So … I have a new book coming out next year. It’s called Dresses, and it’s about the most iconic dress styles of our age, and how and why to wear them. What do I mean by “iconic dress styles”? Well, it’s everything from fashion classics like the Fortuny column and the Chanel jersey dress, to folklore styles like the wench and the “Guinevere,” ethnic styles like the flamenco, the cheongsam and the sari, as well as pop-culture icons like the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and the “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria” dirndl, and modern touchpoints like the J-Lo (yeah, you know the one I’m talking about) and the Mouret Galaxy. Whew!
Here’s a quick excerpt from the current draft — a dress archetype familiar to regular readers of this blog, the Airship Hostess.
The Airship Hostess dress is not for present-day flight attendants or even stewardesses: it is a purely notional dress for an alternate history where giant cruise-ship-like dirigibles float through the skies, doing the New York to still-exotic San Francisco run at a leisurely 135 mph.
The Airship Hostess dress is vaguely 1930s; vaguely 1940s, but with a distinctly official air. There are useful pockets (usually asymmetrical); there are buttons (usually asymmetrical); there’s a long, narrow skirt and a little collar, and definitely something pointy and art-deco-y going on. It’s worn bare-headed, or with a jaunty little hat, and purses or bags are not carried while on duty (that’s what the pockets are for). Dickies and gloves? Optional.
The women in the Airship Hostess dresses are the heroines of screwball comedies: they’re heiresses running away from their inheritances, grifters on the make (with hearts of gold), dames both dizzy and hard-bitten. They have secrets; they have repartee; they do their safety briefing before takeoff as a patter song. They always fall in love on their voyages, either with the poor boy in steerage (who is a prince in disguise) or with the older, world-weary war correspondent, or (occasionally) with the semi-sloshed and semi-louche lounge piano player.
Even though modern airships are limited to thrill rides and hovering over major sporting events (yawn) the Airship Hostess dress is not. It’s amazing how competent a trim, tailored, functional dress — one that isn’t trying to be a man’s suit — can make you feel. The Airship Hostess is prepared for any disaster on the ground or in the skies (short of a full-on Hindenberg), and you can be too.
So here’s where I could use your help — I need a subtitle, and I need it *now*. The usual publishing practice of just adding “… and how they CHANGED the WORLD” as a subtitle isn’t really working for this one, sadly. Any suggestions? I will pick my favorite from any comments left on this post today, and send the winner a copy of (signed, if you like!) and also a random piece of fabric or pattern from my stash! (How’s that for incentive?)
I’m also looking for some “who wore it best” type links to pictures of famousish people wearing the archetypes. I’ve set up a and tried to put up pictures of all the types … if you know where to find a picture of, say, Cameron Diaz wearing the Airship Hostess (oh, if only she WOULD) or Zooey Deschanel wearing a “Face” dress … or Drew Barrymore wearing the Flower Child Bride … and so on, Pinterest lets you leave comments on the pins. Which would be awesome.
What else can I tell you? It’s being published by Bloomsbury (they’re wonderful). It’s illustrated — every dress! — by , who is super-wonderful. It will be out in 2013 sometime, available wherever books are sold.