Category: Fashion

The Shirtdress: a curated history

I‘m a total sucker for shirtdresses (or you may be a bit old fashioned and call them “shirtwaisters”). I like the idea of a dress with a collar, or a dress that looks like one long shirt. And even if it’s fitted, it’s not telling you it is. One’s figure is definitely there, but not screaming at you. It’s so simple, so, I don’t know, 50s screen beauty sipping lemonade on the veranda.

I started thinking about them again when I saw this Stella dress last spring.

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Tailoring a Vest

Seven years ago my husband started asking me to design a vest. Inevitably, if you sew, someone you love is going to ask you to make something for them. I don’t know why this happens all the time, but it’s sorta like someone asking you to write a song for them if you’re a musician. And at the same time there’s something gratifying in that; somehow they perceive the skill or talent to be extraordinary.

But Derek understands what it means to ask; he knew that me making a vest for him would take on some spiritual implications. Kinda like me designing his a coat of armor. I was happy to do it, but some of the skills required were way above my level.

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An Ode to the Jumpsuit

It’s been three years since jumpsuits made a reappearance in fashion, and although the 80s revival has been going on for a good eight years now, it took some time for the jumpsuits, rompers, onesies, et al to return safely into mainstream consciousness. We just couldn’t reconcile ourselves to wearing them again. The first signs were the return of bright colors, the knit drop-waist t-shirts and skirts. The poppy, Madonna side of the 80s.

But what about the boxy tailoring? No way. The slouchy pants? No way. Leggings? I remember when people said they wouldn’t be caught dead again in leggings but that was before arbiters like Kate Moss–if she wore stirrup pants, what the hey, we would, too. Now of course leggings are everywhere and on everyone. Baggy jackets are the rage, and balloon-hipped carrot pants have made a return. It was only a matter of time before jumpers were back.
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Crazy for coral

I’m ridiculously in love with any coral-colored right now. It started about a year and a half ago; while grocery shopping I spotted a glamorous woman wearing a full skirt in a very bright orange-coral color. While I occasionally do orange, I have to be in a pretty zany mood. But this was less in-your-face. I searched and searched for something in a similar color and just about died and went to heaven when I spotted a calf-length silk wrap skirt in the exact hue I’d been dreaming about, and on clearance.

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A tale of two shoes

I find myself in like with two different pairs of shoes.

These black day shoes (from never go out of style. They look perfect and prim styled on the gamine model, and one would think Audrey Hepburn. (And they won me over in this shot because I’m a sucker for any kind of tuxedo suit and own one quite similar to this.) But they are the sort of fashion that comes with implicit rules, like don’t wear suede (unless white) in the summer. Rules from a certain era, rules that properly dressed people follow.

I have been hunting for a pair of going-out shoes for a week or so. The internet is a dangerous place for a shoe horse like me. When I was a child, whenever I’d get a new pair of shoes, I’d sleep with them next to my head on my pillow. My mother still jokes about it. I didn’t want to let them out of my sight. And I remember when she bought me a particular pair of black patent leather shoes for church (and I loved, loved the opportunity every week to get really dressed up). I must have been five or six. Later on there was a pair of oh-so-very 70s maroon suede boots from JC Penney’s that I drooled over as a 12-year-old. The buckles kept falling off and I returned them two or three times before having a shoe doctor permanently glue them on. I loved them too much despite their construction flaws. These shoes spent a few nights on my pillow.

This shoe love carried on into adulthood, and my husband understands me well. I once showed him a magazine photo of these beautiful white Chloe platforms. Unknown to me, while later traveling in Europe he took a two-hour train detour to Paris and spent a day on foot going all over the city trying to find the Chloe store in which were one last pair, as they were sold out everywhere in the U.S. When I picked him up in the airport, he was carrying the white Chloe shop bag as his only onboard luggage. Surprise! And believe it or not, he loved doing it (well, when is Paris ever a detour!). Now THAT’s a wonderful husband. And don’t I know it.

Up until last year, my shoes were always pretty sensible. My friends might argue with this; but if given a choice between an Annie Hall kind of shoe or a Jerry Hall one, I’d always lean toward the Annie. My shoes were fashionable, funky, but always funky in a goes-with-everything kind of way. I didn’t buy my first pair of platforms until I was 27. I was a sneakers kind of girl and anything funky was always BLACK. Some of that was the 90s, but some of that was my income. I didn’t have room for anything but a couple of pairs of shoes that went with everything.

I tried to branch out. I have the aforementioned Chloe platforms and a couple years ago splurged on some hot pink satin Stella McCartney stilettos. And for fun I have some crazy John Fluevog stompers that make Doc Martens look like the sensible older brother. But I’ve been afraid to try certain things, a certain wild edge I know is waiting to express itself. Especially with heels. My heels come out once a month. They sit and sit and sit. I just don’t have the lifestyle for them, I tell myself.

Last year, I saw and adored and kept coming back to a store that was selling these.

The Christian Louboutin "C'est Moi". I was already in for hot pink, having drooled over the hot pink silk Stella McCartney knit jumpsuit that cost a gazillion dollars, and then settling for the above-mentioned hot pink silk satin shoes. But those buttons, the bootie style which I’ve always loved, and his famous red soles, which just look great with pink anyway–I really wanted to want these. But those heels! I knew I’d just cry trying to wear them. (And I tried to convince myself that the hidden platform inside wouldn’t make them seem so high.) Instead I settled for its sensible sister, a black boot with 3 (rather than 5!) inch heels.

They look nice, elegant, are wearable, and after all my first pair of Christian Louboutins. I had to find some way of dipping in. But still. Black.

In come these cute Audrey shoes. I was trying to decide about a new dress shoe. Add to that the fact that I live in Texas, in Austin, where the footwear for 9 months of the year is flip-flops on the majority of people. Sure women wear cute metallic sandals and men wear dude-ish sneakers, but flip-flops are everywhere. If you even dared to wear something architectural, or even above 3 inches, you would be a disco ball in the prairie. Not that I mind that, I’m minding it less and less–the security that comes with age is really helpful. I’m more experimental now than when I was 21.

I may already be too far out there for you. You might be looking at even those black shoes and wondering if I’ve thrown out my back. I have bodyworker friends who wouldn’t touch heels. But in my own head, I’ve not traveled far enough into wearable art. I think of shoes as art now, less as “would I wear this? and with what?” And more as investment pieces. It’s not about how much I’ll wear them. And since I’ve always been a shoe girl, I know you can build your clothes and your day AROUND your shoes, no matter how extreme.

So by now you may have guessed that I am leaning away from the Audrey shoes. The other pair that were up for consideration were these wild and towering booties by Finsk, which (by the name you’d guess) are Finnish. Lovely, crazy, architectural heels à la Scandanavia. How’s that for two totally different shoes? Can you tell I’m replaying my Louboutin decision? This time I want to give up on the savoir faire and wear something a little intellectual and nutty.

"Le Show" by Les Prairies de Paris

(Decision conclusion: they went on sale, they were mine. Pictures may follow later. But the cool thing is that they are much more purple than the picture, which is totally fine by me because I am purple.)