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Apr 20, 2011

Cocktail (Dress) Addiction


I can stop any time I want to; I just don't want to. 

Friends, I hope you'll let me know if you think my little cocktail dress problem has gotten out of control.  The source is -- no surprise -- Cathy, but it is also being fed by a life-long obsession with classic Hollywood women's pictures and onscreen clotheshorses like Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner...in fact the entire cast of Weekend at the Waldorf


What started out as lending a helping hand to a relative on the skids has turned into a professional partnership.  Cathy's new-found and growing notoriety is requiring my increased focus and, as a result, yours, for which I apologize.  I know many of you are chomping at the bit to stitch up some practical denim duds and we will.  But last Saturday's celebrity hobnob has turned into next Thursday's theater and post-performance party invitation and, as usual, Cathy will need something to wear.  A starlet needs to be seen out and about; she can't sit home nights filing her corns and she can't be photographed wearing the same dress.

If it had to happen for one of us, I'm glad it's her.  I've lived my life; Cathy's still young.  I shouldn't let the cat out of the bag a day early but tomorrow is both our birthdays.  I'll be turning 49 and Cathy will be turning...well, let's just say she's more than a decade younger -- an extremely rare occurrence among identical cousins but not unheard of according to scientific studies; something about recessive genes.

Long story short, I was up half the night perusing Etsy for patterns and haunting sites like Vintageous and Memphis Vintage, where photos of countless beautiful vintage cocktail dresses are on display, like the little lace number up top and the ones below. 



Extensive research has revealed that while nearly all lace overlay cocktail dresses are made with dark lace over a lighter fabric, occasionally one finds the reverse.   How do you feel about cream lace over black?   I don't love it.

Of course, I'm not only looking at lace dresses, not by a long shot.  How about tri-toned taffeta tiers?  That wouldn't be hard to whip up, would it?


Or this 40's asymmetrical number in black taffeta and crepe? 


My local fabric dive has 60" bolts of lace in both solid baby blue and solid cream for $2/yd. -- not the tulle-type lace I used in my redingote, but heavier, more traditional textured lace (My lace knowledge is severely lacking, which is only one of the reasons I have bought myself an overpriced used copy of Susan Khalje's highly regarded, out-of-print classic, Bridal Couture, a birthday present to myself which should arrive next week.).

What do you think of pastels for evening on a sophisticated woman like Cathy who, let's face it, is more Baroness Von Schrader than Fräulein Maria, though thankfully still years away from Reverend Mother?  We want to avoid anything that reads prom, bride, or -- perish the thought! --  mother-of-the-.

I try to approach my work with a zen-like Beginner's Mind, but this means I never remember anything.  I need help.  Those of you with strong opinions and no qualms about expressing them, what do you think?  Do you/would you generally opt for black for evening -- even you summers who should avoid it altogether?  How about midnight blue or brown?  Would you overlay light colored lace on a dark taffeta or satin, or stick to the other way around.

How did I get into this -- again?! 

Have a great day, everybody!

38 comments:

  1. I think the dress with the cream lace over the black is lovely and youthful-looking and the asymmetrical one is terribly chic and modern. And Cathy should avoid pastels for evening. In fact, virtually everyone should avoid baby blue lace.

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  2. Peter,

    What about cream over cream???

    Tone on tone for the warmer weather?

    Cathy's radiance belies her age.

    As for you, hope it's happy 'til it hurts.

    Testosterone

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  3. Only strong opinion I have is NO brown.... brown is for tree trunks, so unless Cathy wants to look like a tree I opine to avoid at all costs. How many starlets have you seen wearing brown lately... none! And if they did, have you ever seen them again?? I would imagine all invitations would dry up. Too many colours out there to waste evening out in brown.

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  4. For warmer weather, I'd for for crepe back satin and use the crepe outward for the bottom and satin for the top. And I'd go for some sort of color that sparkles up Cathy's complexion.

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  5. Pastel lace should be avoided at all costs, there is no way to avoid looking like a lost member of a wedding party, be it flower girl, bridesmaid or god forbid, mother of the bride. I feel you can never go wrong with black for evening, even though it isn't the most flattering on me (I'm a spring), the right makeup can do wonders and it is easy to find accessories, and I believe Cathy has some black accessories already. Go with black.

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  6. Tiers=peasant and Cathy's been there- done that. The 40's number looks too 80's Dynasty. The red one has some pizzaz! And wouldn't it be just like Cathy to wear red when everyone is in black?
    And cocktails dresses ain't nothin'. Wait till you've made your first ball gown...

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  7. Why not navy? I think navy blue lace with a dash of bright color-say a sash, or even just a flower-would be stunning. Chocolate, Plum and Navy have been the "new black" on and off, for several seasons now. I think something dark would be elegant, but Cathy's done black. As for cocktail gowns in general, love them! Way more fun to sew than something useful like jeans or shirts!

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  8. I happen to live in NY too (albeit the yucky part very near Rochester) and the weather is horrid. All year I dream of wearing color and then winter hits (as it does for a good 6 months out of the year) and everyone turns Darth Vader. GO WITH COLOR! I have banned black (minus a cardigan here or there) bc black is wearing me down. I feel like I'm at a funeral for spring/summer. No black! Cathy is too fabulous for a seasonal funeral. Besides, I think with her dark hair and strong classic features she would look lovely in peacock blue with gold (not the shiny kind) or a rich royal purple. COLORS please!

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  9. Love, LOVE , LOOOVVVEEE the red dress! Cathy needs to Make a Statement loudly, not as subtle as usual. Oh my, the heads will turn in the red lace with that neckline. Oh. My.

    Jean

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  10. I was born with what I call the "Nancy Drew" look/coloring...very all-american, white bread, girl next door. So as much as all black is dramatic, I look somewhat foolish in it without lots of makeup. Cutesy, pastel, frills and bows are more me. But for Cathy? I'd go with black. She's very dramatic, after all.

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  11. I wouldn't do blue lace for any occasion, for any woman past the age of 18. I like the suggestion of anonymous, who suggested cream over cream, but doubt that cream is Cathy's best color. I like the red dress pictured for Cathy. Does this dress have to be lace? I also adore the black '40s number. I think that style would be smashing in Cathy. Good luck in this next project.

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  12. I think more color is better, though I usually end up with safe black. Cathy should not be "safe" but make a statement. The red dress is lovely. I love the asymetrical dress, but maybe in navy or plum.

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  13. That asymmetrical dress is lovely, so stylish.

    A big no to the baby blue lace; but a cream lace could look fantastic over gold or plum. Cathy strikes me as a Winter, and I'm an Autumn so she uses a palatte different to what I'm used to thinking of. Cream over crimson might look good too. Take it around the store and put it over everything! You might be able to do something in velvet and lace too, though not an overdress.

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  14. Never, ever touch pastels or brown. Not for Cathy's complexion. Try navy blue lace over red.

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  15. Cream lace over nude/flesh tone silk would be very attention-getting!

    And as for lace colours, I have one word for you... iDye.

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  16. The red dress is nice, but the black asymmetrical dress is to die for!!!

    I can't believe that you are anywhere near 49. And if I had to guess, I'd have said Cathy was 35.

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  17. I love these dresses, unfortunately I couldn't wear them. I like the light lace over dark fabric, and the asymmetrical dress. I also love the red dress. I am sure that each one will look gorgeous on the right person.

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  18. Well after tomorrow I'll be getting further and further away from it. ;)

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  19. Another vote for the red lace dress :) And cocktail dresses for an addiction isn't bad ... I can think of worse (as in time-intensive ... like corsetry!)

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  20. To Summer Flies: I wear a great deal of brown and I'm as darling as a chocolate cupcake.

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  21. that asymmetrical dress is lovely....but I know Cathy has to watch her pennies now that she's reentering society. So....what about tone on tone navy lace/navy, or plum/plum? Or burgundy?

    I too am done with so much black. It's damned depressing.

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  22. I'm with you--I'm currently obsessed with making 1930's gowns :)

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  23. Personally, I vote for the black taffeta (the last picture). I've seen Cathy in the wider skirts but there's nothing more Baroness Schrader than the pencil skirt. Ah, Baroness Schrader - such style and such a vivid image.

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  24. Favorite is the red lace, then the black asymmetrical. I think with lace you have to be careful of color AND print - I find the larger prints tend to look more elegant and look more dramatic on camera. Smaller prints and pastels look more juvenile (more flower girl than MotB - still not appropriate). The white on black looks too day dress to me because of the print. Depending on the lace material, dye is always an option, but obviously tulle-like plastic/synthetic lace won't pick up color as well as something with cotton.

    As for colors - black is good, or navy, or dark teal (but you just did that...), or a deep red, or maybe even a plum?

    My vote - try to find a dark lace to put over a lighter colored fabric. If no good lace (which is so hard to find when you don't want to go all bridal... sigh) then go for the asymmetrical look because it is very unique, either in black or another deep color.

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  25. How odd...tomorrow's my birthday too but my guess is I'm miles ahead. As for the cream/cream situation, my mom had an ivory beaded evening jack which she wore with an ivory chiffon skirt and taupe strappy shoes and it was hot. Classic, light colors should be great for after 5. Hear you on the baby blue lace...avoid it like the plague...not pretty.

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  26. PS Ivory lace over a dark peach color has always been a Southern favorite and it's very pleasing looking.

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  27. I do not enjoy wearing (or looking at a lot of) black clothing. Black can be a crutch color.

    I would put cream or ivory lace over a hot color to tone it down (like fuchsia for example) but probably not over a dark color. Too much contrast.

    What about plum for a dark cocktail dress? If it must be dark? Or blood red or wine red? A rich midnight blue is always lovely. Sable brown. Lots of dark choices that are not black!

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  28. I love the 40's style asymmetrical dress - to die for!!! I think Cathy would look ravishing in either that style or the gorgeous red one....Oh I want both too...sigh...
    Maria

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  29. Cream lace over red taffeta!

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  30. With vintage dresses, I think one of the sexiest looks is the illusion dress - lace of any colour over nude lining, giving the impression of, well, being nude. I <3 the red lace dress the most. I also vote for any kind of colour and not for black. But in since we're talking lace, I'm with everyone who votes down the baby blue. Several others have said no to brown. I'm partial to brown - I have lots of brown clothes. Gold or black lace over brown might be dramatic. Cream might work too, depending on the exact shades of cream and brown. Looking forward to seeing what you whip up :-)

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  31. The asymmetrical dress is dramatic and Cathy is definitely a drama queen! Colours- have you thought about navy with a sort of copper brown(not tree trunk brown)?

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  32. Cleverclogs reminded me: Copper can be stunning. One of the most beautiful ball gowns I've ever seen was copper. And the wearer had very dark brown hair. Just a thought...

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  33. The asymmetrical dress is superb! I would love to see that made up. It would put a nip into Cathy's waist and supply her with some elegant curves. I can already see her posed against another Tiffany window with a bit of netting frou frou on her dainty head and a pair of almond toed heels

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  34. No brown please (kill that idea). Okay, for evening wear I've always admired the dark colors and a little something sparkly (a nice choker with about 3 or 4 rows of diamonds around the neck and a matching bling wrapped around the wrist is what I'm seeing at the moment). I like the 40's asymmetrical number in black taffeta idea...and yes I am so excited about sewing up my denim duds :D

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  35. I love the 40's asymmetrical dress and the red lace one too. I'm sure whatever you decide to make Cathy will love it and look fabulous.

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  36. You must be joking, you look nowhere near 49, you must have some of those special genes :)

    I wouldn't go for brown, I think black, emerald green, maroon look better on night dresses and would surely look excellent on Cathy.

    Both red and black lacy dresses are nice but the 40's asymmetrical and the tri-toned taffeta tiers are really beautiful. Although the tri-toned dress looks a bit too crowded at the neck part... I also tried to imagine the asymmetric dress in two colours...couldn't decide if it would make it nicer or cheap-looking...

    Oh, today is my birthday too, happy birthday to all of us then! :)

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  37. I adore that dress! Wonderful. I'm jealous.

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