Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Put on a false front in this adorable shift dress. Wear it when you need when you need the illusion of respectability, or perhaps just an illusion. (Though maybe to your eyes this looks too much like a clown suit for anyone to take it seriously.) I love the tie clip and green belt buckle, those are the details that really get me going. But best of all, the back is blank. You don’t really have to believe your cover story. You can wear a suit without becoming one.

Doesn’t this lovely model look a bit like Miranda July?

I have not yet read Ms. July’s collection of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You. I am also chagrined to have missed her reading last Friday at the 42nd Street Branch of the New York Public Library. It was one of those star-studded events that even had David Byrne as emcee. Ah well, a mermaid can’t do everything.

I loved her film Me, You and Everyone We Know. Many striking images stayed with me: a goldfish in a plastic bag on the roof of a speeding car, a man deliberately setting his hand on fire on a suburban front lawn. But my favorite scene was the video of the pink ballet flats dancing out the ambiguous relationship a character has with a handsome shoe salesman. There is something very generous about Ms. July’s work. It breathes in a way that allows you to insert yourself in it. In fact, audience members have even played roles in her live performance work. Her website describes a piece where Ms. July intuits which audience members would be friends and introduces them. Though she takes on loneliness, grief, obsession and desperation, there is a kindness to her vision. In her narratives, characters are redeemed by the very faults that got them into so much trouble in the first place.

I was also very inspired by this website that she collaborated with Harrell Fletcher to create called Learning to Love You More. It’s a series of assignments that pretty much anyone can do, submit, and have posted on the site. Among my favorite assignments are: #43 Make an exhibition of the art in your parents house, #41 Act out someone else’s argument, and #58:Record the sound of what is keeping you awake. Though I have not submitted any to the site, I have done #45, #14, and would love to do #36. I should do all of the assignments and consider it graduate work with Ms. July and Mr. Fletcher. And you should too.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ah, Ms. Timeless Vixen, you are utterly divine.

This is utterly glorious. This renews my faith in humanity. This is the platonic ideal of oceanic frocks just there for the bidding.

Well, goslings, it's fleet week in my fair town. Uncle Monty and I will be out inspecting what the tides have brought in. There are sailors to snog, and we don't care that they are wearing white before Memorial Day.

Another Don Quixote dress.
As you may know, I have the ultimate Don Quixote dress. It is red, full-skirted with a crinoline included, covered with windmills, Moorish architecture, and a man on horseback. Very early 60s style near-abstraction for the scene. Repeat print. Gorgeous polished cotton. Full sweep skirt and portrait neckline. And I cannot make the thing fit me despite hours of sewing. I suspect that it might be a maternity dress. If I were to wear it on the subway, someone would definitely give me their seat. Oy. If I'm not mixing too many metaphors, I should call the Don Quixote dress my Waterloo.
This one seems much less tormented. I enjoy the image of the little girl fishing, though I don't much like the placement of the fishing line on the bum. But the windmill is superb, as are the details on the sleeves. This one looks like it would take a very trim waist indeed, as it is not appropriately darted.

Far out. Zodiac-themed apron-style tunic with so much to enjoy. Plus it’s got Nieman Marcus label and a pocket. Go get it. I’ll bet you don’t have already have an astrological print.
Is that Virgo, in the dress with hearts down the front? Isn't she kinda sexed-up?

I have a shirt made on this model (3/4 sleeves, pocket, 2 sets of ties in the back) but it has a Papagallo label and a print of skunks sniffing flowers and pursued by butterflies. It was $2 at the flea market. Because of the hospital-gown-style open back, I gotta wear something under it, a camisole or a t-shirt. And I do feel as though I am putting on a smock to do something like finger-painting. It's infantilizing.
Long ago I would have relished a zodiac print, especially one such as this. Especially when I was a tarot card reader. But now I am on a campaign to root out and abolish all superstition from my life. A year without magical thinking. Not easy. Because with closer examination, the majority of human behavior is superstitious. And yeah, I do still say "bless you" when someone sneezes. I mean, it's only polite.
Today I got a good laugh reading the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks, as recomended by Twisty Faster. If your day is as bleak as mine, I urge you to head over there. Nothing can cheer me up like grammar humor.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Out of this world. Go get this futuristic 50s cotton solar system-themed sundress. This intergalactic frock does not merely imitate the planets in aligned, it depicts our little patch of the galaxy as an Alexander Calder mobile. And it has pockets. What more could you want?

Alas, it is too small for me. (B34,W26, H40) but you out there with the little waist—hop to it.

In The Gilded Assassin (the spy movie musical version of my life, for those who’ve tuned in late), I’d wear this to a planetarium. Something would go wrong and the lights would go out (“My diamonds, they’re gone!” cried the Contessa.) As a ninjayogini, I’d need to adapt to the dark. But since all my dresses are reversible in my fantasy world, I’d turn just turn my dress inside out. (Don’t worry, I’m wearing a lovely silk full slip underneath to make my quick changes in all modesty. Plus the lights went out, okay?) The alternate pattern inside would be mostly black but showing the stars at night. Maybe even a faintly luminous diagram of the constellations as a border print, or across the bodice. Maybe I could use the constellation print to light my way on the roof as I chase after the jewel thief. Or maybe I am the jewel thief! Maybe I could blink the constellations on and off to send messages in Morse code to an accomplice in a helicopter overhead.

Then there would be a chase scene in the gardens of Versailles. I seem to remember from a French class ages ago that each of the fountains represent a different planet.
At some point in the movie during a quick change I’d have to get caught in my underwear though, just for laughs. In that case I’d want to be wearing Angry Underwear. It was something I saw in a magazine in the late 80’s, but alas am unable to find any internet documentation of it. Nor can I remember the artist’s name. Angry Underwear consisted of an old skool missile bra hand-painted with a vicious open-mouthed shark over each breast. Undies to match, of course. Big old-timey granny undies. Yeah, I could sure use some Angry Underwear now. But in The Gilded Assassin, I’d be caught in my Angry Underwear and need to camouflage myself somehow somewhere. Maybe in a koi fish pond? Fish tank? As a faux mermaid in one of those huge tanks in Florida resorts?

Ninjayoga has to be played for laughs since my skills as a spy consist of holding very still and choosing the appropriate novelty print. Come to think of it, I’m kind of like Agent 13 in Get Smart. He’s the one who’s always in a mailbox, or a potted palm. You never actually see his face.

Ah, goslings, see how a good novelty print can set me adreamin’.

I watched The Blue Gardenia (1953) last night. Anne Baxter (who I will forever think of as Eve Carrington from one of my favorite movies All About Eve) plays a switchboard operator who has a seriously bad night. Nat “King” Cole has a cameo as the talent in a pseudo-Polynesian nightclub. There’s a blind flower seller who says that taffeta “speaks a language of its own”. And a sleazy artist of pin-up calendars gets his comeuppance.

Directed by Fritz Lang, beautifully shot in black and white, and occasional grainy stock footage of Los Angeles freeway overpasses, there was much to delight. But the gender politics, ugh! The plot is basically the story of attempted rape, assisted by alcohol and possibly a drugged cup of coffee. But boy was there a lot of blaming the victim nonsense that was hard to stomach. If you plan on seeing this, I recommend inviting your patriarchy-blaming friends over. That way you can hiss and boo when it gets super sexist. 1953 was not so long ago and though it’s hard to watch, I think it’s important to examine these moments as patriarchy’s time capsules. Plus there’s plenty of victim-blaming going on still. Sigh.

It is always a treat to watch Ms. Baxter work. She is Lee Strasberging, Uta Hagening, and Stella Adlering it to the max. I enjoyed watching her make choices (because an actor makes choices, by gum). She has some beautiful moments playing 4 sheets to the wind blotto. There are other scenes that she carries on her back, without even dialogue to help her, as when she decides to burn her black taffeta dress. She mined the caverns of her heart to bring reality to the cardboard character of Norah Larkin. And she comes up with gold, goslings, gold. Though the script has a few snappy lines, it didn’t do much to help her. This ain’t one of Lang’s masterpieces for sure, but I felt his presence in her solo scenes most strongly. At least he was doing his darnedest to support her.

Ms. Baxter has some ferocious acting chops. Watch and learn, goslings. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in The Razor’s Edge (1946). I recommend you watch that one for her scenes alone.

The Blue Gardenia is many things throughout the film: a nightclub, a song, the name the newspapers give to the “unknown murderess”, and a flower pinned to a lapel and used as evidence. The song is sung by Nat “King” Cole, of course, with arrangement by Nelson Riddle, both are fabulous, both worth the price of the rental. The song is played (and sung) multiple times, meaning something different each time, a cinematic technique that I always enjoy.
Without being a spoiler, I can tell you that the ending is a cop-out. But endings are hard and usually fall flat, don’t they?

Now let us praise Ms. TimelessVixen. This is a dame after my own heart. Not only does she post glorious vintage novelty prints on ebay, but I presume this is her modeling as well. And with what élan! Ms. TimelessVixen displays her novelty prints with open-mouthed glee. She ain’t just gorgeous, she’s fun too.

I wish she lived next door and we could invite each other over for cocktail parties.

Just look at this stunning dress set. Medieval scenes presented in a color scale of forest green, avocado and bronze. I do so love a matching bolero, it makes me shout olé! But the showstopper is that both pieces are reversible. That’s right, both pieces.

Resersibility is overwhelmingly appealing to the commitment phobic, such as myself. In the movie version of my life, all my frocks would be reversible.

Go get it, bidding ends in mere moments.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Isabella Blow 1958-2007

Goslings, I regret to inform you that Isabella Blow, style icon, fashion editor, and one of the few people in the world I have ever envied, is no longer with us. The fashion world, and indeed the world as we know it, will be hopelessly bland without her.

No longer will I scan catwalk photos in hopes of seeing her proud noggin capped with a Philip Treacy confection.

Checking out at the tender young age of 48, Ms. Blow leaves me bereft of a role model. Who will guide me, now rudderless and careening into my 40s? Who will put the flash into fashion and inspire us all to think vertically? Who is left in the fashion industry with a sense of humor?

Reading more about her life, I now see the struggle, when before I saw only ease. I didn't know that her father, Sir Evelyn Delves Broughton, had basically disowned her. I didn't know that she paid for her glad rags on the installment plan. That her earlier years were filled with odd jobs, even as a cleaner. That her promotion of other's talents never netted her a dime. That she struggled with depression.
I can't believe she thought of herself as "ugly", though I even read as much in one of Vogue's profiles. To me she always looked regal and dazzling, even without a pagoda on her head. And with work she obviously loved, plenty of places to wear luscious lids, and a gallery co-owned with her second husband, I thought it all came easily to her. From fashion director of the Sunday Times Style section, editor-at-large for Tatler's, and I was green-eyed about it.

Izzy (if I may, since something about reading several obits promotes this sort of familiarity), I misjudged you. There was way more grit, hard work and complication than I gave you credit for. My envy was pure small-mindedness on my part. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to be your friend.
People say it takes courage to dress with this kind of insouciance. I disagree. It is an art form. And Ms. Blow was a great artist.
For Lynne Yaeger's tribute, click here


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Vested Gentress-esque. Who could resist kangaroos or hungry horses in a field of radishes? Both brought to you by ebayer Noir Ohio. With current bids of $15.50, go get them.
I've been so exhausted lately (for many reasons) perhaps it's time to dust off Operation Snooze.
But with any luck, I'll soon be blogging my heart out again with more vintage novelty prints, more reviews of movies that are more than 30 years old, and more indignant rage at the state of the world.