and the winner for "best use of border" is …

ebay item 8434970686

I'm beginning to suspect that some eBay sellers have cracked the secret of time travel and are just holding out on the poor physicists while they grab the good stuff — this would also explain why occasionally stuff goes missing RIGHT OUT OF MY CLOSET without my even touching it. When you have eliminated all possible explanations, as they say, you must turn to the impossible.

Anyway, Traven7 has this listed (and it's already past $150 with a couple days left in the auction, click on the image to go take a look) and isn't it one of the loveliest uses of a border you've ever seen? I am SO stealing this idea. I feel an actual, physical, visceral pleasure when I look at this dress, and my hands are itching to try this myself. I'm going to be looking at some patterns in a new way — how can I lay out the fabric so the border is on the vertical, and not the horizontal? I want to try this in contrast, rather than tone-on-tone, so that it really shouts. Also, doing this means you don't have to do a placket! Oh, glory.

So thanks are due, not only to Ruby who sent me the link, and to Traven7 for going back in time to get it and listing it, but also to whichever inspired designer turned an ordinary border design on its head, so to speak.

pretty and good

Klint dress

Henriette in Denmark sent me this lovely dress from Rigetta Klint (click on the image to visit the website. Warning, the site plays music; really nice ambient music, but music nonetheless).

It's based on the traditional dress of Zanzibar, the kanga. The dress can be wrapped and worn a number of different ways, and Klint says:

On the design side it is immediately obvious to extend the idea of the kanga and produce an item of multifunctional clothing, i.e., an article that can be used as a skirt, top or dress according to need, and it's just as obvious not to cut up the beautiful textile more than necessary.

The dresses are produced in Zanzibar, and, in addition, 100 kroner (About US$15) from the sale of each dress goes directly to the women's cooperative on Zanzibar; they are using it to build a store to sell children's clothing to the tourists who visit there.

I am always in favor of clothing manufactured by women who maintain control over their working conditions and who share in the profits of their labor–especially when the clothing is as lovely as this.

I can't figure out a price or sizing information (even though the site is actually in English!), but if you're interested you can email — if you do, leave a comment and let the rest of us know!

return of the scarves

ebay item 6286276688 McCalls 6732

All right, who went and seeded eBay with all these scarf-neck dresses? It's not going to work, you know — especially if you persist in not listing them in my size. This one is $4.75, and B39. I'm way too lazy to grade down from that size. You'll have to do better than that!

Isn't it cute, though? I think this is a perfect summer office dress. Maybe in voile, maybe in a lightweight silk. Adorable in cream and white seersucker; commanding in black handkerchief linen. I'd make the A-line skirt version (and get rid of that front seam), add pockets, and boom! I bet I could make three or four of these in short order, and wear them until they fell apart.

The seller does what I wish every pattern seller would do: she scans the back, so you can see the pattern pieces and the fabric requirements. Heaven.

She also has this listed:

simplicity 3757

A bit fancier (and still B39). I like this one too, although I'm pretty sure the one in the slim skirt is actually an android. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I blame June Cleaver.

pink stripey housedress

I blame June Cleaver. Or maybe 1950s advertising in general, with their perfect housewives doing laundry in freshly-done hair and high heels. Or perhaps sunspots. All I know is, somebody has to pay for putting out the idea that doing housework in a housedress is ludicrous. In fact, I think that if you have to do something messy, unrewarding, and unpleasant, you might as well do it in a loose, airy, comfortable cotton housedress, which has plenty of extra fabric to wipe your hands on, dries faster than a pair of old jeans, and still looks neat and tidy if you have to answer the door mid-task or run to the hardware store for another essential doohickey. And you won't feel like changing when the job is over and it's time to put your feet up and drink lemonade.

There are still a couple of places where you can buy old-fashioned housedresses, like the ads in the back of Parade magazine and the Vermont Country Store, but they tend to be, at best, half-polyester, skimpy, and with inadequate pockets, nothing like this adorable example. Click on the image (from Klassic Line Vintage Clothing and Costume) to see more pictures, so you can ooh and aah over the positioning of the stripes and the rickrack trim. It's B40/W30 and is $75 … I'm not recommending you spend $75 on a dress to do dishes in, but if you see one in a thrift store for a couple of bucks (and you ever have occasion to do a bit of light housework) you might consider picking one up and trying it out.

I bet you thought I forgot about the book contest AGAIN, didn't you?

The winning book!

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie 1950s Omnibus — 105 votes!

Submitted by P (of Petulant Feminine), who wins her choice of one of the books in the contest.

And the random winner of all those who voted is: kismet! I'll email you (as I cleverly asked for your email address with your entry). You also get the same prize — one of the books in the contest.

The grand totals were:

Technique of the Love Affair Technique of the Love Affair — 102 votes.

Mommy Dressing
Mommy Dressing — 64 votes.

Rosie Dunne
Rosie Dunne — 38 votes.
Cinnamon Peeler The Cinnamon Peeler — 33 votes.

As you can see, it was a very close thing between Technique of the Love Affair and the Agatha Christie Omnibus. But murder will out.

(Some links, just in case you're late to the party: The nomination entry. The voting entry.)

questioning assumptions

little brown dress

Lisa sent me a link to The Brown Dress Project, which I found very interesting. Alex Martin, an artist/dancer/mother in Seattle, made a brown denim dress that she has been wearing every day for nearly a year.

Her artist's statement says that the project is "one small, personal attempt to confront consumerism by refusing to change my dress for 365 days." And, in her FAQ, she says:

But on a feminist note, let's stop agreeing that the best way for women (in particular) to "express themselves" is by purchasing new wardrobe items and putting together daily outfits.

Whoa! When did I miss the memo that the best way for women to express themselves is through their outfits? Because, really, I should have been on the distribution list for that one, right? You'd think I'd be right up near the top! Dress is ONE way for women to express themselves, certainly, but I feel you'd be hard pressed to find consensus that it's the BEST way. Even *I* don't believe that and I write a blog about dresses.

It's confusing to me that an artist who has spent a year living a project that involves clothing (in other words, expressing herself through dress) could make a statement like that. Perhaps the key word in her statement is supposed to be "purchasing", but, if so, it could have been clearer. And what's with the "feminist note"? I am proud to call myself a feminist, as I believe in equal opportunities for women and men. Last time I checked, feminism didn't have a dress code, and, in fact, now that we're on the subject, I am fed up with people who claim that women who enjoy wearing dresses can't be "real feminists". Yes, dresses are traditionally feminine, but really, part of being a feminist, in my opinion, is finally internalizing that "feminine" does not equal "bad" or "weak" or "unworthy."

Elsewhere, in her blog, Ms. Martin says:

Since I am continuously engaging in conversations about my attire this year, I have become really sensitized to our cultural slant towards giving "compliments" on each others' daily outfit. "Oh, I just love your (fill in the blank – bag, hair, shoes, socks, sweater, dress, earrings, jacket, bracelet, hat, scarf)" – and tragically often, this is the intro to a conversation about where the item in question was purchased, a perfect segue back into our place as consumers in this economy. These conversations are not out-and-out evil, but I do think they are a symptom of the insidious fashion culture that keep us, and here I mean ESPECIALLY girls/women/ladies, so ridiculously busy consuming. waxing, accessorizing, and beautifying to perfect our wardrobes and fashion alignments that we can't possibly find the time to accomplish anything more revolutionary or important.

The scare quotes around "compliments" are odd — does she think such remarks are insincere? Not actually compliments? I just don't get it. I think she's cavalierly dismissing the communal, aesthetic, human pleasure of creating something beautiful and finding it appreciated. What artist doesn't want to be asked about their process of creation? If we consider that we all have the daily opportunity to create sartorial art (even if we don't always take it), why begrudge us a few simple responses?

As for dressing and accessorizing interfering with "real" accomplishment — this is a strawman argument, I'm afraid. When I think of the women I know who are interested in clothes, they're not people whose accomplishments tend to the lighter end of the scale. They're not bubbleheaded dilettantes brainwashed by the glossy magazines, unable to lift anything heavier than a charge card; they're writers (novelists, journalists), they work in public policy, they are doctors and lawyers and artists and mothers; they run their own businesses and they work for causes they believe in. (And I have to say that I don't see male activists calling each other out for being under the sway of the consumerist sports industry.) Sure, there are things in life more important than clothes, but to say that an interest in clothes is irreconcilable with achievement is both ridiculous and wrong.

The Brown Dress project is interesting (although I have to say I'm more intrigued with Martin's nebulous plan to spend next year wearing only things she's made herself) but I feel the artist's assumptions as to what are valid and invalid ways to express oneself through clothing need to be questioned as strenuously as she herself is questioning consumerist culture.

Ms. Martin is right to have problems with unbridled consumerism; I do myself. But a blanket condemnation of taking pleasure in one's appearance does nothing to further anti-consumerist agendas–if anything, it sets them back. She's painting with too broad a brush. People who feel fast food is soul-killing and planet-damaging don't say "don't eat"; people opposed to throwaway fashion and consumerist culture shouldn't say "don't buy clothes." The appropriate, more nuanced tack would be to discuss how to fully enjoy what you wear, where it came from, the story behind it; a kind of slow food movement for clothing, but one that allows for joy and creativity and yes, even has room for fashion.

It wasn't the pattern's fault, really!

Butterick 7130
Here's the pattern for the abject failure dress of the other day; see — it was the fabric's fault (or rather, since cotton poplin is not yet known to have either consciousness or agency, my fault). The pattern, Butterick 7130, is blameless. Innocent of any wrongdoing, and without stain. Okay, with a little stain–the pattern's pretty beat up.

I have to admit that I approached this pattern with considerable trepidation, when I first went to make it up. It looked a bit ambitious; I was daunted by the place where the bodice meets the waistband.

However, it couldn't have been easier. You pull the gathers, you snip a bit to a corner, turn under the edge of the waistband, and topstitch it over the gathers! Easy-peasy! I only ripped it out once, and that was because the tension in my machine was wonky and I didn't like the way the topstitching looked.

The whole thing, in fact, went together nicely. Since I am shorter from shoulder to waist than the patterns think I should be, I always shorten bodices. I find the easiest way to do this (and a reason why I love kimono or otherwise non-set-in sleeves) is to sew the shoulder seam deeper — with a wider seam allowance, tapering off at about the bicep of the sleeve. I bet there's a better way to do it, but not a lazier way, since this is a fix you can do even if you forget and have to do it after the facings are already in. (Not that I would know this from constant, repeated trials, or anything. Oh, no.) This also has the benefit of making a deep vee neckline less "where's a safety pin?" deep.

I always meant to make this dress in a dull black silk, maybe twill or something with a little heft to it, with bloody-maroon topstitching and deep garnet buttons, so red that in certain lights they would look black. It would be a real black-widow dress, for sure. Nobody'd mess with you while you were wearing a dress like that. A dress like that makes a slightly raised eyebrow have the force of a right hook. Of course, sewing with black fabric bores me to tears and gives me the headache (I can't tell you how many half-finished black garments I have hanging around in UFO limbo), so I just keep making non-weaponized dresses that don't have the power to make the insolent quail in fear. More's the pity.