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.


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