Oh, I Forgot!

by Erin on August 9, 2007

Do you remember that bird fabric I was moaning about missing? And how y'all helped me find some (I bought five yards from CraftyPlanet, which, if you remember, was the place that featured the sock monkey dress in their windows).

Anyway, before I went traipsing about the globe, I actually made it up into a dress, to wit:

bird dress

Here's the full-length view:

bird dress

Annnnnnd the close-up:

bird dress

I can't remember (or find, in my messy sewing room) the patterns I used — it was another bodice-from-one, skirt-from-another Erin Special Combo, though. When I dig them up I'll post them.

At first I was a bit dismayed by exactly how much it looked like the waitress uniform at a diner called "Birdland" or "Nettie's Nest", but the more I thought about it, the more pissed off I was by my own first reaction. How sad and telling is it that clothes that remind us of honest labor (and let's be honest: low-paid, female honest labor) are somehow less beautiful? Why is is denigrating to say that a garment looks like the uniform of a waitress, or a nurse, or any other female service job? Why is the ideal to look as if you've never done a lick of work in your life? Why are clothes that actually facilitate Getting Stuff Done less worthy than clothes that actively Get In The Way (stiletto heels, I'm looking at you)?

Anyway, after getting myself comfortably indignant (it's good for the liver) I resolved to wear this happily, and if anyone points out the entirely-fortuitous resemblance between this and the traditional uniform of the great American waitress, I will pull a little pad out of my (convenient) pocket, take the pencil stub from behind my ear, and write them a thank-you note. After which I will continue on my merry way, working.

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

xstpenguin August 9, 2007 at 2:14 pm

I really hope someone does, and you do!:D

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Katie Alender August 9, 2007 at 2:27 pm

I think (hope?) those attitudes are changing in general. Remember in “As Good As It Gets” when Jack tells Helen her dinner dress is basically a housedress from the 1950s?If it were me, I would write something less gracious than “thank you”. ;-)

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Dottie August 9, 2007 at 2:36 pm

That is probably one of the cutest dresses I’ve seen in a long long time. Thank you for sharing it!Rock on with the Erin special combos!

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Anonymous August 9, 2007 at 2:49 pm

I love it! I think of it as a “day dress”. The contrasting cuffs, collar and pockets are ever so charming!!! Thank you for posting what you did with the fabric.JenL

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Gwen August 9, 2007 at 2:53 pm

I think it is stunning! I absolutely love the fabric. Oh, & I LOVE housedresses from the 1940′s & 1950′s. There is an elegance to their lines that works well with the simple fabrics. Working women are beautiful no matter what they’re wearing!

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Anonymous August 9, 2007 at 3:29 pm

KUDOS!I Love your attitude! You are too much fun!

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Jennette Fulda August 9, 2007 at 3:29 pm

That’s a great dress! I was watching “My Name is Earl” last year and secretly coveted the maid’s uniform that Catalina wears. I thought it was cute and I didn’t care if it was a maid’s dress. So, I hear ya’!

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Missy August 9, 2007 at 3:29 pm

beautiful Erin…. 1940′s daydresses happen to be my absolute favorite. So comfortable and practical. And the birds are so sweet. Thanks for sharing!

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Susan Marie August 9, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Love the dress, adore the fabric- admire the attitude!

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Anonymous August 9, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Actually, I like it because it looks like a diner waitress dress.Lydia

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bani August 9, 2007 at 4:01 pm

Truly food for thought that Erin! *applause*

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MostlyTextiles August 9, 2007 at 4:06 pm

I think it’s sweet. And I take your point about other’s interpretation about house/day/working dress. I think subtelty eludes them, and I hate stilleto heels.

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Nora August 9, 2007 at 4:16 pm

I love the idea of having a notebook in my pocket, and being able to hand someone a response (especially those kinds of people, who have no filter between their thoughts and their mouths). It seems like a good way to not engage them in the moment – so you can go about the WORK you are clearly able to do in your dress – without being TOO dismissive, and while giving them material for a story later. More pockets in my future!Classism rears its ugly head in lots of arenas, fashion in particular. But I too have always loved comfortable day/work dresses (you can take the grrrl out of the riot, but…) And I love the print, and how the winglike collar and cuffs echo the bird theme. Brava!

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The Momma Chronicles August 9, 2007 at 4:28 pm

All I can say is, I wanna work at Erin’s Diner!

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knitgirl August 9, 2007 at 4:29 pm

Oops! That was my 1st thought, though in my defense, I don’t wear dresses, I only fantasize about wearing them, and then of course, it’s the whole thing of having an entirely different body and a whole ‘nother life to go along with the glamorous dress.

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Cassandra Mortmain August 9, 2007 at 4:33 pm

I COVET this dress Erin, no joke. My body aches with wanting it. I would never stop wearing it. And the darling pocketses are too wonderful.

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lulu August 9, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Really cute! I especially love the way the pockets are designed gap open a little in vintage skirt & dress patterns.

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Lexy Girl August 9, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Love the fabric! And if there were a diner where the waitresses wore bird fabric… well i’d be patronizing it frequently *forms business model*Excuse I need to go apply for a small business loan… do you think a line item of “bird fabric for uniforms” would look odd?

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Jennifer August 9, 2007 at 5:17 pm

I love love LOVE this. And a waitress uniform did pop into my head–all the better! You can tell naysayers to kiss your grits.By the way, you’ve inspired mostly-knitter me to start my own Duro. I already have some blue-and-pink paisley for the main color–just need some contrasting fabric and off I’ll go! Another convert…

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mamafrog August 9, 2007 at 5:22 pm

Oh dear, now I’m really showing my age–my first thought, before reading your “mini rant” was a really happy one! It reminds of the 40′s day dresses my grandmother wore most of her life!

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Linda August 9, 2007 at 5:48 pm

I didn’t see a resemblance to a waitress uniform. My Mom was a waitress for as long as I can remember. You are missing the button or zipper front. Then you would fit in perfectly!It is a great dress, retro looking dress. Way cool and I would wear it proudly.

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scarabee August 9, 2007 at 5:55 pm

It’s a lovely dress indeed. :)I don’t know about the waitress factor – I was too busy observing the placement of the birds, and perhaps it’s a good thing they’re not blue?Sorry, I just thought someone had to make that joke before the day was out… In poor taste, perhaps?

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Julie August 9, 2007 at 6:15 pm

Why is the ideal to look as if you’ve never done a lick of work in your life?A question for the ages — literally. Show me a time and place where this is not true. I mean, even a social marker as basic as cleanliness is rooted in the concept of not working (hard).I know you have a post brewing on this and I have some comments brewing also, but I suppose I ought to wait until you make the post before I start arguing with it…. ;)

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Jen August 9, 2007 at 6:49 pm

Oh, it’s darling! So cute…I didn’t think “waitress dress”, but if so, who cares? It’s not a bad thing, not at all. If someone can’t appreciate this doll because of that – which I doubt – they probably don’t know how to enjoy a warm, gooey chocolate brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge. Just adorable, I must say, I am kind of coveting it as well. ;)

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barbie2be August 9, 2007 at 7:04 pm

it’s very cute. if it were a waitress uniform, i can see it with a little green apron and a little green hat thingy. :) i wouldn’t mind wearing that to work at the diner!

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Anonymous August 9, 2007 at 7:28 pm

That’s a very happy, cheerful dress. Enjoy wearing it!

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john August 9, 2007 at 8:23 pm

i feel that there are too many seams for that print-but if you like it Good !

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Laura August 9, 2007 at 8:31 pm

I love it – the contrasting green at the neckline and pockets is perfect. I too am a fan of house/day dresses, and make and wear them a lot myself.

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Anonymous August 9, 2007 at 8:34 pm

The birds are lovely, the cut of the dress is all Erin, but is it really that difficult to match a print along the center front of the bodice?

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melissa joy August 9, 2007 at 9:23 pm

had i actually had a really awesome dress like that, i might have remained a waitress!

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Anonymous August 9, 2007 at 11:50 pm

no, I think you can easily rock that. Novelty fabrics are one thing, but novelty fabrics in sick vintage-esque dresses are quite another. Enjoy it!

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Tracy August 10, 2007 at 12:49 am

How I have never found you before is beyond me. I’ve just spent way too much time reading, wishing, yearning….you’re gonna make me cry. I’m overwhelmed, I have to leave now and come back another day……BTW in case you don’t know….Fashion is Spinach is available online as a free PDFhttp://ia301204.us.archive.org/1/items/fashionisspinach00hawerich/fashionisspinach00hawerich.pdf

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kathi s August 10, 2007 at 1:31 am

I totally agree with you! All the waitresses (as opposed to “Wait Persons”) I know are extremely hard working, supporting their kids (like my niece) cheerfully and with dignity. Love your dress

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saidee August 10, 2007 at 3:43 am

I love this fabric and love what you did with it: the green contrast is wonderful. The rant about work clothes vs clothes that one could not possibly work in reminds me of all the upstairs/downstairs British movies. The LADIES wore gorgeous floor-length gowns, which required both hands to pick up one’s skirts when gliding up or down stairs, while the maids’ skirts were much shorter, so that both hands could be free to carry tea trays, freshly ironed clothes, children or chamber pots…

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knittergirl August 10, 2007 at 4:43 am

Great dress. I made a 1960′s dress with that same fabric but the background color was blue.

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Kate August 10, 2007 at 8:03 am

It’s gorgeous!

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Anonymous August 10, 2007 at 8:07 am

Well, I’m impressed at how well thought out your own reaction to the finished product was, Erin. I found it striking. My own impression, after just looking at the pictures (I always devour pictures first and then read), was that the dress was very complex. And complexity can be delightful – as opposed to a grey cardigan which is rather not complex. The dress looked work-a-day, like a woman could show off her figure, toughened one up with a bit of practicality and yes-i-can-defend-myself-and-open-my-own-pickle-jar, and at the same time made one laugh with the softness of the colors, and the birds, and the patterns. I’m not saying that it’s like having steel-toed boots with pink daisies on them, it’s more like taking the waitress uniform it reminds you of, and removing the “uniformity” of it, and making it laugh with personality. -kathy

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Latter-Day Flapper August 10, 2007 at 8:31 am

I love it. So what if it looks like a waitress uniform? I’ve got lots of made-by-me-from-vintage-patterns dresses that look like waitress uniforms. You have to be pretty tough to be a waitress; I’d last about two days before I started dumping plates over picky customers’ heads. I did wash dishes in the dining hall for four years in college, though. There’s no shame in foodservice.

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Allison August 10, 2007 at 8:44 am

I see the resemblance to a uniform now that you mention it, but my first reaction was that it had an awesome retro 40′s feel to it. It’s definitely a practical dress, not a party dress, so that’s mainly what it has in common with a uniform. But with bird fabric like that, it’s definitely a fun, pretty, practical dress. I think it’s mostly that with trousers being allowed for women, dresses have mostly become “only for fancy”, rather than “for everyday”, so we only see practical dresses when they are part of an enforced uniform, like for waitresses.

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Anonymous August 10, 2007 at 9:30 am

Wish you had matched the pattern on the center front.

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Anonymous August 10, 2007 at 10:00 am

In the Seattle area, we have a diner called Patty’s Egg Nest, but they don’t wear cute dresses like that.

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Kate August 10, 2007 at 10:33 am

It’s adorable! And I’m with you on the rant. I get the *stewardess* look when I wear my tartan Jill (a Glengarry style hat)too. My thought is those looks come from ignorance. The hat well preceded stewardesses and your dress style was cute long before waitresses wore them. You GO, Girl! Kate Q:-)

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Oxanna August 10, 2007 at 11:31 am

I have to admit that’s what I thought on first glance at the full dress, but I realized that it’s because the dress actually looks like a vintage outfit (’30′s-50′s). Diner (especially retro diner) styles carry over from this period.And stiletto heels are an evil invention, which inspire the 3″+ heels I see in stores but don’t want to wear on a regular basis. They should be banned in favor of cute mid-height heels. :)

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Thoughts on Life and Millinery. August 10, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Confession: I sometimes make a point of dressing like a librarian, because I am a librarian! Hair in a bun, glasses on my nose, sweater, pleated skirt, sensible shoes. Those days everyone lines up at ref desk for help.When I wear my trendy clothes with my hair down and contacts folks walk right past me on their way to my *frumpier* librarian co-workers.That Masters degree apparently requires a specific wardrobe to be appreciated!And I’d much rather have a waitress dressed in a dress like you made than one in short shorts and bodacious boobs in tight teeshirts bouncing over my order.

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angldst August 10, 2007 at 12:11 pm

you’ve inspired me. Duro 1.0 (Alexander henry white on black Skullfinity fabric with black bands and a black with tiny white dashes for the waistband, sash and side skirt panels) is hanging upstairs. I’m wearing Duro 2.0, which I call the Sacred Heart Dress. (Alexander Henry Corazones in black for the bodice & skirt, a purple moda marble for the bands, and a lavender and purple tiny leopard print for the waistband and sash). I shortened the skirt this time around so that it’s just past my knees, and I added pockets to my pattern for both versions. Pockets make me happy. I put pockets in darn near everything where they won’t be awkward. :D-d

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Anonymous August 10, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Oh dear lord, these people complaining about the non-matching pattern across the front seam: Get a life, folks! Geez. I usually don’t complain about comments on someone else’s blog, but you all are ridiculous. She only had five yards of fabric to make a full-skirted dress (you would know this if you actually read the text). I’m betting there wasn’t enough fabric to match the print. Honestly, if that’s your one reaction to this dress–that the pattern in front doesn’t match across the seam–I feel really bad for you. Lighten up!–Lydia

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Anonymous August 10, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Ooh, lovely. It is vaguely waitressy, but I love diners and I have known too many cool waitresses to think that was a slur. Heck, when I was in high school, we used to search out old waitress and nurse uniforms in thrift shops. Not in a jokey ironic way, but because my friends and I wanted the vintagey look but didn’t have much money to spend. So you make me think of happy punk rock girls. Cheers.

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Sisuile August 10, 2007 at 2:07 pm

I just moved to within blocks of Crafty Planet, and it is a very dangerous thing. I am not allowed to go in until I’ve put a roof on my house. The hubby says so. And buying fabric before I’ve decided where the sewing machine is going is probably a bad plan.

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mamafrog August 10, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Tracy–THANK YOU so much for the link to that book!! I’ve wanted a copy of for a long, long time. Elizabeth Hawes is one of my favorite common-sense designers.

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Theresa August 10, 2007 at 6:41 pm

it’s beautiful. My daughter loves waitress/nurse/maid dresses/ It’s the only dresses she will wear

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Caitlin O'Connor August 10, 2007 at 11:52 pm

Being an Aussie and not having any experience of diners, I just thought it was a great practical day-dress with a late 40s/early 50s feel!But if it DOES look like a diner waitress uniform, your solution is PERFECT. And thank you notes are an under-represented from of courtesy these days.

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Sewing Siren August 11, 2007 at 7:48 am

I love work dress. I have worn them for years to do “work”. Sometimes people will say the funniest things like ” I love dresses but I can’t wear them because I have to work too hard.” I just kind of roll my eyes and keep on working :).

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Michelle August 11, 2007 at 9:05 am

I just happened to stumble across this apron and thought to myself, “I’m sure I’ve seen that fabric somewhere”. You could protect this dress with a matching apron!http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=6486626

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Vivienne August 12, 2007 at 12:19 pm

We all need more opportunities in life to say, “Kiss my grits!” and this dress provides the perfect vehicle!Too cute.

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standgale August 12, 2007 at 8:42 pm

Not that I care about the matching up of the front or not (I didn’t notice it until I saw it mentioned and went back to check) but 5 yards, being about 5m I believe, is a lot of material, and I believe you could easily make it match at the front in 5 yards – unless the material is really narrow. Maybe that would explain why Erin seems to buy such large amounts of material?

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Nancy Bea Miller August 13, 2007 at 2:23 pm

I think it’s the contrasting collar n cuffs, as well as the capacious pockets (also trimmed to contrast) that give it that waitressy look. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! A good waitress is a thing of beauty (person of honor?) in my eyes. You could go whole hog and wear it with apron, name badge, hairnet and white sneakers and I would applaud loudly (and ask you for some iced tea!) To keep it looking less uniform-like I’d go for canary yellow kitten heels and mint green bakelite jewelry: fun!

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Diane August 17, 2007 at 3:23 pm

AH I LOVE THAT!! I hate dresses but even I would wear that!

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Anonymous September 3, 2007 at 2:58 am

I think you feel it’s a waitress dress because of the pockets, but it’s a great dress anyway :-)

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Anonymous November 1, 2007 at 9:25 am

I think this dress is FANTASTIC! I am all about recreating unique (tho it kinda isnt, in respect to its retro-ness appeal) pieces, and being PROUD to say “I did that”! Congrats on a great attitude! And the dress is wonderful! :)

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AuntieShel January 20, 2009 at 11:38 am

OMG, Erin, that dress is spectacular and I never once thought waitress. And, as you point out, nothing wrong with that, at all. In fact, it would be a little refreshing to see a waitress in a dress again, wouldn’t it.

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lori June 12, 2011 at 8:11 pm

i love it!

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