Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Say Yes to the Dress

Even if you have no earthly idea what you're going to do with it.

Valerie says: I was out looking for New York City honey to give as a gift to a friend. The tips I got on the internet did not work out, and at times like that there is nothing like finding solace in the local second hand shops. Jean was not with me to exert a guiding influence. My eye always goes to interesting fabrics, and designers often reserve their best fabrics for evening wear, so I always look for it in second hand shops. Even if I don't buy, I'll have fun looking. I have no use for evening wear, but I have several floor length dresses by Donna Karan and Krizia, bought only because I thought no one else could possibly appreciate the fabric as much as me. Okay, I also bought them in case one day I'm nominated for a Grammy or an Oscar. A girl should always be prepared.

Well, this is what I found in the evening wear section this time.

The first photo is with natural light, the second with almost no light. Not sure which will better help you see what I saw. It looked to me like a brick wall made of silver ingots, or like tailored armor for women. On closer inspection, it's made of large plastic rectangular sequins. I found that some of them were bent, and one or two missing but so WHAT?! I guess this is a dress one is not meant to sit down in, but as you know, women must always suffer for their art.

Here's the back. See how it swells at the backside? Really cool! Not like all those boring dresses that went down the red carpet at last month's Oscars. (Yes, I know, there were some really nice ones, too!) The waist looked so wide on the hanger that I decided it might fit me, and took it to the dressing room to try it on. This is definitely a high maintenance dress that you don't put on by yourself (even though it has a zipper). I imagine it's a Marilyn Monroe type affair, where (under ideal circumstances) you get poured into it, and at the end of the evening Madonna's eunuch slaves in pointy velvet brassieres reverently raise it from your body with fingers as light as the flight of a million butterflies. I wished Jean was there. I got panicky thinking I might ruin it, and called over a sales assistant to help me take if off before I'd ever really gotten it on.

I'm calling this a fish tail back, but I'm not sure that's correct. There is a great swath of fabric at the rump, gathered sort of like a bustle, which then flares out to the bottom. So those of us who HAVE a rump don't have to ask "Does this dress..." - you know the rest.

Some of you might want a better look at the spaghetti straps. They're paved with bugle beads. In this photo, if you look carefully, you can also see the mesh that the bricks are sewn to, which lines the whole dress.

There's no label in the dress, so I don't know who made it or where or what it's made of. I'm guessing the mesh, that goes past the end of the sequins to make its own statement, is polyester. It's a nice touch at the hem. I should say this dress is made for someone substantially taller than I am, but I'll figure out a way around that, even if I have to tie a ribbon to the bottom and wrap it around my wrist, as if it were a train.

For those of you who sew (that excludes me), a good practical question is: how do you seam it with all those huge sequins? I don't know. Here's a picture of the back seam, where the two sides come together on the bias. It's a marvelous piece of work, but even looking at it I don't know how it was done.

I have lots of rules about what I'm allowed - and not allowed - to buy. For example, I can't buy anything in a size I know doesn't fit me, I can't buy anything in a color I have no expectation of wearing - that sort of thing. But I also have a get out of jail free card. When I break most of my rules, the trump card that justifies the purchase is: the price is so good that if the experiment fails, I won't have to regret the purchase.

I have yet to see if this fits me, but if I only ever treat it as a piece of art on the wall, it's one of the most interesting purchases I've made in a very long time.

(Little cherries on top: the sales assistant told me she'd only put it out an hour earlier. As she took it up to the register for me, a woman seeing it - and me - urged me to "wear the hell out of that dress", her eyes as big as saucers. Funny how things like that alwsys make you feel oddly validated in your choices.)


  1. This is FABULOUS! I would have bought it, too...

  2. OMG, Valerie, I would have wrestled you to the ground for that dress!! Everything about it is absolutely glorious, and if you don't wear it, it's a stunning piece of wall art (and if you get tired of it, there is always someone out there (hint hint) who would take it off your hands. Great score--you need to go looking for honey more often.

  3. From what I can see, it looks like the seam doesn't have any paillettes actually in it, so sewing it should have been fairly straightforward (once planning where the paillettes went was sorted out, yada, yada)

  4. Go for it girl! It is a piece of art, and if it only lives on a pedistal in your house, that's OK too. It truly is a one-off, magnificent piece!

    Love from England,

  5. I believe that when sewing sequins and paillettes that make up the entire fabric, you are supposed to remove the individual sequins from the seam allowance so that it's easier to sew. I also think that you could use a heavier duty sewing machine needle (like for home dec fabric) and that would go through the embellishment fairly easy. You'd want to stitch slowly though so you didn't mess up the line. Fabric like that tends to be expensive... Also, you could stitch up your seams (that's a pretty simply designed dress, three seams, right?) and then remove the sequins from the inside of the stitched edges so you don't have the added bulk and weight, afterwards. Sorry, probably more info than you wanted to know!

    I have a formfitting dress like this made up of large black circular paillettes attached to a stretch jersey from Express YEARS ago. I had to shimmey into the dress and then smooth the pailletts downward like I was petting a dog or cat, after I got the dress on. It's fun to have a dress like this, but you need to be aware that you'll drop sequins or they'll get bent or catch and snag. Still, entirely worth it!

    Just discovered and enjoy your blog, you both rock!