I find time and inspiration today, dear Friends, to finish the year with a scribble and a thought or two. Won’t trouble you with any ponderings on the import of the waning old year or the opportunities presented by the waxing new year. Today is all about fashion.
If there were a Maslow’s Hierarchy of feminine presentation, battling for the peak of the pyramid would be a handful of epic designs, pieces so desirable, timeless and celebratory of womanhood that generations of women lust for them. Me too.
The Chanel Clutch. The Louboutin Pump. The Cartier Watch. Things that effortlessly broadcast “because I’m worth it” in a way that L’Oreal needs to spell out. Pieces that, if one ever really found herself stranded in a war zone, you could pawn for an exit visa (but deep down you know you simply wouldn’t part with them).
It is a select list, and I propose to add to it.
The Diane von Furstenberg Wrap Dress.
The DVF Wrap was perhaps the most perfectly timed design since Noah’s Arc. Ms. Von Furstenberg had just recently pitched up on American shores from a design apprenticeship in Italy with a bag of her own early samples and an appetite for a new life.
“You know, I made easy little dresses. That's what I did. I didn't think I was actually designing them and I didn't think I was making a fashion statement.”
Over 40 years later, The Dress is still a valid fashion statement. It was in the early 1970’s a part of genuine revolution, a turbo-charger to the Feminist movement. The 20th Century woman had been chiseling away at the constrictions of fashion with tiny but important hammer thwocks for years … Greta Garbo in tuxedo. Kate Hepburn in slacks. Small platoons of bra-burners finally fed up with girdling, garters and exaggerated silhouettes largely dictated by men who displayed a nearly uniform lack of regard for comfort or appreciation of the natural and distinct beauty of women.
This turbulent era saw American women entering the workforce in greater numbers and with higher expectations than had been the case since WWII. “Libbers” carrying on the great work of the Suffragette movement confronted male power structures in the corporate world at distinct disadvantages, lacking role models, networks, legal protection from workplace harassment or broad access to child care facilities.
And on top of all that, just what the hell were we to wear to the office? The skirt/blouse combo just screamed secretarial pool, catalyzed countless coffee runs and reinforced glass ceilings. Initial fumbling fashion responses focused on aping masculine fashions. Big shoulders, straight lines, bland palettes, cuffed trouser cuts, boxy shoes and perhaps the tiniest concession to femininity, a bowed collar rather than a necktie. Nobody was having any kind of fun with this look.
Then came The Dress. I am wearing mine just now. Let me describe it. The Dress just flows. A stretchy silk / lycra blend, it goes on like a shirt and wraps up like a dream. It falls to the knee and cinches high on the waist. Gentle, gossamer fabric obscures imperfections of figure, a discrete flash of thigh delights when seated. Plunging ruching at neckline beg for jewelry and feature the natural blessings of bust without giving the store away for free. It just moves so freely, it feels like nothing and like nothing else at the same time. I could not walk like a man in this garment with a gun to my head. I, like Leisl, feel pretty. O so pretty.
They flew off the racks and invaded an unsuspecting world. A garment that celebrated female form and dressed it for comfort all at once. Suitable for the office and aching for the evening transition to dinner and dancefloor. I can’t say that Disco was ever my cup of tea (more of a Clash girl if you must know), but that thankfully fleeting cultural moment would have been entirely, unredeemably, god-awful-er without The Dress.
And talk about quick pee-breaks! Gather it up, drop the knickers, do the business and get right back to the revolution.
Patterns proliferated. Colors exploded. Lines and lengths, sleeve and collar treatments were tweaked and freshened up season to season, but the essence remains. I am Woman, hear me roar, in fashion too good to ignore.
Sparks flew and designers followed with a hall pass to create looks that vived La Difference, that did not simply ape male ape shapes, that celebrated all that you and I have within us and, on good days, on our surfaces too.
Found mine at Neiman Marcus Last Call yesterday. Had not visited the NM Value / Clearance venue before and honestly expected to kiss a few frogs and go home without anything slung shoulder-wise. Given the generally ritzy price-point zip code of good old Needless Markup, I was fortifying myself with reminders about just how expensive the holiday season has already been and how uncertain tomorrow can be.
Said defenses melted when I saw the DVF section and was reminded that somewhere deep in my subconscious I had for decades lusted after this dress (as both spectator and participant as it happens). There were a small handful left on the rack, mostly skinny 2’s or curvy12’s, but one perfectly sexy six, riotous in black, blue and white tropical garden motif.
Arms going like a veggie dicer peeling off my things and into the embrace of what I knew instantly started a journey decades ago with the sole mission of wrapping around me with the kindest, purest embrace I have ever felt from a supposedly inanimate object. Out to the three-way for a twirl and a look see. Chatted with a fellow shopper who practically teared up remembering her first DVF and said the universe would rightly be upset with me if I did not go home with The Dress.
I could not, did not argue. Aided by a substantial year end mark-down on a markdown my new beauty came home at about 35% of original retail too, score for Petra. Be assured that she looks better than the snap indicates, and even if not, the feeling compensates, insulates and celebrates everything I love about my own Voyages en Rose.
I do not suspect to ever be in the position to justify the purchase of Icons mentioned earlier in this post. Let me take that back. I have a perfectly functioning second kidney. With a tissue match I would probably sign up for the Clutch and the Cartier. And with a little frugality the Louboutins are actually in reach. I do after all have a birthday coming sometime in the new year, yes?
If I get them, you will be amongst the first to know.
Happy New Year.
xoxo - Petra