Saturday, February 25, 2012


Friday, February 24, 2012

Vintage Chiffon

Dress: Vintage. Circle Skirt. Bow at top of zipper. V-neck. Slightly oversized. Circle skirt.
Label: None
Fiber Content: Chiffon, Taffetta
Year purchased: 1989
Purchase price: $15
Store: I don’t remember (I suspect it was at Keep ‘Em Flying, my favorite vintage store in Portland, which is located near Cinema 21, the cool arty movie theatre.)
Additional information/Oddities: This looks exactly like the dress worn by Sinead O’Connor in the Emperor’s New Clothes video.
How I wear it: I remember standing in the hallway of my freshman dormitory without anything but a black t-shirt and blue underpants underneath this dress and my various dorm-mates telling me that it was just too sheer to wear that way. So I have worn it with black tights and a camisole (which isn’t as revealing as it sounds) or, when I have felt more demure, with a black vintage slip.

I wore this dress a lot in college. In fact, I think this would have qualified as my favorite dress, my dress-up dress, and I suspect I was wearing this dress to 70% of the dress-up opportunities I had between the ages of 17 and 21. This is another dress infused with love and memory.

I wore this dress with a red hat and short black crocheted gloves to the wedding of Bosco (one of my British cousins) and Angela in 1990. I got tons of compliments, even had a few people ask me if I was a model back in the States. Which is hilarious given that I am only 5’3” on a good day, but flattering nevertheless.

At the end of September 2001, Fred and I went to London to see Roddy Frame perform at Queen Elizabeth Hall. We took a train to Loughborough to visit Bosco, Angela, and their daughters, Lauren and Rachel. Bosco then drove us to see his parents and siblings in Birmingham and then to another brother’s in Reading. Everyone wanted to talk to us about the recent attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, in part because the events had just occurred and in part because we were American. Everyone, that is, except Lauren and Rachel who wanted to talk to us about Britney Spears and The Jungle Book. I am so happy that we took this trip as it gave Fred an opportunity to meet Bosco and Angela and we both got a chance to meet their girls. We visited them, again, in December 2002. Bosco had been diagnosed with kidney cancer in the spring of 2002 and it had metastasized to his brain by the fall. My mother thought it would be great if we all went there for Christmas. It was the last time we saw him. He died in the summer of 2004 at the age of 45.

This is the dress I was wearing the first time I met Fred. It was the night before I was to go back to Portland to begin my junior year of college and I had been dating Michael for three weeks. We went back to his apartment and his roommate, Fred, was there with some other women, including Fred’s recently ex-girlfriend, Nancy. They were trying to decide where to go dancing and I made some suggestions (which was funny because I was nineteen and could only get into a limited number of clubs when they had an all ages night.) I remember that Nancy was extremely rude to me, though I don’t remember how, and I remember thinking she looked old and ugly and how sad it must be to be that bitter. The group soon left and I think I asked Michael why he was even friends with Nancy (he had been the one who fixed up that harpy with Fred in the first place.) Michael excused her behavior saying that I looked “so young.” As if that is an excuse for rudeness. In retrospect, I should have dumped Michael then, instead of waiting until the following March. However, I went back to school and conducted a long distance relationship. Which meant I spent a lot of time of the telephone. Which meant I ended up talking a lot with his roommate if Michael wasn’t home. So Fred and I became friends and two-and-a-half years after we met (and close to two years after breaking up with Michael) Fred and I kissed at my New Year’s Eve party, on the cusp between 1993 and 1994. (I was wearing a different black dress that night, a black stretch cotton mini-dress which I donated to Salvation Army in July 2004.) What is odd is that I am now older than Nancy was when I met her and yet I still think she was a shriveled hag then and while I am still a spring chicken.

I wore this dress on my twenty-first birthday when my parents took me to Charlie Trotter’s. I remember that was the first time I ever really understood what it meant for a wine to compliment a meal. I recall telling Maria about the dinner in excruciating details (reconstructing each course) and I am pretty sure a copy of the menu is in a box at my parent’s house. After the dinner, I went to a party with Maria and Jenny Stewart at a coop near University of Chicago and I wore a black hat with fake flowers pinned to the brim. There was a guy there who I had a crush on, but he was uninterested in me. There was another guy I liked there, a guy who I had actually gone for coffee with over the course of my five week winter break, who lived in the coop and, at one point in the evening, he said to me, “since you are going back to Portland tomorrow, I was wondering if you wanted to go back to my room for a ten minute smooching session.” While I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “good line,” anyone can understand how disastrous a bad line can be where these things are concerned. I managed to keep a straight face and not say anything snarky as a declined and found Maria and Jenny and left. The next day, I flew back to Portland to complete my senior year and write my thesis.

Only Hearts

Dress: Scoop neck, stretch lace tank dress.

Label: Only Hearts

Fiber Content: Nylon

Year purchased: 1994

Purchase price: $50

Store: La Coquette, a now defunct lingerie store. When I was in high school, this store was located just north of Century Mall (I remember this because a friend of mine bought a garter belt and fishnet stockings there once.) It moved farther south on Clark Street and was across the street from Francis Parker school in 1994. It went out of business a year or two later.

Additional information/Oddities: I am pretty sure this dress is meant to be worn as a slip (i.e. in private and with nothing underneath.)

How I wear it: If I were the useless lingerie (i.e. clothes one wears for the sole purpose of having them taken off) sort of girl, I might actually wear this dress/slip even more than I do. As a dress, worn with black tights and a camisole to combat the see-throughness of the lace, it has seen quite a bit of action in its own right.

Photos of this dress can also be seen here and here

In 1995, I took a performance class with a locally famous performance artist and actress and wrote a one-woman show. It was supposed to be about love and obsession. I took the title, Not Far Away, But Too Far Too Touch, from Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body, which served as my inspiration. I was trying to be literary and wise, and I was so very young and naïve (as if I am so very old and experienced now.) The show evolved. It ended up being part scripted, part improvised and I used a stack of my favorite novels as the backbone (After each monologue, I randomly picked up a book, opened it up and read whatever passage happened to appear. Then I chose the most appropriate monologue from my memorized pieces, or I talked to the audience off the top of my head.) This dress was my costume. To this day, my mother wishes she had videotaped this and talks about this as one of my best performances ever. (It helps, perhaps, that it was a one time only event. I tried to recreate it for a performance festival and it didn’t work at all.) My wish is that Fred could have seen it; we were having a long distance relationship at the time and saw each other every few weekends, and this performance was on a Wednesday night.

In 1996, I was doing a dance show (Walter Benjamin: A Theory of Chaos) with three other actors, one of whom was this boy with whom I had gone to high school. A friend of one of the cast members was having a party and I wore this dress there. The boy brought a bunch of people from high school to the party. I was hands down the best-looking woman there. It was an amazing thing, looking so good in front of all these people who had scorned me for being ugly less than a decade earlier. Of course, I was so nervous I drank lots and lots of sangria, not realizing that there was lots and lots of gin in there with the wine and fruit, so I spent the hours between 2 and 7 A.M. lying on a bathroom floor throwing up. The next day, I had the worst hangover of my life and had to go to my cousin Savio’s wedding. I wish I could say that I never drank to excess again, but I am a lightweight and a really bad judge of my own alcohol tolerance, so I often find I am already drunk before I have even finished my first drink.

In 1998, I was Ruth in A Book of Ruth at the New York Fringe Festival (which was unfortunate for us as the show was not terribly fringe and, being that the company was not from New York, we had no core audience to depend upon, so we played to nearly empty houses.) I wore this dress to the closing night party where I remember chatting up various actors and directors from far more successful productions. I felt powerful and lovely and fabulous that night, in spite of the poor reviews our show had received.

I must have also worn this dress at some point during my August 2001 visit to New York City when Jenny and I performed our show Submission at the Riant Theatre’s Strawberry One Act Festival because Jenny remembered it when I referenced it later.

However, this will always be the dress I wore when I met Roddy Frame on September 30, 2001.

In 1985, I was thirteen and interested in music. I bought magazines and read about different bands, in part because I was curious about the music, but also because I was a thirteen year old girl and wanted the pictures. Most of the music I listened to at the time is entirely forgettable, though it always seems to be remembered for the ubiquitous eighties retrospectives that every TV and radio station trots out during the dead hours of the day. I remember coming across an interview with the then teenage Roddy Frame, the singer/songwriter/lead singer/guitarist of a band called Aztec Camera. He sounded interesting and a few months later WXRT broadcast a concert of theirs. So I listened. And became a fan. I bought both their records. I was at an age when one of the things I would ask people was what bands they liked (because I believed that sort of thing was important) and I almost never met anyone, even then, who had even heard of Aztec Camera. But the videos were occasionally played on 120 Minutes. I should probably say that there were other bands I liked much more, at no point would I ever have called Aztec Camera my favorite.

In 1988, I bought the third album, Love, which was a big disappointment. (It was the same thing for me with The Joshua Tree, a highly anticipated album by a band I really liked which just was not what I wanted to hear. However, unlike The Joshua Tree, which was gigantic, still is many a U2 fan’s favorite record and transcended its time, Love is an album which a lot of Aztec Camera/Roddy Frame fans agree was probably one of his worst and, when you listen to it now, sounds like the eighties.) Aztec Camera released Stray in 1990, which I didn’t even buy at the time. However, I saw this CD on the living room table at Michael and Fred’s house in 1991 and I got excited because I thought this new guy I was dating liked the same obscure band I did, but Michael told me the CD was Fred’s. Which probably should have set some alarm bells ringing off in my head, but did not (I think I just said something like, “Oh cool. You should listen to it.”—Okay, I know I am going to digress now from what is already something of a digression, but part of the reason I didn’t think too much about this was because I believed I could introduce anyone to new things and they would be receptive to this. I was also so sure about the rightness of my taste in stuff. I was totally wrong in the case of Michael, and I sometimes wonder if I am just wrong in general. I mean, not everyone wants to be exposed to new music, films, ideas, etc. Also, while I am pretty sure I have the best taste in everything, I have realized, with age, that this may just be my interpretation of things. Alright, end of digression.)

So, in 1996, after I had broken up with Michael, after Fred and I had started dating and were finally living in the same city and same apartment, we listened to Stray a lot. We also bought the subsequent Aztec Camera CDs and Roddy Frame’s solo record (which was funny since every AC record was, in many ways, just Roddy Frame’s solo project.) The fact that we both liked the music and it seemed like no one else had even heard of it did bring us closer together, in a way (not an important or significant way.) When we were planning our wedding, Fred and I made jokes that we should hire Roddy Frame to play, or at the very least invite him. We didn’t (which I am actually quite glad about.)

I started checking out the internet for information about Roddy Frame (was he alive, was he dead, did he fall and hit his head?) and found an amazing fan website ( which answered all my questions. This is where, in the summer of 2001, I found out he was going to perform a one-time show with Edwyn Collins at the end of September. The WXRT broadcast in 1985 was the closest I had ever come to seeing Roddy Frame perform (although Fred had seen him in 1993 and I was incredibly jealous.) So we decided to go and planned to stay in England for a week (to sight see and visit relatives. To this day, Fred insists we did not fly 3000 miles to go to a concert.)

I bought the tickets and worked out the details of trans-Atlantic travel. Some of the details included getting a new passport as mine had expired in May of 2000 and I mailed in my application September 10, 2001. The next day the world changed.

The first week, when I was alone in the house, sitting on the sofa, glued to the tv set, I didn’t even think about what would happen. But then I received my passport and I started to worry we wouldn’t be able to go, but international flights resumed, and we boarded the airplane on September 28.

We spent that day (which was a Sunday) at the Tate Modern. Then we went to a pub for a fan meet up (it seemed like all his fans knew each other already. We just went because we had time to kill) which was so boring until Dan and Jenniene arrived. It turned out we were sitting next to Jenniene and spent the concert giggling with her. Then we waited outside because Jenniene was determined to meet him and I, well, I decided it sounded like a good idea. It really was because Jenniene eventually grew bored and she and I just walked backstage. (I would never have even thought of doing this on my own.) Jenniene introduced herself as “Jenniene from Sydney” and I followed suit by introducing myself as “Alison from Chicago.” He seemed interested in talking to me and I remember thinking, “Don’t say anything stupid.” Then he said “you’re a little bit goth, aren’t you?” and I replied “No, I wear black on the outside because I am really sunny on the inside.” And then I realized how stupid that was of me and turned bright red at the goofiness of my statement. If I think about it, I could probably recollect every cringe worthy, embarrassing thing I said that night, but that one is so indelibly burned in my memory that I can’t even hear the word goth without thinking of it. We admire people for the work they produce and we want them to admire us back, but then we meet them and all we can hope for is not making total fools of ourselves. I know there are people who manage to come across as intelligent, sophisticated, attractive, and funny when confronted with artists they, for want of a better word, idolize. I am not one of them.

So this is not just the dress I was wearing when I met Roddy Frame, the is the dress I was wearing when we met Dan and this is the dress I wore when we went to celebrate his marriage to Helen a decade later. There is a reason why this is one of the most important dress in my collection. Few other dresses I own have had so many opportunities to absorb as much love.

Of course, it also has had the opportunity to absorb a great deal of pain. I wore this dress on the opening night of My Sister In this House in July of 2002. It was the first (and thus far only) professional show I directed. I had spent months thinking about it, working on it, and I had really believed that we had something special. Then, during tech week (which was actually two weeks in our case) everything unraveled. The designers wanted to kill the cast for acting like divas, the cast I loved decided that I was incompetent because I tried to rein them in, and the theatre company that produced the show gave none of us any support. In spite of all this, the show turned out well and received pretty good reviews, but I was damaged from the experience. I may have looked great that night, but I had a broken heart.



Verdant Mossitude


Cemetry Gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Net Gain

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I remember reading Cary Grant’s or Gregory Peck’s (I can't remember which) recollections of working with Audrey Hepburn, what a doll she was, how lovely and ladylike, and that she ate nothing on the set except an apple. One a day, every day. I have an image in my mind of the Audrey on the set of Roman Holiday sitting in a white directors chair eating a pale green apple, delicately. This was presented, by both the actor and the interviewer who wrote the article, as a sign of her refinement, her good breeding. Audrey was such a demure lady with such impeccable manners as demonstrated by the fact that she was never seen eating anything but a perfect piece of fruit, a very contained fruit, nothing too messy, and only one piece, enough to show that she was human, but not enough to doubt she was a lady. At no point did anyone even consider the possibility that she may have been consciously starving herself, that even the original waif might have had to struggle to maintain her ballerina frame, that the quintessential gamine might have battled with flesh, that even Audrey was an anorexic.

I think many of us love Audrey Hepburn because she is the woman we aspire to be: part girl, part grown-up, part angel. It isn’t even physical, except that it is precisely the way her corporeal self is unimportant which makes me love her, want to be her. She is beautiful in precisely the non-aggressive way that every brainy girl who hasn’t come to terms with the realities of having a woman’s body wants to be-beauty as a mere extension of the internal reality. The body is immaterial for it is just the perfect package for her perfect soul.

Let’s talk about the personality, the soul. In every movie, Audrey plays the good girl, the sweet, intelligent girl who will perform her duty at all costs, who may have her fun, but only in a safe and respectable manner. The danger she poses is to herself. Even when she played characters who committed less than honorable acts, we understood that these acts were not reflections of her true nature, we understood that the bad things she did hurt her more than anyone else.

She was never the femme fatale or black widow, she was the girl next door who went away for awhile and came back sophisticated, but remained down to earth. She was never dangerous because she lacked sex. No man would presume to use her cheaply and discard her, but then, no man feared her either. When she kissed it was for love. No amount of smirks could turn her into a sex object, no amount of winks could render her into a dirty joke. She didn’t have the body for it. She lacked breasts and hips, she was all angles and eyebrows.

So Audrey appeals to girls like me, girls who would prefer to live in our minds without these difficult bodies to tie us down to the earth, without this flesh to demean us, girls who still use the term girl to describe themselves after they have passed twenty-five. We want to be noble, loved for our souls, and then discovered to be beautiful as an afterthought. Or rather, seen as beautiful by everyone, but have it understood that the physical is a mere reflection of the ethereal self. We want to be loved completely.

As a younger girl, I understood intuitively that the Ritas and Marilyns of the world were viewed as packages waiting to be opened and then discarded, the bodies and hair overwhelmed the senses and therefore perceived as being all the women had to offer. So I wanted to be Audrey with all my heart and mind. But my body failed to comply. I developed breasts and hips with a tiny waist, my body became the perfect hourglass. People looked at my body and failed to see my soul. I came to believe that all it would take to set free my soul would be to lose the additions which puberty granted, to lose the inherent sexuality my body carried, and then others could see my reality, see me for who I was. So I tried to adopt Audrey’s eating regimen (mind you it was before I had heard of her eating habits) I sought nourishment from ideas to replace what I perceived to be the treachery of food. I had wished to be reduced to nothing, to cast off this body which had so failed me.

However, such thoughts can only last for a short period of time, eventually I grew beyond my fears, eventually I changed. I began to accept this body, I began to accept myself, and I attempted to integrate the outside with the inside.

But I still look at Audrey with wonder. She achieved what I could not.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Black Dress In Winter

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Chiffon Slip

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sand and Lace

This is one of the more significant dresses in my collection. I hesitate to post it here without also including the corresponding text. However, I can't yet bring myself to edit that which has been written.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Winter and Sparkles

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Not A Black Dress

It's a graph of what this blog looks like using a java applet which converts line breaks, images, and the like into colored dots. Try it out yourself.

I have more pictures to convert from raw files, so in the next few weeks, it will be photo-a-go-go in black dress land. AND there are 60+ pages of text which are begging to be edited. Of course, it all is so different in the blogosphere (where I can just throw up one picture, or one entry) as opposed to the real world of paper, pen, camera, and cloth. Eventually, I will have to look at this project as a whole. But, until then, I'll goof around on the internet. Yes, thank you cyberspace for continuing to provide such excellent means by whcih I may procrastinate.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Friday, June 30, 2006

Gray Shale

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Velvet Beach Winter

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Velvet and Leaves

Dress: Vintage dress with velvet detail and attached crinoline
Label: There is no label
Fiber Content: Wool, velvet
Year purchased: November, 2005
Purchase price: Traded for a knit item to be made at a later date.
Store: Kristen’s Vintage Trunk show
Additional information/Oddities: This dress is slightly large on me. Also, when I look at it in the light, I wonder if it is not balck at all, but a very deep navy blue.
How I wear it: With stockings and heels.

I wore this dress with vintage heels (which I found at Salvation Army) to Thanksgiving 2005. I was amazed at how well the shoes matched the dress.

There was a girl who was in my year at college. Our freshman year, she only wore black, predominantly vintage dresses.

I was impressed by her wardrobe, but not overly impressed by her. She was mean. She was overly enamored of her own coolness. She used to always make a casual reference to her years as a teen model. She was smart, but no smarter than everyone else, but you could tell she thought she was smarter and prettier and just cooler in general than everyone else (though she was a good deal less goofy and silly than myself and probably handled the whole college transition better than I did, so maybe she just considered herself superior to me.)

She gained a lot of weight over the next couple of years. This made me extremely happy, though I am ashamed to admit this. I shouldn't weight gain in another person as a cause for celebration, no matter how smug and deserving teh recipient of teh extra pounds may have been. I am shallow and petty.

She stopped wearing black dresses.

She became very involved with the campus women’s (Womyn's, Wimmin's) group and seemed to stop wearing dresses entirely. She wrote articles for the school newspaper blaming men for the evils in the world and she seemed to always mention how she had an eating disorder in high school while modeling.

I only remembered her recently as I was working on this project. I keep thinking about how intimidating she was and about her wardrobe and I wonder if I have, in some way, become her. I am not the most friendly of people. Perhaps I, with my black dresses and prickly persona, make other people as uncomfortable as she made me.

Of course, I never was a teen model.

Monday, June 26, 2006



Sunday, June 25, 2006

On A Log

Dress: Long sleeve, scoop neck long dress with flare skirt. The side seams come to very subtle points (as opposed to being rounded off, as most skirts are.)
Label: Ralph RL Lauren
Fiber Content: 90% Rayon, 10% Spandex
Year purchased: June, 2004
Purchase price: $2.00
Store: Salvation Army on Clybourn
Additional information/Oddities: This dress is a good examples of why designer clothes are so wonderful and, if it is something you will wear, totally worth the money. Of course that is easy to say when I am talking about a dress for which I am positive I paid no more than $3. This dress really does look terrific though. My only problem is that I think it may be a very dark navy blue and not black at all. This is one of those things that's hard to tell as blacks don't always match.
How I wear it: When I have worn this dress, I have worn opaque tights with it. This is more a function of not having shaved my legs than anything else. Also, winter is not a really great time to walk around with bare legs.

I bought this dress to wear during pregnancy. However, I can't recall if I actually did so, which probably means I didn't since, I feel I have established that I have this completely useless ability to remember everything regarding clothing. Unfortunately, I have no idea where I left my keys.

I did wear it to the parent orientation for Julian's school. I was very nervous and thought that if looked sophisticated and pulled together, it would help me feel better. I also wore this dress on Julian's first birthday. We went to school and brought snacks that day-we had baked an organic pumpkin bread for the occasion and Julian loved it. Then, after Julian had a nap, we took him to my mom's house and Fred and I saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was the first movie we saw in a movie theatre after Julian's birth. Then Abigail and Melanie came over to throw Julian a party, which didn't really mean much to him as he was only one and he hated the party hats, but liked their gift (a box of musical instruments) and we can say we did something on his birthday when he is a difficult adolescent and demanding proof of our love.

What people never tell you about pregnancy:
  1. Your breasts will grow. People will tell you this, but they will neglect to tell you by how much. Expect to grow an extra set (i.e. if you are a B cup, expect to become a D cup. If you are a C, expect to start buying sizes not sold in Victoria's Secret.)
  2. People will irritate you more than you thought possible. Some suggest this is a result of the massive hormones coursing through your veins. This is only partially true. The larger reason, however, is that people are truly more irritating while you are pregnant. Everyone has advice, opinions, suggestions, and criticisms about absolutely everything you do. Get used to it. All these people will be there with their advice, opinions, suggestions, and criticisms in regards to the way you will raise that baby that is currently growing inside of you. The reason this happens is people suck.
  3. Expect all your unresolved issues to bubble to the surface, demanding attention. This is probably your brains way of turning you into a grownup (hey, get the therapy now, before the baby is born.)
  4. Those nine months will be the longest of your life. But you will forget them. Slowly. This is the human species' way of ensuring that it doesn't die out. If we remembered what pregnancy was like, we would all have only one child.
Dress: Long sleeve, v-neck long dress with straight skirt to ankles.
Label: Lauren Ralph Lauren
Fiber Content: 93% Rayon, 7% Lycra
Year purchased: January 2006
Purchase price: $3.00
Store: Salvation Army on Clybourn
Additional information/Oddities: For one very long tube, this dress is surprisingly sexy.

When one has as many dresses as I have, there comes the point when one may run the risk of inadvertently buying a dress I already own. This has not yet happened. However, the casual reader would be forgiven for assuming that this did occur with the above dress. You will have to take my word for it when I tell you that it is unique and different from the other Ralph Lauren dress. It is a very nice, sophisticated dress made out of a jersey material which is perfect for winter. Like the other dress, I can wear it if I ever get pregnant again, but it isn't strictly a maternity dress.

I have worn it a few times. The only time worth mentioning was when we went to the AAA office to get new passport photos to get new passports (the replacement passports we were issued in Costa Rica were about to expire. Why were we issued replacement passports in Costa Rica? Well, because our passports were stolen because some guys slashed the rental car tires and then offered to "help" us when we were stranded on the side of a mountain road. When I think of all the things which could have happened to us, I feel like we were extremely lucky.)

A Maternity Dress and How I Felt When I Was Pregnant

Winter Cadeau 1

Winter Cadeau 3

Winter Cadeau 2


Dress: Peasant dress with lace trim
Label: Cadeau
Fiber Content: 100% Cotton
Year purchased: August, 2004.
Purchase price: $20.00
Store: Belly Dance on Damen.
Additional information/Oddities: This is one of the only official maternity dresses I bought during my pregnancy and I bought it because the store was having this absolutely insane sale where all these things on their clearance rack were only $20 apiece. The dress is an XS, which I bought because it fit, but in truth, I would have preferred the small if they had it because my breasts (which grew three cup sizes during my pregnancy) are so prominently displayed that it is practically indecent. It is a great dress for summer.
How I wear it: With a good bra.

I was wearing this dress when a man hit on me at the grocery store when I was seven months pregnant. He got flustered when I pointed this out to him, and I couldn’t blame him because, in this dress, people’s eyes couldn’t help but be fixated on the chest. It was like trying not to stare at the sun. Or a car wreck. This is a great dress because, despite the extra space for a tummy, it works really well even after losing all the baby weight.

I have worn this dress a few times post-partum. And not “I just had a baby” post-partum, but “I have lost all my baby weight and still chose this dress” post-partum. Which I feel is a pretty huge indication of how cool this dress is.

How I Felt When I Was Pregnant

Everyone else may look at me and think nothing has changed.

Everyone says what I am going through is normal and natural.

But it is too much, too weird, too impossible to even comprehend rationally. I am making placenta. I am creating a human. I am providing a home for a new creature. But I feel lost.

In the film Alien a creature is implanted inside a human body and the creature feeds on its host until it is ready for living on its own, then it violently bursts from the host’s body, leaving behind a bloody mess. Good science fiction. But now it isn’t fiction, it is my future. The difference is that in real life, my body has been constructed to feed the creature even after it tears me apart and my brain has been constructed so that the creature will emotionally tear me apart repeatedly for the rest of my life.

I am clearly not thinking positively. I guess I bought into the stuff that people always tell you about pregnancy: that it is a beautiful time in a woman’s life, that one’s body is fulfilling its biological function. I was unprepared for the fatigue, the nausea, the dizziness, the acne. I didn’t realize that pregnancy would augment my sense of isolation, because while I may have always believed that no one could understand what I was experiencing, that has become painfully true.

I was unprepared for how much I would fear of the future.

The Pics

I can't seem to be motivated to write and I am feeling an overwhelming urge to get rid of a lot of the lesser black dresses. However, I have lots of photos. And I have some text which needs to be reviewed.

Please let me know your thoughts. I'll keep trying to get the big pieces left undone finished and then, well, I'll look at your kind words and take them into account for the next big overhaul.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Primer Essay #1: David, Milan, and I

Duran Duran is responsible for my discovery of Milan Kundera.

I don't have to tell you who Duran Duran is, or rather, was, as their significance in early to mid-80s popular culture was so huge. I received Seven and the Ragged Tiger for my twelfth birthday and became obsessed. My bedroom walls were covered in Duran Duran photos. I listened only to their music. I was going to marry John Taylor (who was, by far, the cutest and has aged the best. Which probably goes to show that while smoking and sun exposure will destroy your looks, a serious cocaine addiction will not.) By the time I turned 13, I was over them, my musical heart having moved on to U2, the Smiths, the Cure, and Aztec Camera (another band who I initially only read about) and my romantic heart having moved on to real life boys (not that I was any more successful with boys I knew. At least I can explain away my failure with John Taylor as a case of me never having met the man.)

Anyway, as I was saying, I was really into Duran Duran and bought every magazine that had an article or photo of them in it. In a number of the music magazines the band Japan was mentioned. Most of the articles talked about their breakup and how their lead singer, David Sylvian, was embarking on a solo career. I was curious. Now, it probably goes without saying that Japan was not played on the radio and any curiosity I actually had about them had to be indulged by buying their record. Now the prospect of buying a record by a band when I have never even heard a single song by them is terrifying to me even now, as an adult with disposable income of my own. It was truly impossible to imagine doing this as a preteen with an allowance and so many things I wanted (Guess jeans, le sportsac purses, makeup) to buy. But somehow I did buy the live album Oil on Canvas. And I liked it a lot (The music was decidedly New Wave, with some flirtations with New Age and Jazz.) I never actually got around to buying another Japan album (although Maria still remembers that I always looked at the Japan section in used record stores. It was never that I never intended to buy another Japan record, just that I never got around to it as there were always records I wanted more.) I bought copies of David Sylvian's solo records (at the time they were the Forbidden Colors single, and the albums Brilliant Trees and Gone To Earth. He had definitely gone over to New Age, Light Jazz, and ambient music with Gone To Earth.)

So, I went to high school filled with all my interest in music and my past experience as an obsessed fan of Duran Duran. I was (still am, actually) one of those people who believed that what you listened to revealed important information about who you were as a person. When I would meet someone, I thought nothing of grilling them with regards to their musical tastes and then deciding whether I wanted to be their friend based upon the answers. Of course, this really isn't true, a lot more went into determining whether I became friends with someone or not (not the least of which was whether or not they wanted to be friends with me) but the question "what music do you listen to?" was a pretty important one.

Sometime between my freshman and junior year I met a girl, Sherri, who was still a Duran Duran fan (which I had o admire as it was pretty uncool at that point, most people, including it seemed member of the band, having moved on past the glory days of "Hungry Like The Wolf") and she was also a David Sylvian fan as well. She was interesting, to me, as in all that time I spent asking people what music they listened to, she was the only person who also liked David Sylvian. How did she develop the interest? Sherri's favorite member of Duran Duran was Nick Rhodes. One thing about David Sylvian that I have thus far failed to mention is that he bore a very strong resemblance to Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran (past tense. They have both aged completely differently and look nothing like on another now.) So Sherri saw a picture of David in some magazine and developed a curiosity about him based on what and who he looked like. I mention this because it is an even more extreme version of my own journey and, to this day, Sherri is the only person who has ever admitted discovering music this way.

Sherri wasn't really a friend of mine in that we really only chatted at school and, maybe, once or twice on the telephone. I really have no idea how it came to pass that we saw the film The Unbearable Lightness of Being together. I know she must have been he one to suggest it as I had not heard of Milan Kundera (I don't have to tell you who he is, do I?), or even the "new Daniel Day Lewis (ditto?) film" when I bought my ticket at the Water Tower Place box office. But she must have asked me to see the film and I said yes and I am so glad I did because, well, I loved the film. I loved the film so much, I went looking for Milan Kundera's books at the bookstore. There was The Unbearable Lightness of Being on the bookshelf, next to The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, which I became the first Milan Kundera novel I read. Why did I choose that book, as opposed to the novel of which I had just seen the film version? Why, because David Sylvian had a song on Gone To Earth called Laughter and Forgetting. Yes, I asked Sherri and she confessed that this was why she started reading Milan Kundera.

So, as totally strange as it sounds a pop band from the early eighties was responsible for me discovering one of the greatest novelists of post modern literature. Is it possible I may have discovered Milan Kundera in another way? Yes possibly. But who can say for sure?

Oh my. As I type this, I realize that Milan Kundera is probably responsible for me reading Salman Rushdie. I audited a class on post modern novels my junior year of college. I did so because Milan Kundera was on the syllabus. So was Salman Rushdie. While I had remembered the fatwa and had even tried to read The Satanic Versus when I was 17 (I got about 20 pages into it, maybe) it was reading Midnight's Children for this class which hooked me (of course, it was another two years after that before I attempted to tackle The Satanic Versus again.)

So the flow chart would be Duran Duran to Japan/David Sylvian to Milan Kundera to Salman Rushdie. Which means that whoever gave me Seven and the Ragged Tiger in 1984 changed the course of my entire life.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Heather wants me to write some sort of glossary or primer wherein I explain my various music and literary references because she thinks it may make life easier for my readers. Actually, what she said was, "I know you don’t want to believe this, but if not for you, I would not know who Roddy Frame is. It’s kind of an obscure reference to anyone under 30." I will ignore the subtle dig on my advancing years because, let's be honest, Roddy Frame is an obscure reference for people over 30 as well, and grant that Heather has a point (despite the fact that she has a degree from an art school and has never seen Blue Velvet.)

The problem, of course, is I have no idea where to begin.

Should I do this alphabetically? In order of importance to me? In inverse proportion to relative fame?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Corduroy Faux Victorian "Maid's" Dress

Fiber Content: Polyester corduroy, I think
Year purchased: 1986, I think
Purchase price: I have no idea
Store: I have no idea. I want to say someplace like Dress Barn, but mainly because I find Dress Barn to be a funny name for a store.
Additional information/Oddities: This is the oldest dress in my collection.
How I wear it: with an apron, it is the perfect maid’s costume.

I was in high school when I got this dress. I took out the tag when I bought it because I didn’t want to know the size or the manufacturer and I hadn’t quite yet grown into my whole “buy it because you like it, not because of whose name is on it or what size it pretends you are” philosophy of clothing. A bunch of girls (blonde, designer oriented, honor students—needless to say, we didn’t keep in touch) with whom I was friends at the time kept saying it was a Laura Ashley and I let them say this. Except that Laura Ashley isn’t really known for doing black. (I bought a black Laura Ashley jacket at Salvation Army because it was Laura Ashley and black and I had to have it because of Cynthia Heimel. But I find I actually wear the jacket a lot right now because it is black and lightweight and goes with everything.)

This dress is quite flattering, in a severe, Victorian sort of way. It has a definite rural community/Amish "good dress" quality to it--as in "the dress worn to church and funerals." I have worn it with an apron in a number of acting class scenes where I played the maid (though now that I say that, I can’t remember a single one. Did I ever play a maid, in or out of acting class?)

I wanted one of my actresses to wear it for the photo shoot for My Sister In This House, but it turned out it didn’t actually fit her, despite what she claimed were her measurements on her audition sheet. Yes, this was the same actress who had her weight listed as 105 pounds and said "Well, I'm not 105, but I look 105." For all you actresses out there, don’t lie about your weight and measurements, you are only making life difficult for yourself and your costume designer. (I know Tyra Banks tells all the girls on America’s Next Top Model that they should have two sets of measurement-one which they give the client and one which are the real ones. I have no idea how that works. If I lied about that sort of thing, I would be too terrified that I would find myself in a costume which didn’t fit. I was once in an industrial for Wendy’s and they had asked us for our sizes on our audition sheet. I told them I was a size 6, because I didn’t want to be surprised on the day of the shoot. Sure enough, we get our costumes and everything ran small and all the girls who claimed to be size 2 were running around trying to trade their costumes with me, saying stuff like “but you are skinnier than me, I think this will fit you.” So heads up, saying you have a 23 inch waist doesn’t mean you will suddenly have one and the camera adds ten pounds so saying you weigh twenty pounds less than you do is a costume accident waiting to happen.)

Another nice thing about this dress is that it is warm.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I still am not quite sure I know what people mean when they use the term "Goth"

Bauhaus is playing in concert right now and I am missing it. All the black clothing in my closet is crying in protest. This isn't quite true. Bauhaus was playing in concert the night I originally wrote this, but that was months ago. Of course, it is entirely possible that Peter Murphy, Daniel Ash, David J, and Kevin Haskins are actually performing somewhere, right now, as you are reading this. But that wouldn't necessarily cause my clothes to grow vocal with me for failing to be in the audience.

It’s the wrong door.

When is a door not a door? When it is a Ducasse.

Oh the humor that kept the teenage goth girl giggling and how dull and drab it seems now, fifteen years later.

Was goth even a term we used back in the day? I remember referring to people as punk and unless someone can provide evidence to the contrary, I am going to assert that that was pretty much our default term for the people who wore combat boots, motorcycle jackets, and shaved their heads. Then in college, the people who dyed their hair candy colors and listened to SupPop bands were called coolies (which always makes people who hear my stories from those days do a double take. “Are you talking about Chinese slaves from the Nineteenth Century?” They ask.)

Not that I ever was very goth when I was a teenager. I mean, I wasn’t pink and perky with blonde highlights, but I wasn’t very punk rock or coolie either. I was just nothing. Too normal to fit in with the “weirdos” and too weird to fit in with everyone else. I didn’t wear enough black or the right kind of black on the outside and I was too black on the inside (because if I can’t reference Morrissey at a time like this, when can I?) In high school, I envied the kids who had the courage to dye their hair, shave their heads, wear combat boots, etc. Even though my clothes didn’t fit, I never actually defied the school dress code. I didn’t want to waste time writing out the norms of conduct in JUG (what detention was called. It stood for “justice under god,” because God cares if you were chewing gum or talking in class.) Also, in spite of being unhappy and disaffected, I never really wanted to annoy my parents (I was talking to Aushra about how punk rock she used to be in high school. She mentioned how people would come up to her and say, “I love your hair. My parents would never let me do that.” And her response was along the lines of, “Parents? You don’t ask their permission, you just do it and they get angry. That’s the point.”) Finally, and this is the part I have the most trouble admitting (though it shouldn’t be as it is the part which is perhaps the most obvious to everyone else,) I didn’t shave my head, dye my hair colors not found I nature, rip up my clothes, etc. because I wanted to be pretty. I wasn’t, and didn’t believe I ever would be, but I was afraid of going too far in the opposite direction, because I still hoped. So I was just enough of an outcast to be miserable, but not enough of one to actually enjoy myself.

I can’t help but think of the “goth kids” on South Park. You must prove you are not conforming to society’s rules by conforming to ours. Does anyone use the term comformist after they graduate high school?

All that black in the closet and where does it get you?

All that black in the closet and eventually it grows boring.

There comes a point when you start to rebel against the black. When you begin to feel an almost visceral desire for color. Suddenly fuschia and royal blue become appealing.

Freshman year of high school I owned so little black, but I wanted to own more. I remember the comments I would get when I would wear only black. I remember how black seemed to be a subversive act. Now it is just de rigeur. I don’t feel subversive, sophisticated, or sly. I just feel impervious to most stains.

My brother recently commented that he inherited all the flamboyance in the family. Not quite. I sort of feel like I was flamboyant enough in high school and college, that life with a child is too difficult and I don’t have the time to invest in planning my outfit for the following day the way I once did. Back when I was a teenager, I would spend hours deciding what I would wear, often tying pieces of fabric together and wearing layers. I was fond of scarves. I wore a lot more color then. I didn't necessarily care if my clothing clashed with myself. But now, I don't have that kind of time and I don't have that kind of courage (though I might argue that it is hardly courageous to ignore the visual dissonance created when pairing paisley with polka dots.)

My infant son sees random women dressed in black walking by and thinks they are me. He has actually NOT RECOGNIZED ME on days when I wear a color other than black.

Reasons to wear black (and why they are lies.):
  • Black is slimming. (Except that people who wear black are either very skinny anyway or are not supposed to care about that sort of thing.)
  • Black is subversive. (In what universe? Black is always the new black.)
  • Black is still, to this day the color which sets one apart from everyone else. (Except that everyone else wears black, too.)
  • Black goes with everything (except itself. After all, there are so many shades of black.)

This font is called Bauhaus 93. (Except, of course, it isn't on blogspot.)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Introduction to the closet

I have forty black dresses hanging in my closet.

By black I mean black, not black with flowers or black-and-another-color-patterned or black and white, just black.

By forty I mean I am incapable of obtaining an accurate count of the number of black dresses I own. I go to my closet and start counting, but when I get to around thirty and I get distracted, or I find some dresses folded up in a drawer, or I remember that some are at the cleaners. I also have a problem because I keep acquiring more black dresses. So I stopped counting at forty. Forty is the number over which I refuse to count.

Forty is a solid number, it has corners. It feels like a cube, which you can hold and toss from hand to hand. It has biblical significance. I could struggle against temptation in the desert, but dazzle the devil with a new dress each dawn.

The number of black dresses I own exceeds the number of boys whom I have kissed.

I have more black dresses than I have memories.

Some people, the sorts of people profiled in magazines for their excellent sense of style, may suggest I don’t own that many dresses, black or otherwise, that my closet is small and pedestrian and not worth discussing. After all, I don’t own any couture pieces, none of the dresses were made expressly for my body, taking into account all my little flaws. I haven't become best friends with anyone named Oscar or Georgio or Donatella and they aren't whipping up little concoctions for me to wear to the supermarket.

My grandmother on my mom’s side made clothing for the Sultan’s family and my father’s maternal grandmother’s mother made clothing for European royalty. So while the idea of having an entire wardrobe of custom made clothing is appealing, I really feel like I should be the one doing the construction. A couture wardrobe would be a badge of shame, a sign that I took the easy way out, that I purchased an item because I lacked sewing skills.

Also, I hate the whole exclusivity of the couture thing. I hate that there are certain handbags that one actually has to get on a list to buy and, basically, the manufacturer decides if you are important enough to actually get off the list and get the bag. This is a leather sack we are talking about people, not admission to college.

Another thing most truly fashionable people might find objectionable about my clothing is that almost all my clothes were purchased at thrift stores and resale shops. I know that shopping at thrift and vintage stores is supposed to be a sign of coolness which is why stores like Urban Outfitters exist (hey, look like you shopped in a thrift store but pay real store prices!) But I am usually too cheap to shop in real stores and I adore thrift stores. This is simply because I love the hunting aspect which thrift stores give to shopping, the sense of not knowing what I will find that day. And then there is the whole sense of accomplishment I feel when I find something at a reduced price. I have often considered something not worth buying if it is not on sale, because, let’s face it, money can be put to much better uses than clothing. When I see the prices of the clothing in photo spreads, I find myself thinking, “Do you know how much real estate a closet full of those clothes can buy?”

Anyway, better to spend the money on shoes and bags, if real estate is not an option. (If you can ever get off the wait list.)

Some people, the sorts of people who write books about simplifying your life, may suggest I own too much black, and I may agree with them, especially if I were to include the number of black skirts, pants, sweaters, shirts, and undergarments in the equation. I have too many clothes, too many dresses, and all the black is but a significant fraction of the larger problem. When looking at the whole of my closet, one isn’t overwhelmed by the amount of black, but by the sheer volume of clothing crammed into a very small space and the lack of organization. I am not one of those women with a separate, temperature controlled room for her garments (because no matter how much I may want one, whenever I see such things in other houses, I find myself imagining all the stuff other than clothing-computers, furniture, exercise equipment-which could be put into the room and the alternative uses to which the room could be put. In truth, I find closets to be a waste of space.)

I have fantasies of paring my wardrobe down, discarding all the extraneous material, all the items that will never again see the light of day. However, each bout of cleaning followed by donations to charity has little affect on the overall volume of clothing I own. In truth, I am unable to get rid of most of it. Each dress serves its own unique function. Each dress has its own special magic. Each dress has its own identity. Each one has been loyal to me (or has made promises of future loyalty which I believe) and I cannot discard it, even if I never have the opportunity to wear it again. I feel guilty just considering getting rid of certain pieces. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every dress. There are quite a few dresses I wouldn’t miss. There are quite a few dresses which I now wish I didn’t have. Unfortunately, once one becomes aware that they are keeping a collection, it becomes difficult to get rid of anything which may be part of the collection, even if the items in question have very little intrinsic value beyond their membership in the collection itself. How can I get rid of even one black dress when it is part of the larger collective?