Monday, March 26, 2007

Vested Gentress strikes again. This adorable, over-the-top preppy screen print is an ode to the life of the idle rich. Gotta love the implied drinking theme of the ships' flags. But it is the sailor collar that does it for me.

I have a special place in my heart for the sailor collar. It's right next to the slots for unicorns and ukuleles. Does it come from viewing "Fanny and Alexander" and "Death in Venice" at an impressionable age? Or is it just the nostaglia of a wild Fleet Week years back? Ah, sailors. Put the blame on Mame, boys.

In the early 90s I had a bunch of sailor collared dresses and jackets in navy (pun intended). I wore them with bobbed hair and oval wire-framed glasses. Add to that an exaggerated bow mouth painted with Revlon's Black Cherry creme lipstick. Alas, this was long before Gothic Lolita, so folks just thought I was off my rocker going around outfitted like an Edwardian doll.

I've still got one jacket left from that era. I think it will make a guest appearance tomorrow.

The BIN price of this Vested Gentress cutie is a whopping $85. Ouch.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The key to the city. This adorable faux turtleneck tunic unlocks every door.

In the movie version of my life, one of these keys would be a detachable and fully functional skeleton key. I'd wear this with white leggings and go-go boots.

I am trying to think of a title for my cinematic life. Any ideas?

This top is a small (B 36, W, undisclosed, H, 38). Please do not wear this top without something under it. It is not a dress; it is a top. Your tuchus will show if you raise your arms. Please wear pants or leggings, okay? Bidding ends soon so hurry.

I finally saw “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” the other night.

That always struck me as a fabulous title. And a motto to live by, perhaps. But the film itself is a pretty standard melodrama about 3 country girls who move to the big city. There’s the smart one, the pretty one, and the unsophisticated one. Of course one of them gets pregnant. In this way the story arc is exactly the same as “The Best of Everything” a 1959 Hollywood film that also has a terrific title. The plot is also the same as a vintage pulp fiction I recently read called “The Girls in 3-B” (a salacious yet ho-hum title).

“The Best of Everything” is a later Joan Crawford vehicle. La Crawford, with orange hair, chews up the scenery as the bad boss lady. Don’t worry, she’ll get her comeuppance, as movies always like to punish career women. Why is it that popular culture always shows successful women as selfish shrews who were disappointed in love? I blame the patriarchy.

The three young women, (lets call them Smarts, Looks, and Sweets), are roommates in New York. All of them work as secretaries at a publishing company and dream of bigger things. (Ironically, the company publishes pulp paperbacks.)

After being jilted by her college sweetheart, Smarts covets bad boss lady’s job. Looks is after a leading role in a Broadway play, and finds herself instead with a bit part as the director’s ex-girlfriend. Sweets falls hard for a heartless cad and finds herself in the family way. Each woman, representing different aspects of 1950s femininity, is rewarded or punished in accordance with the strict codes of the time. Smarts will be taken down a peg, Looks will lose her mind (and more), and Sweets will be redeemed only after a near death experience (and a rather convenient miscarriage). The one who suffers the most will be the one who most obviously rejects the morals of the time.

Looks, played by gorgeous red-headed fashion model Suzy Parker, is the most unconventional. With her "catch and release" approach to romance, her ambition, her slovenly habits as a secretary and her gender-bending name (Greg), she's the character I was most interested in getting to know. It totally pissed me off that the narrative made her the sacrificial lamb.

“Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” does exactly the same thing. Just shuffle the roles a bit, and add some dialectical materialism. But despite the different context, the women’s roles are startlingly similar.

Smarts, Looks, and Sweets are country girls new to Moscow. They share a room in the worker’s dormitory. Smarts wants to go to college, Looks wants a wealthy or famous man, and Sweets is happy to marry the country boy. But poor Smarts is enceinte a mere 15 minutes into the film.

Moscow does not believe in tears but Smarts sure cries them. The film elides her struggle to become a chemist and raise her daughter alone. She cries herself to sleep and literally wakes up 15 years later as a successful manufacturing plant manager and single mom. She wakes up 15 years after all the other 3-young-women-in-the-city plots have ended.

While Smarts wakes up in a world that is accepting of single motherhood, it is nonetheless filled with hysteria about older women, or women who are more successful than men. Smarts even lies to the Ideal Soviet Man she meets on a suburban commuter rail, telling him she is she is another worker in the plant and not its director.

While Sweets is happily settled with a nice guy (though we see nothing of her professional life), Looks is the most maligned. Her motto :"Life is a lottery and I want to win." She marries a famous hockey player who turns out to be a violent drunk. While she wears adorable shirtwaist dresses with charming prints in the first half, she is subjected to a series of bad wigs in the second reel. I mean seriously bad wigs. And to punish her further she works at a dry cleaners. And she can't get a man, or keep her violent ex out of her apartment.

It is interesting that Looks suffers the most in both films. Produced as propaganda for cold-warring political systems, both films take their anger out on the ambitious women who use their beauty to advance their aims. It is ironic that although women are always judged by their appearance (and held to a much higher standard then men) but punished for trying to use it to benefit themselves.

Both films revel in art direction. Check out the glamorous 50s modernist interior design and costumes of "The Best of Everything", and the 70s freewheeling Soviet pop-art of Smarts' apartment.

Moscow does believe in novelty prints. Smarts has an apron with prancing horses (and what looks like mushrooms). Even the Ideal Soviet Man wears it to cook. Smarts also has on what looks like a souvenir scarf in two scenes. Though I rewound a couple of times I couldn’t identify the building on the scarf. Could it be the Kremlin? She's not gonna have a scarf with Notre Dame or the Hagia Sophia on it. I mean, she's a party member for crying out loud. Every scene at work shows her in a suit with a Communist Party pin on her lapel. I would so love a Kremlin souvenir print scarf.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Isn’t she lovely? Just look at this head-turner. Even though my closet is bursting, and this is too small for me, I find myself unreasonably drawn to this dress. Like stay awake at night thinking about it.

Current bid is $49. B 36, W26. Auction ends tomorrow so get a move on. It's got every auspicious element from dragons to lions, even bats. The seller remarks with great insight that this pattern evokes those used in tattooing. Should I call it the tattooed lady dress? Perhaps it would look even more adorable if your own tattoos mirrored the print.
Though she is un-inked (as am I) I think this dress would look great on my friend Modesty Blaise (aka Death Starr).
Mom has informed me that the Italian travel print skirt that I posted on Feb. 26 (alas, I still don't know how to link to myself) is faux vintage. She says that she saw the exact same skirt in a catalog called Where In the World for $19.99. The print is of postcards. Excellent sleuthing, Mom!
Post amended: I found two other lovelies today, but both with copyright protected images. So I will have to mime them for you. Here goes:

The first is a scarf print halter dress in vivid colors showing seashells and sea anemones. It’s in Australia at the moment, but is too fun not to mention. It’s a small, and currently $14.99 Australian dollars. The model is working the Marcia Brady look. Or perhaps she is trying to look that American heiress who lost her dog (I can never remember her name since she gets so little publicity), though this Australian girl has a much sweeter and much prettier face.
Anyway, I’d wear this differently. I’d go all Louis XIV Versailles with it. Lots of gold rococo shell pendants and pearls braided into my curled and pompadoured coiffure. I’d expand the skirt with panniers underneath, and cobalt colored bloomers. And of course, I'd brandish a fan painted with sea anemones.
Should I nestle a small galleon in my tresses too? Oh yeah, I'd so do that. I would stop just short of donning a white powdered wig though. Still, I’d probably look too Cirque du Soleil. At least for work.

Remember the art gallery dress? It’s back, complete with Van Gogh’s sunflowers and Degas' ballarinas, but this time in a vivid color scale and made into a tent dress. I am tempted. Very tempted. I’d wear it unbelted with black leggings and ballet flats. I'd top it off with (tee hee) a beret. And I would totally wear it to work.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Are giraffes really the kind-eyed vegetarians I imagine them to be?

Go get this high-necked frock. While the pattern is plenty eye-popping on its own, the color makes it most unique. Most giraffia is in a yellow, brown or black scale.
I don't care if giraffes can deal a lethal kick when confronted, to me they are still a symbol of peace.

Oh, you didn't know it was today? Might it be because no one mentioned it and the mainstream media did not feature a singe story about it. The headlines on Yahoo today feature a lotto winner, and a woman who awakened from a 6 year old vegetative state only for a few days, then relapsed. Did she say: Wake me when the Bush administration is over?

So, what's doing for International Women's Day in the U.S.? Did I hear nothing? That's right: nothing. Because half the world's population is just a special interest group.

I read a very disturbing story both in Broadsheet and Feministing about a Law School website where a bunch of schmucks are posting photos of their female classmates in order to evaluate their looks and threaten to commit all sorts of acts of violence against them. The site is hosted by the school's server and the Dean has done nothing to shut it down.

The anonymous schmucks are posting the womens' full names and their law school email addresses. They are even stalking them to determine what classes they are in, and what time they go to the gym. They encourage people to take cell phone photos of these female students to submit to the site. The women targeted have not consented to be part of the website's so-called beauty pagaent and when they request that the photos be removed they are met with threats of sexual violence. Oh, and the postings include not only sexism but racism too. Just reading some sample postings made me feel nauseous.
Of course this sort of harassment can effect future career and job opportunities since a google search of the name of any of the women targeted will pull up this sleazy site. I heard law school was competitive, but I've never heard of smear campaigns like this before, especially those targeting women.
It is my ardent wish that the names and email addresses of all the anonymous men who are harassing, intimidating, threatening and potentially harming the future careers of their female colleagues are made very public.
The first women to go to medical school had to endure their male classmates spitting on them. It sucks to see how little things have changed.
It angers me to hear the mainstream media pronounce feminism dead, and all it's goals accomplished. Today is Blog Against Sexism Day. My small typings seem so inadequate to fight against the patriarchy.
Feminist bloggers have endured smear campaigns similar to the law school students. They want us all afraid. Too afraid to fight. Too afraid to continue to speak against our exploitation. And bubbeleh, it takes a lot of chutzpah to keep speaking out.
Rudolpho, Ninotcha, and Spartacus all think I should be blogging my politics more. They feel the novelty print is a smokescreen and I've got to come out from behind it. They mirror the struggle within me. I may be a giraffe, but I can sure as hell kick.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Late 40s frock in rayon. B 40, W 28. I love the way the yellow hearts are worked into this repeat print, and the applique cards on the bodice. I wouldn't worry about that tiny spot.
It would be so cute on you. It's better if you do not wear it to play poker. I am hoping the poker fad is on the wane. It seemed like a top-down fad. That is, on promoted by TV shows and overpriced gift set "How to Play Texas Hold 'Em" frippery at Barnes and Noble. I mean, why the big media putsch if it was already sweeping the nation?
As the seller says, every era has novelty prints to enjoy. Go get it.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Adorable set, cotton blend, with a full skirt and a matching short sleeved jacket. This taupe is almost Brownie uniform colored, and the novelty print shows yellow castles and white fleur de lis.
But it is with mixed emotions that I post this one, sweet though it is. The seller has included a Bible verse with her post, which alienates me. I have written about this seller in the past. With the politicized Christianity in the currrent U.S., posting a Bible verse is almost like telling me about her politics, or even her vote. The seller is risking alienating just as many people as she inspires. And that's not good for business. It tells me that she is more interested in expressing her beliefs than making a sale. Or maybe there's another story here?
There is a button and notions shop in NYC's garment district that is always blaring evangelical choir-type music. The first time I went in, I came right back out again. It felt uncomfortable to be a nice Jewish girl hearing about the "blood of the lamb" and being "saved saved saved" at such high volume. (I have also left stores playing misogynist popular music--that means I walk out of a lot of places.) Thinking this was an anomaly, I went back. Nope, more very loud very Christian music. While I was there the second time, a young man approached the proprietress and asked if it was music from the Something Something Church (I've forgotten what it's called). The two of them talked about it in great detail and formed a positive connection. Again, I left.
I am probably alienating someone by saying that I am alienated. There is new rhetoric in the United States, propagated by the Christian right, which claims that Christians are oppressed when they can't legally force the rest of us to celebrate their holidays exclusively and pray to their god in public (taxpayer-funded) schools. They claim they are oppressed when we talk about evolution. Oy. I tell you, my dear monkeys (I say that like the Wicked Witch of the West to her winged Darwinian crew), it pains me that the Christian right has managed to appropriate the language of civil liberties for their own aims.
If instead of Christian music, there were Sufi chants, Qawali, Hindu bhajans, or Buddhist monks chanting, I wouldn't have left. Scouring my character and polishing the mirror of my heart, I found that I do feel threatened by Christianity. Not just as a Jew (I mean that ethnically, I am non-practicing) but as someone who is a liberal modern politically progressive and a woman. I feel more generous toward practicioners of other religions, though. Rudopho says that is just because I am always on the side of the underdog.
The U.S. government is not being taken over by fundamentalist Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims or Tibetan monks. The Dalai Lama is not counseling senators and congresspeople to chip away at Roe v. Wade. There is not a cavalcade of Muslims and Sikhs in the White House refusing to fund Health programs unless they are abstinence only. Buddhists do not speak to me of the End Times, where all my kind gotta go to Israel, or get used as target practice in born-again video games. At this time and in this country, it is Christianity that is being used as a political tool, and that makes me uncomfortable. And then there is that Rapture/End Times thing where all my people have the fun choice of death or conversion. I mean, don't they want me and my kind to feel nervous?
Of course there is a conservative wing of every religion: Orthodox Judaism is politically conservative vigorously anti-woman. And, on the other hand, there are all kindsa Christian folks who are liberal. It is narrow-minded to see all Christians as extremists like those in the documentary Jesus Camp.
You might say to me: religions are all anti-woman opiates of the masses anyway, Samsara. Why should you privilege some over others? And where do you get off being a Jewess who calls herself Samsara, I'm totally offended by your cultural appropriation. Besides, you refer to yourself as Jewish all the time, you can't tell me that's not religious. Or perhaps: aren't you just yearning to be a Buddhist? You write too much about the Tibetan religious tradition, of which you understand nothing.
And how right you would be, bubbeleh.
Because I am not perfect, that's why I'm called Samsara.
Is there a Hebrew equivalent? Hell if I know. Would that even be appropriate since I am a shrimp-eating heathen? Is there a good Anglo-Saxon word that encompasses delusion, desire, confusion, bad habits, repetition compulsion and suffering? Maybe a Yiddish word? (Verdreygt in Kopf only takes care of 2 items on the list.)
I am guilty of referring to myself as Jewish, but it is something I will be (regardless) whether I want to or not. And no matter what I do. Full disclosure: I am almost a half-Jew. I say almost because according to Jews there is no such thing as a half-Jew. My mother is Jewish, and by Jewish law, so am I. (For those of you who are confused: if your father is Jewish and your mother is not, you are not Jewish unless your mother converts. Thems the rules.)
Since my father is not Jewish, I spent some of my wild youth not being Jewish, or attempting as much. Lemme tell ya, I was always found out. It was impossible to ignore or hide, so why bother? I thought, why not go whole hog (so to speak). Why not find some joy in it? Why not learn about it? Why not be a cultural ambassador to the Goyim since I know their ways?
I am guilty of writing about Buddhism. I am not a Buddhist, or even a Jew-Bu. I end up reading a lot about the Tibetan tradition. Because of the unconscionable way China has treated Tibet, so many have fled. Perhaps out of necessity, Tibetan spiritual leaders have worked to explain their tradition in a manner more accessible to Westerners. I've found a lot of it helpful for understanding the world the way it is. Buddhism itself ain't no picnic for women though.
Shouldn't we as political progressives hold ourselves to even higher standards? Refuse to respond to conservative claptrap with vitriol? Too many liberal blogs are saturated with the same contempt and violent language that conservatives use. Shouldn't we be kinder? Shouldn't we build bridges? Shouldn't we genuinely attempt a dialogue? Wouldn't that be the only way forward?
If you know how to do any of this, please let me know.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Holy Hakusai, Batman, a novelty print based on Beneath the Great Wave off Kanagawa. Please have a look by clicking the highlighted text (that means you, Mom). It is reproduced in a light blue and chartreuse color scale on a polyester chiffon dress with copyright protected images. That's why I can’t post photos here. The auction ends in 7 hours, goslings, so get bidding.

To the cornfields! Signed Vera Neumann blouse with an I Magnin label.
This fabulous print could easily look matronly. Showing some leg would be a good counter-balance. I'd pair it with a miniskirt in yellow, orange, or some shade of brown. Ideally pleather or leather. Leggings and my lemon-colored loafers. Or perhaps some very 80's looking mushroom boots. Essentially, I'd treat this shirt as a dress that just needs a sliver of a skirt below the hem to look respectable.
I like the brushstrokey abstract quality of the corn husks and kernels. The best part is that the print is also on the sleeves. Across the back the corn ears grow higher, which is a nice touch.
To paraphrase Mae West: When choosing between two novelty prints, I always pick the one I've never seen before. And I have not seen any corny border prints like this one before.
Apartment Therapy recently had a debate about tackiness. (I like AT, though it is way to minimalist dominated for me: does no one even have books anymore?) Maxwell, the blog owner, posits that tacky most likely originated in Florida. Others found it to be a by-product of American affluence and mass production. I am always late to join the party, but here goes.
I always thought it began with the Romans. I mean, the Romans sure were tacky. And I was shocked that no one mentioned Susan Sontag's Notes on Camp. Am I just showing my age?
Allow me to quote La Sontag's #56 from her essay.
Camp taste is a kind of love, love for human nature. It relishes, rather than judges, the little triumphs and awkward intensities of "character." . . . Camp taste identifies with what it is enjoying. People who share this sensibility are not laughing at the thing they label as "a camp," they're enjoying it. Camp is a tender feeling.(Here, one may compare Camp with much of Pop Art, which -- when it is not just Camp -- embodies an attitude that is related, but still very different. Pop Art is more flat and more dry, more serious, more detached, ultimately nihilistic.)
Tender indeed. When I see a good novelty print I get the same feeling as when I see a cute dog. And as you know, I cannot stand those people who like things in a insulting way. But I think that mindset wishes it were truly nihilistic. Instead those people who believe that they ironically enjoy shag carpet or Guy Lombardo (or whatever) are actually enjoying it. They are just too afraid of looking dorky to admit it. They are not nihilists; they are cowards.
I will not debate with La Sontag. But I will mimic the structure of her essay.
1. What La Sontag describes as camp, is what I call kitsch. Kitsch for me means a yearning for something that is beyond your reach. Decorating your basement apartment with plastic flowers because you get no sunlight. Silk screening the Eiffel Tower on your coat because you can't afford to travel there. Playing Mahler on the penny whistle. Creating a space age interior by covering your shelves with tin foil. There is something perverse about kitsch, in the literal sense of the word. A turning. Turning to what ever is at hand to find a way to fulfill your desires. Poverty and lack are at the heart of kitsch.
2. Ultimately I make a disctinctions between Camp, Kitsch, Schmaltz, Schlock and Cheese. (Doesn't that sound like a law firm?)
3. Camp is something that happens by accident. Camp is when something that purports to be art goes so far over the top that it hits self-parody. Bette Davis, of course, is camp, and wonderfully so. Aubrey Beardsley is camp. Joan Crawford is camp. Oscar Wilde, Strauss Waltzes, Olympic Figureskating: all camp. Camp is what kitsch would be if it had the money.
4. Schmaltz is the realm of cheap sentimentality. Posters of kittens hanging on branches exorting you to hang in there. A red rose to say: I love you. What happens to Little Nell in Dickens' "The Old Curiousity Shop". Schmaltz is the moral of the story, the "very special episode" of a tv show. Schmaltz is believing in "the holiday spirit". Schmaltz makes me use quotation marks to keep it away from me.
5. I also use the word schmaltz in another context: to describe the over-decoration of an item of clothing. A frill, or a peplum, a flap across the back that resembles a sailor suit. A little extra. A generous schmeer on the bagel. I like an outfit to have something extra. This does not mean I would wear I sweater covered with teddy bears. I absolutely would not.
6. Schlock is the lowest common denominator made for mass appeal. This describes most Hollywood films. Schlock means gratuitous nudity and things blowing up. Schlock knows what it is and doesn't apologize for it. Schlock is about box office returns.
7. Cheese is a mixture of schmaltz and schlock that believes it is great art. Cheese worries just as much about the marketplace as schlock, but pretends otherwise.
8. La Sontag is correct to point out that history can camp-ify things. The acting of Sarah Bernhardt, captured on early film technology, is hopeless camp now, but in her day it seemed more natural. I think Bette was always a bit over the top, though. An old gladiator movie, provided it wasn't made on the cheap, can have camp elements.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Enlightenment. Late 40s rayon with Buddha under the bodhi tree. Just look at those leaves and the gnarled trunks on those trees. I love the photographic negative of the white outlined figures contrasted with the black outlined white figures. The use of orange is revolutionary. At first I thought this was early 70s mimicking 40s, but not so. This print was ahead of its time.
B38, W28, H38, the peblum styling is also bold. Go get this. I believe bidding will heat up as the auction closes in slightly under 3 days.