I saw a news item this week about the strange disappearance of actress Lupita Nyong’o’s gown worn at the Oscars. The gown was a custom-made Calvin Klein designed by Francisco Costa described as “6,000 pearls affixed to silk lamé” valued at $150,000. That decadent price tag twists my brain in knots. I like Lupita and all, but it’s hard for me to accept that you could buy a house for the value of her dress. Seriously? She actually didn’t buy the dress, she just wore it. The dress still belongs to Calvin Klein, whom I very much doubt will auction it off and use the proceeds to feed the homeless. Costa is quoted as saying that he wanted the dress to be “graphic, yet warm and luxurious.” That sounds to me more like a description of a house than a dress. Since the dress costs as much as a down-payment on a house, that actually makes sense in a round-about kind of way.
I am the first one to admit that I’m no fashionista. Some of my favorite dresses came off the made-in-Bali rack at CVS Pharmacy, and cost about $15. No pearls. For many years back in the early 80s I wore a dress I found in a FREE box in Berkeley. I wouldn’t have worn the dress to the Academy Awards, of course. Well, maybe I would have worn it after sewing 6,000 pearls to it. But who has time for such nonsense? You could probably put 6,000 pearls on just about anything and it would become a masterpiece of attire.
This brings me to the next weird thing about Lupita’s stolen gown. It appears that the thieves stole the gown to determine whether or not the pearls were real. The day after the gown disappeared, an anonymous call was made to gossip website TMZ revealing where the gown could be found (in a garment bag under the sink in a restroom at the London Hotel in W. Hollywood) and informing TMZ that the pearls on the gown were fake. The thieves had taken two pearls from the gown and had them assessed by an expert in the garment district. The anonymous caller said the thieves stole the gown because they wanted show the world that Hollywood is fake.
So, did the thieves believe that Hollywood was real before they stole the two pearls from Lupita’s gown and had them assessed? Hollywood is about making movies and movies are inherently fiction; unless of course they’re documentaries, which are often fiction, but not as often as fiction movies. Were the fake pearls the tip-off for the thieves that Hollywood is not real? I would hazard a guess that an awful lot of fake pearls have passed through Hollywood. Heck, I made fake pearls back in the day when I worked in theater. We could make just about anything in the prop shop as long as it only had to last for six weeks. Although I do want to know why Calvin Klein values the dress at $150,000 if it’s covered in 6,000 plastic pop-beads.
People can get pretty passionate about dresses. You may have seen the latest clothing debacle focusing on the blue-and-black dress that some people see as white-and-gold. Apparently an optical illusion of a dress was posted on Tumblr last week. Some people see it one way and some people see it another. A heated debate ensued, which eventually prompted the NY Times to run an article in their Science Section about why we see the dress as we do. In reality, the dress is blue-and-black. Apparently many of the people who see it as white-and-gold are crushed that they can’t see the true colors of the dress. The expert at the NY Times explained that if your brain registers the dress as being in bright light it will see blue-and-black, but if your brain registers the dress as being in shadow then it will see white-and-gold. What baffles me is how this conversation about the color of the dress went viral when I can’t get a dozen people to read my blog, even when it’s on a topic of greater import than dresses (such as seaweed or plumbing repairs).
I suppose I have no business talking about dresses since I have no sense of style and as much understanding of fashion as a turtle. Approximately once every two years I go on a four-hour shopping spree and find a dress I like, buy three of them in different colors, and call it quits for another two years. I don’t get why my daughter and daughter-in-law drool over shoes. I go from flip-flops in the summer to Ugg boots in the winter, with Birkenstock’s to bridge in between hot and cold weather. I have been known to fall off flats and sprain my ankle; so if I wore heels I would probably suffer permanent spinal injury.
Last year, when Akili and Tina got married, I practically needed a Valium prescription to shop for a dress to wear to the wedding. In case you wondered, you can’t find a mother-of-the-groom wedding dress at CVS Pharmacy. In the months leading up to the wedding, I spent more hours in dress shops than I had spent in the previous twenty years. I began my search at bridal shops, which was a mistake. I suspect that most of the dresses at bridal shops contain about 90% glue and are made for women who don’t believe in wearing a bra. They even smell like glue. I figured out that the way it works is that you lick the dress and then press it against your tits and it sticks; kind of the way contact lenses work. Since I breast-fed three children in my youth, this method of apparel placement would leave me looking distinctly bovine. In one shop I tried on a dress that was capable of standing up by itself in the corner of the dressing room. It really didn’t even need a person in it because it could clearly go to a wedding all on its own. I wondered if it was haunted and if it had ever killed anyone and I got so spooked that I fled the dress shop. My daughter wanted me to wear something glamorous. Her father took a phone picture of me in a floor-length royal-blue gown that slid off my shoulders and he sent it to my daughter, who approved. But I couldn’t walk in it and the price was beyond my reach. If I fell on my face and broke a tooth, I wouldn’t have enough money left to get the tooth replaced.
A friend took me shopping for an entire day in the Bay Area. She knew a half a dozen super women’s clothing stores. I found an exquisite sheer black jacket with sequins and bought it, hoping I would find a dress to wear it with eventually. My friend knew the salesgirl and talked her into selling it to me at half price. I tried on a lot of dresses that day, but never found the right one. I had been looking high and low for several months at that point and was beginning to worry. Where else could I look? (Under the sink in the restroom at the London Hotel in W. Hollywood?) Would I ever find the right dress? Had the scary dress in the bridal shop put a curse on me? The following day, on the drive North from the Bay Area, I stopped at Macy’s in Santa Rosa and stumbled on the perfect dress, which would look great with the fancy black jacket. It was unequivocally black and martini-olive-green (no question about colors any way you looked at it) and it had no pearls (real or fake). The price was reasonable.
My daughter (who knows a lot about fashion) said the dress I chose was not as glamorous as she had hoped, but that it was very good and she approved. She once told me that when you get a dress for a special occasion it’s a wear-once dress. You never wear it again. I thought she was wrong about that, but now that the wedding came and went, I don’t think I will ever wear the dress again. Nothing else would be an important enough event for such an auspicious dress. So maybe my daughter is right. I wonder if Lupita’s pearl splendor will ever be worn again. If so, they will have to replace the two missing “pearls” to make it perfect again. In my opinion, it was not Lupita’s dress that was luminous, it was Lupita, who is a stunningly beautiful woman.