Great Dresses In Literature (an occasional series)

Although her dress, her coiffure, and all the preparations for the ball had cost Kitty great trouble and consideration, at this moment she walked into the ballroom in her elaborate tulle dress over a pink slip as easily and simply as though all the rosettes and lace, all the minute details of her attire, had not cost her or her family a moment's attention, as though she had been born in that tulle and lace, with her hair done up high on her head, and a rose and two leaves on the top of it.

(from Anna Karenina)

This is one of my favorite passages in the book so far. (I'm not reading the ; I'm reading it in discrete chunks from , which is a tremendous boon to mankind: get books through your email and look like you're working!)

as though she had been born in that tulle and lace: this, to me, is the ideal of clothes. Your clothes, no matter what trouble you took with them beforehand, should in the moment of wearing appear as natural to you as your birthday suit. They should be part of you, not something slapped on as an afterthought. In fact, what you wear should look so much like YOU that if someone else put it on, it would look like a YOU costume.

Of course, I'm a little farther ahead in the book at this point and I realize that being perfectly dressed didn't really help Kitty at that ball. So I'm not saying that if you manage to perfectly integrate your inside and your outside that you will lead a charmed life; I'm just saying you won't be tugging at and uncomfortable in and much too conscious of your clothes. And every little bit helps.

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Ladies, Start Your Engines

Michelle over at has this listed for sale — click on the image to visit the page — and I really, really, really wish I had an excuse to buy and make this dress. I'd need a great excuse, as it's B30 and $75, but I'm looking … anyone want to invite me to a White House dinner? (Okay, maybe I'd like to wait until January '09 for that one, but I'd be up for some embassy shindig.)

I love that this pattern is described as an "informal dinner dress". Obviously, this dates before the rise of the drive-in, never mind the drive-through!

This dress makes me long for the days when people took dresses seriously. This is a life-and-death dress, a dress of consequence. This dress stands for something, and takes no guff. Can your poly-cotton jersey number from Forever21 say the same?

Everything Must Go!

Friend-of-the-blog Nora is doing a little pattern divestiture on eBay — you can check out her listings .

Now you all know I have nothing but love for the professional pattern-sellers, but I have to admit that my heart quickens when someone tells me that they're selling off some of their "collection". I think it's because, rightly or wrongly, I figure that they are selling off things regretfully, only because they need some space, and that regret is because what they're selling is freakin' awesome. (Which seems to be true in Nora's case — nice pattern up above, what?)

This belief of mine is carried to a ridiculous extreme when I think about estate sales — I mean, c'mon, this is stuff people DIED holding on to! It must be incredibly great! And no matter how many times I go to a sale that consists only of wash-and-wear polyester 1970s housedresses, archival issues of TV Guide ("Who's the Boss?" always seems to feature prominently), and ABSOLUTELY NO FABRIC OR PATTERNS even though "sewing machine" is listed in the ad, I keep believing.

[Of course, I am SO EVIL — so evil, that if I ask about patterns and the estate sale runner is dumb enough to tell me that they threw them out, so sorry, I always say "Oh, that's too bad — you know, some of those patterns go for $30 each, or more!" Even if I *know* they probably tossed a box of 80s-puff sleeved monstrosities. Such cavalier behavior on their part must be *punished*.)

But back to this pattern. Boy, I love that yoke! I'd make this in a charcoal gray with red buttons and wear it with a red belt (but not red shoes). So cute!

Off to a great start

Has everyone seen this dress, from the ?

Isn't it lovely? Shinta did such a great job — and she calls herself a beginner! Which just goes to show you: if you love a dress enough and take your time, even a beginner can make something exquisite. Don't settle for a ho-hum project; choose something that takes your breath away, then just concentrate. Slow and steady makes the dress.

Here's the original pattern envelope, just so you can see exactly how well Shinta realized the ideal:

I think that even if this is the only dress Shinta ever makes, she can call herself a seamstress for the rest of her life. Seamstress First Class, even!

A new twist

Check out this stunner from on eBay. I love the way the straps attach to the bust.

I know the weather is about to change soon (it's been unseasonably warm here in Chicago these last two weeks) as I have had one last gasp of mooning over summer dresses, especially sundresses.

This is completely unreasonable, as I am not a sundress person. Dresses, yes, sundresses, no. I think the last sundress I was completely happy with was a cherry-print number with a ruffled hem and spaghetti straps. (It also had an elastic-smocked bodice, because I was ten.)

This dress might convert me to sundress-person mode — especially the one made up in a border print. I'd love to try this in stripes, too! Or gingham. Or (it goes without saying) polka dots.

If you want to get a jump on next summer, you could do worse than buying this pattern. In fact, I think looking at this might be nearly as effective as those in treating seasonal affective disorder.

More Dress Art!

Check out this work from artist Robin Barcus: "Collecting Kisses". She put up three dress outlines in a gallery and had people leave lipstick kisses on them. Participatory art, yay!

Robin's also doing a series of location-specific dresses for every state in the US, *and* making a movie about it, which is about as cool as you can get without resorting to the illegal use of Freon.

Here's one of her state-specific dresses (for Maine, naturally):

She also did a leaf dress that's worth seeing — click on either of the images above to visit her blog.

I had a whole list of art-dress projects to post about before my hard drive decided to become an ossified, non-spinny lump … a list I don't really want to recreate by hand, because I'm lazy. So if you emailed me an art-dress link sometime in the last month, and feel strongly about it, would you email me again? Or at least leave a link in the comments?

Condom Dresses, Again

Looks like the condom dress is an attention-getter that just doesn't quit. Since the there's been an entire condom-clothing fashion show in China, to commemorate World Population Day (and to publicize the 4th China Reproductive Health New Technologies & Products Expo, held in Beijing back in July).

What I want to know is, why don't I ever see any MEN'S clothing made out of condoms? Aren't they the ones who are supposed to be doing the covering up? Where are the three.jpgece condom business suits? I guess it's just another instance of that old, tired story of birth control being seen as entirely the woman's responsibility.

That said, this little number is kinda cute. I'd love to see a re-interpretation of the condom dress where all the condoms were actually ersatz condoms made of silk organza. (It would certainly be more comfortable to wear!)

If you click through on the picture you'll see the original post featuring the story, with all the stuff-made-from-condoms you could ever wish to see. But be careful, some of the pictures there look as if they might at any time become Not Safe For Work. And oh, lord, I can't wait to see what kind of ads Adsense serves up to this post!