Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


Dresses I Have Loved

I am a feminist and I love dresses. I also enjoy wearing trousers, but I don’t seek them out with same passion as I find myself trawling clothes-rails actual and virtal in search of the dream dress. Germany’s Top Husband, who recently shrunk a dress of mine in the wash and saw his ratings tumble, can attest that my cupboard is full of dresses, some gorgeous, some everyday, some that don’t live up to their online imagery, but all worn. I believe that the search for the dream dress will never end, even if I find the nearly perfect dress (which I did last week, but more of that later). It is an ongoing search, much like the hunt for the perfect book, or the hunt for the supermarket in Germany that keeps a permanent supply of coriander – a neverending search that provides entertainment in and of itself, a meta-search.

I plan a couple of posts on some of my favourite current dresses, but before I do, it is essential that I first mourn the dresses that have past. You know. For closure. For without attaining closure on the past, how can we move forward to more and better dresses?

So I give you, not so much a meme as a memorial, to Dresses I Have Loved:

1. The nude lace vintage dress

I did vintage long before it had a cool moniker. This little beauty I found in a secondhand stall in Greenmarket Square in Cape Town in February 1987 on a hot Saturday morning. It was a nude lace sheath, beautifully lined with nude satin. It had a v-neck and back, sleeves to the elbow and just covered my knees (my nickname was once Knee Puffs – knee coverage is a good thing). The lace was slightly torn near the waist, a fact that I ignored because I loved it so. I wore the dress to my first university ball, with a black choker, long nude satin gloves and a long thin black cigarette holder. I wore some vintage flat winkle-pickers purchased in my home town before heading to university that pinched and made my feet bleed. This fact I ignored because they were the perfect match to the dress. During the ball, the lace ripped. I kept the dress for another five years, but never had the money to have it repaired. At some point, during one of my many moves, I must have thrown or given it away. This is the dress that I mourn the most, the ur-dress. All dresses are held up to its glorious lacy beauty and are found wanting.

2. The lime green belted dress

Originally my mother’s dress, the lime green belted dress was a standard favourite for weddings and parties in my third year of university. It had a v-neck, short cap sleeves and a matching belt. It came to just below the knees (theme alert!) and skimmed the body. I loved it. I have it no more. I mourn its passing. It kicked off my lifelong passion for lime green.

3. Dani’s black designer dress

Dani’s father bought her this dress in one of the first achingly cool hipster boutiques in Cape Town. Little did he know that this garment – black viscose, square neck, elbow length sleeves, slighty high waist and flowing to the mid-calf – would become beloved not only of Dani but of all her friends. On big nights out, the first negotiation would be who would wear the dress. Once we discovered how gorgeous it looked with a denim jacket, negotiations grew more heated. It was a floaty dream of a dress that suited everyone who wore it and I miss it now, more than 20 years later.

4. Black Bo-Peep dress 

This was another of my vintage finds, but I can’t remember which of my secondhand haunts provided this little lovely. It could have been Cape Town, but it could just as easily have been Johannesburg or PMB. It was black cotton with a tiny white spring, small cap sleeves that were loosely elasticised and a tiny white Peter Pan collar. I lived in this dress for about a year. I usually wore it with white pantaloons (cotton leggings with three layers of broderie anglaise at the ends – hence the Bo-Peep) that I sewed myself, but I also wore it without them. It was loose and flowing, and very very easy to wear. Our school uniform was a sprig with a Peter Pan collar, so I should have hated the dress, but I think wearing it was a kind of up-yours to the school establishment. I still love a sprig and a Peter Pan collar to this day.

5. Purple maxi-dress

I wore this dress with purple and white sneakers, Lily Allen-style but a long time before the young lady herself even dreamed of doing so, and a big smile every weekend in 1994 – the year that Germany’s Top Husband and I got engaged. The love affair was deep and meaningful, while the dress was Empire-line with spaghetti straps and a tiny white polka dot. It was cool and flowing, the perfect summer dress. I wore it the day we collected my engagement ring and wore a diamond for the first time. There’s a photo of me somewhere looking purple and very happy.

Do you have dresses whose loss you mourn?

(Image courtesy of Lainey’s Repertoire, Flickr Creative Commons)


I’d Like to Thank My Mother

It’s award season here at Charlotte’s Web. While I’d like to say I’ve been styled and primped to within an inch of my life, I am sitting here in my pyjamas wrapped in a big fleece blankie. But that’s the cool thing about blogging – you can accept awards from the sofa, without having to go much further than the fridge for the next snack.

My first award is from the ever-amusing Ms Honeypiehorse, who I’m dying to meet since I believe she is just like me, only taller, blonder and funnier. She’s given me the lemonade award for great attitude, which I’m loving since I do try to be just a little bit perky. Here it is:

lemonadeIsn’t it cute?

And I would like to thank my mother, since I have learned it all from her, all the glass half-full, stay away from toxic people, you can do anything you put your mind to, it’s all about the journey stuff that keeps me going. She has been a firm influence in my life and I am so pleased to count her as one of my favourite people in the whole world. Toni, I raise my glass of freshly-pressed lemonade to you.

I get to pass the award on. Excuse me while I go and have a browse in my feedreader.

I’m back! Still wearing the blankie, though.

1. The first award goes to Diana, with her beautiful smile, and completely enviable haircut. Diana’s attitude through recent sorrow – and indeed throughout her long blogging career – is nothing short of remarkable. Pour yourself a glass of lemonade, Ms Martinis for Two. I know you will receive this award more appropriately dressed than me.

2. The next glass of lemonade is for Rae of Journey Mama, who recently relocated to Goa, India with her superstar husband and three small children (a fourth joined them shortly afterwards). Rae faces life with the most incredible attitude, and I have been loving her gratitude posts, which remind me daily to be grateful for what I have.

3. Ms Musings from the Sofa is my kind of girl, all about the books and the shoes. While she lives in the US, she has retained her dark British humour which peppers all her musings. I just know that you’ll drink your glass of lemonade while wearing vertiginous high heels, Ms M, and probably also flicking through an erudite tome.

4. Lia of the Yum Yum Cafe was my first BTRL (Blog to Real Life) friend. I love her attitude, which is thoughtful, engaging and resilient. Lia is an aficionado of European cafe society, and apart from teaching me how to appreciate a great cup of tea, she has also taught me to cherish my writing time and space.

5. P of Life is Just One Big Adventure is a RLTB (Real Life to Blog) friend. She is new to blogging, and I am sending her this long tall glass of lemonade as a welcome to the blogosphere. You have fabulous attitude, dear P, and it shines through in your life and in your blog. I am so glad you are my friend!

Folks, if you can bear it, the love-fest ain’t over yet, for the lovely Kit – who I am about to meet in Cape Town for the first time ever – also sent me an award. This one is for being fabulous! My blankie and I accept the award graciously, for fabulosity is one of our aims. The award looks like this:


Before I pass it on to fabulous others, I have to list my five fabulous addictions. (A list! Hooray!) Here goes:

1. Dresses. For someone who mostly wears jeans and lives in a country where the sun shines for about two months of the year, I own a silly amount of dresses. When it comes to dresses, I am weak-willed. I cannot resist a good one. One day I have will do a dress post so that you can see just how addicted I am.

2. Foolish shoes. I have had a lifetime’s love for foolish shoes – pointy, high-heeled ones that give me blisters and make me walk like a donkey. Ditto the dress post for the shoe post. I live in my Chucks, but gosh do I love those heels.

3. Low-carb eating. Am a convert. Eating, feeling full and Not Having Any Sugar Cravings For the First Time in My Life. I don’t need to say any more.

4. Champagne, sparkling wine, Sekt – really any form of wine with bubbles – preferably drunk at breakfast-time. Lends the day a certain je ne sais quoi.

5. Books! I might not be eating sugar, but I am always hungry for more books.

On that note, I think I will deliver the Fabulous Award to five book-bloggers. Please go on to share the award with others. Here goes:

1. Pete of the Couch Trip. Like me, Pete throws some life into his book blogging. He hails from my favourite African city and never fails to be intelligent and interesting, especially in his field, psychology. I believe that boys can be fabulous too, and Pete, you certainly are.

2. Emily, who claims not to be a book blogger but so is. You are fabulous in every way!

3. One of the blogosphere’s most dedicated book bloggers is the fabulous Litlove. Every post is a seminar, radiant with intelligence and generosity of spirit.

4. Helen of A was Alarmed is completely fabulous, in her writing about writing, books and the escapades of her small son.

5. And the final nominee of this evening is BlogLily, whose blog shines with fabulosity.

Well, that’s a wrap then. The blankie is mewling and wants to be put to bed, and I really, really should stop drinking champagne. These after-parties can get quite out of hand.


Things To Do Instead of Writing

You can spend time with friends, with old friends, who because you haven’t seen them for so long, seem like new friends, and with new friends, who because you feel so strangely at one with them, seem like old friends. You can drink wine with them in the afternoon, share your kids with them, wander new streets with them, and make extravagant promises to babysit their kids, once they have some.

You can spend an entire afternoon in Berlin looking for the perfect dress. You can look for something whimsical and floaty, with tea roses and cleavage, that looks like Jane Austen wore it to a party where there was croquet and Indian tea, but finally buy a twenty-first century dress, a little edgy, a little sharp, but with its curves in the right places. Also with cleavage.

You can drive long distances, to places you never dreamt of visiting, take trains where your children press their noses against the windows, ride bikes around the city of your dreams, bump into pedestrians and mutter sorry in two languages. You can float down a river, or down a leafy path in the Tiergarten and hear the white wolves howl at the daylight in the Zoo.

You can read A Quiet Flame and imagine the encroaching horror of Nazism in Thirties’ Berlin, and then read No one belongs here more than you and be swept away into an imagination and a sensibility that leaves you shell-shocked, war-wounded, but glad to be alive.

You can eat the best ice-cream outside of Elba in a glass palace of shops and elegance, merguez sausages and couscous in a leafy beer-garden, white asparagus with hollandaise sauce in an achingly hip urban square and the best rhubarb cake you can imagine in the courtyard of an Italian restaurant where you are introduced to the chef and the hostess by name.

You can climb with your children to the top of the Siegesauele, admire them hanging upside down and learning to swing and slide by themselves in playgrounds, watch them falling in love with your friends and weeping when they part, and see them take part in their lives with such spirit and joy that you want to shed tears of your own.

Instead of weeping, you shout, “Who loves Berlin?” and hear them yelling back, “Me Mummy! I love Berlin! I love it! I do!”