Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Faux-natural. Gimme fake hair pieces, lip gloss, and the Rebel Alliance any day. White and silver are always futuristic, and add the super long brown hair to keep it down to earth. Natural and artificial, all at the same time.

This year, I was Princess Leia for Halloween. It was my third time. The first was when the movie just came out. I was 7 or so. For the next, I was in graduate school (25 or so). And then again this year. I accessorized with a gun, like in the first photo, which came in handy as I went out dancing and various strange men that I wanted nothing to do with tried to hump me (oh, kids today). A big futuristic gun generally made them back off. Though not always, alas. Sigh. (Get me to a nunnery.)

Of course subconsciously, Princess Leia has always been a great style icon for me. Being petite, elaborately coiffed and somewhat Semitic, I can channel Carrie Fisher. At least, that's what many lonely Japanese business men told me when I taught English at Berlitz in the mid-90s. Really. I was told I looked like Princess Leia almost everyday, and I wasn't even wearing the cinnamon bun 'do. I was coiffed more like the second photo. And I even tend to stay away from white clothing, for fear that it will make me look red in the face. But I do like flow-ey dresses, metallic boots and big silver jewelry.

Who could resist the Halston-designed gowns? The lip gloss that never wore off, even under torture. The snowsuits that were so, well, princessy, yet ready to fight the powers that be. I enjoyed how Princess Leia never had any luggage, but always picked up something to wear along the way. Fortunately the ewoks had something in her size. She was a diplomat, a spy, an ambassador, a tactitian, a rebel and a princess, for crying out loud.

The use of white clothing is fabulous, even though I can't really do it (not only because of Irish red face, but also my sloppy fondness for red wine) plus I love color too much. But the combination of futuristic and Rennaisance left its mark on my style.

When I'm not wearing a kicky vintage novelty print frock, I work the intergalactic wood nymph vibe.

Now Queen Amidala, I must also confess, is a style icon for me too. I absolutely hated the new Star Wars trilogy, but I loved the costumes. I even bought the issue of Vogue that showed all of Trisha Bigger's designs. Two photos from that issue are shown below. Her costumes are more intelligent than all three of the films.

I saw the first two movies for the wardrobe alone, so I have no idea about the plot. I only remember some very bad dialogue. "I am your elected Queen." being one of the howlers. There was a moment when this elected Queen had to pack, or change or something and I caught a glimpse of her closet and I remember thinking: can't we just stay here and try on clothes and let the whole stupid plot whirl on without us?

I skipped the last movie.

I love the Butoh-influenced white face and the scintillating mix of textures. (I'm not good with textures, alas, but tend to work more with patterns that vibrate with each other.) This is advanced layering in action, not to be attempted by amateurs. I love any kind of headdress, especially if it achieves verticality. People simply do not wear enough things on their heads anymore for my taste. I used to be reduced to buying the June issue of Vogue to look at bridal wear (and I think marriage is legalized prostitution!) just to see headdresses.

Too kimono-like? Too obviously Asian-influenced? Who cares? Impossible to walk or sit in? So what? I like that these costumes contain so many opposites. The headdresses are a little Cirque du Soleil, and yet with the long robes they never look Vegas. The white face somehow avoids clownishness. These are costumes that take risks. That make a bloody effort.

Brava to Trisha Bigger, checking a sleeve in the bottom photo.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

And where have I been? Alas, my apartment has a carbon monoxide leak and I am currently couch surfing. My joylessness is manifest in many ways, and a dire lack of blogging is one of them.
That's right, a carbon monoxide leak for over 4 weeks now, that my slumlord is too cheap and too greedy to fix. The chimney is broken and the fumes from the furance are in my apartment. Along with a liberal sprinkling of black ash. Of course, Pinnacle Management (a publically traded company that received a special mention in the Village Voice last year in their annual 10 worst Landlords of NYC article), is hoping that my roommate and I will die, and that they can rent the place out to someone else who will also die, etc. Endless profit.

I gotta move and I gotta sue, but the sad fact is, goslings, I don't have 5 bucks to my name until the first of the year. Really. I am flat broke. Plus I can't even be in my apartment to pack. And then I'm gonna have to spend the next five years suing these criminals. And since I can't afford an attorney, I'm going to be a crazy pro-se trying to learn how to be a lawyer from one of those "...For dummies" books. Oh the humanity.

It really is more expensive to be poor.

I have no interest in moving or suing. I just want to go home and practice my ukulele, sort through some of the mail that is piling up, and do laundry. Doesn't seem like too much to ask, now does it?

2007, officially declared The Year of My Heart, has been one sorrow (heartbreak?) after another. I can't wait for 2008. Perhaps I angered the gods by declaring a year of my heart. Even though I am an atheist, I still appease the gods. (I see them as a furious cohort, blood spattered and wearing flayed human hides. Gods that demand human sacrifice.) Would it be hubris (or merely wishful thinking) to declare 2008 The Year in Which Things Get Better? Or perhaps, the Year of Moving On. Do I dare? Where can I offer up some of my blood to the apartment gods?

Rudolpho, who was drunk dialing me every other night desperate to speak with me when he thought all was well, has stopped calling me altogether now that he knows my life has fallen apart. Isn't it wonderful how people can completely disappoint? I guess it's a relief. When he calls he just wants me to comfort him, and I can barely comfort myself.

Of course everyone else has shown their true colors. My friends, normally a self-absorbed lot, have awesomely remained their usual self-absorbed selves. Enough with your carbon monoxide, Miss Black Lung, I have real problems, like this guy I've never actually had a date with like hasn't called me back. Alas, I am not kidding. There are a couple of shining stars who actually check to see that I'm still alive: Spartacus, Lolita, Modesty Blaize and Uncle Monty. You guys rock.

A friend of a friend has kindly lent me her very nice apartment for the next couple of weeks. May blessings rain upon her.

And so, this dress pictured above is long gone. Polyester. I love that pink frizzy hair that makes this classical themed dress psychedelic. I love the trompe l'oeil of the pleats across the back sholder. I love the contrast of the grey male statues and the female dancing figures in beige. I love this dress. If I had stumbled across it in a shop I would have snatched it up, no questions asked. Even though I am living out of a backpack at present.
The date on this post is deceptive. I am actually posting on 11/28/07.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Let us now praise Charo. Once an example of how over-exposure could damage your career, the bubbly flamenco guitarist and perveyor of her own brand of fun (known as Cuchi-Cuchi) is still shimmying that pert little bod at the age of 56. And she looks marvelous doing it.
The photographs above show her currently and in her former heyday in the late 70s. She appears almost eerily unchanged.
Yes, I spotted her on a hideous slow-newsday-item about how stars have aged. It focused on female performers, of course, and for that I blame the patriarchy. However, there was a similar slideshow devoted entirely to male rockers from the 80s, showing them both now and then. This almost evened out the equation, and showed me that Sting has definitely had work done. I mean, yoga can only do so much for crows' feet really.
These now and then comparisons are invariably unfair. Many people who looked very young at the height of their fame, were actually quite a bit older. A breathtaking ingenue who claimed to be 24 in 1984, could just as easily have been pushing forty with a short stick. And of course it's a well-honored theatrical tradition to shave a few years off your age.
Charo actually had the opposite problem. When she married Xavier Cugat and toured with his band she was 16. Press releases padded her age to make it look like less of a scandal. Charo has maintained that her marriage to the then 66 year-old band leader (who was already 3 or 4 times divorced) was purely a marriage of convenience to bring her to the United States from Spain.
Charo was a regular on television variety shows throughout the 70s. As a kid I saw her on Laugh-In, The Sonny and Cher Show, and (my favorite) The Carol Burnett Show. As the 70s wore out, she was practically a regular on The Love Boat, a show I hated. I watched it anyway because it was on before Fantasy Island, a show I loved. It was as if one had to ride the dreaded Love Boat to get to Fantasy Island. (I had a very secret crush on Ricardo Montalban, but that's another post entirely.)
A Charo appearance on The Love Boat, could almost redeem that show for me. Instead of 48 minutes of entirely unoriginal sexual innuendo (that was completely lost on me as a 10 year old), there'd be moments of Charo's trademark elan: a full body shimmy while shouting:Cuchi-Cuchi. Charo always seemed like a generous performer and very willing to laugh at herself. I know this sounds hoaky, but she also seemed like a kind-hearted person.
At times she was presented as a parody of herself. All boobs and fringe and mangled English. I even remember thinking that the show was actively making fun of her, but that she didn't care. She was having fun anyway. She Cuchi-Cuchi-ed with delight even when everyone else was snickering behind their hands. Even as a 10 year old I thought: note to self, enjoy your own shtick. And goslings, this is something I live by.
But despite this high amount of Charo exposure, and an inspirational Charo moment, I had no idea she played guitar. Charo is perhaps television's Yoko Ono: everyone has heard of her, but very few people have actually seen her creative work. Oh, sure there's maybe a hazy memory of her with a guitar somewhere in the deep whorl of the 70s television section of my brain. But actively, not really. Charo has suffered from the same syndrome as many other female performers who are better known for the looks than their abilities. I am delighted to see that Charo has made quite a comeback and that her current work is enough in her control to foreground her musicianship.
She took a break from Hollywood for over a decade but didn't stop performing. She opened her own club in Hawaii, where she performed regularly while raising her son. That seems idyllic, doesn't it? I'd love to move to Hawaii and still perform every night. (In my fantasy, flowers would also drift down from the trees to settle into my hair, and all the fruit I'd eat would be perfectly ripe. I would probably skip the child-rearing part and get a bunch of corgis with psychic powers who could read tarot cards and give me unerring financial advice. Or maybe I'd open a clown school and organize festivals.) Of course I'm always critical of female stars who retire to raise children, since I have yet to hear of a male star making a similar "choice". But with Charo's case of media saturation, perhaps this was the smartest thing to do?
Full disclosure: My sister ran into Charo in the waiting room of Cedar-Sinai in Los Angeles. They met long ago on the set for some tv show. Like my sister, Charo was visiting a friend in the hospital. My sister said that Charo is super nice, and that she has the smallest butt she's ever seen. How'd her tuches get so small? , I asked. Genetics, she sighed.
Go Charo!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Circle skirt alert. Gotta go, gotta get out, gotta move. Transportation themes for small waists. Railroad theme, marked "Paddington Station" has a blue print feeling with the rendering of the cathedral style vault of the station (or maybe it evokes stained glass with the heavy black outlines framing luminous jewel tones), and a waist of 26 1/2. The covered wagons print below has snow capped mountains and adorable red wheels on the wagons, with a waist of 23", with the possibility of being let out to 24". A tight squeeze.
Normally I don't go for Americana prints (or Americana anything) but the vivid painterly style was just too much to resist.

Monday, October 22, 2007

This fabric is so adorable. I wish the photo was larger and more detailed. Female movie-goers, some with pig tails, some with hats and pocketbooks sit with their ankles crossed waiting for the movie to start as ushers sell popcorn. I love the color combinations, the blue, pink and green hair, along with this complicated repeat pattern that never looks repetative. I love how some of the ladies have kicked off their shoes. I also love what looks like a faux wood-grain squiggles on the backs of the chairs.

This print would work best as a short sleeved blouse with a peter pan collar, or mini dress. Something short, sleeveless and a-line that zips up the front. I can envision a large green plastic circular zipper pull and a smart little collar.

There's only one yard of it though, alas. Now look at this one.

This cute novelty juvenile print manages to combine marionettes with the circus. I love how minimal this print is, how the red half-circles at the bottom are just enough to suggest the backs of chairs for the audience (or perhaps the footlights of the stage?), the simple line drawings of curtains. But there is precious little of this print. It's an apron for you to sew and the instructions are on the fabric itself.

I'd be strongly tempted not to make an apron of it and to retain the instructions on the fabric as part of the print. It would be ideal if there was enough fabric to make a blouse without disrupting the continuity of the instructions and centering the puppets.

In the past I have posted a circus marionette circle skirt, as well as an apron or two. This would be an ideal time to link to myself and remind you, but alas, I still don't know how.

As you well know, I am a sucker for anything circus-themed. After all, these are my people, and though I may sit in a corporate cubicle (not that I post this from work--perish the thought!) I can still feel the sawdust under my feet. Though I love the idea of wearing vintage aprons with pockets, thus achieving a purse-free existence, I cart around too much make-up to give up my bag. Plus the domestic implications of the apron contradict one of the core tenets of my belief system: domesticity is a drag.

Finally, last year I dreamed about fabric with instructions printed on it! Though I wanted Arthur Murray's footprint diagrams to teach dance steps. (Did you know Mr. Murray created the footprint diagrams to teach dance by mail-order? I just love the idea of coming up with interesting solutions to distance learning--as a kid I actually learned to tap dance using a cassette tape course--no visuals at all, only sound! If only I could remember the name of the guy who narrated the tapes.) Or something from the Anarchist Cookbook on how to make explosives. Though that might land you in an orange jumpsuit in Guantanamo.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I love this print. It's somewhere in Australia and still open for bidding. Ocean spray and wispy clouds drifting across a full moon. I love the contrast of the sleeves and the structure of the high waisted bodice. I'd wear it with wide-legged indigo pants and sit outside at my favorite café, sip tea and look at the moon.

However it is virtually impossible to stuff those kimono sleeves into a winter coat. Oh, yeah? Well, then you try it.

See what I mean?
So this is a frock for early autumn or late spring. You could wear a cape over it I suppose.

I found this other marvelously fishy frock, but alas the photos are copyright protected so I can't show you. Just go here. Aqua and mustard starfish, sea anemones and shells all caught in a net are shown on white cotton. Full skirt, and charming cutouts along the shoulders at the back of the dress. It is also in Austrailia. Coincidence?

Look at this other watery beauty. Super small (W 26). You should wear a crinoline with it, just so everyone can see all the glorious details. The waterfall is well drawn, as are the windblown trees. The red flowers dusting the bottom give the whole thing gravitas.
Just last night I was talking about an especially difficult person in my life. My patient listener asked: Why don't you just talk to her? Tell her what you just told me. And I said: She doesn't listen. Talking to her is like talking to a waterfall.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Crazy. Oh yes I am. I'm deep in the throes of a full-scale evening wear emergency.

Or am I? An Evening Wear Red Alert (EWRA) usually means I'm under too much pressure from problems I cannot solve. And so instead, I focus on a problem that I can solve, and apply innordinate and inappropriate amounts of energy to it. I leave no rack unturned. Items are put on hold. Dresses with neuroses of their own are purchased, and tailors are enlisted to fix them. I go in with a needle and thread and tack down every errant sequin into the wee small hours of the morning.

If only I could harness the frantic movements of an EWRA to solve the more serious problems that plague me.

At least I'm grown-up enough to know what I'm actually doing and why. The current EWRA is laughable, such an obvious switcheroo like looking for your keys in the kitchen where the light is better, even though you know you lost them in the living room. I'm EWRAing, but I'm not emotionally invested in it. I'm phoning this one in.

I own, by conservative estimate, about 20 evening gowns. Since I'm often the opening act, I do actually wear them and need to have enough that people aren't always seeing me in the same thing. My closet overflows with evening gowns, mostly vintage and all in varying states of decay. Some ill-fitting, some too small, some too costumey, some just too unforgiving. And I need a dress to forgive me. A lot.

Above is a fantasy of how I'd like to look. I know: dream on, sister. And it's not even a novelty print. Shocking. Too marvelously space age, no? Too understated. I don't think I could step out onto a stage without glitter on me somewhere. Though I love the enormous bobble head effect of the hair piece, or is that a hat?

Instead I will always end up looking like a cross between Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Are You Being Served? And yes, you do know the latter. It's the British sitcom from the 70s set in a department store, or perhaps the lowest pit of hell. The dialogue relied heavily on innuendo and was profoundly unfunny, though it ran for a decade. Reruns seemed to be playing on a constant loop on PBS throughout the 90s. Especially when I was in graduate school (a pit of hell below even the horrors of Are You Being Served?). But Ms. Mollie Sudgen as Mrs. Slocombe was always a delight. She is pictured here with pink hair, though I thought the blue hair suited her better. Ah, the way she rolled her rrrs.

With her is, of course, La Bette, the smoldering inferno that is Bette Davis, triumphant over Joan Crawford, in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. You can see it, can't you? Lurid colors on a broken, aging doll. Alas, that's what I've got to work with. But you ahhr in that chair, Blanche, ya ahhr.

I read recently that both Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Sunset Boulevard (2 of my absolute favorites) were inspired in part by the character of Miss Havisham in Dicken's Great Expectations. Though I read a Dickens novel every winter, I've not yet gotten to this one. I have the eerie feeling that I am Miss Havisham. Without a fortune, or an orphan, or the stopped clocks, or the tattered wedding gown. Oh shit. I've been trawling Salvation Army and Goodwill for a shabby wedding gown for a piece I'm working on. Uh oh. Well, I guess I found a title (and narrative arc) for that piece.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Alfred Shaheen does it again. Doesn't this dress evoke a dirndl? Doesn't the architecture look like a cross between San Francisco and the Adams Family? Austere border print, signed. Created for the Miss K label, a Shaheen subsidiary. I didn't know that Shaheen did anything Gunne Sax-esque, but here it is, and looking more gothic lolita than hippie with age, no? But perhaps that has something to do with my eyes.

It is quite small, and if there is something I've learned, much to my sorrow, Shaheen frocks are cut very close through the hips. This one is very unusual. It would look adorable on you.

It feel thematically related to this Vested Gentress. I like VG's winter dresses, especially since they are more unusual. Something about the windows and the restrained color pallet make it a cousin to the Shaheen frock.

This one is small too, but bids are currently low.

And finally:

Full circle back to the dirndl silhouette with this ensemble. Tiny, and I mean tiny, circle skirt, waist 23, paired with a puffy sleeved blouse trimed in the same print as the skirt. Go get it, you little slip of a thing.

If I were costuming a movie, all these outfits could be worn by the same character.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

They're changing guards at Buckingham Palace. Please someone snag this beefeater frock, it's a lovely medium type size. One that would even fit a stuffed Samsara. But it's gone in a mere 5 hours, so hurry.
I love the colors on this one. I love that it utterly avoids the Union Jack color scheme that most Britaniana wallows in. I like the tongue sticking out of the lion's mouth, the borders between the guards and the castle and the royal crested silver buttons.
Wear it to watch The Queen. Now normally I don't go in for monarchist stuff, being somewhat of a commie pinko and all, but oh how I love Helen Mirren. And oh how she deserves all the accolades for this one.
Have you seen the Istanbul novelty print of my dreams?
I am desperate to go to Istanbul. I want to visit the Blue Mosque, haggle over a carpet and maybe even an oud that I could tune like a ukulele. Maybe I could even take oud lessons. I want to stare wistfully out at the Bosphorus while sipping tea, puffing a nargileh and discover the language of Turkish moustaches. (That might sound racy, but it isn't. I have it on great authority that Turkish moustaches are a serious business: certain moustache stylings are worn only by communists, others by musicians. Really, a whole semiotics of moustaches.) I want to hear the calls to prayer from the minarets of all the different neighborhoods. Backgammon and coffee and arabesk. And of course, any rallies I can attend in support of Leyla Zana, Kurdish rights activist, political prisoner and former member of parliament.
Then in the evening, after a lovely shvitz at the hamam, I want to traipse out to tango clubs. Yes, Virginia, there is a huge tango scene in Istanbul. I'd love to go for the tango festival in November. Then, once I've gotten my fill of city living, I want to head off to a little village by the Aegean, study belly dance and shake it-shake it-shake it to live music. 10 days total. Maybe 12. Is that too much to ask?
I've always thought that there should be a special rescue league for the brokenhearted. A helicopter would come roaring up above you and a ladder would drop down. You'd climb up the ladder and be whisked away somewhere. It almost doesn't matter where. A suitcase with all necessities provided. And somewhere out of my rut I could sit by the sea and listen to the cadence of a language I don't know.
I've got the wander lust real bad and there's not a goddamn thing I can do about it. No goslings, really, there isn't. I am flat broke. Poorer than I've been for ages. Poor like I haven't paid rent yet this month. Poorer than I've been since, well, this time last year.
Have I gone on a vacation of any sort? Alas, no.
Have I run amok at Barney's? I've never done that, retail isn't one of my vices.
I haven't even had a lavish meal, or gotten a little greedy at the Salvation Army. I even worked my ass off at a second job all winter. So what happened? I got sick, that's what. And I even have health insurance.
The U.S. is a crap country.
Won't someone with an E.U. passport marry me? I would also cheerfully emigrate to Cuba. Do you live somewhere with universal health care? Drop me a line. I'll start packing now. I'll reduce it all to 2 suitcases filled with one the best novelty prints and sit out on my front stoop and wait. And wait. And wait.

Maybe by then Turkey will have improved its Human Rights record and gotten into the E.U.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Another one that got away. I can't remember why I didn't post this one in time. Perhaps I wasn't sure if it is really vintage. I suspect it's not. These are not 80s-style sunglasses, but 70s. Plus it's just not a color scheme from the 80s, the yellow and blue are much too subtle. I think it's a Vivienne Tam print. There was another dress last week that was actually 80s with large florescent yellow sunglasses on it, but I somehow forgot to copy the photos. Comparing the two, it's easy to see that this one is a much more recent print.

I know, I know, amnesia is a poor plot device.

Update: I've found the link to this one. It's still available for a whopping $149.95.