Your Wedding Dress Makes Me Sleepy

1920s brideHoly rice birdseed sparklers flower petals bubbles! There were a lot of weddings this weekend, kittens. No less than four couples of my acquaintance tied the knot. Of course, since I’m an unholy virago, I wasn’t invited to any of them. I did stalk them all on Facebook, though. Fuzzy Instagram pictures of floral arrangements are the cat’s pajamas! Or, they are usually, anyway. Lately, all the weddings I look at just seem…boring.

Wait. That sounds pretty judgmental, which I’m fundamentally against when it comes to weddings, but for the love of Chanel, why do all bridal gowns look the same? Every bride I know—seriously, every single veil-bedecked one of them—has worn a long strapless dress.

Whyyyyyyyyy? My kingdom for a cap sleeve! My treasure for a high neckline! My autographed Anderson Cooper memoir for a short hem!

Kittens, there are other dress silhouettes in the world. I’ve seen them! There are short dresses with wide skirts and bias-cut column gowns with delicate straps. What looks ravishing on one woman, may be awful on another. For every bride, there is a dress, turn, turn, turn. So, why do we all pick the same thing? We aren’t the same bride, so—logically— we shouldn’t have the same dress.

c840149355b04cb259c0e7dd3e5c758bWhen I first got engaged, I was most excited about three things: having a beloved who grilled amazing Brussels sprouts, taste-testing wedding cake, and finding The Dress. Being a fashion nerd, I knew exactly the look I wanted: a circle skirt falling to just below the knee, a very defined waist, and sleeves! Something straight out of a 50s Dior show. My best friends brought over some bridal magazines and the hunt was on!

Only, it wasn’t. In the eight magazines on my bedside tables, all promising “Thousands of Amazing Dresses Made From Amazingness!”, I found nary a fluffy candidate. By the third magazine, I would have settled for anything with sleeves or a short hemline. I longed for a lace neckline; I pined for tea lengths. Instead, it was page after page of dresses that looked eerily identical. There were small differences, mermaid silhouettes versus A-lines, but  they were all long and strapless. For a culture that stresses this day as our one perfect princess day—which should be unique and personal and memorable ad nauseam—our dress selection is disturbingly homogenous.

Surely, I am not the first bride to want sleeves or easy bathroom access. I know I’m a special snowflake and all, but that’s just ludicrous. It’s easier to believe that we all pick the same dress, because there are no other viable options. When I went dress shopping with my BFF, Girl on the Contrary, last year, there were precisely two dresses we found with straps. (She ended up with the most wonderful of dresses—this sweetheart neckline confection, with an amazing bouncy overskirt—which both suited her perfectly and was legitimately unique, because seriously check out that overlay!) When one of the best bridal salons in America’s self-professed weirdest city doesn’t have variation, something has gone dreadfully awry.

I know we were all traumatized by the giant sleeves of the eighties, but perhaps it’s time to admit we’ve gone a bit overboard. Not all sleeves are bad. Why, nobody shunned Kate Middleton for wearing them! If you want sleeves or straps, you should have them. Vive la manche! Similarly, if you desire the option of urinating without aid on The Big Day, you should be able to do so. We don’t all want a big, poofy white dress. If you want a strapless ball gown, you should have it, but can’t I also have my vintage-inspired tea dress? A little design creativity would make us all happier brides.

1950s bride2Personally, I’m down to two options: have my dress made by a bespoke dress designer, or make the damned thing myself. In my search, I did find a few companies making great short dresses. If you’re similarly desperate for something different, check out Dolly Couture, Stephanie James, and Candy Anthony. If we keep taking our business to indie designers and seamstresses, maybe the great and terrible Wedding Industry will get the hint? Why, maybe someday we’ll even have wedding dresses that aren’t white. A girl can dream (of sleeves).

– Grace

Dress, Please: The Feminism of Femininity

1950s-pin-up-girlI am girly as fuck.

If you need clarification, since saying something is “as fuck” doesn’t actually fall on a measurable scale, that’s understandable. I enjoy traditionally female attributes and activities. Sewing is my jam, I’d always rather wear a dress, and my Texas sheet cake could win awards. My favorite songs are showtunes and Jane Austen is my fairy godmother. A romantic comedy doesn’t hit theaters, without me buying a ticket. I am girly as fuck.

I am also a feminist.

If your mind didn’t just explode, well done. You’re a rational human being! All too often, this juxtaposition makes people on both sides of the political spectrum itchy. How can you be a true feminist, if you enjoy traditional domesticity? You’re too pretty and happy to be a feminist! Where is your man-hating pant suit? Their faces scrunch up in painful frustration, like racoons touching an electrified garbage can, as if a feminine feminist is the ultimate conundrum. People who have nothing in common politically are united in one truth: my existence is impossible. I am no longer their favorite client or friend from high school, but a contrarian unicorn. I need to be fixed, I need to realize I am wrong.

Well, that’s a load of glittery unicorn vomit. Feminists are people and people are different. Surprise! How many times do I have to say this, world? You can’t pigeonhole people into tidy little boxes, because of the causes they support or interests they develop. I am a feminist who sews frilly, ruffled dresses all the time. I believe wholeheartedly in gender equality and baking cakes from scratch. From a feminist standpoint, I understand the impulse to eschew the traditional. For so long, we were told our place was in the kitchen, so why hop right back into it, once we’re free? Well, because I like to. Demonizing the traditionally feminine seems just as wrong as insisting we adhere to it. There is nothing inherently oppressive about traditionally gendered activities, because gender is a social construct. We labeled sewing as a “chick thing;” we determined men hate romantic storylines. Surely, we can now unlabel them?

I grew up in a house that challenged gender definitions at every turn. My dad, a man perfectly secure in his “masculinity,” cries at the drop of a hat. His favorite flick is Notting Hill and he taught me how to bake chocolate chip cookies. Meanwhile, my mother has never met a grill she didn’t love and rolls her eyes at sentimentality. She’s perfectly happy to leave the vacuuming to my dad and, instead, drink a good beer after work. And you know what? Our house never imploded.

If we removed societal constructs from activities, we’d be amazed by what people chose to do with their lives. How many boys were destined for Broadway, but are instead accountants? Things are finally changing, when it comes to women doing traditionally male activities, so why are we still demonizing the feminine? We praise women for becoming sports announcers, but give them the side-eye when they want to be stay-at-home moms. What the hell? At the end of the day, people shouldn’t be judged by their gender. Jimmy should be able to bake, if he wants to, and so should I.

gil-elvgren-pin-up-pin-up-girls-5444093-668-792Dresses are comfortable and I love them. I also love being paid the same amount as male doctors and not mopping my floors. I am a feminist and I am a woman, whatever that means. It doesn’t make me a bad feminist to curl my hair, or a good one to not care about it. I am not that simple and neither is the equality movement.

Strictly speaking, I’m not girly as fuck at all. I’m Grace as fuck.

– Grace

Darling, Buy a Sewing Machine

0303000059-lYou should learn to sew.

I am not saying this as your mother or your overly nostalgic hipster friend who only wears hemp. I am saying this as that ridiculous girl whose blog you enjoy, because she is honest with her crazy and quick with a Buffy reference. If I were elected President of the Universe and asked to give one piece of advice to high school seniors, it would be this: Get thee a sewing machine! Other things are important, but people already learn those virtues from Mrs.Piggle-Wiggle. She does a much better job of telling you to bathe than I ever could. Instead, I suggest the needle.*

I can hear your doubts, kittens. Sewing is hard! Sewing is for old people! Why should I waste my time sewing, when Anthropologie exists? A couple of years ago, my thoughts were similar. For eons, my mother insisted that I learn how to sew. This advice usually came when she was mid-construction of a She-Ra: Princess of Power costume for Halloween, so I chalked it up to parental annoyance. Imagine my surprise when, in a fit of exasperation with current trends, I made my first dress and realized she was right. Sewing was the bee’s knees!

grace-kelly-rear-window-620a-102710My biggest reason for sewing is simple: I adore clothes. My closet, large and spacious to most eyes, is stuffed with dresses and skirts and charmingly bow-bedecked cardigans. I’ve always held with the theory that a perfect outfit gives confidence in any situation. However, this love can bring woe. There is no worse feeling than setting out in search of a party dress, only to return home empty-handed, cursing fluorescent lights and designers who think boob ruffles are so hot right now. Or, worse, finding the perfect dress…in every size but my own. Quelle horreur! That never happens with sewing. Not only can I recreate Grace Kelly’s organza confection from Rear Window, but it’s always in my size. There is a freedom in that. No longer am I bound by tacky fads! I don’t have to worry whether something is well made, because I know it is. I made it myself!

What’s more, it’s super easy. When people go all wide-eyed at the mention of my hobby, insisting that they could never, not ever make actual clothes, my eyes fight a heavy roll. Y’all, have you ever seen Project Runway? There have been contestants who couldn’t navigate elementary social situations, but still worked a sewing machine. This is not quantum mechanics. I learned the basics from one afternoon of sewing with my friend’s mother, with later questions mitigated by the magic of YouTube. Sewing from patterns, specifically, is nothing but rudimentary cutting skills, second-grade reading comprehension, and following straight lines. You can do it, I swear.

It doesn’t even take that much creativity. Admittedly, I’ve always been one to fantasize about dress designs, but such sartorial daydreams are not a prerequisite. In addition to the your mother’s pattern companies (Colloquially known as the “Big 4”: Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick, and Vogue), there are an increasing number of super fashionable independent labels, like Colette Patterns or Deer and Doe. Take one great pattern and some fabric you like (online fabric retailers are the bomb) and – voila! – a cute new dress appears in a couple of hours.

For even more inspiration, we have the sewing blog-o-sphere, one of the most vibrant, positive internet subcultures I’ve participated in. Five minutes of internet-stalking is all it takes to disabuse one of the notion that sewing is a lost art. From New Zealand to Wisconsin, smart, savvy women are stitching up divine creations. There are those who specialize in vintage patterns and those who favor thrift store revamps. Down to a one, they’re welcoming and helpful and interesting. They also have the best Pinterest boards around.

sewing pin up girlLet’s be honest though, kittens. I want you to sew, because it will give me more people to gossip about fabric with. Plus, the eventual Wee Esmerelda O’Kelly-McGregor is going to need costumes for her school play and I don’t want to make them all myself. So, darling, please buy a sewing machine. Just don’t go down the path of quilting, because all those little pieces make me queasy.

– Grace

*For sewing, not heroin. Perhaps I should follow up with a secondary piece of advice: Don’t do heroin. Track marks so ruin the look of a sleeveless dress.

The Girl Who Would Be Bridezilla

Last Monday was the best day ever. No, I didn’t marry Stanley Tucci or get offered a role in the Newsies musical. It was – almost – better. At 8:30am, my cell phone rang and a very lovely author informed me that I’d been nominated for a Very Important Publishing Award. Cue swoon.

Me! A leg lamp writing award! In four months time, this very spinster will be flying off to California to attend a fancy publishing conference and a black tie awards ceremony. It’s like the Oscars! With more carpal tunnel sufferers!

Of course, being the ridiculous person I am, my thoughts immediately turned to one thing: the dress. There is an old saying my mother taught me: When one gives an acceptance speech to 3000 people, one must look super fly. The chances of me winning are slim, but a good former Girl Scout must be prepared. No one remembers The Girl Whose Dress Was Not On Fire. In that vein, I spent the past week looking for a gown.

That’s a lie. Not looking, but obsessively searching. For seven solid days, I did nothing on the internet but look at evening gowns. If you are going to a black tie function soon, tell me what you want to wear, because I have seen ALL THE DRESSES. No department store lay unchecked, no designer unscanned. I called Kate not once, but three times, for hour-long dress powwows. Finally, after talking myself out of a Marchesa and a Carmen Marc Valvo, I tracked down the perfect dress. Grecian-inspired, emerald green, and on sale!

A question bears asking, I know. Why was I in such a frenzy, when the awards aren’t until late July? Because I am totally nuts, friends. I like to call myself enthusiastic, but – let’s be honest – the word is obsessive, Grace. When I embark on something, be it a new hobby or a gown search, it becomes an all-consuming quest. I must be the best sewist, own every rare Nancy Drew edition, and track down the one gown that will make my wildest dreams come true. The quest is all I think about. If I hadn’t bought that damn gown, the next four months would be spent doing nothing but comparing this color green to another. That way madness lies! I have a deadline coming up and dress shopping is not an excuse my agent will accept.

This bodes poorly for my future. If I ever become a bride, watch out. It better be a short engagement, so I don’t lose whole years of my life to flower arrangements. I’ve always thought planning a wedding would be easy, because I know exactly what I want, but that may be the problem. Knowing what I want leads me to set up complicated Ebay alerts, just in case the perfect pair of Frye riding boots appear in my size (Dorado riding, Bordeaux, 9.5). No matter that I have four other pairs in my closet already – they’re just stand-ins for the real prize. Can you imagine what picking out a wedding dress would be like? Those poor people at Say Yes to the Dress (Atlanta, obviously) would explode from frustration.

Y’all are so lucky you only know me on the internet. Kate and Mae are probably praying that I never meet Mr. Right, if only so they’re spared the experience of being my bridesmaids. My name is Grace and I’m a future bridezilla. It’s lucky this blog is anonymous, don’t you think, poor unsuspecting male population?

– Grace

P.S. I’m currently on a quest for The Perfect Gold Belt for the gown: thin, braided, double wrap. Any leads can be sent to ConfederacyOfSpinsters (at) gmail.com

An Ode to Men in Sweaters

Friends, this morning I’m feeling very passionate about a pressing world issue: Men in sweaters. In the Northern Hemisphere, winter is firmly upon us. Cardigans, gloves, and scarves have been unearthed from their attic boxes.

I am thrilled.

Winter is my favorite fashion season. I admit, this is helped by the relatively mild Texas winters. We don’t see a lot of blizzards around here. (I know, you just gasped in surprise, didn’t you?) What we do see is the temporary rebirth of classic men’s fashion. Suddenly, guys are busting out sweaters to wear over their polos and scarves to wrap around their necks. Men who normally wear t-shirts are donning rarely seen pea coats, for heaven’s sake! This is a heterosexual fashion-loving woman’s dream come true.

Example: A few weeks ago, Mae and I were eating at our favorite spot (hummus to-die-for, freshly baked scones, and an Anthropologie next door – need I say more?), when our favorite manager walked in. Wearing a white Oxford shirt, with a navy sweater over it, he was clearly in chilly weather mode. Now, this is a cute guy already, but in a sweater? He was a Ralph Lauren advert come to life. I blushed. I stammered. If there had been a fainting couch, I would have swooned. It was embarrassing and all (Well mostly – he is rather dashing all the time, it should be said. The boy has a beard!) caused by an extra layer of clothing. How extraordinary.

It does make me wonder, however. To quote one of my personal icons, Cher Horowitz, “I don’t want to be a traitor to my generation and all, but I don’t get how guys dress today.”  It’s not necessarily baggy jeans and greasy hair like in Cher’s day (thank God), but most twenty-something guys I know don’t own an iron, much less properly fitting pants. When did men stop taking pride in their style? It seems a recent phenomenon. If Mad Men is to be believed, right up to the late 60s, a well-tailored suit was considered essential to any man’s wardrobe. People even shined their shoes!

Now, a date is considered dressed up, if he shows up to my door in a polo shirt and clean jeans. I actually know guys who don’t own sweaters, because they consider them “too feminine.” Color me befuddled. How can an extra, classic layer of clothing be gendered? Maybe it’s just living in Austin. Not only are we the Live Music Capital of the World, but also the Wearing Paleontology T-shirts To Fancy Restaurants Is A-Okay By Us Headquarters of America. Our city is filled with smart, successful people who will probably wear Toms to that wedding this weekend. It drives me stark, raving mad. I long for a little shine, a little polish.

You can call me shallow, but I choose to think of it as nostalgic. Blame it on all those classic movies I watched as a child. My parents never subscribed to the Disney Channel, so I missed Justin & Brit on MMC, but I was fed a steady visual diet of Cary Grant and Gene Kelly instead. Imagine my surprise when I realized men don’t walk around in three-piece suits any longer, but may show up to lunch in white undershirts. I’ve never quite recovered from the shock. Too many of my past dating disasters have been caused by a certain blindness that occurs when I’m faced with a truly well-dressed, twenty-something man. Sure he does cocaine every once in a while, but did you see him in that sweater? It was cashmere!

To sum up: I love men in sweaters. I almost wish this would be another Year Without A Summer (without the crop failures and other awful effects, naturally), if only to make it last a little longer. Shoes may not be shined, but a scarf or coat is plenty dapper enough to set my heart aflutter. For one glorious season a year, I can walk around pretending to live in a glamorous Hitchcock film. Only, you know, with less carnivorous birds.

– Grace