Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Oh what shall I wear?

For the Booker Prize black tie dinner on October 14, I am toying with wearing a sea green MaxMara long dress which I've had for years but only found one occasion to wear. I have the bag, I have the shoes, but the dress is sleeveless and I must have something to cover my arms, and what shall it be?

Looking in Selfridge's all I can find are those beaded Caroline Charles jackets which I find a bit matronly. Someone suggests a shrug, which I always think look they've been designed for babies. I don't like the shrunken look. Someone else mentions a wrap, but how do you eat dinner with a shawl tied round your shoulders, and won't it just fall off? You can wind up looking like a crazy old lady with a shawl tied akimbo around your shoulders.

£695 just to cover your arms

42 comments:

greying pixie said...

Can you give us a bit more information about the shape of the neckline of the Maxmara dress and the fabric?

Linda Grant said...

It's an empire line dress with a bodice with a square neckline and two shoulder straps. The fabric is in two layers and the top layer is slightly stiff so it holds its shape, not fluid (taffeta-ish.).

Bronwyn said...

I have some very handy little things for keeping warmish over a dress. Don't know really what you'd call them, poncho would be the closest I think, but gives totally the wrong impression. Basically they are a scarf of very fine, very stretchy, very loosely knitted fabric maybe 1.5 metres long by 0.5 metres wide(?), that has been folded in two to make a 0.75 x 0.5 metre thing, which is then sewn down a bit more than half of one side leaving a hole for your head to go through next to the fold. It's sort of like a sewn together shawl. You don't need to hold onto it, it doesn't fall off, and you can wear it with the longer square-ended bit to the front, back, or over one arm. Difficult to describe in words! But easily whipped up by a sewing (or even knitting) person.

Linda Grant said...

The issue isn't keeping warm, it's covering up the arms. In fact it's likely to be pretty hot in there.

Anonymous said...

If you wear a light wrap or shawl you can tie it in a loose knot at the small of your back when you're eating.

Linda Grant said...

Knowing me, it will fall off.

nicky said...

This prize is such a big, big deal, a once in a lifetime thing, why not just go and get a dress that covers your arms and makes you feel as fantastic as you deserve to after having had your book recognised by a place on the booker shortlist?

fay said...

I'm with Nicky. It is important enough an evening to buy the perfect gown to make you feel just fabulous. You deserve it!

Linda Grant said...

Yes! Because it's so incredibly easy to find a long evening dress with sleeves that isn't black in my size. The shops are full of them. Just take a look at Net a Porter, there must be at least . . . none. Just as there were none in Selfridges. Actually, no long evening dresses with sleeves. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack. And if there is one, oddly they only have XS left.

Linda Grant said...

Just checked out the Neiman Marcus website which has a really large collection of evening wear. Not a single long dress with sleeves. And it's not even like I have any access to Neiman Marcus.

nicky said...

point taken. there are some lovely evening-ish boleros/little jackets, as well as scarves in Liberty.

Linda Grant said...

Yes, I'm going to try Liberty on Monday, I think that's my best bet.

nicky said...

Good luck. We're all gunning for you in my house and hope you find the perfect outfit, win the prize, sell many many books and write lots more wonderful books

greying pixie said...

OK, I've been thinking hard about this all morning and I think I've come up with a solution, but it's going to be hard to describe. You need a length of chiffon or any other weight of silk georgette or crepe. It needs to be at least 1.5 metres, or the distance from one hand to another when they are stretched out to the sides. Let's say about 90cm wide by 1.5 metres long.

Fold the fabric in half lengthways to make a long thin oblong. Sew the edges together from one corner down the edge for about 40cm. The same from the other corner for 40cm.

When you pick up the fabric you should be able to see it as a very loose cocoon jacket with two long floaty sleeves. It will cover your arms, stay on your shoulders and if you choose a suitable colour and fabric it should go really nicely with your dress.

(If necessary you could invisibly pin it to the straps of the dress for added security).

I don't know how clear this is. It sounds terribly complicated but is really very simple. I'm quite happy to make it for you if you like or send you a muslin toile to approve the shape before investing in the real fabric. Let me know what you think.

Anonymous said...

I'd definitely go for a bolero. Why do dress designers think that women of a certain age want to bare their arms?

Geraldine

ontheface said...

Why don't you choose a Vogue pattern that has sleeves and have a seamstress or master tailor make a dress for you?

Lisa

Linda Grant said...

Greying pixie, I was actually thinking of something along those lines but I do want to check out Liberty on Monday. If I can't find anything there, I'll put a message in this box on Tuesday and perhaps we can talk further. . .

Linda Grant said...

Lisa, we don't have those kind of people in London, or if there are, they're well hidden. I don't know anyone who knows anyone like that.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if you could find a master tailor or seamstress in London's huge South Asian community - who could do Western-style tailoring as well, to a very high quality standard.

Though a friend of Indian origin (I mean South Asian, not Aboriginal Canadian) has dresses tailored in India when visiting relatives there.

I'm imagining the conversation among all those Booker Prize shortlistees!

Linda Grant said...

Sure, but without a recommendation it's yet another needle in a haystack situation.

Deja Pseu said...

Do you have a larger square silk scarf? Fold in half, tie the ends on each side, and slip your arms through the "sleeves." It stays put, isn't too warm, and covers the exact area you want covered.

miss cavendish said...

I really hope you can find something at Liberty. I'm imagining something like Greying Pixie describes, in a beautiful, textured-silk shade of taupe-y flax.

Rollergirl said...

How about a belted shawl? A bit like this Hermes outfit (no 52):Fold shawl lengthways, drape around neck so the ends hand in front and belt. The bigger the shawl the better as you can cover up as much of the arms as you want...just tried it with my red pashmina - works a treat!
http://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/show.aspx/full-length-photos/id,6088/Page,4

Anonymous said...

Is something like this: http://knitty.com/ISSUEspring06/PATTconvertible.html
what you had in mind, Greying Pixie? It's the first thing that I thought of when I read your description, but made with fabric rather than knitted. A bought scarf, either woven or knitted, could be made to work, too. I think it would look very elegant, as well as being a quick and simple solution.
Best of luck, Linda!
Jo

Anonymous said...

Linda, talk of recycling an old dress reminds me of your earlier post on Princess Anne: better the first time around. All this about covering the arms tells me you don't feel fabulous and confident in it, as you deserve to on this momentous occasion. You are the only woman nominated, the men will wear predictable tuxes, and leave you in the spotlight. Make the most of it -- surely you deserve to look and feel spectacular for an honor about a book called, "The Clothes on Their Backs"!

But if you really love that dress, get an exquisite shawl-type-thing ---first as an accessory to polish the look, second for coverage. Consider also new shoes, bag, jewelry, hairstyle?

--K

fox-in-sand said...

http://www.whatkatiedid.com/

Have satin boleros in 10 different colours for £45, don't know whether they'd be appropriate? Nightmare thing to shop for, I sympathise.

Duchesse said...

Sea green is such a graceful, unusual colour that I hope you can wear your, and without seeing I'm putting my faith in Max Mara, who make elegant clothes. I like Greying Pixie's idea. either made up or a retail version.

Congratulations on this wonderful acknowledgment of your talent!

Anonymous said...

Linda, I can't believe you are going to wear an old dress! Surely a Booker Prize nominee deserves a new dress - I doubt that Helen Mirren would pluck something from the back of the wardrobe to wear to the Oscars! Of course you'll be able to find the perfect one (with sleeves) in London. What about using the personal shoppers in Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Liberty, etc. Come on, you deserve to feel fantastic on the night and not be worrying about whether your shawl is covering your shoulders!

Linda Grant said...

It's not an old dress, it's a dress I only wore once because I didn't have the occasion to wear it. If there were a choice of dresses with sleeves out there, I'd buy one, but there don't seem to be any. So I'd still need to buy both a dress and a cover-up.

lagatta à montréal said...

I love Max Mara. They are also kind or client-savvy enough to have a plus line called Marina Rinaldi. The latter starts small; since I am curvy aka busty the smallest Marina Rinaldi fits me better than the largest Max Mara. And I was staying in an Italian town during the sales!

That sounds like an utterly smashing colour and would suit you perfectly, by the colour photo of you. In any case, good luck finding a chic armcover.

Linda, do you ever visit Italy? I find Italian clothes still fit me the best. Northern European clothes in my size are too boxy (think sturdy Dutch or German women) and in France everything in normal sizes is too tiny for me (sure there are plus sizes but they are usually ugly and sad).

I don't have a lot of money (artist) and travel on the cheap but I never leave Italy without at least a garment or two that makes me happy. Mi sento molto bella!

rosaria said...

How about made to measure? Or a weekend in Milan should give you uber choice. Tapping contacts in the fashion world for a rental for the night, as many celebs do? I also like Greying Pixie's suggestion. Or give Helen Mirren a call, I'm sure she'll have a suggestion! You're the only woman for the Man (how apt) Booker, we want you to look brilliant.

Anonymous said...

In non-politically correct times, I would have suggested a fur jacket or short fur coat.
I am thinking of Fendi.
Melbournegirl

Anonymous said...

Sue:
I feel your pain. I've been searching for sleeves all my life.

I have worn
1) a chic white shirt, unbuttoned, knotted at the waist over an evening gown

2) a short-sleeved turtleneck or satin shirt in a contrasting colour under the dress.

3) tied a fake fur stole (think Prada back in AW 2000) around my shoulders. When I eat, I retie it loosely around my neck to have free movement and thus expose arms. (sigh...)

Failing all that, I try to tell myself that my arms aren't awful, that the fake tan and arms exercises have worked a miracle and soldier on.

The ladies above seem to be suggesting a mini-cape. Donna Karan seems to wear something like that very often. Good luck shopping!

janlorraine said...

I feel certain that any high end fabric shop will be able to recommend a dressmaker for you. I would make something fairly sheer, either bodice (maybe get rid of the straps altogether) and sleeves out of silk chiffon or organza, or a separate quasi jacket also of chiffon. Failing that, a simple chiffon shawl weighted with beads to drape nicely and stay in place. Any good dressmaker should be able to help you with this.

Chris said...

View F here looks like greying pixie's suggestion:
http://www.mccallpattern.com/item/M3880.htm??tab=accessories&page=3

or, view D here might give the illusion of Helen Mirren-esque sleeves on your dress:
http://www.mccallpattern.com/item/M3880.htm??tab=accessories&page=3

Chris said...

Whhops - the second link should be:
http://www.mccallpattern.com/item/M3033.htm??tab=accessories&page=4

phyllis said...

How about something vintage?

Anonymous said...

or a teeny little cashmere cropped cardi - Boden have some, as do Brora

Anonymous said...

Linda, no mother of a barmitzvah leaves her arms uncovered nor wears an old dress. Go to a shop in north west london where they will have the arms covered. If not Helen SYkes covers the situation in Leeds - Barbara Taylor Bradford goes there - didn't she win a literary prize.....

Susan said...

Linda,

I don't have any suggestions for you, but I do have a wish for your awards evening.

I wish you a night which you'll remember happily for the rest of your life. I wish you a dress that is so utterly right for the occasion, your style and your shape that, once you're dressed, you can put it out of your mind for the night and concentrate on the event, and enjoy being feted for your hard work and your ripping yarn.

I hope you win. We'll be waiting anxiously to hear the outcome and the details.

Tricia said...

I am sure that you will find something in Liberty's, but you could also try Adolfo Dominguez,
43 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9HJ
020 7836 5013
www.adolfo-dominguez.com

They have an evening range and some things do have long sleeves, others have shawl like cover-up in amazing textures. If they don't have things in the shop, they'll bring it in from the factory in spain for you.

phyllis said...

Hey, I think Tricia is onto something! Once I waded through his Flash-heavy website (I so wish designers who just stop that nonsense already), based on the few things I saw he's definitely worth checking out.