It’s all about the process.

by Erin on May 22, 2006

Helen Cherry nouveau dress
I was pointed to this site last night and there were lots of lovely dresses there, but this is the one, by Helen Cherry, that I was still thinking about this morning. Obviously, the fabric is very close to my beloved Liberty of London, if not actually from their looms, and the shape is elegant and simple. I wish the picture was clearer, because I really suspect a little smocking or tucks at the waist, which would be just the kind of unexpected, witty touch I'd need to see to even think about paying $400 for a dress.

I used to think that if I were fabulously wealthy (and if you really think about it, I actually am, compared to 99% of the world) of *course* I'd hire someone else to sew up my dresses. No more hemming, no more redrafting, I'd just dump the fabric and a rough sketch on someone else's sewing table and show up for a fitting or two. But the more I think about it, the more I realize how much I'd miss the process of actually putting dresses together, of feeling that exhilaration when the sleeve cap slides in nicely to meet the armscye, and the fascination of watching the way the needle bites into the fabric, drags the thread down to meet the bobbin, and then runs away again.

When you think of it that way, I'm reluctant to pay $400 for a dress, not because I think it's an unconscionable amount of money (it isn't, really) but because I'd be paying someone $400 to have my fun instead of me. It'd be like hiring someone to go on your vacation for you and then showing up two weeks later to collect the snapshots.

So if this dress calls to you as an object (and you wear a size 4, 6, or 8), click on the image to go buy it. Where would you wear it? What would you wear with it? If this calls to you as both an object and a process — how would you make it, and make it your own? I think, for this one, I'd extend the shoulder line a little for a bit more sleeve, and I'd maybe trim the neck with a wide bias band of the same fabric — I love that look where a fabric with a strong vertical element is banded with the same element on the diagonal.

For summer, I'd love to wear this with a little 3/4 sleeve cardigan in that same blue, with my favorite Fornarina cream-and-blue spectator ankle-straps. In winter, brown tights and shiny brown leather round-toe wedges and a thicker sweater … I'd probably hit Toho Shoji on Sixth Ave to get cheap blue ceramic beads to make a choker to go with it, too, and then take the necklace off before I walked out the front door, as I always do. Or maybe tawny topazes …

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