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Manolo for the Big Girl | Archive | March, 2010
Archive - March, 2010

Prom Week: Big Question

On Monday I defended the flight-of-fancy prom dress and I stand by it. If we ever redo the Plumcake familial creed and for some unknown and hateful reason they DON’T go for “Psycho Killer: Qu’est-ce que c’est?” or a quote from To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything. Love, Julie Newmar (my two suggestions) I hope they might entertain the following:

There is no excess like wretched excess.

Most women don’t have many occasions where it’s socially acceptable to have a full on sartorial extravaganza. It’s pretty much costume balls and prom. Note how I DIDN’T say wedding? Although by all means keep wearing bad wedding dresses, it’s the only thing –except the open bar– that makes most weddings enjoyable. You just go ahead and marry your fourth husband while wearing a Cinderella gown. The gays and I will be in the back pew making knowing comments about the kind of girls –fairytale heroines included– who wear clear heels.

But the fact most of our lives –and most of our budgets– can’t support high octane fashion fantasies, shouldn’t stop us from occasionally indulging in a daydream or two.

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know:

If you had to do it all over again what would you wear to prom? Money, time, history and physics are of no matter. I just want to know your fantasy gown.

At first I thought I might want something by Poiret, but then decided my shape didn’t suit his ideas. Then I thought about putting Queen Elizabeth I’s dressmakers to the test. I AM awfully fond of that fabric with all the swampthings on it, but I just know I’d put it on and feel like an aquarium made sweet upholstered love to an overstuffed ottoman.

So then I went to the great couturiers. Cristobal Balenciaga: gorgeous and flawless but not exuberant enough. Coco Chanel: Nazi sympathizer. Christian Dior: now we’re getting somewhere.

I’ve always loved –and been flattered by– The New Look which took the fashion world by wasp-waisted, full-skirted storm in 1947.

It’s gotta be John Galliano.

dior fragonard
Dior Matador
Dior michelangelo
Dior starry night

I’d happily wear any of these from our Funky Little Fashion Troll for Dior’s 60th anniversary of the New Look. Heck, I’d wear pretty much any gown he’s done for Dior. Mostly I just want to wear a lyre on my head.

Of course, when I first asked myself the question, one dress did pop out and, surprisingly, it wasn’t from the mini maestro. It was the cream feather dress from Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2008 ready to wear.

McQueen feather dress

Is it my favorite McQueen ever? No. It’s not even my favorite from that show, which literally made me weep it was so beautiful. But it’s up there and it’s haunted me for years, so in my made up life –the one where Stephen Fry is straight and MADLY in love with me and Hugh Laurie is just sick with jealousy– this is the dress I would wear to prom.

But I still want that damn lyre.

Prom Week: The Chic Shape

Yesterday we had a chat about how I’m generally of the mind that a girl ought to be able to wear what she wants (as long as it’s not vulgar) for her prom.  True, most hot prom dresses right now aren’t super flattering for a big girl, but come on, she’s got the rest of her life to worry about flattering dresses.

That being said there are a few handy guidelines about formal dressing that might help a young girl who IS invested in a more sophisticated look.

Back in January everyone got all het up about Cathy Horyn quoting an anonymous bitchy stylist who, when referring to Christina Hendricks’ Golden Globes dress said “You don’t put a big girl in a big dress.”  (there was also a kerfuffle about using a horizontally stretched photo of the Mad Men star. Horyn said it was an accident and I’ve had image files go bad on me often enough to believe her).

Christina Hendricks

Now, for as bitchy a comment as it was it’s also relatively true. Personally I think you could put Christina Hendricks (who isn’t big but has big, ahem, parts) in a literal potato sack and she’d look hot, so I don’t have much of a beef with her gown, but big girls are generally better served by sleeker silhouettes.  Does this mean demure? Of course not. It just means if you’ve got a big voluptuous romantic body you want to set it off to its best advantage with something that’s not explosively busy.

Here are some of my picks:

cobalt mermaidcobalt mermaid dress

(click images for links)

I know some folks don’t like the mermaid skirt for a big girl but I’ve seen it done wonderfully on women with broad shoulders. Hair up (a must) and a big necklace. It’s about as sophisticated as you’re going to get for prom.

teal gown

Does this dress just scream for a tiara? Oh I think it does.

sara ramirez dress

Sara Ramirez at the Golden Globes

A little red carpet inspired action That’ll skim the hips and the stomach (ideal if you choose not to submit to the Tyranny of Spanx).

pewter taffeta

This is a shape Sara Ramirez and Queen Latifah wear over and over and over again.  If you really want to give it some Latifah style, add an enormous brooch on the neckline offset to the side. Keep hair simple and makeup flawless. You’ll be a queen.

Tomorrow: it’s all about the jewelry!

Happy Passover

Happy Passover

You gonna finish that?

Twistie, Plummy and all your pals here in the Manolosphere wish our Jewish friends a happy and blessed Pesach.

In Defense of Bad Prom Dresses

I’m really a big softie when it comes to prom and prom dresses. Really any sort of formal event when you’re a kid.  See the thing is, for a lot of these girls –you know, perfectly normal sweet girls– senior prom is in all likelihood one of only two times they’ll really get to wear a ballgown, the other time being their wedding.

Give the kids a break.

As far as I’m concerned, prom is a time for complete sartorial excess. Make a mistake, look silly, wear cheap satin. You’re young, why not?

I vaguely regret my senior prom gown. It was a perfectly timeless red satin number with a boned basque bodice and box pleated ballgown skirt.

Always the pragmatist, I went classic knowing I’d probably have to wear it for recitals in college, which I did. After my move to Texas I altered it to cocktail length, removed the straps and a few of the pleats and got another couple uses out of it.  Now it lives somewhere in my grandparents’ closet. I haven’t had the heart to get rid of it.

ZZZZZZZZ…

I didn’t know as a 17 year-old kid in Virginia that my life would turn out to have a relatively high ballgown requirement. I figured it might, but I also figured I’d join the cast of Riverdance before moving to New Zealand, marrying Mark Cawardine and becoming a field ornithologist.

All of this is to say,  I firmly believe in the right for a girl to wear a lstupid prom dress.

The trend these days seems to be for hyper-ruched dresses with bubble hems or those horrible pick-ups:

pickups

or the same bodice ruching with a mermaid skirt, and Lord knows they’d probably want to wear it with  shiny spandex opera length gloves that flatter precisely no one in the universe.

And you know, fine. I don’t care. Would I wear it? No, but I’m not a 17 year-old girl whose entire world is about to change in a few weeks.

If I had to do it all over again –and thank God I don’t– knowing what I know now about how my life has turned out, I’d actually go for a big goofy dress on purpose.  Probably something like this blue one:

mypromdress

which clearly takes its inspiration from the Dolce and Gabbana shows from 2008.

dolcefall 2008

Why? Because it’s a sweet, fun dress to be worn by a (probably) sweet, fun girl for a (hopefully) sweet, fun event that pretty much marks the end of being a kid. Celebrating being young, gorgeous and carefree is what Prom is all about, Charlie Brown.

But seriously, don’t wear the spandex gloves.

Zucchini Bread, Yum

Okay, we all know that spring is officially here and that means summer is fast approaching, and with it the question for all you eager veggie gardeners: what the @##$%Q#%@ am I going to do with all this #^$&Q@!&^ zucchini????

May I suggest zucchini bread?

‘But Twistie!’, you exclaim, ‘I have made many loaves of zucchini bread and am so burned out I have not the will to try another!’

‘Fear not,’ say I. ‘This is like no zucchini bread you have ever eaten before. I know this because I have baked and eaten umpteen gazillion zucchini breads over the decades and I have never tasted one quite like this.’

You see, most zucchini breads fail for me in one or both of two ways. All too often they are so moist as to become gummy, more like pudding with a crust than actual bread. The other common failing of zucchini bread in my experience is that they are often far more sweet than I prefer. Not that I have anything against sweet, per se, but there are things that I feel ought to be sweeter and ones that ought to be a little less so. Zucchini bread is one of those things where I sometimes feel like a salmon swimming upstream. I want it to be bread, not a sticky cake. I want it to be sweet, but not tooth-rottingly so.

Then one day last week, I walked into my Friendly Local Bookstore, started browsing the cooking section, and discovered something that had been missing from my life and my bookshelves. It’s a delightful tome entitled Good to the Grain: Baking With Whole Grain Flours by Kim Boyce.

Boyce, a former pastry chef at such restaurants as Spago and Campanile has approached her subject from precisely the angle I have been waiting to see for yonks without realizing it. You see, while most books about working with whole grains come from the angle that whole grains are Good For You, and therefore the flavors are of secondary importance, Boyce is all about how good whole grains can taste.

For those of us who honestly love the flavors of such things as barley, rye, whole wheat, etc., this is a real boon. The recipes range from bread to brownies to scones to tarts and all stops in between. They’re broken down not by what you want to bake, but by what flour you want to bake with. This means that if you can get whole wheat flour but not spelt, you can ignore the spelt chapter until you find a source.

Speaking of those sources, she’s got a page of them in the back just in case you don’t have a handy local organic or health food grocery that carries things like aramanth and teff.

Seriously, if you enjoy baking, this book opens up some great new frontiers quickly and painlessly.

And that brings me back to Boyce’s zucchini bread. It’s moist without being gooey. It’s sweet in a subtle way. It’s malty and slightly herbal with a satisfyingly crunchy crust and a delicate crumb. Boyce recommends eating it with melted butter and mint tea, but so far I haven’t been able to bring myself to adulterate it in any way.

It makes me want to plant zucchini just so I’ll have more of an excuse to bake this bread over and over and over again.

Intrigued? Good! Follow the bouncing cut and see how it’s made!

(more…)

Twistie’s Sunday Caption Madness: The Frightening Fendi Edition: The Result

Good morning, campers!

You may remember that last sunday I presented you all with the challenge of captioning this moderately disturbing image:

fendi-huge-bearbrick and you guys came back swinging with nine deranged captions to fit it.

Alas, there can be but one winner. This week the laurel goes to Heather for combining a beloved childhood pet (or seventeen, since they generally don’t last long) with classical mythology with this one:

Hamsters have lived caged far too long, and have planned their escape via Trojan Hamster robot!

Congratulations, Heather! And thanks to everyone who played.

Review Revue/Yes No Maybe mashup!

Because I love you all so very very much (and also because I needed underwear) I braved the mall and found myself trying on various pieces of Lane Bryant’s most recent collection and I’ve got to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I hope this is the shape of things to come.

Well, not THIS shape.

python jumpsuit

Python Jumpsuit

This shape is a disaster.

You know how sometimes you’ve accidentally injured yourself and you know you shouldn’t look and just wrap something around it until you can get to the emergency room (what? I’m clumsy) but you do look and it’s JUST AS AWFUL as you thought it would be and you fall down the stairs because you’ve passed out and bled all over your white furniture which, honestly, was a bad purchase in the first place and then you spend the next three weeks getting Concerned Looks from people who clearly think you’re a battered woman and not just a thirty year-old moron who should really know better than to try to use an electric staple gun outside when it’s windy?

It’s like that.

This, on the other hand, looked super cute in the LB visuals.  It’s sunny! It’s got French cuffs! It’s got a bow and  it kinda looks like you should be walking your pet lamb (in a good way)!

rosette dress

(it’s not currently available online)

Surprisingly, it was an EPIC FAIL!  I know! Who woulda thought?!  It’s such a great shape.

I think the problem here was twofold.

Fold #1: It was relatively new in the store and hadn’t been properly steamed so the ruffles and the rosettes and the whatnot all just were sort of this big smooooosh of wrinkled cotton. All of that, PLUS the darts PLUS the wrinkles in the dress –oh and this thing will wrinkle faster than a cold man in a speedo–  just made it look messy.

rosette dress detail

I like the rosettes, and I don’t really mind the tuxedo ruffles, and of course I love a nice big bow but it really could have benefited from some better editing at the design stage. There’s just a lot going on and as someone with a Loud Face (remember, I look like a cartoon frog in real life) it’s just Too Much Happening.

HOWEVER, this could be a godsend for the big girl with a  long neck and small bust or a very bottom-heavy pear (eggplant?) because all that visual folderol going on in  your bustular region would balance out your shape beautifully. Plus, if you’re a darker skinned Big Girl you can buy this and just swan around looking gorgeous and making everyone hate you for being able to wear bright yellow, NOT THAT I’M BITTER.

Which brings us to the big winner, which could not have been more of a surprise:

t shaped drama dress

T-shaped Drama Dress

I was shocked.

Listen, I know my own body and I know what looks good on it. There’s a reason most of my dresses have a deep V neck –I am not blessed with an overabundance of bosom so it’s not problematic for me– nipped in waist and a flowing skirt. It looks good on me. BUT, I’m also aware it’s important to not get into a rut about our bodies or our clothes.

If we try on a different silhouette, it reframes how we look at our bodies. It’s fresh. Interesting.

This thing doesn’t even HAVE a waist, it’s an extremely modest crew neck and it’s shorter than I typically wear. I would’ve bet dollars to doughnuts (although I don’t especially like doughnuts) that dress was the domain of the apple.

This might be Too Much Dress if you’re quite petite because it depends a good deal on the distance between the hemline and the shoe (by the way, this is about the first time Lane Bryant’s stylists have gotten a shoe close to right for a dress. You want something heavy to anchor the look) but I’d really commend it to anyone else looking for something new and interesting to wear that’s high drama but not a boobfest or clingy.

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