Monday, October 27, 2008

Trompe l'oeil skirt. Unsold, but not on ebay at the moment. This one was both too small and too rich for me. But this print is truly swoon-worthy. The faux bois background is very convincing, almost as if the skirt were cobbled together out of cupboard doors. The gold locks and keys are sumptuous and mirrored in the brass of the trumpet horn (or is that a coronet? I never know), the sheet music and the bright grain of the violin. The bow appears suspended. The cracked book spines are also expertly rendered.

Sadly, I do not own a trompe l'oeil anything. Not so much as a novelty rain poncho with realistic drops on it.

If you could have any trompe l'oeil item imaginable, what would it be?

I tracked down the original painting that inspired this print. It was easy in this case, only about 5 minutes of searching pulled up this painting called "Old Models" by 19th Century, Irish-American painter William Michael Harnett:

The green chipped wood really gives a sharper line to all the objects shown here, while on the skirt there is the danger of everything sinking into the woody pulp. Mr. Harnett was among a passel of American artists working the trompe l'oeil circut. Their work was more likely to hang in an industrialist's billard room than a museum. Mr. Harnett's work was the more abstract of his set, prefiguring the assemblages of Robert Rauschenberg. One piece, "The Golden Horsehoe" showed only the horseshoe of the title nailed to a wall. Trompe l'oeil painters often included greenbacks in their tableaux, which brought Uncle Sam and the Treasury Department to their studios. The Treasury Department doesn't like it when you make a copy of paper money, not even in a painting. Trompe l' oeil artist John Haberle's visit from Secret Service about a hundred years before money artist JSG Boggs was charged with counterfeiting.

Although I usually spurn the novelty t-shirt (since they are usually smeared with vulgarity and to paraphrase Blanche Dubois: I cannot bear a naked light bulb or a vulgar novelty print), I couldn't resist showing this Paul Frank trompe l'oeil shirt here. You can't help but smile at this men's novelty t-shirt. And at the wearer's impish grin.

I saw this over a year ago, but I remembered this t shirt with an African-American baby. I could have sworn that on the Paul Frank site there were babies of every ethnicity to choose from. But afer exhaustive searches (truly, I found the source painting for the shirt much more easily), I couldn't find the other babies anywhere. I fear it might have just been wishful thinking on my part.

Yes, this photo is from The Sartorialist. Mr. Sartorialist seems like a super sweet guy, and though I think his men's wear ideas and photos are perfect, fun and even ground-breaking, I don't like his women's wear choices, pas de tout. The ladies, though undeniably beautiful and beautifully photographed, are mostly model types, making safe clothing choices and wearing very ouchy-looking high heels. I mean, a girl's gotta walk in this town. Now and again he posts a photo of a gorgeous older woman, and those I relish.

Friday, October 24, 2008

With apologies to the lovely Ms. Pratishtha Durga, who's weathering temperatures in the mid-90s in Mumbai and would like a crisp autumn day; it is freezing here in New York. Unseasonably so. I'm shivering, drinking hot cocoa and thinking seriously about cold weather novelty.

Now I appreciate a light, glittery snow on Chanukah, and while it's fun to layer up, and even dig out the furs and pretend I'm an extra in Doctor Zhivago for a month or two, come January I am majorly sick of winter. And filled with dread about soldiering on through 3 more months. In mid-winter the subways are plastered with ads for getaways to Tahiti. Huge photos of white sand beaches and relentlessly sunny skies loom over the commuter landscape of florescent lights and wet wool. And I think: why must Tahiti mock me like this? I need winter novelty just to cheer me up. And I start with a scarf.

Sinuous ink and plump fountain pen nibs. Just click on the photo to see it larger. Aqua and purple are absolutely one of my favorite color combinations, and adding the black and white illustration, it's very evocative of the mid to late '70s. Charming black and white fountain pens and quills, some dripping purple ink, arranged unsheathed and ready like swords. A genie bottle of ink spills, missing the ink well entirely and leaving the ends of the scarf awash in purple. Not silk (silky acetate), but I'd be willing to forgo good fabric for this print. Not inexpensive, but worth it. It's for sale here. The pattern repeats at both ends of this enormous scarf (13" by 56"! My evening gowns are only 51" long from shoulder to floor, this scarf is practically as long as I am tall.) so no matter how you tie it, everyone can still see the print.

That's the real issue with scarves. Now I love scarves. I am devoted to them. I am usually wearing at least one. Sometimes a scarf and a shawl (even though that might sound like wearing a belt and suspenders, I can assure you it's not). But they can end up being for private viewing in the confines of my closet. I have so many thrilling scarves, but once they are tied around my neck you really can't see the print. You can't see the bluebirds in autumnal trees. Nor the Victorian men in top hats in row boats. Nor the entire Egyptian Book of the Dead. Nor that there's the galleon on fire surrounded by buoys, compasses, fishnets filled with starfish, telescopes, lobsters, sextants, the pole star, and symbols for the entire zodiac. (Yes, those are actual scarves I have. Although I did exaggerate a bit with the Book of the Dead, it's really an excerpt, but wouldn't the whole thing be amazing? A scarf with the entire text would need to be about the size of a sarong though. Then, I'd want another scarf with the entire Tibetan Book of the Dead for good measure, and maybe another printed with the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, and one with the entire text of the Geneva Convention, just in case I end up a prisoner of war. Then maybe a survival scarf: one printed with instructions on how to build a fire and send smoke signals, just in case I survive a plane crash on an ice covered mountain top. An ounce of prevention, as they say.)

I know the print is there, tied around my neck, peeking out of the folds of fabric. I suppose I could feel smug about it, but instead I'm constantly untying the whole shebang to show people whose eyes glaze over with disinterest. I guess I'm the only one who wants to see it.

Now and again I see Vera's scarf tying book on eBay, perhaps I should invest (and I am devoted to Vera scarves and prints). I seem to remember the title as something like: 52 ways to tie a scarf. (But perhaps I am thinking of Wallace Steven's 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird? Or perhaps one of Sondheim's list songs. I generally have a mixture of Wallace Stevens and Stephen Sondheim on the brain.) Though I know quite a few knots (did spend some time in France, after all), I found this website truly helpful. Yes, it's Brooks Brothers' website. Shocking, I know. But check out the lovely nautical, equestrian, and fishy novelty print scarves our preppy model is tying about her throat. (The prep aesthetic can yield some great novelty prints, the secret is to pair them with psychedelic prints in similar color ways, then they really pop.)

Here is another beauty available from the same seller. This one in silk.

I have been longing for a book print forever and this one would fulfill a lot of my needs. Any mix of red, powder blue, mint and goldenrod is bound to pop my rockets. I love that the placement of the books is not uniformly vertical. I also love the objects that are displayed on the shelves: the small clocks, sturdy jugs (or are those trophies?) and delftware. I'd wear this one with tweed and wellingtons.

If I could make all my dreams come true, I'd have several library dresses, and the books' spines would be legible. I'd have one dress with books in Latin, Greek and Arabic. I'd wear that one with this book scarf as a cravat, a tweed blazer and a pocket square with a photo print of the Rosetta Stone. I'd have another library dress with favorite feminist authors. You'd see bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and Judith Butler on those spines. And I'd have a magazine clutch purse. But instead of some faux fashion magazine, it would be a vintage cover of Ms. Magazine, or Mother Jones or ... some other magazine created entirely from my imagination(hey, maybe I could arts and crafts one of those with a little paste and patience).

Then Marxist-Leninist library dress, in Russian, would be hilariously retro, paired with a Soviet chess master tournament lapel pin. Then a Magical Realism dress: a 70's style polyster shirt dress with a photo print of bookshelves with Gabriel Garcia Marques, Alejo Carpentier, and Mario Vargas Llosa's novels collaged with huge brilliantly colored butterflies. A Proust dress: photo print of a few pages Proust's orginal handwritten manuscript, also on a polyster shirt dress and a cravatte printed with Madeleines.

Whoah. I just went to some magical place there.

Much more economical, though equally gleeful, is this Leslie Faye scarf. Leslie Faye has some terrific 70s prints. I have a couple of Leslie Faye dresses that I adore. It is truly an under-appreciated label.

And here are a few museum scarf goodies. I am a sucker for a museum scarf. Go here to see a beautiful Chinese opera scarf from the Museum of Shanghai. All silk, and a mere $12.99. The images are copyrighted or I would show them to you, of course.

This Christo scarf, showing Christo and Jean-Claude's designs for The Gates in 2005 has sold, alas. But the designs and the traffic-cone orange curtains caught in the breeze would make such a great winter scarf. Christo and Jean-Claude know just how dreary New York is in February and The Gates sure cheered me up that winter.

This Egyptian scarf has sold as well. And it was also made by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Lovely, yes, but I often wish that whoever decides which museum pieces would look good on scarves didn't always make such safe choices. Why not a scarf of Picasso's "Guernica"? Any of Anna Mendieta's works? Banksky? True, the folks with the wampum to shell out for silk scarves usually aren't fans of Ms. Mendieta nor the elusive stencil artist. But with a scarf tied around your neck and the pattern mostly-obscured, wouldn't some rich folks relish the subversion of it all? After all, Spartacus and I were at a MOMA benefit where M.I.A. performed "Paper Planes" and I have an indelible image of white dudes in tuxedos singing along.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm special. So special. This acrylic novelty embroidered sweater didn't immediately make me think of Chrissie Hynde, I had to let it percolate for a while.

Just look at these cheerful little sheep. Can't get enough of their splayed back legs and the purple bows around their necks. The two sheep separated from the flock on the back of the sweater are a nice touch. I posted a black sheep skirt about 6 months ago, well this sweater is its cousin. The text on the arm featuring a cameo of the black sheep is just gravy as far as I'm concerned. Hilarious. Though I would expect a sarcastic remark or two when wearing it.

I'd wear this sweater to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and read Haruki Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase. (Or anything by Murakami for that matter, that man has sheep on the brain.)

I'm always on the hunt for good winter novelty. The novelty print does seem to belong to spring and summer, all parasols and picnics, parceling out only a few orange leaf prints for fall and the dreaded reindeer sweaters for winter. Perhaps most novelty looks like too much forced gaiety when faced with February sleet, while in the summer it looks downright jaunty.

This one cracks me up. Or rather, first I laughed, then I was in awe. Notice the pocket where a marsupial would have a pouch. Just big enough for lipstick and keys, how precious is that? I love the 80's illustration style on this oversized wool sweater, along with a block of red on the shoulder. I'd forgotten that peach, white, brown and red was an 80's color combo. The kangaroo's little crooked paws and big feet are terrific details. I also like how she's looking over her shoulder at another kangaroo off in the distance. It gives the whole thing depth.

Doesn't this one look like a Tsumori Chisato design? But it's bona fide vintage, goslings. Only you beneath the moon and under the sun. And who can resist a Cole Porter themed novelty sweater. I love the combination of brown and white, the drowsy moon and contented owl and sun. I like the way this sweater is divided up and the smaller stars creating a sense of space. It's still open for bidding.

Again the details on the back push this into ferocious cuteness. The two clouds adrift there during the day and a smattering of stars at night. But again the text is what really makes this one pop.

I'd be tempted to express myself solely with Cole Porter lyrics while wearing this one. In the roaring traffic's boom, in the silence of my lonely room.

What's your favorite Cole Porter tune? How would it work as a sweater? Could a Kiss Me, Kate sweater be possible, with "Always True to You in my Fashion" on the sleeve? Or perhaps something more obscure. I love the more saucy and risqué Cole Porter tunes immortalized by Bobby Short at the Carlyle Cafe.

And last, an Escada offering in cashmere, high end novelty long ago sold, alas. Penguins are perhaps the ultimate winter novelty since they evoke cold weather but avoid referencing winter holidays.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Glorious anthropomorphic chess print blouse. Sized large. Brilliant late 50s (possibly early 60s) chess themed novelty. I just love how the checkerboard is there grounding the pieces and optically rendered in space, transforming the board into harlequin moments. I love the king's waxed mustache and the queen's primly pursed lips. The smug bishop, and Gaudi inspired rooks capped with tents flying flags and the knight's gritty horses seemingly missing a layer of skin: all are irresistible. The use of color is truly expert. Though the whole rainbow is marshaled here, colors that aggravate each other are kept far enough apart.

I want this bad. I want this with a greedy and irrational desire. But the truth of the matter is that I have about 4 times more clothing than I need and I've already got a chess piece blouse. Not quite as trippy as this one, perhaps, but close enough, certainly. And here's the proof.

The tendrils and the leaves are truly distracting from the chess pieces on my blouse. This is true and I must face it. Until you see the horse-faced knight and the flag flying on the rook, it's not entirely clear this is a chess print. The blue and lavender used throughout also turns the volume way down (while the multi-colored chess print above definitely turns the volume way up). No one seems to notice the chess pieces except me. And alas, this blouse doesn't really fit me well, and it is made of some tough unbreathable rayon so it is in low rotation. And I paid far too much for it. But from the instant I saw it on a mannequin in the window of a somewhat spendy vintage shop, well, it was love.

I love the pouting bishop who can't look anyone in the eyes. I love the feminine and almost indistinguishable King and Queen. The slightly open-mouthed knight and the rotund rook. I love the cross hatching and scribbling on the leaves.

I hope these photos are viewable. I must apologize. Photographing fabric in a cluttered apartment that gets zero natural light is a challenge. But I am hoping to take some decent photos of my entire Polyester Museum of Art collection and post them here little by little. I'd like to document some of the more interesting prints that I have, and cut down on this depraved concupiscence of mine for more (and more!) novelty prints. Sometimes looking at gorgeous, unusual prints is just too tempting.

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