McCardell. With bows on.

Now, y'all know just , but even if I didn't already worship her, this dress would have made me an acolyte, even if being said acolyte involved wearing unflattering white robes and holding stinky candles through hours of chanting.

It's difficult to make bows seem sophisticated (of course, it helps to do them in black — this dress in pink might cause tooth decay) but these are without even a whiff of the sub-deb set.

I'm also impressed by the shirring of the shoulder seam. So luxurious! It's from and is rayon faille, near-mint, B36 (and fairly expensive at $625, but for McCardell, if you were looking to splurge, this would be the best combination of whimsy and wearability that you could find).

It's all workin' out.

Isn't this an interesting image? It's from the National Archives of Canada, and it's "Mrs. Ritchie, who here portrays Chess in a black costume with red and white checkered inserts, and a necklace and coronet made of chess pieces."

This dress comes to you because I was driving home from the airport late last night, and the iPod served up 's "Checkers and Chess", which has the lyrics:

Checkers and chess
I like your dress
Your dress likes me
It's all workin' out

At least, that's what *I* think the lyrics are. I could be

I think a Black Queen Chess Dress costume would be great for Halloween. Long black dress, pointy hat, forbidding expression, rapid yet stealthy movement at all times — you're done! And you can be warm, instead of freezing to death in something like this:

I mean, sure, if you want to be the queen of the jungle, hey, knock yourself out — just carry a sweater or something, okay? Do you have money for a cab? You know I worry about you.

And, shoes.

I know I managed to talk about this (at great length) –the problem I've had with the shape is that it somehow demands new shoes for the new proportion. I had found summer shoes, but, if you hadn't noticed, summer has slipped away. It has already *snowed* here in Chicago!

The new shoes I found are the ones at left, which satisfy my stringent shoe requirements (not too high a heel, ankle strap, round toe) and have the added benefit of making a lovely resonant clomping sound if you really stomp. (I swear, I'm perpetually six years old.) Plus the platform wedge makes you a lot taller without the concomitant foot pain of "real" heels.

I also managed to track them down in . I was tempted by the red ones — who isn't tempted by red ones? — but I haven't managed to successfully wear red shoes since eighth grade. Buy them, yes. Manage to leave the house in them? No.

I have these perpetual dreams of becoming (at this late stage) one of those elegant minimalists; somebody who buys two of everything, one black and one brown (or red, or cream) and eases through life effortlessly coordinated, slippery as an eel. This, as you might imagine, remains only a dream. Every time I work towards this ideal (which in my head is occasionally called the "live like a stereotypical architect project"), perhaps by making five identical skirts in dull colors, I am distracted by something shiny and whoops, I'm off again in some wild print, leaving the poor dark-brown skirt moping in the closet.

The closest I ever get to that blissful minimalist state is by managing to sew a series of wild prints in a similar color family, so at least I can get by with a few pairs of monochrome tights and a couple of cardigans. And two pairs of shoes, one black, and one brown. If I'm lucky, and I don't get distracted by patterned tights and sweaters, this mostly works.

Does anyone here have the expert-recommended two- or three-color closet? How do you do it?

You Don't Have to Be Pretty

[image is by © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York]

So the other day, folks in the comments were . I’m pretty agnostic about leggings, but the whole discussion (which centered on the fact that it can be *really* hard to look good in leggings) got me thinking about the pervasive idea that women owe it to onlookers to maintain a certain standard of decorativeness.

Now, this may seem strange from someone who writes about pretty dresses (mostly) every day, but: You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

I’m not saying that you SHOULDN’T be pretty if you want to. (You don’t owe UN-prettiness to feminism, in other words.) Pretty is pleasant, and fun, and satisfying, and makes people smile, often even at you. But in the hierarchy of importance, pretty stands several rungs down from happy, is way below healthy, and if done as a penance, or an obligation, can be so far away from independent that you may have to squint really hard to see it in the haze.

But what does you-don’t-have-to-be-pretty mean in practical, everyday terms? It means that you don’t have to apologize for wearing things that are held to be “unflattering” or “unfashionable” — especially if, in fact, they make you happy on some level deeper than just being pretty does. So what if your favorite color isn’t a “good” color on you? So what if you are “too fat” (by some arbitrary measure) for a sleeveless top? If you are clean, are covered enough to avoid a citation for public indecency, and have bandaged any open wounds, you can wear any color or style you please, if it makes you happy.

I was going to make a handy prettiness decision tree, but pretty much the end of every branch was a bubble that said “tell complainers to go to hell” so it wasn’t much of a tool.

Pretty, it’s sad to say, can have a shelf life. It’s so tied up with youth that, at some point (if you’re lucky), you’re going to have to graduate from pretty. Sometimes (as in the case with Diana Vreeland, above, you can go so far past pretty that you end up in stylish, or even striking (or the fashion-y term jolie laide) before you know it. But you won’t get there if you think you have to follow all the signs that say “this way to Pretty.” You get there by traveling the route you find most interesting. (And to hell with the naysayers who say “But that’s not PRETTY”!)


Laura sent me this — thank you, Laura! I love the neckline, and I'm totally stealing the pockets-in-the-middle-of-the-skirt idea. So easy!

This is from seller BootyVintage on (obviously, I don't spend enough time on etsy, as I didn't realize people were selling patterns there now). The pattern is $20, plus shipping, but look at the size — B39, hard to find!

I don't know if I'd piece the back the way it is in this pattern — perhaps I wouldn't feel the need for a horizontal line running the full width of my rear end — but it'd be easy enough to take out. Or keep, and add BACK pockets?

I'm slightly concerned about the woman in the print version in this illustration, though. Doesn't she look as if she is awaiting instructions from the mothership? One possibly helmed by Ming the Merciless? Oh, well, at least she's dressed appropriately for world domination. Can't take over a damn thing with no pockets!

Two skirts are better than one.

button skirt
Isn't this a great dress? Wait — it gets better:

button skirt

It's convertible! Diane kindly re-sent me these images after I managed to lose them somehow in the charnel house that is my email inbox, sparked by the discussion of "day-to-evening" overskirts in yesterday's comments.

Oh, and check out the detail …

button skirt

So neat! So efficient! So … button-y! Thanks, Diane!

[Sorry for the late posting; I'm now in Camden, Maine, where I'm talking at the Pop!Tech conference this weekend. If you want to see me pontificate about stuff that has *nothing whatsoever* to do with dresses, you can watch the whole conference live at . You can even ask questions of the presenters through the site! Good times.]

Yet Another Midriff Variation

Thanks go to Nora, who sent this my way. Isn't it cute? (And it's also B34, and a BuyItNow at $6.50, or it was when I posted this.)

I love that the waist looks more than a bit like an old stand-up collar. And the welty pockets on the orange version (oh, how I love orange) are divine.

Whenever I think I've seen every possible vintage pattern, along comes another one to surprise and delight. Often in orange, with pockets.