Go on. You know you want to.

geisha dress

This dress is just so wrong it's right, like dumping a bag of peanut butter M&Ms into a bag of pretzels (try it, you'll see), or like Paula Abdul's "Straight Up," or like Robert Downey Jr. (That last link MOSTLY safe for work.) Like all of the above, I want it badly, but in the interests of NOT filling up my closets with dresses that I won't wear but will instead just haul out from time to time, try on, and leave in a heap on the bed (to the mounting irritation of Mr. Dress A Day), I'm posting it here, instead.

This is from Birdsong Vintage, a seller on the new Main Street Vintage collaborative listing site. (And I have to say … from what I saw, their prices are really really good. More of those folks with time machines! Why doesn't somebody hook me up? I won't step on any butterflies!) I'm showing you the back because otherwise you can't really see the print; don't worry, if you click on the image you can also see the front.

Anyway — the lurid pink and green and the busy, busy print featuring geishas and what look like triffids (not that you could tell without invading the wearer's personal space) call to me … but the tight waist (it's B38, but W26) says "no, no!" (or maybe "cut down on the sweet potato fries!") Either way, it's not for me, but at $45, it might just be for you.

A masochist is someone who

… despite really only liking to make full-skirted dresses (and abhors sewing gores or tiers) continues to browse kimono fabric online. Did I mention that kimono fabric is FIFTEEN INCHES WIDE? No? Well, it is. At best. But look at these!

kimono fabric

kimono fabric

kimono fabric

kimono fabric

I either need to find a pattern that calls for ten yards of fifteen-inch-wide fabric (and don't be cute and say, brightly, "why not a kimono?" you wiseacres), rethink my aversion to gored and tiered skirts, or stop checking that website.

must … resist … nostalgia …

ebay item 27000538636

Jen B. sent me this eBay link and I am in LOVE. Not only is this taffeta, in a gingham check, with fancy buttons and binding and POCKETS, AND in very good condition, it's 40B/30W. Usually stuff like this is much, much smaller than that. Go click on the image to see the closeups — they're really worth it.

This dress really reminds me of one of the first "fancy" (non-cotton) dresses I ever made, about ten years ago now, or more … a silk dress in a very lightweight (too lightweight for the pattern) brown and cream gingham shirting. (I think I even bought it at Paron's, on one of my first fabric-shopping jaunts in NYC.) I used this pattern, Vogue 1573 (sorry, bad picture, good pattern):

Vogue 1573

And I made view A, which is the lace version (only mine wasn't lace). I did everything to the letter: used silk organza to interface the midriff and the collar, found perfect brown glass buttons, hand-rolled the hem, invisible zipper … and that was when I was sewing on the dining room table and always had to pack everything up before dinner. (Well, it was either put everything away or convince Mr. Dress A Day that he really wanted to walk down to Arturo's Burritos with me … we ate a lot of burritos.) I'd be wearing that dress still if it hadn't lost a heated argument with a leaky pen, dammit.

That does it — the next fabric I buy (that's not Liberty) will be a nice crisp brown and cream gingham shirting, and I will make a handsome, full-skirted shirtdress in honor of Brown Check Dress the First. And I'll restrict myself to pencils when I wear it.

What to Wear: A Book for Women

I have no image and no link for this title: try googling it yourself and see how far you get! I checked this out on a whim from the library, and not fifty pages in I had made half-a-dozen notes (not IN the book — jeez, what kind of barbarian do you think I am?). It's a treasure.

Belle Armstrong Whitney is the triple-named, strong-willed author, and all I know about her is that she looks in her photographs as if she dearly wants to come take the camera away from the photographer and show him how to do things RIGHT. The book was published in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1916, and if that is not evocative of an overwhelming urgency to tell other folks how best their lives might be arranged to the satisfaction of all concerned (but primarily to the satisfaction of the advice-giver) I don't know what would be.

Belle (I will take the liberty of such familiarity, since I know that if I had been lucky enough to meet her we would have been fast friends immediately) says such things as this: "There is no reason why when we go shopping we should take what is set before us to take, providing the standard of what is set before is common, and our standard is higher."

She also quotes Redfern ("the head of that dressmaking house in Paris") as saying "Fashion without art is snobbism." Sing it, sister!

And how about: "We need not apologize for our love of dress if we love what is worthy of being loved." (I have a sneaking suspicion that there's some kind of logical fallacy there, but so be it.)

And: "One of the reasons for the kaleidoscopic changes in styles is because so many women wear the same thing at once that everybody becomes tired of it in a hurry. If women would choose their own style, instead of trying to wear what they–the wholly mythical they — are supposed to sanction, fashions would be much less unstable."

"Every woman who buys poor fabrics helps to discourage makers of fabrics from producing better ones. Every woman who buys ready-made clothes that are vulgar in design, helps to increase that type of designing. Every woman who buys ill-made garments, assists in adding to their number."

"The woman who knows what she wants is not common, and the woman who knows what she ought to have is positively rare."

"Women are not uniform in size, shape, complexion, and social requirements, and when they dress as if they were, the result is most unsatisfactory."

Of course, Belle is not without fault. There are many, many pictures of her in what can only be called "draperies", some with that touch of self-conscious exoticism that makes the modern reader wince. She also devotes three pages to instructions for making a maternity CORSET. (Don't worry, the steels of your regular corset "may be broken quickly when their covering is ripped off.") But all in all, her advice of ninety years ago is better than anything I read in this month's Vogue.

It's been a while since I raved about a collar.

Simplicity 4002
I bought this the other day from VintageCassandra on eBay. I'm sure you can see why. Who could resist that collar? It practically reaches out and grabs you by YOUR collar. (Which of course you are wearing. A day without a flamboyant collar is like a day without chocolate.)

I feel, however, much like the dog who chased the car and caught it. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what to do with this now that I've got it — and by "what to do with," I mean: what fabric should I make this in? When I clicked on "BuyItNOW" I had a dozen ideas of what would work for this, all from my stash; now I have nary a one that doesn't involve a trip to the fabric store for wide black and white stripes, and that is Right Out, seeing as how I'm going to be at Liberty (that is, at liberty AT Liberty) in London in just a hair over two weeks, and every fabric penny must be saved for that momentous occasion. I suppose I could wait until after my trip to sew this up, but of course I want to sew it NOW.

I think Saturday morning will see me spreading yardages all over the ironing board, trying to make a good match. I have some bright seersucker stripe which would be cute–maybe too cute for a matron like myself; I have some blazing scarlet with large white polka dots which would be tremendously overbearing; I have a kicky abstract floral that might be just a little too busy (hah — like anything's too busy for my taste!). I'll line 'em all up and see what comes to mind. I'm sure I have something perfect that I've forgotten about, and, if not, I will put this in the box with the other patterns that are waiting for the arrival of Fabric Charming.

What would you make this in? (Don't say "a nice solid," please, it's too, too dispiriting.)

make this dress!

rowena convertible dress

Rowena, over at Rostitchery, not only shows this dress, but shows you how to make it. Cutting instructions, sewing instructions complete with diagrams and on-the-machine photos, further information about fabric choice and variations … everything you need to DIY. And I love the color!

This is one of those "convertible" or "infinite" dresses that were really big in the late '70s-early '80s and that seem to be making a don't-call-it-a-comeback now.

In addition to the instructions, Rowena shows about five different ways of tying it on her mannequin (plus, for all you "I need to see it on a PERSON" people out there, on herself, playing with her adorable little girl).

I really want to try this. I have some funky stretch pink camo jersey that would be hilarious for this. The only modification I'd make is to cut the skirt into two half-circles so that I could put in side-seam pockets … this would also be totally disco-vamp in some kind of stretchy lurex, wouldn't it? Break out the blue eyeshadow!

Thanks Rowena for sending me your link!

Happy Fourth, Y'all!

flag dress

I have no idea where this image came from (and no idea where it's going, either) but I have to say that the idea of having a long, flag-striped TRAIN is startling. The whole effect is "Daughters of the American Revolution Go to the Circus".

Where on earth could this be worn? Pageants? Prom at one of the service academies? (Who wears a train to prom — oh, don't tell me, I don't want to know.) Is it a wedding gown? I got married on the Fourth (Happy Anniversary, Mr. Dress A Day!) and even I wouldn't have worn this …

If you want one of these, you should be warned that wearing a flag dress in the wrong place at the wrong time can often get you in trouble. There was the boneheaded teen who decided that her prom would be a spiffy place to wear her CONFEDERATE FLAG DRESS. Heritage, schmeritage, she just wanted to piss off a bunch of people. Also, I believe she shouted "Sequins today … seqins tomorrow … sequins forever!" while she was wearing it:

confed dress

And then there was the Indian designer whose dress incorporating symbols from the Indian flag was confiscated, although she did get to keep her drink:

Indian flag dress

Not to mention the Chinese pop singer who wore a dress printed with the war-era Japanese naval flag. (That went over about as well as the Confederate flag dress.) Can't find a picture of that one, sadly, although I have to say English-language Chinese movie star gossip is way more fun than the Star or US Weekly or whatever.

As well as this: "… a lecturer at Birmingham University by the name of Sue Blackwell, described as a former Christian fundamentalist now turned socialist. (Her website was found to recommend a link to the site of a neo-Nazi activist.) At the AUT meeting, Blackwell wore a Palestinian-flag dress …" She was arguing for a boycott of Israeli universities by British scholars; no picture of that one, either. I can't imagine that it was successful as a dress, instead of as a rhetorical device.

So, where were we? Yes, flag dresses are really, really hard to pull off. Even DVF had some trouble:

DVF union jack dress

(I know there are better pics of that dress out there but I love DVF's MySpace-style photo, so there.)

But Dame Shirley Bassey managed it, at the Rugby World Cup's opening ceremony in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (it helps to be in front of thousands of enthusiastic countrymen):

Bassey Wales flag dress

Do you have a favorite (or un-favorite) flag dress? Send me a picture. This one right now is my fave:

dog flag dress

from my closet to yours (via Holly)

ebay item 130002824429

Last week I was ruthless — vicious, even — and decimated my closet, in the classical, grammar-prig definition of 'decimated' as "killed one of ten". I rounded up all the vintage that I never wear, and I trundled it over to Holly at Lucite Box Vintage.

"Find this stuff a good home," I pleaded. "I don't wear it, and it looks at me reproachfully every time I open the closet door. Also, I think the vintage dresses and the dresses I sew myself are fighting with each other. Every time I turn around the hangers are all tangled again."

Holly talked me down (and showed me amazing things from her own personal collection, none of which looked like it had been fighting when the closet doors were closed) and took some things for her vintage adoption service (otherwise known as her eBay store).

This one I really loved when I bought it — it was new old stock, tags still on. I ended up never wearing it, though. First of all, I bought it when I was nursing my son and, well, you can't really nurse in a dress like this, without removing it entirely. And then when we stopped nursing, I no longer had the chestage to support it (it's a 42B).

Anyway, if you can pass the background check and the home visit, you might be able to adopt this dress. Promise me you'll wear it out to snazzy places …

[Note: I sold these to Holly outright (money which I'll probably spend on fabric; I'm incorrigible) so I don't make a percentage or whatever from her auctions …]

There are some other ones that need a loving home, too. This one I bought in New Orleans, on a whim, and then when I came out of my oyster-induced delirium, I figured out it didn't quite suit me. This one I adored, but had trouble accessorizing properly (a problem I often have but that Holly doesn't seem to!). There's more to come …

Wrap and Duro Roundup!

I love it when y'all send me photos of dresses you've made from patterns I've shown here … I suppose it's like being an elementary school teacher when your grown-up students come back to visit!

Here are two really great versions of the Butterick Wrap Dress 4790 from Rebecca (check out her site for her bridal designs!). This is the fancy one — I never would have tried this pattern for a dressy dress, but it's really gorgeous:

kessler evening

And this is the "picnic" one — she changed it to have wrap ties, instead of the front button closure, and shirred the shoulders:

kessler picnic

Sbanks made this gorgeous black-and-white version. She says the bottom band was an "I-ran-out-of-fabric" decision, but I love it — it really works. (Also, I'm of the opinion that "more gingham" is like "more cowbell" — always appropriate.)

sbanks wrap

Yvette in San Diego made this Duro — the color combination is just lovely. She says: "The dress is silk chiffon, lined with some silk I had left over from a UFO, the bands are rayon georgette. I made a few alterations: lengthened the sleeves 3 inches, took out all the superfluous seams (back center seams, side panel seams), extended the facing around back. The next one is going to be in cotton, I’m in no hurry to sew chiffon again, and I am going to lengthen the ties so that I can wrap and tie them in the front if I want."

yvette Duro

I'm going to do that "lengthen-the-ties" trick myself for my next one. (And oh yes, there will be a next one … I found a serendipitous fabric match that has me chortling in gleeful anticipation. "I gloat! Hear me!")

And one last one — check out Erica B's version.
Erica Duro

(She didn't send it to me, but I found it through trackbacks …) Gorgeous! And go read her blog, Hook and Needles.

Mouret, your way.

Mouret dress

I'm sure you've all seen this Fall 2005 dress from Roland Mouret — if not on the runway, then on innumerable starlets on the red carpet. (I leave the googling up of those links as an exercise for the reader.)

Now, my friends, you can make your own! Melissa sent me this Vogue pattern:

Vogue Mouret dress

At, one must assume, a fraction of the cost of a "real" Mouret. (Actual math, again, left as one of those pesky reader exercises.) The Vogue pattern, as well, has a long-sleeved version, and one with a pleated hem, both of which variations appeal to me. I also like it as shown, in a Prince of Wales check or some other menswear fabric; much less obvious than a single bright vampy color. And while we're firmly in the realm of hypotheticals, I'd want to adapt the skirt to have welt pockets, with flaps matching those on the sleeves.

What would you do with this pattern?