Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lynn Yaeger, chez elle, delighting in her eBay finds.

The glorious Ms. Yaeger will be interviewing collectors of obscure antiquarian stuffs in the weeks to come. But this article shows her own growing collection of becassine dolls, reindeer sweaters, and Victorian baby pins. More photos can be found here, in what is apparently an on-line magazine for ebay.

More Lynn Yaeger goodness can be found here, in an article by Meredith Barnett.

I love the reindeer sweaters. Doll-like and practical at the same time. And she makes that mink work too. I love how elements from different eras and sources are all pulled into her orbit and rendered unmistakably 20s, cartoonish and childlike. It's as if that's just the way gravity works on her planet.

The Inside Source evidently has the eBay finds and obsessions of famous people as well. Padma Lakshmi, for one. And just when I finally kicked my eBay addiction. Of course during that time I was searching everyday for vintage novelty print dresses (particularly those with vegetables or nautical motifs on them), eye-scalding Hawaiian print dresses, children's handkerchiefs and Victorian mourning jewelry. I still regularly search for Vested Gentress, Waltah Clarke, Vera or Shaheen frocks just to prove I can walk away anytime I like. I do need a top hat, preferably Edwardian and silk. Now that Ms. Lakshmi has already bought herself one I won't have to worry about being outbid by her deep pockets. I could also always use another Shriner's fez.

What are you searching for?


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Take me to your leader, Anne Carlisle in Liquid Sky

To sound the depth of 80s inspiration, I recommend Liquid Sky. Though to be perfectly frank, the plot and the acting of this 1982 movie make watching it rough going at times. It's the sort of underground cult film that interested me more as a young'un, when my life maintained a veneer of bourgeois respectability. Now that life is quite seedy enough, I prefer to go to the opera. But despite these caveats, Liquid Sky has a beauty of its own that you must not miss.

Many images from Liquid Sky are permanently burned into my brain. The most famous one, of course, is the androgynous Anne Carlisle, who co-wrote the screenplay (or possibly wrote it entirely), in Bowie-esque face paint dancing with a preying mantis on her arm. Unfortunately this scene from the film is not available on youtube.

Set primarily in the perpetual twilight of Manhattan's nightclub Danceteria, Liquid Sky is populated with such thoroughly unpleasant people that no one really cares when their friends are vaporized by aliens right in front of them. The dialogue, such as it is, is delivered in affectless, dead-pan junkie-speak. But what Liquid Sky has going for it is low-budget spectacle. It is also a time capsule of early 80s counter-culture before New Wave was cleaned up and commercialized. Plus there is some nice use of heat aura photography and stop motion animation.

And the costumes, oh, the delight of the costumes. Puff skirts, portrait collars, pink and blue streaks in platinum hair, androgyny, over-sized mens wear, all paired with face paint that is equal parts Kabuki and clown. The film captures the playfulness and the aggression of it, where glam rock and punk commingled. There is also an unintentionally funny song, Me and My Rhythm Box, performed by Paula E. Sheppard.

The plot can be dismissed as risible, yet it has undercurrents of real William S. Burroughs-type Science Fiction as drugs, aliens, and violence are intertwined. Underground fashion model Margaret and her heroin dealer girlfriend Adrienne live in a neon-lit hovel filled with avant garde costumery. The smack is hidden behind something that looks like a blank template for a Japanese Noh mask. Aliens arrive in a tiny space craft and perch on the roof. The aliens are also after the heroin addicts as they thrive on the chemicals released by humans on the nod, until they figure out that vaporizing humans having orgasms is a better high. A whole series of terrible things happen to Margaret, who is used and exploited by everyone. But since she is unable to have an orgasm (sort of like the virginal final girl in horror movies), she finds that she can get the aliens to vaporize all those who have wronged her. And that's the short version without any spoilers, honestly.

Ms. Carlisle, who plays two characters (Margaret and in drag as Jimmy), carries this film on her back. Her performance is what makes the film watchable. Margaret is believably vulnerable (despite being about 2 feet taller than everyone else in the film) and Jimmy is petulantly slimy and churlishly real.

The soundtrack is pure early 80s electronica. Repetitive, mechanical and naive, it sounds like what a smacked out Phillip Glass might have composed for an orchestra of merry-go-rounds. More about the soundtrack here. It can really worm its way into your brain. (Full disclosure: I have this soundtrack on cassette tape somewhere. I used to think it was the perfect music for driving L.A. freeways.)

Enjoy the fashion show, goslings.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Photo by Monasuevintage

This exquisite silk dress by Scaasi, boasts a three-tired ruffled peplum, shoulder pads and all-round 80's goodness. I love the irregularity of the polka dots, their organic shape and three dimensional illusion. These dots have a trompe l'oeil effect of depth and shine. And I adore the abundance of flounces. Polka dots always resist propriety with their abundance.

This dress is quite spendy, alas, though it would probably fit me. But perhaps you are feeling flush. And perhaps you are going to Seville and intend to wear it with matching polka-dotted heels and white flowers in your hair, so trot on over to Mona Sue Vintage. ¡Olé!

Dots were never my thing, I always opted for stripes. A whiff of the prison colony about a stripe, no doubt about it. Whereas the polka dot was reserved for the court jester. Or so I thought. But over the past year, polka-dots have won me over. Flamenco is definitely to blame. My style is usually influenced by whatever dance form I'm compulsively chasing. (When I was doing Bharata Natyam and Odissi, I seemed to find many occasions to wear salwar kameez or saris and accumulated some very beautiful shawls and bangles. The sarongs and Hawaiian prints come from the Hula and Tahitian dance obsessions, etc. ) Now I'm all about the flower in the hair, the full skirt, and polka dots (lunares). One of my current style icons is the great Lola Flores.

Here is an impressionist offering by Joaquin Sorolla, a detail from the painting El Baile (1914-15). This image was found at Mi Espacio Flamenco which has lots of beautiful paintings of flamencos, gitanos, dance and vistas of Spain. The site has audio as well,and I hope to spend more time there soon.

I couldn't resist this one either, also from Mi Espacio Flamenco:

This painting, Pastora Imperio (1922) is by Julio Romero de Torres. Here polka dots meet a patterned shawl. I love her severe glance and the arm band. If I could substitute a ukulele for that guitar, I could do this one.

For more flamenco inspiration, you can see some great images from old vinyl flamenco records sleeves here at Flamenco y Copla en Discos de Vinilo.

Some other lovely vintage flamenco images can be seen here at Dos Lunares, which promotes Roma and flamenco music and cultural events in Los Angeles.

Lunares literally means little moons, and the same word is used for beauty mark. Apparently, gypsies are known as the people of the moon, though how polka-dots became associated with dancing, especially Sevillanas, I don't know. Perhaps you do? Clearly there is some mysticism involved.

And finally, for your polka-dotting joy, here is a slide show on the history of polka dot fabric from a Northern-European and US perspective. In Medieval Europe, evidently, spots were originally associated with disease, and outcasts of all sorts. And this slide show notes that it was impossible to make fabric with a consistently spotted pattern until machine printing. Thankfully it concludes with the polka dot's greatest proponent, artist Yayoi Kusama.

Ms. Kusama, for whom the polka dot is a graphic representation of the vastness of the cosmos and the disintegration the artist feels (among other things) is truly the High Priestess of the Polka Dot. She's been covering every known surface with them since the mid-60s.

I became a big fan of Ms. Kusama a few years ago. Her total commitment to the dot as a portal of mystical or perhaps schizophrenic experiences. Ms. Kusama, who has had experiences of going into trances from an early age, currently lives in a mental hospital in Tokyo, but is still able to create her amazing works of art. I would also like to check out her novels.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Photo from Hillbillyfilly

A lovely and unique Egyptian print skirt. Hieroglyphics and Egyptians, venerating and offering stylized gifts to what looks like Hathor holding someone's hand. The hieroglyphs themselves appear to be upside-down, but that is a minor quibble. I love the sketchy feeling of the drawings, that loose mid-century style illustration.

This would look adorable on you. It's got a 28 inch waist, and a 28 inch length, so it's too long for me. But perhaps you are taller, nu?

Happy New Year and l'shana tova. I hope 5771 is a good year.

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Are you in need of some fun? Some diversion? Gothamist has this slide show of candid looks from the streets of NYC in the summer of 1969. And those skirts are just as short as those worn today.

I recently started a project to read late 1960s self-help books, but only original editions salvaged from rubbish heaps. The ones whose pages are turning paper-bag brown and disintegrating. But this young lady is way ahead of me.

I don't know what kind music Yacht may be. Perhaps you know. The young Ms. Claire Evans, however, has a blog about old school science fiction paper backs, lovingly photographed and thoughtfully reviewed, that I have been enjoying. Ms. Evans possesses literary insight that goes beyond genre fiction, and is an unabashed feminist to boot.

She also pointed me to a blog of a Portland-based vintage shop that is truly psychedelic. Light on text and chock-a-block with images and film clips, Rad Summer is a movable feast of a lookbook. Plus it looks like they have some fun parties.

I must say that Portland, Oregon is shown in a very favorable light. But I am starting to cast about for a new city. New York has been over for quite some time, but as I do with all my relationships, I am prolonging this one to the bitter end. But I have put down roots here. Roots that are tangled up rusting pipes, sewers, friends and foes, rat traps. These are roots deeper than I am tall. Reading Vanishing New York daily reminds me of all that I loved and lost here. And nostaglia is a politically tainted place to sit, to say the least. But then again the fantasy of self re-invention and greener pastures is equally suspect.