ET, call home: copywriting as a second language

I had hoped that this fall I would be able to make myself stop looking at catalogs and web sites, and concentrate on bringing about world peace so I could enter beauty pageants. Or maybe work with a small team of like-minded individuals to create an anti-pageant where the descriptions, the patter, the biographies and the talents have no relation to what the participants look like or are doing during the narration. But, you know, some things are just too tempting to let pass. So, back to fashion. 

The Copywriter From Space has been in orbit too long. For sheer goofiness,  the description of the Sally dress, no. 48695 on the J.Crew website, is a prizewinner, or at least a contender. The Sally dress is a nice-looking wool dress, simple top, pleated skirt, probably too short for me but feeling tall and lissome at 5'4 is not necessarily unwelcome. 

Here are the dress and the copy:

Structured yet swingy, this properly pleated wool shift is styled with a demure high neckline and a feminine nipped-in waist and comes in day-to-night black. A classic statement with pearls and a great pair of heels. Sleeveless. Back zip. Straight skirt with pleats. Seam at waist. Fully lined. Falls to knee. Part of J.Crew Collection. Import. Dry clean

Right. First, a shift falls from the shoulder 
and has neither nipped-in waist nor pleats.
A "straight skirt" is now called a pencil skirt.
However in the 50's a pencil skirt was called a straight skirt.
In neither incarnation would it have pleats.
A pleated skirt has pleats.
(So does a kilt, but the thought of Copywriter From Space 
being trampled by a bunch of outraged Gaels, 
while it appeals, doesn't belong here. Another time.)
And finally, to whose knees does the dress fall?
Not the model's.
This is why I think the Copywriter From Space does not 
have a human body, but is rather some kind of alien
creature. With a tote bag and a thesaurus.
But no background in fashion.

The Trench Dress, discussed in the previous post, is not yet on the web site, and now we know why. It is beyond the descriptive powers of a creature from another galaxy. But you should look at that dress because, sadly, it's a great idea that just misses. You can describe it to yourself.


  1. Hi WFF, I am really getting the impression that her descriptions are following a quota, such as x must be shifts or x must fall to knee.
    For instance, look at the Nili Lotan cable sweater. According to her it hits at hip , and note how it's folded up on the model.

  2. Hi, Cris! Yeah, I noticed that and moaned about Nili in this post. Another possibility is that the CFS is just lazy and uses copy-and-paste without thinking. Or that she knows someone's awful secret and has turned that knowledge into her personal job security. Actually in today's economy I don't wish bad things for anyone, I just wish that they'd find something the CFS can do.

  3. The belly was sucked in, that is so not my stomach!

    I'm in hysterics at this"Or that she knows someone's awful secret and has turned that knowledge into her personal job security" yes, she's either on something at work, sleeping with the boss or there is a complete breakdown of communication between layout/production and copywriting but I still prefer your idea.

  4. I meant this Nili Lotan sweater!

  5. Yikes, Cris, how did that one get by me?

    Tabitha, the longevity of the CFS will never cease to amaze me!

  6. Oh, and you could also add this "collarless" popover to the list

    Which, by the way, seems quite beautiful.

  7. Hi, Cris, this is beyond funny. I look at a lot of catalogs and websites (my downtime is mainly v.early in morning or v. late at night), and I have never seen anything like this proliferation of careless errors. Do they not want to sell what they've got? I give up.

  8. Ohhh the sally dress looks fab - but why is it so much more expensive than their normal dresses?!

  9. Hi, Black is the New Black, I couldn't figure out the price either. It also looks like it might be very short. Go figure.


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