What I Did Saturday Afternoon.

I'm sure none of you would be surprised that I spent my Saturday afternoon sewing. After all, that's what I'd spend all my free time doing, if I could. You might be surprised to learn that I was doing alterations (given how often I've loudly proclaimed how I hate to do alterations). However — this was for a very good cause. I spent Saturday afternoon taking up shoulder straps, putting in quick darts, and mending seams that had divorced themselves from zippers, all for The Glass Slipper Project, a Chicago nonprofit that connects gently used dresses, shoes, jewelry and accessories with girls who would otherwise not have a chance to go to their proms appropriately attired.

Yesterday, I was told, more than 500 girls came through the "boutique," held in a disused school in Cabrini. 126 dresses came through the "alterations department", where, when I arrived for my shift at noon, half a dozen cheerful women were seated behind machines in a giant metal cage. (When a fire alarm went off, none of us moved, and the Triangle Shirtwaist jokes came thick and fast …)

It was hard to decide what was more fun — sitting and joking with the other alterations volunteers, our laps full of satin and lace, or watching the girls try on their altered dresses and seeing their excitement and anticipation.

I really enjoyed talking with the other volunteers (and I'm not just saying that because I told them about this blog!). Two, Julie and Holly, run their own sewing business — Dame Couture, custom vintage-inspired bridal and party dresses, which is really worth checking out! They took off a whole Saturday, in the height of the bridal-planning season, to volunteer. Chris, one of the other volunteers, told me about a new sewing organization in Chicago, Haute Couture (although a cursory Google didn't turn it up, I'm sure I'll find it).

It was freeing to do alterations "commando-style" — since speed was of the essence, we didn't bother with undoing facings or seams. We just made it fit, double-stitched so the fixes would hold through a night of energetic dancing, and grabbed the next dress off the rack. "Who's got the blue thread?" "I need to do some darts, is there a machine free?" "How would you fix this?" "Is there any Fray-Chek?" "Can somebody slip-stitch this closed?" we would call, as Marilyn and Maureen, the fitters, flitted back and forth, pinning the girls, taking up hems, and double-checking the alterations. It was like Habitat for Humanity, only with dresses.

Unfortunately, I can't make next weekend's boutique (I'm out of town), but I'll definitely be back next year. There are similar organizations in most major cities — Google "prom donation [your city here]" and you'll track them down. You'll be glad you did.

An Un-Necessary Object

unnecessary object

Sometimes you see a dress and you know exactly why it's on sale. Like this one, from Necessary Objects, which is reduced to $33 at Nordstrom.com. I mean — look at how chunky it makes the model (the model!) look. And really, I think there are only two excuses for cowls: satin evening gowns and contests where the goal is to use as much fabric as possible. I would think that this was the latter, except that the skirt's so short. The model looks as if she would like to pull that cowl right over her head.

Oh, and did I mention that it's polyester? Yeah. I hope Nordstrom didn't take a big position in these babies.

In other news: I'm still trying to figure out how to post all the great book covers in a way that lets you vote on them without me having to do any counting. Also, I figured out how to do the Duro dress! I think. I have a muslin done, took me about an hour last night. It's not perfect (figuring out where to put the zipper is going to take a while) but it's getting there!

Ooooooh. Yellow!

ebay item 8413251369

Isn't this amazing? It's on offer from Traven7 on eBay, and it looks to be in magnificent condition — and a spectacular color. Bidding's at about $70 as I write this, and it's a wearable size ("wearable," of course, means "I could wear it") B36-38, W 29-30. Look at the collar, the buttons! This dress demands a party. In fact, the first thing this dress made me think of was saying "Hello, darling! What do you want to drink?"

I am very engaged with yellow, lately. I bought the yellow Luella bag from Target (note, link is to eBay auction as the bag is sold out) which fulfilled my main bag requirements (handy outside pockets for my Treo and my iPod). And it's washable, bonus! I have moved my yellow cardigan sweater to the top of the pile for easier retrieval. And I bought some insane yellow-mustard-brown-red abstract floral pique, which, if I get some sewing time tonight/tomorrow, I will post as a dress on Sunday or Monday.

Traven7 notes that this dress is from a Vogue Couturier pattern, so not only can I daydream about buying this one and throwing a party just to wear it, I can scheme about acquiring the original pattern, and making my own version (although the way I'm going now, if I made one, it would also be yellow).

I'm trying not to go overboard with the yellow, though, because just a couple of summers ago I felt this way about pure bubblegum pink, and, except for an iPod skin and a couple of sweaters, bubblegum pink and I don't really talk anymore. It's sad, really. We just grew apart, got too busy, or something. I should give her a call, see if she wants to go out for a drink sometime …

Breaking News: The Wearer of the Easter Parade Dress, Found!

Easter Parade Dress

Previously on A Dress A Day… noted blogger The Sartorialist took this lovely picture of a very stylish woman at the New York City Easter Parade. There was much speculation, here and elsewhere, about the exact provenance of her dress. Was is vintage? Was it reproduction? Was it a combination? The readers wanted to know!

Well, on today's exciting installment of A Dress A Day — the Easter Parade Dress Woman SPEAKS! Yes, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, where, any time Person A posts something that is even tangentially about Person B, a friend of Person B is bound to run across it and give Person B the heads-up. Sometimes, as in this case, it works for good. (Sometimes it works the other way, e.g. LiveJournal.)

The Easter Parade Dress Woman (EPDW for short, not that we'll ever have to use this again as I am about to reveal her name), Joie Gregory, kindly emailed to tell me that

"(the dress) is, in fact, a vintage late 50's Oleg Cassini couture, worn in honor of the late great designer for Jackie Kennedy. I altered nothing and isn't that green sensational? The green fabric is akin to a swimsuit material, and the rest is a heavy silk. I wore a voluminous petticoat so it would fall properly."

Joie went on to let me know that the New Look is her favorite time period, although she also has some 40s vintage, and (modestly) that's she's pleased that the dress has so many admirers. I'm pleased that A Dress A Day, your #1 news source for vintage dress speculation, was able to break this story (with the readers' help).

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Internet.

A not-so-bad wrap.

ebay item 6274486374

Have I posted this one before? I know I own it (now you can too, click on the image to go to the eBay auction, B38), but I don't know if I've posted it before, and frankly I'm much too tired to go back through more than 350 postings to find out. This is one of those times when I wish I had added keywords to all my posts, like, say, the pattern manufacturer and pattern number (and maybe ones like "rant" and "gratuitous mention of Jack Purcells").

Well. If I haven't written about this one before, I will now, and if I have, I'm a-goin' to say it again. I'm not entirely convinced that this dress isn't a bathrobe/negligee of some sort that someone at Vogue put in the wrong category, and then hoped no one would notice. I think it's really pretty, and keep looking at it with the idea of making it, but then I remember that what can wrap can also unwrap and that someone as clumsy and as prone to making sudden exaggerated gestures as I am should not really wear wrap dresses in public. But … I'm sure enough snaps would fix it. (The last time I made a wrap dress I actually ended up carrying a threaded needle and some extra snaps the first time I wore it, so certain was I that I would need them. I didn't, but I was glad I had them just in case.)

I would like to make the short version in some very thin, very limp cotton, perhaps pale yellow, and use wide grosgrain ribbon for the waist tie and narrower ribbon or bias binding in the same shade to finish the edges, instead of facings. Not sure whether I'd do the ribbon in contrast (robin's egg blue?) or a darker shade of yellow.

The one thing that signals "housedress" to me for this pattern is the pocket on the long version. If it were meant to be worn as an evening dress in that length, I don't think it would have a pocket, or if it did, such a plain one. It just doesn't feel right. This is a dress for entertaining at home, in the long version, or running out to the market for a couple of things, in the short version. Of course, now, running out to the market means sweatpants (::shudder::), a ratty ponytail, a baseball cap, and a t-shirt that proudly states your affiliation with a sports team or institute of higher learning. And flip-flops. And you know, I'd rather take my chances with the unwrapping wrap than leave the house in the above combo. Of course, considering the only thing that I own in the above list are the flip-flops, and since I only wear those when Absolutely Necessary, I suppose the chance of an Erin sweatpants sighting is pretty rare. Maybe if my house burned down and I had to borrow clothes from somebody. Now, Erin in a well-washed polka-dot skirt she made eight years ago, a polo shirt from Old Navy that is eligible to vote, and beat-up Jack Purcells? That sighting is so common the tabloids won't even take pictures of it anymore. The paparazzi just light more cigarettes and lie in wait for somebody else.

A combination you don't see every day.

ebay item 6274482967

And that combination would be "tasteful bondage-inspired detailed dress — sedate" which is how the seller of this Modes Royale pattern describes it in her eBay listing. In fact, googling the phrase "tasteful bondage-inspired" got no hits (and once I post this it will get one hit, making it a googlewhack).

Well, I suppose if you want something tasteful, yet bondage-inspired, this would be your top choice. Obviously, it's the jaunty pocket square that shouts "tasteful!" while the straps would be the "bondage-inspired" part.

If I were going to make this (which I'm NOT, because I can't imagine anything that would look more ludicrous on me than this, but if I WERE) it would be in bright red with shiny patent straps and a heart- or lipstick-print pocket square. Because, you know, I wouldn't want it to be OBVIOUS or anything. Perhaps if I could find some material printed with little handcuffs? That would be hysterical.

What shoes to wear with this? The new Gucci platform ankle-straps, of course (I can't believe you had to ask):
ebay item 6274482967

They're so beautiful — too bad I can't show proof that I'll be carried around on a palanquin, which I believe you have to furnish before you can buy a pair.


lace fabric
I just bought this fabric on eBay. Correction: I just bought SEVEN yards of this fabric on eBay. It's 60" wide! Including shipping from the UK, it was less than $30. Supposedly it is not as white-white as the picture, but is instead a deep cream color.

Now, there's every chance that whatever I make will make me look like Attack of the Tablecloth Bride, but in my head right now this looks cool and summery, not as obvious (and more flattering on me) than bright white. I'm seeing something like the sweet and simple bodice from the other day, with a 3/4 circle skirt. Not quite sure how I'll line it, or with what (probably batiste or thin habotai silk, I would think) but that will all get worked out eventually.

I think this kind of crochet-y lace is less formal and easier to wear than what we usually think of as Lace with a capital L — and much less scratchy!

We'll see what it looks like when it arrives. Seven yards!

Speaking of tablecloths, I think I'm going to try to do a photo tutorial on making a skirt from a round tablecloth. Since there's more natural light (and more elbow room) in most coal mines than there is in my sewing room, this will take a bit of planning.

One last reminder … if you're going to send me a book cover for the book cover contest, tomorrow's the last day to do it!

Somebody at Converse is reading this blog.

liberty Jack Purcells

I can hear the conversation in the meeting right now. "That Erin, over at Dress A Day — she *really* loves Jack Purcells."

"Yeah, that's right. She says she has a dozen pairs! But she buys them on eBay. We have to figure out a way to get her to buy them from us."

"Well, what else does she like?"

"Hmmm … let's look at the dossier: Georgette Heyer, Wired magazine, collars, Cadbury Mini Eggs …"

"Those are not exactly SHOE CONCEPTS, dude."

"Not even the Mini Eggs? Girls love chocolate and shoes, you know that."

"I'm going to pretend that didn't come out of your mouth. Do you want the Manolo to mock you?"

"Wait! She loves this stuff — "Liberty prints"? You heard of those?"

"You heard of Google?"

"Holy bingo! — this is it. Get those Liberty people on the phone!"

"But will she really spend $100 on a pair of sneakers? Won't she just wait for them to show up on eBay?"

"Watch and see, grasshopper. Watch and see."

Yeah, they have my number, all right. I don't know if I can spend $100 on these! But … LIBERTY! JACK PURCELLS! It's not my favorite Liberty print. It's not my favorite colorway. But LIBERTY JACK PURCELLS! Do you think this will work?

Dear Converse,

I wear a Men's size 6.5, and I will wear these everywhere and stop everyone who passes me, just like the Ancient Mariner, to tell them about LIBERTY JACK PURCELLS.

You know what I'm hinting at.

Your pal,


I'm also tempted by these, but I have to try them on first:

liberty Jack Purcells

But — LIBERTY JACK PURCELLS! They may get me yet.

An ID on the Easter Parade dress fabric?

ebay item 8305987417

Robin sent a link to this Alexander Henry fabric, which looks an awful lot like the fabric in that great Easter Parade dress Sartorialist posted the other day. Which means she made the whole thing, most likely, and didn't alter it. That makes the green fabric an even more interesting and exciting choice!

It is soooooo geeky that I find this fascinating, isn't it? This is the dress equivalent of "and it was 10.3.9, not 10.3.8!". Or something equally geeky. When I start obsessing over whether someone used seam binding or did a turned-up hem, that's when you can start writing "*cough*, Erin …" in the comments. Okay?