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· Fashion Notes: Inspirations (Dorothy)

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Fashion Notes: Inspirations (Dorothy)
by Dorothy

It's difficult, maybe impossible, to catalogue one's inspirations all at one go; the things that appeal to us often do so because of a combination of factors, memories from childhood, our senses of our own looks, favoured colours, feelings, the idiosyncratic connections we make between images and ideas.

That said, here's a start. If a garment, a makeup style, a perfume reminds me of one of these, I find it very hard to resist:


I've thought, watching Fred and Ginger movies from the 1930s (The Barkleys of Broadway, from 1949, is rather tedious), that I would be content to dress like Fred Astaire half the time and Ginger Rogers the other half. Fred Astaire is famous for the "top hat, white tie and tails" look, but he preferred slightly tweedier, more casual clothing. Really, few men wore clothes, any clothes, as well as Fred Astaire.

A pity more videos aren't available legally, since so much of what I love about Ginger Rogers' dance dresses is the way they moved. Sometimes this reflects their utter impossibility as garments: a forty-pound beaded dress, a mass of whirling, shedding feathers. You wouldn't wear something like this in 2009, and yet, how absurdly romantic, how decadent.

Here, the perennially gorgeous "Never Gonna Dance" gown, with its tightly tucked bodice and cloud of a skirt (layers of chiffon)? I dream of owning a version of this one some day. It still looks fresh, despite being made for a 73-year-old movie.

With regard to videos of Fred and Ginger, there tends to be a cycle on Youtube: people post videos of the dance sequences, Warner Brothers cracks down, and then the videos reappear. I'm loath to post links to videos that will shortly be removed for copyright violation, but among the numbers I adore are "Pick Yourself Up", "Never Gonna Dance", "Change Partners", "Cheek To Cheek", and "Let's Face The Music And Dance."


Tomoko Kawase (often referred to as Tommy) is the singer in the Japanese band The Brilliant Green, which I followed semi-obsessively for years. At this point she has a couple of side projects (which started out parodic, but now seem to be all oh-isn't-she-cute all the time, meh), and has styled herself every which way, enough that I'm not sure one can say she has a style.

One of Tommy's more parodic videos, this one clearly taking off Avril Lavigne's video for "Complicated." I love that she smashes the guitar at the beginning of the video.

Watching this woman's career has given me a sense, however vague, of the differences between North American and Pacific Rim fashion. A gross generalization, I know, but bear with me: to my mind it seems there's something distinctive about (particularly) Japanese and Korean designers, a demure femininity, a playfulness, a willingness to countenance frills, slouchiness and shapelessness, but somehow in a way that works on petite women. Being petite, slender and flat-chested myself, I appreciate this. Look at the publicity images here: much is abominably cutesy or '80s throwback, but what works has a slouchy, schoolgirlish charm that I find immensely appealing. (As for the image above, eh to the Elmo doll, but I love the pattern on the dress.)

I was in Bangkok in 2004, and the younger, more well-heeled women there almost had a uniform: flowy jersey top, full 1950s-style skirt, pointy-toed heels. I still love dressing that way.


Hard for me to take inspiration from Marilyn Monroe, since I look nothing like her, but I've always found her compelling. The camera worshipped her. I especially love her in The Misfits, the last movie she completed before she died: not the best movie, but few things Monroe did -- or wore -- felt this simple or unstudied. You get a sadness from Monroe, a fragility, and an innocent sensuality, like a cat in sunshine; hard to know whether that was authentic to her or merely Arthur Miller's idealized image of her, but she embodies it. I love the way she wore a white shirt. And I love this dress.

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5/13/2009 [4]

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