March Madness At J. Peterman: Choose Your Own (Artsy) Adventure


Spring has sprung, and if you’re looking for dreamy dresses shilled through illustrations and creative writing essays, the J. Peterman catalog is for you!

J. Peterman is real, and he has a Philosophy. It involves romance, shopping and aspirational buying. (Where Alice In Wonderland comes in is anyone’s guess. There are no blue dresses with white pinafores or top hats or teacups in the catalog. The cute illustration on the cover and this white rabbit seem to be the only references to Alice. Are they there to make the brand seem current and relevant?)

Anyway, they may seem very meandering and fantastic, but there’s a formula to the Peterman descriptions, and it goes like this: Drop the name of a Noted Person (Hitchcock, Hepburn, Churchill). Drop the name of a romanticized obscure-ish place. (Cannes, Kyoto, Seychelles). Mention an occupation in the arts or sciences (filmmaking; entomology). Be specific when it comes to colors (pink is dusty rose; green is celery; off-white is cream). And lastly: The last digit of prices can NEVER be a five or a zero. Now that we know the rules, let the games begin!

This dress inspired by a vintage ’40s frock looks like it might be divine. In white it could be a swingy little wedding dress!

Lady Asquith +1
“Bella pink” +1
$229 +1
Bonus point: Irish Wolfhound +1

Score: 4

Love the shape of this coat, although if you are not wasp-waisted, the shape might not be the shape, you know?

Hepburn +1
“Golden Honey” +1
$199 +1

Score: 3

God, I love caftans. Some days I think I am ready to retire on a chihuahua farm in Mexico where I can dress like Mrs. Roper all the time. I try to wear caftans while working, but sometimes feel self-conscious going to the bodega for toilet paper in my giant muumuu. This one is fairly gorgeous, though.

“Pollination of trees” +1
Bangalore +1
“Cream” +1
$79 +1
Bonus point: Latin name of orchid +1

Score: 5

Another seriously romantic dress, the likes of which nudge you to daydream about a marmalade sandwich tea party in a gazebo or on a veranda, not that you have either.

“Horticultural society” +1
“Dusty Rose” + 1
$199 +1

Score: 3

I love tops like this, but they seldom look good on me. Still, there are days when you want to dress like a ’70s art teacher, and this is the perfect solution.

Carmel-by-the-Sea +1
Writers +1
Painters +1
Poets +1
“Yellow cream” +1
“Celery” +1
$129 +1

Score: 7

Whoa. Really trying to be relevant, with the Mad Men references! The skirt looks foxy, but then again, it’s a drawing. Hmm.

Joan from Mad Men +1
Advertising +½
$119 +1

Score: 2½

Yet another item which looks awesome, if you have a defined waist. Built straight up and down? Forget about it.

The Hamptons +1
“Cream” +1
$219 +1

Score: 3

Hideous. Not even Mrs. Roper would dare. Nothing further to say.

Torpsbruk, Sweden +1
Kerkegaard +1
$95 -1

Score: 1

I’m going back and forth on the pleated skirt. Seems like it could be an easy choice when you want to dress up a little. But on the other hand, it seems like it could feel, well, old. Frumpy. Dowdy. And not in a hip, Prada way. In a Barbara Bush way. The Grandma. Not the daughter.

SoHo “New York, not London.” +1
Coral +1
$179 +1

Score: 3

“People inevitably make assumptions about how you dress, so why not wear things that nudge them in interesting directions?” Good question! Right now I am wearing something that would lead you to assume I have not taken a shower and have not done laundry, isn’t that interesting?

P.E.N. reference +1
Pottery reference +1
Documentary film reference +1
“Primrose” +1
$199 +1

Score: 5

J. Peterman [Official Site]

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