This is the process.

Bottega Veneta Spring 06 dress

1. Fashion magazine arrives.
2. Dress #1 catches eye.
3. Internet search commences.
4. Collection found.
5. Hey, why'd they spend a kajillion dollars advertising THAT dress when THIS one (dress #2) is so much nicer?
6. Post dress #2.

This dress is wonderful — look at how it's cut to take advantage of the stripes. You don't see much of that anymore. And it's from Bottega Veneta, which I've never really paid much attention to, before. (I think their handbags are too fussy.)

For those of you who are curious, this was dress #1:
Bottega Veneta Spring 06 dress
The top dress is so much more striking, isn't it? I liked the general lines of this one, but not the nipple action (I can't think of anyone, personally, who goes out shopping for dresses with the idea "my nipples must be CLEARLY VISIBLE at all times"). Nor did I like the ruffles, which, when mixed with nipples, give that sought-after "trampy milkmaid" look. But hey, there was a midriff band!

I expect to repeat this process several more times this month. I haven't read all the February issues yet.

What I Didn't Buy in Japan

ebay item 6245813093

I had absolutely zero chance to buy fabric in Japan, which was slightly demoralizing. However … eBay to the rescue! It seems as if there are lots and lots of sellers of kimono silk on eBay. This gorgeous piece is 184 inches long, 14 inches wide, and selling for $15 (plus shipping from Japan, which seems to be an improbably low $1.50). There's tons more — silks, cottons, synthetics, and even wools! Entirely new vistas of fabric craziness have opened before me.

What you could do with something not even fifteen inches wide is an exercise left to the reader. Feel free to answer in comments, and please show your work.

You Totally Thought I Was Kidding About Ebay Australia, Didn't You?

ebay item 6242983433
I probably wouldn't be as excited about this pattern if it weren't in French. Now that's a language that has an excellent PR department! I also like the complete insouciance of this pattern. The woman in this dress will take a break from cursing at you like a sailor to put on another coat of red lipstick. The woman in this dress can make a three-course meal in ten minutes from ingredients already in her refrigerator. The woman in this dress never lacks for conversation, and can make the most stolid person in the room light up like the Eiffel Tower on New Year's Eve. The woman in this dress will wear it in the morning with a bandana and flat canvas shoes to walk the dog, and twelve hours later with pearls and heels and a dollop of perfume to the theatre (she never goes to the 'theater', only the 'theatre'). The woman in this dress is conducting three serious flirtations simultaneously, and each of her flirt-ees wants to kill the other two men, messily.

I checked — this seller will ship internationally, and, well, the exchange rate is in your favor. Might want to add eBay Australia to your list of places to check for patterns. Not a lot there, but what's there is plenty cheap.

Japan, Schmapan

simplicity 3556

Yeah, I'm still in Japan and I actually took a picture of a dress in a shop window last night, but I'm worried that being here has corroded my visual sense and that it's not actually a great dress, but instead is just A DRESS, and not the inevitable combo of military-style jacket, knee-length skirt, and knee boots that seems to be the uniform-inspired uniform of the younger women on the train and the street. I can't tell by the women I see in the offices, because they're all (with one exception so far) receptionists and have an actual uniform, not just something that looks like a uniform. Anyway. What I really wanted to say was (courtesy Mary Beth) THERE ARE A THOUSAND NEW PATTERNS at Vintage Martini! Yes, let a thousand projects bloom. Or maybe they're the equivalent of a thousand paper cranes? Whatever. This one above is the first one that caught my eye. Yep, square neck, cute little sleeves, full skirt: it might as well have "Reserved for Erin" on a post-it on the back. But then I saw this one:

Weigel's 1864

I've never seen this brand before! It's Australian! (New thing to search for, huh?) And I love that yoke …
But then, there was this:

Vogue 794

Game over. Look at that! I don't think I'm going to buy it, because I'm not sure I could make it, but man oh man, is it going on my "life list" of patterns I've seen.
Now I have to go put on my uniform, I mean my suit, for my meetings today. But I'll be thinking about this dress.

Harajuku Sunday

smart clothing store

Sorry, no pics of the wonderful amazing Harajuku kids in their astounding outfits, you can get plenty of those on Google–all the westerners taking pictures of them like they were zoo animals (that phrase always makes me think of the "Zoo Animals on Wheels" episode of genius Chris Elliott's Get a Life) kinda made me feel oogy. I mostly ended up taking pictures of incongruous signs, anyway. Like this one. What I wouldn't give for a REALLY smart clothing store! I'd want it to be smart both ways — in the 1950s sense of "well-tailored, appropriate, elegant" and the modern sense of "adaptable, technologically advanced": my "smart clothing store" would make me a 1950s day dress from a tabletop fab (for 'fabrication', but also 'fabulous') machine, adjusted to my exact measurements, in fabric worked up from my rough sketch. It would be dirt-repelling, have built-in ubiquitous computing (an off-the-cuff email would be literally OFF THE CUFF), and tell me the time and temp in eight languages. Plus the collar would morph into iPod headphones.

There's nothing like Japan to make you want the future, NOW. It feels so much closer here, like you'd just turn a corner and all of a sudden you'd see Cory Doctorow and William Gibson sitting at a sidewalk cafe table, being served tea by robots. You'd see Harrison Ford chasing a couple of replicants while a "take us to your leader" ship lands down the block. Utopia, dystopia, I don't care. Just hit fast-forward for me, 'kay?

One funny thing I will report to you: while waiting for our new glasses (yes, in Tokyo you can buy new glasses in a hour, start to finish, for $75 — my new ones are ORANGE and they ROCK) my co-worker marvelled that women here dress up in a "skirt and hose to just wander around on a Sunday …" here he trailed off, laughing, as he had just noticed my pale pink wool skirt and pink fishnet tights (which I wore with a yellow tee and teal cardigan sweater, paisley belt, and flat loafers).

Oh, and for all of you that asked, here's the scary mannequin from Shanghai. Don't think about it coming to life, or you won't sleep tonight:
scary mannequin
Although, I guess, looking at it again, the most it would do is say something scathingly catty, turn on her heel, and walk away. And then come back and kill you later.

UFO alert

ebay item 8305987417
No, no flashing lights or little green men — see that dress there, on the right? The one with the interesting neckline? That's a UFO. An "unfinished object". I was clicking through the Blue Gardenia site looking for a suit/skirt pattern that Madelene sent me (thanks — it's REALLY cute!) and was arrested by this image. Why? Because it's hanging in my sewing room (okay, the rod of the disused shower in the bathroom NEXT to my sewing room) waiting patiently for me to finish the skirt. I didn't have enough fabric for the pattern's actual skirt, and the Frankenstein solution I found was not a good one, so I need to take the (shambling, bolt-necked, fearsome and unloved) skirt off and try again, and I don't wanna! The bodice is all done, and really cute, and the fabric is this great atomic print vintage rayon, a warm grey with all sorts of wacky colorful dingbats and whizbangs all over it, and if I just spent an hour on it (granted, a HIGHLY UNPLEASANT hour) it would be DONE, and I could wear it. But I have not, and since I am in a hotel room in Tokyo (although I am NOT lounging around in transparent panties and sulky ennui, a la Scarlett Johansson's character in that movie that was referenced, oh, only about ten GAZILLION times in the Time Out Tokyo guidebook I brought) it isn't going to happen any time soon.

If you want to make your very own UFO of this pattern, click the image — you can buy it from The Blue Gardenia for $25. B38. Proceed at your own risk.

What are some of y'all's UFOs? Tell me, please, of dresses started in high school and still on the project list; of unfinished presents for in-laws you lost in divorces; for-the-want-of-a-button ten-minute fixes that have been languishing for years in the mending basket. C'mon, make me feel better about my shortcomings!

(I've been in Tokyo, like, three hours and spent most of that on a bus, being chatted up by a Hong Kong banker who told me I had "cat's shoulders" and who also took the liberty of adjusting them for me. Was too boggled to stop him. Have never undergone amateur chiropracty on a Japanese bus before. May never again. Hope to go eat soon. Unless I explode from the loop of "OMG I'm in TOKYO!!!" in my head!)

If you are on dialup, I'm SO SORRY

Because: Pictures!

So my morning meeting in Shanghai went well, and we had the afternoon off to sightsee. It was pouring rain — which is my second favorite kind of weather, after "lightly overcast and drizzling" because first of all, I hate glare, and secondly, as my mama always said, "You're not made of sugar, you won't melt." Rain clears out the streets and makes everything look even more picturesque, anyway. Every city is romantic in the rain, even Harlow New Town, so Shanghai is practically the LD-50 dose of romantic when it's raining.

Sadly, my traveling companions didn't feel the same way about the rain OR ecstatic at the prospect of fabric shopping, so they bailed to go work (or work out). I grabbed a cab to the Shanghai Dongjiadu Lu Fabric Market, where I promptly bought sixteen meters of fabric for about $40.

Here is the nice man who sold me the first four meters. (I apologize for my poor camera skillz. They are to be ph34r3d, but not because they are at all l337.)
Dongjiadu Lu Fabric Market

It looked like this, a nice brown, cafe-au-lait, and red print. The fabric has a nice hand, might be a cotton-silk blend, might be a cotton-rayon blend. I decided NOT to buy any silk charmeuse this time, as I hadn't sewn any of the silk I bought last September in Beijing, and because I didn't want to go home with a lot of chinoiserie that I wouldn't wear. I was looking strictly for cotton or silk/cotton prints, the wilder the better.

brown fabric
I see this turning into a late 1930s, early-1940s-ish dress with maybe a little collar, gathering under the bust, and a quarter-circle skirt, below-knee-length.

Then I passed the Stall of the Crazy Skirts, or maybe The Home of Shanghai DanceSport — not quite sure what was going on here but I was SORELY TEMPTED. Then I remembered just how little space there was in my luggage or my life for a two-tone black-and-red sequined flared and ruffled trumpet miniskirt. Sadly.

crazy skirts

Then I bought the next piece of fabric, a beautiful kind of deco-y blue print. (This picture is especially bad.) It's a heavy twill weave; I'm pretty sure it's silk or at least silk-cotton. They had it in three colorways (blue, cream, and green), but this reminded me of the first piece of Liberty Tana Lawn I ever bought, so I chose the blue. I think it wants to be a tailored 50s dress with welted hip pockets and a vee neck.

blue deco fabric

After this I realized that my careful plan to walk down every aisle in calm consideration had evaporated and that I had no idea AT ALL which aisles I'd been down already (okay, I recognized the stall of cartoon character bedding, and the stall of fake fur with arguing people, and the stall of the really cute green corduroy jacket when I saw them again) so I stopped trying to be systematic and just wandered. I found this in a stall of shirtings — it's 54 inches wide or so (all the rest were 45):

dot fabric
This one wants to be a hippie chick dress banded in brown. Or possibly that celery green. I think. For a while now every piece of fabric that I buy wants to be the hippie chick dress, but last summer everything wanted to be a circle skirt. Sometimes you just have to look at the fabric and say, sternly: "Listen, you know I love you, right? And that I want you to be happy? But I already have [insert astronomical number here] of that pattern made up — here's a nice stack of really pretty patterns. I'll leave you alone with them for a while and you can make up your mind, 'kay?"

Finally, I was either about ready to go, or ready to really splurge and buy a piece of double-faced cashmere, even though it weighs about a gazillion pounds and even though I would never have the strength of will to cut into it, when I saw this:

cherries fabric
It's a very low-quality voile, which means it's not heavy enough for a dress (unless I pin-tuck it, said the crazy woman), but hey! Cherries! Really, really cute cherries! I bought 3.8 meters of this — all that was left of the bolt. I had lost my will to do the haggling thing by that point; the whole "look mildly interested, shake head ruefully at price, prepare to walk away, wait for next offer, make lower counteroffer, respond with more head-shaking to new price, blah blah blah" seemed crazy for a difference of, at most, two or three dollars. I barely made an effort with this fabric, so I think this was more expensive than the silk twill!

I did spend a little more time there, mostly watching other westerners get measured for shirts and suits (I had brought a suit pattern on the off-chance that I'd have time to be fitted and have it made up, but decided I'd rather spend the money on fabric), but then the vendors all started packing up, in a foul mood because of the wet floors and leaky roof, so I left and walked a few more blocks in the POURING RAIN, enjoying myself immensely. Then I realized, hey, all the buildings on this particular street are completely burnt out, roofless, and uninhabited (and that would be the BEST CASE SCENARIO) and all the folks here are staring bemusedly at the western woman in the bright pink raincoat and orange tights, so maybe I should get a cab. So I did.

I also took a picture of The World's Scariest Mannequin, which must have been purchased at the fire sale of the Nazi Uniform Supply Company, but I didn't upload it. Maybe later if you're all very very good.

It's 5 a.m. here and I have been up for an hour–topped myself up on sleep yesterday and so the needle pointed to full a couple hours early–and thus you all suffer. Next entry will probably be me, live from Budokan, I mean Tokyo.


ebay item 8249892249

I've never really been motivated to knit before, but this may change my mind — wow, what a dress! Of course, you can't see the skirt and the model looks just a bit as if she were planning a tri-state kill spree, but I'm sure that's not the fault of the dress. Maybe it's the fault of having to KNIT the dress. Hmm. I may have talked myself out of knitting again.

If you're still motivated, click on the link to see the eBay auction for this pattern book.

One of my many personal problems

Is that I really, really, don't like to go on a trip without having made a new dress. (I also don't like to go to a wedding unless I've made a new dress. I feel the opposite of Thoreau — instead of "beware of all enterprises that require new clothes," I feel "if it's not important enough for a new dress, why bother?")

Sadly, because of the pressures of work, I take off for Shanghai and Tokyo tomorrow without a new dress in my suitcase. It's more of a suit trip, anyway, but that doesn't make it any better. And, I know, I know, I should be ecstatic to be going with or without a new dress, but it would be BETTER with a new dress! Because everything is better with a new dress.

If I did miraculously get another day to make a new dress in, I think I'd want to make this one:

ebay item 6242482551

Only in a charcoal springy wool, for maximum packability. And I'd make the pocket welts contrasting, and maybe pipe the midriff of the dress in a contrasting fabric, too. Pale blue? That would be pretty.

Okay, must go prep for trip WITH CLOTHES I ALREADY ACTUALLY HAVE. Dammit.

Oh, and btw, click on the image to buy this pattern. It's cheap (starting bid $2.50) and cute and B36! I'm tempted to buy it myself, but I've sworn no new patterns until I sew that hippie chick dress.