Monday, April 28, 2008

The Right White, pt. 1

Spring is here. Consequently, I'm doing my yearly white-dress thing.

I love white dresses. I have owned many over my lifetime, some of which have been among my very favorite garments in a long and mostly unbroken line of pretty good wardrobe choices. Last weekend I spent a couple of hours going through my closets and pulling out the summer stuff and putting away the cool-weather stuff, and there is a definite dearth of white dresses at present, which I am jonesing to rectify. The thing that makes a good white summer dress is not just that it be white. It needs to be easy to wear, easy to care for, fuss-free. Breezy. Sunny.

I've tried on a few in the last few weeks, and seen a lot that I liked. But I haven't bought one -- I think I'm probably going to wind up making one, and I'm thinking white seersucker is going to be my fabric of choice. But my forays into the dressing rooms with white dresses have brought up a few points I'd like to discuss.

First of all -- when did manufacturers stop lining their clothes? There was a time when most any dress you bought had a sewn-in lining. (Check a local vintage store.) Then there came a time when you could at least depend on something bought in a high- or higher-end store having a lining. Those days are apparently over. I have tried on many (many, many) designer garments that retailed for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars, and were unlined. Is anyone besides me really chapped about this? Call me crazy, but for $1500, I think a person is entitled to another measly yard or two of inexpensive fabric to provide a little camouflage/modesty/support under her dress. I recently slid into a really beautiful sage-green Christian Dior number at the Neiman Marcus outlet, just to see if it fit.


(Not this, but along these lines.)

It did, and it fit me well, but the thing was two layers of silk chiffon, cut on the bias, and unlined. (Unlined AND cut in such a way, with trickiness at shoulder and thigh, that no slip in my wardrobe of slips, full- or half- or somewhere in between, would have gone under it without showing.) Now, bias-cut stuff is notoriously unforgiving and I am here to tell you that the only person who could have worn just herself (and a spritz of very elegant perfume, something classic like Mitsouko) under that dress would have been a runway model or Jamie Lee Curtis in her "Perfect" days.



I am willing to don the smoothers and supporters in certain circs, but I do not want to become beholden to a pair of Spanx for every single garment in my wardrobe. Sometimes a gal just wants to breathe, ya know? And what about modesty? Perhaps I am not willing to indulge in the Festival of Oversharing™ (© Plumcake) that we cannot seem to escape these days.


(Especially disappointing because Ms. Hathaway gets it right so very often. She knows better -- claiming "wardrobe malfunction" in this instance is simply disingenuous.)

My other big quibble with white clothes is pockets. Whyohwhy cannot they get the pockets right? This weekend I tried on an absolutely adorable white cotton dress at Saks -- very simple, straight up & down with a ballet neck & short sleeves.


Not this one, but shaped much like it. So cute. It was even long enough, which is also becoming a rarity these days (and the subject for yet another rant on another day). So easy it didn't even have a zipper, I just pulled it over my head. And it was on sale. And, it was lined. Things were looking pretty promising. But instead of the patch pockets shown above, this one had slash pockets. So as I stood there looking in the mirror, I saw me looking cute in a sweet white dress that fit and had enormous white semicircles plastered over the widest part of my thighs. Because the pockets, you see, were made of the same white fabric as the lining of the dress and so created three layers of fabric which showed through the dress. This is not a good look, the giant white semicircle thigh indicator. Sometimes when this occurs, you can just cut the pockets out & sew them shut, but this dress wasn't one of those times. So it went back on the hanger and I left dressless. What would have solved that problem? Pockets made out of nude-colored lining. But that is far, far to much to hope for. And I know it would add to the expense of the dress, but ya know what? I think I might be willing to pony up an extra ten bucks for that. Another solution -- and I know this is completely over the hedge, but here goes -- no pockets at all!! It's a dress, people. Most likely worn by a woman. Who mostly likely has a (carefully-chosen) handbag in which to carry her keys, her lipstick, and whatever else she needs to keep close at hand. (And even if said dress is not worn by a woman, I'm going to bet there's still a handbag involved. Along with some really fierce shoes.)

I did, however, make a point of telling the SA why I wasn't buying the dress. I didn't berate her or anything, because it certainly wasn't her fault, but I did say, cheerfully and matter-of-factly, "That dress is absolutely adorable, but those pockets look awful." I've decided that I'm going to start registering my complaints, when they're of the sort that are near-universal. I don't know what good it might do, but possibly if enough people in enough stores say to enough SAs, "I would buy that dress if it were three inches longer/had a lining/were possible to wear a bra underneath it," word might eventually trickle up to the Powers That Be and maybe things will change. I think we should all do this. Next time you try something on and it's yet another example of This Would Be Perfect If It Weren't For (insert Common Problem Such as Length or Lack of Lining here), mention it (politely) to the SA. Couch it in terms of a lost sale -- people respond to that, believe me. Perhaps if we all do this we can reach some sort of Shopping Complaint Critical Mass.

At any rate, to scratch my White Dress Itch I've done some web surfing, but I'm going to wait and show you what I found tomorrow. Stay tuned!


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Always In Style said...

Agreed - sick and tired of overpriced cheaply made clothes...and eagerly awaiting your rant on things that are too short... :-)

Alexandra said...

I love the look of white dresses but am never able to pull one off. I walk to work and it's dusty everywhere, and then I like the option of sitting on my fitness ball instead of a chair, and I never,ever spill coffee all over myself unless I wear a white dress. Bah!

Susan B said...

Lack of lining is a pet peeve with me too. Most clothes just hang and fit better with lining.

Anonymous said...

I have a wonderful white cotton dress I got at Zara two years ago. It is lined. It falls right below the knee. It is not too low cut. It is perfect. I bought two years ago while in England for the specific purpose of playing croquet. Though I haven't dressed up to play croquet since them, I'm very happy to have the dress.

Poochie said...

I'm reading Deluxe right now and the reason is simple... profit margins. The companies make more money by not lining (making the clothes cheaper)the dress. They are also using cheaper thread.

The reason is the companies feel we, mainly Americans, will not notice. When I finish the book I'm going to pull out the tons of nuggets that I dog-eared but here is an excerpt relevant to this issue:
The Japanese have zero tolerance for defects. There was a dress that had a thread dangling from a hem. A Japanese customer brought it back saying the dress had a flaw. It was unacceptable to her. The showed the dress to a French customer - she noticed the thread but said she could cut it. They showed it to an American customer. She tied it on, liked it and never noticed the thread.

It is a very interesting book.


StyleSpy said...

AIS -- I'm saving it up for a day when I particularly need to vent. ;-)

Alexandra -- You're not the only one. I've had a lot of people say this to me lately. You are in good, if messy company.

Deja -- THANK you!! It's so very annoying!

Miriam -- treasure that dress. And I'm up for croquet if you want to play a round.

PP --I read that book a couple of months ago and found it interesting, although I was troubled by her lack of citations. Need to go back & give it a closer reading.