Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Yes, Yes! to “Yes to the Dress”

I have a new clothes-related TV addiction, a program on TLC called “Say Yes to the Dress.” It’s a reality series about the sellers and shoppers at Kleinfeld Bridal, which advertises that it has the largest selection of wedding dresses in the world.

Of course, I’m mesmerized by all the dresses that parade across the screen in each episode, but I’m even more fascinated by the ritual of wedding dress sales. For example, almost every one of the featured brides-to-be asks for a dress that’s not too poufy, and almost every one of those brides has purchased essentially the same dress. It’s strapless, white, drop-waisted, and, oh yeah, POUFY.

One bride actually purchased this OTT gown. She brought it back to have the skirt substituted for something less poufy. It was still horrible. Sorry, Charlie!

The process of shopping at Kleinfeld is strictly controlled. Each bride makes an appointment with a consultant who picks the dresses that the bride will try on, unless she or her mother or her wedding planner can elbow their way through the phalanx of managers and consultants guarding the stockroom so they can browse themselves. The consultants are under considerable pressure to sell dresses so they can meet their monthly quota, and sometimes they have to make that sale within an hour-long appointment. Hell, it takes me longer than an hour to buy a run-of-the mill dress, and even then I make mistakes. Perhaps the consultants push the strapless/white/poufy numbers because they know young brides (or their check-writing mothers) can’t resist the whole princess thing. Whatever; it’s obviously a formula that works. I very amused, however, watching the brides try on dress after nearly indistinguishable dresses until they announce with glee that THIS white, strapless, drop-waist poufy number is The One.

I also find it remarkable that the most of the brides filmed (obviously a very small percentage of Kleinfeld customers) bring their Moms to the appointment but don’t bring photos of dresses they like, fabric or color swatches, or a digital or Polaroid camera so they can see how the dress photographs and just get a record of the dress for reference. Actually, considering that there have been several scenes involving brides claiming that the dress that arrived for fitting, some months after it was purchased, was not the dress they ordered, I’m surprised Kleinfeld doesn’t keep snapshots to cover its own ass. (Besides, as a fan of “Muriel’s Wedding,” I think it would also be cool for a bride to keep a Muriel-style scrapbook of the dresses she tried before finding The One.)

"I'm too sexy for my bride, too sexy for my bride, so sexy I'm tired. . ."

In one episode a bride was shown trying on an otherwise lovely dress that had a low v-front and was obviously intended for a woman no larger than a small-B cup. The bodice barely covered the front of the slightly larger bride, and she looked distinctly uncomfortable as the consultant was yanking it up to show how it could be tailored to prevent nuptial nipple slippage while Ronnie Rothstein, one of the co-owners of Kleinfeld, tried to talk her into buying the dress because it was sexy. Yes, I’m on record as a cranky old crone who sincerely wishes the rest of the women in the world would keep their naughty bits out of my face, but even so, isn’t a sexy wedding gown rather pointless? After all, the whole wedding schtick is designed to show that the bride has already snagged her man, and, at a minimum, she shouldn’t be trying to attract another man at the ceremony. That’s what the honeymoon is for . . .

As you can see, “Say Yes to the Dress” gives me a lot to think about, including what shopping for a wedding dress with my hypothetical daughter (hereinafter "Hypotheca") would be like. I’d probably embarrass her by schlepping photos, cameras, screenshots of my favorite movie wedding gowns, assorted foundation garments (for her) and shoes (for her) to the appointment. She would probably hate all of my ideas, preferences and selections. I might scar her for life (again!) by telling her that the strapless dress gives her underarm overhang or that the poufy dress makes her ass look big. The consultant would want to strangle me for taking too much time and making her late for her next appointment. It would be another character-building experience for daughter’s memoirs or mine, I’m sure.

The kind of a wedding dress only a cranky old Mom could love.

Just for the hell of it I’ve included this photo of a Victorian taffeta ballgown for sale at Vintage Textile because it’s my idea of what a perfect princess wedding dress should look like, i.e. elegant, not poufy. *Le sigh.* Hypotheca would probably hate it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lock up your daughters, Prom is coming!

I wrote the body of this post before I saw A Dress A Day’s October 15 post about this vintage pattern. Erin thinks the pattern would make up into a great prom dress, and she suggests yellow organza as the material for the full-skirted version. Ah, yellow organza is so young, so fresh, so innocent, oh so Sandra Dee in this Britney Spears world. Erin has great taste, but she obviously hasn’t been looking at what’s being sold as prom dresses right now . . .

Sometimes when I see a cute dress that’s too young for me I wish I had a daughter to buy it for, even though I’m well aware that mothers and daughters don’t often agree on what’s cute. Other times I’ll see a garment intended for a young woman that’s so atrocious I’m relieved I don’t have a daughter because I know that if I, the Mom, hate the item, she, the contrary teenaged daughter (with an unfortunate inherited tendency toward bad shopping judgment) would love it. The dress would then be the cause of one of those character-building disagreements between mother and daughter.

Take, for example, this purported prom dress. Right now it’s featured front and center in the junior department of the Reno Dillard’s. (Note that the woman modeling this dress appears to be about 35. It’s probably illegal to disseminate pictures of a girl under 17 years of age wearing the thing.)

In real life this schmatta is so tacky, so sleazy, so cheesy that I actually stopped mid-stride when I saw it, like Lot's wife turned to a pillar of salt by the horrible sight.

Among its other faults, the dress resuscitates everything bad in ‘80s fashion, i.e., ruffles, ruching, shine, a tail, and that damn bright royal blue. I hate that shade of blue; I’m sure it’s the color a person would see if she were gazing skyward when a gamma ray burst hit the Earth, just before her brain melted and she crumbled into dust. Oh, lordy, then there’s that slit. What the hell is the theme of this prom? Enchanted Nights at the Mustang Ranch?

To my surprise, Jessica McClintock put her name to this mess, er, dress. Aged crone that I am, I mostly remember Jessica McClintock as the designer of Gunne Sax’s neo-Amish outfits in the 1970s, like this one for sale at Blacklight Vintage Clothing.

From burhka to brothel in 30 years; that’s progress for ya!

The other prom dresses on sale weren’t much more presentable. Obviously the days when a gown had to pass a pre-prom inspection by Sister Charles Bronson are gone forever.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A post-midlife clothing crisis

Oy vey, in the past couple of months so many things have gotten between the Clothesaholic and her addiction! Work, family crises, Top Chef . . . But thank Dior, Top Chef is over, and Project Runway Season 4 approaches, so I can stop thinking about duck confit and start concentrating on important things like fabric choices and cut again. (By the way, watching cooking shows, and the eating they inspire, can seriously interfere with one’s ability to wasp-waisted vintage fashions, even with corseting!).

While I was away from blogspot I had one of those landmark birthdays that bring on existential crises. I am now too old to be in any desirable demographic. Only the AARP wants me, my health insurance premium took an astonishing leap, and, much more important, I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO WEAR!!! I’m not yet ready to spend the rest of my life in elastic-waist polyester pants and oversized shirts from QVC.

If I can’t find shirtwaist dresses so I can play Donna Reed, maybe I’ll start playing the Megabucks slots regularly in the hope of winning enough money to dress exclusively in Chado Ralph Rucci, a maker of damn fine clothes appropriate for the woman of a certain age.

Actually, I hate the expression "age-appropriate". Clothing should be wearer-appropriate; after all, Renee Russo, age 53, can wear things that many many women a lot younger cannot. Yet there are things that, if worn by a, um, mature woman, simply look ridiculous.

Luckily, my clothing crisis is mostly academic. I work from my home so I can spend the day in disreputable jeans or even my jammies without offending anyone, assuming I don't answer the door when UPS calls. The cats seem happy to shed on anything. Those days when I’m forced to go out to play lawyer I have my collection of lady litigator suits. Every now and then, however, I’m invited to an event that’s doesn’t involve a judge and isn’t on Halloween, and I’ll need something else to wear.

For example, just last week I was invited to a wedding, which is about as good an excuse for this Clothesaholic to buy a new outfit as any. I'm excited because this promises to be an interesting gathering. The bride and her friends are all musicians, the groom is a Harley enthusiast. They met at a motorcycle rally. I’m sure that one or more of the guests will attend in his/her leathers and the dress code will be generally bohemian, in other words, it'll be a great opportunity for creative dressing. So I happily traveled to one of the local major department stores, where I’ve found things I like before, in high hopes of find the Dress That Will Change My Life, Fun Division, only to be disappointed immediately. The dresses were either very young – short, low-cut, short AND low-cut, baby-doll, mini-tent – or mother, nay, grandmother of the bride. I bought something anyway; a brightly-printed (purple! red! orange!) faux-Duro dress.

Due to my poor photography, and my size 2 dress form, these photos don't really begin to show the horror that is this dress. It has fluttery 3-quarter sleeves, a surplice bodice and an Empire waist shaped by a long silky sash that ties in the back in a bow. A child-like floppy kind of bow. When I tried the dress on in the store I thought it looked okay from the front and that I’d deal with the bow by keeping my back to the wall.

What the hell was I thinking?

The moment I paid for the dress that damn bow began to haunt me. I thought about it all the way home. I thought about if for the remainder of the afternoon. I hung the bright dress in my closet and noticed that it glowed like radioactive waste among my gray-pinstripe suits and LBDs. I tried the dress on the next morning, looked in the mirror, and saw a retired nursemaid dressed up like Heidi on acid. This garment might very well be The Dress That Will Change My Life, but not in any way I’d want. The dress is so being returned.

On a happier note, my existential crisis does not prevent me from admiring cute dress in the abstract. I saw some of these dresses by Nine West in real life, and dang, they’re cute. So, if you're a bright young thing, or Renee Russo, go check them out.