There’s absolutely nothing nineteenth-century about this dress–the vintage reproduction company from which I purchased it touted the style as 1940s-inspired, I believe, and collar dresses are sufficiently popular at the moment for my look to pass as something simply romantically contemporary.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been spending an unprecedented amount of time in a house inhabited by a nineteenth-century poet, but for whatever reason, I feel like this simple dress captures some of the Victorian aesthetic nonetheless. At any rate, I’m thinking it will be most suitable for leading historic house tours in the future, assuming I won’t have access to authentic Victorian period dress!
I have never, in fact, purchased a seashell in my life–I much prefer to find them on my own–but a dress with shell embroidery? That I can’t resist!
You’re about to experience yet another classic Mailbox Mermaid dress-acquiring narrative, consisting of the usual progression of:
- discovering a newly-released, retro-inspired garment, likely with marine or nautical influences
- bemoaning its pirate’s ransom of a price
- waiting patiently like a gulper eel for a sale to transform said garment into something vaguely reasonable for my budget
I have to admit that this iteration of the story had a more tragic bent, because I was legitimately saddened when I first glimpsed this incredible dress and then released it retailed at just under $80. I assumed I’d have to wait until fall for a pink and summery mermaid dress to go on sale: but as luck would have it, a surprise one-day-only clearance brought us together, resulting in nearly the same degree of personal satisfaction and delight as finding an unbroken conch or cowrie!
You knew this day was coming, folks. After a yearlong foray into the glories of 1950s- and 60s-inspired fashion, I’ve finally purchased one of those dang petticoats. In fact, it’s a cheerful pastel crinoline consisting of enough layers of yellow, feathery tulle to evoke Big Bird at the ballet.
When I tore open the airmail package on Saturday and came face-to-face with the reality that I had purchased an archaic garment intended to make me resemble one of those bizarre Barbie doll cake toppers, I’ll admit that there was a moment of existential doubt.
- it was only $10 on sale – and that’s probably the equivalent of what one might spend at a certain New England donut and coffee purveyor over the course of three days, so I think I’m all good, and
- I’ve kind of always wanted to capture the aesthetic of one of those bizarre Barbie doll cake toppers, I guess?
I’ve joked about my resemblance to a certain Magic Schoolbus protagonist before, but it’s now official–I’m just one lizard short of becoming Ms. Frizzle. Now, if I were a classroom teacher, I’d be much more likely to take my kids on a field trip back in time to visit a sixteenth-century cabinet of curiosities: PBS, if you ever want to cast me in the Magic Schoolbus: Early Modern Museum History reboot, just give me a call.
Even though I know more about wunderkammern than the wonders of the universe, I’m still a casual sci-fi/pop-astronomy nerd. In high school, I read Contact and Clarke, watched Cosmos, listened to that Symphony of Science remix album on repeat, and dreamed of visiting SETI just like everyone else!
I’m only sad that I can’t pop back to the past to give this dress to my teenaged self. It would have been the perfect thing to wear to my “sweet [sci-fi] 16” party, a now-infamous shindig for which my mother even created a HAL-9000 cake…
Remember that time when I brought a map dress into my life? Though the fact that I specialize in the material history of maritime trade routes probably means I could get away with wearing a cartographic ensemble to work, I wanted to save this dress for a special day off.
This past golden Saturday’s activities included a picnic, a four-mile walk, and lots of sunshine: the perfect opportunity to wear my quirky finest!
Haven’t you always wanted to wear an outfit that reminds people of cartography and early modern seafaring?
…well, at any rate, I have, and my dreams are just about to come true. Ever since I bought my shark dress secondhand, I’ve kept a careful eye on Bonne Chance Collection’s releases, eager to see if any other nautical prints were in the works.
Everything this company designs is adorable, but most of their fabrics are a little too cutesy for me to get away with at work, tragically–much as I’d love to give a tour while wearing a dress covered in cupcakes or cats in space. When I noticed this map dress, then, I knew the time had come to make my first purchase. After all, how often do you get a chance to wear something that relates to your academic field of study?
(P.S. In addition to gazing with heart-shaped eyes at this dress all weekend, I also sang a song on YouTube! This is my first attempt at a cover, and it took a lot of courage, but I’m excited for the opportunity to sing more often on the Internet. Okay! Back to dresses now!)
My ultimate source of style aesthetic inspiration is the iconically twee 2014 Belle & Sebastian musical movie, God Help the Girl, a film in which Emily Browning and other cute hipster friends dance around Glasgow making music and wearing the best vintage-inspired clothing known to man. Talk about life goals.
The mustard tones of this sweater remind me of the music video to the film’s title song, an indie-pop romp that features a lot of footage of gorgeous boater-hat-clad Emily lying in a sepia-toned field on a bright sunny day while singing. That sounds like my happy place in a nutshell. (Given the day of the week, though, this post is named after a slightly different God Help the Girl number.)
Until I too can conquer my mental health demons by starting a retro band with Oly Alexander, I’m content to reenact my favorite film with what’s available to me: Peter Pan collars and warm colors galore!