Friday, September 29, 2006

Autumn in New York, it's good to live it again. Would you take a look at this beauty, huh? Photographic quality print, check. Slightly stylized yet crisp autumn landscape, oh yeah. And finally, but most importantly, brilliant use of negative space. Without the orange leaves trailing across the cream background and the clusters of blue rocks grouped around the waist, armpit and elbow, this novelty print would simply feel like it was trapped in a hunting lodge. The negative space gives it room to breathe.

I dreamed last night that I was shopping in Tokyo. I've never been to Japan, so my version looked disturbingly like Provincetown, Massachusettes. Anyhoo, I saw a beige dress covered with white silhouettes of butterflies, and was gratified to find a Vested Gentress label inside. I found a white blouse with light blue silhouettes girls jumping rope and chasing hoops.

But in the back of the store I found the novelty print to beat all novelty prints. On polyester. It's hard to describe because it was as much as feeling as a vision: a creamy yellow almost parchment-colored backdrop showed a musical score spinning off the pages in a spiral on the bodice. Leaping out of the music, and bouncing along with the notes that jumped onto the dress were hunting dogs who looked like greyhounds, who were snapping their fingers to the music. Really. Snapping their fingers. A lone fox hunt rider in a red coat riding side-saddle jumped across the shoulder. There was a fox near the hem, looking rather nonchalant. All the in style of late 1930's commerical art that was meant to evoke the medieval time period (think Errol Flynn's Robin Hood). I plotzed. The tag said 79 Yen.

With today's exchange rate, 79 Yen is 67 cents. Now, even presuming that I read the price tag incorrectly (I was after all, asleep), and it was 790, that's just about 7 bucks.

I couldn't read the music, so I don't know what song the dress used. In the dream a friend was with me and said that it was Debussy's "Claire de Lune", but thinking about it now the only really appropriate tune would be "A-hunting We Will Go".

I'd wear this shirt with a brown or hunter green a-line skirt, mustard colored boots, and a picnic basket-style hand bag and wear it to the Met to see their special exhibit called "A Sensitivity to the Seasons: Autumn and Winter".

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Endless summer with this dress. Get it here.

It's small I think, about B34, W26, but check the measurements and see if you are better at math.

It's delightfully both Magritte and Carmen Miranda-esque.

I'd wear it on long walks, whistling "Yellow Submarine". For all your whistling needs, I found Some fun stuff, including CDs to train your birds to whistle. I wonder if they would train me to whistle better. Not all of the links work on this site, however. All the links to the whistling maestros of India are broken. In thinking about it, Bollywood filmi music has lots of whistling solos. The title song of Kuch kuch hota hai, begins with a whistling solo, but there are so many more and I plan to make a list.

Please, whoever you are who buys this dress, resist the temptation to shorten it. The length is what makes it truly fabulous.

It is interesting that it is photographed basically lying in bed. Presumably the seller has a small apartment and no where else to lay the length of the dress flat, but it looks like the dress is taking a nap.

Three cheers for Tsumori Chisato! All right, this is not vintage. And I'm not sure if it's love or saturation, but I was looking at Japanese fashion magazines yesterday when I discovered a version of the sled dogs and snow scene print on--get this--a cotton mini dress. I plotzed--this woman is a genius. I ran back to the computer and googled and found all these lovely novelties, something for every season even.

Okay, I know the owl is a very tired motif these days. I have both an owl necklace and a dress with a owl print on the bodice that are currently off my rotation due to owl saturation. But don't you worry, this is from Chisato's 2005 collection, as is the sailor stripes 'n ships frock--before pirate-theme over-saturation.

The outer wear really shines. I hope the rain cloud cape is waterproof. Novelty prints for winter are almost non-existent. A snowflake motif woven into a Norwegian sweater is often as novel as winter gets. (Yes, I eschew all things related to xmas kitsch: the horror, the horror! I urge you to do the same, along with shunning the consumerism of the season. Check out Buy Nothing Day and the like.) This is why Chiasato's coat is double fabulous. The print is a winter scene that is both whimsical and full of color to brighten any grey day. When the hood is down it's a capelet. Now a capelet on its own is quasi-useless, but as part of a coat and adding the functionality of the hood, I want to applaud.

It is one of the great joys in life to be able to locate my winter coat at a house party without even a moment of digging in the pile of black wool and parkas on the bed. This coat would not get lost in the shuffle. Unless it too is at saturation point. I believe however that this is a limited edition, and so probably out of price range. But with the print on cotton dresses, I smell a saturation coming.

I am dismayed to hear the term "Eskimo Chic" over and over again in fashion reviews. The prefered terms are "Inuit", or "Yup'ik" depending on whether someone is from Canada, Alaska or Greenland, or Western Alaska/Russia. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

So what to do when your favorite motif reaches saturation? Many friends of mine have long been devotees of the skull accessory and have mixed feelings about seeing the old bones of poor Yorick plastered on every middle school student and business woman. Some advise buying up the best of the current trend and adding it to the collection. But being so omni-present in the mainstream, naturally something gets eroded. Since the skull is the new happy face, as the New York Times described it (David Coleman, July 27, 2006, "The Heyday of the Dead" I can't seem to link to it without a fee unfortunatley), is it forever sullied?

There is an even darker side to novelty prints: the offensive kind.

Just to avoid getting to this topic too late, feministing has a post today about the
sleazy-slogan t-shirt, which unfortunately falls under the novelty umbrella. To paraphrase Blanche Dubois: I cannot bear a naked lightbulb or a vulgar t-shirt.

I see these tacky monstrosities marring the scenery of my city quite often. Most of them are sexist. Some are simply aggressive. Just yesterday I saw a man wearing a hunter green t-shirt with the words "Up Yours" emblazoned on the back in large block letters. The comments on feministing seem to show an age divide: the under 30's see less of an issue, the over 30's find them repulsive. Why the younger set seems to find irony and humor in the oppression of women, I simply don't understand. There is nothing empowering (to use a media-speak and suspect word) about being a porn star. Young women have been sold a commodified version of sexuality and they mistake it for power. Surely there are young women with some insight who will weigh in on their comments soon. I heartily endorse Ariel Levy's excellent book "Female Chauvinist Pigs" for further reading.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

One that got away. Step into an idealized past through these open windows. You're in a 1950's dream of Paris in the 1890's. You might see Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline and her school chums, or find yourself magically transformed into Cyd Charisse. You never thought you could kick so high, or that your office cubicle could become a beatnick hideaway.

Well, that's my attempt at a J. Petermanesque description of this dress. I'll try harder next time. In a recent post, I referred to the catalogue as defunct. I now discover that this is not true. Just like with everything else (me included), it's now online.

This dress just appeared on my radar yesterday and has already been siezed. I am happy to admire it from afar. I couldn't resist posting it because of the blue bricks. They border on abstraction, but still indicate a wall, forming a framework for the windows to pop out of. I wish I could see what is in all the different windows, but the sample photos where not that exhaustive. Perhaps this is a Rear Window dress, where you might witness a murder in one of them? Or perhaps just Alfred Hitchcock playing the bassoon.

Has anyone done an Alfred Hitchcock novelty print? Maybe Witness for the Prosecution? I'd just love to have a dress that evokes the feeling of Marlene Dietrich saying: "Want to kiss me, ducky?"

This dress yearns to be a time machine. I would wear this dress to see Circus Contraption, which is something of a time machine itself. The Seattle-based circus troupe combines aerial and trapeeze work with a band perhaps best described as Tom Waits' grandfather working the midway. Their current show is based upon the dime museum and oddities abound. Their CD even holds its own without the visuals. I've been listening to it for the past week. I find that I am especially moved by the whistling solo on "Over the Rails".

Would it be possible to collect a whistled version of all my favorite songs? I'm a substandard whistler myself so I need to find readymades as opposed to recording them myself. I once heard a version of "Girl From Ipanema" (possibly my favorite tune) with a whistling solo (is there a better term for that?) by a Japanese samba orchestra. All the googling in the world has not unearthed that one. Sighs. Another one that got away.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Falling in love again. My heart is yearning for this novelty print of Manhattan.

It's even got the Statue of Liberty and water towers meticulously drawn on the tops of buildings. And balloons, well, I'm a sucker for balloons. They give me the sense of an aerial view, maybe from a helicopter. The slight stains would most likely come out if your dry cleaner is any good. The dress itself is not only structurally sound, it's got good bones. And the peblum, how I love a peblum. The shoulders have an open latice work that is also a fabulous early 1950's detail. The print includes the Washington Square Park arch and the statue of George Washington. It would go with a wonderful novelty print handkerchief of Washington Square that I just happen to have.

But two items in a similar vein and you've got the beginnings of a collection, no? And collections are not good when you live in an apartment measuring less than 300 square feet. But then before I know it, I'm not only trawling every flea market for prints with Ancient Egypt themes, mushrooms, seahorses, vegetables or anything that's so unusal my eyes sprout wings. Then I'm also on the alert for identifiable cityscapes. Could I do that? I sure as hell could. I've had something of a cityscape obession emerging on this blog, from the Venice dress to the Vienna skirt. I might start to think I see cityscapes in every innocent novelty print. Then I'm crying out: "Look, it's the Hagia Sophia!" and darting over to find a frock covered only in daisies and not the Istanbul souvenir print of my dreams.

Collecting is a form of madness. Unless I make my own Cabinet of Novelty Curiousities, complete with an old crank phonograph playing Fanny Brice's "Second Hand Rose". Of course the cabinet already exists and is taking up all 300 square feet.

You could save me from all this by snapping up the stunner here.

Sixcorniaplace Vintage posts a drool-worthy photo of her storage space, along with a number of other cute novelty goodies and all are reasonably priced.

Ever hear of Freeganism? Neither had I until today. Apparently that's the newly minted term for dumpster diving and living off the grid Abbie Hoffman style. You can even find a club near you and go trash picking with others. Alluring as the thought of living off an affluent society's leavings may be, even the Freegans themselves admit that though you can find a bookshelf in the trash, you're not going to find dental care in a dumpster. Alas.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The onion domes in the distance evoke Eastern Europe on this 1970's faux taffeta number that you can bid on here, on offer from Frisky Frocks Vintage.

It's hard to tell if the dress is actually purple or plum from the photos, though it is listed as fushia (B34, W30). I feel for the little stick figures, looks like their harvest, or whatever doomed pastoral this represents, is not going well. Or perhaps the cossacks have just riden through and taken everything. But then again, maybe it's all projection on my part and they are in fact cheerfully planting kasha or something. Maybe it's just some ancestral Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder of mine. After all, I do have a recurring nightmare about a village on fire. I often believe that the traumatic memories of one's ancestors are passed along with DNA. Though the skeptic in me thinks it might be a by-product of watching Tarkovsky movies, especially Andrei Rublev.

Okay then, I'll call this the Andrei Rublev dress. Perfect to wear when falling from a hot air balloon, having a crisis of faith, or when your town is invaded by Tatars. Faux taffeta is virtually indestructible, so this frock could come through just about anything unharmed and unwrinkled.

At the risk of showing my age, I am reminded of Seinfeld episode with Elaine writing copy for the J. Peterman catalog. Perhaps my yearnings for vintage novelty prints are tinged with all the nostalgia, purple prose and colonialism of the defunct J. Peterman catalog? Or maybe they should be? Eleanor Hershey has a fabulous essay on the conjunction of the J. Peterman catalogue and the Seinfeld show called "It'll always be Burma to Me": J Peterman on Seinfeld, published in the Studies in Popular Culture Journal (1999, Vol. 22.3). While Seinfeld writers were critical of the obnoxious colonialist nostalgia and consumerism of the catalogue, they nonetheless re-enforce multiple stereotypes. You can read her essay here.

Hersey also points about the priceless final switcheroo of the Seinfeld and J. Peterman enterprises: "Ironically, however, the television show that was famous for its sarcasm and emotional detachment ended in a blaze of nostalgia and regret, whereas the demise of the highly nostalgic J. Peterman catalogue met with satire and journalistic glee."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Almost Rosh Hashana and time to say Happy New Year! May your new year be sweet with apple print tops and frocks. Apples, especially red or green ones, might be too pedestrian to qualify as novelty prints. Now if they are blue, sprouting smiling worms and being nibbled upon by giraffes on fire, then it's a novelty print-- no questions asked. And if you see such a thing please contact me at once. A holiday novelty apron would make it clear that your apple print was all about Rosh Hashana and l'shana tova.

Holidays, like going to the beach, or gambling, mean that you can wear a novelty print that depicts the very thing you are doing without feeling overly self-referential.

Goyim, of course, have plenty of kitschy novelty attire for their holidays. Just wait a few months and you'll see some reindeer sweaters out there. So when I see a nice schmaltzy Jewish Holiday- themed apron, well, I am verklempt. This one is sold already, alas, but go to vintage baubles to check out other aprons. I'd wear this apron if I were the hostess of a High Holies cocktail party. Especially since since my dormant kitchen proves I never even turn on my stove. And I'd serve flaming cocktails just like Rosalind Russell in the 1958 film version of Auntie Mame.

For politcal reasons, I don't cook. I have this magic device called a telephone and when properly used it can cause someone appear at my door with piping hot vegtable chow fun, enchiladas, or matzoh ball soup in less than 20 minutes. Well, at least until about midnight, then I'm on my own. Crossing cooking off my to-do list leaves me time to read, write, dance, blog, play pinball and fight the powers that be.

It's interesting that just as modern women are freed from kitchen drudgery, the so-called new domesticity comes along. Now if it pops your rockets to make your own artisanal baclava, vichyssoise or congee, then by all means, enjoy. But a woman shouldn't be so naive as to think that the whole patriarchy-machine hasn't influenced her choice. We are rewarded for traditional feminine behavior. And there are all sorts of well-funded studies with spurious evidence and laughably small sample groups that long to prove that women are hardwired to be nuturing, feeding and generally cleaning up after everyone else. To that I say: Feh! Of course I myself am not outside the system. Are cute novelty prints not feminine? Why is clothing my focus, rather than say, oh, I dunno, ham radio? Isn't it true that women waste a lot of energy planning their outfits?

When I walk the streets of my city I see charmingly-dressed women hard at work an the great work of art which is themselves. Perhaps it is a symptom of larger frustrated ambitions? I notice that I become more obsessed about what to wear when I feel most powerless in my life. I may not be able to control where I live, or how much I earn, but at least I have the final say on the frock on my back.

The apple prints are for my Mom, a fiesty woman who taught me not to cook. Her vintage Holy Grail is a dress with big apples, just like the one she ruined as a girl when she fell jump-roping and cut her chin. I think the black and red apples top would look very smart on her indeed. My mother opened her own clothing store at the age of fifty and continues to be an inspiration to me.

Nefertiti-inspired novelty print. I especially like the colors. There's not much info about this dress which appears to be from the late 60's, early 70's, B40-33 with a back zipper. You can bid on it here. Or buy it now for $15. It's difficult to see the bodice in this picture, but it looks high-waisted.

It wasn't love at first sight with this one, and I am still a bit ambivalent. I prefer my Egyptian prints to look either like reproductions of ancient art, or to be totally acid-trip, Kenneth Anger movie type out there. This one remains in-between. The colors are really what tipped the scale for me. Though I love the maxi dress, I'd probably shorten this one to the knees or slightly above. Otherwise it's just too much dress. I'd do something with the extra fabric, like make a head scarf, or an obi.

I recently saw an Egyptian print shirt in a similar vein, with a turquoise background, a couple of sphinxes and styled palm trees printed on thick pseudo-bark cloth. I see this fabric a lot for Hawaiiana prints, including some of the more psychedelic ones from the early 70's. Now usually I cheer for anything synthetic, but this fabric is challenging. It's too thick to wear in the dog days of summer, and soo scratchy/static-clingy if you try to wear it with tights and a sweater. So unless you live somewhere with relentlessly fine weather all year round, you're looking at a narrow window of wearability.

I'd wear this dress to brunch someplace with a terrace or back garden and drink a mimosa.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The polyester museum marches on. Jaunty Van Gogh-type print on polyester shirt dress in a nice medium size is available at:
Italian-made and never worn, it is priced at $110, which seems a bit steep, no?

An exhaustive search of both the Van Gogh museum website, along with the permanent collections of all the major museums in France, Italy, Spain and North America has not yielded the source of this print. Does anyone recognize it? Or am I blinded by the fact that print repeats on the skirt and top? Is this a version of "The Garden at Saint Paul's Hospital" slightly altered to avoid copyright problems? I'd imagine if any museum owns this they'd charge a hefty commission.

At any rate, I'd wear it with a sunflower pinned in my hair.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

For the love of Alfred Shaheen! Snap up this rare Shaheen kokeshi doll print skirt available at With a 23 inch waist it is super small, but $75 is a good price for this highly collectable signed print. The site's left click function was disabled, so I wasn't able to copy a photo of the entire skirt, which includes a spray of red and orange cherry blossoms at the top.

The kokeshi doll with the toy dog absolutely slays me. When toys have toys, well, that's uber-cute.

A quick web search yielded some interesting info. While everyone is familiar with the simple, limbless, wooden stick-like dolls often sold as souvenirs in Japan, there doesn't seem to be a consensus on their original meaning or use. Created on hand-powered lathes, the dolls made their first appearance as tourist souvenirs for wealthy visitors to onsen (natural hot springs) during the Edo period (1603-1867). So perhaps this is a souvenir print, or a crypto-souvenir print.

Because of their material and shape, many have surmised that kokeshi were originally used as massage tools by spa visitors. It doesn't seem farfetched to relate the dolls to fertility hopes. However, since kokeshi traditionally depict female children, they don't really represent the heir and a spare that a noble woman was supposed to produce. Some have suggested that the dolls were gifts to represent children or people who had died. Why only females then?

Another totally unsubstantiated source posts that the etymology of the word contains the signifigance. Not knowing Japanese, I'm at a disadvantage on this one, but this site
claims that ko=child and keshi=erasing. This makes me wonder if these dolls weren't talismans against conception. Hmmm?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Wear it with your poker face and hop on a bus to Atlantic City. There are plenty of gambling prints out there, but the inclusion of the backgammon board and the fancy 1920's casino scene is unsual. That guy's monocle really does it for me. It is a medium to large and available at where you can also find an Alfred Shaheen maxi dress and some other treats.

Gamblers are superstitious types. I used to work with a guy who had a lucky shirt: a horse-race themed novelty print that he wore to the track. I think this might be the one instance where the novelty print is appropriate to wear to the venue it depicts.

Since I invariably lose at games of chance and strategy, I tend to stay away from the dice, the ponies and the baccarat table. I don't even have a lucky shirt. I do have a card suit dress: white fabric printed with clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades. But it is more Alice in Wonderland than Mohegan Sun.

On the train this morning I saw a woman carrying a handmade placard which said: "The world at peace, not in pieces." It had collages of the world at peace, symbolized by fruit and nature, and the world blowing up with fragmented scenes of violence. At the bottom it said: Another Granny for Peace". She and I exchanged a grin from across the crowded car and flashed one another the peace sign. What a grand thing, I thought, that there is a universal hand gesture for peace. Then I got to thinking about my idea for a protest dress. What kind of novelty print would express dissent from jingoism, demonstrate the evils of war profiteering, and announce a desire for a peaceful world with health care for all? If you have any ideas, please let me know.

In 2001 I heard about a woman who had created burqas printed with casualty statistics from the war that was then only in Afganistan. She had recruited other women to wear them with her and they assembled in groups in Grand Central Station and other high traffic public places in New York. Since I only heard about it, I've never been able to track down the name of the artist or group. Does anyone know?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Feeling majestic? A panoramic circle skirt with views of the grand canyon is available from Vintage Lucy ( . It's got a 25 inch waist, though the seller notes that it could be easily let out. The starting bid is $245 (ouch!). Miss Lucy has a number of nice novelty print items, and not all of them are quite that tiny or pricey.

Now normally I run in the opposite direction whenever I see Americana prints, for reasons both political and aesthetic. I made an exception in this case since the Grand Canyon is simply naturally occuring in the United States through no fault of its own. While there is no consensus on the 7 wonders of the natural world, the Grand Canyon appears to be on every proposed list. This has me fantasizing about a skirt printed with Mount Everest (complete with sherpas), or Victoria Falls. Or a shirt-waist dress with all 7 wonders of the ancient world. I would settle for a repeat print of the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria or the Great Wall of China.

Just contemplating that brought about a cinematic dream sequence of a novelty print showing the Library of Alexandria on fire intercut with text from Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451. Or maybe even stills from the 1966 Truffaut adaptation. I'd print it on a poly-cotton blend, turn it into a shift dress and sew a label in it that says "Dystopia". I'd wear it whenever my world gets too Orwellian.

Okay, back to the dream within the dream and the novelty print at hand: As always it is hard to see the actual colors in the photo, but if that is sky blue I see in the water and above the cliffs, I would pair this skirt with a light blue blouse. I would wear it on days with fine weather when I am trapped indoors. In short, on a day very much like today.

I'd be sorely tempted to pair this skirt with one of those plastic (or were they fiberglass?) purses from the early 80's that look like rocks. I've trawled all over Internetlandia in search of one but haven't found anything (not for sale, not even for derision.) But this brings up a very important topic: can a novelty print item of clothing be paired with a complementary novelty handbag without implosion from cuteness factor?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Unusual Egyptian print. Notice the tiny ankhs and funerary jars. The seller lists the charioteers as Romans, but they are obviously Egyptian with those pleated white skirts. Whoever made this dress went to great lengths to match the print in a chevron design along the skirt--just splendid.
You can bid on it here:

I have a special place in my heart for anything Egyptian, especially faux Egyptian. Blame it on King Tut. Whenever I see an Egyptian novelty print, my heart beats faster. Now I already own two dresses with an Egyptian theme. The dresses are cut differently, one is caftan-like, the other a mini dress, but the print is quite similar: Charioteers, gods, all in profile like this, but smaller, and rendered in red, turquoise, beige, hunter green and yellow. But this one here, with the black, and what looks like avocado color, is special. (Over the past 6 months, I've become obsessed with anything avocado-colored to the point of trawling the internet looking for old avocado-colored refridgerators and the like from the 70's. But just last night I saw 3 different women carrying avocado-colored purses. Coincidence? Or have we all been primed to like avocado over the past year by the fashion-industrial-design complex?)

Here comes the hard part: I think this beauty is about my size. I haven't really measured myself lately, so I can't be sure. Non-attachment is difficult, and I am not a bodhisattva. I am awash in the beauty of the world but must remember that it is just an illusion.

I question the whole premise of this project. Is my virtual shopping in an attempt to curb my actual shopping akin to a recovering alcoholic hanging out in bars? Is it all just too tempting? When will I crack? Am I cracking already? Is the wearable museum really a noble goal or just an indication of how deeply consumerism has earwormed into my psyche? Now I could make a number of fine speeches about how vintage clothing is in fact recycling, and how my whole aesthetic is really about fighting the power, and how I don't buy clothing from big box retailers made in union-busting, human-rights-violating maquiladoras, but in the end I am still locked into a system of self-definition by products bought and consumed. Oy.

Okay, despite all of what I've just written, I can't join the Grey Sweatsuit Revolution. ( Though I do agree with them. In their manifesto they state: "We cannot simply dress weirder than the mainstream in an attempt dull our sense of complicity with western consumer society. Dissent through conscious differentiation simply feeds the fashion system by providing it with fresh expression to appropriate." Too true, alas. Also, as they freely admit, you can't really wear a grey sweatsuit to work.

I also cannot join the Little Brown Dress Revolution. ( This is a swell website created by artist and dancer named Alex Martin. I am a bit in awe of Ms. Martin, who made herself a cute little brown dress that resembles a Brownie's uniform, and wore it everyday for a year (July 7, 2005-July 7, 2006). She is now re-purposing all of her old clothes instead of buying new ones. Her sewing talents are impressive. At least to me, since I have no sewing machine and mend all my vintage attire awkwardly by hand. I agree wholeheartedly with her recent blog post about the crafting renaissance: She writes:"If I see one more how-to article that suggests I can join the revolution if I stencil a feminist or anti-imperialist cartoon onto my clutch-purse, throw pillow, or cocktail shaker . . . oh, and it will be only $75 in materials that I can easily find at my nearby corporate-owned craft store(!) . . . grrr." Yep, consumerism is a moebius strip, just when you think you are on the outside, you are still inside.

Writing about her brown dress for a year, Ms. Martin also freely admits that it wouldn't have worked if she had a regular office-type job. Ms. Martin works for herself doing website and design stuff and only meets with clients now and then.

So what about the rest of us who have to haul it in to Corporate America to work everyday? And what's with the grey and brown? Dreary!

My Novelty Print Revolution has been fraught from the beginning. The plan was to amass enough novelty prints, preferably in polyester, that I would never have to shop again. The more outlandish the print the better. I would just wear these knee-slappers until they died or I did. The shopping to end all shopping, shopping against shopping, all seemingly counter-revolutionary, I know. And when exactly would I determine that it is done? Then the prices have begun to rise. I wonder who these women are who can afford to plop down hundreds on polyester day dresses printed with say mushrooms and gnomes. I always presumed that people with that sort of wampum aren't into kitsch.

Alas, I am still in Plato's cave. I know that the shadows on the wall are just shadows, but I can't seem to do anything about it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

More Vested Gentress prints. Once you get their general aesthetic you can spot a Vested Gentress on a rack in a crowed Value Village from across the room. The seahorses and fish playing golf skirt has been sold, and was found on my new favorite vintage site:

Ah, Vested Gentress. The name alone sounds like a pun. Or the last couplet of an almost off-color limerick. And only a year ago I thought their prints were just a wee bit too silly for me. How I could have thought such a thing, especially while wearing a dress printed with lurid eggplants and radishes? Well, we all have our blind spots, I suppose.

Now how I kick myself for not snapping up a Vested Gentress label for $15 when I saw in a thirft shop last summer. It was a beautifully lined white dress with a screen print in light green and lavender showing cartoony-looking lions and hippos in a jungle. True, it was way to big on me, but I could have worked with that. In the end, it just wasn't true love. C'est la guerre. I am happy to think that someone else snapped it up and perhaps wore it out dancing at the (alas, now defunct) Bulgarian Bar, or even--I dunno--stuck it in her backback and went to Thailand or Cambodia. Maybe she is riding a scooter in it right now and thinking about revolution. For some reason, I imagine her to be in her early 20's, and very optimistic, quick to laugh, probably keeping the dress casual and fun by wearing it with sneakers.

I just hope it wasn't bought by some designer who is holding it prisoner in a warehouse just to be used as an idea for a future collection. They do that you know. Brand name designer types are the biggest collectors of vintage that no one gets to wear or enjoy. I'd love to see Tim Burton do an animated film about these kidnapped dresses busting out of storage and taking to the streets looking for women to wear them. Or better yet, Czech animator Jan Svankmajer. Famous for stop-motion animation revealing the private life of objects, Svankmajer would be the best choice.

This dress pictured above is another one that got away. It has been sold. For all the deatils, visit:

I would not have been able to resist this dress. Not even if I thought I looked like a horse's ass in it. I am plotzing, it is so adorable. The horses on the front are winking, the side ties at the bottom mimic the horses' tails, and of course, the show stopper: the horses' behinds on the back.
I would resist the temptation to put my hair in a braid with a orange bow at the end. Or would I?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Death in Venice. I resisted posting this one. Especially since it is weighing in at a whopping $475.00 at And with a tiny waist of 25", well, I can only admire from afar. It is difficult to tell from the photos if this dress is truly blue/green with brown, or if the magenta in the close-ups is not just a whim of the camera.

A souvenir print? Perhaps. But wouldn't one feel utterly ridiculous in a dress printed with gondolas while riding a gondola? Or would it be totally appropriate? Is the novelty print by necessity removed from what it depicts?

I would wear this dress without a crinoline. Add maybe a pearl bracelet, some bone-colored sling backs and a straw handbag (yes, even after Labor Day, am I not madcap?), then I'd be off to Cafe Trieste, my favorite cafe in San Francisco. I'd sit in the sun coming through the windows and write. I'd give some sort of lecture that afternoon, this seems like a perfect dress to give a lecture in, doesn't it? I'd talk about the production of Bakelite, or subjectivity in Dziga Vertov's cinema, or William S. Burroughs, that type of thing. And in the evening, off to one of those dinners with friends were everyone says something memorably funny. Since this is a simulation, the dress would be bigger in the waist, enough for me to eat lots of pasta and still be able to ask for the dessert menu.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Great works of art on polyester.

If a wearable museum is your ambition(and what a noble ambition it is), then Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jette" should be part of your permanent collection. It is available at for $48, and I would say about a size 6 (34.5-29-36).

I once had a polyester shirt with Van Gough's "Starry Night" on it, along with a shirt with photographic quality reprints of ancient Egyptian stellae. They were 25 cents each at a thrift shop in Pacoima. I wore them to school and when kids made fun of me, I just held my head even higher. This was back in the day when polyester was still taboo. Polyester may not be a museum-quality textile, but I was starting a museum, gosh darn it.

Both shirts are long gone, alas. More recently I have been collecting Asian art on polyester. I have a blouse with Persian minatures, a dress that mimics Japanese woodcuts, and, the piece de resistance: a dress with Indian paintings reproduced at photographic quality all over the skirt. I'd like to track down the original works of art that inspired these prints. I have so many questions, like how did the clothing designers get the rights to use the images? Did they have to alter them in some way in order to avoid copyright problems?

This dress is making me swoon. In it, I would hum songs from Stephen Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George".

Monday, September 11, 2006

I have fallen deeply in love with this dress, though I am not sure if I should call it a novelty print, or a trompe l'oeil. I would feel like Carol Burnett in it, you know, from her spoof of "Gone With the Wind" where the dress made out of a curtain still has the curtain rod jutting out across her shoulders. I would feel obliged to quote her saying: "Oh, just something I saw hanging in the window and couldn't resist." It would keep me smiling all day.

And the real live tassels hanging down from the shoulders--delightful.

Oh, my foolish heart. The whole point of starting this blog was to curb my compulsive shopping problem. In theory, I could admire fabulous novelty prints from afar and recommend them to others. It would be almost Buddhist non-attachment. I could smile at the abundance of beauty in the world without having to own it. I could sit in my minimalist apartment and mediate on the clear light of the dawn. Okay, now the fantasy has gone to far. I have an apartment crammed full of vintage clothing, plastic fruit, ceramic matadors, and yes, even faux wood Buddha statuettes, not to mention several novelty print items with Buddhas all over them. I can barely turn around.

Must resist bidding on tassel dress.

Take this dress someone, please. Give it love, take it out dancing!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday bonus post: I cannot resist a souvenir print. The posting does not include a label, but I presume it was created as a tourist souvenir from Vienna with all the details of St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Ferris Wheel lovingly rendered. It is small (W26) and you can bid on it here: ( (And yes, I too am wondering if that is a humanoid dressform used to display the skirt, or a simlacrum stolen from a wax museum.)

It has long been my fantasy to attend the Kaiserball in Vienna on New Year's Eve. They still take waltzing very seriously there. Obviously this skirt would be totally inappropriate for a black tie event. And even the Chimney Sweep's ball is a black tie affair in Vienna. I imagine that it is meant to be worn while eating a Sachertorte and fantasing about Vienna. Or even waltzing around by yourself in your room listening to "The Blue Danube", or perhaps, "Der Feldermaus". Or riding the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island.

Is the novelty print, at heart, a fantasy of an impossible vacation?

Another Dame Deco Vintage find. Fabulous but super small with a 25" waist and currently available. (

Yes, I know there is a way more elegant way to link and as soon as I have the time to figure it out, I'll do it. I promise.

I'd probably pair this with a red shirt, red mules and try to keep everything else simple. Perfect for weekend of fleamarketing. If you are in Los Angeles, get yourself to Jet Rag (825 N La Brea Ave), on Sunday for the $1 parking lot sale.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Irresistible novelty street scene blouse. Women walking poodles, nurses pushing prams, newspaper boys all under pink umbrellas made of weather-related newsclippings. It has a magazine illustration feeling about it.

1950's cotton, (B40, W38) and is currently an ebay offering by Dame Deco, who has a number of other cute novelty prints.

Wouldn't this just be the perfect thing to wear to the NYC Clown Theater Festival?

With a smart pair of black cigarette pants and some ballet flats, you'd be ready to chat up some dashing French clowns from The Chiche Capon Cabaret ( I saw their show last night and laughed so hard I felt like a different person afterward. Like I was on the verge of attaining enlightenment. Really.

Now, if you think clowns are just something for kiddie birthday parties, you need to treat yourself and see some real clown right away. This is incredibly brave physical comedy. For crying out loud, there was crowd surfing and nudity (though not at the same time, zut alors!). Les Cliche Capon have two more shows this weekend, but the Clown festival continues until the third week in September.

Also check out some very funny women tonight with the Ladies Night caberet. When the New York Times recently covered the festival, staff writers neglected to mention any female clowns. In response to a letter-writing campaign, they changed their tune. You can show your support by attending any of the 4 other shows fronted by hysterical women, such as "Knot..My Best Moments" by Erin Bouvey.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

For the love of Alfred Shaheen, it's another peacock dress. This print is a good example of why a maxi dress is best to display a peacock's trailing plumage. This Alfred Shaheen dress is available at for $99 and it is a nice medium size (B39 and 1/2, W28). It is not clear from the listing whether or not the piece is signed, though it does have an Alfred Shaheen tag.

Alfred Shaheen, a visionary who designed and printed Hawaiian, Pacific Island and Asian inspired themes, essentially built the pre-statehood Hawaiian garment industry. Maintained by his daughter, Camille Shaheen, has some lovely visuals of this work, especially the much coveted sarong dresses. However, not much biographical info is available. I'd love to know all about my hero, so if you have a bio or a timeline, please let me know.

Camille Shaheen's website mentions trades. That she is looking for Alfred Shaheen designs pre-1965 and will trade you for them.