The Secret Lives of Dresses, Vol. 4


black dress
I knew what I was up for when she walked in the shop. I mean, it's not like I harbored any delusions about what I'd end up doing — I'm not exactly a dress for picnics or being rowed about in a boat or walking hand in hand through the park, am I? I mean, I'm never going to have a puppy in MY lap, that's for sure. But when I saw her, her face tight and set and wearing too much powder to try to hide (unsuccessfully) that she'd been crying, I knew. I'm the kind of dress that women wear to make other people feel sorry, and some poor bastard was going to get the brunt of it, and me.

When she tried me on she gave a little shudder, like someone just walked over her grave. She was quick, and she was prepared, even in the dressing room. She had the right underclothes, the right shoes, both new. Earrings. She was going to be 100% certain of the effect I would have. She wasn't taking any chances.

Mme Robillard tried to talk her into an alteration, as she always does, just a little adjustment to the back seam, but the woman didn't even answer her. She just handed over her money — a lot of small bills.

She took me back to her apartment. Fourth floor, walkup. It was like a waiting room in a train station. You got the idea that nobody spent much time there, and the time they did spend was spent thinking of someplace else. There were a couple of boxes half-packed, a suitcase on the floor. She sat there in a straight chair for a long time, not really looking at anything. Staring off into space. Finally, when the light had nearly died, she got up. I heard her in the shower. She didn't sing.

When she put me on, she was ready. Perfume — really nice perfume, nicer than anything Mme Robillard's customers ever wore. Those earrings. The shoes were teetery, with spindly heels, but she was surefooted in them, like a cat. Little clutch bag, satin, with a diamanté clasp. Her hair was a mass of soft curls, one hanging just so over her brow. Her lipstick was just a shade darker than blood.

A taxi took us to the restaurant. She walked right in — the matre d' gave her a nod as she went straight to a table in the back. There was a man there; big surprise. He was a big man, but drawn. His hands were a little too bony, and the collar of his shirt was loose around his neck. His tie pin had a green stone that was too big to be real. "Hey, baby, what took you so long?" he said, with a smile. He didn't stand up.

She slid into the banquette. "I had things. To do."

"Better things than me?" He looked piqued. This obviously wasn't the kind of answer she usually gave.

He ordered without consulting her. A showoffy meal, heavy on the oysters Rockefeller and the beef tenderloin. He never had to order a drink; the waiters watched his glass like some guys watch a horse race — and they kept 'em coming. She drank club soda. He talked. He was going to do this, he was going to do that; there was a guy coming into town and when they got together big things were going to happen. She listened quietly. He didn't seem to expect her to comment.

He wanted baked Alaska for dessert. She had a cup of coffee. Just when he had taken his first bite, she spoke.

"I won't be seeing you any more, Jimmy."

"What? Baby, whaddya mean, you 'won't be seeing me anymore'?"

"I'm going, Jimmy. I got a job in P–I got a job. It doesn't matter where. I'm not doing this anymore."

"Doing what? Havin' nice dinners with me?"

"I'm not waiting for you anymore, Jimmy. I'm not waiting until some guy comes to town, some guy who's never gonna meet with you anyway, unless you're driving his car. I'm tired of the excuses, I'm tired of the just-give-me-another-month. I'm tired of this. I'm tired of you."

"Baby, look, I know it's been hard, I know it's been a long time –"

"It's not going to get any longer, Jimmy. I thought you were someone — I thought you were somebody else. I loved that somebody else, Jimmy, and he never even existed. I thought you were him, but I was just talking myself into it. I finally figured it out, though. If you were the guy I thought you were — well, there wouldn't have been any waiting, any 'been a long time'. That guy — he wouldn't have kept me just hanging around. He would have wanted — he would have wanted to be sure of me."

"Baby — " he was pushing his plate away. He pushed his chair back. The hovering waiters didn't know what to do, so they just kept hovering. His glass was still full. She had her clutch in her hand and she was up and a step away while he sat there, his mouth slack and his hands still resting on the table.

"Sorry, Jimmy. It's not your fault that you're not what I thought you were. Not what I hoped you were, not what I tried to make you out to be. So — goodbye."

He didn't follow her out of the restaurant, though I could feel her listening for his step. He didn't even call out. She walked out of the restaurant, didn't even hail a taxi. Just kept walking, giving him that one last chance. When a taxi pulled up–any woman wearing the shoes she was wearing surely wanted a taxi–well, I thought for sure she'd cry then, but she never did. Not in the taxi, not when she was back in her apartment, packing up the boxes. Not in bed before she went to sleep. I don't know if she cried the next day, because when it got light, she was gone. I was left hanging in the closet.

collared!


mccalls 4872
Why are collars so attractive? They're hardly functional. They tend to be a complete pain to get right. And yet I am drawn to them, inexorably.

This one is really cute, and in B38, and available on eBay for a BIN of $9.99. The seller has some other good patterns, I think, but her pictures are very fuzzy. This was the best of the lot. If you're charging ten bucks per, I think you ought to at least make sure the details are clear. Especially if it's a Vogue Special Design. But perhaps this is just a quirk of mine, to be filed under "Reasons Erin is way too picky to live."

I am going to another conference next month and I'm looking for new pattern candidates. Because, really, nothing calms my overall stress levels quicker than finding a new pattern and trying it out with new fabric two or three days before I have to wear it. Right? Right. I don't think this projects the necessary air of authority (unless I need to be taken as an authority on picnics and cold drinks), but it's damn cute.

First why, then how


Butterick 9163

I get a lot of questions about how to sew. How can you make a skirt, a dress, a blouse? Where can you learn, is there a book, a class, what sewing machine do you need, etc.

I answer these questions cheerfully and in excruciating detail, of course, but sometimes I think that people are asking the wrong question. Before you ask HOW to do anything, you should always ask WHY.

My answer to "why", I realized, is not JUST because I'm a raging control freak who needs to be personally responsible for everything I put on my body, either in terms of creation or collation, but also because I love the way it feels to sew.

That's right. Sewing feels good. It feels good in the same sensual, atavistic way that holding a just-bathed baby feels good, and it feels good in the same disembodied, intellectual way that writing a computer program feels good.

There's the way the fabric feels before you wash it, and the way it feels after, and the way it feels when you're smoothing it with your hands, and the way it feels when you're smoothing it with a hot iron. There's the aha! moment when you have finally placed all the pattern pieces on the yardage, with nothing left out and everything on grain and square as it should be. There's the satisfying feel of of the sharp scissors biting through the warp and weft threads, the feel of those threads as they snap between the blades. There's the feel of slipping the pins through the layers, and the feel of taking them out.

There's the feel of the muscle tension in your hands as you guide the material through the machine, and the vibration of the machine, and the deep humming sound, like a cave full of bees, and the slightly burnt smell of machine oil and fabric dust. There's the release as the last stitch ends, and the sudden heaviness as the fabric is no longer supported on the table. There's the iron-feel again, as you press the seams flat. There's the way the fabric changes drape as it turns from flat yardage into a shaped garment.

There's the feel of the seam ripper stumbling through undoing what you've just done — sometimes that can be a very satisfying, spiteful feeling, an "I'll show YOU who's boss! feeling — and the feeling when the half-made dress goes on over your head the first time, when you're in front of the mirror, deciding if you have made all the right choices of fabric and pattern and construction that make fabric and pattern and construction into an actual DRESS.

There's the feeling, even, of putting everything away, the patterns in their boxes and the scissors on their hooks, and the two-step of turning off and unplugging the iron (belt and suspenders, belt and suspenders), clicking off the light above the machine and the light on the machine, feeling the potential energy of all the yards of fabric and patterns yet unfolded as they wait their turns.

That's how sewing feels.

(This pattern is B36 and only $5 at More of Macojero's Sewing Patterns!)

Oh Schiap!


Vogue1264

I'm saying both "Oh Schiap!" as an expletive, as this pattern (at Fuzzie Lizzie) is too small for me (it's B32), and "Ohhhhhhh Schiap!" as a kind of half-uttered dazed moan because this is absolutely beautiful. Without peer. The kind of dress that makes you think that there must be something to the notion that designers don't think the same way you and I do.

It's hard to tell, but if you look closely you'll see that THERE'S NO WAIST SEAM. Seriously, the front and back are each all one piece (it looks like) with a kind of shaping insert on the sides. That's gotta be a bitch and a half to sew but … look at the results!

Not only is it too small for me, it's $80. But it's worth it. If it were my size I'd be on it like a shot. I'd make it in a heavy silk — tawny yellow, lion-colored, or maybe a deep cafe-au-lait, or perhaps a grass green. Or even the dusty peacock of the pattern illustration. Something unusual, to be sure, and, for once, not a print. Nothing to obscure the lines of THIS dress!

Thanks to Lisa for sending me the link!

Quick note: because of nagging on the part of somebody and a hope that it will help pay my overuse charges at my host, I've added Google Adsense ads. I promise not to just start randomly mentioning high-demand, high-end brands like Prada, Marc Jacobs, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, Coach, etc. just to garner those big-dollar keywords. Seriously. I don't even LIKE Coach now that they're all-brand, all the time. Logo bags SUCK. Nor will I mention other stupid logo brands like the ubiquitous Louis Vuitton. C'mon — if you are fifteen and all the rest of your clothes came from Delia's and Alloy, do you really think you're fooling anyone with that fake LV logo bag? Stop buying knock-offs (and start buying something age-appropriate). Sigh. See what happened? I was all happy, talking about Schiaparelli, and it turned into a these-kids-today rant. While I'm being cranky, can I complain about the ugly 70s-throwback shoes?
bad Alloy shoesThese are so ugly I won't even give them a full-size picture! I swear, my CCD teacher in fifth grade wore these. And so every time I see them I want to start belting out "On Eagle's Wings." It's a serious problem! I can't reach those high notes anymore! Good thing there are still shoes like this (which not quite so incidentally would look WONDERFUL with this Schiaparelli dress:

franco sartoNow THERE'S a shoe that deserves a full-size picture. (They're really cheap at Gotham City Online. Go ahead, click!)

This one is for somebody named Bambi


ebay item 8407053274

Check out this great dress on eBay, link courtesy Robin … not sure what that print is? Want a closeup?

ebay item 8407053274

Yes, that's right! It's a deer print. Thank god it's a leeetle too small for me (B36/W25) although I might be tempted to buy it just to have it around. I would wear it with all camouflage accessories, NATURALLY.

If it's just right for you (and if your name actually IS Bambi you HAVE to buy this, seriously, I will take up a PayPal collection just to help you buy this) click on the image to check the eBay listing.

What are some other onomastically appropriate prints? Obviously, Robin should have little red-breasted birds (or Batman's young "ward") on her dresses. I should have shamrocks or "green clovers, blue diamonds, orange stars, pink hearts, and yellow moons," right? What about you? What's your name print?

Do you know what day it is?


new look 6569

It's Leg Liberation Day. Today is day where I begin wearing skirts every day. I mean, I wear skirts most of the time, but after about mid-April, or as soon as I can see my way clear to a few weeks of sixty-degree temperatures, the pants all disappear (the few pairs that I did wear) and it's nothing but skirts from now until late September or even early October (depending on the tights sitch).

This is a new skirt pattern I'm going to try soon — I like the contour waistband, it's very wearable and easily adjustable for those who like their skirts to ride higher or lower — and I'm looking forward to it immensely. I have all sorts of fabric ideas for this pattern … too many even to list!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go dig up all my peds, too, because Leg Liberation Day is also Jack Purcells Day (Observed), where I start wearing all my pairs of Jack Purcell sneakers again with the now-bare legs …