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Saturday, July 17, 2010

When I was in first grade, I read Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll and was confused by the passage where Alice was rowing a boat with a sheep in it. I wasn’t disturbed by the fact that she was in the boat with the sheep, or that the sheep spoke and knitted. Who among us can say she hasn’t rowed with talking livestock? Last time I rowed a boat with a pig in it, not only did we have a lively conversation but the pig made me bacon, natch. No, what was bothersome to me about the dialogue was the use of the word “feather.”

“Feather!” cried the Sheep, as she took up another pair of needles.

This didn’t sound like a remark that needed any answer: so Alice said nothing, but pulled away. There was something very queer about the water, she thought, as every now and then the oars got fast in it, and would hardly come out again.

“Feather! Feather!” the Sheep cried again, taking more needles. “You’ll be catching a crab directly.”

“A dear little crab!” thought Alice. “I should like that.”

“Didn’t you hear me say ‘Feather’?” the Sheep cried angrily, taking up quite a bunch of needles.

“Indeed I did,” said Alice: “you’ve said it very often — and very loud. Please where are the crabs?

“In the water, of course!” said the Sheep, sticking some of the needles into her hair, as her hands were full. “Feather, I say!”

Why do you say “Feather” so often?” Alice asked at last, rather vexed. “I’m not a bird!”

“You are,” said the Sheep: “you’re a little goose.”

Clearly, Alice was equally puzzled so I didn’t feel too bad. It wasn’t till I was in college when I dated a guy who rowed crew that I realized feathering is part of a rower’s stroke. And right now I’m laughing so hard I’m crying because mere seconds ago, MrB told me that “catching a crab” is a term for a bad stroke due to poor feathering. Like Alice, I thought the sheep was talking about crustaceans … till this very moment!

Anyway, feathers still make me think of Alice and the sheep. The characters instantly came to mind when I saw the fabric used in the Louis Vuitton dress Rachel Bilson wore to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala back in May.

Click for photo source.

Some people thought it was a print but when a piece of the dress’s fabric fell into my hands, I was surprised to see it was full of real pink and white feathers under a transparent layer. Here’s a scan of the swatch so you can take a close look.

This swatch is from the exact dress that Rachel Bilson wore.

“How unusual,” I said to the pig, who didn’t answer because he was making a ham sandwich. “I bet no one’s ever done colored feathers in fabric before.” But here I am in Paris months later, checking out the exhibit on ’70s and ’80s fashion at the Musée des Arts décoratifs, and what do I find?  Jean-Charles de Castelbajac‘s Autumn/Winter 1973/1974 quilted down jacket with a transparent outer shell and red, yellow, purple, green, blue, white and black feathers. I managed to sneak a bad photo before a guard ran over to scold me.

Sorry about the iPhone camera quality.

I am already a big fan of Castelbajac, whom some of you might know as the designer of Lady Gaga’s Kermit coat. Last year, I did well during the sales in London and Paris, scoring Castelbajac’s strapless motorcycle dress, a Lego-print shirt dress, a pair of shoes and a top with a boob cloud.

Wearing the shoes and boob-cloud top in 2009.

It’s sale time again, so I went back to the Parisian Castelbajac store, where I took some looking-glass photos. Castelbajac is over Legos and on to the nautical look, meaning you might want to consider his clothes for the next time you go boating with a farm animal. Here I am in miles-wide sailor pants and a matching top that was loaded with gold buttons and braiding. A big gold anchor adorned one of the sleeves. Anchors aweigh!

Today’s other theme is “blurry photos.”

All I need is one of those sailor hats that remind me of a cupcake and I’d be set for a Halloween party. Now that I think of it, a former Navy guy gave me one of those hats long ago. I wonder if I still have it.

“Aye aye, captain!”

As I said, I thought the look was costume-y and much too literal. But did I get the pieces anyway? You have to guess. Do not ask the pig! That’s cheating.

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42 Responses to “Feathers, Water, Looking Glass and an Imaginary Pig”

  1. eli says:

    Well, now I dont feel so bad about myself for not understanding things because english is not my first language and I wasnt taught vernacular like that…but if you didnt understand either, then we are all in the same boat

    also, so does the dress really have the feathers sewn into it?

  2. WendyB says:

    Yep, they are real feathers under a transparent layer. If you cut into the fabric, they fly all around the room.

    “All in the same boat” — hee hee.

  3. elena daciuk says:

    wow! that louis vuitton dress is fabulous!
    nice lesson in “feathering” and “catching a crab” haha…
    you my dear…look fabulous…as usual…happy shopping in paris…loving the little salute…so appropriate =)

  4. deja pseu says:

    You look adorable, though it’s probably a bit “on the nose.” But then, you do have a fabulous money dress…

    The feather stuff is fabulous!

  5. K-Line says:

    Oh, I am nuts for nautical right now. I love that outfit! No doubt you got the pieces. They look awesome and you’ll be wearing them in 15 years. How do pronounce “Castelbajac”? I’ve only ever seen it written down.

  6. Cameron says:

    Only had the mani half of my anti-spam word, but what camera is that in the self-shot pix?

  7. Candice says:

    I went to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs last week, on Wednesday, when Paris had the torrential downpour. Sadly the museum got flooded and they closed for the day so I missed the exhibition because I had to leave on Thursday.
    So annoying!

    But I did get to the YSL at the Petit Palais. Did you see that yet?

    Sorry we missed each other in Paris. We’ll have to do it here in NY.

  8. hiyaluv says:

    I love this post! The wit, backstory, current info, pictures, all go together so well. I hope you purchased the Castelbajac sailor pieces. I can see how you would think they may be “costumey” but at the same time they are too fun and you look fantastic in them. How often do you find pieces like that? And they fit you so well from what I could see in the photos. My vote: I hope like crazy that you bought them and that we will see them again at a later date.


  9. Ms. Smart says:

    put me on your L.A. party list. love to meet you in person, shiny beauty girl, you.

  10. I think I need to read “Alice” again as I read when I was a little kid too. I don’t even remember that bit! I hope you didn’t clear out all the bargains in London and left some for me! Have fun shopping in Paris!

  11. Katie says:

    Wendy Brandes. You are the most bad ass f’er I’ve never met.

  12. enc says:

    And here I thought “catching a crab” meant something else entirely!

    I love those giant pants, insane or not!

    Which pieces did you get??!?!?!

  13. Dear Wendy…

    So you are close, here in Paris, actually! For how long? I would have loved meeting you.

    I few years back, I went to Palais Galliera, the fashion museum of the City of Paris, and got closely acquainted with Castelbajac’s creations. I came out inspired… rubik’s cubes, stuffed animals, raincoats… pop music to topple it off.

    I added you on my blog links and will be over more often from now on.

    Have a good Paris day!

  14. Jemina says:

    WOW, now I so want to stroke that feather dress that Rachel Bilson wore, perhaps it would be my next project diy when i am bored LOL, and as for the last question i think you scored only one of the items, either the top or the bottom? any clue???, I’ll come back here in a bit to check if I get it right (or wrong ha ha ha), have a wonderful weekend XOXO

  15. Emma says:

    I love the feathers in that dress. So beautiful.

    I really love your writing. A surreal but entertaining start to my morning.

  16. The pig let slip you took the top. Okay I was catching a crab! Worst ever rowing stroke as it all goes pear shape. But I reckon the top xx

  17. marian says:

    ohhhh I love the boob cloud top and the shoes. Wendy you had me laughing through this!

    The nautical look is timeless

  18. Rachel Bilson looks good!

  19. TheShoeGirl says:

    Oh Wendy… Your posts are always so entertaining and well written. <3
    No matter how random I think you are you always find a way to tie it all together.

  20. Nickie Frye says:

    Without reading other people’s comments, I’m guessing that you got both pieces because they are both fabulous on their own. Yes, together they are a bit too literal, but I really like them both. So, I’m hoping you got em. Love the Alice in Wonderland story. You are hilarious!


  21. Melissa says:

    It’s so funny when life goes full circle like that! I tell you so many of the things that bothered me as a child, ended up being revealed in a sort of “just in time” way years and years later in life…not sure if its the de ja vu effect (where our brains force the connection) or if our lives really are meant to be a cohesive story book type journey… ya know… like Alice’s. : ) – Love the post so much Wendy!

  22. ur convo with the pig made me lol haha! ok, now that entire passage just made sense haha! omgosh, the detailing of her dress is amazing! i absolutely love this dress when i first saw it on rachel bilson not too long ago. so…did u get the ensemble??;)


  23. My mind is blown about those feathers. I totally thought that was a print! Genius! And the possibilities…

  24. pennerad says:

    i was so fucking confuuuuused for a minute.

    now that i’m not, that dress is impeccable. the detailing is amazing! and the nifty castelbajac shoes are pretty great too.

    was convinced that it was ‘anchors aWAY’. i love your educational posts. 🙂

    question: who is that charming fellow perched on the door?

  25. Thanks for your comment on my blog, I similarly found it hard to think of a coherent comment for you because I’m still giggling at ‘the pig, who was making a ham sandwich’. I had a ham sandwich for lunch. poor pig.

  26. Tina says:

    That LV dress is spectacular and Rachel looks amazing in it. Thanks for the rowing lesson. Who knew? And I’m going to say that you did not purchase the full Castelbajac ensemble…unless you found the hat to top it all off.

  27. Maddy says:

    Seeing the fabric up close makes all that more appealing!

  28. Didn’t Lewis Carroll write about boob clouds in one of his books? If not, he should have.

  29. Great post! I always like a nautical outfit! You look fab. That feather fabric is just gorgeous, how unusual. Sounds like you are having a great trip. e xx

  30. lol I still didn’t know what the hell that Alice in wonderland Convo was about! Thanks for clarifying that for me.

    Also I love Rachel’s Style. In my opinion she close to always looks great

  31. I love it when you figure something out about a classic years later. And I’m betting, also, that you got both pieces. How could you not, when the dressing room has those adorable doorknobs?

  32. drollgirl says:

    LOVE rachel\’s dress!

    and i recently read a book about the real alice from alice in wonderland. not the best book ever, but interesting. weird. such a weird story. it is called \”alice i have been.\” not sure i am really recommending it. you make the call if you want to read it or not!

  33. Alicia says:

    You tell THE BEST stories.

    I want to revisit the book now because there is a hell of a lot I didn’t understand when I read it the first time around.

  34. Midtown Girl says:

    LOL to Nubia’s comment.

    Have you ever thought of writing a book of short stories…? Bc you have some pretty effing amazin ones.DO.IT. <3

  35. Jess says:

    Wow I thought the LV dress was printed too. But now I know the actual technique used, the dress is far more beautiful to me.

  36. Winnie says:

    Ooooh I never knew that about that scene in Alice in Wonderland. I feel all educated (of sorts!)

    The print on the LV dress is so gorgeous and you are looking pretty damn cute in that nautical outfit!!

  37. stacy says:

    Who among us hasn’t rowed w/ talking livestock? And the ham sandwich…haha.

    You are super cute in that JCC dress w/ the boob cloud. I’m not loving the patchwork down jacket. I don’t know who can pull that off w/o looking like, well… a patchwork blanket. A very puffy one. Kind of like a puffy patchwork downfill blanket. A colorful one. OK, enough about the jacket!

    Did you buy the “sailor suit?” You know, I <3 nautical! Hope you made the purchase.

  38. I’ve always liked the look of sailor buttons on pants. And you’re wearing some of my favorite things: gold buttons on something blue and double breasted 😀