Friday, June 24, 2011

Victor Costa "Commedia dell'arte" dress

Up, up & away... when I first found this vintage Victor Costa dress in a local thrift store, I called it the "Hot Air Balloon" dress because it has such pouffy sleeves. I also had a slight fear that it might make me look like said aircraft, but was so in love with the thing that I bought it anyway. Victor Costa dresses are beautifully constructed & with the exception of a long velvet gown that had to be chopped off at the bottom due to my short stature, I've never had to alter one. No wonder VC has been my go-to brand for special occasion dresses for years.

I recently wore this to opening night (er, day) of a play that my husband is in. The theater has a large Orthodox Jewish clientele, so all their shows are staged according to that culture's standards of modesty, which means that J has had to learn a few "new" (to him) rules of conduct during the rehearsal & performance process. One that's been rather difficult for him: no touching between unmarried (or otherwise very closely related) men & women. J & I are both huggers from way back, as are most secular theater people, but even innocently embracing a female co-star would be extremely inappropriate in this context, so he's contented himself with verbal congratulations. When in Rome, right? The show is great - brilliant script & wonderful cast - & has been a learning experience for both of us. I wore this dress to the show partly because I love it, but also due to a desire to be at least somewhat respectful of my environment. I have plenty of chances to wear sleeveless, spaghetti strap, & strapless things; didn't feel the need to stick a lot of skin (& some ink) in people's faces that day.

Which got me thinking, because I usually bristle at words like "modesty", so I went online & began researching Orthodox Judaism. I found a lot of very interesting information about the faith & its practices, especially on, a site created by Allison Josephs, who began to take an interest in Orthodox Judaism as a teenager. Ms. Josephs is a very talented & persuasive writer, & the videos on her site are hilarious. I can't say I agree with everything I read on her site, but I have issues with almost every faith due to my personal beliefs (childfree by choice, staunchly pro-gay rights... you get the idea.) That said, I have tremendous respect for the strength of her convictions & her willingness to live by them, even when it's not easy. Oh, & by the way, Orthodox Judaism has high standards of modesty for men as well as for women, both in dress & behavior. To me, that makes it quite different from certain other cultures (hello, mainstream America) in which women, or even very young girls, are expected to show lots of skin, but demonized if they actually express their physical desires, yet men can do as they please.

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