By James Tuttle
As disturbing as it sounds, I finally decided to tune into Lifetime’s Dance Moms the other day and saw a bunch of little girls in red tracksuits chasing after a really big lady in a black schmatte. It turns out that they are students of the Abby Lee Dance Studio attending a competition in Chicago and that big lady is their coach Abby Lee, who is extremely bossy and reminds me of a brunette Paula Deen with Kirsty Ally’s voice. Oh, wait. I guess that just means she reminds me of Kirsty Ally. I’m confused now. Fat people can do that to you.
After the little girls put on so much makeup they could easily work the corner of Santa Monica and Highland, they’re ready to dance. First up is petite, pretty Maddy and she does an impressive job, but I’m confused by the mime action and the gymnastic back flips interspersed throughout the dance, like it’s a ballet and a floor routine at the same time. Maybe it’s some new thing. Her main competition is a little redheaded boy named Justice who looks like Little Orphan Annie. Where’s the justice in that? They’re followed by a trio of older girls from the studio in Rainbow Brite tube tops over black tutus who dance pretty well despite their horrid outfits.
The only time the titular “moms” show up is in the interview bits where they all come up with different ways of saying “I hope my kid doesn’t fuck up,” until three of the moms take a break from the competition and have lunch together at a nearby T.G.I. Friday’s. After a little small talk, the conversation soon turns to a cease-and-desist letter they’ve each received from the fourth mom’s lawyer that forbids them to speak about her personal life.
I don’t know when’s the last time that bitch checked, but her ass is on a damn reality show. It seems she doesn’t want anyone talking about her recent wedding engagement because I’m guessing the guy is probably still married but she finally shows up to lunch and, since she’s obviously the shady type, she totally denies having those letters sent.
Later, a mom from the other team brings her a big engagement present—I’d swear on my life that box was empty, by the way—and she shuts that woman down, telling her to talk to her lawyer. There’s more dancing and stuff, which, for me, is like watching paint dry, but I’m dying to find out what Mom #4 is really hiding so I might just have to watch the next episode. It’s a slippery slope, people.
Aside from Abby Lee’s caftans and the little girls’ tacky dance outfits, I didn’t really notice that anyone on this show was particularly badly dressed and that’s an anomaly for reality TV, where everyone from Orange Country cougars to Louisiana swamp dwellers act as their own costume designers.
I also hazarded a guess that, with all these dance classes and competitions to pay for, these Midwestern moms probably aren’t going to be shelling out $1,800 for a blouse that I saw at the new Valentino boutique last week and so I decided to see if there were some less pricey options for staying fashionable.
I’ve long been a fan of the High/Low Dressing concept that mixes designer labels with more affordable piece like putting a Prada jacket over a Jockey V-neck, and I usually pull on my $49 skinny Zara jeans instead of those stiff Helmut Lang ones I bought at Maxfield. I also think it’s a little fussy to dress in head-to-toe designer gear, especially walking around the streets of L.A. Seeing someone like that reminds me of that scene in European Vacation where the Griswolds’ luggage is stolen in Milan so they go buy ridiculous new “high fashion” outfits.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely important to invest in quality pieces as the foundation for your look, but you don’t have to spend a lot on the trendy details that will look dated in a few months. Lower price retailers like Zara and H&M come in handy because you won’t feel guilty about tossing that questionable hot pink top after you’ve only worn it three times. After all, you only paid $9.99 and, if it’s from H&M, the buttons are probably already broken anyway. Zara seems to have done a much better job of copying the trends directly from the runways, while H&M went the more casual route save a couple of instances where they shamelessly copied looks from this season’s Louis Vuitton.
Skimming through their websites, I found some lovely dresses and tops that echo the vintage lace ideas of Valentino and Alberta Ferretti. I’m not sure how they’ll look in the flesh but they’re beautiful in photos and the most expensive one is only $159! The key is using these items casually, with flat sandals and a maybe with chambray shirt or cotton blazer with the sleeves pushed up.
Another on-trend item I spotted at both retailers was the printed pant, which is a great place to save money because they’re fun and trendy but they’ll have a short lifespan. I mean, do you really want to be that girl who shows up to every single thing in bright floral pants? I don’t think you do, but you might feel cheated if you’d spent $850 on a pair from Peter Som and couldn’t wear them all the time. It’s an entirely different matter if they only cost $15 at H&M.
I’m sure you’ll remember the big Art Deco inspiration for spring, especially at Gucci, Etro and Ralph Lauren. Well, that’s one thing the cheap places didn’t do very well. Zara’s black and gold flapper dress, for example, is only $125 but you’d do better at a costume shop. If you want to go the Jazz Age route this season and don’t want to throw down at Gucci like the big girls, just try pairing a silky button-down blouse with a drop waist skirt or wide-leg trousers and accessorize with a square clutch.
I guess this “off-price” experience is just like any other challenge in fashion: know your style, examine the trends, and seamlessly integrate the two without having to sell your ass or your car. Okay, I’m not really sure what that means but it seems kind of edgy and sounds like it makes sense so I’m going with it.