Song in the Key of Busby Blue Dress

While some are born with a crispy, linear personality and some acquire one, others are awed and/or bemused by the very thought of such a thing.

I fall into that third category, and I fall into it hard.

In fact I’m so far from starched that behind closed doors I’m often ensconced in some raggedy hodgepodge of insanely comfortable, minimally seamed, usually be-lycra’d items. And I have to confess that I rather like things that way.

Generally, however, I try to pull it together when I leave the house. After all—and with apologies to Mr Wilde—being the focus of one style-related intervention may be regarded as misfortune; being the focus of two looks like carelessness.

Thus far, my efforts to incorporate qualities of my downtime ensembles into my public wear have led to a co-dependence on structured-but-not stiff items. I may not own any vintage Claire McCardell, daggummit, but no matter the trend du jour I’ll fight the good fight trying to channel her philosophy of dressing. Which is why shaped knits, softly draping lightweight wools, and tailored jackets with a little—or a lot—of stretch all know I’m an easy mark.

What can I say? I like clothes that move with me.

Especially when something about them makes me feel I’m ready to dive into a pool and start performing underwater acrobatics.

Sure, turn it 90 degrees and it's a stretch break...but then I can't pretend I'm a sychronized swimmer

L, a young Freedom Valley PA sync'r sails through the air; R, covering top US synchro athletes and their hopes for Olympic gold

Granted this dress had a head start at grabbing my cash since I’m a sucker for deep blues and have deliberately accumulated many of them…but its combination of a drapey front plus wide, ripply sleeves sealed the proverbial deal for me. So 40s-meets-slinky-70s!

No 70s-era Studio 54 denizen would have been caught dead in my shoes, but I like to think the dress might have passed muster with a dancin' dame or two

The devil in the deep blue details: unlike many similar sleeves I've seen lately, this dress has a panel that ensures undergarments and modesty are covered when one's arm lifts

[Given my short-waisted H/Rectangle frame, I bought with the knowledge that a slightly flared skirt may have been more flattering. But hey, at least I kept the self-belt looped in the back and tied on the side to avoid the belt-under-bosom look!]

Now: As a longtime fan of Esther Williams’ strength, grace, and glamour I’ll happily go on record as saying I consider anything even vaguely reminiscent of synchronized swimming’s beauty and/or 40s-era clothing design to be a very, very good thing.

Of course I also think anything involving ACTUAL synchro is even better, which is why I’m excited to see the sport formerly known as “water ballet” receiving more attention in popular culture.

From Sync or Swim documenting the training of top US synchro athletes to Men Who Swim investigating how one man’s midlife crisis took him on a chlorine-soaked path toward stylized glory to the easily accessible DVDs of Ms Williams and her corps gliding through Busby Berkeley’s intricate choreography, synchro is getting hot hot hot.

L and R, Esther Williams, the woman who swam to screen and business success; C, equal-opportunity synchronized swimming meets mid-life crisis

One can even find the water-drenched Aqualillies troupe offering LA-area workshops to regular folks who hanker to boost their fitness via eggbeaters, torpedoes, and ballet legs.

Need more proof that it’s a swell time to add a touch of mermaid to your closet or workout routine? You’ve got it….

Rebecca Glassman's "Synchronized Peeping Practice," arguably one of the best-ever entries in the Annual Washington Post Peeps Diorama Contest

PSA 1: While my prior video of Esther Williams talking about her professional relationship with choreographer Busby Berkeley (“Certainly the possibility that I might be injured was never a factor when Buzz was dreaming up his routines; he just assumed I could do anything”) is no longer available, this substitute includes iconic scenes and Williams’ commentary on her past and present

PSA 2: See one of Busby Berkeley’s most famous land/pool sequences in this clip from 1944’s Bathing Beauty

PSA 3: Discover more about revolutionary US ready-to-wear designer Claire McCardell in this New York Times article discussing the retrospective exhibit ”Claire McCardell and the American Look”

6 Responses

  1. Ok, Busby Berkeley, Esther Williams, Claire McCardell, a new dress and PEEPS in one post… I don’t know if my brain can handle the wonder of it all.

    Seriously though, “structured knits” are my go-to pieces and now comprise about 80% of my wardrobe, work and play. That blue is wonderful on you.

  2. Starched – in my next life, I want to be starched! Brigitta’s son (the lady with the boutique) has an impeccable starched son. There are certain neighbourhoods in Vienna where children are born starched. They can leave a train after a 5 hours ride at 9.30am (which means they got up around 4am) and look perfectly starched, from eyebrow to toe.

    Thank you Vix for riscing severe back aches by striking that pose! You should see me in front of the computer, bending my head like Larry David when he has a “staring moment”. (that’s when he stares and stares and stares and bends the head from one direction to the other)

    Do you know the show Pushing Daisies? A must for sync-fans. Although it’s shallow but that should not be a problem, no?! 🙂

    There must be some sling-high-heels left in your closet, black, shiny, heels twice the height of the sandals, I would love to see them with our blue dress. It probably has something to do with the sleeves. They call for high heels!

    Peeps are new to me, I like what I see, a lot! Bunnies …

  3. Pseu—

    Glad you got a kick out of the combo; I swear I couldn’t believe the PEEPS shot…such a gift!


    O those starched children, confirming my belief that genetics are somehow involved! Given your love of holidays, you will have to investigate the PEEPS; I loathe marshmallow so am not a fan, but they have a cult following for Easter and beyond.

    As a non-shoe person I don’t have much exciting in my closet, but when I’m going somewhere besides a neighborhood food joint I promise I will investigate. And soon it will be boots weather and you know I do love my boots, ha.

    ps You’re sweet, but don’t worry about my back, it’s the only place I’m fairly limber without effort.

  4. What a lovely dress, it reminds me of the two tops I just bought! And I live right next to Copenhagen and the Little Mermaid – can I then consider myself hot?

  5. Tine—

    As I’m terribly undertraveled, I’d never seen the statue of the LM; what a beautiful setting for her:

    Clearly with your location, you must take the lead as our semi-40s mermaid style setter. Love the sound of your tops, obviously; I’m sure you’ll enjoy them. Thanks for your comment on the dress!

  6. [and a belated add-on for Pseu—]

    Sorry, was in such a rush yesterday when commenting I didn’t realized I’d left off half my response to you. I know you’ve come to embrace the structured knits and I will be looking to see what you do with them this fall!

    Thanks for the comment on the blue; that shade has long been a favorite in general so I’m lucky it works well on me. If I get adventurous enough to go all Matisse in Morocco with it I’ll pair it with vivid rose pink…but I have the feeling I’m not quite ready for that!

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