Things about this dress:
1) I bought it last weekend at Getup Vintage in Montpelier. Josh and I were in town for the day; Getup was my “pleeeeease, I’ll just be a second” right before we left. “Not that I mind,” he said, “but I think you have that exact same dress already. Several times over.”
Let me establish that I do not, okay? But this dress does combine components from some of my favorite dresses. It’s the all-in-one I didn’t know I needed.
2) I always get a subversive little kick out of looking like a ModCloth darling before ModCloth was a thing. This dress is the genuine article. Its Getup Vintage tag said “50s dress”, which the seams and zipper placement corroborate. Maybe I look exactly the same from the outside, identical in my tweeness to hordes of other bloggers, but I take pleasure in feeling the history light me up and knowing I’m keeping something alive.
3) What even is my style anymore? What is this “minimalism” you speak of? Hell if I know. All I can say is that fashion is my pet artistic medium. I don’t have a style so much as a passion for just plain wearing stuff. Whatever strikes my fancy. Whatever I decide I want to express.
4) My campers love my outfits in the way that only little girls with zero filter possibly can. According to one of my more precocious kids, this particular dress is a “neapolitan sundae”.
This girl also described the archetypal “model look” as “like you’re watching someone try to escape from a box”, so you know. Take that as you will.
My twelfth Talent Development Institute, and I’m back with a vengeance. For the n00bs among us, TDI is a weeklong summer camp for today’s gifted child. “Gifted” here means anything from “aspie as all hell” to “does a rubik’s cube in 30 seconds”. Basically, we serve the eccentric master or miss. I’ve been a camper, a CIT, and a full-fledged counselor, as well as meeting some of my closest friends here.
This year, I’m teaching a workshop on the principles of fashion design. How to coordinate colors and textures, the moods different garments can evoke, etc. I’ve got to look the part, dammit. How would the campers be able to trust me otherwise?
But if anything goes wrong, our giftedness, or “giphtudness”, will take the blame.
I found this skirt at a costume shop’s going-out-of-business sale. It was originally part of a Grease costume, and I’m wearing it completely unironically.
So here it is. I’ve arrived. I always said I’d have made it as a blogger when I started getting free swag. And after twenty-five months and almost three hundred posts, I got a free pair of thigh highs (red, of course) from VienneMilano. Now, I know my style ethos focuses primarily on vintage, but I am willing to make exceptions for high-quality, thoughtfully produced merchandise. VienneMilano thigh-highs are one of those exceptions. The Boston-based importer sources Italian atelier hosiery for an American market. (Translation: this is some fancy shit, y’all.)
As Sabrina, the brand’s public relations coordinator, assured me:
“Since all of our products are made in Italy, the manufacturing conditions are all up to European regulations and standards. But to elaborate, our:
- Manufacturers will not use child labor
- Manufacturers will not use coercion and harassment
- Manufacturers will not discriminate
- Manufacturers are up to health and safety standards”
Nothing sexier than that.
VienneMilano packages its products with deliberation. Each pair of thigh highs comes with a complementary box (seen above) for lingerie storage. I appreciate that level of attention and affection shown to a garment. I want my clothes made, selected, and worn with pride and care. And VienneMilano employees seem genuinely passionate about thigh highs. No matter what the product or service, I’d always rather get it from someone who puts their whole self into it.
The company’s founder, Vienne Cheung, makes it her personal mission to bring thigh highs from night to day and back again. She told me:
The goal for VienneMilano is to re-market thigh highs as an accessory that can be worn outside of the bedroom. To give you an example, some 70+ years ago, you would have been considered crazy for wearing either a bikini or miniskirt. Today, just about every fashionista has either a bikini or a miniskirt in their wardrobe. I feel that thigh highs have similar association, and my goal is to bring thigh highs back into the mainstream as something that can be worn for every occasion.
And that’s sure as hell something I can get behind. Reclamation and declaration? Sign me up. So my camera and I accompanied my new VienneMilanos through a proper retro primping. From lingerie to everyday accessory.
Get 10% off any VienneMilano purchase with the code COLORMEBRAZEN! (minus punctuation)
In the name of breaking up this outfit-post monotony (jk I know you love me), I’ve been fomenting a new series. If I do say so myself, I own a hell of a lot of vintage. The 50s, the 90s, and everything in between. And I don’t deserve such a collection if I don’t properly cultivate it. I’ve decided to start, maybe once a week or so, posting analyses of some of my favorite garments: specifically, dating them. I’ve written previously on how to identify genuine vintage and place it in proper historical context, but there’s nothing like some actual in-the-field demonstration. I’ve seen many a blogger fooled by a well-made reproduction.
Above all: why own vintage if you’re not going to appreciate what makes it, well, vintage?
Some of these I haven’t worn for the blog yet. I currently have a pretty substantial backlog of outfits I’ve designed but have yet to photograph. So bear with me (i.e. suck it up) as I break the suspense a little.
First up is this baby from the $2 rack at Battery Street Jeans. BSJ had tagged it as “vintage 60s dress”; let’s see how well their analysis measures up!
A cursory googling of “Tori Richard Honolulu” turns up a brand that’s been around since 1956. Hmm, not much help. Other clues:
- Its zipper is metal and runs down the center of the back – a material and placement generally associated with the 60s. The nylon plastic zippers most often used today did not come into the mainstream until 1968. Individually-toothed plastic zippers were in fashion from the 30s on, but as they lacked a metal zipper’s hardiness, they’re less likely to have survived. As for the placement, 60s styles favored center-back zippers, as opposed to the side zips of the 40s and 50s.
- The tag displays the bare minimum. Generally speaking, the less information on the tag, the older the garment. Though country-of-origin labels were mandated in 1891, fabric content and care instructions weren’t required until 1961 and 1971 respectively. So this dress came after ’61 but before ’71.
- The dress’s swingy silhouette. While this is not a hard-and-fast rule – eras have borrowed from each other since time immemorial – given that the rest of the clues point to its origin in the 60s, the swing silhouette only affirms that analysis.
Verdict: sometime between 1961 and 1968.
This one’s tricky. I’ve worn it on the blog before, and I readily admit to dating it incorrectly in the previous post. The label had faded and I misinterpreted its color, putting my analysis off by at least ten years. And in ILGWU labels, color is pretty freaking important.
- This dress is a great example of how design itself can be counterintuitive. We associate fit-and-flare with the 50s, no? Nope – this girl can’t be older than the 70s.
- International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) tags are coded by decade and color. I initially interpreted this tag as blue and orange, which was associated with the 60s. It was only after comparing it to some others online that I realized it was a faded version of the red, white, and blue tag ILGWU used from 1974 to 1995. (I’ve never been very good at telling red from orange from pink. It’s all bright to me.)
- Garment tags as we know them today were mandated in 1983. You know the ones – small and rectangular, crawling with fine print. This tag, while relaying the information required since 1971, is definitely non-standard: look at that little fortune-cookie slip in the right of the photo above. I’d have to do more research into the tagging system to know for sure, but I’m thinking this dress is almost definitely from before 1983.
Verdict: sometime between 1974 and 1983. So, roughly ’78/’79.
Next installment coming soon!
I live ten minutes by foot from Ethan Allen’s resting place. I locked my camera on its most ethereal setting and hoped a spirit or two would lope into frame. It’s a little surreal to know that one of my state’s best and brightest lies reduced to dust just yards from me. We all get there eventually. In death, you’re not special.
Under my steely lens, I felt more gothic than I have in months. Josh and Holly were happy to oblige my urge to capture the day. Turning my friends ashen and fierce felt wonderfully subversive: the alive playing shamelessly at death, appropriating the crumbling corpses we’ll one day become? Sign me up.
Is “collector” a job? Not curator, not caretaker – nope, I just want to get paid to lug home crates of crumbling treasures and surround myself with their glow. I said in my recent interview on Paulie Antiques that I want to collect enough antiques to have a museum named for me when I die, and I stand by it. I love the rambling musty charm of old things. I want a life informed by every shard of history I can find.
Josh and I visited Danica at work and snapped these photos. She works in the stuff of my dreams – a crowded consignment shop set back from the rainy chill. I wore what just might be my oldest dress – authentic 1950s, but gorgeous for its age – and stepped into a dozen worlds in one.
I think Josh might actually be Simon Petrikov. That makes me Betty, but I’d rather be Flame Princess. I have a lot of feelings about Adventure Time.
In the spirit of antiquity, I thought I’d share the first paragraphs of a short story I wrote a few months ago. Take up your monocles and unsheath your pocketwatches:
Let me first whet your palate with the mention of Dr. Lucius von Schroeder. It is with a bowed head and a mist in mine eye that I recount his fate. Not I, nor the beings ingrained within this volume, shall pass judgment should you choose to turn your dear faint head away.
Von Schroeder was only a boy. I shouldn’t have nursed his whims so. Then again, bravado had thrilled him since his first beard. It was writ epic in his nature. Who was I to stand in his God (or whomever)-given way?
Von Schroeder craved beginnings and feared their ends terribly. He spoke of new dawns and advances yet unseen with besotted rapture. I don’t think his early days in the seminary had ever really quit him. He spurned the Church too vocally, too frequently, as though expunging whatever kernel of faith yet remained. He swore fidelity to science through and through, but I knew better. One night, when the walls seemed thin as ash and wind whipped our meager quarters, I heard the young man pray.
Want more? Let me know in the comments.
Not gonna brag (jk I’m totally gonna brag), but my letter to the editor got into the Seven Days today! Let the flame war commence. (To clear up the name confusion once and for all: Sierra is my first name. Skye is my middle name. I respond equally to either, but I find that Skye rolls easier off the tongue, so I use it more often on the internet.)
Now, before I pick up my mic, let me acknowledge that I do understand why people are sick of certain kinds of images. It does grate on me, artistically speaking, to see the same concepts over and over. We do need more variety, both in types of women and in the ways they are depicted. THAT SAID. The way we as a culture talk about making those changes throws many, many women under the proverbial bus.
Here I am being hot – and totally subjectified – at the beach!
We typically designate as “objectifying” those images in which a woman displays a particular, though inexact, amount of skin. That, far too often, goes unquestioned. Are we not responsible for this assumption? Are we not beholden to examine where it comes from? I can’t say for sure, but I’ve got a damn good guess. We’ve grown up in a culture that shames and vilifies overt sexuality. We speak of “pleasures of the flesh” as though they were divorced from, lesser than, pleasures of the whole self. And I see this rhetoric creeping into even the most progressive statements. It’s rare to witness discussion on objectification, particularly women’s objectification, go more than skin deep. Forget that there are many ways to be objectified, umpteen ways to have one’s agency diminished: the end-all of whether a woman is subject or object lies in the amount of skin she’s showing and how sexualized that skin happens to be.
What makes a nude shoot inherently more objectifying than a clothed one? You could argue the opposite: the clothed woman is but an object to display the artistry of the garments or the photographer’s technique. Instead, our collective minds jump right to “exposed flesh = object”. Maybe the thread of puritanical thought runs deeper than we’d like to admit.
And therein lies what chafes me. Why do we assume that the solution to objectification is to stop depicting sexualized women? How is that anything but victim-blaming? “If you don’t want to be seen as an object, you should stop dressing like one.” Fuck that and fuck you. It’s not my problem that American culture heaps such baggage on my body. It’s not my responsibility to tiptoe around people who can’t affirm my humanity. I will wear what I please and photograph myself in whatever lecherous poses I desire. If you think that makes me an object, if it prohibits you from treating me with respect, then god help you. That is one hundred percent your problem. Respectability politics in a nutshell.
It’s not about whether the woman is naked or clothed, sexualized or not. It’s not even about whether she’s submissive or dominant. It’s about whether she’s treated well, compensated fairly, and given the choice to opt out of the job. This focus on nudity and sexuality frustrated me partially because it’s a red herring: there are so many ways for a model to actually be objectified. Is she 14 years old and coerced into shoots too mature for her? Is she forced to lose weight? Do people refer to her as a “walking clothes hanger” rather than a full participant in the celebration of sartorial artistry? There are so many aspects to devaluation of agency. Boiling it down to clothed vs. not, chaste vs. sexy, demeans a woman’s choices about her body and detracts from the actual issues at hand.
I realize what a broken record I can be about this. But it’s so important to me. Sex-positivity and the end of shaming will never get anywhere as long as we cling to old definitions – any definitions, really – of what personhood and agency can mean. What it really comes down to, for me anyway, is that I will never know what someone else experiences as empowering. It’s not my place to tell anyone what their self-expression should look like. All I can do is wield my words and try to make the world a more accepting place – of sexuality, of controversy, of nudity.
Maybe I can play the fae queen after all.
Summer shifts my style from the starched primness of spring and into something looser and more ragged. I feel safe in the brightness of the days; I no longer have to supply my own via baubles. Summer is my time to play with the fae and the gothic. And I always feel so very roaring 20s in my fae garb. Like there’s something roaring into being under all those silks. Like I can create myself and the world anew every goddamn day if I please.
I saw Maleficent again last night, with Josh and Holly this time. I liked it better the second time around. The simplicity I previously derided now seems to work in its favor. When it comes right down, it’s a fairy tale. Building a story so obviously on the back of archetype would be questionable in another film, but I find it acceptably fae. The movie works a lot better when you read it as an overdeveloped fairy tale rather than an underdeveloped original story.
And I still don’t know why I love Maleficent the character so much. I get a tingly, heady thrill watching her in action; I can’t decide if I want to be her or possess her. But I’ve always adored the lean, steely fae queen archetype. Wished my natural features screamed less “cute and sunny” and more “fierce and fearsome”. I am not fit to play a Maleficent or an Elphaba or a Morgana. I lean far more toward Flora, Fauna, or Merryweather. But hey – that’s how creation delivered me. And I’ve always enjoyed the contrast between insides and outsides.
I took these photos in the first morning light – sans lipstick, sans anything. I’ve always felt my lips look weirdly naked without it. But sometimes a lack of artifice is just what we need.