Another cautionary tale

ebay item 170014019059

This is a dress I made I-don't-know-how-many-years-ago, and actually didn't ever wear more than once. I was in a hurry to make something out of this length of gorgeous vintage linen that a friend gave me. (Her parents were clearing out their house to move and she gave me some lovely fabric that had been her mother's.) It wasn't a long length, if that makes any sense, and this was the first dress that fit it. (I think it's an old Calvin Klein Vogue pattern from the early 90s.)

Well, the dress fit the fabric, but it didn't fit me. Its shape and my shape don't get along so well. There are a lot of catty comments and rolled eyes when they get together. Sigh. Which reminds me that even if you are just longing to use some gorgeous fabric, it doesn't pay to jump at the first halfway semi-suitable project that comes along.

This poor dress has been in storage ever since, and it's finally time for it to get out and have a full and independent life, so I've listed it on eBay. (Click on the picture to go to the auction.)

Here's a closeup of the fabric — can't you see why I wanted to use it?

ebay item 170014019059

I hate to cut up a dress to make something other than another dress (or skirt, in a pinch) out of it. So, yes, I know this would make a lovely pillow/handbag/matched set of antimacassars, but I can't bring myself to do it. If you want to, more power to you!

Here's the back:

ebay item 170014019059

Hmm. It looks like I should have pressed this again before I took photos! Well, it is linen, after all — so call this 'truth in advertising': it will wrinkle!

Jane Tise pattern aka "best midriff ever"

Butterick 4682

Nora sent me this, under the subject line "one more midriff for you." I love the email I get from A Dress A Day readers; the subject line never reads "URGENT PROBLEM!!!" or "REPORT DUE TODAY." In fact, there's a remarkable lack of shout-case all around, for which I thank you.

Anyway — this dress, by Jane Tise for Butterick. Just as Nora suspected, I *adore* this midriff band. The shaping! Although I bet that point is hard to have come out exactly right. Better make it in a busy print so any bobbles aren't so obvious. I also like the pockets, and the collar. The sleeves … eh, not so much. But I have come to learn, with y'all's help, that my disdain for puffed sleeves (or, in fact, of anything but a smooth and unobtrusive shoulder line) is a personal and idiosyncratic quirk and not a general guideline for humankind, sort of like my extreme dislike of bananas. (The instantaneous and uncontrollable murderous rage I feel upon hearing someone pop their chewing gum, though? A universal constant.)

Had any of you heard of Jane Tise before? I hadn't. But a couple quick Googles turned up that she was one of the founders of Esprit, back in the day! And that Esprit was called The Plain Jane Dress Company first, which, while cute and having that fakey-homespun feel of the late sixties/early seventies, probably didn't have the marketing ooomph that "Esprit de Corp" had. Or the little inherent pun.

And speaking of marketing, how did I never notice the Butterick tagline "The Fashion One" on their patterns before? I am afraid it doesn't speak to me (of course, thirty years after the fact, what marketing catchphrase would?). It seems slightly off. "Which pattern company do you prefer?" "Oh, you know, Butterick — the fashion one." Because all the other pattern companies are strictly utilitarian, of course. Only coveralls and aprons to be found there, my friend!

(Did anyone notice that the shoes on the red-dress version are a lot like the black ones I posted yesterday? Oh, and for the person who wanted the style name, they're "Cloudey" by Steve Madden.)

Back to the pattern — this is up on eBay right now, but work fast, because the auction expires in less than 14 hours. Tick-tock!

We interrupt this dress blog to talk about shoes.

The only problem with the Duro dress is that none of my closetful of carefully-sought-after full-skirt-friendly round-toed kitten-heeled ankle-strap girlie pumps look right with it. I have a couple pairs with sturdier, stacked heels that look okay, but they're not very summery. What the Duro really needs is wedges. So I've been on a shoe hunt. I like ankle-straps (you can walk faster in ankle straps) and heels lower than 3 inches, which are surprisingly hard to find. And NO pointy toes!

The first ones I found were these, from Bandolino:

Bandolino Hopewell

They're a very nice orange and are very comfy. But they don't look good with the black Duro dresses I made, so I had to go and order these from Zappos:

Madden Cloudey

They were a little pricier than I like, but all the cheaper wedges were, I'm sad to say, fugly. And why on earth is every.single.manufacturer making those Louboutin knockoffs? They're really cute, and make you look like an adorable baby ostrich, but honestly, I think they're going to be dated faster than a beer-commercial catchphrase. Of course, while I was looking for those wedges, I stumbled across these, which I had to buy because they were only $23:

Madden Houstonn

I think they'll look okay with longer A-line skirts in the fall. Right? (I don't think I've ever gotten over my college-days Kinderwhore stage, since I immediately want to wear these with a ratty vintage dress and messy red lipstick. I think probably fun tights and A-line corduroy skirts would be more age-appropriate at this point.)

And lastly, I grabbed a pair like this, only in blue, because 1) it's LIBERTY FABRIC! and 2) I have a skirt that matches it. I have only worn them together once, but of course now I am plotting on how to get more of the blue Liberty (it's a pattern called "Mark") to make a dress that would go with them better than the skirt does. Yes, it's an unhealthy obsession …

Bandolino Linnea

(I'm linking to the only pair of these left online, in "Tomato" in a size 9 1/2).

What shoes would you wear with a Duro-style dress?

Luly Yang Butterfly Dress

Luly Yang butterfly fantasia dress

Miss Maya sent in this photo from Seattle. Holy butterflies, Batman! I have been thinking about this dress for a couple of days, trying to figure out if there would ever be a situation where I was called upon to represent a marabou-topped butterfly, and sadly, I can't think of any.

The only thing I came up with that was even close was checking if there was ever a butterfly-themed superhero who needed to attend a ball at Wayne Manor, but the DC Comics Encyclopedia let me down. No butterfly-themed superheroes (or villains). There's a Bumblebee, and a Blue Beetle, but no Butterfly. Okay, I admit it, butterflies aren't very tough, and I'm sure a butterfly hero's secret weakness would be GIANT LIGHT BULBS, or possibly small boys with nets, and if you brushed her wings she'd fall out of the sky, but still. You'd think that if there was this character, there'd be some kind of butterfly being.

This idea somehow really appeals to me, except I think that the monarch detailing and the marabou take it so far over the top that you'd need directions and a bus pass to get back. Now, if it lost the marabou (maybe a matte satin ruffle, instead, if you needed something at the top of the bust?) and was made in a heavy greeny-gray with tone-on-tone flocking and beading to look like a moth's wings, and not a butterfly's? That would be something. Maybe something Gypsy Moth would wear. Or Arthur.

NOTE: enough folks have emailed me about this dress that I have to make these disclaimers. I DID NOT MAKE THIS DRESS. More to the point, I CANNOT SELL YOU THIS DRESS. Try this site: Good luck!


Breakfast at Tiffany's Dress

Christie's is auctioning the "Breakfast at Tiffany's" dress. But this picture of it is the dumbest thing I've seen for some time. Why, for the love of all that's holy, would you shoehorn a random employee into this iconic dress, when you could simply pay a few bucks and license one of the official pictures from the movie, showing it in all its glory? Because here the damn thing looks like a dishrag.

Not to mention that often the people who buy these things are not fashion collectors (who want the dress as a Dress) but hagiographists who want something that touched a notable person. The idea of some entry-level employee wearing it impinges upon that aura, I would guess.

Not to mention (as Mary Beth, who sent me this link, pointed out) that shoving a real person into this dress increases the likelihood of accidental rips, tears, and stains, possibly lowering the value.

Feh. Some people have no sense.

Boneheaded move all around.

Manifesto: Dress

manifesto farm dress

Many thanks to Dottie who sent the Manifesto: site to me (I even don't mind their little opening animation — if you MUST do animation, a tiny movement is best and least likely to make me jump, scream, and drop the laptop). And yes, that is a colon there. It's part of their name. Hey, at least it wasn't an internal colon, like "Mani:festo". (Remember, only PEOPLE have internal colons.)

This is their "farm dress", and, although I really would prefer it with sleeves, I like the bands set on the bias. Am I going to "steal" that technique, now that I've been reminded of it? You bet.

Manifesto: also has a section of their site called "The World of Pants," which made me laugh and click — always a good sign. And the pants there were pretty darn cute (yes, I can't believe I'm saying this, either). Maybe I'm just a sucker for tuxedo piping.

dress stationery (note that's with an 'e')

rock scissor paper dahlia dress stationery

Isn't this adorable? Like all right-thinking people, I love notecards. LOVE them. I have an enormous box of them. (And I just bought some fifties-fabric themed ones from the V&A …) I probably spend more time deciding which ones to use than I do writing the actual notes.

I keep meaning to save my pennies and get some traditional name-across-the-top, letterpressed-not-laserjetted plain note cards, but in the meantime, I might just have to order a set of these, from Rock Scissors Paper.

They also have a lot of other dress-themed cards, including this one, which is my favorite:

rock scissor paper dahlia dress stationery

It must be the midriff band.

London Fabric Shopping Day Two

liberty tana lawn first prize

Well, I went to Liberty today, where I drove the salesclerks to distraction by wandering around in circles thumbing the names of fabrics into my Treo (to find them again, in case I wanted to buy them at some later date), and by looking at Every Single Bolt on the sale table and Every Single Cut on the remnant table, before buying three meters of First Prize. (The picture here is to an eBay auction, in case you want some for yourself.) I've often hesitated over the "Buy It Now" button on First Prize auctions before, but it's MUCH nicer in person. I am going to make (surprise!) a Duro dress with it. Dark red banding, I think.

After that I managed, smugly, to find the right bus to the V&A, and (not so smugly) to miss my stop (there's some kind of "How do you get to the Royal Albert Hall/Practice, practice, practice" joke to be made here, but I'm not the one to do it). Thankfully, after I beat my way back against the tide and made it there, my friend S. was still waiting, having not given up on the Hapless Yank, which is my preferred archetype when traveling abroad. We gorged ourselves on the fashion exhibition (there was a little tv documentary from the sixties on "swinging London/Carnaby Street fashion" and the thing that shocked me was that they were smoking! In the stores! How times have changed.) Then we ransacked the postcards and went and had a nice cold drink and a poke round Harvey Nichols to pay a polite call on the Marc by Marc Jacobs line (some VERY cute dresses).

S. kindly got me to the right Tube station and I rushed back for the last part of The Plan of the Day — roller skating. Yes, a city full of theatre and art and every kind of culture imaginable, and I chose … roller skating. It's a sickness. I found my train and managed to be asked for directions which I couldn't give, a favor I returned after I got out of the Kings Cross station and accosted two of what I thought were the most local-looking women around and asked them where York Way was. "We're tourists, dear," they explained patiently. (I didn't find out from where.)

Anyway, I bought directions and a pack of gum (the price of the directions being the pack of gum) at a newsagent's and was soon pointed the right way. I could hear the music pounding from a block away; always a good sign. I was frisked for weapons (I think they did this to everyone, not just people who looked American) and made it in without incident, where I got my rental skates. They were horrible wobbly things with the kind of speed-closures that cheap rollerblades have, so I asked politely if they had any "old fashioned lace-up skates" and lo, they did! I tipped mightily. They were total early-eighties throwback fake-hightop-sneaker skates but they could be laced tightly and their wobble was completely manageable.

The actual skating area was no bigger than what I could probably manage at home if I made my neighbors move their cars out of the garage (which come to think of it might be a pretty good idea if I sweep it out), and the floor was spotted with pieces of black tape which I think masked dents or rough places. I was looking mostly at the tape the first couple of times round until then all of a sudden I saw the boards of the floor. They must have been a cubit wide — I think they probably predated the invention of roller skates by quite a few years. That gave me pause (metaphorical, not literal, although there were plenty of people who felt that the skate floor was a perfectly appropriate place to pause). Sometimes you just don't understand how OLD the rest of the world is, when you come from a place where a house built in 1920 (or even 1950) can be the oldest in the neighborhood.

It was a good night for skating. The music was excellent, although what people responded to was funny — there was an exhilarating Amerie/Beyonce "1 Thing/Crazy In Love" mashup which fell upon a nearly empty floor, but Olivia Newton John's "Xanadu" had all three bachelorette parties rushing to stagger their way around in circles, singing hard. There were quite a few hen parties, which were easy to spot — they were wearing devil horns, or makeshift nurses' hats, or the bride-to-be had a balloon tied to her butt and was being accosted by a male stripper in the middle of the skate floor. No, I didn't believe it either, but since I was the only one who seemed to find it anything out of the ordinary, I sat out that song and got myself something to drink.

There were many more people wearing dresses and skirts to skate in than I see in New York, too, even if you discount the people hired to skate in drag. They (the ones in drag) were dressed in a kind of cocktail waitress/stewardess-of-the-future getup, very shiny, but it looked a little warm for skating. (I took it as more evidence that OF COURSE people who like to wear dresses — who, in fact, go out of their way to wear dresses — like skating.)

I only fell once (trying to avoid someone who stopped stock-still to wave at their mates in a kind of "hey ma, lookit me" moment) and even that was just a skinned knee, so no real harm done, but I figured that even though I was having such a good time that time itself stopped (not really — it was just my watch that stopped, but close enough), I regretfully turned in my skates and left. I walked back to the station and decided to squeeze the last juice from my day pass by getting on a bus, instead of the National Rail. I find that I really prefer the bus to the Tube here in London. I can't really put together the neighborhood jigsaw pieces unless I see where they match up; coming up from the Tube station I might as well be landing on the moon, I'm so disoriented. With a bus (or better yet, by walking) I can stitch them all together so that the disconnected pieces of the city become a whole quilt in my head.

Unfortunately, as with most quilts, I'm going to have to leave the rest of the pieces in a box for a good long time, since I'm headed home tomorrow. Sorry this is so long; I didn't (as the saying goes) have time to make it any shorter!

London Fabric Shopping Day One

liberty fabric

I think I'm going to be sending Stephanie Z. some flowers when I get back to the States, or at least emailing her and pressing upon her an invitation to coffee/dinner/ice cream next time I'm in NYC, because it was HER excellent directions that led me to this insanely great fabric store on the Old Brompton Road. Here it is (note the sign in the window):

Shaukat Fabrics

I went in at first and was a little disappointed; there's a wall of Liberty remnants, but nothing quite big enough for the kinds of things I like to make:

Shaukat Fabrics

I dawdled around for a bit and pulled some things off the shelf, but I didn't feel very encouraged. I got up the nerve to ask if they had any Liberty on the bolt, and the salesclerk said yes, forbiddingly adding that it was MUCH more expensive. She beckoned me to the back of the store and down the stairs we went, into what Ali Baba's cave would look like, if it were filled with fabric.

I wish I had a picture of that wonderland, but just as I stopped hyperventilating a pod of women dressed head-to-foot in black chadors floated in, and I thought me snapping a bunch of pictures of the CEILING-HIGH shelves of fabric would be taken amiss, as they would be inescapably in the foreground.

There were plenty of bolts of Liberty, but the shelves were mainly filled with three-meter cuts. I think if you had laid them all out end-to-end there would be enough to encircle the planet, Christo-style. The chadorines and I drifted past each other, pulling down cuts and making little piles here and there; as they made their selections a salesclerk would bag each piece carefully in a preprinted plastic bag, like the kind pillowcases come in. Mine were left unmolested. As soon as I thought I was getting to the end, I'd turn a corner and realize that there were still the wools, or the silks, or another entire wall of lawn, and I'd have to sit down with my head between my knees, metaphorically, until I'd recovered sufficiently to go on.

I finally bought four pieces of lawn (the top four in the first picture above), a piece of silk in one of my favorite patterns (the dot, zigzag, and star print), a piece of wool/cotton Jubilee (the blue floating bars) and some other fabric (not Liberty, I don't think) that I bought just because it was blue and green chevrons in a heavier cotton. (That is going to become the circle skirt to end all circle skirts, if I can cut it right and if I have enough.)

Here's a closeup of some of the fabric:

Liberty Fabrics

I did try to pick out things for which I had patterns already in mind, but after a while I discarded that approach and realized I had to just pick up things that shouted "pick me, pick me!" Of course, some things shouted loudly, but still didn't get chosen: I had to leave behind some white silk charmeuse with a red and black abstract chrysanthemum design, as being something that I would have to manufacture an entirely different persona to wear.

When I was being rung up the proprietor (after ascertaining that I was from Chicago) let me know that Allah wanted peace for all peoples, with which utterly sensible statement I found I could not but agree. If he had told me that Allah wanted beautiful fabric at very good prices for all peoples I think he would have also found me in complete accord.

I didn't feel up to any more fabric shopping after that … perhaps if I eat some more milk chocolate Hob Nobs, I will be strong enough to go to Liberty tomorrow and see what's in the new line. I hope to buy one more spectacular piece of fabric there, and then I'm done fabric-shopping until at least Halloween, and possibly until Christmas. I did think of going out to Shepherd's Bush to see the fabric market there, which was recommended by several people, but I think now that will have to wait until my next trip.

(Oh, and I found a place in London to roller-skate! It's in Kings Cross. Can anyone tell me if that's a bad idea? I mean, the Kings Cross part, not the roller-skating part.)

Infinite Recursion!

ebay item 8305987417

Sbanks and Chelsea both sent me this fabric this week. I don't usually wear sewing-themed fabric (it's not that I necessarily wouldn't, it's just that my search for polka-dot, gingko-leaf, alphabet-print, and robot-themed fabric takes up nearly all my time) but I would wear this, on one condition — that I make it up into one of the dresses featured in the fabric. Infinite recursion, here I come!

The only thing holding me back is that I'm not sure which pattern in the fabric to use as the pattern for the dress, and because it's SIXTEEN DOLLARS and NINETY-FIVE CENTS per yard. (I don't usually pay that much for silk!) I know, I know, it's imported from Japan, but still … Click on the link to take a look at it in a larger version, at

[Also, sorry not to be responding to comments, but I'm in the UK and the time-shift plus the intensity of packing all my meetings into four short days means that I see most of your comments around midnight, when I escape the work/pub continuum … I hope to catch up this weekend! I do read and cherish every one of them, rest assured.]