Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This Old Dress: Hymn to a Battleaxe

I'm currently selling a used tank on eBay. Not an actual Panzer, of course, but a dress. Specifically, the kind of dress that rendered its wearer socially impermeable. Able to soldier through charitable ball planning meetings, or lunches with visiting royalty, or trips to showrooms with the decorator, in full knowledge that she was correct from wrist to neck to kneecap.

The actual frock is an early 70s (I reckon) coat dress from the house of Galanos. Trained in Paris (Piguet), perfecting his trade in New York (Carnegie), James Galanos became one of America's greatest dressmakers, famed for using couture level details in the garments he fashioned for high society dames. The fact that he, along with Arnold Scaasi, was one of Nancy Reagan's go-to dressmakers says it all about the kind of lady who sought his work out.

The dress is an A-line with flap pockets, french cuffs, domed beaten brass buttons and a slight wrap effect. The fabric is a wool tweed, so heavy that it literally feels like body armor. The dress is lined in silk. What really puzzles me is that it came out of Dallas. How somebody could wear something this substantial in that heat is beyond me . . . but as my brother-in-law likes to say, with a heavy fake Greek accent: "sometimes it eez better to loook goood than to feel goood."

I'm selling the dress because the sleeves come up short. The original owner must have been elfin, like an Olsen twin, but none of this sloppy, droopy, hide-in-a-pile-of laundry-look favored by Mary Kate and Ashley. Nope--military bearing, helmet hair, alligator bag locked and loaded. Sister of the travelling Galanos, I salute you.

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