Rate the Dress: Charles James, Surrealism, and green

Last week I showed you Maria Feodorovna in muted blue and lace, all 1870s Russian empress.  Most of you found her and her frock very attractive, and yet, something wasn’t quite right about the ensemble for most of you, and you couldn’t give it your wholehearted approval.  So it came in at 8.3 out of 10.  Not a divided 8.3 (there wasn’t much range in the ratings), but a rather unanimous 8.3 where (almost) everyone liked it, but few thought it absolutely perfect.

It seems appropriate that today’s Rate the Dress be green, and while I kept finding amazing green frocks I wanted to show you, they were all in tiny, terrible images, so I ended up choosing something that I suspect I already know what you are going to think of, which I hate doing.  But I might very well be wrong, because I often am!

This week’s selection is going in to all sorts of dangerous waters: it’s by Charles James (and let’s face it, you haven’t been the biggest Charles James fans since the infamous ‘is that supposed to look like lady bits?’ dress I posted exactly years ago), and it features one of his attempts to dabble in surrealism (another thing you don’t often care for), and it is quite boldly patterned fabric (but at least it isn’t whale paisley).  So rather risky!

But it is clingly 1930s glamour, which is often popular, so perhaps you’ll love it!  What do you think?

Slinky 1930s silhouette…

Masterful pleat details in the bodice…

Sexy back silhouette…

Oh, and have you noticed the fabric?

What do you think?  Pairing busy prints with elaborately cut garments was quite typical of the 1930s, but usually the fabrics were cluttered florals, not wild twisting profiles.  James usually worked his sculptural manipulations of fabrics in plain textiles, to better show off the seaming and pleats: to the point where even in his own time the clinging evening gown in one colour had become a cliché.  By using a mad surrealist print has James successfully subverted both the trends towards cloying florals, and almost aggressively feminine and seductive silhouette that sometimes typified 1930s evening gowns?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

* And apparently the dress is on display at the V&A at the moment, if you are lucky enough to be in London…

Inexplicable public sculptures: Auckland Style

I was up in Auckland last week, for almost the first-time ever.  I’ve been in NZ for over a decade, but other than my first three days in NZ and one business trip, I’ve never spent any time in Auckland.

So it was wonderful to spend a little time, explore the city, and get shown around the museums by someone who really knows the art scene (Oh, and we went to a Bruce Springsteen concert, which was amazing, and means I can cross that off my ‘if I ever remotely get the chance to do X’ list).

In addition to the biggies, like the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and the Auckland Art Gallery, I spend a lovely hour just exploring Albert Park, which the AAG is set in.  In doing so, I came across this statue:

CM Reed statue, Albert Park, Auckland NZ, thedreamstress.com


OK, late Victorian, early Edwarian in style, little girl on a pedestal, what’s it for?

GM Reed statue, Albert Park, Auckland NZ, thedreamstress.com


Hmmm…a memorial to G.M Reed, BA – a journalist.  OK.

Let’s take a closer look at the statue:

GM Reed statue, Albert Park, Auckland NZ, thedreamstress.com


OK, so we’ve got a little girl in a funny hat clutching…a bundle of cobwebs and a fish?

Yes, definitely a fish, so the cobwebs must be a net or seaweed?

And what the heck is she wearing?

GM Reed statue, Albert Park, Auckland NZ, thedreamstress.com


It’s like a little ribbed knit onsie, or a bathing costume, with ruffles on round the hem and little bows fastening the side.

Plus, is she wearing a tam-o-shanter?

Let’s have a look around the back:

GM Reed statue, Albert Park, Auckland NZ, thedreamstress.com


Well.  Ummm…well.

GM Reed statue, Albert Park, Auckland NZ, thedreamstress.com


She’s technically not naked, but that’s not actually making it any better at all.

So what the heck is this statue about?  Is there some reference here that I’m missing?  Some story about a little girl who frolicked on beaches in her knickers and tam-o-shanter, clutching fish to her bosom and holding a net to hide her tum (seriously, scroll back up three pictures and check out that stomach – fabulous Victorian figure going on there!).  What does it mean!

George M Reed was apparently part owner of the Auckland Star prior to the late 1870s, and then part owner of the Otago Times.  He was once sued for the cost of a belltopper hat, burnt in a effigy burning demonstration (which is quite beside the point, but interesting nonetheless).  For a journalist, he makes surprisingly few appearances in New Zealand newspapers.  As a newspaper owner, having a statue is a bit impressive, but not too unusual.

But this statue.  Well.  It’s a bit unusual!

And as a bonus, here is a 1920s view of the park with the statue.

Art Deco Weekend 2014

Gosh, it’s been three weekends since Napier’s Art Deco Weekend 2014 and my life has been so hectic that I haven’t managed to post about it!

Despite the weekend falling in the middle of The Project, I managed to take a few days off to enjoy the vintage life, and to try to recuperate.

As usual, we drove up Thursday, so that we could get up nice and early on Friday for op-shop-a-thon, and a quick stop at the park to join in the wildest crowds of the weekend:

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.comDuck, duck, goose, pukeko!

After thoroughly tiring ourselves out carrying bags of fabric and books and other vintage goodies around town, it was time to retire for a nap and a rest, before heading out for dancing at the SoundShell:

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

My companion for the weekend was the gorgeous Elizabeth de la Ray of Ills Winter & Porcelaintoy, who you may recognise as the wearer of the Madge Bellamy White Zombie dress and the star of the Monsters music video.

I got to dress her up again all weekend (such fun to dress someone of a totally different size and with a totally different figure, and see them look amazing in things that would be quite disappointing on me!).  For Friday evening she put on an fabulous sequined top that I was lucky enough to get at a clothing swap:

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

I wore a cheater 1930s outfit: my Capelet of Yay (proper repro 1930s) and a bias cut silk crepe dress by Quicksilver(of all people!)

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com(clearly something exciting was going on in my upper left all evening ;-) )

Saturday it was up bright and early for walks on the beach and strolls in the gardens and vintage mini-golf and other shenanigans.  I started out the day in my Sherbet Seersucker frock.  Here I am watching the world’s cutest dog practically wriggle its skin off with the delight of having a ball to chase:

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

After enjoying the outdoors I stopped by the Criterion Hotel to watch Rose of Decadia do vintage hair and makeup:

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

And then popped outside to photograph the end result agains the backdrop of the Criterion:

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

By this time the day was getting uncomfortably warm (it got to 32 Celsius, and I’m not on speaking terms with anything above 27), so I popped home to apply cold compresses to my head and fan myself and change into something that would at least be cooler for the 5 minutes before my body temperature warmed it up again.

When that wasn’t enough there was nothing to do but climb in the fountain: the only place cool enough to have a dance that day!

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

Once my Bunnies frock was thoroughly soaked at the hem I had to head home to change again, this time into my Spotty Nautical frock and my new cream sometime-mid-century-does-1930s hat, which turned out to be the ideal outfit for the annual Full Swing group photo.  Blue and white spots are wonderfully photogenic (and stand out nicely in a crowded group photo), and it’s almost like the group picked a red, white & blue theme!

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

After the photo we declared ourselves too hot to eat (but had dinner anyway) and then had another mini nap, before dancing in the streets in my Hula Goddess frock:

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

Only, since it was 27 degrees at 9 at night, I had one dance, declared the weather unfit for public consumption, and went home and read a book!  (but it was a period book, so at least I was still keeping on-theme!)

Sunday was blessedly cool compared to Saturday.  I like 26 degrees!  We’re good friends!

Still, it was nice to have a rather chilled day to start with, hanging out at the WholeFoods Kitchen, which is where we ate almost every meal of Art Deco Weekend, because it is that good (and I usually hate restaurants where half the menu is vegan and gluten free).

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

From the cafe we sauntered to the Gatsby Picnic (oh Napier Deco Trust, with all the interesting things that happened in the 1920s and 30s in NZ, do you really have to borrow  your Art Deco ideas from been-done-a-million-times overseas sources?) to loll around in the Glory Days Magazine’s ‘Opium Den’ in my beach pyjamas.

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

Then I popped home for a play with the vintage wireless and to put on ‘real’ clothes: my Bambi dress

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

All prettied up, we had one last stroll around the waterfront amongst the picnic settings, where we stumbled across a gorilla hunt.

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.comNow where is that gorilla?

Once the beast was safely captured it was time to head back to Wellington for another year.

Napier's Art Deco Weekend 2014 thedreamstress.com

Goodbye Napier!

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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