Saturday, July 29, 2006

One Person's Fetish is Another Person's Vintage Resource

So, I did an Google image search for "Dior A-Line," brought up a photo of a suit labled "Dior H Line" (two out of three ain't bad), clicked on the link to see the picture in its original context, and found myself in a treasure trove of vintage fashion pictures. There was a definite theme to the photos -- the silhouette was all long and lean, very lean. I scroll down a little more and find the index to the collection -- "Tight Skirts of the Past 1," "Tight Skirts of the Past 2," all the way to "Tight Skirts of the Past 12". Interesting way to label a photo collection, I thinks, unless . . . so I click on the home page link, and woo-hoo, NSFW, this abundance of classic photos is located in a site dedicated to women mostly in tight skirts. But I'm not going to criticize the webmaster's motivation, he put together a fabulous collection of fashion photos, some still with their captions, which just adds to the fun. Fashion fun, that is.

However, actually wearing the combination of a tight skirt and tight corset may lead a lady of fashion to do strange things. Like, drop her kitchen table in the middle of the town square during a performance by traveling acrobats, and lingering there, surrounded by villagers who are ready to pelt her and the performers with flowers (it not being tomato season) if they are displeased. Or something. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Project Runway -- it's going to be a loooong season.

It's twue, it's twue, the PR designers this season are amazingly gifted and skilled, capable of grinding out suits, coats, dog sweaters in the two days allowed for a competition. I enjoy watching them work and getting the brief glimpses of the outfits the producers deign to give us. The judges and their judging, though, is driving me crazy. I want Michael Kors back: Vera Wang, his substitute, all shrouded in black, is giving off a very Yoko Ono in her cranky widow phase vibe, and she's not nearly as entertainingly bitchy as Mr. "I wrote down 'farty'" Kors.

I'm also not in agreement with the judge's decisions. I don't understand their enthusiasm for Uli, who's a nice lady and rather witty, but who has produced basically the same dress for three episodes. I don't understand why Michael Knight keeps getting overlooked. I don't understand Nina Garcia's enthusiasm for the puffy shirt. My favorite looks keep getting a pass, but no praise.

This week, my fave was the outfit produced by Robert Best, at left. Okay, it's a Chanel knockoff, but the dog's name is Chanel, what's her hypothetical owner supposed to wear? But I would so wear that look, if the skirt were knee length. I don't think I've thought that about any other garment to hit the reality show runway.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Oh pattern, I barely missed ye --

I made myself late for an appointment today hovering over the last minutes of the ebay auction for the pattern pictured at left -- and I lost anyway. Its auction price was $29.00, its original price was probably, what? $1.25? But damn, it's a great vintage pattern. Besides being in my size, it's got a shape similar to the Duro dress of fame and many A Dress A Day entries, but with a couple of differences that makes it more suitable for me. In particular, this pattern, S9707, has a a natural waistline, which will keep me from looking like an elderly pregnant woman, and it has narrow set-in sleeves, which would keep me from setting myself on fire when I fired up the gas range to make a cup of tea.

While the bidding was open I made the mistake of imagining I already owned this pattern, and in my mind I was picking out fabric and trim and wondering how it would look with three-quarter sleeves -- and then I lost. Of course, now I MUST. HAVE. IT. So, I'm on the lookout for vintage Simplicity 9707. If any of y'all have one you'd like to sell me, let me know, m'kay?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Almost Miss Universe

Lo and behold, Tara Connor, Miss USA, actually wore the dress designed for Project Runway's second episode challenge by designer Kayne Gillaspie. Kayne is, in fact, a professional pagent designer who owns a store called Southern Charm in Norman, Oklahoma. Miss Connor is a former Miss Kentucky.

What would happen to the great Red State tradition of pagents, I wonder, if the great Red State agenda of getting rid of gay men is successful? Who will design the gowns, choreograph the dances, apply the makeup, do the hair of all those pretty Red State girls?

Straight men won't. But all is not lost; those same straight men will just stand those pretty gals naked on a slave block, the way the great Red State God intended.

Ahem. Not to mention Amen. Tara asked the Project Runway gang to design a gown that was more red carpet than pagent, and that didn't wasn't too low cut. She wanted the judges to see her, rather than . . . her, I guess, and perhaps she thought she'd stand out by injecting a little class into the meat market, um, contest. She guessed wrong.

The title of Miss Universe was won by Miss Puerto Rico, Zuleyka Rivera, who was wearing a dress made out of metal chains and perhaps designed by the winner of Project Runway Latino's hardware store challenge. The judges certainly saw her coming. But perhaps I'm too cynical and it wasn't Miss Rivera's impressive rack that carried the day, but her outstanding use of lip liner.

Miss USA was only awarded the title, if you can call it that, of fourth runner-up. But she needn't despair. I'm sure many a good red-blooded Red State male noticed her fine taste in casual wear (and corresponding skill in wrapping herself in the flag), and will be willing to make her his wife, to have as long as she signs a prenup and to hold until his mid-life crisis.

And if that doesn't work out, there's a pole waiting for her at Ed's Fantasy Girls. She's already got the bikini and the moves.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Curvy and pretty

This happy yellow dress is most appropriately for sale at Dandelion Vintage. It's got everything I love about a vintage dress -- structure, detail, shape, SLEEVES. It's a good size too, Bust 37, Waist 28, Hips 48, although, alas, a bit too small for me.

The dress does have a pen mark on the skirt. I'm sure that if you have a really good professional cleaner in your area, he could get it out, but in my experience most cleaners now don't do anything but throw items into their dry cleaning solution which does nothing but bake ink stains into the fabric. In order to rescue some garments that would otherwise have been ruined I've spot cleaned them myself using mild soap (diluted dishwashing liquid) and water. One thing that I've also found works very well on organic stains is a baby wipe, you know, one of those moist towelette thingys. A few dabs of one of those lifts greasy food and blood stains rather nicely. Of course you'd want to test whatever solvent you were using on a hem or facing to make sure it didn't take the color out with the stain.

And that, my dears, is my one and only helpful hint.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Clothes on Film -- East Side, West Side, and a little bit Bad and Beautiful.

Old movie ho that I am, I can't believe that I hadn't encountered the 1949 film East Side, West Side until last Wednesday. It has a good director, Mervyn LeRoy (No Time for Sergeants, Gypsy). The cast is outstanding: Barbara Stanwyck vs. Ava Gardner (better than Alien vs. Predator any day) fighting over James Mason, supported by Cyd Charisse and Nancy (Mrs. Ronald Reagan) Davis. And for me, the most important thing, is its fabulous costume designer, Academy Award-winning Helen Rose.

Helen Rose, among other things, designed Grace Kelly's wedding gown, the white chiffon dress Elizabeth Taylor wore in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,
and perhaps my all-time favorite movie dress, the one worn by The Bad and The Beautiful's studio tramp when she descends the staircase to interrupt the conversation between actress Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner) and producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), thus destroying Georgia's dreams of a happy-ever-after with Jonathan forever. God bless the 1950s: the scene clearly implies that Ms. Studio Tramp and Shields were upstairs in Shields' bedroom doing something unmentionable when Georgia came knocking, yet she appears wearing the most architecturally elaborate New Look-style gown imaginable, the kind of dress that had to be applied by a maid and removed with a can-opener. Not the best thing for naughty business of any sort. Alas, I cannot find a photo of the Studio Tramp's dress.

Ms. Rose won one of her Oscars for The Bad and the Beautiful's costumes. She was great at channeling Dior's New Look.

The plot of ESWS doesn't live up to the cast or the costuming: like so many American movies, it starts as a rather hot film about adultery and turns into a confused murder and morality tale. The gorgeous Ava Gardner plays The Bad Girl, Isabel Lorrison (evidently "Lorrison" was a Writer's Guild approved mid-century hot-chick character name), and she makes her appearance wearing the most gorgeous strapless dress imaginable. As a rule, I don't like strapless dresses. Modern ones tend to be ill-fitting -- remember how Sarah Jessica Parker was always showing up to award ceremonies in strapless and quadra-boob, and in one instance, with her bra showing ? -- but Ava's dress fit perfectly, with nary a hint of under-arm cutlet. Of course, Ava didn't get her costume on loan, it was made for her and probably contained as much buttressing as a Gothic cathedral. Oh, those were the days, for dressmaking, if not for on-screen hot monkey sex.

For a while, Helen Rose had her own clothing line, and you can find her dresses for sale online. This beauty is offered by Fuzzy Lizzie at Babylon Mall. A gorgeous 1970s Helen Rose halter dress can be found at, one of her cocktail dresses at Vintageous, and this gorgeous gown at Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Be still my heart -- the fashions of "The Avengers"

I was, once again, wandering aimlessly in cyberspace, when I came upon The Fashion Guide to Seasons 4 & 5 of "The Avengers." Pages and Pages of Emma Peel's costumes. Cat suits, of course, but also mini-dresses, gowns, the leather body-suit and spiked collar that got an episode banned in the stodgy ole USA.

Back when I was a young teen in Connecticut, wrapping tin-foil on the TV antenna to pick up "The Avengers" from a weak-signaled New York station, I thought Mrs. Peel was the coolest woman in the world. Look what she had: great hair, great figure, great great clothes, a great apartment, a great little car, and a well-groomed gentleman friend who would show up every week with a bottle of champagne and a great adventure, but who never made any other demands on her time. But the coolest thing: Mrs. Peel kicked ass. I got a little high-fashion pre-feminist thrill every time she karate-chopped a bad-guy. Now that I've seen Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Cheung defeating the entire Chinese army, Mrs. Peel seems wimpy in comparison, but she was all I had at the time and I loved her campy little act.

I wanted to grow up to be just like Mrs. Peel. Did I? Alas no -- Ms. Bananas is not wanted.

Damn you, Project Runway!!!!

OH NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!, they auf'd my Vampire Lover, Malan Breton, already!!!

Well, his dress, alas, sucked, although I don't think it fit any worse than Uli's dress, which the judges liked (talk about the pancake bosom syndrome). But I LIKED Malan -- and he's the first designer to say outloud that being eliminated is "humiliating." And, AND, they kept the obnoxious Angela (although I'm happy that the judges praised Vincent's design, just because it annoyed her). She's got Wendy Pepper written all over her O-Hi-O ass.

Grrrrrrrrr --

Oh, the contest was to design a gown to be worn by Miss U.S.A. at the Miss Universe pagent. Surprize, the professional pagent dress designer won.

You can see the dresses here.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

They're heeeeeeeeere , , ,

So Project Runway (hereinafter "PR") is off and running. Love. Hate. Maybe more hate right now. I HATE that the show still doesn't give the viewers a good close look at the clothes. A bit more focus than the 10 seconds of the runway show might help us -- okay, me -- see what the judges are seeing. Oh, and the judging! There's no fixed criteria, or perhaps, no criteria at all -- last season it seemed like something that would get a designer auf'd one week would get another designer the win the next. Here, in the first episode, it looked like the winner and the loser did the same things and, well, one lost and the other won. Sure glad I don't have any cases in front of that panel.

Oh, and I have a new PR designer boyfriend, Malan Breton. That him up there in the grey suit, kewl how his first design coordinates, isn't it?. The Television Without Pity forum crowd mostly love to hate him, and not entirely without reason. He's a bizarre, affected little man who's been described variously as Count Chocula, Voldemort Lite, Alex from "A Clockwork Orange," Mr. Bean -- really, how could I NOT root for this guy? I hope he vindicates my enthusiasm the way the similarly despised but now wildly popular Kara Janx did last season. Go, Malan!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Fashion Crack

Project Runway, Wednesdays at 10:00 on BRAVO. The new season starts tomorrow. I'm so ashamed of my addiction to this unreal reality show. But I will SO be there, with my little sketch pad, to play along.

The contestants this season appear to be more experienced than last. I LOVE IT that one of the designers, Robert Best, is a Barbie Designer from Mattel, that he grew up in Utah and that he's now living in West Hollywood with his "husband." Mazel tov, Robert, you've come a long way baby! Robert's Barbie designs are vintage and movie inspired -- check out his "Happy Go Lightly" doll (Breakfast at Tiffany's, anyone?) How could I not root for this guy?

I'm also excited to see what Kayne Gillaspie, the pagent dress designer, comes up with. I hope he sticks sequins and beads on everything. One of these designers has to get the "float in the parade" comment from Tim.

There are two "older" women contestants, Laura Bennett, 42 and Stacey Estrella, 40, neither of whom has a traditional design background, and both of whom seek to change careers. I hope they weren't cast only to provide the Wendy Pepper factor or otherwise be the class incompetents, like Marla last season. That kind of casting would be simply sexist, and it certainly doesn't bring out the best in the other contestants. Sure, Nick Verreos was funny when he labeled the trim applied by last year's career-changing Mom "wickety whack," but I'd rather not see a gang of young gay men doing a "Mommy can't drape" routine this season. So I really want these ladies to MAKE IT WORK and uphold the professional honor of mature women everywhere!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Clothes on Film -- The Thomas Crown Affair I

The 1968 version of "The Thomas Crown Affair" is a completely unappreciated mid-century classic if only for divalicious star Faye Dunaway's extravagantly silly and totally fabulous high-fashion wardrobe.

When I was searching for photos of the divine Faye in her divine outfits I landed a couple of movie sites containing fan reviews of TTCA I. Some viewers complained that the movie was spoiled by the dated costumes. Twits. TTCA I was a Modern Film, featuring a groovy semi-psychedelic theme song (The Windmills of Your Mind, which I'm sure made more sense when sung in French), correspondingly mind-blowing experimental split-screen photography and a heroine wearing costumes symbolizing the Sexually Liberated New Professional Woman of the Future (SLNPWotF) as conceived by Hollywood circa 1968.

Viewed in this context, Faye's wardrobe makes perfect sense, because of course a SLNPWotF will always have perfect hair, eyeliner and nails and of course she will wear highly structured and perfectly accessorized mini suits, honking-big hats, inch-long false eyelashes and at least 5 lbs of artificial hair at any given moment because not only is the SLNPWotF all business, seduction is her business. Not to mention the fact that by the time those reviewers finished typing "dated" 60 styles were back in again. Balenciaga, Fall 2006, anyone?

There's one dress, the one Faye wears in The Big Chess Game Seduction Scene, that looks like it could have been made yesterday and that people will want to wear forever. It's a white pleated halterneck mini of the type much loved by Rachael Zoe, stylist to Lindsay Lohan and Nichole Richie, not that those wizzened midgets could ever work it the way Faye did. It helps to have a little flesh to fill out the pleats.

But I do have to acknowledge that in 1968 people didn't go see TTCA I for Faye, even though she was fresh off her triumph in "Bonnie & Clyde," (the costumes for TTCA I were designed by Theodora van Runkle, who also did the costumes for "Bonnie & Clyde) they went to see it for the King of Cool, Steve McQueen playing against type as a Boston Brahmin. He appeared wearing a couple of snappy outfits, too. RIP, Steve, ye were too cool to stay with us too long.