Monday, July 29, 2013

Beyond the sea

What summer isn't complete without a jaunt to the beach?  About a week ago I had a girls' weekend near the water and I can still hear the waves crashing on the shore and feel the sand under my feet:

Wish You Were Here!  (Fun fact: That's also the title of one of my favorite jams in high school...)

Despite a freak near-death drowning incident in Key West when I was younger, I love being in the ocean...or just near it.  I spent an afternoon napping on the beach (another choice jam...) and it was the best, most tranquil nap ever.  Maybe it's because of all those negative ions or maybe I've just been brainwashed by singing along with Sebastian to that catchy little jingle in The Little Mermaid.  But, most logically, my obsession with the sea is easily explained by the fact that I'm a water sign.  (And by this very scientific reasoning we can also deduce that air signs like being around air and earth signs like the earth...and fire signs are pyromaniacs. ) 

Cartoon of me at seventy, channeling Little Edie and a photo of me at seven, dressed as a gypsy fortune-teller for Halloween.  Full disclosure: I already own and wear all the pieces illustrated in my Advanced Style moment.  And another fun fact: I downplay how much I love reading horoscopes.

Anyway, the beach.  And beach style!  In middle school I had a strange obsession with surf culture.  (And a shout out to the Pacific Sunwear at the local mall for helping me look the part in all those Roxy boardshorts and Billabong tees despite being landlocked and not actually knowing how to surf.)  I dreamed of hanging loose, or hanging ten, or...whatever.  I really had no idea.  But I imagined I could be a modern-day Gidget, learning how to surf with the help of all my hot guy friends, who had nicknames like Moondoggie and partying on the beach. 

I've only seen the movie version with Sandra Dee.  I just like this book cover.

Fortunately, my idea of seaside style has evolved since middle school.  Finding the perfect-fitting and wearable and a pattern/color I love and flattering (tall order, I know) vintage swimsuit or romper has eluded me of my Esther Williams moment.  I've had much better luck going the vintage route with creative cover-ups.  I love an embroidered Oaxacan dress or tunic for the beach or poolside; they're cotton and breezy and just really beautiful with a bohemian vibe.  I happened to be wearing the shorter one below when I was selling vintage at a flea market a few years ago:  

This older Mexican lady complimented me on it and she was so kind and friendly and so knowledgeable about these embroidered designs; she explained the meaning behind everything in the design...from the direction the little people were dancing, the types of flowers, etc. might reveal if you were single or taken or otherwise tell a story about your family.  She knew exactly where and when mine had been made just from the stitching!  Here's a closer look:

See the little pink and yellow people around the bust?
It was such a cool experience!  To use some [stereotypical assumptions of?] surfer-lingo, it was all good vibes, man.  I was totally enlightened!  Unfortunately, it was also about a hundred degrees outside and I can't remember the specifics of what she said and I wasn't able to find any other info along the same lines about it on the internet...and that's where this lazy girl's search for answers ended.  I know they're popular souvenirs and  so the designs have been simplified and/or made with machines and I usually see ones for sale just described as 'Mexican embroidered dress/tunic/caftan' with no other specifics, except maybe an era.  Was that adorable abuelita awesome or an awesomely insane mirage?  Cue Unsolved Mysteries theme song: If you have any information about this, write to me at, or in the comments!  I'm really curious about it and it'd be cool to know (again!) what, if any, meaning the different patterns have.

Sorry, guys.  This one sold faster than I could get this blog post finished...

The one above was full-length with a more unusual pastel-rainbow gradient embroidery..and hot pink floral details.  I think it's newer than the black one.  Here's another Mexican dress in my personal collection; this one has pintucks and rows of lace: 

It's another adorable beach-y option, probably from the sixties or seventies.  More often I see maxidresses with bell-sleeves in this style.  Here's one on eBay from Tachi Castillo that I love:  

The color!  The dropwaist! 

If I wanted to go in a less hippie and more chic direction, I have this unlined eyelet LBD that I could totally style into a more retro-glam vacation-appropriate look:

 I'd wear it over a solid black strapless bandeau and matching high-waisted bottoms.  I was inspired by Anna Dello Russo in that Dolce & Gabbana lace shift a few years ago but here the more modest cut of the dress would balance the peekaboo effect.  During the day the dress could be accessorized with a straw hat, woven belt (worn backwards), and flat leather sandals.  Later, I'd switch up the crafty belt for one with a gold-tone seashell buckle (mine is from Mimi di N) and swap the sandals for dressier platforms.

Lastly, what's a trip to the beach without a stylish way of transporting all your beach essentials?  I love colorful woven market totes!  They're pretty to look at, yes, but they're also extremely sturdy and practical.  Plus, many have leather straps so they're comfortable to carry and easy to sling on your shoulder.  Over time, the straps get softer and the colors become more muted.  It's an obvious choice for the beach but I like keeping a few in the trunk of my car for impromptu stops at yard sales or farmer's markets...or as an alternate in case I forget any of my other reusable bags and want to avoid paying a certain bag tax:


These are the two (above) that I find myself using most often.  So, why the hell am I keeping all of these:

Pick a bag, any bag...

Answer: I'm insane.  Or maybe greedy.  I just need options...  But I'm definitely running out of space.  ALL MOST (they're moving fast!) of the bags shown above are available in the etsy shop.  (Not so greedy, afterall...) 

Ughhh...beach withdrawals.  Writing about the beach and beach style makes me want to plan another escape.  Blog post, what?  I have to research my next holiday... Enjoy what's left of summer; SPOILER ALERT! it's almost over!

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