Thursday, July 28, 2011

WorldCon Retrospective: 1930s Long Black Dress

This was one of those dresses I bought on a whim with absolutely no reason or purpose. This usually bites me in the proverbial bottom. I have a suit and two dresses in my closet right now I can count from memory that I bought on just such a whim and have never worn. I purchased this dress because I loved it and if fit like a dream and despite being black and a cut I would never normally go for, it managed to minimize the boobs.

Black poly dress with a teared skirt. No Label. 
From Held Over on Height Street in San Francisco, c. $50.

I think the dress is from the 1970s, from the condition and the fabric type, but it has a 1930s feel to it.

Left to Right: 1932 Coco Chanel dress via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; 
1935 Paris fashion plate; 1930s teared skirt dress

When I was nominated for the Campbell Award in 2010 I was almost as excited by the opportunity to wear this dress as I was with the excuse to visit Australia.

After the awards, photo by Joxer

I think I love this dress so much because it has a pussycat bow a detail drawing interest up to the face, and away from the rack. It nips in at the waist with a diamante belt tight enough to require no tailoring. And the multiple tears at the bottom balance me out (I tend to be top heavy).

I know, I know silly face, several glasses of champagne in at the Hugo Losers Party. I'm trying to show you the bow.

So I wore it to the Hugo Award Ceremony in Melbourne in 2010 (I didn't win the Campbell but I was in a wonderful dress, and that's what counts, in my world). I paired it with gold accessories because of the dress's built-in belt.

Gold Gloves from Piedmonts on Haight Street, San Francisco $15, and designer earrings, a gift.

Gold ballroom dancing sandals by Very Fine, from It's a Wrap in Burbank, CA $10, and 
little leather embossed bag inherited from my grandmother, probably 1930s.

One of my biggest tips as a high-heel aficionado to those more cautious with their feet, is to try dancing shoes. They can run very expensive but they break easily to mold to your foot. I have a lovely Shoe Guy I visit regularly who not only puts on walking soles and makes repairs but dies shoes for me at a very reasonable rate ($5 ~ $10).  I figure if I am going to get more wear out of the shoe with some adjustments it is worth the money.

Here are some fashion ideas to get a more modern look out of a long dress or skirt like mine. Maxi dresses and skirts are all over the street and the runway both for summer and fall, alas not exactly of this style.

I do think this dress would make for a great wedding dress style for a larger chested lady. But that is a whole other discussion.


  1. Dancing shoes. I never thought of that. I have congenitally bad knees, so heels can be problematic for me. Thanks for the tip!

  2. I'm always envious of the ruffled bottoms on my daughter's bathing suits-- and I think tiered skirts and dresses must be the flattering, grown-up version of that. Maybe I should try it, because that black dress is gorgeous! The trick must be to find tiers long enough to not make one feel like a layer cake...

  3. You looked fabulous, darling, just fabulous!

  4. Gorgeous!

    Back when I used to wear heels, I bought a couple of pairs of tap shoes and had those rubber heel and toe taps put on - they were about as comfortable as heels can get, and they looked respectable enough for work.

  5. (Here's crossing my fingers that LJ won't fubar my whole thing. Again. Sigh.)

    On the topic of shoes, do you find that certain types/styles are easier for you to wear, or is it purely about aesthetics? I ask because I'm terribly unlucky in the shoe area. I'm rather wide at the ball of the foot but normal width, or even a little narrow, at the heel. I always have to keep an eye out for width, length, and seams. It pretty much has to be a mystical trifecta of all three (or the elimination of one, hence a lot of my shoes are backless, bleh) to be worth buying. Otherwise, it's back to the hunt for me.

    And what *is* it with the current trend of narrow, pointy toed shoes? I sometimes think my fondness for vintage inspired shoes is derived entirely from the wider, rounder toes. *sigh*

  6. Frostfire, ah shoes. I have skinny feet. Which is to say: narrow (but not _that_ narrow) but also not very thick so thinks with straps I always have to punch extra holes in. The end result is that most shoes made for the American market I just can't buy. I opt for Italian %90 of the time and ALWAYS leather. I need to be able to break a shoe to fit my foot, and man made will break my foot (with blisters) to fit the shoe.

    I've ended up with two mandates . . .

    1. spend good money on shoes and bras, get everything else cheap
    2. invest in shoes that will last for a long time

    Currently most of my shoes are: Via Spiga, Miz Mooz, modified dance shoes, (%50 of the collection) with a few Me Too, BP, and Franco Sartos. I have one pair of Lambs, a pair of vintage Kenneth Coles boots, and one pair of Irregular Choice all of which I love but which KILL ME to wear. I just can't get rid of the cuteness.

    Given what you told me about your foot shape you might consider Fluvogs (expensive, but you can at least try them on to see), Clarks, Blowfish, and Aerosoles. But those will all depend on how wide you go into wide, as it were.

    As for the trend, MJs are all over the runway for fall so points will probably be out. The theory is they elongate your leg and make you look taller. I'm rather a fan of the almond shape myself, a very vintage look which hasn't seen much of a revival.

  7. Gail, it's interesting that Clarks and Aerosoles are two of my favorite brands. My Clarks range between being über comfy but boring, relatively comfy and rather cute, or being in desperate need of a serious breaking in. My Aerosoles fall into the moderately comfortable range, although I was in a more ... optimistic shopping phase when I bought them. I have found that Naturalizers can have some good finds as well, but only under certain circumstances.

    I have noticed that leather seems to do better than most other options, although I hadn't made the connection before. Most likely comes from years of blaming my feet instead of the shoes. Fortunately, with the approach of one's mid thirties comes wisdom. Or at least, the loss of patience for uncomfortable shoes.

    And if the return of MJs means the end of the pointy shoe, I may well do a dance of relief. I don't know who thought telling women to wear elf shoes was a good idea, but my feet hate the things and they just look ridiculous.

    And LiveJournal is killing me lately. What on terra deorum caerulea is going *on* with them today?

  8. ARG! I had a big long reply typed up because I'm like FF - wide toes, narrow heels. 6 1/2 WW, in fact. And when I went to try and look up the website where I get some of my extra wide dress shoes I clicked the "X" button instead.

    Anyway, I get some at Chic Wide Shoes. They're okay. Not great, but they work.

    I also have "ballerina arches" so no matter what I buy, I always have to add extra arch support!

    In regards to the pointed toe, according to style experts like Charla Krupp (author of "How To Never Look Fat Again" and "How Not To Look Old") pointed toes are suppose to make a foot look thinner. Apparently you're also suppose to wear shoes that are the same color as your nylons to make your legs look longer. I told her that I don't care if it makes my feet look fat, I'm sticking with rounded toes!

    Because I have small and extra-wide feet I don't do vintage shoes. I can barely find new shoes in my size as the average American woman has a size 8 narrow. (My poor mom, who's a 5 1/2 WW, has to now buy wide kid's shoes when she wants new sneakers. Due to her back surgery she can't do heels at all and she hasn't been able to find a new pair of dress flats for about ten years now.)

    I invested in some professional grade shoe stretchers. Expensive, but worth it.

    But I really wish I could afford custom made shoes!

  9. You look so great in that dress! You can really pull it off :)

  10. I think this is my favorite dress that you've posted on this blog. It looks fantastic on you and makes you look super tall. Too bad it's polyester. I absolute hate polyester but the cut is fantastic and the bow is freaking awesome.

    I was looking through the new Anthropologie magazine and one of the models was wearing a scarf tied like that around her neck, a really big bow, it's definitely a fashion idea I'm looking forward to trying this fall.

  11. My goodness! I LOVE this dress! It's floofy, fancy, and adorable all at the same time. :)


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