Five Somewhat Unjustifiable Fashion Rules of Mine

Here are five fashion rules I will go to my grave promulgating:

  • You may wear watches made by WATCH COMPANIES ONLY. That means made by a company that primarily makes watches, or at least jewelry. Licensed watches are BAD, I don't care how fancy they are. So this means that, to me, a Timex watch is better than a Chanel one. I am particularly fond of Swatch and Hamilton, and these Frank Gehry watches for Fossil. Cartier is okay, I GUESS.
    (That part about Cartier — you knew it was sarcasm, right? Good.)
  • Gehry_fossil

  • Ferragamo pumpAny metal parts on a shoe, belt, or handbag should be completely and utterly without a logo. Yes, I mean Ferragamo and Gucci, too. I'm not a fan of the overt leather or fabric logo bags, either, but I understand some people are. If you have to wear a logo bag, it goes without saying that it must be genuine (not so much for the intellectual property issues — unlogo-ed style "homages" are fine, in my opinion — but because of the human misery that goes into their production and transport. Funnily enough, I find that people who say they like the "style" of a bag somehow aren't as interested in the knockoff without that logo … ).
  • incredibly tacky prom dressIf you tug on an item more than once while getting ready to go out, you're not allowed to leave the house in it. Life's too short to wear something uncomfortable or ill-fitting. See this dress? Not only is it so tacky that Elmer's wants it for a new glue, you couldn't walk a step without adjusting it. If you were lucky enough to have a chance to adjust it before the inevitable "wardrobe malfunction." Definitely can't leave the house in this one.
  • If you chose to wear the shoes, you're not allowed to complain about them. If masked bandits broke into your home and forced you into those 4-inch stilettos at gunpoint, fine, bitch away. If you're going to suffer for your shoes, suffer in silence. Me and my two-and-a-half inchers don't want to hear about it. I also don't want to hear "they'll be fine once I break them in!" when it's obvious that you aren't breaking in the shoes, the shoes are breaking YOU in. That's just Shoe Stockholm Syndrome. [Image unavailable.]
  • Dapper DanIf it looks like it something that normally has a function, it should function. This means, much like a Dapper Dan toy, all buttons button, all snaps snap, all zippers must zip and all ties must tie. Want something with corset lacing? Why not have it actually lace? I also prefer that buckles actually buckle, but understand and accept the long tradition of decorative buckles.

Aren't you glad my commission as Fashion Admiral hasn't yet come through?

I don't really have any Fashion Week content today, except that I inadvertently walked by Bryant Park yesterday. There were a lot of big white tents. Whoot! I promise, Fashion Week content tomorrow.

The Hippy Chick Dress. Finally.

Hotpatterns Hippy Chick Dress
I finally finished the damn thing — the Hotpatterns dress, that is.

I had *exactly* enough of the red flower material for the yoke — it's Liberty, of course, from a piece I bought in London years ago. (I made a blouse out of the rest and hardly ever wore it, because I don't wear blouses. And then I tore the blouse. Arrgh.) I found it while digging through my Giant Bucket O' Scraps for something else, held my breath and yes! There was enough. The main body of the dress is a remnant I bought for $3 at Vogue Fabrics a couple years ago. (I bought about eight yards of it, and I think I have enough for maybe one more dress.)

I'm planning on doing a write-up of the pattern on PatternReview, because, my god, the instructions made NO sense. I finally gave up trying to follow them and just put the dress together the way that seemed logical to me. (They were also misspelled. $20 for a pattern should buy me at least spell-check!) So if you are a beginning sewer and haven't put in several dozen flat sleeves or can't pull gathering in your sleep, don't try this at home. The pieces fit together great, though, so once you figure out the order, it does go pretty well. I only had to "sew with the iron" (that is, press the hell out of pieces to make them join up well) once or twice, and those were probably my errors, not those of the pattern.

I really think this pattern would work best with lightweight fabric that has at least a little stretch, which is what I will try next time, even though I found three other Liberty scraps that are dying to be put into service! I guess I could always make the main body in stretch and keep the yoke and waistband Liberty.

I'm a little unhappy with the neck–I have to look up that article in Threads about what to do with gappy v-necks; you can see in the picture that it doesn't lie as flat as I would like. And the midriff band is not completely even. But hey, it's done, it fits, I really need to find a heavy jet bead choker to go with it, and I'm wearing it tomorrow. And I'm sure that this will be construed in some jurisdictions as "permission to stalk", but if you happen to be in New York (where I will be on Tuesday–not for anything to do with Fashion Week, I hasten to add), and you see this dress on some random person, feel free to say "Hey, aren't you A Dress A Day?" Whereupon I will blush like a rouged radish and stammer a confused affirmative.

Here's a somewhat fuzzy closeup of the fabrics:

Hotpatterns Hippy Chick Dress

If I have time to hit Paron's while I'm in NYC (doubtful) maybe I'll grab some stretch lightweight black silk and see if I can resurrect the pink stretch silk camouflage print that I sacrificed to a failed project last year. I swear, the best part of this pattern is being able to use all the bits of fabric I've saved as too nice to throw away but too small to do anything with. (I don't quilt–rather, I don't quilt WELL.)

The State of the Fashion Union

So I got invited to blog as part of the Fashion Week Blog Carnival over at Almost Girl, and of course I said yes — who *doesn't* want to pontificate about fashion? And the first topic is supposed to be The State of the Fashion Union.

And then I thought — heck, what on earth do I know about the State of the Fashion Union? Sometimes I think it's pretty dire. The models get younger and thinner and shaped less and less like the average woman; the logos get bigger and bigger; the clothes barer and barer so that even daywear looks suitable only for the boudoir since it requires abandoning even the pretense of undergarments; the heels get higher and spindlier, making a ten-block walk more daunting than a marathon; the prices soar and yet there's a hundred-person waiting list for whatever the "it" bag or coat is.

Sometimes, I want to quote Elizabeth Hawes, and say "fashion is spinach," and I want to say to hell with it.

However, when talking about fashion, I insist on making the distinction between fashion and style. Fashion is of the now; style is perennial. Fashion is something you follow; style is something you forge. Fashion is about being part of the herd; in with the in-crowd; style is about one's own vision, about idiosyncracies and quirks. Stylish people often set fashions–in fact fashion designers often have incredibly narrow personal styles: look at The Lagerfeld, Elbaz, and Carolina Herrera and try to tell me they are fashionable rather than stylish!–and fashionable people may in fact have style, but one does not necessarily follow from the other.

In fact, even though fashion may be anemic, style is bigger and better than ever. People are more and more comfortable with the idea of a personal style, one that may or may not flirt with being fashionable, and are convinced that such a thing is within their grasp — even if they have to hire a "stylist" to get them there. (In my haughty opinion, a stylist is someone who should interrogate you to find out what you want to look like–REALLY want to look like, not just "I want to look good"–and help you find the look that is most YOU. I don't think a stylist is someone whose job is to make it easier for starlets to look like someone dragged them backwards through a hedge. A hedge filled with oversized sunglasses.)

To someone who is fashionable (or someone who has a crappy stylist), Fashion with a capital-F–the runway, Vogue, Chanel-Gaultier-Dior Fashion–is like a menu. Choose an appetizer (bag), main course (dress), and dessert (shoes), and gobble it down. Next day, do it all over again. To someone who is bricolage-ing a style, Fashion is the Greenmarket. You take a color here, a shape there, a heel height from someplace else, and you cook it all up together, along with stuff that's already in your pantry and cupboards — YOUR shade of lipstick, of course, or the bag shape you have always carried, or your trademark watch. And you eat off that for a long time. Capital-F Fashion is one big kaleidoscope of possibilities and inspiration, even if you never buy a single "designer" item. (I think I have *one* fashion-y possession — a green Cynthia Rowley handbag that I bought mainly because the pockets were perfectly sized for my Treo and iPod, and didn't have magnetic clasps–why on earth would I put something that is essentially a tiny hard drive near a magnet? But I digress.)

Some people's styles become set (La Vreeland and her rouge and her Balenciaga); some styles revolve around a theme (one Hepburn mannish, the other gamine; Chloe Sevigny always circling a kind of deliberate awkwardness); some evolve (Jackie Kennedy to Jackie O) but real style is always a projection of the wearer's personality, not the designer's. When I wear something, I want people's first reaction to be "That's so ERIN," not "That's so [insert designer name here]!" When Audrey wore Givenchy, it was because Givenchy was right for Audrey, not the other way around.

When a fashionable person sees a dress, or a bag, or a shoe, they tend to think in absolutes: "love it!" "hate it!" After long [over]exposure, love can become indifference (think Uggs, which were once fashionable but have never been stylish) or sometimes hate can become tolerance (high-waisted jeans are on the way back, mark my words!) but mostly it's black or white. Yes or No. In or Out. Fashionable or Unfashionable.

Now, when someone whose goal is not fashion, but style, sees a dress, her reaction is apt to be "I like this and this, but would change this, that, and the other." For instance, I saw this sweater in a magazine:

tommy sweater
I *love* polka dots. And I love short-sleeve cardigans. Adore. Am always looking for them (and I am totally offering a bounty of really good chocolate for people who track them down for me). But they have to be round-neck (which this one is) and have waist and sleeve bands (which this one does). However, I hate fake-button plackets that fasten with snaps, so this one is out. Gone. Can't countenance it. So I'm not plunking down money for it, even though you might think "two out of three ain't bad, plus POLKA DOTS!" But it would irk me so much I wouldn't ever wear it. (Goddamn you, Tommy Hilfiger! The number of things you have kept from being perfect by one tiny flaw–or usually, one big-ass logo!)

Now from all this ranting, it might seem that I am privileging style over fashion, which is not the case at all. Without fashion, I don't think there could be style, because there has to be interplay, tension, between what is being worn everywhere and what you are wearing. An allusion, a wink, a nod, at least. And being fashionable, truly fashionable, requires a kind of very complicated pattern-recognition and predictive ability, to choose which of the hundreds of possibilities, in what combination, will be the one absolutely au courant ensemble, and the will and the discipline (or the very, very good genes) to conform your shape to the shape that the clothes were built for. The stylish really only have to satisfy themselves, where the fashionable have to satisfy an ever-changing and always-judging audience. I would like to think that the fashionable get the same thrill from being fashionable that the stylish get in coming ever-closer to some Platonic ideal of how they OUGHT to look, but I don't really know.

That's my take. Fashion is both a sport for those who want to play it (but a sport that's becoming more and more difficult to play without performance-enhancing drugs) and a smorgasbord of possibilities for those who want to use it as a basis for improvisation. And, of course, something treated with complete indifference by a large majority of human beings. Always remember that!

More midriff! (Covered, of course.)

ebay item 6248331920

When something grabs my attention, I'm not easily shaken. This is essentially the same dress I posted a couple weeks ago — only with-set in sleeves and a couple of different skirts (and in a smaller size, so I can't go buy it the way I did the last one–egged on by Francis I might add).

If you can wear a bust 32, or grade it up, go for it. Look how cute the box-pleat skirt is!

I actually cut out the other dress (oh, hell, I'll repost the picture)ebay item 6242482551 in poplin in a color I call "old lady lavender". It's a color also called "orchid" or "that color Erin looks like death in." I figure it will make a decent muslin and I can always wear a black cardigan over it to keep the eeeevil away from my face. I'm thinking about putting black rickrack trim along the midriff seams and between the front and side (and back and side) pieces — what do y'all think?

I don't know why I bought it, other than my innate sense of perversity and the fact that it was $1/yd. I swear, put anything remotely wearable at $1/yd and I will buy ten yards of it. In fact, it doesn't even have to be remotely wearable; it just has to make me *think* it's remotely wearable, like the twenty yards of iridescent pink paillette trim I bought more than a year ago and still haven't done anything with. And the crazy knits that I never, ever sew … Oh, well. I suppose recognizing the problem is the first step toward solving it.

I am supposed to start blogging about NY Fashion Week today. I think that it will have to be tomorrow. Tune in then for a stunning exegesis of the entire Fashion Week phenomenon! Or not.

"You know you're somebody when you start getting press releases."

Tea-bag dress

Celestial Seasonings Tea commissioned Brett Cooper (he helped design the costumes for Priscilla: Queen of the Desert) to make a red teabag dress to "heighten awareness" of heart disease in women, and to get publicity for their largish donation ($100,000) to WomenHeart, a women's heart disease patients advocacy group. And not-so-incidentally, did you hear that drinking just TWO CUPS of black tea a day can lessen your risk of heart disease? What a coincidence!

I am all in favor of devoting time, money, and effort to fighting heart disease, considering it killed my grandmother and has a better-than-even chance of getting me, too (although considering the number of times I've joked about getting hit by a bus, any higher power with a sense of humor would take me out with the 49 Western).

It's a good thing this dress is for a good cause, though, because Cat Chow this man is not. In fact, it's godawful, and the woman looks as if she's mere seconds away from ripping that comically shrunken New Year's Eve party hat right off and cramming it in the designer's pie-hole. And then going out for a good cup of coffee, prophylactic antioxidants be damned.

Click on the image to see more about this dress than you ever needed to know, including a movie, closeups of the dress, and pictures of the (also teabaggy) shoes. (Don't tell The Manolo about the shoes, though. He might have the vapors and have to be revived with the salts of the smelling.)

This is the first time I've been sent a press release as a "Fashion Blogger," (ha!) and I have to say I'm flattered, nay, honored, to now be part of the Publicity Industrial Complex (as someone I used to know once put it). I can't imagine I'll get many more of them, though — how many publicists could be pushing something suitable for the rarefied topic matter of A Dress A Day?

Executive Summary: Heart Disease: boo! Tea: yay! Dress: eh! Press releases: no comment!

Once more, with feeling.

Clement Ribeiro dress

I hear you saying "isn't she tired of that dress yet?" and I answer, no, no I am not. Look at this one, will you? Indulge me once again? The fabric is not all that great — I'm not a huge fan of hand-painted silk, which is what this is. (Give me a nice machine-stamped geometric print every day, that's plenty wabi-sabi enough for me.) No, what I'm looking at is the front band, which seems to be cut in one! No, really, look at it closely and tell me where the seams are. It is probably seamed on at least one side of the waist (because that's where the zipper is) and maybe, maybe, the back of the neck. But that's it. The vee of the neck is part of the waist. Isn't that great? And so wasteful of fabric, which is probably why this dress, on sale, costs almost $700 at Net-a-porter. Oh well.

I wonder how you draft that, especially if it *doesn't* have a seam at the back of the neck. I bet you have to drape it. Hmmmm. I've never tried draping, but now I see new and even more alluring vistas of sewing foolhardiness ahead.

It's a Dress!

Caroline Nie's Duro dress
Dress A Day is pleased to present its first offspring — that is, the first dress I know of that was made specifically in reference to a post here. Isn't that a great dress? [Name removed by request] of Hong Kong saw the post on Duro Olowu and thought "I need me one of those!" and — boom! — she got one made. (The benefits of living in Hong Kong!)

Needless to say, I'm very proud. I'd be passing out pink bubblegum cigars if I could. And I *love* the dress! Look how nicely the zebra stripes are placed. And that blue is just perfect!

She thought the background of the picture was too messy, because it was taken in the workroom, but I think the books and fabric and other dresses in the background just add to the coolth of the entire undertaking.

Have you made or found a dress because of something you've read here? Send me pictures! I want pictures! I may have to add this to my iPod photo album. "Here's my son, and here's Mr. Dress a Day, and here's a dress someone made because they read my blog!"

Finally looked at the Golden Globes pictures

huh? who?

I don't know who this guy is, and I certainly don't want to tread on the toes of Go Fug Yourself, but really, what a jerk to drag that woman out of the house in her nightgown! She didn't even get to grab her robe. And to make her carry her Maltese like that, too! Poor dog!

It's a perfectly nice nightgown, but it's not an evening gown. Or even a "late afternoon" gown, considering when the Golden Globes are taped. If it weren't for the wide bands of "oh, I'm so sleeeeepy" lace, MAYBE I could see it as an evening gown. But those shoes? HAVE TO GO.

Seven things I [hate | love] about sewing

Seven Things I Hate About Sewing

  1. When I have exactly, and I mean exactly, one half-yard less fabric than I need to make the dress I want to make.
  2. Bad pattern instruction writing, so incomprehensible that it would make more sense if it read: "At this point, close your eyes and wish hard for the dress to be completed by the brownies. (Note: you will need a bowl of milk.)"
  3. Spending five hours on something (including visualization/hoping time) and having it turn out to be a very large and brightly colored dishrag.
  4. Knowing I have a [bodkin|bias-tape maker|pair of pinking shears|package of turquoise seam binding|etc.] somewhere, but not being able to find it when I need it.
  5. Making something that looks unexceptionable to the untrained eye but knowing that the stripes aren't matched exactly or that there's a bobble at the top of the zipper placket or that there's a ripple in the hem. *I* know. (Thankfully, I've mostly overcome the urge to Tell People About Garment's Blindingly Obvious Flaw when complimented on something.)
  6. Hemming.
  7. Mending. (Mending isn't sewing. You might as well ask a automotive engineer to fix your alternator. They probably can — they just don't WANT TO.)

Seven Things I Love About Sewing

  1. The meditative state that starts after the pattern is laid out and pinned, a state that lasts from cutting out pieces, through sewing and assembly, and often all the way until hemming. I solve a lot of problems unrelated to sewing when I have my hands on the machine and pins in my mouth.
  2. Running mentally through the possible matchups of available fabric and patterns left to be sewn means I am never at a loss for good daydreaming material when waiting in lines.
  3. Saying "This? Oh, I made it."
  4. Never, ever, ever, wearing the same dress as someone else at the party.
  5. Never being held hostage to a particular season's silhouette or color palette … or prices. Last time I spent $300 for a dress, I got married in it.
  6. Fabric stores, both online and brick-and-mortar. (Speaking of which, anyone have a good source for cheapish broderie anglaise? I'm thinking more eyelet for summer …)
  7. Clipping the last stitch and trying on the finished dress for the first time, doing that mental cackle and Hannibal-like muttering of "I love it when a plan comes together." (Somebody tell me I'm not the only one who has internalized that particular bad 80s catchphrase, please! I know I'm the only one who wants to say "so where's the man and the canal?" whenever someone says "That sounds like a plan!")

Secret Lives of Dresses, No. 2

plum velvet dress
She was alone at the hotel bar, and she was smoking, neither of which I think she'd ever done before. She didn't smoke alone, and she didn't sit at hotel bars. And she was drinking, too. Smoking without a cigarette holder, smoking the bar cigarettes and not her own, drinking straight gin and not martinis. Her silver minaudire was open in her lap, and she kept looking at the scrap of paper sticking out of it. It said "Ambassador Hotel, 7:30."

It was 7:35 now.

From where we were we could see the front entrance of the hotel, and she didn't take her eyes from it. Even so, I saw him first, and then I knew why we were there, alone.

Five strides, her heels striking hard on the floor. The drink in his face, followed by the glass smashing on the floor.

"Don't come home tonight," she said. He looked green. "I'm changing the locks. The lawyers will call you in the morning." A look at the floozy on his arm–definitely a floozy, in a lamé dress and a bad wave. "He doesn't have any money, you know. It's all mine. Bad luck for you."

The bartender had her bag and a sympathetic look. "That last drink was on the house," he said, and she almost smiled.

The driver was waiting. He steadfastly pretended she wasn't crying. "Home, ma'am?"

When we got home, the maid took me from her and I was brushed and aired, because I smelled terribly of smoke.