I am pleased after 25 years to have finally discovered the Real world, with beautiful people, and delightful conversation. Norma, those cocktail stockings are divine.
Here I am, sweetie-child! I was never far away, and keeping a watchful eye on you all the time. What a brave girl to introduce yourself all by yourself, but now take my hand and we shall sit quietly and watch all the charming blondes and brunettes. The music is quite delightful, isn't it?
No, don't worry, is isn't dreadful gossip or anything like that. This isn't that sort of Cocktail Bar, now is it? No, it is just that I happened to be passing through Maybridge at about half-past-four yesterday afternoon. The streets were full of green-uniformed young blondes wending their way homeward, Maybridge County School for Blondes just having chucked out.
One particular gaggle of the cream of the fair sex were running across the road shrieking like banshees. It was really quite alarming. There is nothing quite as spirited, is there, as a collection of juvenile blondes in full cry. The noise quite drowned out the traffic.
And then, quite suddenly, it stopped, because these young miscreants had run smack-dab into the tallest, most authoritative blonde prefect you can possibly imagine, who started taking names and handing out lines in a manner that was positively awe-inspiring.
Did I say she was tall? Well, I must have been seeing her through the juveniles' eyes because in fact she was none other than our own diminutive Ell-h-edrine, the baby of the Aphrodite Cocktail Bar.
And you know how embarrassed she always is about the green uniform she wears to school? None of you have seen her in it, of course, but let me tell you that she looks utterly captivating. I know I have always been a sucker for a blonde in uniform, but I don't think I am being fanciful when I say that if she ever came to the Cocktail Bar straight from school instead of dressing up like her mother in that squirrel coat she would have half the brunettes in the Bar at her feet.
In fact, when I come to think of it, that squirrel coat is preventing an awful lot of trouble.
The process begins in a few cramped blocks in Manhattan known as the Garment District, stretching from 30th. Street north to about 42nd, roughly between Madison and Eighth avenues. In these thirty-odd square blocks are packed thousands and thousands of fashion establishments, most in cramped, turn-of-the-century buildings and lofts, from posh salons where the latest creations are shown to discriminating buyers from all over the world, to dingy sweatshops where girls toil twelve hours a day, cheek-by-jowl, turning out these same creations in endless quantity, usually flooding the market and jading tastes, so that everything must be re-designed every six months, which is part of the Grand Plan.
The first lesson to be learned is that Miss Gertrude Stein would not do well in the Garment District: a dress is not a dress is not a dress. Well, if it sells for three-fifty to fifteen dollars, then it is a dress, I grant you, but if it sells from fifteen to thirty-five dollars, then a dress is not a dress, but a frock, and if it sells from thirty-five dollars up, all the way to thousands of dollars, it is neither a dress nor a frock, but a gown. Dresses do not have designers - their patterns are more-or-less in the public domain: dresses are mass-produced. Frocks do have designers, but their names are not usually known. Frocks, too, are mass-produced, but linings, buttons, trim, shoulder pads, and so forth, are all added by hand. Gowns, however, are made in so-called limited editions (like lithographs), individually cut and sewn, and the very finest of gowns - the ones designed by the greatest couturieres - are one-of-a-kind. These are the gowns that sometimes cost thousands of dollars and call for twenty yards (or more) of the filmiest and most exquisite of fabrics at hundreds of dollars a yard, studded with sequins or sometimes even real jewels.
So let me take you on a little educational tour. First we follow Miss Clair McCardell, a free-lance fashion designer, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 82nd. and Fifth.
Here she is visiting the Met's Greek sculpture gallery, checking the fashions of ancient winged Victories from 300 B.C. for "new" ideas! Whatever Miss McCardell ends up designing will probably fall into the gown category,
costing at least $50. She will most likely sell her designs to a "name" house like Chanel or Dior, who will buy the rights and then present them as their own creations, but they will be constructed in the jobbing shops of the District all the same, perhaps in the very same shops that made five dollar dresses the week before! Even the Chanel and Dior labels are made by a little jobber on 7th Avenue and 40th. Street (fifth floor, rear), so don't be fooled by the "Paris" at the bottom! (When they make them in Paris it says "Gotham" on the labels!)
Next we have an journeymaid designer, Miss Mickey Bauso. Miss Bauso designs for a firm which makes 3,000,000 dresses a year! The price tag for this one, around $20, puts it in the category of "frocks." They are designed, cut, sewn, trimmed and finished all in the same three story building on 38th Street instead of being trundled on racks through the streets from jobber to jobber.
The last stop on today's tour is the dressing room at Hill-Berg-Esi Frocks, Inc., at 7th Avenue and 37th. Street, a high-volume general jobber for small city department stores all over the country.
The dress models are putting on the company's latest line of frocks, in which they will parade, as soignée models, before department store buyers from Des Moines, Detroit, Denver, Dover and points elsewhere, places these models will never visit, or even dream of visiting, but whose indigenous girls all dream of seeing Gotham one day, and of becoming dress models themselves, perhaps... These dress models play princess-for-a-day, get Big Money up to $25 daily, but marriage and augmentation in girth reduce their reign to an average of only three years. Then other girls, from Des Moines, Detroit, Denver and Dover, perhaps, take their places and nothing ever seems to change except hemlines and shoulders...
Tomorrow we shall learn something of the retail frock business, but, until then, this is Norma, your Kadorie fashion pette, signing off for the evening. See you tomorrow!
I do hope some of these new girls will tell us a little about themselves. I suppose we're all a little shy at first. I recall I lurked in the shadows for weeks and weeks before I got up the courage to speak up.
Darlings, has anyone heard from Karen lately? Mmm, the band has started playing something fast and swingy. Dare I ask that new pette to dance, that one standing over there in that rose off-the-shoulder number? Talk later....
sees the barmistress approaching the table Oh yes, may I please have a Pink Lady if it's not too much trouble?? notices Miss Norma's stockings Ohhhhhh, where did you get those, I simply MUST have a pair of them. Well, it's nice that we are getting a whole new set of regulars here, I just hope that the management will consider enlarging the place to make room for them all!
Just last night I was fortunate enough to be wined and dined in the Copacabana's private rooms by Miss R, a glittering Gotham publishing heiress who is instantly admitted to those posh East Side establishments where a small reception committee of steely-eyed brunettes stands at the door, able to estimate a girl's net worth at a glance. These same committees enforce an unwritten dress code, of course, so that a girl in slacks is politely (but firmly) turned away, unless she happens to be Katherine Hepburn (who was at the next table and in slacks, natch)! And if a girl is chewing gum, she will likely be blacklisted for weeks! But Miss R, as I said, is well-known about town, so we both got the nod (and the thinnest of smiles) and were ushered upstairs. The roving blonde photographerette snapped my picture just after Miss R went off to the brunettes' powder room (to do whatever brunettes do there). She must have wanted to finish up her roll of film in a hurry, as she usually snaps only couples, so she gave me the print gratis! Here I am, smiling my brightest in Miss Hepburn's direction!
After a quiet and elegant dinner we went downstairs to the main club to take in the show. The Copa is very, very lavish, you know, it has 200 tables and the chorus line is precisely 50 girls, all of a height, sort of like the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, only Copa girls must have perfect skin, as the audience is so very close and blemishes show. The chorus line is all blondes, of course, though some of the lead singers and most of the comediennes are brunettes.
So just before the show, when it was my turn to go to the powder room to freshen my makeup, I somehow lost my way and found myself in the blondes' dressing room by mistake. Oh, pettes, you should have seen it! What a beehive of unselfconscious feminine activity! It was a kaleidoscope of powder brushes, paint pots, hand towels, rouge compacts, jars of cold cream, racks of lipstick and nail polish, costume jewelry, curling irons, hairbrushes and other girly paraphernalia strewn over dressing tables, garments of the most intimate and delicate sort (some known only to showgirls), casually draped over chairs, stockings in little, diaphanous clusters, plumed headdresses in startling hues hanging from steampipes...
The whole cluttered space radiated a delectable fragrance, no, more a visible haze, of cigarette smoke, competing perfumes and clean hair, gently laced with a sweet and unmistakable note of delicate blonde perspiration, all warmed and blended together by the hot mirror-lights and the comely showgirls themselves, who were good-naturedly jostling one another for space at the mirrors. One girl even stood on a chair to enjoy her unobstructed reflection. Some were wholly or partly in costume or street clothes; all were chattering away a mile a minute, the high lilting ripple of their voices punctuated by silvery laughter. In the midst of this soft pandemonium in walked the roving photographerette to touch up her lipstick, so I begged her to snap a candid photo of this amazing blonde beehive so I could show it to you. Here it is!
MEHITABELLE, KADORIAN BLONDE ON ASSIGNMENT IN GOTHAM
And it was nice to meet you too, Emily. Do come again soon.
You see, when Ruby placed her call to Thelma, it was Gladys, a new blonde telephonist at the Maryhill Exchange, who connected them, and Gladys, it seems ... well, don't tell a soul, promise? Miss Graynettle, the supervisor might get wind of it, and then it would be the Telephonist's Tawse for certain (for Gladys and me)! Well all right, since you promise, here it is: it seems that Gladys did not unplug her headset directly she connected the parties, as Imperial Post Office regulations require. So she, um, just happened to overhear that bit about dashing brunettes frequenting the Aphrodite Cocktail Bar lately. So then Gladys whispered it to me (we sit right next to one another at the big switchboard), so I just happened to mention it to Arabelle in the blondes' lounge at tea-time, so Arabelle ... well, you get the picture, pretty soon every blonde telephonist in every Ladyton exchange (and even the suburbs!) was making plans with every other blonde telephonist to visit the Aphrodite Cocktail Bar.
But, shhh! Here comes Miss Graynettle now! We must get back to work and be proper telephonists instead of silly blondes. That's Gladys on the left; I am sitting right next to her. Don't we look ever so serious and efficient? We usually are. >giggle<
This charming fashion in stockings just started last year in Hollywood, where girls' gams are generally so shapely that they need little enhancing besides a Real pair of nylons. But Hollywood fashion designers sometimes go a bit overboard and gild the lily occasionally, so they have dreamed up something called the cocktail stocking with alluring decorations round the ankles. Here, for example, is the fetching Kadorie starlet Joan di Carlo modelling the boutonniere style, which has a tiny hand-knitted opening, like a buttonhole, near the ankle, which allows the insertion of a flower or even a small corsage, in this case a baby rosebud. But watch out for thorny stems, pettes!
Here is the bouquet style Ruby was talking about: black, with delicate floral embroidery above the ankle, set off by brilliant rhinestones (which, I regret, do not show well in the picture). I could even say this is Thelma, but this black cocktail dress is fringed silk, not frothy chiffon, nor is the model wearing platform pumps (more popular with younger blondes).
Yes, you should feel satisfaction about having led a moral life in the Pit. You have done what you know to be right with no encouragement whatever from the surrounding culture. You are brave good girl, and have come at last to a place where you will be appreciated for being a brave good girl.
My Very Late Nativity Present is a real Bakelite Kadorie 3-D viewer. You put circular discs with pictures in and every time you pull the lever a new picture comes. You look through them like binoculars and you can see real London, not only in glorious Technicolour, but in three dimensions too. Oh, it is just lovely. This and films are, of course the only way any one can get to London now (unless you count Pit-london, which nobody does), so I do think it is delightful to be able to fill one's mind with three-dimensional images of reality. This viewer actually comes from America, wish is unusual because most here don't, so as well as London, it has real Gotham and real Chicago too. A year ago I shouldn't have cared one bit about that, but now that I know so many lovely Culverian pettes through the Cocktail Bar, I feel as if real America is almost as much my country as real England (but of course my real country is the best country in the universe - Quirinelle).
Now about dreaming real things! Last night I dreampt about the lovely viewer, and I dreampt that the still 3-D pictures were not really still at all, but only going very slowly, and that if you could speed the viewer up, you could see them move, so I did speed it up, and I had the loveliest time watching the Real World in three-dimensional motion.
With love to all of you,
Then there are the girls from Trent, Kadoria and Quirinelle - ones who, like me, have never lived in the Pit, and who still have only a faint idea of what it is. We do hope we are setting only good examples for the new girls to pattern themselves by. For my part, I have tried to be helpful in Hestia matters, and other girls, of both sexes, have made important contributions in ethics, fashion, etiquette, humor (I once really did put an iron to my ear - I was ironing and daydreaming when the phone rang. Fortunately, however, I had forgotten to plug the iron in!)
Some of the Real girls, I hear, have been out every night having a grand old time; there has even been talk of Rough Brunettes and certain liberties they are taking with blondes in a dim place called Bottle Alley, and blondes even walking through Bottle Alley a second time if not accosted the first!
Far be it from me act the prude or be a wet blanket, but as a blonde mother of two grown blondes, I need to put in a few words about keeping your reputations spotless at all times, both the new girls and the others. Girls who play fast and loose, even a little bit, sometimes wind up like Myrna F, in the accompanying picture - Myrna is known to be a wonderful party blonde, and somewhat generous, shall we say, with her favors, so she has become known about town as that kind of girl, whom brunettes love to dance with, but whom they do not take home to their mothers, if you catch my drift. Now she is a bit older (she has just been looking in the mirror for tell-tale signs again - two more grey hairs!) and she is neither married nor turning down proposals, either!
Consider, by way of contrast, Doris P, who graduated from high school together with Myrna. Doris was a "popular" girl at school, had her share of kisses and cuddles at the movies, and had her pick of brunettes, too. Doris was always mindful that a girl's reputation is a precious possession, so she preserved it unblemished. Now she is a happily married mother of two and mistress of a gleaming, efficient Hestia of her own. Here she is with her girls.
How could you leave Heaven
For all these earthly things?
Where did you hide your halo?
Where did you lose your wings?
Have they missed you?
Can you get back in?
If I kissed you,
Would it be a sin?
I am only human,
But you are so divine
When did you leave heaven
What a lovely thing for a brunette to sing to a blonde; and if we are to appreciate it fully (apart from hearing the charming tune with which I am afraid I cannot help - you are starting to acquire a few recordings of up-to-date music, aren't you?) - to appreciate it fully, we must put aside all our Pit cynicism and place ourselves in the shoes of a brunette so smitten with the loveliness of a blonde that she really sees her as a creature too refined and delicate, too beautiful and rare, to belong to this earth and almost too sacred to touch. Yes, it is a literary conceit, but it is also the expression of a real wonder at the mystery of beauty and a remembrance that all beauty is an echo of the Divine beauty. Read those words again in the light of that, savour once again the haunting, innocent adoration of the words:
Have they missed you?
Can you get back in?
If I kissed you,
Would it be a sin?
Oh, what a lovely verse. And, to return momentarily to the mundane, may I ask you to notice that nearly all up-to-date songs have a common pattern. Sometimes they have an Introduction (this one hasn't); but then, almost always there are two verses of the same pattern, one verse of a different pattern (known to musicians as the "middle eight") and then a fourth verse of the same pattern as the first two. Often the change of rhythm and form in the middle eight can be used in conjunction with a slight change of lyrical approach to produce a particularly poignant effect. That is just what happens in the verse I quoted above. Bear this in mind and it may help you in your appreciation of the beauties of real popular music.
Some one has described Aristasia as "one long conversation". Well, Aphrodite is rather like that. If you want to catch up on the conversation so far, the Archive is the place to do it.
And here are LOTS of delightful girly places to go
NEXT ARCHIVE PREVIOUS ARCHIVE
BACK TO BELLADONNA