Friday, March 28, 2008

And Guess Who Made Kim Locke’s AI Wench Dress?

I wrote this the other day...

"God the American Idol STYLISTS SUCK like a an 18-year old after he just came out of the closet and goes on Spring Break to Fire Island...
That t-shirt on David Cook REEKS of bad imitation "Affliction " or "Morphine Generation" from like Dave and Barry’s and that scarf-look is so tired that even the Gap retired it.
And the outfit on Michael Johns looks SO generic "grungy rocker" costum-ey that even grungy rockers in Seattle would say " like dude go get some Dolce and Gabanna or Brooks Brothers or something..". ( by the way, that is what I sound like, like. When I was preparing for an interview at Oxford University, people had to coach me so I would not say "like" as an interjection). And the thing is my surfer-dude speech is completely infective and then everyone around me just starts speaking like that.
But yeah, the stylists of Americal Idol must be straight men or something. They completely do a horrible job and have no talent whatsoever.
I remember them putting Bo Bice in a bloody Walmart dashiki that looked like a cheap, hippy Halloween Costume and Carrie Underwood in tragic after tragic outfit.
Yesterday, Kimberly Locke was on the show extolling and pimping her weight loss. How about we don’t care lady? Loosing weight is like getting female circumcision or taking a poop after eating Activia. Just a bodily function. Nothing to celebrate or publicize. So if you MUST do it, keep it to yourself. Because we don’t care, and for a lot of us it is an eating disorder trigger.
Anyways, As happens with most women who loose weight, they completely loose perspective. She was wearing this strapless dress that was SO tight it gave her a Starbucks super-sized muffin top cleavage that bordered on the Operatic. Not attractive. Just frightening.
So American Idol people: Please , America has spoken. HIRE ME. I get emails saying I need to dress the contestants ALL the time".

I still think that the American Idol stylists SUCK and that they are sartorial hacks, but I was blaming that dress on the wrong people.

So you can get a visual, here are pictures of the dress that were posted by my adored, sweet angels of Project Rungay:


I have to first disclaim that I almost promised someone I care for deeply that I was going to be nice to Christian Siriano. I am being nice to him.

I am saying the truth about his dress. I have to do that because otherwise I would loose all credibility and impartiality and objectivity as a fashion writer and I am not going begin to go there, because that was what was forced on me as a medical writer. If my opinion was not fair and objective, then how much would it be worth? On the other hand, your best friend is the one who cares enough about you to tell you the truth. Not the one who flatters you out of self-interest. I am not going to turn into Anna Wintour or Nina Garcia and pimp stuff I don’t believe in, because of potential returns. I did not compromise my integrity for pharma/biotech companies with a billion times the power, money, pull and the ability to put a hit on me, and I am certainly not going to do it as a fashion writer/editor.

Yes, you read it. This dress was designed and made by the newly crowned winner of Project Runway, Christian Siriano.

I am not going to mention the size of Kim or or of the dress because seriously, that is irrelevant.

I am FED the hell up with dress sizes and judging people according to them.

That is why when my line comes out it will have NO numerical sizes that you can compare to on an up or down scale, just names or colours or something.

Now her bra cup I will discuss. Because I could not talk about the fit of the dress without mentionning it.

Kim Locke right there on the picture, is well-endowed. I am educatedly estimating in the neighbourhood of my own DD bristols.

Yet the dress was constructed with a B cup in mind.

And that is a HUGE problem. When you are designing or sewing for a woman with a body, versus a hanger with bradycardia ( aka your average "skinny chick" fashion model) it is a billion times harder and it requires 10 times the knowledge and skill. Pattern making and alteration for skinny chicks are a breeze compared to doing so for those of us with sharp, sinous curves and beautiful, generous breasts. Shoshanna Lowenstein has built an entire brand on the concept, and people like Kayne Gillaspie ( another PR former contestant who specilizes in pageant wear), Chris March (costumers are GENIUS at this because of period costumes and corsetting) and Jean Paul Gaultier know this incredibly well. Corsetting and contruction for body shaping is an art on its own. There are people like Mr. Pearl in Paris who makes Ditta Von Teese’s corsets, who build careers on just that. One of my favourite classmates is someone who actually specializes in period costumes ( particularly Renaissance, Baroque and so on) and corsetting and we were taking about fitting corsets on sharply curved women the other day, because I am thinking of having her make me one in a Wedgewood blue brocade. She was saying that even on that I am a hard fit, because I am such a severe hourglass shape and pretty much my best choice was a Civil War Era corset. She was also saying that when your body is constricted in a corset the bits and bumps have to be shifted somewhere, and that somewhere can only be up or down. So a corset-style bodice, in order to work, has to be immaculately constructed to start with and the skirt attached to it has be well-engineered because an additional "belly" is going to be pushed down and the cleavage is going to be pushed up.

When pattern altering and sewing for a curvy body , the curves on the pattern pieces are sometimes ridiculous and sewing them, particularly in expensive fabrics, is like dissarming a time bomb. Want something impossible? Try sewing a bust pattern piece that is almost circular into another straight piece IN SILK. THAT is harder that finding and cutting out a rat’s thalamus before it thaws. Believe me, I know.

To alter a pattern piece for a tailored jacket, my sewing teacher who is in expert seamstress and alters wedding gowns for a living, had to do as many calculations as if she was designing a freaking nuclear semi-conductor. And to get the pieces to lay right when the garment was sewn, I think I had to undo those stitches , no exaggeration, 25 times and she had to end up doing it, because it was so bloody impossible. I am GRATEFUL the fashion fabric was a forgiving tweed.

But that dress on Kim Locke is dismally fitted. I do not know if that is his fault for not knowing how to construct for larger breasts, or because of time constraints, or HER fault for wanting to squeeze herself into an "X" size gown so she could say that she is an "X" size.

NOTHING is LESS flattering that a poorly fitting garment. And nothing is MORE flattering than a properly fitted and tailored one. And SCREW the concept of sizes. I want something that does my beautiful body justice, and I don’t care if the tag says 2 or 52. And I have things in my closet with both. A Torrid 2 and an Italian 52. And I DON’T CARE. Neither makes me any different as a person. I am gorgeous and perfect regardless. Shoot, I am even better nude .

And that dress makes her look like an amateur, non-SCA approved , Renfair serving wench. Her breasts look like the top of oversized Famous Amos double chocolate-chip muffins ( those are pretty yummy , though).

Now, there are finite and simple BASIC rules of design. We all agree on that, right?

Rules like, let’s say, mhh horizontal lines WIDEN the body part on which you are putting them and so does added volume?

Than WHY, OH , WHY would you do BOTH on someone’s, ANYONE’S WIDEST part? Yes, that dropped waist, that "quasi- oblique" sash and not one, but two Ciderella dress-style chiffon over skirts that call attention, the wrong type of attention, to her HIPS. Not good. Very bad indeed.

And then the completely gratuitous and weird piece of chiffon that comes out of the bustline and looks like a Miss South Carolina pageant sash and the wraps around to tie the sash, why? What the hell was that?

That dress, on that person, was borderline unforgiveably terrible.

And that has nothing to do with the size of the wearer. And it has EVERYTHING to do with the skill of the designer and the dressmaker.

Despite all that, the dress in being auctioned off for a very good cause, Camp Heartland, a national camping and care program for children impacted by HIV/AIDS, so I hope it does sell and it sells for good money to a woman with a B cup and no hips. I am proud of both Christian and Kim Locke for donating the proceeds to a worthy charity.

Here is a bit about the legendary Mr. Pearl so you can learn a bit more about the art of corseterie....


“The gentleman who has the pleasure of tying the final bow owns you.”
- Mr. Pearl, interview

What strikes me about fetish legend/corsetier Mr. Pearl’s images is how much he looks like a true English gentleman - and how, magically, his 18-inch corseted waist works to enhance that image, the opposite of what one might expect it to do.

Mr. Pearl grew up in South Africa and moved to London at the earliest chance after completing his military service. He spent three years in New York in the early 90s, where he did his most intimate published interview, of which there are few. Already a renowned tightlacer by this time, Pearl treated corsetry with such reverence that he insisted on precision in every aspect of his involvement with it; when his New York interviewer described him as a corsetier, he interrupted. “Forgive me,” he said. “I am a designer who employs the corset and lacings into his designs. I am not a corsetier - I have not attained that specialized knowledge. There are only about five left in the whole world now, who possess that art. I hope one day to be amongst them.”

Fast-forward to the 2000s: Mr. Pearl is a successful corsetier, commissioned by Mugler, Lacroix, Galliano and Gaultier when they need a master to produce their corset designs for the runway. Clients include Dita, Kylie Minogue and Jerry Hall. He lives in Paris, and works out an atelier behind the Notre Dame.

Pearl & his creations. Corsets, BW: Michael James O’Brien, color: Francois Nars.

Despite his success, Pearl doesn’t have a flashy website. There’s no web store to offer plastic-boned corsets that bear only his name, no MySpace page and no blog. He’s known for his aversion to modern technology, and his only web interview was handwritten and transmitted by fax.

“Activities like Pearl’s involve a transfiguration of the self, a metaphysical transaction between self and other in which flesh is deformed to be perfected, as a saint is perfected in martyrdom. Talking to Pearl, I felt myself in the presence of something sacred.” - Journalist Deborah Drier, ArtForum

Pearl by Ali Mahdavi, 1999

In interviews, Peral makes it clear that he feels today’s obsession with hyper-convenience has detracted from our appreciation of the sublime, which to him corsetry embodies. “Corsetry has been the foundation of all women’s clothing over the ages,” he tells the Independant. “It’s important that people should not forget this, elegance requires a foundation. Couture requires it too. People don’t sympathize with that today: the notion of comfort is stretched to one layer of easy care. These days people are more fascinated by the complications of a voicemail on their mobile phones than unseen sophistications.” The theme is also present in his NYC Verbal Abuse interview, in which he dolefully remarks that “both gentlemen and ladies in this modern age have lost the sensibility to appreciate that [the possession that comes with lacing up one another]. The only thing he might lace is his sneaker. “

Pearl & Sophie Dahl in Pearl-designed corset dress for Gaultier

Another interesting thing about researching Mr. Pearl’s history is the kinds of questions he was asked by the fetish press. They were not your typical “what’s your biggest turn-0n?” lines of inquiry. With the Pearl interviews, you get some really interesting questions that I’ve never seen, such as the following gem:

Verbal Abuse: It has been my observation that many sadomasochists have mathematical ability - especially the more sadistically inclined. I see corsetry as a fetish for number and for measurement. Are you mathematically adept? What are some of your magic numbers?

Pearl: I of course studied mathematics in school and I cannot say that I was at all good at it. In my work too I must work with numbers, specialized measurings … Of course the waist-size magic-number is eighteen. Any number below eighteen becomes extremely potent - yes I would say magical. The smallest I have known is thirteen, so the numbers between 13 and 18 are very potent, each denoting some ultimate point. The number 26 is for me a special figure - but it is not related to a thing physical, but to a time, an age, a special date.

Was it something that happened when Pearl was 26? That’s anyone’s guess. Perhaps this was the age he left South Africa. We know that he started tightlacing at age 30, after seeing a photograph of Fakir Musafar (most likely it was this photo, which did a number on me when I first saw it too).

Disciplined, elusive and talented, Mr. Pearl continues to mystify and inspire. There are very few photos of him, but I hope he continues to wear corsets and that new images emerge as time goes by. I would love to do a portrait of him someday.


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