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Tuesday
Mar132018

Venus x Abigail

There is such a joy in op-shopping when one stumbles upon a rare and fabulous find such as this 1970s Regency-inspired maxi dress with shirred bodice in tomato red with slit bell sleeves featuring prints of a hybrid Botticelli Venus-Flora figure. (No fashion journalist could ever have dreamed of penning such a sentence!)

I actually must credit a Vinnies staff member for bringing this priceless treasure to my attention, for in my excitement at finding another 70s dress (hand crocheted turquoise) I had unbelievably missed spotting this on the same rack! The lady declared it a quintessential 70s dress, and reminisced how she herself had worn such garments when she was young to her high school prom.

Someone whose chest was too ample to close the zip had actually altered the dress. The back had been opened up and sewn flat, and two sets of ties had been added to the back. I think the fabric for them had been cut off the hem of the dress, as the hem is not very well hand-stitched. When I got it home I unpicked all the stitching, hoping that it would fit me, and fortunately it does.

Of course the caped sleeves are mind-blowingly awesome, and I also love the little peaked shoulders, but the pièce de résistance is the printed lady. I immediately recognised her as Sandro Botticelli’s Flora, the goddess of flowers and the season of spring depicted in the painting Primavera (painted in the late 1470s or early 1480s) – she’s the one casting flowers about out of the folds of her robe. But what is even funnier, I realised later, is that the head is that of Venus, flipped around, from another of Botticelli’s paintings, The Birth of Venus (1485)! (Was this the designer’s answer to avoiding copyright infringement?)

Primavera, Sandro Botticelli (late 1470s or early 1480s)The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli (1485)The label is Clementine, and states ‘dry clean only’, at which I scoffed as I laid it into a laundry tub of water to hand wash. It is probably a poly crepe, or at best, part rayon as well.

The dress really comes to life in movement. I am planning to wear it to the opening night of Abigail’s Party, a 70s period next on stage at the theatre I work at. It is exactly like something the titular character might wear herself. I shall have to make sure to swish and swan about just like her.

A scene from Abigail's Party (1977), Mike Leigh's film of his own original stage play (Abigail is wearing the red dress)

Photos: Yesterday (March 2018)

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