28 Comments

  1. In my (much) younger days, when I weighed under 100 pounds and had a 19-inch waist, I wore outfits like this during the (WI) summer . . . my hair was down to my waist, but I never put it in a pony tail, or in my top, either.

  2. Although I had never heard the term, a search for “bare midriff dress” produces lots of hits. I don’t think Bushmiller made it up.

  3. Usual John, Bare midriff dresses exist, of course, but they’re still one-piece items. They just expose the midriff. This seems to be, as Andréa said, a skirt and a top.

    I’ve never heard of a 2-piece dress.

  4. After a search, I’m thinking that the source of this usage (bare midriff two piece dress) might be coming from the world of “Prom Dresses”, a category that, in my 70s high school mind, would not include skirts. Every prom-going online high school student is being exposed to the term.

    This was the farthest stretch I found (even though I see lots of dresses with distinctly different upper half material)
    https://www.dresstells.com/two-piece-crew-sweep-train-light-champagne-printed-satin-prom-dress-with-beading.html

    I was going to show a more agreeably dress-like one but fell across this 2-piece bare midriff “gown”:
    https://www.couturecandy.com/products/blush-two-piece-sparkling-bare-midriff-trumpet-gown-11033

    (I didn’t add these as links. Sorry, if they aren’t links)

  5. Kevin, the bottom half of the Light Champagne Printed Satin Prom Dress you linked to looks like my grandmother’s kitchen table cloth. Is this really somebody’s idea of attractive?

  6. We’ve gone from ‘everyday dress’ to ‘prom dress/gown’, and I don’t think those are the same, nor what the girl in the comic is wearing, or Bill is questioning.

  7. Theory: her arms hanging downwards are blocking our view of the vertical fabric segments linking top and bottom main parts of the dress, which is by technicality a one-piece.

  8. I think we’re overthinking this; Nancy calls it a “dress” because she hasn’t been reading our explanations here as to why it technically is not a “dress.” Nancy is just a kid and doesn’t always strive for perfect accuracy, and the person who wrote/lettered the strip probably didn’t want to get into fine distinctions that might take away from the “joke,” such as it was.

  9. “Dress” has a mostly-obsolete meaning, which is the total clothing that a person is wearing. “John wore traditional Polish festival dress as he manned the Poland booth at the international fair.”

    “I see by your dress, sir, that you are a cowboy.” I think it was Bizarro that had fun with that one, showing the addressed cowboy wearing a woman’s fancy dress.

  10. The language descriptivist point of view is that if the speaker and the listener agree about what was meant, then a right word was chosen.

    From a practical standpoint, I agree with the viewpoint above that whereas “dress” might not be accurate, it’s a nice short word that conveys enough of what was meant, and spending time lettering a more accurate and descriptive term is wasted since you can see what it is she’s talking about, and that should clear up any confusion.

    In the real world, if she calls it a dress, I’m happy to also call it a dress, for nearly all values of “she”.

  11. Andréa – I had a pony tail, the style of the time, until I was in junior high and had my hair cut like Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits (try explaining that to the beautician, even with a photo. That was one of maybe 3 times I had my cut short – oh 4 times, except technically when I was born bald it had not been cut. Throughout the following years I had the standard long loose hair (except when it needed to be pulled out of the way for some reason – back to a pony tail). There was the awful short hair cut for our wedding that his mom’s beautician came up with – lots of curls. Then there was the time my December gift was a gift certificate from my boss (not dad, when I worked for a different accountant) was to a fancy NYC hair salon that was used by a client (and her clients) who was a former model and ran a modeling agency. After they cut and styled my hair (no you cannot dye it) I opened the door and walked out,the wind caught it and it became a shorter version of my normal hair cut – my hair does not take styling.

    I continued to wear it long and tie it back or put it up when needed for hot weather or such. Then we became reenactors and Robert let his hair grew and wears it in que (pony tail), so rather than look even more like twins, as well as an nod to my growing older, I started putting it up most days – a large plastic clip normally and a large flat metal barrette when reenacting which is hidden under my cap.

  12. “The language descriptivist point of view is that if the speaker and the listener agree about what was meant, then a right word was chosen.”

    To a great extent I agree with this. But there’s also the question of how much effort the listener has to do to understand. And, separate from understanding, there’s the potential overt or covert snickering of the listener.

  13. ” And, separate from understanding, there’s the potential overt or covert snickering of the listener.”

    If there’s snickering in the listener, and the speaker did not intend to convey something snicker-worthy, then the wrong word(s) were chosen.

    Effort, though, is orthogonal. Perhaps the thought that was to be conveyed requires effort to understand, period. If you’re explaining differential calculus to somebody for the first time, they’re going to have to work to understand, no matter how well you explain it. Ditto a wide range of complex subjects.

  14. “Dress” meaning “outfit” doesn’t usually take an article, though. It’s an uncountable noun. Nancy clearly says “a … dress”, implying the single-garment meaning.

    Still, the prom dresses demonstrate that a two-piece dress is actually a thing.

    Also, I was confused by Bill’s headline on this one. I thought “Guy” in quotes was a reference to later Nancy writer Guy Gilchrist, so I was confused to see an Ernie Bushmiller strip.

  15. Powers has a point, but in all of these comments about the “dress”, we’ve been ignoring the fundamental problem: this kid (or more likely her mother) is simply too stupid to purchase a hair clip/binder/whatever you want to call it, and give the little exhibitionist(*) a nice normal ponytail. Braids would be even better, but that requires some skill.
    P.S. (*) I remember when D.C.’s NFL team (briefly) inflicted uniforms upon their cheerleader squad that exposed the midriff. Some unkind person coined the moniker “Stretchmark Sisters“, which rapidly hastened the demise of the design. Of course, in comparison to “modern” outfits, that old version would probably be considered “demure” today.

  16. I guess for an outfit that was made of the same material and styling, and sold as a set, the term “dress” doesn’t bother me much.

  17. I remember when D.C.’s NFL team (briefly) inflicted uniforms upon their cheerleader squad that exposed the midriff.

    In hockey, most teams have crews that come out during commercial breaks to scrape the ice. The St. Louis Blues* have a crew that is mainly women, with a few token guys. The women have a bare-midriff outfits. The men don’t. This was the only image I could find that showed both, although it’s large and will probably not render inline. Shockingly, most images online are of the women.

    This is fairly conservative compared to some teams. Dallas.

    * I would have said “Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues”, but out of deference to Mark in Boston I didn’t want to remind him that the boys came into their building and snagged the Cup from them.

  18. I was about to compare a two-piece dress to a two-piece bathing suit but then I remembered that “suit” usually implies more than one piece. As does “suite” as in “bedroom suite” and “Nutcracker Suite.”

  19. I pay a lot more attention to the Boston Symphony Orchestra than to the Boston Bruins. I can’t tell you who won the Stanley Cup recently but I can tell you who has picked up a Grammy each year for the past few years for their Shostakovich recordings.

  20. I would have wondered if Unger reads CIDU, but he’s been dead for several years.

  21. Oh, good work Arthur!

    When I saw this panel, I thought it needed to be posted to this thread, but had no clue what it was called. Thanks for doing the digging.

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