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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Fashion as Art

I've always thought fashion frivolous. This is partly because I hate shopping for clothes. I hate the sea of shirts and skirts and dresses and pants that meets me every time I enter a department store. The sales people with their exhausted faces and fake smiles depress me. I hate the dressing rooms with their stained carpet and the piles of tried-on clothes hanging over the chipped louvred doors. (You can tell I don't shop at Neiman Marcus). The thought that girls and women in some thirld-world country have slaved in badly ventilated buildings without restroom breaks to make all this stuff gives me the heebie-jeebies. And it's ugly stuff, too: bland colors, seams with loose threads, and sized that never fit properly. Beautiful clothes? I never believed such a thing existed outside carefully engineered magazine ads. And if they existed, they cost more money than mere mortals could afford.

I've had a change of heart this past week, small but startling. I was at the library and on a whim pulled off the shelf a book on Claire McCardell, a fashion designer who worked in the thirties, forties and fifties. I cracked the book open, my finger slipping on the glossy pages. And there it was, a dress more beautiful than I had ever seen, a beauty that moved me more deeply than I had ever been moved by pieces of fabric sewn together. There were the colors, blue and turquoise, the sheen and grain of the cotton fabric, the lines of the cut, crisp and sensuous. It surprises me even now that I can talk about the dress like this, that I'm describing clothes as if they were art.

That shock hasn't worn off yet. I found that vintage McCardell dresses are sold online for hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Ironic, considering that McCardell prided herself on creating affordable designs. I don't know, though, at what price that affordability came; I haven't been able to find out where her dresses were manufactured. I still haven't tired of looking at pictures of her clothes; I stare and stare at them with a glazed expression on my face, and feel very happy. Here are a few that I was able to find on Google.




6 Comments:

Blogger Rebel Girl said...

Let's pitch in and buy one and share it for the rest of our lives!

Beautiful stuff.

I'll keep my eye out at the thrift store...you never know.

March 01, 2006  
Anonymous Maven said...

See, this is why I love the library, and thrift stores, and museums, and blogs: the thrill of discovering the existence of something you hadn't even imagined, and finding out that it moves you. Thanks for posting about Claire McCardell--I'd never heard of her and now I'm totally intrigued and googling.

March 02, 2006  
Blogger madness rivera said...

That gold plaid one is stunning though I think it probably looks best right there on that mannequin.

In terms of couture, the hundreds of dollars probably is affordable. ha!

March 02, 2006  
Blogger madness rivera said...

Look, you can get a paperdoll set:

http://cgi.ebay.com/UNCUT-CLAIRE-McCARDELL-PAPER-DOLLS_W0QQitemZ5671520144QQcategoryZ2444QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem#ebayphotohosting

March 02, 2006  
Blogger Green Whale said...

I'm so excited about those paper dolls! I like the idea of sharing a dress with a bunch of friends -- how much history can be crammed in a nicely tailored piece of fabric? But Madness is right; those dresses probably look best on those inhumanly shapely mannequins.

Maven -- I agree with you about libraries, thrift stores, museums. I love old stuff. I love old people. There's nothing as beautiful to me as the marks on things or on people of lives well lived.

March 03, 2006  
Blogger Michelle Fry said...

This makes me wish I could sew. I watch "Project Runway" because I love to watch them design and sew their own clothes. I secretly wish I could do the same but I don't even have a sewing machine.

March 04, 2006  

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