Long before it was used in a catch phrase for a bunch of has-beens living together in a rented Hollywood house, "surreal" was not only a way of thinking but also a way of living. In his surrealist manifesto, the writer André Breton defined surrealism as "...a means of total liberation of the mind and of all that resembles it." When this thought is applied to fashion, it inspires mind-altering results and some interesting conversation starters. Here are three items for your surreal fashion kit.
One thing every surrealist should own is a watch that is guaranteed to tell the correct time at least twice a day. These watch faces are fashioned in England by artist Julie Arkell out of papier-mâché and then hand painted. The colorful upholstery fabric bands are hand stitched and fastened with an antique button. I wear mine like a bracelet or a surrealist amulet. Whenever someone asks me the time, I remind myself to weave my unconscious mind to the conscious, and then, in the words of Salvador Dalí, "The only thing the world will not have enough of is exaggeration." Julie Arkell Tic Toc Watches, $95, at John Derian, 6 East Second Street, NYC, 212-677-3917.
What could be more unreal than a 98 percent cotton/2 percent spandex pant with no zippers and no buttons that just pulls on and fits? My Daryl K. black pull-on pants have long been a staple of my wardrobe and of her collection season after season. What's her secret? The cut, the cut, the cut. With the waistband resting right below my navel and offering just the right hugging action, my tummy looks flat (it isn't), my bottom looks fantastic (it is), and the straight leg of the pant slims my thighs. Armed with a black turtleneck, my Canadian parade boots and my black wool military coat, I'm off to the Poetry Project for a lecture by Janet Hamill on Surrealist Games, ready to start my own revolution. Daryl K. pull-on pant, $220; available at Daryl K., 21 Bond Street, NYC, 212-529-8790, or at DarylK.com
A trip to Ashley Alexander's Website is a journey into another world. When you arrive, an image of falling snow fades into a napping giraffe girl under a tree; her wool bag emits small floating bubbles that I imagine are fairies. In the background, a xylophone taps out three notes while a woman speaks in a reverberating voice. Her eye blinks. I cannot wait to click on the rest of what the site has to offer. Alexander is a visual artist who has taken her work off the canvas (although prints are available) and onto T-shirts, cards, pins and bags to add the strange magic of her images to our everyday lives. My favorite is the Antler Girl shirt, a white tee with a drawing of a girl's head, a bird resting contently on one of her long antlers. Antler Girl American Apparel long- or short-sleeve tee, $17-$20.