Sunday, January 30, 2011

Damn Green Dress Giveaway!

Okay, so in truth, I'm not giving away any damn dresses.  But I got your attention!

I didn't think I would really mark the passing of a year on my blog- it was something I started for myself to keep track of my obsessions and passing fancies, and to sort-of ensure I actually wore more of the things in my wardrobe. But you can't help feeling like you're in a conversation with a community, and it's so fun to share.  I'm happy so many of you have come along for the ride, and the highlight of my day is coming home (or sometimes peeking on my phone at work...shhhhh), curling up with a cup of tea, and seeing what you are thinking about, and desiring, and wearing- all the fabulous colour/pattern mixing that just makes getting dressed fun!

So in thanks for being there, and for future readers, I have a little present for y'all.  Since this all began with the reference to that one intangible green dress, the one that really embodies all those unattainable material loves that pass through our frame of vision, the first item is a DVD of the film Desk Set.
Wherein a crew of fabulous reference librarians, led by Katharine Hepburn, wear delightful dresses and bemoan the arrival of the first computer in the workplace.  The witty and wise Katharine is well-matched with the bumbling and infallible Spencer Tracy.

My favourite reads these days come from the folks at New York Review of Books Classics- they've been bringing back into print novels and non-fiction with unique stories and viewpoints, mostly from the mid-twentieth century.  I'm afraid I have accumulated quite a collection over the past several years, but every one has been an enjoyable revelation.
Wish Her Safe at Home was one of my favourite books last year- what downtrodden office worker hasn't dreamed of coming into a guilt-free inheritance and living the perfect life in a cozy old house- drinking tea in the afternoons and shopping for the genteel dresses that embody the ideal British countryside lifestyle?  Apparently that too can lead to madness and ruin, and I enjoyed every minute of it- the jacket blurb compares it to the Beales of Grey Gardens and rightly so.

And because one of my goals this spring is to get back into the jewellery studio and make stuff, there will also be a little surprise gift made from some wearable combination of silver and vintage materials...

So, if you would like to be part of the giveaway:
  • you should be a follower and leave a comment about a longed-for item that escaped you (or perhaps one you've actually found!) with your contact email.  
  • I have always enjoyed finding new blogs through hearing about giveaways, so an added entry for posting the giveaway on your blog.  Just mention it in your comments!! and I will pick a winner after Saturday, February 5th and contact you for your address.

On the topic, Lisa at Respect the Shoes is also celebrating a year in blogging with a beautiful Etsy necklace and a sweet gift card.  Be sure to check her site if you haven't already- she's got great style and a fabulous sense for colour/pattern mixing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

more monochromatic!

I've been enjoying dressing rather monochromatically lately- it's fun to wear mostly one colour and throw in something unexpected to activate it!  Not unexpectedly, J Crew is pretty awesome for that... (Emma Pillsbury's secret is revealed!)

I ended up submitting another attempt at monochroma (?!) to Amy's outfit sets today at Kelinda.Kelinda-  see some more colour play!
Cardigan, skirt, tights, top: J Crew, shoes: Indigo
Liz Claiborne check shirt, B.B Dakota shift dress, UO belt, Ash booties
 And this lovely blazer came in the mail today- it's perfection, and feels exactly like my mom's old blazer I loved so much in high school that somehow got lost when I went away to University...I love the striped lining that shows through on the cuffs- I already had the striped top on!  Thanks Sandy!
Anthropologie Kindred Spirit dress, J Crew Donegal Schoolboy blazer, Joe Fresh striped shirt, Ash booties

Saturday, January 22, 2011

booksism, soviet style

'Fashionable Sack' Svijet 1958

I have slowed down somewhat on my book buying, where possible.  However sometimes the images and ideas are so evocative, it's just a pleasure to know the inspirational resource I'm bringing home!

Fashion East, Djurdja Bartlett, MIT press 2010

I've always had a soft spot for  socialist idealism in art, design and fashion.  I don't know, I guess it's the totalitarian vision in me that can't get enough of a gestalt idea.  This new book looking at fashion in communist europe is beautifully illustrated, and gives a great alternate picture of fashion and advertising in the east.
The premise is that the Soviet revolution called for a complete cultural overhaul, that also included stepping away from western ideals of fashion.  I've long collected designs of the early constructivist movement, that looked at ways of making clothing an integral part of the worker's life and philosophy.
Varvara Stepanova, 1923
However this book continues the story, looking at the actuality of what people wore and how fashion developed between the extremes of east/west philosophy.  Early  examples, promoted through new Soviet fashion magazines, attempted to combined industrial manufacture with the heritage of ethnic Russian  decorative crafts.
magazine proposals for fashion in 1929

 However, the reality of industrial manufacture meant many of these presentations never made it into production and reality!  In 1935, the Dom modelei 'House of Prototypes' in Moscow was established, as was a related magazine, where they claimed to be in process of bringing thousands of potential  prototypes to the Soviet woman.  Photographs, instead of old-fashioned illustration, showed the potential for urban wear:
model wearing outfit by S. Topleninov in Dom Modelei
However the Dom still promoted what we would consider fashion akin to that of the west, and luxuries seeped into the advertisements that came to be aimed solely at soviet elites.
Evening dresses, 1938
Elsa Schiaparelli was asked to collaborate with the Dom Modelei and wrote,"These clothes bewildered me, for I was of the opinion that the clothes of working people should be simple and practical; but far from this I witnessed an orgy of chiffon, pleats, and furbelows." Elsa did design a collection for the Soviets, but apparently it never went into production as the clothing was considered too simple and the large pockets featured on the coats were criticized as too attractive to the pickpockets on public transport!

Inevitably, Soviet fashions developed alongside those of the west, sometimes simplified and at others exaggerated, but always within a bureaucratic structure.

dress designs, All-Union House of Prototypes, 1958

American model Suzy Parker posing in clothing by Croatian designer Zuzi Jelinek, 1959
Eventually state-sanctioned ideals of Soviet dress moved to an undercurrent of do-it-yourself western-inspired fashions shared through smuggled and home-made patterns.   Since consumerism was unavailable to most people,  Bartlett makes an interesting association between the careful crafting of one's own clothing as a time-based disruption of the 'socialist master narrative'!

When shorts became highly fashionable in the sixties,  but unavailable in Yugoslav stores, the magazine Svijet printed a pattern with the headline, "You cannot fight the shorts, you can only join in!"
you cannot fight the shorts!
and voila, back at my Brownie dress!
I've only surveyed this book, as it is a scholarly study of the construction of Soviet fashion industry and its relationship with advertising, but I love seeing the development from the early designs and ideals. I was evidently too lazy to scan the images rather than photograph them, but maybe with the next installment when I get around to it...that's right...Fascist fashion!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

more so...

I feel like one thing leads to another this week- brown on Monday, leading to brown with red checks yesterday, to red and charcoal plaid today...tomorrow I plan on wearing my grey wool shift with a bright red checked shirt, and maybe all-grey on Friday with a touch of yellow (stuff that's got to get worn, y'know?  gotta be vigilant...)
Yesterday's dress I bought upon my first ever visit to an Anthropologie store in February 2009- thought the sale price of 29.99 for this Maeve shift was pretty decent at the time.  hmmm..indeed.
And then today I trotted out the old fave red check dress- the photos are terrible (I`m getting sick of this poor lighting) but it`s super cute, flannel-y wool, with a little bow at the neck.  I bought it in a 'checkered' lot on ebay a few years ago, alongside a lot of polka dot dresses.  All my size, and almost all have become favoured staples!
I may emerge a little earlier from the monochrome this spring actually- I just received the latest Harper's Bazaar and there are some tasty morsels within!  Colour! 

Monday, January 17, 2011


So I haven't found the perfect substitute yet for the lovely flannel-y brown Orla Kiely dress, but in the meantime I've pulled some of my favourite brown workhorses out of the closet.  This baby is one of the best- wildly polyester, but with lovely structure and such a nice sickly shade of brown.  I bought it at Value Village several years ago for a few dollars and immediately replaced the bright shiny brass buttons with something a bit more muted.  I wonder if I should go brassy again?
Vintage 'Brownie secretary' dress, Indigo boots, crappy Gap tights- avoid!
I love the uniform demeanour yet stylish cut of this dress, as if a Brownie troup in the early sixties forced their secretary to dress the part!  I tend to get very monochromatic around this time of year, when the vivid ochres and rusts of autumn are replaced by the dreary winter monotone.  Despite the thickness of the fabric, I actually tend to wear this one more in spring once the tights season passes.

Today was a 'brisk' -20 Celsius and I barely noticed so I guess that's good!  The one advantage to a lengthy winter, I realized last night while trying to sort out my closet, is that there are many days yet to come to pull out the assortment of wool and winter-weight clothing that needs wearing! Oh my!

I also have the right pattern for when I come across the perfect brown fabric for my dress:
The simple cut in the middle is one I have been planning to make in black for summer, but it would be perfect for the wool dress too- slightly severe, slightly girly.  That's me!
The peter pan collar here is pretty sweet too!  I have this pattern, but in a smaller size, so I think I'll go with the first one, and maybe borrow the collar from here.

This is all sounds very impressive, but I have yet to actually make a dress from a pattern so....though I may have a lot of experience tailoring for myself,  I am somewhat less than methodical so this could be a challenge!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

waiting for vintage

I made a little detour to Value Village last Friday since I had a coupon to use that was expiring (yes, I value a 30% off coupon on thrift stuff too!), and had some great finds.  Now that I've been exploring the worlds of 'new clothing', where there are catalogues and multiples to be found, I find myself getting sidetracked by things I can find thrift style just as easily.  silly really.
I was looking hungrily at a recent Moulinette Soeurs skirt at Anthropologie for months- stripes, librarian-y, what could be better?  Despite knowing that waist pleats are nooooooo good for me, I still ended up sorta calling around when it went on sale recently.  But I was strong, and didn't buy it.  and now I am rewarded.
I found this lovely hand-made wool skirt in the most awesome camel and black tones that just clicks for me.  It hangs better, it swishes better, and it cost me all of $2.79.  Oh yes.  Loves.  I wore it out for an evening of dinner and a movie (Black Swan, finally!!) and was very happy with it.
vintage wool tan checked skirt, nondescript thrifted sweater, vintage ochre silk scarf, Indigo Water Row boots

Grimlock disturbs the shot...

I also picked up a sea-green Benetton v-neck, to replace an old favourite that must have been given away at some point (stupid!), a matching super-soft silk scarf (just 'cause), a trippy swirly pink 60's blouse (just 'cause), and a pair of sweet sensible black mary-janes (because one must).
can't locate trippy blouse, but you'll see it soon with a classic pencil skirt.  time to clean my closet...

mary-janes, `fait à la main`

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

brown dress round-up

I love brown dresses.  I just can't help it, something about the incongruous prettiness of a dress in such a sensible old-timey colour.  I have several already in constant rotation, but the thirst was reawakened recently in a posting by Sally Jane Vintage.
Orla Kiely Fall 2010 Wool Flannel Shirtdress

And now I want one I've been scouring etsy and ebay for the right substitute dress, with no luck. I even have several vintage patterns I would consider making this dress for myself, but I can't find that just right shade of  sickly brown wool.  sigh.  However I have located some other brown lovelies that I will NOT purchase for myself because they are not this dress.

vintage 1930s brown lace bias cut dress, $280

1950s/60s Mocha Silk Secretary Dress, L , $75

Vintage Brown Pumps in Original Box, $24

Brown polka-dot cotton dress, early 1950s, $125

Vintage 1970 Brown and Camel Wool Tweed Dress, $24

vintage BROWN SUGAR day dress, $56

vintage 1960s OLIVE MEDALLION wiggle dress, $64

1960's CAMEL BROWN shirt dress, $42

Vintage Misses Juniors Dress or Jumper Pattern, $5.30

 And while this dress is also cute, I find the setting truly mysterious and alluring!  What story does this have to tell...

Taupe Sweater Dress with Diamond Knit Accents, $70

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Anthropologie Southward Stop Shirtdress

I don't know what it is about this dress that inspires such passionate ...ambivalence?  I know 80% of why I succumbed to a posting on the EA board is that this dress is so desired, and it was the right price and in my size range.  I had managed to avoid a few such postings, but the dress was still in my wishlist, and I still sought out new bloggers trying it out....gah!  I was pretty certain while waiting for it to arrive that I might just turn around and sell it again...but then it came in the mail on Friday and well...

It's really not my style- I couldn't say why not exactly.  I love cute little woodsy scenes in that ugly wallpaper aesthetic kinda way, I love shirtdresses, I like the seventies-ishness of it and yet...I hate the cap sleeves, I'm not in love with the chevron pleats for some reason, the colour is just a little too bland...and yet...I love the contrast with the bright twig jackie cardigan, and I like pairing it with a little polka dot to bring out the piping, and it's got that drawing style of imagery I love and yet...oh, it's so bland...and (grrrrr) cutesy...

Hmmm..okay, okay, I'm...sold!  I do have nothing quite like it, and it totally draws me to throw in intense colours and patterns to bring out the delicate tracery of the design.  Oh yeah, and the man came home and thought it was adorable (such a curse, 'cuteness,' but I guess he's allowed of all people), so there we go. egad, I'm such a putz.
Jackie cardigan- J Crew, vintage belt, rust Hue tights (got a boxload for Christmas...!), Water Row boots- Indigo, vintage silk scarf
Vermillion cardigan- Bedo

Not sure about the scarf, really, but definitely needs colour! floral cardigan- Joe Fresh, belt- Gap

I still hate the cap sleeves- I have them folded in here...

Lisa at Respect the Shoes will be doing a photo series with pets, so Ghibli got in on the action...figured it was appropriate to the critter theme of the dress.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

toile de jouy, toile de me

I started getting sick midway through the week, like everyone else it seems, but I thought I should dress up for New Years anyway.  We don't go out for the occasion- it's sort of our last hurrah to the cuddliness of sitting at home together, watching a movie and ordering in. Well, any plans I had for current dresses were waylaid when I got home from work and discovered a long, awaited package had arrived in the mail...
Leifsdottir's Majestic Cypress dress, Anthropologie Spring 2010

A bit of a whim, but I love toile de jouy prints and was drooling over a similar Vivienne Westwood dress on  Dita von Teese earlier this year.

I actually never saw this dress hit sale at Anthropologie from it's wild original list price- I must have cleared out my wishlist at some point when it sold out.  I usually don't go for the whole corset look, but it gives some structure to the over-the-top Marie-Antoinette/ Fragonard frilliness.  I was looking for a thin blouse to wear underneath and the colours in this one matched the overall tones of the dress (thank-you open wardrobe shelves!)

The only review I've seen for it online is a guest post by Ivoire at Effortless Anthropologie.  I was afraid the size 4 might be too big, given the sizing of things these days, but stupidly bought it anyway.*  Fortunately, I am rewarded for my acquisitiveness, since it fits perfectly, which means these must run small, since I'm usually a 2 in dresses.
Majestic Cypress dress (Anthropologie), Staring at Stars blouse (UO), cheapo cardigan, vintage belt, Beene Bag shoes (Etsy)

Toile de jouy is the french version of the chintz prints (printed calico) being imported from India in the 18th and 19th centuries- in this case the term refers to the textile mills in the town of Jouy (I always thought it referenced 'joie' somehow!)
Great Thames & Hudson book on the subject, well-illustrated as below

toile and gingham- I'm sold! and white.  glad I don't need the Catmint dress now!
I need an architectural dress!

While picking up some images I came across this customizable dress- the seller Sarah Seven has moved on from Etsy into her own bridal line, but maybe she still does custom pieces...

Other toile inspirations,  the good:

Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette- great potential to play with the genre, disappointing result, but fun visuals nevertheless!
 the not-sure:
Wunderkind, Spring 2010
 and the frankly horrifying:

don't know where to look...
really the garbage bin that kills me!

 *side note- what is up with sizing these days anyway?  In high school, 15 pounds lighter, I took a size 29 in jeans.  Now I'm down to 27 and sometimes 26?  What's up with that?  And that I have to size down to a 0 in pencil skirts from J Crew is pretty ridiculous.  Most pencil skirts used to be tight in a size 4 on me!  Egads.