Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Clockstoppers. Just look at these timeless beauties. Both have lovely necklines, and are medium sized. Both are fetching.
The navy 40s rayon dress is classic novelty. That is: the novelty elements are small, you've gotta lean in to see those cuckoo clocks. From afar the pattern appears mostly floral. This is a beautifully made dress. Do click on the link to look at the details on the bodice and skirt. They don't make them like this anymore, goslings.
I usually prefer the souped up novelty that began in the late 50s. Anyone from half a block away can see those are pocket watches on that dress. The shawl collar and buttoned flap grab me, and it's got the original belt. Ach, have I gotta pair of lavender loafers that would love to meet this dress for drinks somewhere.
Long ago I had a white silk blouse with red clocks on it. Currently I have no time-oriented novelty prints alas. Punctuality, as the French saying goes, is the politeness of kings. Or as Oscar Wilde said: Punctuality is a waste of time. And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say, may he rest in peace.
This weekend's fleamarket haul was minimal. I bought another dirndl for $10. Because you can never have too many dirndls. A dirndl is equal parts German engineering and physics experiment. A dirndl can actually give me a trim waistline, which is a miracle in and of itself. And you just never know when you'll be invited to Sound of Music screening with audience participation, or a mountaineer-themed party at the Swiss Institute.
This weekend's tragedy involved an Alfred Shaheen frock. It was a 60's orange sleeveless wiggle dress with a border print of arabesques and Arabic writing in white. My heart leapt. Wrinkled, in need of a good pressing indeed, but there inside was the Alfred Shaheen "The Master Printer" label. It was a mere $15. My hands shook as I tried it on. This is one of my holy grails. Every pre-70's Shaheen I've come across was at least $100, if not $400. I imagined romantic evenings together, this frock and I, expensive cocktails and long stem roses. But it wouldn't go over my hips. It wouldn't go over my hips at all.
There is a reason I am a devotee of the full skirt, the empire waistline, the A-line, and the well-placed ruffle. Even my tailor, an avuncular and infinitely patient man has told me: "For you, my dear, only A-line." You can't get a more professional opinion than that. I long ago said so long and farewell to the pencil skirt, the cigarette pants, the tube dress. Auf weidersehen, good night.
Ah, tempus fugit. I wrote this post weeks ago but didn't have time to add the links. I am actually posting on 5/8/07.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Another cute novelty print that escaped my clutches.

I don't remember quite where I saw it, nor how much it was going for. I love the rounded bodies of the deer and the squiggles of yellow. But again the eyelashes really up the cute ante.

I'm afraid novelty prints have become too trendy this season. I probably said it last year as novelty hit the couture end. Well, now it has trickled down and I am seeing it everywhere with mixed feelings.

I couldn't help but notice that Forever 21 has a cotton skirt with roosters on it. Anthropologie has a dress with orange giraffes trooping across a white background. (For a jaw-dropping $498, it should come with a conflict diamond.) Urban Outfitters has a shirt with bunnies on it. Of course I'm not shopping in these places; I'm allergic to retail-- gives me a rash. Just doing some competitive intelligence. Even every down-market on 34th Street's cheap and cheerful row is filled to the gills with owl, mushroom and tiny whale prints. Men in slouchy jeans sport hoodies covered with foil printed diamonds.

Though I am delighted to see novelty on other citizens, I can't help but wonder why they are wearing them. Are they the same people who a mere year ago would have pointed at me and laughed? Do they love their novelty prints? I mean, really love them? A novelty print should crack your hard shell and ooze your soft whimsicality all over. It must ooze, goddamn it, like candy tears from the heart of kitsch. Otherwise we're all just ironic posturing bores.

Goslings, perhaps I'm just old and bitter.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

One that got away.

Can you see this dress in this tiny photo? It's all I've got to remind me. I can only see this as if from a great distance. Adorable, late 50s cotton day dress with hot air balloons aloft and trailing flowers. It sold yesterday for about $36.

I dallied, I tarried, I debated. It is pink, I thought, though just about my size. I really need more blue in my wardrobe, I reasoned, but hey, some of these balloons are indeed green and blue. It's so traffic-stopping cute, goddamn it. No, go home and hem the 2 or 3 broken frocks that still remain unwearable. (Remember the Don Quixote dress. It is still unwearable. It rebukes you even now.) This fulfills my New Years Resolution to fearlessly combine red and pink. And I don't have anything with hot air ballooooons! Go back to computer, log on, bid now.

Just at that moment, when I was about to surrender to my first ebay experience, I discovered that ebay bidding is blocked on my server. (Not that I'm doing any of this at work--never!) Of the 150 novelty prints I have posted here, this is the first time I've been driven to bid. (Well, except for the Moulin Rogue skirt, where I tried to get Rudolpho to bid for me, but that's another depraved tale.) I was so besotted that I thought of adding an item that I cannot even try on to my already overflowing closet. Only to find that I've been protected from this slippery slope all along by Big Brother. Ha!

No worries, I thought, I shall hie myself elsewhere to get my fix. But oh goslings, the point of this blog was not to shop more but to shop less. I went to fencing class instead. (No, not the kind where you have to unload hot watches, the kind with an epée.) Safe. Until the next novelty heart-breaker comes along.

No, I am not so noble--I'm going to the flea market this weekend. Really just for old times sake. Really. My favorite flea market is closing at the end of this month. Yet another victim of NYU's relentless expansion over the village. I'll let you know how I fare. I'll be shopping with tears in my eyes, no doubt.

Enjoy the dress, winning bidder! I hope it fits perfect and you wear it on summer nights among the fireflies.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I'm in love again. And I love love love it.
To be pefectly candid, I was starting to think maybe I'd seen all the major permutations of the novelty print. But this knocked my socks off. ¡Que viva la novelty!
Just look at this well-read lion. The George Burns style spectacles clutch at my heart strings, but the long lashes seal the deal. And just what is this illustration style called? Faux naive? Artful scribble?
Oh, how I want this dress. I may not be able to resist.
I'd love to wear this dress to visit the stone lions that guard the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library.
In the movie version of my life, I'd be at an antiquarian book fair in this frock. I'd be examining a beautiful leaf from a 1405 illuminated manuscript of Christine de Pisan's Le livre de la cité des dames when I'd spot something unusal out of the corner of my eye. And what is it? Well, MacGuffin, of course. (Maybe one of the booksellers would even offer to show me a signed first edition of MacGuffin's Beginnings.) One of these little lions would double as the lens of a video camera. I'd turn around, and one of the lions on my back would open one eye, zoom in and start to film. Everything would be recorded on a mini disc kept in the pocket of the dress.
I know, I know, it's more Get Smart than James Bond. But to quote Il Maestro Sondheim: tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight. Who knew that Mel Brooks was so deeply enbedded in my psyche? Saved in the same folder of my brain which holds A Shot in the Dark.
I always loved Maxwell Smart's shoe phone, but it seems like one's face would get awfully dirty using it.
Why are there no novelty cellphones? I guess it took some time to get from Alexander Bell's crank-operated telephones to princess phones in the shape of red lips, but come on product developers, let's get cracking. I'd like a cellphone that looks like a tiny edition of the Tao Te Ching and fit in the pocket of this dress.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Calling all crustaceans!

Yes, you, the 100 year old lobsters who have escaped the trawlers and the wide net of commercial fishing to flex your ragged claws and scuttle along with your briny meditations. Did you know you were the sine qua non of surrealism? Or perhaps, shorthand for surrealism’s splashings in the shallow end of the subconscious pool.

Do I love you, lobsters? You betcha.

I’ve always wanted a lobster dress and a table cloth dress; this one does marvelous double duty. In the film version of my life (working title: The Gilded Assassin), I’d wear this red and white shirt waist dress to disguise myself as a café table. In the cinematic version of my life, I’m adept at a form of yoga that involves camouflage, mostly achieved by my ability to hold still and an appropriately chosen novelty print. I’d free a lobster from a potboiler and set her loose in the seaside café with a tiny microphone in her claw. She would record conversations of the various spies in the joint (after all, my life is an Espionage Musical), before heading back to the ocean.

Don’t worry, this isn’t just a walk-on for our intrepid lobster. Especially since Zza Zza Gabor will be the voice of the lobster, and heaven knows she could use the work. There will be underwater scenes where I’ll meet her again. And like Androcles and the Lion, we’ll have a special bond. Perhaps the lobster and I will do a soft shoe number. The lobster will definitely have a whistling solo. Though the whistling might sound a bit like sound they make when boiled, even though it's in dubious taste.

The V&A is currently hosting an exhibit of surrealist objects. If you are in London, you should check it out. Or if jet fuel ain’t part of your lifestyle, read a review here. What is it about the sight of a stylized red lobster taken out of context that just makes my heart sing? As the reviewer points out, how could an apartment based on Mae West's visage not bring a smile to yours?

All of this is really just an excuse to include Salvador Dalí ’s lobster phone, and Elsa Schiaparelli’s Lobster dress (made in collaboration with Dalí ). This was one of the lobster dresses La Schiap Divina made for Mrs. Wallis Simpson, that’s right, the American divorcée who sparked an abdication. Apparently Wallis was not well-liked, what with interfering with accession and all, but the lobster dress was just the frock to turn it all around. Novelty prints make one seem whimsical, was the argument, and therefore more sympathetic. Cecil Beaton photographed her in this dress. I have marched all over Internetlandia, but have not found this photo to post.

La Schiap Divina, before whom I genuflect, deserves several posts of her own, for the edification of goslings everyone. But that’s quite another kettle. Now back to lobster pot.

I did find one of my Holy Grails: a photo of Isabella Blow in Philip Treacy’s Lobster Hat. It’s only the back, but that’s where all the drama is anyway. Alas I couldn’t crop it for you, so she is just at the bottom right and you are forced to look at some 1998 Thierry Mugler catwalk action front and center.

Ms. Blow is a socialite and a designer’s muse. She too deserves a post of her own, though I have long avoided doing so. Perhaps I’m just jealous. After all, I have worn outlandish things on my head. Concoctions of faux foliage and costume jewelry, plastic grapes (but evoking Bacchus, rather than Carmen Miranda), even things that light up (oy, and this was back in the early 90's with some weighty D batteries and a cord that I duct-taped to my back). Why am I not a milliner’s muse, I ask you? I mean, besides the fact that I'm not a socialite, don't have any capital, and don't know anyone who could get me seated in the front rows of fashion shows.

And aren't hats just the perfect accessory for a spy? This isn't a video camera on my head, I could explain, it's a Philip Treacy chapeau.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Sound of Music. Just look at this sweet frock. It's even got little mandolins on it, and what looks like two birds sharing child-rearing duties equally. I can't read the music next to the violin (or is it a cello?). But it must be Vivaldi's "Spring".
Go get it. B42, W30, H48. Length 46 inches.
Just love the model's red lipstick and red locks.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Round two of the novelty print duel?
Well, the suit in the second offering isn't strictly novelty but it was too gorgeous not to post.
60's Nylon yellow ribbon and bows dress. Doubles as a trompe l'oeil. Best worn while marching to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And perhaps carrying a placard which reads: Support the troops, bring them home. B 38, W 28, H 50, currently bid is $97. So you'd need to be a well-heeled war protester.
This suit slays me. I love the bows, the buttons, and the brushstrokey marvel of it. But oh goslings, it is neither cheap nor in my size. This is high end vintage indeed.
In The Gilded Assassin, I'd wear the yellow ribbon dress to infiltrate a big military pow wow. Wearing a blonde Doris Day wig and posing as a right wing pundit, I'd instead make a speech to turn the whole crowd against war of any kind. But the hell could I (or anyone) say to make that happen? I'll definitely need help. Maybe the canapés will need to be sautéed in butter clarified with hashish by a secret brigade of stoner-ninja chefs. (Ooh, I can just see them now cloaked in novelty print pot leaf camouflage.) Perhaps the meeting will also be infiltrated by Reiki-welding alien life forms who all look suspiciously like Angela Landsbury. (Because I love her and totally want her to have as many parts as possible in the movie of my life, but also as a reference to the original Manchurian Candidate.) That will be a tough scene to write, I tell ya.
To counter the feelings of nothing-changes-negativity that I've been feeling lately, this article in New York Magazine, of all places, tells not only the very over-whelmingly distressing story of a 13 year old girl being forced into prostitution, the system that prosecuted her as a criminal, and finally how the law is being changed to protect girls like her.
Lucilia, the girl profiled in this article, was one of 5 girls who testified in the New York Legislature to pass the Safe Harbor Act, which would amend state law on underage prostitution to be in accordance with the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act. It is more than ironic that if Lucilia had been trafficked into the United States from elsewhere, legally she would have been seen as a victim of human trafficking. But because she is a U.S. citizen, the law views her as a criminal.
The format was very simple. The 5 girls sat at a long table across from assembly members and their staff. They told their stories. And there wasn't a dry eye in the house when they were done. Everyone agreed to endorse the Safe Harbor Act. I commend these young women and their bravery. It is my hope that they go into politics themselves.
This is the organization that has been helping them, GEMS, a non-profit run by sex trade survivors.

The fungus is among us.
A Margaret Smith print joins two Vested Gentress screen prints.
Collect them all and you'd be well on your way to a week's worth of mushroom-themed attire. Yes, that is a challenge. And yes, I'm talking to you. Meet me at the crossroads at dawn for a novelty print duel. Bring your seconds and your steamer trunks. En garde!
In the cinematic version of my life (working title: The Gilded Assassin) this would totally happen. And beneath each novelty print dress would be another. Each one exponentially more fabulous. Until the novelty print of all novelty prints was revealed.
And just what is that? Well, you'll have to see the movie.
I love the polka dots on the Margaret Smith print, though would be wary of wearing red, white and blue together. Except perhaps on Bastille Day. With a white Marie Antoinette wig.
I like the love-struck frogs on the First VG print, but would prefer it without the gender associations of the false eyelashes on the frog on the right. Or is it mascara? I mean, why are cartoon animals genderized? That always creeped me out as a kid. Like, why was Lady (of Lady and the Tramp) all feminine and long-lashed? She was supposed to be a dog, for crying out loud. Dagnabit! Why do puppets, cartoons and stuffed animals need to wear bows, lipstick and false eyelashes to be female? Why are they male by default if they do not?
Why are animals used to bolster the human idea of the gender binary? Why can't two frogs meet romantically without humans having to designate one as male and the other as female.
True, I have posted a Vested Gentress with long-lashed horses in the past. And I didn't kick up a fuss. All the horses had long lashes and braids. Plus they were lined up like the Rockettes and winking. And on the back of the dress were the horse's bums. Just slightly below the wearer's bum. I remember writing something about looking like a horse's ass (and if I could learn to link to myself I'd be less foolish), but didn't discuss the gender politics. I know, I know. But I've evolved since then.

The last one is my fave. It looks like a uniform for a biologist working on a space station in a 1970's movie where the earth has been destroyed by capitalist greed and brave scientist ladies are trying to recreate our biosphere on another planet by using early 20th Century illustrations.
I like that this frog is sulking, and I like the green fabric in the kickpleat. I identify with this frog.