Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Photo print with erupting volcanos. Explosive halter dress (I couldn't resist) with tropical scenes. Flowers, lava, sailboats on lightweight polyester with a deep plunge in the back. I love the panel in the front of the bodice. Perfect for a summer afternoon into the evening.

Bidding ends in mere hours. If I could, I'd get this one and wear it with a white shawl, and lots of white plastic jewelry. If I had 30s bakelite bracelets in blue, I'd do that too. I'd wear this dress to sip white wine with friends at one of those free NY Philharmonic performances in Central Park. It could even go to the Opera or the Ballet with different accessories.

Maybe if I wore this dress I'd find a friend with a boat. Not one of those dinky things where you fear for your life the whole time, no. A boat with a crew of its own so you can just sit there and stare off into the sunset with out hoisting sails and fumbling with things you know nothing about. See what I mean, there's just something preppy about this Hawaiian dress. It would look good with navy topsiders, or espadrilles. You could even tie a sweater around your shoulders cause it gets chilly on a boat.

I really love photo prints. Here are a few from The One That Got Away file:

Jaunty, nice and fun, right? I love the ladies on the hoodie and the castles on the poncho.

But here is the real show stopper. This could have been one for the Polyester Museum of Fine Art. Most photo prints just slap images together without any thought. But now and again, someone gives the photo print it's due, choosing and assembling images with care and insight. Finding images that vibrate against each other, yet are still complementary. Here the roses are collaged into a garden, their colors matching and almost camouflaging the artwork. This one makes me kvell.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

I've been tagged by the charming Ms. Pratishtha Durga over at Shot Couture Street Fashion. I've never been tagged before and I like it.

Here's the tag:
"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now, shaping your summer. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they're listening to."

Here goes:

1. "Besame Mucho" as interpreted by Professor Alvarado.
2. "Light My Fire" as interpreted by Dame Shirley Bassey.
3. "Haram te'habek" by Warda.
4. "In a Bar on the Piccola Marina" by Noel Coward.
5. "The Triplets of Belleville" title song from the soundtrack.
6. "I Love to Whistle" as interpreted by Deanna Durbin.
7. "Tout va tres bien, Madame La Marquise". one version by Ray Ventura et ses Collégiens, and yet another (even better one) in Russian.

Section 3, in which I explain myself unnecessarily and at great length.

1. "Besame Mucho" As interpreted by Professor Alvarado.

You can see the Professor in action here. 77 years young, this dashing Ecuadorian-born musician plays a Yamaha keyboard in the subway stations, often accompanied by a cavalcade of battery-operated dolls. (Yes, the photo is nabbed from the Village Voice article.) And whenever I see him, he's always playing my favorite song: Girl From Ipanema. He's got oodles of stage presence. He grins and waves when you look his way. And his eyes are filled with delight. If I see him on my way to work, I know it's gonna be a good day.

I bought his cd as part of a project I'm doing called Busker's Ball. If I like a street musician, I buy his or her cd. The intention was to review them here, as a regular thing. But for one reason or another I never got around to it. A big thank you to Ms. Pratishtha for being the catlyst here.

Professor Alvarado's cd, ambitiously entitled "International Music: Volume One", includes many of my favorite standard songs from around the world such as "Muñequita Linda", "Óchi chórnyje", and "Brazil". And, I ask you, what International cd would be complete without a Jewish song? "Hava Negila" is there with plenty of bounce just waiting for a wedding party to dance the hora. The Professor's keyboard technique includes lovely enbellishments. His keyboard is now a trumpet, now a glockenspiel. He makes choices, and they are bountiful, loungy, loopy, 60s movie soundtrack choices. Yes, the pre-fab beats on the Yamaha are shmaltzy, but that's the way I like it. I can't help but sway and sing along.

The liner notes of the cd state that the professor teaches piano, voice and accordion, along with his contact info. I can't resist. I may have found my guru.

2. "Light My Fire" as interpreted by Dame Shirley Bassey

Yes, it's a Jim Morrison song with lots of caterwalling, but Dame Shirley Bassey (of "Goldfinger" fame) takes it downtempo and throaty. Purring more than demanding. I love the dame's ennunciation and phrasing.

I was dismayed to hear that Ms. Bassey had to cancel a recent appearance at Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday concert due to health reasons. I hope she gets well real soon.

Full disclosure: I met her once. She was super sweet and fun. I totally heart her.

Did you notice that she's wearing the Welsh Flag in this photo?

3. "Haram te'habek" by Warda

Just drink in this lovely vintage photo of Warda al-Jazairia.

Brocade dress, bright eyes, half smile, coral-orange lips. Yes and yes.

Long ago in my early late 20s, I did a bit of belly dancing. I wasn't terrible, but my life took a different path. At any rate, CDs from that lost era persist. Akhenaten, my young paramour, dug them out and put them in high rotation again. This song is particularly fun. I know I've bungled the transliteration, but it means: it was immoral to have loved you.

4. "In a Bar on the Piccola Marina" written and interpreted by Noel Coward.

I just got Noel Coward at Las Vegas from the library, and it is all I hoped. Recorded live in 1955 to an appreciative crowd, this song is hilarious. His lyrics are like short stories. He even does a jaunty cover of Cole Porter's "Let's Do It".

5. "The Triplets of Belleville".

Soundtrack from the 2003 animated film. (I am a sucker for movies virtually without dialogue.)The title track sung by Mathieu Chedid.

But the whole thing is great. Django Reinhardt and 60s spy movie music references. I mean, there's even a song created with a newspaper, a vacuum cleaner and a refrigerator, who could resist? This is always on high rotation for me.

6. "I Love to Whistle" as interpreted by Deanna Durbin.

Yep, recently referenced in my Deanna Durbin worship. This song, from Mad About Music, is stuck in my head like you wouldn't believe. I even found the sheet music, scored for a ukulele no less. I almost plotzed. I hope to be strumming my uke and singing this one at an open mic soon.

7. "Tout va bien, Madame La Marquise"

A real novelty tune, and sadly, the story of my life. Lyrics, here and here.

The Marquise calls her country estate after an absence of two weeks to see how things are going. Her loyal retainers, one after another, tell her that all is well except for one tiny, little problem. First one of her horses died, then the stables burned down, then chateau was engulfed in flames, etc., escalating into total ruination. I love how in Ray Ventura's version, the part of the Marquise is sung by a man in falsetto.

But the Russian version, oh the Russian version. The subtitles include such lines as "We roasted potatoes in the flames" and my favorite, "May all your creditors be tall and handsome." This is it!

If I could watch this twice a day, I wouldn't need therapy. Watch the guy in the back who doesn't sing.

Is this song from the 1966 musical "Kavkaskaya Plenniza"? The video looks more 70s to me. Have I been led astray by the interweb?

Hey there, I'm tagging you...

1) Ms. Tea Time
2) Ms. FuzzyLizzie
3) Ms. Gastrogradstudent
4) Spartacus
5) EV Big
6) Ms. SequinExpat
7) Ms. Rita Z

And all others who might read this. What are you listening to?

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Renaissance or Roman? The ebayer lists this dress as a Roman frock, and the colonades are certainly Romanesque, but the caps on the figures, along with the hunting dog, scream Renaissance to me.

What do you think?

I'd wear it to watch I, Claudius, anyway. I am now 6 episodes in, and I adore Sian Phillips as the poisonous Livia. Ms. Phillips has this gaunt, stark, wilted beauty that always looks queenly. I hope to see all of Ms. Phillip's oeuvre. Under Milk Wood, anyone? Though alas a quick search shows that her scene from Dune ended up on the cutting room floor. I would have loved to have seen that.

This dress is a gem, nonetheless. Go on, go get it.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Tilting at windmills?

Inspired by the divine Diana Vreeland, I often spend slow afternoons trying to think up new "Why don't you...?" ideas. It's not as easy as it looks.

I just found out recently that Ms. Vreeland's Whydon'tyous have been collected in a lovely book, but alas I've never gotten my sweaty hands on it.

Why don't you...become obsessed with Don Quixote?

I mean look at all this stuff. Picasso and Dali, of course, but the mod woodcut and painting are my favorites. Of course you could branch out into sculptures. Then there are movies, a ballet and even an opera. Lectures at your local Cervantes Institute. It would actually be funnier if you somehow never got around to reading the book. That's the true philistine spirit. And friends and family would know what to shop for when birthdays roll around. Cervantes isn't my favorite, but there just weren't as many merchandizing opportunities with Proust.

Some whydon'tyous are just for laughs, but I tend to act on them too. With mixed results. I have not yet achieved a "Russian Winter!" of borscht, vodka, ice skating, babushkas, Tolstoy, furs and lessons with a chess master. (I guess there's always next year.) But I've showed some real stick-to-it-ness with the ukulele (and accepted that the musical saw and the theramin are beyond my meager skill set). Sadly, I only took 2 fencing lessons (and it's a crime too, since there is a world class fencing club right around the corner from my house, and everyone there was so nice), really got to work on that. Freemasonry was a bust, as you know. (Mom sent me this article on young freemasons in Los Angeles, but as with many things, it's the dudes who are having all the fun.)

But some worked out. I developed an alter-ego (she's an 83 year old lounge singer named Ruby Khan). I also became an opera snob, turned my living room into a faux forest, and devoted myself, body and soul, to the wearing of the most eye-scalding vintage novelty patterns.

Do these sound too much like run of the mill New Year's Resolutions? I told you it was not easy.

Why don't you...change your name to something even more difficult to spell and pronounce?

Why don't Basque, Kurdish, Yiddish or some other minority language?

Why don't you...decide that all your shoes must be green lizard skin? Or wear spats? Or Japanese tabi socks with all your flip flops?

I love the idea of a signature item. It could be something as non-controversial as a color pallet. I have a friend who travels for business alot and only wears shades of red. I have another friend who only wears black, white, beige and brown.

The thing with consistency is that anything outré will become normal through repetition. Really. You just have to wear it everyday. The first time you wear a flower behind your ear (or a bustle, or a bathrobe as a coat) to work, you'll get a stare or two. After a few months, they are shocked if you aren't wearing it. This has been road tested by me. (Caveat: I had a job with a dress code once. The manual said: business wear or evening attire. I didn't have a suit, so I wore these 80's prom dresses I got for a buck a piece at a swap meet. Fluffy, pink, fuschia, tulle, big shoulders, fabric roses. And this was back in the 90s when everyone wore all black. I thought it was hilarious. I'm still cracking up now. But they so totally fired me.)

Why don't you...volunteer at a charity you believe in (but don't tell anyone that you are doing so)?

Why don't your pennies to buy a big ticket item from a local artist you admire?

Why don't you...cover the walls of your hallway with thrift shop paintings of eyes?

Why don't you...?

Come on, I know you've got better ones.


Comrades, what could be more fun than to check your false eyelashes (and false consciousness) in the mirror of your communist compact? To stare into your own eyes and ask what you've done for the revolution today?

I've long had a yen for a novelty compact. A real show stopper. I've been collecting these images for a while, so forgive me if most have sold already. The bejeweled seahorse fetched a pretty penny, but the leather guitar sold for a whopping $270, and with a broken mirror no less. The 8 ball is an unusal piece, but sold for a comparatively reasonable price. While the hand was more economical. The cookie is doubtless the most whimsical, and the one I probably would have chosen, had it been all I hoped. But alas it is not a proper compact with a mirror, but rather merely a container for lip gloss. The rotary dial phone compact is a spendy one (and long gone).

I've got a beautiful, though rather plain, 50s compact which I don't carry for the simple reason that it is too heavy. If I were to tumble into the East River with it in my pocket, I'd drown for sure. Though should my life turn into an Agatha Christie novel, I could use it to brain someone. ("The countess tried to bludgeon me to death with her gold cigarette case, Monsieur Poirot, I was forced to fend her off with my powder box.")

This blog began as an attempt to curb my compulsive shopping. Full Disclosure: I own about 90 vintage dresses. (This includes the Polyester Museum of Fine Art, my collection of polyester dresses with photo-prints of Japanese screens, Indian miniatures, 19th century etchings and old masters. It does not include evening wear. Or costumes. Or separates: like novelty circle skirts or garishly bejeweled sweaters. Then there are the 200 or so scarves. I could go on.) Admittedly, many of these frocks cost as little as two dollars, so my vice has not bankrupted me. But I am not unaware that this is entirely too much. And I have run out of space in my tiny apartment. I can't fit another freaking thing in there.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive to regularly comb ebay for novelty delights and collect pictures of them, kind of like a recovered alcoholic hanging out in bars, but stay with me. Posting photos and writing about them can often satiate my somewhat outsized need. And it is almost as exciting. When I find a really thrilling print, my heart leaps. It's like falling in love. When I found a 1960's blouse printed with enormous anthropomorhized blue chess pieces, my heart rate went up, my hands shook and I broke out in a sweat. I blushed, I stammered. I negotiated the sale through the crack of the door since the shop was closing. Okay, maybe that sounds more like heroin addiction than love to you, but it works for me. I get almost as much of a bang out of knowing these things exist and looking at pictures of them. Truly. I'm not just shining it on for you. And it's certainly better to share them with others than to hoard them.

Though one could argue with hundreds of novelty print items at my disposal daily, I could get high on my own supply for a year or two. I've tried.

Why am I like this?

I could take the socio-economic tack and write about the overwhelming commercialization of modern life, but you already know about all that.

I could take the Freudian route and tell you that my father is a compulsive gambler and my mother is a compulsive thrift shopper. Not many 8 year olds could read the racing form or explain to you that her vintage 1950's brownie's uniform was only a buck at the local charity shop, but there I was.

The thrill of your horse coming out from behind and taking the lead, or of finding the only cashmere sweater at a Goodwill (and it fits perfectly), these, I learned, were life's greatest delights. Since I tend to lose big time at the track, I focused on the latter.


Friday, June 13, 2008

I am a sucker for anything aquatic. And this dress does it all. Shells and seaweed (or is that coral?), and aqua background, and a draped front split at the feet to trail behind you like tendrils. A hostess with the mostest dress for sure.

Too long on me, alas. The ebayer says the lot of dresses she has available are all from the same owner. She was a party girl because there's a whole stable of hostess dresses available with Hawaiian motifs, eye-scalding patterns, and beautiful faux Grecian drapery. Whoever the previous owner was, I'm sure she was lots of fun. Probably smoked cigarettes with a holder and called everyone darling, mostly because she was better at faces than names. I imagine her hobbies like scuba-diving, esperanto and blackjack. Maybe she liked to get her hands dirty at a pottery wheel, or play the harpsicord, something to surprize the neighbors. She had an analyst, of course, along with an astrologer and a psychic to help her make the really difficult decisions like whether or not to do over her boudoir in red silk. But she'd quote Schopenhauer or Mao in casual conversations so you knew she wasn't all icing and no cake. She was quick with a joke or a valium when you were feeling down. You could always stop by the back door of her avocado-colored kitchen and coffee klastch for hours. And she threw theme parties with cheese fondue and flambéed hors d'oeuvres. I imaigne she probably had a philandering husband but didn't care since she was too busy with love affairs of her own, darling.

And everyone was always talking about her. That Mrs. So-and-So, they'd say, you just never know what she will do. Maybe all my ideas about her were just the rumors they created. Maybe she was shy and pliant, uncompromising only in her love for eye-catching evening wear. But somehow I think she had to be as fun as her clothes.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Luscious late '50s silk trompe l'oeil dress. The turquoise and royal blue really pop my rockets. Scarves woven into a loose basket weave, printed on silk, complete with tassels. And just to be cheeky, it looks like the belt is the real-life version of what is printed on the dress. Ah, what details.

This dress would look gorgeous on you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gloriously trippy 70s cheongsam. One could argue that a cheongsam should have a more snug fit, but I like that it's a bit loose this lovely model. And it would be a shame to interrupt the pattern with more darts. I like that the model's make-up and accessories have been kept simple (not that I can do that, I feel naked without pounds of costume jewelry), and her hair elegantly pulled back (again, listen to what I saw, not what I do). I have never seen a pattern this fun. The trains look copied from lithographs, and the mountains (or is that de-constructed smoke?) vibrate as they are made up of dots (or are those dashes?).

Wong Kar-Wai's film In the Mood for Love has some thrillingly mid-century patterned cheongsams on the gorgeous Maggie Chung (and they are tailored to fit her with great exactitude). The clothes are splendid here, lots of eye candy.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

This dress made my heart beat faster. At first I thought it couldn't possibly be as wondrous as it is. But it is. Oh and how it is.

And it has pockets.

But it belongs to someone else now. I should have posted this last week. Please forgive my tardiness, I was hideously fatigued between working, stage managing and running tech for a friend's show, and the old ennui. But the photos are lovely nonetheless, no?

The seller says this is Chinese, but I'm convinced it's Japanese. It reminds me of the haiga, Japanese brush work paintings that incorporate haiku. But I actually can't read a word in either language, so I don't really know what I'm talking about. Perhaps one of you out there can say for sure? Perhaps one of you even knows what this says.

I love how the writing almost obsessively covers most of top of the dress. This is a cheesy reference, but it reminds me of Peter Greenway's The Pillowbook. But in a good way. The brushstrokes on the figures of the monks along the border are terrific as well. I think this dress is a bit long. And it would be a crime to lose any of the print and shorten it. A crime.

This is one of those thrilling Hawaiian dress moments, when Hawaiian meets Asiana.

I deplore t-shirts with vulgar slogans written across the bosom. (Why invite more ogling? And why are kids today so crass?) But I do love dresses with prints that incorporate writing, though preferably in language other than English. Probably because I am an incorrigible snob, dead languages are ideal. A dress printed with lounging Aeolic ladies, laurel wreaths and some fragments of Sappho's poetry would provoke more interesting discussions than a t-shirt that says "porn star". At least one would hope. I've got a 70's Leslie Fay dress printed with poppies and mushrooms with their Latin names in flowing script beside them. And yes, amanita muscaria is among them, which has incited some interesting conversations with total strangers on the subway. I have many scarves and dresses with Egyptian hieroglyphics, but unfortunately I've never run into anyone who could read them. Presumably they are not quite right anyway. Of course textile designers often include languages they do not know as a design element, making it unreadable or just plain wrong. Apparently, a number of Alfred Shaheen's 1960s frocks with Arabic embelishments have the text upsidedown. I have an adorable late 60's circle skirt with silhouettes of men in top hats and a backwards inscription in Japanese. Whenever I wear it I am besieged by Japanese speakers eager to tell me so. Fortunately I find that charming.

That's one of the reasons it took so long for Europeans to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics. I kid you not. The Description of Egypt, a profoundly colonialist work created by Napoleon's crew of artists to show the monuments of ancient Egypt, is riddled with inaccuracies. The draughtsmen took liberties with the text they found on the buildings, changing it to look better and fit the page, rather the copying it as they saw it. And created a lot of headaches for Egyptologists who used their drawing in an attempt to understand the writings. Of course that was all cleared up with the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone in 1822.

I've also been in the middle of a full-scale EWRA, that is, an Evening Wear Red Alert. Spartacus is taking me to a fancy dress affair tonight. Our mission is to find a rich husband for him, and get ourselves photographed for the society pages of some glossy periodical. And we plan to accomplish this simply by dressing outlandishly and having sharp, pert, sparkling things to say. Our audacity won't save the world. No, indeed. It ain't gonna change the price of corn. But Spartacus could get a date or two out of this. And as my mother always said: it's just as easy to love a rich man as it is to love a poor man. Me, I'm a lost cause. I find penniless persons with visa problems the most alluring. But Spartacus is young, handsome and more open-minded.

Dear Spartacus has said taking me as his date to a party is like wearing a glorious headdress. Now some men have beards, but others have headdresses. But alas, these days I'm feeling more like a threadbare old house dress that should be cut up and used for cleaning rags. Plus we're in the middle of a serious heatwave on an evening that might include thunder showers and hail. Even Spartacus, ever-ready with a crisp mod suit, is perplexed on how to proceed. We are thinking festive, rather than formal. Of course, this is a very fun problem to have.

I recently stumbled upon a cornucopia of marvelously turned-out lads at Dandyism. Lively discussions of pocket squares and spectators are taking place over there. Some are even sporting ascots, and waxed handlebar moustaches. Hooray and huzzah.

Though I have long felt a kinship with dandies, in the end my commie politics intrude. Dandyism grew out of nostalgia for the deposed aristocracies of Europe. But ironically, it's greatest adherents were not the deposed aristocrats themselves, but the nouveau riches. Oscar Wilde was not a member of the class he satirized. Nor satyrized for that matter. (Sorry couldn't resist.) A certain amount of dandyism is tainted with nostalgia for a past that was frankly no good for most of the folks on the planet. But I think our comrades in French cuffs writing for Dandyism's Junta are exploring these issues in a nuanced way.

I enjoyed the recent 3 part profile of Lucius Beebe, writer, wit and peacock.

The date on this post is deceptive. It's actually June 10th.