I thought you should know

by Erin on November 20, 2007


Advance 8129

I've decided that, from now on, I'm not going to pay any attention to any statements that begin with the following phrases:

"I thought you should know,"

"No offense, but,"

My highly unscientific study of these phrases has led me to believe that they are only used when the speaker wants to convey something unpleasant to the listener. And not something unpleasant and urgent, in the sense of "Your hair's on fire!" but something unpleasant in the sense of "I want to tell you something insulting, yet I do not wish you to feel directly insulted."

What I want to know is, has anyone, in the history of these conversational openers, ever replied like this?

Speaker A: "I thought you should know — that dress makes you look fat."
Speaker B: "Oh, how kind of you to tell me! I forgot that it was my sacred duty to look thin. I'll run right home and change. Can you come with me, just in case I pick the wrong thing again? Also, how's this color on me?"

Speaker A: "No offense, but you're too old for that style."
Speaker B: "I thought I hadn't slapped on enough Youth Instigator this morning — say, you wouldn't have a tube on you, would you?"

I've often wondered about the motives of people who say these things. Do they really, truly, believe they're doing their listeners a favor? And do they respond rationally when people do it to them?

Speaker A: "I thought you should know, that color makes you look sallow."
Speaker B: "Oh, thank you! I'm so glad you told me. But you should let me return the favor — those earrings are a touch gaudy. I'm sure you'd be happier and less … conspicuous in little studs."
Speaker A: "You are so right! I never thought of that before."

No? You don't think that happens? You think that the Speaker A's of this world only feel better when they are able to make other people feel worse? (Especially when they can do so, Anonymously, on the Internets?) Huh, what sad and lonely lives those Speaker A's must lead.

If for no other reason (say, basic human decency) you should be kind because unkindness doesn't work. In fact, it's often highly counterproductive, if your stated goal is to "improve" other people. It would be one thing if offhand "No offense, but you look fat," comments from strangers actually caused people to lose weight (if they wanted to), but, alas, they don't. Never have. Would you change your behavior, whatever it was, based on anonymous comments online? No? Why, then, do you think that YOUR anonymous comment is going to change the world?

If you really wanted to "do someone a favor," you'd do it under your own name, so that you could take the credit. Heck, you'd send me a private email and ask me to pass it along, so a conversation, a real discussion, could take place. That's what you do when you want to help. When you want to hurt, when you want to feel momentarily better about yourself at another's expense, you leave an anonymous comment.

I'm not going to make the comments on this blog real-name only. But I would like to remind people of a few things:

– You can comment, by name or anonymously, all you like to tell me that anything I've done is crap, pure crap, highly-crappy crap fashioned lovingly from raw crap, and that you don't know how I live with myself. I understand that running a blog is the equivalent of hanging a sign that says "Criticize here."

– BUT, I would like you to treat the guests of this blog with kindness. Remember the Golden Rule? Please follow it.

(And if you say "But I'd WANT someone to tell me if something made me look bad," you should think really hard about whether or not that's true. How did you feel the last time someone told you something was unflattering? Did you act on it? Or did you come up with a reason to ignore their "advice"? Do fee free to send me a picture of yourself so that I can find someone to perform this service for you, if you want it so badly.)

One last thing: aesthetics are highly variable. What you consider the dernier cri is probably not that of the person next to you. So why would you act as if your vision was the only true one?

[Today's pattern is from LanetzLiving, who is offering a SPECIAL EXTRA DISCOUNT to us ... put "turkey20" in the discount box and get a 20% discount on all patterns from her site. They'll ship next Monday after the holiday. Oh, and the woman in the red jacket is telling the woman in the white jacket that busy florals don't suit her. The woman in the white jacket is pretending the woman in the red jacket doesn't exist.]

{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

IMassardo November 20, 2007 at 8:03 am

Wonderful post, thank you!

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 8:11 am

Was thinking the same thing when I was reading through the comments of yesterday. Sheesh.

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Monkeygrrl November 20, 2007 at 8:15 am

I find that people who offer unsolicited advice rarely if ever receive criticism well. My solution is to think to myself, “I am glad that I am not married to that person.” Today, I am a 45-year-old woman wearing flower-embroidered cowboy boots – and if someone has a problem with that, I choose to believe it’s really a problem they have with themselves.

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miss twist November 20, 2007 at 8:18 am

The other “I’m going to insult you but don’t be insulted” phrase is “with all due respect.”Hate that one! Just tell my what you want to say directly or don’t.

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Isabelle November 20, 2007 at 8:24 am

Great post!

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Diane November 20, 2007 at 8:29 am

Love the red suit! I can look past the snooty woman wearing it. I can still hear my mother’s words “If you can’t say something nice about someone, say nothing at all.”It may be corny but at least it’s kind and in this world we certainly need more kindness.

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 8:32 am

Some of what I read yesterday was something no one in their right mind would say in person to the object of their critiques. I know these kind of hurtful comments are a problem over at The Sartorialist too.

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 8:38 am

Gee, one would think that if you spend the time to read a blog about vintage dresses, you really like vintage dresses. Those people out there that like to leave nasty comments for Erin have too much time on their hands to feel sorry for themselves. Volunteer! It will help cure that desire to be mean to others and get a grip!

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The Momma Chronicles November 20, 2007 at 8:41 am

Amen, Erin!While reading yesterdays comments, my beloved step-mama’s advice kept coming back to me: “You don’t have to say everything that comes into your head.” And there’s the classic, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” etc. etc.

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kim p. November 20, 2007 at 8:43 am

As I read today’s post, I was going to write, “what happened, Erin, to prompt this post?” but having just read yesterday’s comments, now I know. Shame on you, anonymous commenters!

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Zoltar Panaflex November 20, 2007 at 8:54 am

Terrific and spot-on post, Erin.I’ve long long had a large problem with wussy anonymous comments, if you really want to be taken seriously, use your own damn name!As for the Marcia Brady dress – MAN that brings back memories. My sister was a Marcia-Marcia-Marcia wanna-be and that dress looked exactly like one she had! I love it with the boots! Gives it quite a kick!I used to work in a cube-farm like that, at a law firm here in Seattle and we had some very creative outfits there, I miss that spirit!

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Sue November 20, 2007 at 8:55 am

the momma chronicles, I have to say, I’ve heard the “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” adage from whence I could make sounds, but I really like the scathing but saccharine modernity of “You don’t have to say everything [your brain craps out].” Right on for the plethora of options for cracking that whip with a smile when deserved and needed! I’ll be using that one soon!

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Barbara Prime November 20, 2007 at 8:55 am

Well stated! Life is so much better when people are kind. Why is being nice so underrated?

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Andrea November 20, 2007 at 9:06 am

Well said! I have pretty much stopped blogging due to rude comments. We tend to forget that there are real people, with real feelings behind those pics, comments, posts, ect.

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Leizel November 20, 2007 at 9:06 am

No offense, but those posts made the anon posters look petty and mean.I think it takes a lot of courage to send in a pic of oneself, especially to display something that you’ve made yourself. It’s awful that that kind of courage should be punished.While the Marcia dress is not my style (I tend toward the 40s and 50s suits and “playclothes”) I thought it was adorable, and suited her quite well. Congrats on a job well done, Andrea!

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 9:14 am

Another cop-out phrase, down here in Texas, is “Bless her heart!” “That hat looks like she made it out of a fresh squirrel skin — bless her heart!”While agreeing with EVERYTHING that’s being said about the unnecessary cattiness of some commentators, I’ll defend the anonymous comment. I have a name that’s very unique and googleable. And when the internet was young and I was stupid, I posted a lot of comments on various discussion boards, just for fun. At the time, they weren’t searchable. Now, however, they are. So googling my name pulls up all sorts of goofy comments on goofy websites, that are just goofy enough that I wish that prospective employers who are checking me out wouldn’t see them.So now, even when I’m commenting on a cool, cool, cool website like this one, I’d rather be anonymous than have this added to my long list of google hits.So, to summarize: Cattiness bad. Anonymity good (sometimes). :-)

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Jonquil November 20, 2007 at 9:17 am

“I probably shouldn’t say this, but…”No, dear. You probably shouldn’t.Friends of mine and I were ragging on dear David Tennant, who has disastrous taste in clothing and was last seen in public wearing a velvet jacket two sizes too small, when another friend said a very wise thing. “You just know he looked in a mirror, said ‘Damn, I look fabulous!’”, and walked out the door. Good point. Worth remembering.

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 9:19 am

(I have to be anonymous because I’m not a blogger or even an other.) Stewarts Fabrics?!? OMG, does that bring back memories of my childhood. My mother shopped there a lot and one of our neighbors had a job there. I got great scraps for my doll clothes from her. But I hated having to wait while Mom picked out fabric. Who knew I’d grow up to be a tailor?

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 9:20 am

It was also interesting yesterday that once one person made a rude comment that others joined in. It reminded me of being hazed on the school playground in third grade. I wore polyester doubleknit before it became a punchline and so I don’t wear things from that fashion cycle, but I think the dress is darling and very well done. The colors are also flattering to the wearer.Amy

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libby November 20, 2007 at 9:27 am

Dear Erin,Where ever you are…will you be my best friend?

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 9:32 am

Ok, I will say something here, “I thought you should know, that dress makes you look like you are a refugee from Ethiopia. You really should eat something, you look half starved!”Not that I would say that, I just thought that it should be said sometimes. Look at me, I weigh 179pounds, I am 5’7″ tall. I am not skinny by any stretch of the imagination, and my doctor has me down as “Obese” on my records. I am not obese! I just happen to have a little cushion!By the way, I think the dress from yesterday was cute too!Linda (My real name)

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nikki November 20, 2007 at 9:33 am

I think your dear old “Speaker A” has cornered me more times than I can count.If my dress was accidently tucked into my nylons (remember that scene from designing women?) I do want you to mention it. Otherwise, no……

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tcarole November 20, 2007 at 9:39 am

My favorite intro is, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…” or, “I’m no expert, but…” Sometimes I get the urge to yell or say something rude. When I am driving and my safety has just been compromised by some other driver’s actions and I feel threatened. It’s not as if they’re even going to hear me. And the person I most harm by doing this is me (and my passengers if I have any.) What I try to do is imagine the offending driver is someone I know. (She looks like my sister Vanessa, or that guy looks like my neighbor Will…) I then see them as more human and, almost immediately, I calm down. Often, I give them a smile and a wave as if to say, “we’re both okay and I hold no grudge”. I think that passes to them a good feeling which, if they pass on, has the potential of being infinite in its effect. Ramble conclusion… like the Golden Rule, or the Ethical Question (“What would it be like if EVERYONE did what you did?”), putting yourself in another’s shoes is a good starting point when you are about to say or do something harmful, be it yelling a curse in your car, or posting mean comments anonymously on a blog. Become the person you are potentially harming for one moment and decide if it’s worth it. You can hide behind anonymity, but you can’t hide from yourself.

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k. November 20, 2007 at 9:45 am

We’ve been having this discussion with our kids, believe it or not. Consequently, Evil Mean Parents have banned the phrase “no offense” from the house. It didn’t stick with the youngest until I used a “no offense” on her–a “no offense” of the mildest sort, you understand. But she snapped to pretty quickly.Regarding different aesthetics: my own aesthetics change from outfit to outfit. Every once in a while, I will get the urge to wear a long full skirt though it makes me look like Friar Tuck–and so I do. The following day, I may want to wear tailored trousers that make me look more like Katherine Hepburn. And the following day, I may wear a wrap dress that my husband swears looks like a funereal bathrobe.I figure that unless I tackle you and force you to wear it, too, you shouldn’t care that much about the clothes I choose to wear.

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 9:47 am

I just read the comments from yesterday (curiosity, of course) and I have to say, I live for costumes! I love dressing up and wearing clothes that are from different eras, Halloween is my favorite time of year, and I do Eighteenth Century, Civil War, and WWII reenacting with my husband (Hoop skirts are not as easy as you would imagine. Broke my toe two weeks ago at a Ball doing the Virginia Reel…My middle name is Grace!) People who are overly concerned with current fashion or “business attire” make me crazy. Life if for living and what is life without a little fun!?!Linda

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Lexy Girl November 20, 2007 at 9:50 am

Yes well, the woman with the white jacket should really dress her age. The little strumpet.I too didn’t really know what Erin was talking about because I don’t always read the comments. But man… some people’s kids, I tell ya.

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tea November 20, 2007 at 9:56 am

“I thought you should know…” this is a WONDERFUL post. Kudos to you! I had to go back and read the rest of the cat-fest comments from yesterday to find out where the conversation had gone. Kind of scary how mean people can be, especially since this is a blog I visit in order to gain nourishment, lift up my spirits, and enjoy the sisterhood-spirit of the other commenters. The “we’re all in this love of vintage together”-ness. This isn’t a high fashion snob fest. This is a Hooray! We love this! blog. I mean, I don’t want to get *too* saccharine, but cripes! I don’t really want to see people wielding scythes through the place, either. Anonymous Amy, you’re right: it was just like a third-grade hazing. Something I cringe to see in adults specifically because I surround myself with people who have outgrown that type of insecurity, and I’m shocked every time I see it. I was glad to see, however, that there seemed to be just as many people on board with labelladonna in being kind.Andrea’s dress was wonderful and she perfectly evoked the spirit of the dress in her fabric choices. Colors that not only look good on her but also *are* contemporary. In case anyone missed the memo, retro and retro colors *are* in. They may not be the *only* thing in style, but they are part of it. I saw plenty of gold and earth-toned clothes in stores just this week. Granted, I’m more of a 1953 & pink & green gal, myself, but I love to see other people sporting their own joie de vivre. I’m sure I look just as ridiculous to people who are finished with old-timey as the wearers of the latest cookie-cutter fashion industry look to me.

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geogrrl November 20, 2007 at 10:05 am

I too didn’t know what Erin was talking about until I went back to the comments.Yesterday’s dress was fun, looked cute, and obviously made the wearer happy. What more could you ask from a dress?

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Sami November 20, 2007 at 10:17 am

Andrea, are you reading this? Your “Marsha-Marsha-Marsha” outfit was absolutely fabu – ESPECIALLY given the fact that the photo was taken in an office warren. Your hair was fetching, the dress was cute and quirky, and, as others have said, you rocked the boots.Note to the universe: if you’ve got legs like Andrea, flaunt ‘em. (If for no other reason than making little runts like me GREEN with envy.) Note to Erin: you rock in so many ways I’ve lost count of them all.

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 10:19 am

Hi, I’m Anon 11:22 from yesterday. I did not expect to start a cascade of snark-I felt that I stated an opinion about the dress posted without one of those self-responsibility-negating phrases like “No offense” or “I thought you should know.” I believe I said “I think.” I would never put the responsibility for my opinion on the other person; I also had an adage passed down by my mother-”Opinions are like a**holes; everyone has one.” I have posted on this site with my opinion about how “successful” I thought a project was in the past with no ill feelings. I sign in under Anon because I don’t have a Google account-I will gladly give my name from now on. I also know that Andrea will wear her dress with pride regardless of what I think, sartorially speaking. The adage “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is simplistic and doesn’t encourage any real discussion. I always thought we were people who liked dresses and liked this website because of the language and that Erin did not feed us “OMG so CUTE!!!” pablum. I do agree with the earlier poster who said that one “should not say everything one’s brain craps out” but when does it turn into “I like it” “Me too” “Me threeSincerely,Melanie

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Bean November 20, 2007 at 10:23 am

Beautiful post! I hope Andrea’s feelings weren’t hurt by those rude comments yesterday – I absolutely LOVE the dress, the boots, the photography, everything! If you need to start a comment off with a disclaimer, just stop yourself from commenting at all. Breathe, relax, and try to think of the other human beings out there and how they’d feel if you continued.

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Tailypo November 20, 2007 at 10:30 am

I used to know a priest who pointed out that whenever certain churchly folk want to say something really, really nasty they start by saying, “Let us, like Paul, speak the truth in love…” I don’t know if they ever then proceeded to tell him that chasuble made him look fat, but the strategy is the same.

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Mary Sue November 20, 2007 at 10:50 am

Speaker A: “I thought you should know — that dress makes you look fat.”I’ve looked down at myself and said to the speaker “I’m FAT?!?! Oh my God, I’d never noticed without you telling me, thank you so much!”I’ve had to say that a few times in my life, including to a couple of doctors who didn’t quite understand the difference between muscle and fat (I was a competitive dancer, 5’4″ and my weight during the competition season was 230. I could bench 300lbs, though, so I wasn’t terribly worried about it.)

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melodie November 20, 2007 at 10:53 am

For those who say they use anon because they don’t have a google account, sign the bottom of your comment, or click other and put your name in the name field.

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La BellaDonna November 20, 2007 at 11:02 am

I thought you should know …I really love this website.No offense …to a lot of other authors whom I enjoy reading, but Erin’s blog always makes my day. Sometimes it’s the only worthwhile part of my day.Amy, I think it’s heartening, though, that there were plenty of people joining in to stand up to the snarkers.With all due respect …I do think it’s perfectly possible to discuss the dresses that are presented in such a way that an actual discussion does, in fact, take place. There’s a lot of room for verbiage between “That outfit is wearing her,” and “”I like it” “Me too” “Me three,” verbal hiccups to which Erin’s readers are not, in fact, generally prone.

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The Momma Chronicles November 20, 2007 at 11:17 am

At what point do we decide the desire to share our opinions isn’t as important as using someone else’s feelings as the filter between the brain and the mouth? Dellaina

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Emily November 20, 2007 at 11:32 am

Beautiful post. I had followed yesterday’s comments and found myself looking at the dresses I had painstakingly (and not very evenly) made myself and wondered what everyone must be thinking about my bigger than stick body in them. I had planned to send Erin a photo of me in my first Duro and decided against it. So for anyone who thinks that their comments don’t hurt or that the maker will go ahead and wear the item with pride and defiance anyway, I am here to say that you don’t know what effect your words can have on someone else. You don’t know what else that person has had to deal with. Your “little” criticism may cause the recipient to throw that dress in a wrinkled heap in the back of her (or his) closet and go back to wearing sweatpants and crocs. Or worse. We should be cheering on creativity, not destroying it.

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Kristen November 20, 2007 at 11:40 am

Go Erin! Go La Belladonna!now i’m gonna go compliment somebody dangit.

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Shannon November 20, 2007 at 11:42 am

Erin, I thought you should know that your blog is utterly delightful, and thank you so very much for brightening my days a little bit with your lovely dresses and on-the-mark commentary.

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Gaile November 20, 2007 at 11:45 am

While I agree that we should cheer and encourage creativity, I also know how often I cringe when I see certain items on the internets, and then read all the “wow, that’s just fabulous” comments that follow, wondering what world these people live in, or if it’s just a rule that we all be polite and say it looks great even when it doesn’t. I’ve seen sweaters that were obviously knit/sewn together wrong, and not one person in the comments bothered to point it out. I’ve seen clothes that were seriously too small or big, and it wasn’t intentional, and no one bothered to point it out. I guess it’s because I think we all have a right to wear well made, flattering clothing, of any style, but in colors and patterns that fit right, and flatter our skin tones. The freakiest outfit on earth looks great when it fits, is made well, and is in colors that suit the wearer. As someone who knits and sews and blogs, I guess I just wish we could all find a place between politely lying because of manners, and telling the truth in a rude way.

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 11:50 am

Amen amen amen, Erin! I would like to say that when my baby was 6 months old, she looked like the michelin tire baby. Unbelievable how many people would say, loudly and with gusto “That baby is FAT!!!” Made me want to scream “So are you!!” And along those lines, I must say, as a recovered anorexic, it greatly grieved me when I hit 90 pounds (as in, up from 69 pounds) to still hear rude comments such as “Man…don’t you ever eat???” Hey, what’s up with that? I could never get away with “NO, but YOU obviously do.” Guess I just wanted to input that it is just as wrong to commment on someones lack of weight, as it is their excess weight.By the way, upon casual observation, I would like to say, you are absolutely gorgeous as in your mode of dress, face and body type. For further proof, I refer you to the vintage films of old where women did not need to starve themselves to be considered beautiful.Regards, Sue Melin

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 11:54 am

Btw, Erin, I wanted to thank you so much for your secret lives of dresses. I read the mountain girl dress post often, and it brightens my day. I came out of a bout of depression after reading it, came out of my house, and gained back three pounds that week. Whenever I stop eating, and feel bummed out, I stop by that dresses post.Sue M.

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Moonwishes November 20, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Well I suppose I am one of yesterday’s posters that would have been considered to have something rude/snarky. That is/was not my intention to be rude. I was under the impression that this blog was a place that we could comment about the different dresses we are shown. I have seen over the many months that I have been reading here, that unless we all say we love whatever is being shown, someone will jump on us in some way, some subtler than others. I refuse to give into the art of social lying (telling someone that their new hairstyle, dress, etc. looks wonderful even when in my opinion it is not). I actually appreciated the fact that some of the other posters didn’t like the dress otherwise I would have felt that I was nuts and something was wrong with me because everyone else liked it. Was this meant to be rude to Andrea herself? NO! And for that I apologize. I try to never be rude to people. I do however have opinions and if it is a negative opinion, I now know not to express it here.

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Angel - Having a Nemesis November 20, 2007 at 12:57 pm

A friend of mine once told me that he made a point of disregarding everything I said before the word “but” in a sentence. And it made me realize that my methods of constructive criticism were in dire need of an overhaul.For those commenters who have since made mention of stifling their opinions to preserve the peace… perhaps you need an overhaul as well. It is possible to express a negative opinion without sounding rude. Because even when apologizing, it still sounds catty.

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Susan November 20, 2007 at 12:58 pm

There is a difference between withholding a negative opinion and fabricating a compliment. No one seems to be asking people to lie about how great something is when they don’t actually think so. Some of us just aren’t on board with mean-spirited criticism. It’s one thing to think a pattern is ugly or a dress being sold in stores or put on the runway is not so great. (By all means: critique away! Those people got paid to make that dress.) It’s another thing to criticize a dress that a real person and fellow blog reader made. This is not Fashion 101 critique panel. Yesterday’s post was merely an example of something a reader made. I saw it as encouragement for others of us to share our creations with Erin. Some of the mean-spirited responses have now probably had the opposite effect. Who wants to go before the chopping block?I, too, have seen some awful stuff on other sites, by the way. I’ve seen readers praising monstrosities that may as well have been duct-tape and safety-pinned together. But if those people like it, that’s cool. It’s obviously not the site for me. And I’m not about to go tell the person how awful I think it is. I wouldn’t lie and tell them it’s great, either. I’d just move on to the next site. (And I’ve seen good duct tape and safety pin dresses, too. Technique makes all the difference). Mainly, you have to consider context when leaving a comment about something. If Erin posted a duct tape and safety pin thing that was at an art exhibit or in a retail window, we’d probably be free to say whatever mean stuff we wanted. The designer would a) be making the thing for profit (or art viewing) and therefore open to criticism due to the public nature of the endeavor and b) be far enough removed from this space that his/her feelings would not be part of the equation.

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Katie Alender November 20, 2007 at 1:16 pm

Last year I sewed myself and my dog matching Halloween costumes. I get to work, and a well-meaning co-worker says, “Listen, I thought you should know that that skirt adds ten pounds to your hips.”It also makes me look like a DALMATIAN. Who CARES?This reminds me of the sublime, “Does this dress make me look crazy?” post. I love the Marsha dress, except I’d be arrested for perpetrating that much of my legs on the innocent world.

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Joni November 20, 2007 at 1:49 pm

Absolutely nothing relevant to add to the discussion, but I’ve just gotta say: that is the BIGGEST darn handbag I’ve ever seen. (White Jacket Lady, ignore Red Jacket Lady at your own risk… she’s armed…)

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Ann Onymous November 20, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Can we get back to the dresses, please?

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enc November 20, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Say, don’t forget the old gem:”Don’t take this the wrong way, but . . . . .”[arms reach out to strangle]

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saidee November 20, 2007 at 2:18 pm

It seems to me that Erin gives us a big clue for sorting what kind of responses are appropriate when she uses the category of ‘guest’ for Andrea’s contribution. Most of us know how to behave toward a guest, and how we like to be treated when we are guests.As far as the ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything,’ I feel that this is useful only in social situations, and other circumstances that are social by extension, like this blog when Erin has a guest. I was so brainwashed with this dogma by my mother, that I failed to speak up for and/or protect myself in some critical ways when I was younger and paid a rather high price. Another instance of the importance of words and their stated and implied meanings, a subtext of this blog. I much prefer the precaution of not saying everything one is thinking. A good friend talks about the times her mouth engages before her brain does!Love the dress and jacket in both views. Speaking of brainwashing, I am almost always surprised by real women in vintage dresses made from patterns I know, because of the distorted illustrations! Where is that waspish waist shown on the pattern envelope?? Never mind that I do know that waists are becoming a thing of the past in female anatomy… I have to laugh at myself.

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Linda A-Z November 20, 2007 at 2:32 pm

As for the dresses, I saw a dress on here a while back that I thought was beautiful, and was made entirely out of condoms. Just think, beautiful and functional!As for the post “Does this dress make me look crazy?” I loved it.I never ask if a dress makes my butt look big, because I know what the answer is going to be. Once my husband asked “Honey, does this kilt make my butt look big?” and my reply was “Honey, your butt is big!” It just slipped out! From then on, anytime anyone asks if anything makes their butt look big, they know the answer will be…Honey, your butt is big. Just don’t ask!Linda

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Lexy Girl November 20, 2007 at 2:36 pm

*ahem* double posting today, sorry… but I’ve been thinking, a dangerous hobby I know.There is a difference in a blog post that says “Ann isn’t sure if this dress is working on her, what do you think?” which invites one saying “too short” or “wrong color” or whatever crosses your mind. Then there’s “Jess just made this dress and she loves it!” at which point if you didn’t like it you could say “Jess, that’s not really my style, but you did such a good job it, well done!” There’s just no need to give constructive criticisms on somebody’s sense of fashion because it’s not actually your responsiblity to construct their sartorial identity. You know what I mean?

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kathyg November 20, 2007 at 2:49 pm

Well put, Erin, ’nuff said…

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robyn November 20, 2007 at 3:08 pm

i thought you should know that with all due respect and no offense but …i love you, your blog, the dresses, all of it. bollux to anyone who ever uses those words in any other way!

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Jonquil November 20, 2007 at 3:38 pm

I guess it’s because I think we all have a right to wear well made, flattering clothing, of any style, but in colors and patterns that fit right, and flatter our skin tones.I am not a work of art. I am a human. I have a right to wear any damn thing I want to. And if I want to look straight out of the Haight circa 1969, and I put the outfit together, it is the purpose of this journal to say wow! you really got that vintage Haight-Ashbury look. There are journals for Honey, you SO should not wear tie-dye. It ain’t this one.

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Jonquil November 20, 2007 at 3:43 pm

Oh, and as far as comments on weight go, they’re REALLY double-edged.I have a chronic illness. Sometimes it makes me gain weight. Sometimes it makes me lose weight. When I lose weight, my co-workers come up to me and coo and say “What’s your secret?” and “You’re so brave to diet and exercise!” and say “Gosh, you aren’t eating much, I wish I could get by on so little!”. And eventually I have to say, if they keep it up, “No, I just feel too sick to eat right now.” Which is really not something I want to discuss, or the reasons for, but people just won’t let me drop the subject.Please, guys. Don’t assume sudden weight loss is a virtue any more than sudden weight gain is a vice. It may be a misfortune.

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mamafrog November 20, 2007 at 3:44 pm

I, too, had to go back and re-read yesterday’s posts to see what Erin was talking about (Such a long post caught my attention!) While perhaps not meaning to be hurtful–the comments of some could have been construed that way and hopefully we have all learned better now! I just remember thinking how cute she looked and being severely jealous that I couldn’t look that way any more. And yes, I did wear exactly the same type of “costume-y” things when I was younger, quite gleefully, thank you very much!! My clothing is more sober nowadays but I can see the looks on some peoples faces that think I’m too fat, too old, too slobby, etc. So far no one has had quite the nerve to say anything. Frankly, I have gotten to the age where I would probably be a smart mouth right back at them. Bad form, but sooo satisfying you know. Either that or I get to use my patented Great Aunt Louise look that stares them down and makes them slink away. I just figure everyone is allowed one idiotic comment and after that they are fair game for anything I choose to say in response. Now, can we just get back to looking at Erin’s pattern picks and fashion adventures and her love of crazy fabrics?

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 3:48 pm

It’s not a choice between sycophantic approval and rude criticism, like there are only those two options. There’s a place for expressing one’s opinions, but the key is that they are relevant. What I didn’t like in some of the comments was judgments about Andrea’s age or body shape. Discussion or criticism of the dress itself: fine. Criticism of the wearer: not appropriate.I used to work with a woman who said very unkind things to people, and when they took offense would respond with “Well, it’s TRUE, isn’t it?” as though she had the inside track on what truth is. What she was expressing were her OPINIONS, and none of them were earth-shattering enough to make up for the hurt she caused.-Mayya

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Modiste1000 November 20, 2007 at 3:58 pm

Honesty should always, always be married to KINDNESS. Just because something is true doesn’t make it kind, or worth mentioning…..

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Nancy Bea Miller November 20, 2007 at 4:02 pm

Hey, yeah. I didn’t look at last post’s comments but I guess there were some nasties in there. I think part of the problem is that the distant look of the screen, makes it feel to some people that there are no real live humans on the receiving end of comments, who might be hurt. So it allows them to relieve their pent up aggression/despair through unkindness. SO sad! I agree that if you simply must let fly with a criticism or jibe, it is far less dastardly if you are direct about it, and not passive-aggressive. Kindness is the way to go, always.

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La Receptionista November 20, 2007 at 4:04 pm

Help! I own a copy of this pattern, and now every time I look at it, I’m going to think of snarky comments!I may never make it now, how tragic!(Of course, this has nothing to do with the fact that my copy is several sizes too wee for me and I’ll have to alter it…. not at all)

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 4:52 pm

I love seeing people who’ve taken the time to dress interestingly, even outrageously out & about on the streets. They make the world a better place.As to whether a look ‘works’ or not, that is a such a subjective thing based more on the fashion comfort zones of the observer that anything else.

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bootyvintage November 20, 2007 at 5:41 pm

Now that we are all on the same page, I say BRING ON MORE PHOTOS! I lurve seeing photos of actual garments made up be real people. As one comment said, there is often a big difference between the idealized sketch and the real thing. The real thing is so inspiring!I hope people will put photos of made up garments in the pattern wiki too. Brava to Andrea. I love her dress, especially the collar choice. I wouldn’t have guessed how cute that would be from the envelope.

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 7:20 pm

Oh yes yes – let’s have some real examples of the vintage patterns in the Wiki! I’d love to have realistic views of them before taking the plunge to make them.Don’t want to step on PatternReview’s territory, but given that it’s vintage and a somewhat different format, it should work – and wiki posters should of course go and give a detailed blow-by-blow of the sewing at PR, with a link both ways… No pressure or anything! :)–Anonymous because every time I try to sign in Blogger eats my post.

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Hmmm…that made me think. I know that I personally have made thoughtless comments like, “Not quite so flattering” or “I would have made it a different ___(style, color, etc.). I guess I thought I was being helpful but your blog made me realize that I probably wouldn’t have liked it if I’d heard it so I’ll keep those comments to myself from now on (when I remember to at least).JenL

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 8:35 pm

I recently received an email from someone who’s signature read: “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” Amen.

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 9:20 pm

A very different tone tonight — but just as refreshing and articulate and words everyone could stand to hear. This’ll post as anonymous, but my name is Andrea … My name is Andrea and I get similarly rankled when people say horrible things you can’t believe their brains let their mouths say.

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Ok, so, I left my last comment before I realized that the whole discussion centered around my silly “Marcia Brady” dress. Man alive, that’s what happens when you miss a day of A Dress a Day. Anyway, I feel obliged to reply. Warning: In doing so, I may employ adjectives you, dear reader, would not yourself select. I may choose to put my sentence together using syntax and verbiage that sounds off to your ear. I may even misspell something, such as the name of a totally fictional It Girl. And yet? I will get my point across. To those who enjoy scumbling the line between costume and “outfit,” I’ll be giggling in the bathroom with you, at least in spirit, tomorrow — that is, if I weren’t blowing off the cubicle farm to broaden young minds in the classroom and then whip up a garment you and I would have the courage, the moxie, the foolishness, the whatever, to wear. To those of you who, so dreadfully aghast, think my boots are weird or my proportions distorted or my bottom third stumpy or my fabric choices bizarre or my entire look costumey, I guess that answers why I didn’t do a poll before I retreated to the sewing room to do whatever I wanted. Creation, for me, is a deliciously solitary art and I’d rather be picked on for just the things you identifed than be one of those grave, self-serious women who says, in that absurdly conspiratorial tone, “oh, i simply can’t wear brown.” Once you realize how little people actually notice about you, how little you actually figure into most strangers’ lives, you enjoy a kind of freedom. You only care so much about how things look if you’re convinced people even notice you — a peculiar kind of vanity, I think. I care more about how I feel. You know what? Last Monday I felt great. And sure, some of those sour office ladies damned with their faint praise, with the “oh i could nevers” and the “that’s … interesting” but I consider the source. These are the people who dress on autopilot, who are so damned afraid of being noticed that they dial up the same modular bullshit costume every day. What’s so terribly awful about being different? And, for the record, I do have some pretty awesome legs. And the boots are Reaction, Kenneth Cole, bought on a whim at the end of last boot season. We are, the boots and me, in love. Mutually.

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Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 9:58 pm

And another thing (or two): One, I am wearing tights. The thing about soul-sucking fluorescents is they don’t reproduce reality in all its glory. Two, damn right I’ll wear a mini length. I shortened that dress to that length. I’ve got some knees I’m proud of, because between the two of em, they’ve been through three total joint replacements, as has their sister, my left hip. So I’ll be showing off my legs and knees for a long time yet. I may be too old for this dress, but I’m also too young to have had four joint replacements. These are not unrelated topics. I gotta haul this body around, it’s going to change on me, I’m going to decorate it however I want. In my 30 years, I’ve been different without deciding to be, and I’ve been stared at and called much worse than anything anyone here called me. I much prefer to compel the stares, to be different on my terms. So pardon that postscript and yes, let’s get back to the dresses. (Andrea again.)

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Kate C. November 20, 2007 at 9:59 pm

My rule when it comes to fashion “advice” is: support people in the way they want to be supported, not in the way you think they ought to be supported.I find if I look for something to admire, I can usually find it. It makes for a happier experience.Also, I too love to wear costumes (see you soon, Danika, and looking forward to it). Nothing but nothing improves my mood like my Bletchley Park Codebreaker’s outfit.

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Julie ZS November 20, 2007 at 10:14 pm

Andrea, You are now permanently on my list of fashion heroines. You Go Girl! I wish those who criticized or “didn’t hold back” or whatever you want to call it, could have an in person consultation from you to help them sew something up and actually wear their own personal version of brown. (when do we get to see a picture of the Bletchley Park Codebreaker’s outfit?!)

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kathi s November 21, 2007 at 12:09 am

Great post! It reminds me of when my (then) three year old niece dressed herself in all her favorite things, regardless of whether they “went” together. I made some stupid superior adult comment like “ooh, don’t you think the plain pink top would look better with those pants” and she drew herself up to her full 36 inches, gave me a haughty look and said very sternly “ownself”. I’ve never forgotten that lesson.

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Anonymous November 21, 2007 at 1:17 am

My only quibble with being quiet is that after four (FOUR) years of black hair, after I returned to reddish brown, I had several people (including my mother and my husband) tell me the black made me look dead/jaundiced. I would have preferred that information earlier. Of course I also responded to “darling, that skirt made you look a little blocky” with “yeah, it’d look better on you, damnit”. I’m rather immune to that sort of thing, since I have abslutely no confidence in my own ability to choose colours.

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Sewing Siren November 21, 2007 at 7:33 am

Whenever anyone starts a sentence with ” I’m not trying to hurt your feelings” or “No offence, but” just interupt them and say “Okay, don’t”. It really flusters them ;). If they say “That skirt makes you look fat”, say “Really? Are you sure it’s the skirt? Your opinion is very important to me.”And you can always reply to any of these little gems ” You are very opinionated, it makes you seem older”.

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Lydia November 21, 2007 at 8:03 am

Well, I’m miffed that Ms. Andrea still hasn’t mentioned where she got those awesome boots.=D–Lydia

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Anonymous November 21, 2007 at 8:10 am

Lydia: Macy’s! Andrea

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Rissa Roo November 21, 2007 at 9:38 am

You’re so pretty and fabulous! Great post.

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tea November 21, 2007 at 10:19 am

Oh man, I just fell in love with Andrea. Excellent three-part comment. If we worked in the same cubicle world, we would be best office friends.

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Anonymous November 21, 2007 at 11:45 am

dear erin,you are always amazing. and you are even more amazing when you are right. which you are. and you had the awe-inspiringly good judgement to invite that lovely and also amazing andrea to be your guest. so you become greater by the minute.(rail-jump to aesthetics. SCREEE! CRASH!!!) aesthetics are locally determined. my japanese former roommate, who was an industrial design major, showed me that in japan, mixing warm & cool red tones, or blue tones, or whatever, is completely normal in japan, and that if they wanted to look ‘western’ it was safest to go with black & white. a strong contrast like that is not a very common combination over there. (i am correctible here. my data come from one individual.)and – my sister, who has in-laws from india, told me that among her in-laws and their enormous community and extended family there is no such thing as ‘this color doesn’t look good on me’. there is only, ‘i like this color. i’m wearing it.’ or ‘i don’t really like that color. i’m not wearing it’. i’m not asserting that this is local to india. i know nothing about that. but what’s inside our skulls is local in the extreme.’spring’? ‘summer’? gimme a break. what’s-her-name made a boodle of money ‘coloring people the way she feels like they should be colored’. so what. wear what makes you happy. anyone who doesn’t like it can avert their eyes. or maybe open their minds, or grow an imagination or something.sincerely,thorn

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misscin November 21, 2007 at 12:23 pm

I’ve been reading this blog for so long, I feel like you live down the way! This whole thing is fabulous and a great lesson in HOW to say things. IF they need saying at all. Indeed, I’m not a fan of the whole “OMG it’s AWesome” myself. But. Be kind. Be appropriate. Be funny, but don’t say “bless your heart, honey, but you look kinda… (fill in the blank). “I grew up surrounded by that.I didn’t like it.And the dress, the design, it’s fabulous.

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Kate November 21, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Andrea, I loved your above comment (the longest one) so much that I am going to print it out and stick it on my wall. So there.

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Anonymous November 21, 2007 at 2:29 pm

thank you for being the perfect hostess and defending your guest from the comments made. andrea – you look perfect in your dress, it is lovely and sooo you. ruth

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mamafrog November 21, 2007 at 3:58 pm

Just a side comment here–Anonymous Ruth–I’m a Ruth too! So nice to meet another one in our small club!

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Jody November 21, 2007 at 6:34 pm

no offense, but I’d sure love to see more Secret Lives of Dresses.

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emily November 21, 2007 at 7:30 pm

I’m not the same Emily that posted at 12:32. I’m a different Emily with the exact same comment. I too, after reading this site, thought that it was time to brush the dust off Mom’s old machine and learn to sew. I tackled a Duro straight away, (I missed the part on the pattern envelope that said “zipper”) and sewed my very first project. It turned out pretty well for never having sewn before. And I had planned on having my husband take my picture in it at Palo DURO Canyon to send to Erin. After reading those snotty comments I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not going to let some wry seams stop me from trying, but I’m not sharing my successes (kind of) with anyone that doesn’t share either my last name or maiden name, or love of ballroom dancing.

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the nifty needler November 22, 2007 at 9:14 am

erin,i love you! you’re the best. i love all your entries, but esp. appreciate pics of what you’ve sewn or pics of you.bless you and happy thanksgiving.caroline beckenhauptlong island, ny :-)

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Saint Pud November 22, 2007 at 10:16 am

Andrea, I think you’re my hero!

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Anonymous November 23, 2007 at 6:06 pm

Me too with the Andrea love.Me thinks I may just love her as much as those fabulous boots do. Enjoying the wise words and especially the story about the little girl and her “ownself”. :)It’s taken me a good while to get my head around the concept of opinion vs fact and where it does or doesn’t matter which it is. I’ve come to the conclusion that it doen’t matter if I think someones outfit is wrong and even more that it doesn’t matter if it IS wrong in some technical fashion guideline way. Clothes are only worth being anything beyond protection against the elements/prying eyes if we enjoy them as more. I love peoples happy clothes. They absolutely brighten my day :)Clobo

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Miss Kitty November 23, 2007 at 6:34 pm

Awesome post, Erin. You said it PERFECTLY! Thank you so much. And that dress makes you look so slender…whether you were thinking about that when you made it, or not. :-)

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