Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Meeting the In-Laws

My parents stopped off in Santa Cruz yesterday to meet David's mother. They were to each other a social success.

Mama M. regaled my folks with the family history, which was right up my mother's ally. Back in the 70's while working on her Ph.D., the latter had collected oral histories of people in South Texas who had come to El Norte fleeing the Mexican Revolution and its consequences. Mama M. had pretty much the same story to tell. She was only two at the time her parents left, but she knew the family tale. Papa was away selling horses when some soldiers came into town. Mama M.'s mama fixed them a meal, and was consequently spared having the house searched for guns, which could have been big trouble, considering that she had told them there were none when, of course, there were. El Capitan told his men, "No, you leave that house alone. She was good to us." But when Papa came back home, Mama announced that she had had enough of that kind of thing and said she was ready to book it for El Norte. And so they did, eventually making their way to Idaho as farm laborers.

To top things off, one of David's sisters had gone on pilgrimage to San Juan de los Lagos, asking to survive her cancer long enough to see her children to adulthood. The milagro was granted. Mexican Revolution and pilgrimage... my parents, and especially my mother, were as happy as little clams. Mama M. served pound cake and coffee.

In other news, I believe I have found the perfect dress. Whether or not a pattern approximating this could be fashioned and executed without too much trouble remains to be seen, but by golly, this is what I'm talking about -- for the party, at least.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No more pears

I think the "perfect pair" wedding decor and favor theme is as done as chocolate fountains. I guess that's why they're having a big sale on "perfect pair" candles over at TheKnot.

Popular Commentary on Marriage, Sex and Living With Cats


Clueless 20-somethings

And just because I live with cats:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More on the date

It's looking as if June will be the time. The major consideration pointing to that over December is the groom's mama, who at 92, is not so keen on travel as she once was. The thought at this point is to have a small, quiet 'ceremony' in Santa Cruz on, say, the 16th or 17th so that she can be a part of it, and have the 'reception' in Corvallis a few days later on the 20th.

As my friend Ms. K points out, this way I can have two dresses... .

Friday, November 7, 2008


On NPR this morning, a particularly resonant piece ran:

Morning Edition, November 7, 2008 · The end of the presidential campaign is a relief for many. For news junkies, however, it can mean withdrawal symptoms. No more tracking polls to worry about. No more speeches to obsess over. Election addicts will need to detox.

"Maybe they were binging on election news."

Indeed. I, like the couple in this feature, am emerging from a red and blue haze, blinking and squinting in the bright, foreign light of nature. It's not easy to pull myself away, either. I feel an urge to do research on hypo-allergenic dogs and contact a bookie about placing a bet on the White House puppy.

The Pres-Elect is not making this any easier, either. I've spent the last eight years switching off the radio every time The Shrubbery opened his mouth. With this one, leaving the radio on for press conferences does not cause pain.

But I have a wedding to plan, so I'll let go of the burning desire to monitor the Internets for news on Obama's HUD secretary pick or stories of Rahm Emanuel's pit bullish (oh, there's *that* again) ways or gleeful gossip about Sarah Palin's lack of geographic knowledge.

About that latter, if you are shocked by the rumor that she has been operating under the delusion that Africa is a country and not a continent, don't be. I've had students do things on map quizzes that would make your head spin: putting India in Germany, Venezuela in Namibia and Oregon in the Galapagos Islands. Of course, they weren't VP picks on major party tickets, and hopefully never will be. Nothing worse resulted from their geographical ignorance than a bad grade, but I'm just saying there are a lot people out there on the streets who don't know Africa from a hole in the ground, and don't see what the big deal is in that, either. We majorly dodged something there, folks, but it's all around us.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bridal Skank

Ms K and I went to the Rose City Bridal Show this Sunday. It was interesting, perhaps even fascinating, but in a way that left us feeling like we had slummed just a little too long amongst a crowd just a little too questionable. Having worked at the Chamber, to say nothing of hob-nobbing with video producers, I've seen my share of trade shows, but I don't think I've ever been to one populated with vendors quite so aggressive. It was rather like tales I've heard of the souk, and reminded me of the 'craft market' gauntlet I ran at Quilatoa in Ecuador this summer.... only substantially creepier. Large men loomed out at us, stepping outside the confines of their booths to challenge us, coming darn near close to blocking our progress: "Have you thought about your honeymoon yet," they rumbled suggestively. "You got your venue yet," they sleazily crooned. Heavily made-up women with clouds of stiff hair larger than I've seen for years outside of beauty supply stores in Dallas, pitched laser hair removal at us and, unbelievably, make up and hair consultations.

The fashion show was narrated by an MC whose oily suggestions of "dream days" and floating off into the fairy dust of "happily ever after" had my married friend barely able to contain herself. I think I'm just about fed up with hearing or reading this stuff and nonsense about "what every little girl dreams of," as if the greatest wish and goal of females is - naturally - pretending to be a princess bride for one day of their lives. At least this guy suggested that Wedding Day Bliss is what all little boys dream of, too: "All little boys dream one day of being just like their dads." That may well be so in many cases, but this is the first I've heard that dressing up in an ill-fitting tux to play court jester with his buddies at his wedding was a part of that future dreaming. I've kind of gotten the impression that men, as a general rule, would just as soon skulk off somewhere and get it all over with quickly, maybe followed by a round of beers at the pub down the street.

But that's a stereotype, too, as is whatever motivated the event organizers to set up a playpen (a.k.a. "groom's lounge") for male attendees complete with "leather couches and sports." Leather couches and sports. I left my groom at home where he spent the day sitting on his son to get homework done, grading papers, mowing the lawn, trimming some bushes, and, it has to be said, sitting on leather furniture watching sports. I'm marrying a male stereotype, apparently. The difference is that when he does accompany me shopping, I don't have to stick him in the adult male version of the Ikea ball-room. Come to think of it, when we "go shopping," it's usually me accompanying him. So there.

"Groom's Lounge," with one lone, camoclad, [presumed] groom sitting on a leather couch and looking listlessly at the big screen TV that was not working.

But back to the fashion show. There were dancing grooms -- insert Jets and Sharks imagery here... just picture them in tuxes from Mr. Formal -- most of whom carried themselves in a way strongly suggesting gay. I will have to say, though, that one can never know, or at least I can't. My groom has been mistaken for gay on more than one occasion because of the way he talks. Fifteen years of spending one's days surrounded by ten year olds and women will do that to a guy's vocal inflections, I suspect. He does not, however, snap and prance down runways.

There were cute flower girls and an impish ring bearer and prancing, jesting groomsmen and brides trying to maintain some semblance of dignity until they got to the "older brides" bit. "Forty is the new 20," the MC unctuously oiled, "and 50 is the new 30." They then sent out onto the runway the grooms in their Mr. Formal and Mens Wearhouse tuxes, stringing them out in a line. And out come three women, dressed in costumes ranging from reasonably tasteful if one squinted one's eyes, to downright desperate. The gal in the electric lime green mini sheath and jacked up on Lucite platform heels was perplexing. I'm going to be a 47 year old bride. This is how I'm supposed to dress? Heck, why didn't someone tell me? I can get a polyester skank dress from Fredericks of Hollywood for under $70, and I can get a pair of Lucite platforms for under $25.

The "older brides" came out in full "cougar" mode, toying with the young grooms, pushing them to their knees, leaving them quaking. And then comes the eight year old ring bearer. These "older brides" leave off stroking and teasing the too-young-but-at-least-adult grooms, and chase the poor child down the runway. Ms. K exclaimed loud enough for a woman of a certain age sitting next to us to hear, "You mean they're so desperate, they'll sleep with children?!" I pondered out loud, "What do you suppose would happen if they sent a bunch of adult male models chasing after one of the flower girls that way...?"

And as the ring bearer played at skittering away in escape, the MC oozed, "He's running now, but someday, he'll love it."

Other highlights:

Ridiculous get-away cars, one of which we might win, because I entered into just about every drawing I came across, short of the Sandals honeymoon package.

Gangster grooms.

Men in male lingerie.

And of the possible door prizes I could win, I doubt it will be the ridiculous "get-away car." I'm making book on the towel wedding cake.

Go Towel Wedding Cake!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


We have begun our house search in the southwest and southeast Portland area. I've decided to make something of a sacrificial compromise and not rule out West Linn (where the man works) or even Milwaukie. I will say, though, that it would have to be one heck of a house for me to be able to happily accept either of latter two.

So here's what's going on the Portland housing market, from what I can tell so far; there are a fair number of houses on the market, and the prices are dropping, despite what I overhear agents telling people at open houses, but a lot of them either need work, or have been badly worked already by house flippers; developers and who buy a place cheap and remodel it on spec., hoping to make a tidy profit once the value goes up with the remodel. The problem is that most of these folks wouldn't know how to remodel a house appropriate to its era of origins and general scale to save their lives. They buy up cute little cottages and bungalows in Sellwood, for example, then finish off the basement and remodel the kitchen in a style reminiscent of the cookie cutter, subdivision, "neo-Craftsman" houses they're building out in the 'burbs -- lots and lots of contemporary attempts at slickness totally inappropriate to a 1920's bungalow. I am so sick of faux granite kitchen counter tops and beige floor tiles.

Worse is what they do with the space. It's not at all uncommon to see these remodels with two or three "bedrooms" jury-rigged into the attic with no bathroom. We've seen only one house that had a good floor plan, and it was the original 1965 floor plan. In fact, if we were in the position to make an offer at this point -- right now, we're just doing our "due diligence" explorations of the market and neighborhoods -- I would have been ready to lay one down for this place. And it was even in West Linn. Unbelievably, it was a classic '60's split level, and certainly nothing that one would expect me to jump up and down about, but the use of space was such a refreshing departure from what we have been seeing, that I came darn near close to falling in love. Granted, the place needed some work: new roof, new windows, ripping out carpeting and refinishing wood floors, a kitchen remodel, and possibly replacing some of the cedar planks making up the siding. All that said, it's a ten minute walk to David's school, a ten minute walk to the bus stop into the city and has a fantastic, huge yard... plus that comparatively livable floor plan. But, alas, at $360,000, though not terrible, especially for West Linn, it's probably a bit high given the work that needs to be done.

We can watch it to see if it comes down, though. One place we had looked at weekend before last had dropped in price from $440,000 to $390,000 this past weekend. The use of space was awful in the private quarters, however. What are these developers thinking? I imagine life is not being particularly kind to them right now. Flipping was a fine way to make a living in the market of just a few months ago, but it has to be making for a lot of unhappy builders now. They have all these poorly designed remodeled houses hanging around their necks that they will be lucky to sell at a loss.

Channeling Sophia

Diving into the world of the bridal salon was an eye-opening experience, and I'm not speaking in terms of a cultural critique here. First, those dresses are forces unto themselves. They come with foundation garments completely built in -- all they lack is the underpants. They have so much structure, they can stand up and walk around on their own. The amount of fabric in some of them probably comes close to being about as much fabric as makes up my entire day-to-day wardrobe. Getting into them is either like climbing a small mountain (stepping into the dress) or undergoing a rebirthing procedure (having the shop attendant pour it onto you from above).

What was truly eye-opening, though, was the styles that looked particularly attractive on me. I've been envisioning full-skirted Fifties-ness, petticoats and all. Just for yucks, though, I put on some that were ruched, wrapped, surplice numbers encasing the body rather far down the hips in close formation, and lo, there I stood channeling Sopia Loren, which I have to say is rather an ego-boosting experience.

Now, I'm still not going in for the pale wedding gown thing. I want a party dress, not a wedding dress, but the experience of trying on genuine wedding gowns gave me a much better notion of what would work than would trying on ready-to-wear "formals." Poking around Saks and Nordstroms, I only found a bunch of unstructured stretch polyester and polyester taffeta hardly any different from what I would find at Ross Dress for Less. At Saks, I tell you. It was shocking.

The dress in these Sophia stills is the 'gawdy' gold dress given to her character, Cinzia, in the movie Houseboat by Carolyn (Martha Hyer), who recognizes Cinzia as a rival for Tom's (Cary Grant) affections. Carolyn picks this dress, because in its original permutation, it has a long string of nasty lavender flowers cascading down the diagonal seaming, and it's clearly meant as a message to Cinzia to stay in her 'lower class immigrant' place. Cinzia takes the flowers off, does a little tweaking, and comes out looking unbelievable. Of course.

That's what I'm talking about. More examples of that surplice styling on the sidebar slideshow titled "Channeling Sophia"....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pitching Fantasies and the Making of Bridezilla

On another bridal blog (they tend to not be terribly interesting for the casual observer, but they do show the peculiar interests of women who are planning a wedding) the blogger linked an online quiz titled "Are you a bridezilla" on TheKnot.

"No worries," I was told upon completion, "you're totally laid back."

"You're handling your wedding planning and all the bumps along the way like a champ. Just make sure you're not too laissez-faire -- you still want this event to be a reflection of you and your mate. Pick your battles and decide when it's important to keep the peace (a concept that you get) and when it's important to stand up and say no (which may be harder for you). Make a list of things that you feel most strongly about -- maybe it's your gown, the menu, and the music -- and make sure you're getting exactly what you want in those areas. However you proceed, keep up the good work!"

If my style is "laissez-faire," wouldn't sticking to that methodology be a reflection of me by default? I supposed David is not quite so laissez-faire about anything as I am. Watching him pack for the trip to Ecuador was an eye-opener there, to say nothing of his everything-in-its-place garage. That said, I still don't have a guest wish-list with contact information from him... I want a larger audience, damn it. Never mind the wedding; it's all about a readership.

But I digress. I now officially declare "bridezilla" a meme. Once something becomes a meme in the Land-O-Blogs sense (a 'viral' idea, sometimes in the form of a questionnaire, that makes its way from blog to blog), it is surely a meme in the Dawkinsian sense (a cultural unit -- idea, behavior, etc -- that passes from person to person, analogous to genes). And as I've noted before, this fascination with, possibly even acceptance and expectation of brides behaving badly is nothing if not viral.

I took the test again, picking all the responses that were obviously the least 'laid back'. For instance, one of the questions is:

"Your mother-in-law tells you that she's decided to wear ecru to the wedding. You:"

I selected the answer:

"Send her a scathing email, telling her that she may not wear ecru to your wedding and demanding to see a swatch of whatever color dress she does decide to wear."

Answering the total "bridezilla" route, I got this:

"Yup, you're a bridezilla!

"How can we put this gently: Somewhere along the way from "Yes!" to "I do," you've lost your subtle sensitivity. Your admirable ambition to create the best possible celebration for friends and family has turned into somewhat of a crusade, and those around you are suffering. It's time to relax a bit and probably take a little break from the planning. Go for dinner or drinks with your guy and your gal pals, and don't talk about the wedding – not even once. Because remember, once you're married, these people will return to being your family and friends -- not members of your wedding party. Cut people a little slack."

The bridal magazines, it has to be said, are prime agents in the creation of brides of destruction. One of the earlier Fab 50 (the men I met during my year of dating venturously, if not dangerously) was of the opinion that women's self-esteem cannot possibly be negatively influenced by fashion and beauty mags, and that women who claim to be so affected are just looking for excuses and permission to "let themselves go" and force the acceptance of willful female unattractiveness on men. (Yes, really. I actually did meet men who think and say such things. If any of you are wondering what I see in David, you can cease your wondering.) Anyone who suspects that people are not influenced and affected by the media, only has to look at a whole bunch of bridal magazines, then look at a whole bunch of examples of women planning their weddings. On TV or in person, if you know anybody other than yours truly, me being not adequately representative, or so I say, you'll not wonder at the excesses some people go to around the wedding and how emotionally invested they get in their "dream day." The mags are written to make the reader covet, and to convince the reader that they must have the coveted items, or "your special day" will be ruined. The wedding is billed in no uncertain terms as the only opportunity for a "dream day," a "perfect day," "your day" that a woman will ever have. One bridal salon clerk even told me, "Stay away from the bridal magazines. They mess with your head."

I guess that the women who did not have a satisfactory "perfect special dream day" are the ones going in for vow "renewal" ceremonies some years down the road with full white bridal gown action. I saw one of those on a show called "Say Yes to the Dress," a truly mesmerizing production on The Learning Channel. A couple who has been married for about 15 years or so are doing a vow renewal ceremony (that's something I don't quite get; they could only manage 15 years before feeling like they should do that...? I smell a woman who hasn't been able to let go of the "dream day" fantasy...). The woman hits the bridal salon with husband and two young adolescent sons in tow so they can help her pick something. Those boys, by the way, were surprisingly into it. She ends up spending several thousand dollars on a full-blown bridal gown for a vow renewal.

Apparently this wedding day redux thing is not so terribly uncommon. Ms. K and I went bridal gown exploring Monday, and encountered one 50-something shop owner who had done it, complete with white gown. She talked of a population of customers who buy dresses for renewals. I suppose if a woman is simply enamored of weddings, and in particular, wedding dresses, it's cheaper and undoubtedly a lot less trouble to just keep marrying the one husband over and over again than to trade him in for another model.

Or maybe it's just that we don't have enough opportunities in contemporary society to dress up to the nines in spectacular evening clothes. If any of you are feeling that empty spot in your soul, by all means wear something fabulous to our hoedown.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Feminist Departure

Okay, this is not on a wedding theme, but I could make it so. The picture was sent to the groom in a mass mailing by the woman he dated before me. So there... this makes it connected to the wedding in some fashion:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Occupations and Anxieties

Classes started this week, and I've been spending the last few getting ready for them. Real life beckons, and the Dancing Fairy Plums of Weddingtopia have been forced into a background position. I see them over there in the corner with their little arms crossed, scowls on their faces, tapping the toe of one shoe in a gesture of extreme annoyance. Like archeology students forced to take an ethnographic methods class, they're rolling their eyes and sneering, wondering what valid purpose my current activities could possibly serve.

::Hush, little darlings... if I don't do this other stuff, I won't be able to keep you in the fairy dust to which you have grown accustomed...::

As for other aspects of Real Life, I'm wondering if there is going to be a very small townhouse at the end of a cul-de-sac in a suburban backwater in my future. Actually, there is one now, but the idea was to go for an upgrade upon the merger. However, that requires selling the very small townhouse at the end of a cul-de-sac in the suburban backwater in order to kitty up the necessary down payment, to say nothing of getting a mortgage. And, of course, that other buyer would have to get a mortgage, too. Meanwhile, the pundits are yammering away about how that is well nigh impossible right now. 

Summer of 2010, anyone? 

Speaking of that, I do have the date poll up in a revised form, with more careful consideration of the summer travel plans of others and the winter breaks of those with ties to elementary education. World, have your say. Is December really such an awful time for people...?

Monday, September 22, 2008

More Stuff to Buy

I followed the groom to one of the larger chain purveyors of books yesterday, and noticed the ubiquity of "scrapbooking" paraphernalia. What was once a fairly simple and organic method of personal archiving has become commodified to the point of practically selling folks the very mementos that go into the archive. The hyper commodification of this practice is not exactly new, I know. I had a colleague seven or eight years ago who was obsessed with it, and it was then that I became introduced to the phenomenon of scrapbooking for scrapbooking's sake. She would have "scrapbooking parties," and kept inviting me, but I never could stomach the thought. I realize now that I should have gone to at least one in the name of ethnography, but as is frequently the case for even professional anthropologists, one so often fails to see ethnographic significance when it's staring one in the face in the course of everyday life, even when it's doing so with much fanfare, waving around ribbons and rubber stamps and bits of colored paper and scissors that will cut it into decorative edging.

At the time of those many enthusiastic exhortations to come get in on all the cuttin' 'n pastin' fun, it struck me as peculiar, this hoopla over the new thing to do. My mother has some old scrapbooks up in the attic full of detritus accumulated mostly during her stint as a stewardess flying the New York-South America route for Pan American in the mid-1950's, back in the old propeller Constellation and Stratocruiser days: cocktail napkins from hotels in Caracas, concert programs, notes from suitors in her various ports of call, etc. (hmmm, she thinks to herself.... I ought to dig those up and do some preservation work). I've always associated this collecting of bits and pieces of this and that specifically with travel. The old family Christmas tree is a "scrapbook" of sorts, full of souvenirs from various wanderings, and the guest bathroom in my parents' house is a veritable museum of Mini Soaps of Many Nations, squirreled away from hotels all over the world. My parents (and I think it's specifically my mother) are hotel mini soap magpies.

It's not scrapbooking, itself, that bugs me. Anyone with a modicum of archivist tendencies does it, and my guess is that the practice dates back centuries. I found some examples of cool "scrapbooking" in Latacunga in Ecuador associated with the La Mama Negra festival. Part of the costuming involves elaborate headdresses and chest pieces embroidered with bits and pieces of everyday life: buttons, coins, little toy airplanes, flashlight bulbs, doll body parts, etc. Below is a sadly not very sharp picture, but you get the idea.
I'm going to make one of those one of these days. It's a great use of all those little pieces of junk filling up that one drawer in the kitchen, suitable for framing. But I'm "scrapbooking" here, aren't I? I'm just doing it online, ostensibly in connection with nuptials.

But, back to the large, chain purveyor of books. I could choose between any number of wedding planners/organizers with scrapbooking features, I could buy The Book of Us: A Journal of Your Love Story in Fifty Questions, and I could buy a journal/scrapbook for just about every aspect of my life. In fact, the scrapbook, journal and personal organizer seem to have melded into one massive industry of paper and glue and scissors and ribbons and stickers and rubber stamps and glitter ink and stuff, stuff and more stuff to stuff into pre-themed books in a frenzy of crafty documentation of the mundane. Not that there's anything wrong with that, except when one starts to wrap one's head around the massive scale of the commodification of archival documentation. The sheer volume of stuff that's sold to stuff into those books would seem to leave little room for personal mementos. It's as if what's being pedaled is the archival documentation of scrapbooking paraphernalia.

On a different note, while at the mall where said large purveyor of books was located, we wandered past a wedding/prom dress store called Emporio Bridal and Formal. Now, before I go any further, I think you can pretty much guess what sort of concoctions might be found at a place called Emporio Bridal and Formal located at the Clackamas Town Center. CTC may be more 'upscale' these days since the departure of Tanya Harding's practice rink and the arrival of REI, but this store had enough polyester to critically affect the ambiance of the whole complex. Between Emporio and Frederick's of Hollywood just down the mall a few steps, no amount of REI-ness can exorcise the ghost of dear Tanya.

The place was full (and I do mean full... those dresses take up a lot of room) of things like these prom/quinceanera dresses from online retailer

Lots and lots of tulle, super saturated primary and almost day-glo colors, sequins, and glitter galore. The wedding dresses were along the same lines, but in various renderings of white. They even had this exact wedding dress:

Imagine me in that, folks.

David looked at the price tag on one of the dresses and just about choked. "A thousand dollars...!"

Oh, honey, you're so naive and such a charming little doodle in your wide-eyed naivete, but $1,000 is cheap. I do have to admit, however, that it seems like an awful lot of money for fabric I could easily get for under $5 per yard, and that manufacturers can buy wholesale for less than a dollar per yard. Let's see... a manufacturer could buy a shipment of polyester crepe back satin wholesale for about 59 cents per yard, using approximately nine or ten yards, which comes out to about $6 in fabric per dress. Add stuff like lining, notions and embellishments, and we can estimate it at an even $10. Let's just say for the sake of yucks that this manufacturer pays his or her garment workers $13 per hour (the average wage of American Apparel workers, according to the San Francisco Chronicle). Skilled garment workers producing dresses in a Fordist fashion could easily churn out one of those Emporio off-the-rack numbers (we're clearly not talking couture here) within eight hours. That's $104 for the labor. The reality is that garment workers in countries like Bangladesh, where a lot of these dresses are made, make under $100 per month, so the labor might actually be costing somewhere around $3.50 for that dress, tops. Looked at in that light, $1,000 does seem like a lot of money to pay for a dress that cost under $15.00 to make, even accounting for "shipping and handling." I can see why David was shocked, but he hasn't seen the $10,000+ specimens that are out there. Emporio Bridal and Formal was not going to provide quite that kind of shopping experience.

No, I did not try anything on, just for fun. The place was a madhouse of women with their daughters (some accompanied by a male figure skulking in a corner with a look of terror on his face) flinging vast amounts of hot orange and lime green tulle around in an orgy of fashion hysteria. Okay, perhaps I exaggerate, but not by much. It was busy. Besides, I've never had any real desire to dress up in Barbie doll clothes, even just for laughs. David and I came to the conclusion that the manufacturers of these dresses go straight to Princess Barbie for inspiration, which seems reasonable enough, given that so many little girls grow up with her as their most formative fashion icon. When they reach prom or bride age, they have in their heads an image of themselves looking just like their Barbie doll in her finest. Back in the old days, when Barbie first came out, that phenomenon of giving little girls ideas wasn't quite such a taste disaster in the making as it has become.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Really Over-the-Top Gurly Post Involving Dress Patterns that is Only Suitable for the Hardcore Historical Fashion Minded

I've been combing through some patterns that are readily available from the Big Three: Butterick, McCall's and Vogue. I haven't even started to comb through my collection of old patterns from the 50's that I have stashed away in the garage. The advantage of finding and altering a suitable pattern from the contemporarily made, is that I won't have to do much in the way of pattern re-drafting, which is not something I had a whole lot of experience with even when I sewed on a daily basis, oh those many, many years ago.

Yes, so, here are some thoughts:
Butterick 4918, reissued pattern from 1952. I would add 1.5 - 2 inch wide halter straps and might box pleat the skirt (shortened to tea length) to make it somewhat more structured.

Butterick 4919, reissued from 1952. This would be done in the tea length version. There might be a bit too much fabric in the halter bodice. I might make the V a bit wider and deeper. One of the things Ms K and I discovered when checking out dresses is that too much solid coverage up top is not particularly flattering; it makes me look like I'm wearing a 'big girl's' dress.

McCall's 5319. I could have some fun with this one: make the skirt a little longer, maybe fuller, with pleats instead of gathers; embroider embellishments on the central waist piece; pair it with an organza or chiffon (for a more flowy effect) over skirt.... hmmmm

McCall's 5580. I could see the halter version of this one paired with the sash effect shown on the strapless version.

Vogue 8150. This would be pretty flattering for a more contemporary design. I would shorten it to tea length (the pattern's shorter version has one of those awful asymmetrical hems.. I would just make it a straight hem), and I could see embroidering the straps. The skirt might even work with a chiffon over skirt.

Vogue 8470 (apologies for the especially tiny picture). Simple, to the point, made in a charmeuse, possibly add a chiffon overlay, maybe embroider the waist piece. Can be done in a halter version as well.

Vogue 8020. What I like about this is the box-pleated skirt. I would make it with a fairly substantially deep, broad V or scoop neck. An embroidered self-fabric belt would be cool.

Vogue 9668. I like the top half of all of these (the first version I could see doing with three-quarter length sleeves), paired with the third version's fuller tea-length skirt. It would be fun to embroider the waist piece, and version two's pencil skirt would look interesting with a full over skirt of sheer organza with the pencil skirt showing through.

Vogue 2960 reissue from 1954. This on would work pretty much as is. I might add a little subtle embroidery at the bust and maybe alter the sleeves so they are more shoulder straps than cap sleeves.

Vogue 2961 reissued from 1953. This stands as is. I could get some really nice decorative buttons and make a self-fabric belt.

Vogue 2962, reissued from 1957. Ms. K and I had talked about the potential silliness of me carrying a bouquet, and had discussed the option of a wrist corsage or one worn at the waist, a la this little number. I might need to reduce the amount of fabric at the bust, but maybe not. It might work better with more structured pleats at the skirt's waist, rather than the gathers.

Vogue 2902 reissued from 1952. Having the bust and waist be separate pieces tends to work best for me, I think, but this would be fine with some careful fitting. The waist corsage would be nice with this one, too.

Vogue 2903, reissued from 1957. Princess seaming takes more careful fitting/tailoring than some other patterns, but I love the inverted box pleats and the neckline. I could see doing this with three-quarter length sleeves.

Butterick 5209, reissued from 1947. I might consider pleating the skirt, rather than gathering it at the waist as shown, but the waist and bust gathers on the halter balance each other out so nicely.

Butterick 5032, reissued from 1952. Columnar doesn't work so well for me, but the organza over skirt would take care of that problem. I would lower the neckline.

Simplicity 3878. This frothy tulle-covered number from Jessica McClintock, even though it's 'contemporary' and not a vintage reissue, is so exactly like my mother's and Aunt Suzanne's old high school and college dance dresses from the 1950's that I wore to rags while playing dress up as a little girl (sorry, Cousin M... I think I had pretty much had my way with those dresses by the time you were ready to have your turn with them). This one is almost irresistible for that reason. I would go with the shorter tea length version, of course, and could add satin halter straps similar to those seen on McCall 5580 or Vogue 2961 above.

Vogue 8393. Another alternative would be to make a separate top and skirt. The first of these (shown in white on the left) would be improved with added halter straps a la McCall 5580 or Vogue 2961 above. I would pair the top with a full circle skirt. The two pieces could be made of the same fabric, or coordinating/contrasting fabrics.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cursed Bust

Ms K and I did a preliminary foray into the bridal party dress exploration world, and it was helpful. I haven't yet been to one of those classic 'bridal shops' yet, which should really be a curious adventure -- curiouser and curiouser, said Alice -- but I do have a clearer idea of some of the things that would work. Something along the lines of what worked for the bustier 50's sirens would do the trick (I need to get cracking if I'm going to achieve quite that Sophia Elizabeth waistline...). I am not a columnar gal. I have never been a columnar gal. The 1930's, willowy, bias cut, Nora Charles (a.k.a. Myrna Loy) look, no matter how much I might love it, no matter how much it fits with my ring, just won't do.

Let's just remind you all that this is a dress I'm going to be making myself (with Ms. K's more expert muslin-making and fitting assistance). No, I am not off to drop $10,000 on a Vera Wang.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Etiquette Anxiety

Judith Martin (a.k.a. Miss Manners) opines as follows on contemporary wedding invitation wording:

"Perfectly normal people go etiquette-crazy when planning to be married and demand to know the proper way of doing everything, including some startlingly improper acts.

But it is not the correct wording for inviting the guests for which Miss Manners is constantly being asked. On the contrary, the very correctness of that tradition annoys people who claim to want formal invitations. It's "too formal," they protest. And, apparently, using their names does not sufficiently "personalize" it. So instead of writing perfectly nice informal invitations, they mess with the formal sort, lopping off honorifics and inserting extra words and thoughts about their pride, happiness and cordiality."

To say nothing of "joy."

She captured the sentiments I expressed in my previous post perfectly, but that particular column quoted above dealt with the phenomenon of people looking for "gracious" ways to ask for money, instead of gifts. Miss Manners is horrified, and rightly so. Apparently, however, it is also taboo to say "no gifts, please," on one's wedding invitations. That information is supposed to get out word-of-mouth, and even then, it must be handled delicately. To state it from the horse's mouth on the invites is to suggest that gift-giving is actually expected. We must pretend that it is not. It's shockingly rude to let on that we fully expect people to come bearing pressed-glass candy dishes and sterling plate candlesticks, even in the attempt to avoid that happening. Miss Manners even goes so far as to suggest that the modern advent of the gift registry is questionable, but that we get away with this, because it allows the bride and groom to appear as if they are not directing the gift-giving of their friends and relations. "There is just enough distance between the giver and the receiver to make this a passable practice," she says (Martin 2005: 435). "They only tell their preference to a neutral business establishment."

She doesn't even like the trend of asking for charitable donations to worthy causes in lieu of gifts, because that, too, lets the expectation cat out of the bag: "Your wedding guests should not be asked to 'memorialize' you with a charitable donation in your name," she writes. "If they want to remember you charitably, they can invite you for dinner."

I love Miss Manners, but I have to say, we do have a rule of generalized reciprocity vis-à-vis weddings, meaning gift-giving with an expectation of eventual, but not immediate, return is built into our nuptial ceremonial structures. I doubt Miss Manners would really disagree with that. The ethnographic evidence is just too strong to deny it. But social etiquette dictates that we hide that expectation in a social cloaking device. In that respect, it's not dissimilar to the Southern ladies of 50 years ago, who, while they would avoid openly talking about a family's socio-economic standing, would instead run their fingers over invitations looking for the tell-tale tactile signs of engraving, nodding sagely to each other upon receiving the results.

So, where does this leave me? I'm both far too anthropologically minded to play along with the pretense that generalized reciprocity does not play a part here when it comes to my own nuptials, and far too anthropologically minded to poo-poo and ignore the pretense. All right, then. Because what seems to be the absolute hieght of bad taste is actually saying anything about gifts, even specifically requesting no gifts, on the wedding invitations, I won't make direct reference to this issue on the invites. Instead, I'll direct people to this blog for further information -- like directions -- and entertainment purposes. When here, they might notice that I do have a "registry" (not yet posted). I actually found one that allows us to "request" anything at all, and does not lock us into bowls from The Pottery Barn.

What I have in mind is a variation on the "potluck wedding," a subject upon which I actually have mixed feelings. But never mind those; they're the norm somewhere, and the evidence I've dug up suggests that they are actually not universally frowned upon by the etiquette mavins. Anyway, my parents belong to a "gourmand" supper club, and the way this works is that the members get together and plan out themed meals, then assign specific dishes to individual members. It's a controlled "potluck," with the only element of luck involved being whether or not a particular cook managed to successfully pull off the assigned dish. For our party, we'd like to come up with a tapas menu, and in the registry (from Alternative Gift, people can (but are in no way obligated to) sign up to come bearing one of the listed dishes. I could even add a little greater element of luck by having more general 'categories' (e.g. pasta salad or vegetable dish) that would give room to the creative or tradition-minded who have a favorite dish they always bring to potlucks.

We've also thought about suggesting that people may contribute to our wine cellar and/or drinks cabinet so that we might more easily remember them charitably when we have them over for dinner in future, but that's probably pushing at the boundaries. Miss Manners has me feeling hyper vigilant. I'm tempted to make matters even worse by getting myself a copy of Miss Manners on Weddings, or Miss Manners on Painfully Proper Weddings. I just looked up her stance on enclosing response cards in wedding invitations. She "loathes" them (2005: 396).

::skulks off to rethink issues::

Martin, Judith
Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. WW Norton: New York.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wedding Invitation Wording Grouch

I've been putting off class syllabi, the tanking banking system, lipstick, pigs, pitbulls, hockey moms, the thought of Todd Palin with his feet on the desk in the Oval Office, and other Issues of Great Significance the past couple of days by distracting myself with the concept of the Wedding Invitation. Today I ran across a Land 'o Blog's post titled "Wedding invitation wording that won't make you barf."

The draw to that title was powerful. Many of the ideas floating around out there are, indeed, barf-worthy. Examples of suggested wording I found in my wanderings include the following:

Because you have shared in
our lives
by your friendship and love, we
Mary Kathryn Nolan
David Antonio Muñoz
together with our parents
invite you to share
the beginning of our new life
when we exchange marriage
vows ....

Something borrowed and
something blue
some things are old, some
things are new
Someone to care and share
your life
the dream of every husband
and wife
Please join us
Mary Kathryn Nolan
David Antonio Muñoz
as we are married
on ....

You work, you play
and then, one day...
love just happens!
Mary Kathryn Nolan
David Antonio Muñoz
invite you to be a witness
to one of life's loveliest
as they are joined together in

Friends forever we will be
whether walking on the beach
or sailing on the sea...
Please be our guest as we,
Mary Kathryn Nolan
David Antonio Muñoz
join together
on ....

He asked, and she said yes...
or was it the other way around?
However it happened
Mary Kathryn Nolan
David Antonio Muñoz
are getting married
and they ask you to join them
on ....

He proposed to her on bended
He asked "Will you travel
through life with me?"
Mary Nolan
said "Yes!" to
David Muñoz
You're invited to their wedding

Just like a page our of a
fairy tale the storybook romance
comes true...
Mary Kathryn Nolan
and David Antonio Muñoz
invite you to share in the joy
when they exchange
marriage vows on ....

Like the leaves on an
Autumn breeze, our hearts are
uplifted by love...
It is with great joy that we
Mary Kathryn Nolan
David Antonio Muñoz
will pledge our love as one

From the first Tee
we knew we Wood spend
the Course of our lives together
Mary Nolan
David Muñoz
Wood be delighted if you'd join
at our wedding
on ...

We found the days were much
too short for all the dreams we
wanted to share and all the love
we wanted to give
Mary Kathryn Nolan
and David Antonio Muñoz
request the honor of your
presence as we begin a life of
dreaming loving and sharing
together on...

ad nauseum.

How about something along the lines of XXX and XXX invite you to their wedding party on such-&-such a date at this location...?

Doesn't that do it? I mean, doesn't the fact that we're marrying each other come with all the bromides already embedded? Must they be ink-jetted onto lokta and stuffed into a hundred 100% recycled/30% post-consumer waste, green certified envelopes?

The 'wording that won't make you barf', by the way, isn't really any better. I eschew all adverbs. I won't "joyfully" request anyone's presence. It's a party. I'm not qualifying it as a pity party, so I think "joy" is already implied.

And I just have to say about that one about the lovely surprise; "...invite you to be a witness to one of life's loveliest surprises as they are joined together in matrimony...," if one is standing at the altar in a state of shock, completely surprised to find oneself in such a position, it may not be a good sign, no matter how "lovely" the surprise might be. I think I recall feeling numb at my first one, probably because I was repressing the shock.

On a somewhat related note, because it's about invitations, I recall as a youth my mother telling me of the day when people (that would be women) would run their fingers over received wedding invites to see whether or not they were engraved, and that the social standing of the bride's family was ultimately determined by the presence or absence of this quality marker. Today the ultimate marker is letterpress. I would have to expect to spend a bare minimum of about $500 for my invitations if I were to have them letterpressed. They could easily get upwards of $2000. Expect homemade jobs, my friends, and damn my reputation.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Preciousssss

As noted in the first post of this blog, the School Teacher (aka David M.) shoved a ring on my finger at that Giants/Braves game. That ring was a place marker; a very sweet, tres moderne gold and jade ring with a little chipperoo of a diamond that he got from his mother.

After much consideration, we opted to get a ring originally belonging to my great-grandmother, Sudie Eva Gaddis, restored. The story is (and correct me, people-in-the-know, if I'm wrong) that this ring, manufactured of 18K white gold sometime in the early part of the 20th century (best guess -- 1910-1925), was one that my grandmother, Sidney Ruth Young (Sudie's daughter) used to wear around as a teenager 'pretending' she was engaged. Given that she was engaged by the time she was 17, that didn't leave her much time for playing make-believe, but that's the story. I think.

Anyway, the original diamond is long gone, probably given to Ruth's daughter, my Aunt Frances, for her ring. What was left was a very early-Deco graphic filigree number that needed a little bit of work. We took it down to Alchemy in the Pearl District of Portland, a place recommended by my friend, Ms. K, who got her rings there. The jeweler pulled out some sapphires (the "birth stone" of both the present groom and bride in this saga) and we picked a little blue/teal-ish number. And viola! Such is the result. Mammy (great-grandmother Sudie Young, née Gaddis) and Grandmama Boof (grandmother Ruth Nolan, née Young) would be very pleased, I'm sure.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


My idea of a fantasy wedding does not include the groom wearing brown Crocs. I mean, they do make them in red (the color scheme at these nuptials). It seems to me that if he had to wear those things for some reason -- like, perhaps he had to take a break to go do some weeding or turn the compost -- he could color coordinate.

Note to David: you are not wearing your Keens, either.

Photo from