Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Clothes Off My Back (7)

Boy! What a 72 hour flu won't do to knock you for a loop on all your good resolutions! I was stricken by malady Tuesday or so and actually had to take a day off work last week , which, if you knew my resolution towards saving any kind of paid time off for hypothetical trips to Acapulco, you would understand as a grave matter indeed. Two bottles of Nyquil and a box of sugar-free popsicles later-- many, many episodes of American Pickers and Law and Order: CI later-- my fever and chills had subsided, and no one had to choose whether to bury me or forge on along the Oregon Trail. I had fully intended to post some of these photos, oh, I don't know, ANYWHERE NEAR the time that they were taken... but instead, let's take a nostalgic walk through some pickings from my costume closet in the months of February and March.

I blame Stevie Nicks for my unhealthy fixation on black lace dresses. I've managed to scale it down from high school a notch or two, but sometimes I give in to my darker (80's hair band) nature. In one weekend, I wore not one, but TWO circa 1986 sensations. The former is a strapless number ($3.99 half off, the now defunct Donelson Goodwill) with a completely sequined bodice and a puffy, tiered lace overlaid skirt. The velour jacket (with its "All That Jazz" tag), has extremely fitted sleeves (to the point that you have to kind of turn your wrist and hand to wriggle in or out of the narrow hem at the wrist), square, Hepburn-worthy shoulderpads, and (wait for it) a huge panel of lace across the back instead of a traditional all-one-material type construction deal (Goodwill, $4.29). I like to think of it as 1940's in the front, and straight Heathers in the back. Did I, or did I not, sing "Total Eclipse of the Heart", to the greater glory of my karaoke reputation, in this outfit? I did. The earrings are little 45 records, but I don't expect you to be able to see that at this distance.

The dress on the right is a drop waisted 1920's meets 1980's piece of formalwear, with a truly prodigious amount of swing allotted to the swing skirt. Here I demonstrate just how rad my radius is going to be if you put me in a dancefloor spin. I wore this to a Telecommunicators show the night before the Bonnie Tyler action at karaoke. If you haven't checked out the greatest and best band that has ever been, you probably should. Not that I'm biased because Bab's the creative force behind the band. Of course not. But if you're into neo New Wave, it might be just thing for you.

This dress does not fit me AT ALL. For once, the problem of this vintagewear is a strange shoulder width (too wide) and overly generous, Grimace like silhouette. I have no idea who originally could wear this dress with chic and aplomb. However! Could you love the actual rhinestone encrusted collar (matched at the sleeves, not shown) any more than I do? If you click on the picture, you might be able to see a) the ruinous effect of static electricty on an otherwise well behaved mane and b) the detail on the beading. Those aren't just sequins, but individually mounted green and white glass rhinestones. Add some clear-ish seed shaped beads, and the sea foam green silk the dress is made of, plus a $2 second day estate sale price tag? I was swept up with emotion and bought the silly thing. I'm thinking I might take it to be altered-- never having done that before, I wonder how expensive it would be?

To the left, one of my very favorite dresses, a simple simple black sheath-ish piece with a great white lace detail at the collar. I always feel so prim in this one. The hat is a recent acquisition ($1, estate sale), but the frock dates back to high school. I wore them both to go catch Wild River at the Belcourt , which is part of their ongoing Southern Voices series. Stone in love with Lee Remick in that movie, and while I thought the plot and the pacing was patchy, there was something about the characters and the atmosphere that made me keep watching. Interesting, too, to see later career Montgomery Clift (only six years before his death), still handsome but haunted-looking, and very physically small, in a role that really should have gone to Rock Hudson, or maybe Gregory Peck. In any case, I' d see it again, and it was lovely to watch a print just awash in Technicolor.

To the right, a JC Penney's Fashion Store dress from the late 70's, I expect (Southern Thrift, $4.98), which has two odd, Klingon-like shoulder ruffles at either ├ępaule, and makes me feel weirdly grown up each time I wear it. Please note the insane handmade purple teddy bear in the background, making a very special cameo in this photoshoot. Also, my favorite oversized lamp is nodding into the frame from the left (and again below). I hope that someday I move into a house large enough to reasonably support the grande size of this lamp... it's a little Alice and Wonderland to me, but I had to have it (estate sale, $12). I think I wore the Klingon dress to get coffee with my friend Rob.

The infamous Veronica Lake dress, which, in reviewing these photos for publication, I realize I might still be a leeeetle too large to wear, but if you'd seen the pin-narrow dresses at the same sale, you would realize my overwhelming joy at being able to fit in it at all, and forgive my mild (and in this case, mustard yellow clad) girth. The biggest acquisition I've made, clothing wise, in a long time, this dress set me back two point five sawbucks. That's right, $25 USD. And despite some discoloration to the wearer's lefthand side, I'm seriously still a bit giddy about it. The top is handbeaded with some of the smallest, brightest looking beads you've ever laid eyes on, which just flare red and amber and gold at the slightest glint of light. Being as you can't usually try things on at sales, I took a chance on this guy and was over the moon I managed to wriggle into it in the safety of my own bedroom (even if you could try on clothes at estate sales, who wants to get stuck in someone's recently deceased relative's pencil skirt suit dress in someone's recently deceased relative's home? Not I, sir. Not I).

As said in an earlier post, this sale had an unusual number of seriously vintage dresses... I place this one sometime in the late forties, but I also saw a dressing gown from the turn of the century, and several flappery velvet confections, which escaped my grabbing hands before landing in those of other sale go-ers. C'est la vie. The half price day, where I snagged this dress, was especially interesting because within about fifteen minutes of arriving, hovering behind a woman examining the beadwork before replacing the dress in the closet, grabbing it out of the closet, and buying the dress, there wasn't a stitch of vintage clothing in the house. People had all waited for the second day, and then just ran around amok, grabbing things for their etsy stores. Who wouldn't! I was very happy to be the buyer of these threads, though. About 10 lbs from now, I'm bound to be a knock out in it.

Last but not least, we were talking about hairstyles in the old yearbook photos I posted the other day, and I bemoaned the fact that my high maintenance look in wardrobe does not often match my low maintenance look in hair care. Simply put, I am not good with curlers. Since a traumatic hair shearing about a few years ago, I've managed to let my locks lengthen from Jean Seberg short (around 2008) to their current, below the shoulder level. However! I am no less worse at knowing what to do with a mop of bone straight, recalcitrant hair now than I was when all it took was a brief combing to diminish cow licks and subsequently walk out the door. Ergo, when I found this tutorial from Fleur de Guerre on how to use Hot Sticks with 10 minutes prep and 30 minutes set-time, I took a boring Saturday afternoon (post-estate sales, natch) to give it a shot. Below, you see the video, and the results.

Frame one... the most darling, Scarlett O'Hara worthy ringlets... I really didn't know my hair could do that! Frame two... a brush out the likes of which I have also never seen on my very own head! When I get the gall to wear that mustard evening gown out, I would definitely like to wear my hair in these Rita Hayworth-y waves. Success!!

The only downside I saw to the process was that an hour or two after setting my hair, every single curl was trying to flatten itself out. I need a higher octane hairspray, or maybe a stronger mousse, and I'll be good to go. Ten out of five stars, Miss Fleur!!

Anyway, that's what I've been up to closet-wise in the last few weeks. I'm glad to rejoin you in the land of the living and will try and update about some thrift store and estate sale acquistions ASAP. We have some catching up to do, readers! Til then.


  1. wow, you have some really amazing clothes! I love the amount of fabric in the second dress, and the beading on the yellow dress is beautiful - you look great in it, don't worry!

  2. that yellow dress is absolutely gorgeous. YOu look great in it. Woo for the Oregon Trail reference. I loved that game when I was little

  3. I have a major affinity for black lace dresses too, haha! And black velvet blazers, for that matter.
    ...that yellow Veronica Lake is amazing!! What a great find, definitely worth the $25. Good thing that silly woman in front of you put it back! I could feel the hovering-tension as I read, the description, hahaha ;)
    M xo

  4. You may wish to let the hot sticks warm up a little longer and leave them in a little longer. I get mixed results with mine sometimes too but I have lots of hair and try to use them all so I make sure I get enough heat to all the hair.

  5. Glad you're feeling better. Both those dressed from your Wild River excursion are sweet also.

  6. You always manage to find such amazing vintage clothing. I love all of the dresses but I think my favourite one is the second black lace one.
    Once again I wish we had estate sales in the UK!

  7. @ ellio, Caitlin, and Mitzi: Way to prop a girl's confidence up! Thanks for the nice words about my "yellow wonder dress". :) Also at Mitzi, I think the closetful of black lace and velvet will definitely be an asset to me if I ever start that all-girl Meatloaf cover band I keep talking about. Am I serious? I am serious.

    @ Living Vintage: Thanks for the "hot" tip (I crack me up)...seriously, I will try that. I have a really thick head of hair and a longer set time might improve my results.

    @MRanthrope: I live....AGAIN! Thanks for the well wishes.

    @Sophie: I wonder what happens to estates in England when it comes time to close them? Maybe all the items end up in thrift stores or bazaars? That said, I find a great deal of clothes at Goodwill and other thrift stores... I feel like if I'm exhaustive enough of the vintage field in Nashville, I'm BOUND to be rewarded for my labors! :)

  8. Your posts are such a delight! Sitting here at work, I like to tuck into my desk and pour over every well placed word! What beautiful dresses too! I also suffer from the straight-as-all-get-out hair syndrome. I can only holds a curl for an hour or so, barely worth the time put into it! I want to be one of those ladies who has regular hair appointments at the beauty parlor. I'd sit under the giant hair dryer chatting away in a pucci print dress. *dream *dream! Thanks for a wonderful post!

  9. @ Amber: Thank YOU for the much needed kind words! I love to ramble and this blog has given me the perfect outlet for my inherent talk-your-ear-off-ed-ness. I, too, share your giant-hair-dryer-pucci-print-dress dream. Someday. Someday!

  10. I absolutely love that you referenced sawbucks! (Well, and Oregon Trail too if I must admit.)

    Love your Rita Hayworth waves! Hot sticks are great for a quick 'do but they don't last for anything on my hair, either. I have alternately used a little mousse in my hair before or after which hasn't seemed to change the result much. I have a feeling if I used more of them (as in, I had a second set) it would last better because I'd be able to curl smaller sections. I don't know much about the physical properties of how setting lotion works... I wonder if it could be sprayed on hair and left to dry (so you're not getting any singeing). Then you could use the hot sticks? I know it works great when I do a wet set, but now I'm curious if letting it dry would just mean it did absolutely zippo, or if it might help. I suppose it's worth an experiment!



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