A Smokin' Dress | What Are You Wearing? | Chicago Reader

A Smokin' Dress 

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Shelly Kurzynski Villasenor, 38, does Web design for a medical publisher and plays in the bands Telenovela and the Congees.

Take us through the evolution of your style.

I think my style has definitely evolved as I get older. When I was younger, it was the sparkly stuff and loud crazy prints. I used to be, embarrassingly, into the kinderwhore look--the little babydoll dresses, little bib fronts. I've always been drawn to the 60s and 70s, the psychedelic and the boho hippie look. Now I'm trying to dress a little more professionally so I can be taken a little more seriously. I'm trying to supplement my wardrobe with more wearable pieces that are still fun. As I get older I also appreciate the really nicely made stuff and can afford a few pieces now and then. I mix those with my thrift store finds. This year I've finally started to covet handbags. I didn't used to care, I thought they all looked like diaper bags. And now I'm like, I want the Marc Jacobs Stam bag!

How about when you perform?

These days I'm less about the spectacle of dressing crazy. I used to wear, like, these crazy vintage feathered hats that would stick up straight. If I do that, I feel like I have to bring the rock twice as hard, or else why is she dressed like that? If I dress a little less flamboyant, it takes the pressure off.

You sell some of your thrift-store finds on eBay. What's hot right now?

I found this dress at a local thrift store; it's 1970s, maybe early 80s, an Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche silk blue-and-white polka dot dress, and I got it for two dollars. I see pieces like it sell for $300 to $500. It's a good little hobby that can help me maybe finance that purse I want. Acid-wash jeans are back now--high-waisted, acid-wash jeans with see-through cutouts are selling on eBay for $100. I would sell them; I don't think I would wear them.

What about you-what kind of designers and lines do you prefer?

For vintage designers, vintage Betsey Johnson is really great, vintage Diane von Furstenberg. There's a new designer whose work reminds me of her, Nieves Lavi. It's got the prints, it feels like the 70s--it's all silk. I'm really into print stuff. Lilly Pulitzer. I'd like to have some Pucci--I've never found some. Another hallmark is these 70s silky polyesters, as long as they're not disintegrating. I'm obsessed with those. They make me feel sexy.

This dress, with its cigarette-and-smoke print, has got to be old.

I think it's maybe 50s, could be 70s. It's this crepey material. This is one of my all-time ultimate favorites. Talk about a smokin' dress!

Do you smoke?

No, I don't. It's extra funny that way. --Heather Kenny

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Shelly Kurzynski Villasenore photo by Carlos J. Ortiz.

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