Thursday, November 30, 2006

Read it and weep. This fabulous 40s rayon dress with a novelty print of pink handkerchiefs is weighing in at $99. Steep, yes, but look at this beauty. Go check it out, as it is hard to see in this photo. It's exquisite.

Wear it to your favorite 4 handkerchief weepfest.

“Stella Dallas” has always brought out my hanky. (And you can bet my hanky invariably has a novelty print on it.) But if you really want to cry your eyes out (you know, to clear your sinuses or something) may I recommend “Red Cherry”. I know it sounds like an upbeat title, or the name of a raunchy anime series , but it’s actually based on a true WWII survival story.

ChuChu, played by the amazing Guo Ke-Yu (who won best actress for this film in the 1995 Shanghai Film Festival), is sent to Russia after her parents are executed. Not only is her Russian school invaded by trigger-happy Nazis, not only are her friends shot in front of her, but then she’s packed off to be a maid for an uber-evil Nazi who forcibly tattoos a massive swastika on her back. And then her troubles really begin. No one can remain dry-eyed through this film. It’s not just the story, but Ms. Guo’s acting. She has very little dialogue. She shows rather than tells and can hold 12 different and conflicting emotions on her face. She does it without chewing on the scenery, which most lesser actors would have resorted to. And she was only 17 when she made this film, goslings. I hope director Ye Ying did not torture her to wring this performance outta her, you know like Lars Von Trier did to Bjork for “Dancer in the Dark”.

Still think your life sucks? I find that hard to believe. But just in case, make this a double feature with "Born into Brothels". Spartacus and I saw this together. Before the film started we were kvetching and kvetching. Afterwards, we were totally silent.

File this under: Great Publicity Stunts.

So Monday night I was reckless and bought a CD. (Yes, I know that’s, like, so 90s, but I don’t have an ipod, nor even a computer to download stuff on. I’m just a mermaid, what do you want from me?) Being nostalgic, I couldn’t help but seize upon “Outre Mer” by Garage a Trois. A sucker for anything oceanic, I was reeled in (ha, ha) by the title and accompanying cover art of waves and an old-timey boat. I gave it a whirl at one of those listening stations where you can help but wonder how many people have worn those headphones before you.

The tracks are a tight knit kaleidoscope of percussion and sax threaded with vibes and bass guitar that often echoes the vibes. 70s in feeling, speaking funk but referencing 60s spy movie music, now and again a tabla enters the conversation. The sax moves cheerfully between subdued crooning and deep experimental jazz squawking, but the vibes were the real selling point for me. I mean, I really love the vibraphone, so bring on the Lionel Hampton. I even love anything vibes-like: gamelon, steel pan, glockenspiel. So, sold. It's perfect party music and has held up under repeat listening.

"Outre Mer" claims to be the soundtrack of a French film called “Outre Mer”, but doesn’t have a real soundtrack feeling. That is: there are no down-tempo tracks. “Outre Mer” coasts along at an even keel without any significant shifts in mood. Also: there are no accompanying photos from the film with the liner notes. Fishy, no? The protagonist, a 19th Century little person named Etienne de Nerval, seems like a direct reference to 19th Century French poet Gerard de Nerval, famous for hash smoking and a fondness for lobsters. Hmmm.

The plot, according to the liner notes, involves the invention of a cinema-like device that projects Etienne’s thoughts onto a screen by embedding needles in his skull. There was some kinda problem with distribution. Or the film hasn't been finished yet. Or it is somehow not available. My credulity was strained. But I wasn’t laughing until I really thought about the director’s name: Klaus Tontine.

A tontine, for those of you not up on the history of banking and life insurance, is an investment strategy from the 17th Century. Investors buy subscriptions to a tontine that entitles them to annual interest payments from the pooled amount. As other investors die, the number of people dividing the annuity becomes smaller and smaller, and the amounts larger and larger. Fraud and corruption, along with the incentive to murder other investors, has made them illegal in the US and UK.

Are you surprised that google searches for the film and the director turned up nothing besides the copy on Garage a Trois’ website?

A faux soundtrack! I’d love to see this become a music genre unto itself.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Holy Mother of Pearl. Look at this underwater knockout. These elegant yet ravaged-looking seahorses appear to have sprung from the imagination of surrealist painter Leonora Carrington. Bloated deep sea fish and desiccated bits of kelp cruise through swaths of cobalt watercolor.

It’s hard to get a sense of the overall repeat pattern from these photos. Are those squid? Jelly fish? I think I could get lost in this print. I love the little puff sleeves and the bows in the back. Oh, this one is too tempting.

But alas, it’s too small for me. (B38, W26 ½) I’ve got a 28 inch waist, if you must know. Optimistic types might say to me, that’s a mere inch and a half away from aquatic frock paradise. But really now, I’ve just tucked into a chocolate chip scone. My mother would say the dreaded words: foundation garment. To that I say: Feh. Not that I haven’t gone down that road before, you understand, but only for special occasions when a beloved frock suddenly didn’t fit and I had to be at a black tie event in an hour. You know, when you’re in a tight squeeze, pardon the double entendre. Definitely not a comfortable solution for a day dress that I would wear to work. I prefer the radical notion of buying clothing that fits me. Ideally with room to grow so I can eat dinner, dance and generally enjoy myself. What’s the point of looking fabulous when you can’t have any fun?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Germans are funny. Ha, Ha, Ha. Just look at them dance. More camp than a row of tents, cuter than a schultute, putting the kitsch in kitchen fabrics, I bring you these frolicking Vaterlanders. Never mind that they could be Austrians.

Though the illustration style mimics Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, more than Bavarian Bauermalerai, nonetheless this print certainly folks about. And yes, meine liebe Kinder, Pennsylvania Dutch really means German: it’s just a mispronunciation of Deutsch. I like the guy playing the concertina, the hearts and the emphatically crowing roosters. I like the little dancing feet on these figures, and the feathers on the hats. This print would look adorable turned into a 50s dirndl-styled Lanz original dress.

And just how did a nice Jewish girl grow such a soft spot for all things Teutonic? Well, as a pre-teen I discovered the one thing that shocked my permissive parents: Deutschophilia. Nothing horrified them more than German twelve tone operas or wearing lederhosen. And as with all things enjoyed ironically, well, it’s just a short step to actually liking them. So beware what you champion under the so-bad-it’s-good banner.

Would I wear a dress or skirt made of this fabric to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel? I would, and without a glimmer of embarrassment. I’ll bet Kanzlerin Merkel wouldn’t even notice. Or maybe it would totally crack her up, I dunno. Would I wear a dirndl? No, that’s just too much.

Is it okay to make fun of Germans? Warum nicht? Mel Brooks has made a fortune doing this. Look at the amazing trajectory of “The Producers”. Now I know many educated, cosmopolitan Jews who will not go to Germany or Austria, refuse to speak German and generally boycott all things German. While I can see the roots of that method, and the soil it’s growing in, still I think that total avoidance creates mystique. Like the place radiates evil or something. I lived in Germany and had experiences good, bad and indifferent-- just like anywhere else.

And with that, Leibchens, I’ve got some Wagner to listen to.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I almost didn’t post this one. The auction is ending any moment. I like the colors. I like the illustration style. So what’s missing? This print does not reference any Islamic artistic tradition, it just puffs up an imaginary oasis from Richard Burton’s bawldlerized Arabian Nights. This is a fantasy created by Westerners.

Does a novelty print need to include a nuanced reference to the artistic tradition of the culture it portrays in order to have any dignity? Well, yeah. Is this print overtly offensive? No, not really. But wouldn’t you feel like utterly churlish if you were wearing a dress or skirt made out of this fabric and found yourself sharing a taxi with say--Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish. Let's face it, you totally would.

Okay now, have my own vintage novelty choices always lived up to this dictum? Uh, well, not always. Sigh. What do you think?

Ah, comrades, shame is a revolutionary emotion.

Get your Greek on. Hellenic and wild for all your bacchanalian revels. This print pulsates so strongly it hard to see the narrative in the all over repeat pattern. A Doric maiden shakes her peplos and lets down her tresses in a landscape of shapely jars and back-bending birds. Are those wine jars? Is she dancing?

Just look at the fabulous original fabric and chain belt. And the terrific high collar. This dress is a largish medium (34-38, 34, 44) and shown on a model who is 5 foot 8, so perfect for you statuesque types.

Wear it to the Maenad Olympics where you drink, dance and tear men apart.

I knew it. I just knew there was a delftware tile print out there. Or maybe my fantasy about it on Weds. Oct 18th was enough to conjure it up. But there’s only 35” by 36” of it. Alas, not enough to make a shirtwaist dress. Next time I will have to dream bigger.

I would not wear my delftware frock with wooden shoes. Mostly because wooden shoes are uncomfortable. I would pair it with earrings made of blue and white porcelain though. I’d probably add a wide sash or cummerbund in a lovely blue Indonesian batik with touches of copper, just to comment on Dutch colonialism and exploitative ventures of those ships in the print.

Does anyone remember Van De Kamp’s Bakery? Van De Kamp’s was a Dutch bakery chain in Los Angeles, now defunct. They even had neon windmills. Being a native Angelina, I remember the blue and white uniforms, topped by the peaked white lace Dutch cap (what on earth are those called?). They seemed magical to me as a kid, though in practice maybe they were demeaning to wear. But then as a kid I also liked the wench-themed cocktail waitress uniforms at the Jolly Roger, a pirate themed Denny’s-type chain with a full bar. I remember telling my mother that I wanted to be a cocktail wench to wear that outfit when I grew up. This made her really mad. I remember the word she used was “demeaning”. Poor mom was cocktailing at the time at a place called Ireland's 32. Costumey servers uniforms have gone the way of the 3 martini lunch, probably for the best. But is wearing a logo-ed baseball cap and golf shirt really all that much better?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Is the vintage novelty print inherently racially essentialist? Is kitsch tainted by a cultural hierarchy that deems some cultures “colorful” and “exotic”?

This is a tea towel. Or perhaps a trap.

Why do I feel that it’s okay to exoticize Europeans? I mean, isn’t this just a stereotype too? But here’s how my mind works: I suddenly want a Scottish novelty print with men in kilts dancing the Highland Fling all over a tartan background. Or Russian nesting dolls drinking vodka coming undone before a backdrop of Onion Domes. Or the guards of Buckingham palace sipping tea under umbrellas. Or Dutch windmills and wooden shoes smoking hash.

Guilty as charged.

Take a good look at the recipe. Doesn’t that Tortilla Sacromonte sound good?

Okay goslings, now this is serious. Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. And you don’t have to do it. Instead, you could participate in Buy Nothing Day. You could stay home and eat a tortilla Sacromonte and watch a Cary Grant movie. You could have friends over and feed them. You could spend the whole day mediating on your excesses, or the horrors of war, or death or loving kindness. You could go to the park and feed the squirrels. You could blog, clean out your closet, read Patrick Dennis’ Little Me, or write your memoirs. Just don’t give in to the madness, okay? Don’t you already have plenty of credit card debt?

As to the annoyance of xmas gifts, this is the time of year to enjoy being a Jew.

What? Some of you are not Jewish? Shocking! Well, why not convert? Now most rabbis will tell you it takes between 8 to 10 years. But my mother said Elizabeth Taylor converted in a weekend to marry Eddie Fisher, so why not ask around? Maybe Islam is more your style. Converting is super easy and you can hang out at the lovely modern mosque on East 96th Street and 3rd Ave, or whirl with the Sufis. Or why not investigate Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism or atheism, goddamn it.

But there’s a problem. You’ve been busy eating potato latkes or planning a hajj. Maybe the Cargo Cult in Melanesia is your bag. Suddenly it’s xmas and friends or family have bought you nice stuff and you feel like a schmuck. Ideally, make them all gifts. Now I can’t knit, or make jam, or even bake. But surely you have some skill or talent that can crank out something useful, no? If not, get thee to the craft fairs, buy stuff from local artists. Or better yet, get folks tickets to plays or concerts you think they’ll enjoy.

Fabulous flappers, this print mixes fashion illustration with Picasso. Brilliant use of yellow and gray. It’s a Paganne, goslings.

I have one Paganne dress. It is gorgeous and (touch wood) indestructible. Plus super warm for the winter.

This one is available from red box vintage. (B, 38-42, W28-34, Hips free). Go get it.

What a shame. This print had such potential but it is marred by colonialism, and why not say it: racism. Oh it makes me so sad. Where’s my handkerchief?

While I like the idea of different cities, especially Beruit, and will even overlook the fact that India is not a city, I would not wear this dress. Why, oh why are the Europeans depicted as slim as twice as tall as the Asian city dwellers? I mean just look at the hierarchy of being that is created. Who is this guy in a turban doing a world tour? Isn’t he a negative stereotype as well? Yuck! Oh what a terrible thing to do to good silk. I've always longed for a travel print of Beruit, and will keep on looking. Sighs.

It’s like “The Mikado”. Though I love Gilbert and Sullivan, I won’t hedge around it: The Mikado is a racist light opera. It can’t be done anymore. Period. Yes, “Three Little Maids from School” is a fabulous tune, I know. But the heroine’s name is Yum-Yum for crying out loud. There are white people running around in wigs. Even the British knew enough to ban performances of the Mikado during the state visit of Crown Prince Fushimi in 1907. 1907, people. Not exactly a time of sensitivity and multi-culturalism in the British Empire. Of course the irony of it was that Prince Fushimi totally wanted to see the play.

I know someone will argue with me that modern versions have excised the two instances where the n-word appears in Gilbert's libretto. Taking out the racial slurs does not salvage this one. Thw hole thing is a racial slur. And don't tell me is actually a satire of the British, much in the way that Montesquieu's "Persian Letters" used a distant locale and perspective to satirize the French--hogwash.

All right, I'll stop being a control freak and link to it so you can decide for yourself.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Painfully cute vintage novelty print fabric promises to bring you good luck. It's a talisman, gosh darn it. Make a dress to wear to the race track, or if you’re being indicted by a grand jury. Though in the later case, you might just want to line a pinstriped suit with these sweet little elephants, clovers and horse shoes. Or confine it to a cravat or scarf. You don’t want the jury to think you’re arrogant or desperate.

Don’t all consumer goods basically promise to have magical qualities?

I started this blog to change my relationship to objects. Instead of buying things I’d merely collect photos, post them, write about them and release them for others to buy. In unchaining myself, does this make me an enabler for other compulsive shoppers?

This article in the New York Times magazine is about Kate Bingaman-Burt who documented all of her purchases for 28 months (I had thought of doing that, ah well, scooped again!). She runs a website called Obsessive Consumption. She even draws cute pictures of her credit card statements. (Don’t worry, she omits her address and account number.) And people buy them. Oh, the circularity.

I applaud her inquiry, but there’s something at the heart of it that bothers me. The activist in me wants some resolution and escape from consumerism. But I’m probably being too simplistic. Maybe drawing your credit card statement and focusing on all its details is a form of meditation. Maybe the act of really looking at the way you spend money is radical enough.

Somehow I got chatting with a 63 year old lady on the subway. We talked about debt, retirement, and being a single woman. She recommended Suze Orman for getting your financial life in order. Serendipitously that evening the trashpicker guys on my corner were selling one of Ms. Orman’s videos for $1. I took it home and watched Ms. Orman in front of an audience of paying customers who asked questions: Should I invest in real estate? etc. I knew they were paying customers because they didn’t have the taut glossiness and capped teeth of actors. These were regular folks.

Ms. Orman kinda free associated about money and debt. She recited a koan that seemed bizarre to me. She said that some people value the things that money can buy rather than money itself. She said that as if it were a bad thing. I was baffled.

She also takes an example of a vacation, and calculates how much it really costs you. That is, she includes the interest that you pay on the credit card purchase of airline tickets and whatnot, and adds to that the lost income of what your money could feasibly be doing for you as an investment. She is correct that things do really cost more than you think they do, especially if you charge them and pay interest. But for crying out loud, not going to Italy because you want to rack up interest and returns on your investments—Feh.

Black Friday is coming up, goslings. Be careful out there.

Splendid. Don’t you love this madly? Fabulous 40s rayon dress come with a black satin coat lined in the dress fabric. Can it get more dramatic than this?

This is exactly what I was talking about with the detectives and roses print last week. The dress is a stunner on its own. Diamond-shaped keyhole neckline and black trimming. Wild equestrian print. It’s hard to see just what’s going on. I’m tempted to call this 40s-style psychedelic. Shadows of horse and rider careen over paintings of castles, fortresses and archers in mint green, yellow and aqua on a hot pink background. Now add the coat billowing open in the wind to show the matching lining and you’re sure to hypnotize passersby.

It appears to be a medium. (B37, W 31) Go get it and be prepared to dazzle all you meet.

I have a weakness for all things oceanic. Perhaps it’s nostalgia for my underwater life in the primordial ooze. Or maybe I just miss my flippers. No amount of seasickness tablets can cure it. If I see fish, seahorses or shells, I’m reaching for my wallet.

This dress was described as shells in a spider web. That sure got me to click on it, but as you can plainly see it is a fishnet. What I like about this is dress is that it’s brown on creamy white, giving an antique feeling, like Ernst Haeckel’s illustrations. The shells have nice details. I like the cuffs and collar, and that the bull’s-eye of the fishnet is positioned over the sternum. This dress is a medium to large (B 41, W39, H 42).

However, this dress has the misfortune of being shapeless, and the pattern shows the fishnet stretched out wide over the hips and thighs adding visual bulk to the bottom half. Surely, a belt is called for, but not a black leather belt as pictured. Brown seems like an obvious choice. Notice how the dress still puckers around the waist. I don’t think that belting this dress along the natural waistline is the best plan. I’d go above or below. Either I’d get a very wide cummerbund style belt that ties in the front. (You can make one: essentially it’s a length of fabric that’s wide in the middle over your torso, tapering to strings that cross in the back and tie in the front). This would raise the waist to an Empire style level. Or, I’d belt low on the hips with a chain belt. Something silvery and jingling, maybe even with coins dangling from it. But let’s not kid ourselves; it would still pooch.

It would be a crime to put darts in a print this cute. And if you decided to take it in from the side seams, it might end up too tight for you to lift your arms. There are times when it’s necessary to embrace the pooch. You’re cute enough to do it.

Oh, and I know I'm turning into my mother, but for Pete's sake, wear a slip with it. She seems like a lovely girl, but you can see the model's underwear.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Protest prints take it to the streets. For your next sit-in, campus takeover, or act of civil disobedience. I was dreaming of them and here they are.

In an ideal world I'd take this fabric and run up a bunch of short sleeved A-line dresses, fully lined and zipping up the front. A series of big patch pockets with zips on the front would be re-enforced to hold your cell phone. After all, you just never know when you’ll have to take some photos of police brutality and send them to the media. To be worn with contrasting fabric pants underneath. I mean, you know how it is when you’re getting arrested, the cops always want you to sit on the ground. Or kneel. Or get up very quickly when your arms are handcuffed behind you. All sorts of stuff that’s just embarrassing in a skirt. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I’m thinking drawstring churidar-style pants in matching or contrasting fabric, tighter along the calves, but roomy in the thighs. In short, the whole thing would have a salwar kameez silhouette.

I’d definitely include the dupatta, a large scarf in a contrasting fabric, but make it wider, warmer and about the dimensions of a sarong. If you’re gonna spend the night in jail, it’s best to bring a blanket. The duputa would also come in handy if you are faced with tear gas, or need to hide your identity.

The raised fist is actually contemporary fabric. Get it here.

If Julia Butterfly is your inspiration, Save the Trees with LittleVeggie’s ebay offering.

Now get out there and fight the power.

Crimson and clover. 40s rayon cocktail dress. Beautiful condition in jungle red with black trimming and luscious details. Black heart appliqués unite to form clover. Novelty appliqué rather than print, but too much of a doll not to post. You’d look like you stepped right out of that fashion show in "The Women". Go get it. (Don't you just love the little peek into the seller's closet?)

I’d wear this one with a matching floor length cape with a capacious hood to hold my pompadour, snood, and a corona of black velvet hearts.

Being in the market for a new winter coat, I’ve been trying to focus on substance rather than style. Since I travel a lot, it looks as though I need one of those dreaded down-filled puffy coats with a hood. It’s so prosaic it makes me shudder. Sighs. All my winter coats are vintage, and alas, they are weighty. One tips the scales at 6 pounds. Add my purse and a suitcase and winter becomes a big heavy drag. Sporting a lush Jew ’fro, I’ve discovered, much to my horror, all contemporary coats have hoods too small to accommodate my hair. I call for an end to the tyranny of straight WASPy hair now. It is done, kaput, ovah. The Gilda Radner look shall prevail once more. All you straight-haireds out there are gonna be perming, crimping, and desperately fluffing. That is as soon as I find my magic wand. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

What I’m reading: an excellent article by John Waters on Tennessee Williams in the Sunday Times, adapted from his introduction to Williams’ “Memoirs”. Though Pink Flamingoes made me kind of nauseous, I still can’t resist John Waters. He describes pinching a copy of Williams’ "One Arm and other Stories" from the local library and finding his fairy godmother. Waters longs for the “bad” Tennessee Williams, and name checks 3 howlers he would like to see in a boxed DVD set: “Last of the Mobile Hot-Shots”, “This Property is Condemned” and “Boom!”.

Waters kindly (and accurately) describes “Boom!” as “the greatest failed art film ever made”. It stars Elizabeth Taylor as Sissy Goforth, the world’s richest woman who is dying from something that causes her intense pain but leaves her with enough energy to smash things and scream at the help. Richard Burton appears as a failed poet forced into the role of the Angel of Death. They wear outlandish getups from Sissy’s collection of antique Japanese court costumes and play come here/go away games of attraction/repulsion. I kid you not. The star turn is by Noel Coward. Billed only as the “Witch of Capri”, his sharp tongue and crisp white suit make the dinner party scene burn so brightly you have to wipe your eyes.

I think "Boom!" may have even been inspiration for Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9. Stay with me here: a remote location, elaborate Japanese costumes and enough Orientalism to torment to ghost of Edward Said, the dance of death, lots of domestic help on hand for art projects. Can you see it now? If only Barney’s film had John Waters come to dinner.

Friday, November 17, 2006

On the case. (I almost wrote: "She's watching the dectectives; they're so cute" but restrained myself. Or did I?)

The sleuth distracted by botany is priceless.

I just love how the leaves partially cover one of the running figures (dare I call them dacoits? I've been waiting years to use that word). This print reminds me of Edward Gorey's work. Especially his opening segment for Mystery. What a pity there's not more of it. It measures 36"x36" and the auction ends tomorrow.

If only this were printed on waterproof fabric and I could make it into a trenchcoat. Or even better yet, I'd make a shift dress. With a matching coat. But get this: the outside of the coat would be solid pink with black stitching and this print would be the lining.

I got this idea from Charles Busch's opening ensemble in Die Mommie, Die! No, I can't tell you that this is a great cinematic achievement, but watch it anyway since the clothes are delirious, it references all the camp classics, and there's gratuitous male nudity.

Don't tell me you're too refined for it, goslings, I know you like to pour yourself 3 fingers of scotch and watch The Women, don't you? You love the Adrian gowns in the color fashion show, and you think Rosalind Russell's hats look very Gothic Lolita. See, I know all about you.

Let us now praise Zelda Kaplan. She’s a one-woman philanthropic organization. She’s a club hopping party girl. She looks gorgeous in her specially tailored outfits in African fabrics that she buys on her travels. And she’s 90, kittens.

See her here, as she appears on Jay Leno and follow her on her travels.

What I love about her style is that she has sourced these beautiful prints herself and knows all about their context. (A lot of people don't realize that traditional African prints mean things and go around with out the slightest notion that they are saying something. Check out this terrific website for descriptions and pictures of fabric that depict Ghanaian proverbs. And yes I know that lots of African wax prints are actually made in Holland and England.) I also like that she manages to wear a hat, glasses and earrings without looking cluttered. She looks so regal you expect a tall lady, but in fact she's rather petite. Being a shortfry myself, I know you've got to have a big battle aura to pull that off.

I want to be Zelda when I grow up. I too am a great humanitarian. I've got style to burn and love dancing with drag queens 'til all hours. Now all I need to do is get hold of a fortune.

Normally I eschew kitchen prints for fear that they'll give me frown lines. I mean, who wants to be reminded of the drudgery that many folks think is synonymous with womanhood. Feh, that’s what I say.

I’ve seen many a shirtwaist dress with ladles and cookpots all over it and turned up my nose. I don’t want a dress that would look cute with an apron. I want a vintage novelty print that could stand up in court and say: I object, Your Honor. (Black and white 40s rayon short sleeved dress covered in semicolons) I want a snappy print that I could wear to interview Jacques Chirac. (I already have it: late 40s rayon, full skirt with pink, grey and black medieval-style guys in turbans kneeling on prayer rugs while others canter around on horses. Insouciant, I know. I’d pair it with my late 50s style jacket in black with jet buttons and black square toed boots. Bonjour, Monsieur le President…) I want power novelty.

So what am I doing with this tablecloth?

Just look at that adorable lobster. Look at those fish (peces y pescado: in Spanish there’s a different word for the fish in the sea and the fish on your plate). There are cloves of garlic and bottles of booze, for crying out loud. And the maps, how could I resist the maps? They make it transcendent, they make it educational.

Now there’s only 35" x 48" of it, so this is a fantasy, but I want a shirtwaist dress with short cuffed sleeves made of this beauty and I’d wear it to a conference on biodiversity. Not that anyone has invited me to any conferences. Nor do I have any meetings with world leaders in my calendar, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How lucky can you get? A four leaf clover dress will lead you to winning lottery tickets, if not a leprechaun and pot of gold. Or maybe you’ll just clean everyone out at Mah Jong. Good luck charm? You’re soaking in it. Would you wear it to Atlantic City, or to that meeting with a big record producer? Maybe you’ll wear it to the United Nations and find yourself on a podium with Bono and this year’s Nobel Prize Winner Mohammed Yunis. Maybe you’ll single-handedly cancel all the debt for HIPC and establish universal healthcare. See, I’m not worried, I know you’ll use your powers for good.

Gorgeous dress. Just look how the white background and orange accents make those clover leaves really pop. Peter Pan collar, plus size (B54, W42-6), rayon that doesn’t wrinkle, world domination. What are you waiting for?

Don't you just love the model's red lipstick and the paintings behind her?

Who doesn’t love a giraffe? After all, they are vegetarians, communicate using infrasound and the Romans called them cameleopards.

Charming vintage novelty print on silk. Perfect 1950s style. I love how all four legs of the giraffe are clearly depicted. I’m not sure if I should read the trailing dashes as the giraffe’s mane, or speed marks used in comic books to show movement. This shirtwaist dress is also beautifully made and on the small side (B36, W24).

Go get it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This could be your lucky dress. Exquisite details, small size. The white shamrocks are precious and I'd be tempted to pair it with with gloves.

For the life of me I can't remember where it's posted on ebay. I'll update this as soon as I figure it out.

I stand corrected. Omar has alerted me that un femme d'un certain age must be at least 50, and that pushing 40 with a short stick, while not an ingenue, is still relatively young. What do you think?

Send in the cavalry. This is the sort of dress that steals my heart. Mid-60s, printed on cotton, and the matching but reversible belt is a charming detail. It is unclear from the description how you get in and out of it. If it’s got a back zip, I might not be able to restrain myself. It’s a medium and currently bids are still low: that’s what hits me right in the ticker.

This print works best through repetition. One row of horsemen along the hemline would have been nice, but to let them march up the entire skirt and even across the belt, is positively regal. I also like the flapping banners and the mix blue and mint green. I especially like how the reverse side of the belt echoes the banners.

If I played the dulcimer, I'd wear this to a gig. No, a dulcimer would hide the skirt too much. A theremin, then.

Not sleeping much these days, I watched “Nico Icon” last night.

“These Days” has become a favorite song of mine lately. Since I have long loved the low register songstylings of Marlene Dietrich and the controversial Zarah Leander (her replacement in WWII German cinema*), Nico isn’t an acquired taste for me. Hearing more of her music and seeing some of its context, especially the early music videos, was a treat. But peering into her life through this documentary is, not surprisingly, a downer.

Most of the interviews are with people who hated her. “No one loved Nico and Nico loved no one,” says one of them. And that’s about the nicest thing said. An interesting omission is Lou Reed, who seems to be unavailable for comment. Everyone wails about her (probably deliberate) destruction of her pretty facade. Since heroin is the real star of this tale, the film reminded me a bit of Bruce Weber’s 1988 Chet Baker doc “Let’s Get Lost”. Funny, I don’t remember anyone howling over Baker’s lost beauty in that one.

True, Nico was unearthly beautiful in her day, but after a decade of modeling, she obviously wanted folks to focus on her music, rather than her appearance. She had that real Dionysian/Rimbaudian deranging all the senses and howling in the gutter idea of making art. She doesn’t call Jim Morrison her soul brother for nothin’. And funnily enough, I never hear moans and teeth gnashing about Mr. Mo’Jo Risin’ losing his looks. No sir, they say he just wanted to insulate himself from the kind of attention he was getting. They say it just like that, as if it’s the most reasonable thing to do.

Me, I’d like to be a totally bourgeois artist: work at it from say 10 to 7 with an hour for lunch, and still have time to make it to the theater in the evenings and read the New Yorker.
* Yes, I know. I know it's wrong for a nice Jewish girl such as myself to even listen to Zarah Leander, let alone lipsync along. But in my heart of hearts I'm a German drag queen.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

If only there was enough of this fabric to make a shirt waist dress. Alas, there is only 44”x 49” of it. You might just be able to squeeze a sleeveless top out of it.

Fabulous matador print, 50s. Who knew red, mustard, avocado and brown could look go great together on a white background. Nice details. Notice the coleta (ponytail) on the matadors. The grouping of the posters behind the figures adds a nice graphic element. Although too blurry to read close-up, one of the announcements cites a “Plaza de Vale”, which sounds fabricated to me. Now, I’m not up on every corrida de toros venue, but a quick search doesn’t yield anything with that name. This fabric is about 60 years old, but it’s my impression that bullfight plazas are fairly fixed venues, rarely shuttered or demolished, or opening under another name due to Chapter 11. (If anyone knows of a Plaza de Vale please let me know, and I’ll amend this post.) Madrid is also listed on one of the other posters. But since Las Ventas is Madrid’s main bullfight venue, well, it’s fishy. All of this leads me to posit that this material was designed by non-Spanish artists and printers. Lovingly done and delightful nonetheless.

I’m no expert on Tauromaquia. In fact, I’ve only been to 2 bullfights. Years ago I went with a classmate in Madrid, a nice Californian girl. She cried and nearly threw up. We were sitting next to these old timers, who were so engrossed in the fight they didn’t want to get up to let her out. I explained to them that she was a vegetarian. This got their attention. “If she is a vegetarian, then she must leave immediately,” one of them said, and they all cleared the way. I stayed on with the septuagenarians who offered me cigarettes and explained the action. I was a macho 19 year old Goth who ate “Death in the Afternoon” with a spoon and they treated me like one of the boys; this was the best experience from that trip to Spain. Now I’m une femme d’un certain age, non-smoker, yoga-doer and vegetarian for crying out loud. I doubt I could sit through a bullfight anymore. Certainly not one where a horse was gored, the matador was spattered with blood and spectators from the cheap seats shouted: “You’re an egotist, just like your father.”

But why does my heart leap when a brass band strikes up the Paso Doble? Am I a total hypocrite to eschew roast beef sandwiches but fill my apartment with black velvet paintings of toreros? Is it wrong to love this print while reading Gandhian philosophy?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Wear this with broccoli in your teeth. As Uncle Monty would say: Flowers are essentially tarts, prostitutes for the bees. It is the vegetable that is the true beauty.

Adorable skirt and blouse set elevates my favorite snack food and respects biodiversity. Love the high neckline, big collar and puffy ¾ sleeves. This cotton-poly blend looks like it’s in excellent condition. Hop to it.

Normally I don’t like text on my novelty, at least not in English. I could say that I prefer not to be read. But in all candor, I’m the kind of snob who only wants to be read by polyglots, world travelers and attractive foreigners. Text on any garment promotes staring, so you should think seriously about where the text will be on your body. Text also promotes unwanted comments. Though “Carrots come in all sizes” sounds to me like something Marlo Thomas said in Free to Be You and Me, (yes, I know I'm showing my age here), I can imagine that someone (especially my Uncle Monty) might see a more ribald double entendre.

While I love sets, I would most likely wear these pieces separately. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid to gild the lily. My ensembles have been called busy, ongepatcheket, and farputst. And that’s when people are being nice. It could be said that I am a graduate of the Carmen Miranda School of Too Much. But over the years I’ve learned to use negative space, the way playwrights use pacing. I mean, the whole play can’t be climax, fireworks and coup de theatre, now can it? Now and then, you need some exposition or a pause. Eventually you've gotta come down from the top of Freytag's pyramid. A vest is my favorite was to add some breathing room to a novelty print dress. This also draws the eyes to the perimeters of the ensemble, which provides an optical illusion slimming effect.

The skirt would look lovely with a plain sweater. Pair the shirt with a brown or dark green skirt; top it off with a blazer that shows off the collar. But don’t forget to pin a radish to your label.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Late 50s medallion print with heraldic theme. Crowns and sinuous-tailed lions. Crossed swords and battle axes. I like the functionless buttons (even though its bad feng shui) and adore the very usable pockets. Great color combination.

It's a lovely frock, but I can't have it. Operation Snooze is on the back burner for the meantime. Difficult though it is, I must begin LTL (pronounced "Little"), my new project, Lighten The Load. My wardrobe needs to be halved. Really. I have 4 racks overflowing with novelty. I need an intervention, not a new dress.

This one would totally fit me too (B37, W30). So please, go bid on it and let me know it’s gone to a good home.