Duro Live Action Shots!

If you want to see a never-posted-before Duro dress of mine on video, go here. It's about a minute or so from the end — don't worry, the whole thing is safe for all eyeballs.

You should know me when you see the dress, but, if not, I'm the wildly gesturing (and possibly just a teeensy bit overly-didactic) woman in green at the podium, making Jimmy Wales smile. (Unless Nightline did some fancy editing.)

Thanks to Jimbo for the heads-up!

It's only superstition …

ebay item 110031965695

Lisa sent me this gorgeous, slightly obscene dress (click on the picture to go to the eBay listing). Notice, please, that the design is of tiny lit cigarettes! Why is it that the iconography of things that are bad for you, like smoking and alcohol, is so alluring? When I was in London I saw a woman in a lovely 40s peplum dress that also had a cigarette pattern; I asked her if it were vintage although of course it was obvious. Not that I don't think that a modern rockabilly dress with a pattern of little lit cigarettes wouldn't sell out in the time it took the web page to reload …

But I wasn't going to post about little lit cigarettes today, I was going to tell you about some funny dress superstitions I found while looking up something completely different … here's a few of my favorites, so far:

If you tear your dress under the arm there will soon be a wedding.

If your dress is torn by a bramble, someone envies you.

If a stick catches in your dress while you are walking, you will meet a new beau.

If mud splashes on your white dress, someone is speaking ill of you.

It is bad luck to let anyone wear your new dress before you do. (How convenient!)

Never mend your dress while you’re wearing it; you will become poor, or people will speak maliciously about you.

It is considered lucky to tear a new dress before it is washed. (By whom?)

If you wear a new dress for the first time and it rains, it will rain every time you put it on.

Anyone have other ones?

Also — I may not have internet access until Monday (I know! The withdrawal will kill me!) so posting frequency may be somewhat less than once per day. But I did add the link to Secret Lives #7 over there on the right …

Secret Lives of Dresses Vol. 8

ebay item 120028694936
There are lots of ways for a dress to die. The sudden, prime-of-life death: Somebody holding a cherry popsicle walks into you, and you're a goner. You get caught in the broken spoke of a bicycle wheel, feel that triangular tear; it's all over. Or you can die of old age: you get worn and worn and worn again and then one day you come out of the washer more fading and worn spots than good whole cloth, and you get torn up for rags.

Sometimes, though, you just go into a kind of limbo. A half-death. Somebody changed sizes, and it wasn't you, so you get pushed further and further back in the closet, so much so that you can't even really tell the difference between the door being open and the door being shut anymore, and you just … doze. Sometimes for a long time. Sometimes for years. Longer than you think you have, anyway.

And then (if your story is like mine), the door opens again, and not only does it open, you come out. Everything comes out! The dresses and the hats and the suits and the sweaters, and the moths in the sweaters, and the dust! Dust everywhere! You're glad you're not a dark dress, because the dark dresses' shoulders really show the dust.

It's hard, waking up again. Coming alive again. When you're being worn, being worn regularly, it's like the aliveness of the body you're on seeps into you, and keeps you going when you're on the hanger. But it can seep right out again, and after so long without being worn, the sparks of aliveness get further and further apart, like firefly flashes, there in the dark closet.

So there we all were, hauled out of the closet half-dead, and hanging on a rack in the middle of the room. Everything was laid out where it shoudn't have been — all her underthings, or at least the nicest slips, on the bed, with her gloves and her purses, and all her dressing table things on the bureau, laid out in rows, not like they would be on her dressing table at all (that was gone, I don't know where it went). All her shoes on the floor, lined up in rows like a class picture. The closet door was open and I could see it was empty; everything was out in the open. Everything looked so much duller than I remembered. Older.

There were women moving around, fussing and sorting and chatting. None of them were wearing dresses. They were wearing soft knit pants, and white tennis shoes, and long knit shirts that came down well past their hips. They all had short sleeves, and lots of them had things written on their shirts. I remember one said "COLORADO", but I didn't think that could be her name. Over the shirts some of them wore little half aprons, but they weren't real aprons. They were heavy canvas, and all one color — not pretty at all.

I'm not sure how long I was hanging there before I started noticing all this; it could have been a day, maybe longer, before things stopped being only light and color and sound and started being things I mostly recognized, however strange. I do know that when I finally started paying attention, it was early morning. Very early, with light coming in at that angle that means dawn wasn't so very long ago, but the women were energetic. They all had white paper cups, very large, with shiny white lids that they drank through. It smelled just like coffee, but the cups were huge.

Pretty soon, though, one of the women said "Oh, Lord, here they come!" and the other women gave that kind of groaning laugh when you're half-dreading, half-anticipating something. I remember I used to hear it when I was still being worn, and she had the girls over for bridge and there was just time to play one last hand before they had to meet the kids after school. That kind of laugh.

All of a sudden the house was full of people! Mostly women, but also men. The men were in white or black tennis shoes, but leather, not canvas, and shorts, and more T-shirts with things written on them. The women were mostly in pants or shorts, too. Dungaree shorts! And always, always sneakers, or those thong sandals that I'd only ever seen on the beach. And everybody was so big! Not just tall, but round, too. They were all picking up her things, and carrying them off. Armloads of them, sometimes. One man walked through the room with all her records, the Perry Como and the Rosemary Clooney and all the old 78s — just everything. He could barely carry them all. He just took a look around at all her underthings there on the bed, laid out like cold cuts, and asked one of the aprons, "Any tools?" What was he going to do to those records that he needed tools? I didn't hear the answer, though, because I got grabbed up.

She had me by the shoulders and was flipping me this way and that. I don't think there was an inch of me that didn't get touched, or pulled, or held up to the light. I barely got a glimpse of her, what with all the somersaults of being turned inside out and back right side out again, and then I was squished between a wool coat I didn't remember and that plaid day dress that always got put back in the closet because she pulled across the shoulders, and we were headed towards the front door.

Slam! One of the apron-ladies moved her big white paper cup aside just in time, and there we all were in a pile on a table, and the apron lady said, "Let me see … two dresses, a coat, five handkerchiefs, and four books — how about twenty-five?"

"Twenty-five if I can take that box of zippers and things over there, too …"

"Oh, sure, honey, I think we priced that whole kit and kaboodle at three dollars. I can give you that."

And then we were all bundled up together, the coat and the plaid dress and the zippers and the books and me, and went right out the door.

All this time, I hadn't seen her anywhere, I mean the other her, the one that used to wear me. I didn't really expect to, anyway, there was an emptiness around, despite her things being everywhere. In fact, all her things being there made her being gone more obvious, if you know what I mean.

Next thing I knew I was spread across a different bed.

"And look at this one! The pockets!" she was saying, to the man in the room. He looked a bit bored, and it took me a minute to realize that she was talking about me. No one had ever mentioned my pockets before, and certainly not to a man.

I think it got a bit too much for me then, and I don't remember much else until I felt the nice warm massage of the iron over me. I felt just-washed — I must have been just washed — and I was being ironed, which, truly, is just the best feeling. You can be all jangly and cross-grained and overwhelmed but the iron just makes it all go away, and there you are fresh and smooth again. It's better than anything.

Then she put me on. I was being worn again! It was different than I remembered; it's hard to explain because it ought to be the same, being worn, but of course even though anyone who can fit inside you ought to feel mostly the same, it's still different. The breathing is different and the moving is different, and the hands in the pockets are different hands, and so even though it is almost the same, it's just not quite.

Funnily enough, though, it was the wearing that was the most familiar, because everything else is so different! It's almost like a different planet. I've never seen her touch a vacuum cleaner, for instance, and there's a machine that washes the dishes, but
more than half the time the man feeds it, not her. She spends most of her days with this thing that looks like a teeny television attached to some kind of typewriter — hours and hours staring at it and typing, but the paper doesn't come out of it, but out of another box in a different place, and even then she does about ten times as much typing as ever shows up on paper, as far as I can tell. And she talks on two different phones, neither of which are connected to anything. Just floating out there in the air! She walks all over the place with them, and sometimes, she even answers one in the car, with a little earpiece, like a hearing aid, only smaller. And also in the car, she has a little shiny white box, and it connects to the radio, although I wish it wouldn't. I mean — it's just not music, that's all. And even though I think I understand the words "roller" and "boogie", they make no sense put together, and I certainly don't know why they have to be followed by a word I didn't think could be said on the radio! And weirdest of all, the television (which is color, by the way) has a bar-thing you can point at it, about the size of a hairbrush, and it changes the channels and even freezes it! And when you come back from getting ice cream you can make it start again. Of course, she's mostly watching firefighters use foul language and misbehave, which I don't understand at all. She doesn't use that language herself (or at least I haven't heard her) but the music and the television are full of words I barely knew existed, before.

It's odd being alive again, but I'm not upset about it. I like being worn, of course, and I'm sure I'll get used to that … language in time. The only sad thing is that it's getting harder and harder to remember how it felt to be worn by the other one, the one so long ago. I can't even remember her name. I think it was Elaine, but I can't be sure, and the coat and the plaid dress don't know. I think they weren't ever worn as much as me, so their memories are even fainter. We stopped talking about it.

Almost all the other dresses in her closet are like me, revived Rip Van Winkles. Some of them like to talk about her behind her back. They don't like that she doesn't wear gloves, or hats, and they hate being worn with sneakers. They talk about their old owners, but I think a lot of it is just lint — they can't all have been worn to balls and important luncheons of the Women's Club and so forth. I keep myself to myself, mostly. I'm quiet. I'm just happy to be awake again. I like seeing the closet door open. I don't even care about the sneakers.

Ahead of the (bust) curve

Spring 07 Sari Gueron

Is it just me, or is the neckline on this Sari Gueron dress for Spring 07 very much like the one I was obsessed with back in April?

Advance 9440

It's very close, no? Which is good, because I really am obsessed with bust shaping devices other than the dart, including gathers. I am looking for a lot of gathers for next Spring, so I'll probably make the Advance pattern above again, probably in gingham to really emphasize the curving effect.

I can't believe we've barely had a couple of days of sixty-degree weather here in Chicago, but I'm already thinking about next summer's dresses! Even though I love winter dresses, summer is when you can really go nuts with the light crisp airy cottons and featherweight silks … This winter I think I'm limiting myself to half-a-dozen Duroesque dresses to take me through to next March (one of the ones planned is a charcoal gray heavy silk with orange banding) and a couple of high-waisted skirts to wear with my ever-growing collection of cardigan sweaters. Add tights and boots (and maybe a couple of longer, waist-belted cardigans to wear over the Duros, since little 1950s cardigans don't do so well over the bell sleeves) and you're done!

Anyway, back to the Sari dress above … I love the top and the bottom, but she seems to have left out the middle … add a midriff band & belt and lengthen the skirt, and that would be one kickass dress, right?

Empress of Everything

Advance 6826

Many thanks to Jennifer for sending me this link from Fuzzy Lizzie. (Click on the image to visit the store; it's B33 and $17.50.)

Now, is it just me, or is this dress just pining to be made in silver Lurex and worn by some interstellar empress? Preferably one played by Cate Blanchett?

I mean, if I were the costume designer for the as-yet-untitled Cate Blanchett SF epic that would best set off this dress, I'd make four or five of these, in different Christmas-ornament colors: silver, gold, bright shiny white, garnet red, and that peculiar electric blue that only shows up in SF movies and for three weeks before December 25. I'd make the skirt longer, almost ankle-length, and they'd all be worn with matching scrunchy spandex-topped cap-toed boots, with an odd-shaped low heel. (You can't have The Future, much less The Future in Space, without funky boots.)

Cate could sweep through the bright-white sterile corridors of the spaceship, trailed by flunkies with no eyebrows (no eyebrows also = future), barking commands and dispensing expressionless justice on miscreants & shoving them out airlocks.

I see the plot as being an update of the Christopher Columbus story, with Cate Blanchett in the Queen Isabella role. You see, Future Columbus (played, if I had my druthers, by Dominic West) is a troublemaker on the ship (which, by the way, is a generation ship, taking hundreds of years to reach a new planet for colonization). He believes he can find a better planet than the one they're headed for, and thus have landfall in their lifetimes. Mostly to get rid of him, Isabella agrees. It's either this or shove him out the airlock. This is all complicated by the fact that they are (of course!) lovers, and she knows that she will either never see him again, or, because of the vagaries of near-FTL travel, be an old, old woman when he returns. He goes and finds the planet … but it's inhabited. Columbus thinks that not only can they all just get along, but that it will be super-wonderful-great to have such neato neighbors. (Kiera Knightley plays the otherworldly-beautiful alien woman on Planet X, of course.) He returns to tell everyone the news about the new planet, and incidentally, to say I TOLD YOU SO. Bittersweet scene with now very aged Cate Blanchett. Lots of arguing back and forth — do they stay the course or break for new planet? Cate Blanchett decides to go for new planet. Cate Blanchett (in dress above, made in black) dies of old age before landfall. Dominic looks very, very sad.

Everyone lands on the new planet, to find it deserted! Pretty aliens all dead, from microbes brought by Columbus & Co. Dominic now EXTREMELY sad.

The only thing I'm stuck on is: how does it end? Is it a horror thing, where the ghosts of the original inhabitants haunt them? Or is it more drama-y, where Columbus realizes maybe being Mr. Hothead Right About Everything wasn't worth it in the end? Or something else?

If you have ideas, let me know, because this whole thing needs to be made JUST so that this dress can be in it. Some people build their mental movies around actors; I build them around costumes …

Oh, and sorry for the double post yesterday; Blogger got the hiccups. I made it drink water from the far rim of the glass and eat a spoonful of dry sugar and then try breathing in a paper bag, but nothing worked. (Also, it's impossible to startle Blogger out of the hiccups. I've tried.)

Gorgeous. I just started making the McCalls versi…

Gorgeous. I just started making the McCalls version of the Duro dress and discovered it has a giant sash in the back to make the waist fitted. I grew out of looking cute in sashes about 40 years ago, and so decided to sew in an elastic band across the bottom instead. Short of constructing my very own back midriff piece, what else could I have done? Is this one sashless?

Monsoon season

Monsoon Phoebe dress

Clare sent me the link to this lovely dress from the British high street chain Monsoon weeks and weeks ago, and I'm finally getting around to posting it. Thank goodness it still seems to be in stock.

As Clare instinctively understood, from her months of reading A Dress A Day, this one pushes every single button, like a four-year-old in an elevator. Orange and gr[a|e]y? Check. Midriff band? Check. Piping? Check. Surplice bodice? Check. Short kimono sleeves? Check. Large-scale print? Check. In fact, this dress is so "directional" (if A Dress A Day is the direction you're heading) that I'm wondering if someone at their design studio made a bet that they could get it featured here. (That would be egotistical of me, but really, really funny. Hey guys! You won!)

Of course, what was the ONE high street shop that I *didn't* have a chance to wander into when I was in the UK back in July? Yep, that's right, Monsoon. (I would have also liked this one. It has tucks!)

The Phoebe dress is £55, and comes in UK sizes 08-18. But Monsoon ships to the UK and the Republic of Ireland only …

Don't you want to go to Elgin, IL this weekend?

elgin vintage show

I know this will be tremendously irritating for those of you in Hackney and Singapore and San Francisco and whatnot, but if you're in Illinois (and I know *some* of you are), there's a vintage show in Elgin this weekend. Where's Elgin, you ask? Somewhere west of here. If you click on the image above you'll go to the organizer's web site and there are directions — and you can even take the Metra there! (Non-Americans, you can feel free to comment about how pitiful it is that the existence of commuter rail between two places is so rare that it must be remarked upon.)

I would be there, and probably dressed up, too (dress up in vintage and get $2 off? Sure, throw me in that briar patch!) if I weren't already committed to packing the vintage I already own this weekend, in prep for The Move of the Century. (I haven't moved since pre-2000, so I believe I am justified in calling this The Move of the Century.)

If you go, take pictures! Look for The Sewist! Don't buy anything I wouldn't buy (okay, you're pretty safe there). Have fun storming the castle!

God Bless the Internet

Darth Fabric
God Bless the Internet. (With a special shout-out to the U of Chicago.)

Here's how it goes:

I post about some hilarious Darth Vader fabric I bought in Beijing, one of a series of posts where I talk about fabric shopping in China.

Nancy (this is where the U of C comes in, she's a current student, I'm an alumna, that link there is to her blog) emails me to ask where I bought fabric in Beijing, as the search isn't working, and she's heading to China for the summer. I send her the link, where (incidentally) I whine about not having bought a longer length of the Darth Vader silk. I ask Nancy that if she goes, and they have it, would she mind picking it up for me? I'd Paypal her, and pay for shipping.

"No problem," says the wonderful Nancy.

So Nancy bought me four yards, and it should be here any minute now! I'm thinking (aren't I always thinking) maybe a Duro dress. Or maybe, since I'll now have nearly six yards, a Duro *and* another dress.

So, in short: Darth Vader fabric is inherently funny. The Internet is wonderful.
Nancy is awesome. Yay!

"make cheese"

A mini-entry, as I've been having trouble with Blogger today. No big spat, nothing to break up over; just a little difference of opinion and some ill-considered words. I'm sure it will blow over by tomorrow.

No picture today, because I couldn't find one, and I really did want one, to illustrate this great English idiom I found. To "make cheese" is to "spread skirt and petticoat round you on the floor by swirling them before sinking down". If I were the kind of person to speculate without foundation about the origin of idioms (in other words, if I felt competent to folk-etymologize with abandon) I would say that perhaps it comes from the notion that a big full skirt and big round cheese might have some topological symmetry. Or something.

But I *did* want a picture (preferably of someone like Doris Day) sitting on the ground with her skirts pleasingly spread out. But my organ of Googling seems to be taking the day off, or is anesthetized, or under the influence of solar flares, or something, so I don't have one. If *YOU* have one, and send me it, and I post it, I will send you something fun & word-related in the mail. So find me a great picture that illustrates this idiom, please. Contest ends Friday at 9 a.m. Central, so you have a little more than 36 hours. Taking a picture of yourself in this (with a really great dress) is of course fine.