There are certain days (everyone has them, I’m certain) when it’s all you can do to keep your fingers crossed for something (anything) good. When the last of your childhood’s faith seems to be dissolving in your hands only to drip, in an ugly foam, into the gutter. When you just can’t shake the nagging sensation that any attempt to spin some web of personal happiness is doomed to go horribly awry, no matter what you do, who you trust, or how well you love.
I do not blame New York, my new home, though the rent control here certainly leaves something to be desired; on the contrary, flying by the seat of my knickers with a career on pause, friends that are half a continent away, and a relationship in the midst of a nervous breakdown, I often feel that the city itself is the only tangible thing to have my back. All I have to do is walk down the street in the afternoon, hear some cabbies shouting profanities at one another, and the song rises in my heart: Ahh, the Motherland!
How can one be sad in such a city, this Metropolis? Here you can drink until 4 in the morning, then take the train to the Atlantic Ocean! You can walk down the street with no pants on, and nobody bats an eye! You can buy Kérastase at the Duane Reade 24 hours a day! There simply must be something good coming ’round the bend for us all, regardless of any stubborn, lingering affection I must have for pessimism – that cock-eyed prestige of a love affair that’s somehow left wandering the stage even now, long after the initial, years-old trauma (another story) that caused it has slid safely down the trapdoor and out of sight – even, perhaps, to land softly and surely in the downy realm of forgiveness.
I suppose we all have our methods of survival.
Speaking of which.
It was after one such particularly heartbreaking week that I – tired, miserable, and once again facing imminent, sublet-induced homelessness – took the N train into Manhattan just to have something to do, only find myself stopping, impulsively, at the Bloomingdale’s on 59th & Lex. Only to spend a deliberate and very zen hour disconnecting myself from myself by rifling through the racks. Only to emerge – one hour and a small lifetime later, convinced I’d found the absolute best thing in the whoooole goddamned store – with the piece you see here: a red pleather sundress, size Extra Small, wrapped safely for transport in a Medium Brown Bag.
Mental exorcism aside, the dress was for me a small but important victory, for reasons such as follows:
Firstly (and also fore-mostly), there is of course the color. Red – my favorite non-neutral color to wear – is having a lovely moment this fall, and I consider anything ruby, crimson, or oxblood to be a worthwhile investment. In addition, its sleevelessness makes it ideal for transitional dressing (an important consideration when New York remains a 90-degree cesspit in the shade).
Secondly: there’s the fabric. I like the fabric. Free People is marketing this dress as “Vegan Leather,” but I don’t see much point in that kind of hoopla. I ain’t no vegan, for one; I don’t know about you, but I personally need to consume the still-beating heart of the Cosmos in all its bloody glory, to allow the juices to drip down my chin and flow onto the pavement below and – in so doing – become One with All Things once again, otherwise I get anemic, Holy Christ, this is why I live in this city. I suppose what I mean by this is that I value honesty.
So wear what you please, of course. If you dislike wearing leather, I can’t find a reason to bother you, just like I won’t bother that bum over there with no pants on. Just don’t pretend that it is what it isn’t. (Call it pleather, maybe, or even the charmingly old-fashioned “leatherette;” both paint the appropriate picture. The important thing is to revel in its fakeness! To delight in the sheer, glorious artificiality of it all! )
Though I suppose people who wear vegan leather will waste no time telling you that it’s vegan. Sigh, so there you go. Honesty achieved. For myself, however, I still prefer a terminology that acknowledges the idea that this isn’t at all a natural kind of fabric…it is after all 100% polyurethane.
Though I meander.
Thirdly (and lastly) there’s the matter of the cut.
Skip forward to the very next day, when of course I tried the whole thing on and immediately wondered what the hell I was thinking. What am I going to do with a red pleather sundress? Is silly, cheap, juvenile? Is it “me?” At the end of the day, the main point of contention turned out to be the cut.
What do men think of girly, fit-n-flare dresses like this, particularly red pleather ones? Are they sexy? Ridiculous? “Trying too hard?” Would a gentleman meet a lady in a dress like this and feel that he is speaking with a grown woman, rather than a girl? I’ve never been interested in “man repelling,” as any time spent in the wilderness of an awkward childhood tends to effectively remove the luster from this idea. As a result I spent some serious clock cycles wondering if I should have picked a red pleather dress in a more sophisticated cut to balance the overtness of everything else. (The things we ponder in the modern world! Long Live the Metropolis!)
All the same, we have to acknowledge what’s going on on fashion:
Flippy, skater-style dresses are definitely having a moment, and I have purchased a few for the sake of experimentation despite the fact that I can’t shake the nagging fear that they make me look quite young – younger than is comfortable. I am after all older than I look, and I’ve fought tooth and nail for every ounce of adult credibility that I possess. And besides, I maintain a healthy amount of skepticism regarding the effect pleating has on my ass.
I am pleased to admit that the dress photographs quite well. Ladylike hair and makeup are key to balance the cut, at least for me: if I wear it with my hair down, I remain convinced that I look about twelve years old. Ah, well. I’ll simply consider the cut a victory in branching out, and wear it for youthful things, like clubbing. A vintage Yamamoto jacket would really tie the room together, here…
(And I suppose I shouldn’t complain about looking immature or sacrificing my “adult credibility” until I learn to swear less, and stop talking like a cabbie. Sigh…)
Esteem hiccups aside, I do remain completely confident about the color and fabric. (I think everyone should have a red pleather dress, and the nuts to wear it!…and so on.) In fact, if my finances weren’t currently under the thumb of the New York housing market (and all its associated fees and deposits), I would do the whole thing properly and invest in this number from Lanvin (see how the timeless cut balances out the aggressive sheen of the material; you can get away with so much when you stick to a clean silhouette…I saw it on the mannequin at Barney’s just the other day, and it looks even better in person than it does in the photograph). It’s too bad we need things like roofs, actually, because I suspect that the Lanvin would stick around well into my Helen Mirren years – long after whatever apartment I take next is long gone from my life and sufficiently relocated to the aether of Memory.
Alas. For the moment, my assets stumble. Though interested sugar daddies may always reach me via my contact page…
(I am of course kidding, until you say yes.)
In the meantime, sincerest wishes for a beautiful day, friends. All my love, and an ocean of kindness.
May the Universe bring you something good.
“I don’t care, love is all; I dare to drown, to be proven wrong.”
– Björk, “Hope“