I could act as a walking billboard for Chloe, Vuitton, Hermes . . .” -- Damn, rich people love their freebies, don’t they?

3. “I succumbed to advertising, photos of celebrities carrying honking big bags and peer pressure and purchased an item I can’t afford.” -- How sad.

4. “I want to have something Sarah Jessica Parker, an Olsen twin, or a Hilton sister has.” -- Um, no. In fact, heaven forbid.

5. “I want to have something Sarah Jessica Parker, an Olsen twin, or a Hilton sister has so much that I’m willing to purchase an unlicensed imitation made by sweatshop labor in a third-world country and sold on the street by a non-tax-paying illegal immigrant vendor.” -- No, no, a hundred times no!

I could go on translating bag speak for a long time. However, even though I don’t like and don’t want a titled bag, I’m still looking for that elusive Perfect Bag. The Bag of Plato. That would be a bag that’s light, has all the right compartments in exactly the perfect sizes for my phone, sunglasses, business cards, fabric samples, paint chips, deposit slips etc. and yet miraculously is still compact. Gidget's Platonic Bag also has a strap that could be adjusted from handle length to shoulder length without looking clunky and it's lined in light never-soiling material so I can find my keys. I’ve only been looking the Perfect Bag for about 30 years, and all I've found so far are handbag shadows on the wall.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A whole LOT of nothing.

When I was a not-so-bright young thing in the ‘70s I didn’t understand all the fuss over Halston designs. His dresses, tunics, pants, whatever, were so plain that they looked like a whole lot of nothing to me. I was much more interested in Yves St. Laurent’s luxe Bohemian styles, with their flounces and trim. Of course, at that time I couldn’t afford to wear either designers’ clothing but I sewed and wore tiered peasant skirts in combinations of fuchsia and orange to get a bit of that Parisian peasant thing going.

Maturity, not to mention some embarrassment, has brought me an appreciation of minimalism, classicism, whatever you want to call it, in clothing in general and of Halston in particular. Many St. Laurent designs from that era look like costumes, and while I happen to love fancy dress, it just won’t work for me on a daily basis. But look at this Halston ultrasuede dress, on sale at The Tangerine Boutique. It was chic in 1972, it’s chic now. I can imagine wearing it with a small scarf and luggage brown boots at the office, or with gold jewelry and high-heeled round-toed platform pumps at a cocktail party, or heck, adding a dash of boho with beads and bangles and jeweled wedges for whatever. Gorgeous.

For the moment I’m going to resist the temptation to buy this dress (my size, DAMMIT!) but I’m going to scour the internet for vintage Halston patterns. When I find the pattern that trips my trigger I’ll make it in ultrasuede, but not in orange or fuschia.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Great Clothes on Film II

Ginger: I should've never married Sam. He's a Gemini, TRIPLE Gemini. Gemini's a snake, you can't trust the snake.

The clothes and jewelry worn by Sharon Stone in the movie "Casino" are practically characters themselves. Certainly, wardrobe defined the character of Ginger McKenna, ex-hooker wife of sports-gaming whiz Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert DeNiro). There were gold lurex gowns for casino-hustler Ginger, a full-length chinchilla coat (so practical for Las Vegas, doncha know) and a suitcase full of Bulgari jewelry for purchased-bride Ginger, and leather mini-suits for adulterous abusive-mom Ginger. As worn by Stone, who was incredibly chic before she was hit by the crazy stick, these outfits make 70s fashion seem very glamorous. Heck, Stone even makes a pair of white vinyl boots look good. The movie's fashion reality check comes with the men's costumes, which includes leisure suits and polyester, lest we forget just how awful 70s styles really were.

The movie's pretty good too: it's full of corruption, mob violence, Joe Pesci hitting everyone else with his crazy stick, many creative uses of the F-word, and James Woods rendered even scarier than usual by some 70s facial hair. There are several Las Vegas in jokes: for example, Oscar Goodman, the current mayor of Las Vegas and the real life lawyer for Tony Spilotro, the real-life wiseguy who inspired Pesci's role, plays a judge cracking down on the mob. Ginger gets a lot of screen time for a movie mob wife and she doesn't spend it in the background wringing her hands at her husband's bad behavior, like Kay Corleone in "The Godfather." No, she goes out and behaves almost as badly as the men do. Now there's a role-model for you!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Pants with Personality

I love striped cigarette pants. Nay, I lust after striped cigarette pants with a passion as strong as Marianne Faithful's for Mick Jagger, or Eric Clapton's for Patty Boyd, or Pamela DesBarres' for any member of Led Zepplin. However, not including actual rock stars, there are only about three non-model people in the world who can wear stove-pipe straight striped pants, and I'm not one of them. Alas, my build is more like a speed-skater's than a rock star's. Narrow striped pants make my legs look like contour maps, so even though I succumbed to temptation and bought a pair I only wear them when I'm home alone watching a midnight showing of "Velvet Goldmine."

(Since I only wear my striped pants in the privacy of my home I also don't have to deal with the question of whether they're age appropriate. As you might have guessed from my rock-and-roll references, the answer is "most probably not.")

Striped pants appear periodically on the runway (the picture at left is from Balenciaga's Spring 2006 collection). I would positively faint with pleasure if I saw someone wearing that ensemble -- all of it -- but not too much Balenciaga makes it to the streets of my low-rent tourist town. So I find myself hoping that the look filters down to mass-market stores so that the three people who could wear them will wear them and I'd get to see some Pants with Personality instead of the same old sea of jeans. But in order for, say, Target, to stock striped cigarette pants, more than the three people who should wear them will have to want them. If that happens, all those muffin tops caused by low-rise jeans will be replaced by walking contour maps, or, heaven forbid, muffin tops above contour maps, and we don't need that.

By the way, my affection for striped pants only extends to cigarette pants, i.e., narrow straight-legged pants, not to striped flares. Striped flare pants are an abomination and the wearers thereof should be tossed into the Pit of Bad Clothing to stare at each other forever!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Beautiful bodices.

Remember when the bodices of dresses were something more than trim surrounding an ocean of bare skin? When there was absolutely positively no chance that the wearer of the dress would have a "wardrobe malfunction?" When searching for nipple slips wasn't the hobby of every man, boy and fashion blogger? Well, neither do I, really, but looking at these two dress patterns, currently on auction at e-bay, I sure wish those days would return.

The Ronald Paterson dress with the fan shaped insert on top and the corresponding pleats in the skirt makes me swoon. It's art, it's sculpture, it's fantasy, and, no doubt, it's a bitch to sew. This dress isn't something to be mass produced by virtual slave labor in the Marianas and peddled at Wal-Mart, or to be worn by a 10 lb. actress sporting 20 lbs. of implants. (There should be a law prohibiting implants larger than the implantee's head.) In fact, this dress shouldn't really be worn by a woman with much bosom at all, whether natural or enhanced. No, it's a paeon to the chic small B-cup . Small ladies everywhere, rejoice!

This Jean Desses pattern could be worn by a slightly more voluptuous woman, but not too much, and probably not from this pattern, which like the Robertson dress is a vintage 10, bust 31. But my goodness, no matter what size, look how that bosom is packaged: there's an underbust seam, gathers, a bow. The whole effect is one of feminine curves without showing an inch of skin, and frankly, if one's ribs can be counted through one's decolletage, covered is a way better look.

Sometimes I worry that I'm turning into an old fart because I want women, and especially women who are constantly being photographed, to cover up. Dammit. But so many women who are always parading their parts about just don't look as good as they think they do or that US and Star magazines tell us they do. I think I'm perfectly justified in preferring a pretty, imaginatively designed and constructed dress to a pair of unleashed Frankenboobs. And aren't these dresses just so darn pretty?

Saturday, March 11, 2006


I've just reset the comments function to accept annonymous posts. I was a little too zealous trying to avoid spam and I blocked more than I should have.


Lately, I find myself thinking a lot about tap pants. Long high-waisted wide-leg panties. Genuine knickers. In lace trimed silk, or perhaps something sheer, like silk organza, or for a night at the No-Tell Motel, some sleezy transparent 50s synthetic. Ideally, the knickers would be worn with a teeny-tiny matching triangle bra, so the small top would balance out the honking big panties for a Bettie Page look. And if I were to actually wear these outside my boudoir, I'd wear them under a 40s style shirtwaist dress, to send the message that the bomber was built by a bombshell. Va Va Voom!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Adding to the project list.

I don't know what to blame, Project Runway (of course I'm addicted, did you see the name of this blog?) or A Dress A Day, but suddenly I want to sew again. What the heck, it's only been about 23 years since I did my last serious sewing and I only have a list of projects (including "Fix What's Wrong With My Life" and "Get Out of Debt") as long as my arm to complete before I should start anything new.

However I WANT to sew, and you know how things you WANT to do suddenly become a priority, even when hunger comes a-knocking on the door.

Anyhoo, when I'm not drooling over mod fashion, I'm drooling over New Look (as in Christian Dior's "New Look", unveiled in 1947) styles, i.e., sloping shoulders, tiny waists, full skirts. Vintage dress of that style are hard to find in my very modern size, so I decided that I should make one as my return project. After a long obsessive search, I bought a 1952 pattern from Grandma's House, which, at the moment I'm afraid to even open, never mind cut. Then I went on an equally obsessive search for an appropriate fabric, something I'm not likely to find in my thoroughly white-bread and polyester community. After failing to find the bronze silk taffeta of my dreams (which probably isn't the best fabric to use on a maiden outing anyway), I decided on the purple Asian print cotton fabric picture above left. I ordered it online from Hart's Fabric; it arrived yesterday. And, oh, my children, it is BEE-OO-TI-FUL. The picture does not do it justice; the background color is the most luscious deep plum, the printed medallions, edged in metallic gold, stand out like jewels. My first impulse was to forget about mere mortal sewing, and just to wrap the material around my body, obi-style, which surely was its original purpose. But, reluctantly, I folded it up and put it and the pattern neatly away in My Closet of Future Projects. But I'll get to this one. Indeed I will.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Great Clothes on Film

Diana: "Don't people know when you're interested in them?"
Miles: "They know . . . sometimes."
Diana: "Well, then . . ."
Miles: "But they don't know . . . how interested."

"Darling", staring Julie Christie (Diana), Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Harvey of the Amazing Pompadour (Miles), is a solid 90 minutes of Great Clothes on film. It also has witty dialogue, social commentary and stunning performances, a bonus for those who want actual great film with their great clothes on film.

"Darling" was released in 1965, a golden age between the hobbling domestic fashions of the post-war era and the slob aesthetic ushered in by the hippies and now universally embraced. In other words, in the mid-sixties, a woman could, and would, wear hats, gloves, slips, and hose with her smart little dresses, and still look impossibly cool.

Pictured above is the empire gown Diane wore in the monkey business only boardroom scene. It's a look many designers are currently trying duplicate, however, the tiny bodices on many of the new empire dresses render them sadly out of proportion.

Other fab outfits: the totally mod shift dress Diana wears in the Paris party scene (with short white bowed Courreges boots. Courreges! Boots!) ; the coat and hat she wears in the "whores-in-taxis" scene (you have to see it), the little bell-sleeved cherry-print dress she wears on Capri; the low-cut cocktail dress in the nightclub-into-sex-party scene (you really, really have to see it), the coat, dress, slip combo she tears off in the the tantrum-in-the-palace scene.

Of course, it helped that these outfits were being worn by Julie Christie, one of the few actresses who can be earthy and drop-dead chic at the same time.

"Darling" won academy awards for Best Actress, Best Screenplay, and Best Costumes. For once I agree wholeheartedly with the Academy's choices.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I found the image to the left at an e-bay auction of the pattern. I’m not providing a link to the auction because (1) it’s probably over, and (2) I don’t want anyone to even THINK about buying that pattern. Why? Because there’s an infinitesimal chance that some otherwise mature reader might, like the art director who designed this pattern’s package, think it’s a perfectly acceptable outfit for a woman pushing 40. Then she’ll spend her precious time shopping for and sewing up a twee little mini-dress, put it on, and sashay outside. There she’d immediately be kidnapped by white slavers catering to the faux-Lolita trade who will sell her into a Fate Worse Than Death, and her very mean, but more importantly, tasteless, pimp will make the poor soiled dove wear a tracking device in the form of a paper flower choker around her neck. Oh! The humanity!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Red carpet fantasies

Erin, aka Ms Adressaday asked her readers to comment on the Oscar fashions and to describe the Oscar dress of their dreams. Considering the reply I wrote there was long enough to qualify as a blog entry itself, and because I have been neglecting this, my own forum for musing about things sartorial, I thought I’d transplant that over here, polish it a bit more and fix the spelling and links, too.

Forgive me my run-on sentences as I occasionally forgive others.

As for the Red Carpet fashions: whence the blooming onion on Charlize Theron’s shoulder? The drapes suspended from J-Lo’s already prominent behind? Well, my children, apparently 50's style structural drama is back. J-Lo's dress was a vintage Jean Desses, which only showed that she should avoid any clothes drama that involves her rear -- it's dramatic enough, don't you think? Charlise' dress just went to prove that after years of designing slip dresses, Galliano has a way to go before he can match the real Christian Dior's knack for sculpture.

In general, though, the 2006 Oscar dresses were boring, although I quite liked Kiera's, and I absolutely lust after the vintage Bulgari necklace she wore. The necklace was too old for her, but it's just right for me. One of the few advantages of age is the ability to carry off jewelry originally designed for the jet-set equivalent of a dowager duchess

About my fantasy dress: assuming we're in the realm of total fantasy, and I got to grow 6 inches, lose 20 lbs and be an honest 20-years younger, I'd SO wear that red dress I pictured, a genuine example of 50's sculptural extravagance in clothing. If the person sitting behind me couldn't see the stage, well, to hell with him!

If I were required to go to the Oscars as my real self, but I had acquired some wealth from the project that got me there, I'd get a dress from Chado Ralph Rucci's couture collection. That way, even if I wasn't the best looking woman on the red carpet, I could take comfort in the fact that my dress, its silk woven by Buddhist's nuns from the platinum webs of virgin spiders and sewn on solid gold machines, cost as much as the adjusted gross of at least three of the Best Picture nominees. (Of course, I'd be all like "Ralph, could you put sleeves on that for me?")

Assuming I had to go as my entirely short, round, middle-aged, poor self, I'd borrow money and go looking for some Jackie-era vintage, which is entirely suitable for a short, round, etc. Something like this. Look at that color! Flesh colored dresses should be banned from the red carpet; they make the stars all look like they belong to a race of vampires.

Um, yes, I do spend way too much time fantasizing about My Oscar Dress, and I do absolutely nothing that would ever cause me to need one.

By the way, if you go to Vogue's website, you can see pictures accompanied by designer attribution. Handy when picking out your own dress, y'know?