Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My Valentine's Day Dress - Sort-Of

Isn't this dress just the best? I wasn't thinking about Valentine's Day when I bought it, or when I wore it, but now I realize that the day is nigh so, if you want to think of this as my Valentine's Day dress, I don't mind.

Dress: Emily and Fin from Mod Cloth; Cardigan: MAK Sweaters from Mod Cloth; Boots: Ecco; Coat: Reitman's; Ring, earrings, brooch, and bangle: vintage; Barrettes: Stylize; Gloves: I forget, sorry!; Sunglasses: Aldo; Cane: I also forget

Its colours are obviously right for the day and it has a kind of old-fashioned, romantic feel to it.

I have to say that I'm no huge fan of Valentine's Day. I find it a very commercial day and a peon to heteronormativity (all those little rituals of love -- marriage, Valentine's Day, dating -- that people call 'normal' when straight people do them and 'weird' or 'silly' when queer people do them). When I was a kid, it was also a popularity contest: the kid who got the most Valentine's Day cards from classmates won. I was decidedly not that kid.

I didn't really care though. I've never cared much what others think of me, especially when I don't think much of them. The popular kids were almost always the meanest kids and I could never figure out why anyone would want to be liked by mean people. The were also usually the most boring kids. I've always preferred the company of people like myself: odd, outcasts, free-thinkers, non-conformists.

As with so many significant dates, I have some pretty heinous memories of abuse attached to the day, but I'm not ready to write about them yet. Given how much horrific abuse I've already written about, you'll know my memories of Valentine's Day are bad when I tell you that they are worse than anything I've told you here so far. The day is not as triggering as Christmas, but it is not without its negative associations for me.

I also had a Horrible Awful Rotten No Good Valentine's Day over 20 years ago when I found out, on the very day, that my long time girlfriend had cheated on me -- with a mutual friend and co-worker, natch. It was the first time my heart was broken and it hurt so bad! I got over it so long ago that I actually find it comical now; the timing of her cheating was just so absurdly awful that I just have to laugh -- now. At the time, there was nothing to laugh about at all.

But mostly I just find the day icky sticky gross, an occasion for false sentiment and commercialism.

That doesn't mean I'm not all for romantic love. If you find it, that's great. If you don't, that's okay too.

That doesn't mean I'm not all for romantic love. If you find it, it's great. If you don't, that's okay too. I was lucky enough to find love, though fairly late in life, and, two years ago, Beau and I decided to be a bit cheesy by announcing our engagement on Valentine's Day. We sent people photos from our favourite café, which goes mental decorating for Valentine's Day every year. To commemorate that anniversary of sorts, we took a few blurry selfies at the café this year.

I don't know why Beau looks green in these photos. I assure, he is not green in real life.

The difference? This year, we've got the rings. This year, we're married. This makes makes me far happier than I would have expected. My attitude toward legal marriage, toward that little piece of paper from the government, has always been about as cynical as my attitude toward Valentine's Day. It seemed so hopelessly mainstream, something I've never wanted to be. But there's nothing mainstream about our marriage. People keep asking me, "Do you like being married?" and I always answer, "I like being married to Beau."

But back to the dress. It took me forever to figure out what period in fashion had influenced the cut and fabric pattern of this dress but I finally figured it out when I found this wonderful photo of a woman and her little brother, probably taken in the early 1920s. My guess is that she'd sewn the dress (she was known as a very gifted seamstress) a few years earlier, in the late 1910s. When I did some sleuthing online, I found these lines all over the place in the 19-teens: in coats, dresses, uniforms, and smocks worn by women working in factories. Aside from the sleeves, this dress is a dead ringer for my dress.

See what I mean? I love that.

Even the print on the fabric is almost identical. I think these little white wisps are modelled on conch shells but I'm not sure. Leaves maybe? They do remind me of vaginas too but that's okay. Vaginas are nice, right?

I've been really getting into the prints on fabrics lately. In the past, they were almost incidental to cut and colour, but, while I was researching for my post on 1930s ruffle dresses, I stumbled upon 1930s floursack dresses and an obsession was born. I'm working on a post about that. I've got everything but the dress itself. If you've got a line on such a dress, either an original or a reasonable modern copy, let me know!

The discovery that my dress resembled those in the 19-teens inevitably led me to photos of suffragettes and women serving in the First World War, powerful women indeed, but I'm going to save all that for a later post when I'll try harder to dress in conformity with the period. I'll also write more about the old woman wearing a dress like mine as I was able to find out quite a bit about her.

I'd been eyeing this dress on Mod Cloth for a long time and, when it went on a clearance sale, I took a deep breath and bought it, even though I couldn't return it if it didn't fit well. Aside from a bit of gaping under the arm, it fits wonderfully and it's wonderfully comfortable too: not too tight, not too loose.

This is more than I can say for my favourite winter coat, which seems just a little smaller each year ...

... especially when I'm sitting in my scooter, which I often am when I go out.

This is a disability style issue that faces anyone who uses scooters or wheelchairs. When you're sitting, your middle expands, which is why you're more likely to want to undo the top button of your jeans when you're sitting than when you're standing. If you're sitting for long periods of time as those of us on wheels are, things that fit well when you're fully upright, begin to really hurt your belly, and, if you have back problems, your lower back as well. This is something I have to consider every time I get dresses; belts, waist bands, coats, tights, nylons... they can all become forms of torture.

I've been looking for a new peacoat like this one in my size but, oddly, I'm having trouble finding one. Are they out of style? To me, they're classics that should never go out of style. They give a woman such a nice shape and "class up" virtually any outfit.

No matter. I won't need this coat much longer this year. You see, where I live, it's Spring!

Yay! God I love my chosen home.

I chose to pose a lot in front of this red house, because it matched my outfit ...

... and Beau wanted me to pose in front of this van (which you've seen before here) for the same reason ...

... but I couldn't resist photographing the daffodils running up the stairs of this house. It renders the stairs totally disability unfriendly but it's so pretty! And check out the tulips on the porch -- in February! Did I mention that I love my chosen home?

But back to the dress and the outfit in general. It's crazy comfortable and well made, fully lined, very soft ...

... and sporting pockets too! I don't care a whole lot about pockets but it is a nuisance to wear a nice outfit and find absolutely nowhere to put, say, my scooter key.

I paired the dress with the red bangle because, well, duh: red.

Same goes for the earrings.

And the sunglasses.

I have an absolutely boss pair of new, red, knee boots that I thought I'd wear with this dress but they're a little too bulky and that much red seemed like overkill, so instead I wore this black cardigan ...

... and black boots to tone the colour down a little bit.

Besides, everyone knows how hair-vain I am, and the contrast of the black with my auburn hair brought out the red more than the dress would have.

Since we took these photos, I've finally had a haircut. I've needed one forever but ill health -- mine and my hairdresser's -- prevented that from happening for a long time. We both got the same cold in December. While the coughing "merely" threw my ribs into spasm, causing soul-altering pain for about a month, the same cold gave my hairdresser pneumonia and she nearly died! She was in an induced coma for four days! She's okay now, thank God, though still going to physiotherapy to recover from the muscle atrophy caused by her coma. She says her mother is down to calling her only twice a day; at first, she was so worried, she was calling her constantly.

So, without a haircut, I've been having to get very creative with my hairstyles because my hair looked absolutely awful if not pinned up in some way. On this day, I did a little roll and pinned it high.

I thought it framed my face nicely, giving me a kind of youthful, feminine ...

... almost sweet look that probably added to the romantic tone of the outfit.

Finally, I added this brooch to match the leaf pattern in the dress ...

... and this ring because it matches the brooch, not exactly but very closely. I actually have the matching brooch, earrings, and bracelet for this ring, all acquired at different times. You can see them here.

I also wore more makeup than usual -- eye liner and everything! -- but you probably can't tell. I was trying to show you that in this photo but it's hard to tell. I'm just not a very makeup-y kind of person. Even at my wedding, I went with very understated makeup. I plan to ask the girl who did my makeup for the wedding, and another friend, an actress whom we like to call "our movie star friend", to give me lessons.

But, until then, I do like the effect of the little bit of makeup I do wear, when I bother to wear any, as invisible as it may be to others.

That's it. It was just a nice day to wear a new dress and have a little outing with my sweetie.

... who still makes me laugh all the time, even when I'm in pain which I always am. In this photo, I was laughing at his goofy way of running. Laughing helps.

As usual, seeing beauty amidst adversity helps ...

... so I bring it into my life in my own ways.

And wearing this dress is one of those ways. Oh my gosh I love this dress! I hope you do too.



  1. Beautiful dress. I like the color and the pattern. I love the comparison with the dress on the old picture. o)


    1. In a future post, I'm going to write more about the woman in that older picture. I was actually able to contact her great grand-daughter and learn more about her. Apparently she was quite the seamstress and an all-round fun woman.

  2. I do love the dress! It looks comfortable but stunning - not a common combination in my experience. (And the pattern looks like feathers to me, so - another interpretation)

    Looking forward to the upcoming posts you mentioned. The photo and the story still to come are intriguing.

    1. Beau thinks they look like feathers too. We tend to name my clothes and this dress has become The Feather Dress in his mind. You're right that comfort and beauty don't often go together. For comfort and beauty, I'm starting to be really into old-fashioned woven fabrics in looser cuts.

      My plan for that next post is to include stuff about the suffragettes as well, since they wore these fashions. It's going to require some work and research so I won't be writing it super soon though.

  3. Lovely dress, jewelry, and you and Beau. We don't "celebrate" Val Day but Sandy did buy me some chocolate kisses and that was wonderful! xo


    1. We "celebrated" by finally using one of the fancy restaurant coupons we got at our wedding. It was soooo good, but my back hurt so much at the end of it all.

  4. This dress looks really good on you and I’m definitely curious to learn more about that sewing lade from the 1920’s... Uniqlo was selling a peacoat a bit like yours earlier in the winter, but it’s now gone from their website. Maybe back next winter...

    1. I checked out Uniqlo but, you're right: nothing now. :(

  5. I love this feathery dress, and You look stunning in red, Charlotte! Timeless beauty!
    Thank you for linking with Modish Matrons.
    Happy Valentine's Day, dear!