Friday, December 3, 2010

Frock on!

Weird things happen at Christmas.

Many of them are predictable. Every year, women's magazines run articles about How To Beat That Holiday Stress, using such techniques as placing cucumber slices over your eyelids or going to Acapulco for a few weeks with that guy from the tanning booth.

How this is supposed to help you pay your Visa bill, I don't know. They don't explain it.

There's also the inevitable How To Keep Your Diet Resolutions Through The Holidays piece, which tells you to fill up on plenty of bean curd before you go to the office party. Therefore you won't snarf up 3000 calories-worth of deep-fried fruitcake washed down with some sort of red stuff.

And, don't let's forget, How To Safely Thaw That Holiday Turkey. Don't you even think of putting it on the kitchen counter! Let it thaw slowly in cold water, changing it every half-hour, for 48 hours. (And isn't it worth it to set the alarm in the night? If not, just let it thaw in the fridge for 72 hours per pound.) If this seems daunting, try to focus on the results: a perfectly glazed, savoury 32-pound bird that you bear in on a giant parsley-garnished platter while smiling proudly in your gingham apron (not streaming with sweat and ready to scream).

Foo. My turkey looks more like the one in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (my fave seasonal movie: with the added bonus that it has Randy Quaid in it!). My favorite of these well-meaning but identical articles (which I suspect are recycled almost verbatim each year by exhausted magazine staff ready to go partying ) are the fashion pieces.

I saw one recently that said in its headline, "Party Frocks Rock". I've always thought "frock" is an archaic word, or at least very English, but it surfaces every year like annoying relatives. The word "retro" kept popping up too, a la Mad Men (and don't get me wrong, I live for Mad Men. But if I dressed in a wiggly sausage-casing like Joan Holloway, I'd be arrested.)

Yes, this year we will "bling" in the New Year, in which we must pick one essential "glad rag" for the season, something so radical we don't even know quite how to say it:

The dress.

I've worn these. Not lately, of course. I prefer pants because I don't have to shave my legs. Plus my knees are starting to look like rounds of unbaked Pillsbury biscuit dough.

But never mind, back to the bling. We will herein quote the advice of one Emily Scarlett, PR manager of H & M Canada in that centre of the Canadian universe, Toronto. (Do you detect a note of wire service here?)

Pick the right little dress, and you're fixed. "You can put a blazer over top and put on some thick black tights and wear it to an office function." Unlike on Seinfeld where Elaine and a co-worker make out like bandits, this particular gal's office parties seem pretty tame.

"And then if you have a holiday party at night with friends or family, you just whip off the blazer, throw on a nice heel, and bam! You've got a great going-out little cocktail dress."

The violent verbs in these descriptions always get to me: whip off, throw on (especially a "nice heel": isn't that a contradiction in terms?). It sounds a little like Clark Kent changing into Superman. If I "threw on a heel", I'd likely miss and hit the cat.
Besides, I like it better the other way: "whip on, throw off." Adds a pinch of Christmas/S & M spice.

But wait, there's more. "Retro-inspired embellishments are definitely welcome this season," the article continues. "The black, stretchy-wool Monogram Bow Dress at Banana Republic (various locations, $275), for instance, has a beautiful, oversized pop-out flower attached to the left side of its rounded neckline."

This seems to get into Carrie Bradshaw country, where only an unconventional fashionista (who's a size zero) could pull it off - oops, I mean put it on! But here also is some sage shoe advice, this time from Tara Wickwire, PR director for the Gap (based in - guess where?): "What's really fresh now is putting a nude shoe with a black dress. You see a lot of celebs doing that." I'm not sure what a nude shoe is, but you'd save a bundle just going barefoot. And what's this "shoe" business? I've even seen trousers referred to as "a pant". So what else, "a sock"; "a mitten"; "a glove"? Why does one side of the body have to get cold like that? It's winter, for God's sake.

Let's frock on: "Whatever dress you go for this season, you're going to have to accessorize, and most stylists are saying the same thing: statement pieces, statement pieces, statement pieces." I'm trying to figure that out. Does it have to say something on the front of your ultra-feminine Pleated-Organza Bustier Dress (BCBG Max Azria, $778), kinda like a "message" t-shirt? Obama Sucks? Free Randy Quaid?

Whatever. If we get pie-eyed and start doing a frenzied boogaloo at the office do, no one will notice what we're wearing anyway. Yet another Toronto-based PR rep from RW&CO says we must "choose one piece that's glittery and really own it." In other words, don't pull a Winona Ryder this season. Own it! Pull out that charge card! (And no buying it, wearing it once and taking it back the next day with a guacamole stain on the front.)

By way of illustration, I've included some glam shots of my favorite fashionistas displaying their finest retro styles. According to Gertrude Heathcliff, PR rep for Target, Inc., these iconic icons wear nothing but the most cutting-edge, backward-looking fashions, which they really own (plus they're iconic).

I mean, really.