Fabulous Find: Jean Louis 1960s Chevron Day Dress

The Mad Men series finale was Sunday night—I loved it, but I’m also in mourning for the show’s passing. My brilliant plan (as of about two weeks ago) was to create a 60s or 70s-style garment from scratch, using a vintage pattern and vintage fabric, by the time the finale aired. Not only did I not finish, I did not even begin. Not only did I not even begin, I picked out neither pattern nor fabric. I will get it done! Later this summer I will get it done. I hope.

I did, however, hit up the Vintage Garage flea market here in Chicago on Sunday, where the theme of the day was Midcentury Modern. Very fitting!

My sister snagged this amazing dress from the 60s:


Even pulled on over her clothes, it looks both chic and cheery.

Can’t you picture sassy 1970s Peggy Olson wearing this?


We did a little bit of research once we got home and discovered that the name on the label—Jean Louis—is that of a renowned and prolific twentieth-century costume designer. A thirteen-time Academy Award nominee, Jean Louis Berthault dressed dozens of starlets, from Katharine Hepburn to Judy Garland. Perhaps his most famous (or infamous) designs are the barely-there gowns of Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe, including Monroe’s slinky “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” number. The Naked-Except-For-Strategically-Placed-Sparkes Look continues to be relevant today. Unfortunately. Looking at you, Beyonce, Kardashian and Lopez.


Sources—left to right: Pretty Clever Films | alwaysmarilynmonroe.co.uk

On a less dramatic note, Jean Louis started his own ready-to-wear label in 1961. We are guessing that my sister’s dress is from one of those collections. Most of what we could find online was evening and cocktail wear, so this day dress seems like kind of an anomaly. Read more about Jean Louis here.

Dresses from Jean Louis’s Label

Also worth noting—the geometric color-blocking of this dress is in line with recent trends too.


Well done, sis!! What a find!!


Dressing Cinderella

Disney just released this trailer for Cinderella (2015)—and of course I have notes. Now, let me preface this by saying that I grew up as a Disney Kid; ergo I want to like this movie.


1. Boring. Bored. I’m bored. Plotwise, does this movie dare deviate from the cartoon? It doesn’t seem like it. And now that I’ve seen the trailer, do I really need to see the movie?

2. The costumes. I don’t get it. I read an article on Vogue.com yesterday in which the costume designer, Sandy Powell, described the style as that of “a nineteenth-century period film made in the 1940s or ’50s” (something similar was done costume-wise with Anna Karenina in 2012).

But this isn’t a film made in the 1940s/50s. And most of the period films that were made in the 1940s/50s look kind of ridiculous now. If you want to use 1940s/50s fashion, set the damn movie in the 1940s/50s.

Look, reinterpreting the visual style of a particular era for a movie is great. I even like modern/period mashups. I appreciate the subtle humor of the converse sneakers in Marie Antoinette. And who doesn’t enjoy the 1980s having the time of their life all up on the 1960s at the end of Dirty Dancing? But I’m sorry: The 1800s imagined from the 1940s/1950s imagined from the year 2014 is not a thing.

I might be able to excuse this, if there is some kind of intentional thematic message—beyond alluding to the original animated feature’s 1950 release date—hidden in this seemingly random choice. I don’t know what that message would be—but, maybe there is one?

3. Most Importantly: WHAT is going on with Cinderella’s waistline? My inner dialogue went something like:

Whaaat…. did they shrink her waist with CGI? They must have. I hope that’s what happening. Wait, WTF, why am I hoping that?? NO. If I’m even questioning whether they (the omnipotent “they” of movie-making) felt compelled to computer-enhance Lily James’s waist, that’s a serious problem for the rest of us.

Am I being crazy?

I called my sister, and she confirmed that yes, I am being crazy, and that she thinks it might be true-to-life: a very skinny actress plus some serious corseting, possibly combined with some boobage push-up action.


Either way, Did NO ONE bother saying, “Hmm perhaps the one element from the 1950s ANIMATED movie that is better left in the past is unrealistic boob-to-waist ratios”???


Using some not-very-precise pixel measurements from this screengrab, I am able to determine via some seventh-grade math (someone please check it!) that, regardless of cup size, if Cinderella is hypothetically a 34 bust, then her waist is approximately 20.63″.

According to the size charts at gap.com, that waist size is smaller than that of a child’s size 4—which is what 4-year-old little girls wear. How do her organs fit? She must have to pee, like, every 5 minutes.

Now, I have only zoomed in on one (literally) teeny tiny aspect of this Cinderella’s appearance—but I think it’s safe to say that she pretty much hits the mark on any/all requirements for the traditional Western definition of beauty. Pursuing courage and kindness is an admirable goal for any heroine (or hero!), fictional or real. It’s just unfortunate that we are continuing to correlate heroism with the same specific version of attractiveness. This could have been an opportunity to recognize that our notions of beauty have evolved—and perhaps challenge them further. Instead, the approach feels outdated.

Maybe the 40s/50s-inspired costume choices are apt after all.


Update (3/4/15): According to this article, Lily James has denied that her waist was photoshopped.


Never mind that she was corseted down to a mere 17-inch waistline (my estimate of 20 inches was actually generous!). That’s really great, guys, because the message we want to send to the world is that exaggerated proportions are not only ideal but totally achievable.

I mean, Scarlett Freakin’ O’Hara, one of the most self-obsessed characters in all of literature, strove for 17 inches. Who wouldn’t want to be like her?

Alright, rant over. Sorry for the ALL CAPS nonsense. Can we all just agree that Cinderella should have worn this to the ball instead?

DIY Halloween Costume: Degas’ Little Dancer

One of my coworkers has a truly spectacular annual Halloween party with elaborate decorations and themed refreshments. There’s even a creepy, life-size, animated butler that acts as a photo backdrop. Showing up in costume is an absolute requirement.

Coming up with a costume idea this year was a struggle. But then I attended the Joffrey Ballet’s fantastic fall program, Human Landscapes. The dancers in the middle piece, Pretty Ballet, wore long, sheer tulle costumes that floated as they moved in a way that reminded me of Degas’ paintings of dancers. Truly lovely.

Then I recalled how a friend of a friend had dressed as Degas’s Little Dancer sculpture for Halloween one year in college. It seemed like the perfect idea to borrow.

Degas’ Little Dancer

So after some serious thrift store rummaging, I came home with these items:

before: tacky vest and flower girl dress for a small child

I removed the skirt from the bodice of the dress and re-gathered it to fit an adult (It broke my heart a little bit to take apart that dress, but only because at age 5, I would have thought it the best. dress. ever.) I altered the vest to make it look more like a bodice, fastened it with snaps, added buttons for show, and gathered the neckline. I think the result is pretty successful.

after: completed costume

not bad for a less-than-$10 Halloween costume!