Another pattern from last Friday's haul

Vogue 167
I hope this is big enough that you can see the little buttons on the floral one on the right — aren't they adorable? Covered buttons. I used to hate and fear covered buttons, but then I read that if you got the fabric wet first (assuming it's a fabric that you CAN get wet, and I don't really sew or wear things that can't get wet — every once in a while it's been known to rain, right?) it makes everything go more smoothly. And I tried it out, and it is, in fact, true! Go figure.

Anyway, as dramatic as the dress on the left is, I know that collar would drive me insane within a minute or two. For one thing, it would constantly be catching my iPod earbud cords — something the original designer did not forsee, obviously. And you can't carry a shoulder bag with a dress like that, and every time I carry a short-strap bag like the one pictured I feel as if I should be hitting Benny Hill with it. Don't even get me started on clutch bags, or, as I like to call them, "Guaranteed to Be Lost" bags. I put it down to get a drink and five minutes later I have no idea where it is. I have to call my cell phone and hope I can make the bag ring. (If you hear an evening bag playing The Pixies, it's probably mine.) Making my husband hold it, while entertaining, is not really a long-term solution, either. You can't even really wear a coat over a dress with that kind of collar. It's not exactly practical.

Watch me end up making it anyway. What do you think — shantung? satin? Something really shiny that shows every spot — if you're going to make an impractical dress, might as well do it up right.

"to get the most out of the new world one can not be a frump"

As a woman approaches forty she has had her vision and knows whether or not her dream will come true. If her mind has kept pace with the years and is now a storehouse of inspiring thought, she is at the most interesting time of her life. The Earth and the Fullness thereof is hers if she wisely avails herself. Her wit, her poise, her vividness attract all. She radiates a certain fascination that is only partly sophisticated. Balzac said of her, "She has the art of making her attitude speak for her. Her silence is more dangerous than her speech."

This woman of middle age should sparkle with the brilliance of a glittering gem or she should glow with the appealing luster of a pearl. No ingenuous trappings of youth should tempt her, but she should reign in sumptuous gowns of metallic tissue or of rare brocades. Her gowns of velvet draped in long lines should be innocent of all adornment except the jewels which are worn as a definite part of the costume. She can by right wear those jewels that are not suited to young girls.

For her morning clothes, she will probably select the coat dress of woolen fabric or of dull-finished silk, dark in color and usually with matching accessories.

For afternoon, her clothes display an elegance in fabric and decoration that does not belong to the jeune fille. The woman of forty does not think in terms of prettiness but of mature charm. Of one such American woman it was said, "Her charm and beauty are such that, when she walks into a room, everybody is expectantly silent."

The woman of forty knows her own limitations, but she has knowledge of her good points as well. She characterizes her clothes with her own intellectual personality, a mental vividness, a sympathetic understanding, a sense of proportion, balnace, and judgment. "The women who are remembered," says one of the foremost cinema directors, "are seldom the younger ones. They are usually the women of maturity."

It is, of course, absurd for woment to lose interest in dress at any age. Certainly the women who have reached the "dangerous age" of forty should never, while mourning the departure of youth, become lackadaisical about their clothes. This is the age when women should be brimful of a great desire to do something worth while in order to meet the interesting people with which the world is teeming. And to get the most out of the new world one can not be a frump. One must keep up an interest in clothes and an appreciation of their power of Expression.

From Individuality and Clothes, by Margaret Story, 1930.

Orange? Check. Plaid? Check. Love? Check.

orange plaid 1930s dress

Look at this gorgeous set that Mary Beth sent to my attention. Isn't it amazing? The jacket comes off and there's a cute little low-backed gown under it. Picture it with a tight marcel wave and Fred Astaire attentively handing you a cocktail. I love, love, love the quilting at the hem and have resolved to do that kind of mock-trapunto work on a skirt soon, if not immediately.

It's at Vintage Martini, click on the image to visit the page listing. It's a B32, and it's $425, and it's missing a button, but I wish I could buy it just to look at it every once in a while, and imagine the Busby Berkley dance scene that would take place on the terrace while this dress was being worn on the balcony. I'm pretty sure it would involve giant mock champagne bottles and feathers, aren't you?

A Rose From Rose

Anthropologie Empress Dress
Okay, actually, they're peonies (which I like more than roses, anyway) but isn't this a nice example of the dress I'm currently obsessed with? Rose let me know about it.

I like especially (you can't see it in the teen-einsy picture) that it fastens with side buttons. It's a nice detail, although it means you can't fudge the fit the way you sometimes can with a zipper, or the buttons will pop right off.

There's another very similar one in a nice blue-greeny print, too.

Luckily, say they will start shipping again Dec 1. Guess who will be feverishing hitting "Refresh" on their page to order their Boho dress pattern? I have the most perfect art deco steel grey and blue print for it …


Vogue 1469
Isn't this adorable? I should have scanned the back for you, too, but I'm lazy. Suffice it to say that it's bloused in the most charming manner.

I haven't even checked the instructions for this one because I don't even want to know how horrible all that topstitching is going to be to sew, nor how weird and profanity-inducing the "hidden front closure" will be. (At the very least, I think, covered snaps.) Right now, I'm in the honeymoon stage with this pattern (and, in fact, with the other nineteen patterns I bought yesterday). I'm still daydreaming about how happy this pattern and I will be in our little cottage with the honeysuckle vines trailing over the front door. I'm still hoping to find the perfect light wool for this that will be wonderful to sew yet will be able to be thrown in the washing machine. Yeah, it's all roses and kittens here in New Patternland.

If pressed to say just what I love about this pattern, it would have to be the belt detail. The belt detail and the neckline. The belt detail, the neckline, and the sleeves … and the soft unpressed pleats of the skirt. Yeah. That's it. And I'm really into bodice shaping through panels lately. Aw, heck, I just love everything about it, including the fact that I paid $2 for it! Click on the image to see the whole front of the pattern envelope, which includes a photo of a model in a mushroom hat. Who is inexplicably wearing beige shoes with a pale-gray dress.

When Black Friday Comes …

Julie over at Almost Girl asked me to blog about Black Friday with the other fashion bloggers. (Of course, I may be one of the older bloggers, considering I got Steely Dan stuck in my head from the phrase "Black Friday," thus the subject line of this post.)

So. Black Friday. What's to say? I joked to Julie that "buying vintage is almost not consuming," and I do often feel caught in the middle between the "buy nothing!" people and the "OMG! Gotta be at Target at 4 a.m.!" people. Today I went out with Mary Beth, aka Vintage Crochet Girl and bought twenty vintage sewing patterns for $40 (watch for scans of them here soon, they were all incredible! Madame GrĂ©s!). Surprisingly, there was a line outside the tiny charming antique store in Park Ridge — it seems that this store is known for antique glass Christmas ornaments and only puts them out the day after Thanksgiving, every year. We had to put our names on a list to get inside, and once inside we had to push past the "holiday sweatshirt" crowd to get to the patterns and other non-Christmas stuff.

I do feel fairly guilty about how much clothing I buy, which, compared (price- and quantity-wise) to the rest of the world, is inordinate. Compared to what I think is the target-market expectations of fashion magazines, though, I'm the tightest of tightwads. I make my own clothes! I buy my shoes (NIB, thank you) on eBay! I buy (and am wearing today, much to Mary Beth's disappointment) jeans from the fat-boy department at Target (or, again, from eBay), t-shirts from American Apparel, sweaters from Nordstrom Rack. I find it painful, almost physically painful, to buy something full price, or, worse yet, buy something with a logo on it. (The most I can stand is the red tab on a pair of Levi's or the back label on a pair of Jack Purcell Converse sneakers. I finally gave up trying to take embroidered logos off things with my seam ripper — it never really works, and DAMN YOU RALPH LAUREN TO THE FIREY PITS OF HELL for ruining so many pretty things with that fucking polo player!) So I don't have either the self-righteous comfort of the "I only wear organic hemp and I have exactly two dresses" crowd nor the instant gratification of the women who can walk into Bergdorf's and monopolize a personal shopper for two hours.

And although you can argue that when buying vintage you are consuming fewer resources than when buying new, vintage can also drive a scarcity mentality — when everything you see is one-of-a-kind, the temptation to grab it before it gets away can be overwhelming. (I don't know how many outrageous dresses I have "encouraged" people to buy just by sighing "You'd never find anything like it again …")

So, anyway, that was a lot of rambling to say that yes, it's Black Friday, and I went shopping. The fact that I bought vintage patterns and not cheap electronics or luxury designer goods doesn't really matter. I have plenty of stuff and I still went and I bought more, and it made me really happy (and will continue to as I sew my way through these patterns!). I don't think it hurt anyone, at least except possibly for the next person to come in that store looking for patterns …

The Forceful, Energetic Woman

from Color and Line in Dress,by Laurene Hempstead, 1939.

The young woman who belongs to the more vigorous type should wear costumes that express her own forceful personality. A basic rule of costume design is that colors should never be more forceful than the physical personality of the wearer. This permits the woman of forceful, energetic character to wear definite, decided colors that are denied many women. Weak, pale colors may make her own coloring appear coarse, while forceful colors further vitalize her appearance. Distinctive and characterful, even bold, color contrasts are frequently advisable.
The quick, active, energetic movements of the forceful woman are at variance with costumes designed with many soft floating ends, fluttering details that appear untidy and bedraggled on the woman of quick, brisk movements. They give her an appearance of being agitated, of poor poise. Simple tailored lines shoudl characterize her costume, with details manipulated so that the entire costume moves with the wearer rather than fluttering out away from the figure. Freedom of movement, so essential to the grace of the woman of brisk, energetic action, should always be permitted by the costume.
Round lines, giving softer, more feminine contours, are hardly consistent with the personality of the woman of strength and vigor. Short, broken lines, destroying the harmony of her vigorous, clear-cut outlines, should never be recommended for the active, aggressive type of woman. Straight, unbroken lines, both in perpendicular and diagonal arrangement are usually becoming to the vigorous personality, emphasizing dignity and poise.
The person of vigorous, aggressive character may sometimes wish to appear more daintily feminine than her natural personality. She may, if she so wishes, wear costumes with softer details, slightly more feminine in aspect than her own personality. She shoudl not, however, make the mistake of wearing extremely dainty garments, which, by their contrast with her more vigorous personality, will give her a suggestion of masculinity.
The severely tailored costume should not have masculine details or accessories, but rather those with a youthful, boyish note. Only the young, fresh-looking woman can afford to strive for a masculine effect, either boyish or mannish. Usually the severely tailored costume is most pleasing when relieved by simple accessories that show feminine thought and imagination.
Designs of striking character, those employing definite, clear-cut outlines, decided contrasts in vivid colors, can be worn by the woman of forceful personality. Opaque materials that assume simple, clear-cut lines or sturdy fabrics that have a strong vigorous character readily lend themselves to costumes that enhance the personality of the vigorous, active woman.

I eviscerated the "fashion advice" section of the U. of Chicago library. I found it hilarious that none of the books available there were published after about 1940, which is when I guess was the last time that there was any pressure at all on U of C undergrads to look fashionable. Or perhaps about the time they discontinued their Home Economics degree (remind me to talk about that degree sometime, which was, in effect, a degree in management, intended for women who expected to run a household staff of at least five and often many more, spread across several locations). Anyway. I have a whole lot of books with advice of this sort, so look forward to more in the near-ish future. I do have them until at least January, unless they are recalled.

Oh, good lord.

corduroy dress

Because it's Thanksgiving and all, I was idly googling for "pilgrim collar" (as you do) and I ran across this turkey. Oh, my lord.

Now, as I read in Allure yesterday, the most threatening woman (to other women, when expressing interest in their partners, is this what science has come to? Really.) is one that has a high shoulders-to-hips ratio and a low waist-to-hip ratio, but this is not the way to achieve it. Not in corduroy, of all things. Maybe, maybe this dress would work in black satin, but in stripey corduroy? It just looks really, really odd.

Anyway, if you think this dress is exactly what you need to make your Thanksgiving complete (and you have to admit it probably wouldn't show gravy stains!), it's at Cosmic Cat Vintage Fun, and it's B36/W27; only $45!

Wow. Whoa. Whoo-Boy.

brown and gold gown
I know some of y'all are going to *hate* this dress, but you can leave me comments to that effect, you know how to hit the little button by now. I only wish I had the $250 this is going for (at Another Time Vintage Apparel), a twenty-eight-inch waist to fit into it, and a place to wear it. How I love watercolory oversize florals in odd colorways! And wouldn't this look amazing with a choker of oversize amber beads? With bronze shoes and bag, or deep mustard satin …

I have a piece of very similar fabric, but in deep wine red, that I am hoarding for the day I am asked to attend something for which I would I need a Very Important Dress. For really, if an event is not worth making a new dress for, is it even worth going at all?

Speaking of which, last night I dreamt about a party (a very fancy cocktail-y party) where you came with the fabric and pattern for your dress and spent the whole party chatting with people while you all sewed together, and then you put it on to leave. I have no idea what that means, but it was a very pleasant dream!

Midriff bands, midriff bands

orange paisley chiffon dress
Check out this dress from Dandelion Vintage, which features three of my current obsessions: orange, paisley, and a wide midriff band. If this dress weren't way too small for me (B32) it would be MINE, as it is only $30.

I don't know what it is about the midriff band, lately, but it's all I want to sew. I'm not even sure it's that flattering on me, frankly, but I don't care. This puts me firmly into the Diana Vreeland camp, I guess — people who are so in love with the IDEA of some particular fashiony thing that they don't give a damn how it actually looks. I do *hope* that it looks good, but when it comes down to a fight between my aesthetic theory and um, actual aesthetics, I'm afraid my (crackpot) theory will win out every time.

After much urging I have broken down and bought that "Trinny and Susannah book" about what you really, really shouldn't wear. (I bought it on for seventy-five cents, so it wasn't a huge investment.) I'm dreading reading it. I'm sure it will tell me to avoid full skirts and cardigans and bright loud fussy prints and suggest boring streamlined black dresses and low-waisted bootcut pants. Pants! I don't care if pants supposedly make me look better — I don't FEEL I look better in pants. I guess I shouldn't be worrying about what two (admittedly odd) British women might or might not suggest I might or might not wear until the book actually shows up, huh? Sufficient unto the the day and all that.

Don't mind me. I'm just going to be over here, thinking about orange paisley.