Fabric Week Continues: FONT!

Michael Miller FONT

In addition to giant polka dots, I'm also (slightly) obsessed with alphabet-print fabrics. This is one of my favorites, from Michael Miller. I'm really tempted to buy some more of this (I already have a GIANT circle skirt made from this fabric) but I fear I would then gradually buy more and more until ultimately I would never wear anything but black and white letters.

What do folks think of a Duro made with the above as the body and this Alexander Henry fabric below as the banding?

Alexander Henry COUNTDOWN

I'd be worried that I'd have to redraft the bands to make them exactly as wide as the numbers, but it might be worth it …

Click on the images to buy yardage from the eBay seller, Fabric Connection. (If you want more than one yard read her description for instructions as to how to go about it.)

what the heck, let's just make this Fabric Week, okay?

Harmony Art

Everyone okay with me just declaring this Fabric Week at A Dress A Day? Sarah sent me the link to this company, Harmony Art; they were a nominee for Co-op America's People's Choice award for the greenest companies — and that's green as in "ecological", not the color — and, well, I like this fabric. I like it a great deal. And it's intended for home furnishings (I have no fear of looking like a well-upholstered sofa, obviously) so it's 90" wide. Oooooh! So nice not to have to wiggle with the cutting layouts for a REALLY big skirt!

I'm not entirely sure what the scale of this pattern is, but, frankly, I don't care. If the flowers are as big as my head? Fine. Size of a quarter? Fine. Just sign me up when it becomes available …

I also like this pattern:

Harmony Art

Although I'm not a huge fan of purple. In fact, I'm not even a casual fan of purple. In fact, when purple comes on the radio, I change the station. (And yes, yes, I know about the "when I am an old lady" poem, and frankly, when I am an old lady I will still be wearing huge polka dots. I hope.)

Come back tomorrow for more fabric here during FABRIC WEEK! (See, doesn't it look more official in all-caps?)

gratuitous fabric posting/taunting

thai silks fabric

I just bought some of this (from Thai Silks). Was it on sale? Yes. Do I know what I'm going to do with it? No. Will it probably involve a midriff band? Yes.

Sometimes a piece of fabric will say "BUY ME" (in a kind of James Earl Jones, stentorian voice) and when I say "For what, pray tell?" it answers "That's for me to know and you to find out!", and then it giggles (while still sounding like James Earl Jones). And I have to say, when I ignore that fabric-voice, I always regret it. Because sometime soon after I run across the pattern that fabric was destined to be, and when I go back to find the fabric it's GONE. Whoosh! Vanished without a trace. Occasionally the store clerk will even deny all knowledge of said fabric. ("No, honey, we've never had that pattern here." [rolls eyes])

What does this fabric say to you? (Thai Silks also has it in "almond," too:

thai silks fabric

The almond didn't demand to be bought, though, so I left it on the (virtual) shelf.

Shopping in Paris (in 1907)

Elizabeth Otis Williams

Have I mentioned just how much I love Google Book Search? I love GBS. A lot. Like, bake-them-all-cupcakes, write-them-mash-notes a lot. Not just because (or in spite of) I find about a book a week through them that I just *must* own, or because they're now letting you download PDFs of the older, out-of-copyright stuff (including old home sewing books, check it out!), but mostly because of serendipitous finds like this one.

Here's what Elizabeth Otis Williams has to say about shopping in Paris, before the Great War:

There are many good dressmakers in Paris, besides the large houses that all the world knows. The chief thing in ordering dresses at these places is to refuse to have them too much trimmed. They make such delightful elaborations with hand-made tucks, etc., and give such original and unexpected touches that one is tempted to let them err in making the trimmings and details too elaborate.

In the Reference List is given … dressmakers who we know are satisfactory both as to fit and finish. All the addresses given are places we know personally or through friends. Some are cheap, some are moderate in price, and others are expensive, but all are reliable, and make things that are good for their price. We know of other dressmakers who make lovely things but fail to keep their engagements, or who are unsatisfactory in their dealings, making bills larger than the customer has been led to expect, or using poor materials for linings. We have avoided giving addresses of this class. At places which are not reliable the model shown is often charming, but the dress that is sent home is very badly finished, and lined with inferior material.

French hats are not all made for young people. They make very chic and dignified hats for older women. In England or in America a hat made for a middle-aged woman is often quite too "old ladyish," or else it has no character, and its appropriateness consists solely in the fact that it is not noticeable! In Paris a middle-aged lady can get a hat that is suited to her years and yet handsome and stylish; and as for hats for young people, they are bewildering in their variety and beauty.

Isn't this marvelous! And yet it's something that I'd probably never have run across if not for GBS. (I checked Bookfinder.com — there are about five or six copies and they are in the $50 range, so this is not something I'd be likely to find anywhere, much less buy. According to WorldCat, twenty-six libraries have the 1907 editions, and two have the edition of 1911.)

Anyway, if you have a moment (or are stuck in an airport, as I am at the moment) go browse a bit. I was also fascinated by the (very short) list of restaurants where a woman could dine alone … not to mention this bit: "The marriage regulations are very strict, and foreigners contracting a marriage in France often think that they have done all that is necessary, and find afterwards that they have not." There's a novel in that sentence, all right!

A Perfect Storm

mccalls 5403

Okay, which one of you folks sent this link to me? It obviously worked, I bought this pattern (how could I not?) but I can't find your name in my email. Probably because searching on "pattern" "ebay" "midriff" returns about eleventy-billion results.

Of course, if I were trying to design a dress that included all my current fave elements (midriff band, contrast banding, kimono sleeves, full skirt) I would never have come up with anything as great at this.

My only question now (besides who to thank for pointing it out to me) is: what fabric? I kinda want something with a nap or a right-side/wrong-side contrast so I can make the banding only slightly different. (Although, knowing me, I'd cut it out the wrong way twice before figuring it out. I'm not good with "directional" fabric.) Ooh — maybe stripes! That would be easy to keep straight. Okay, that's it. Stripes. Now, what colors? Suggestions gratefully appreciated.

And if you sent this link to me, step up and take your bow!

A (much more specific kind of) Dress A Day

shwe shwe

Ann sent me a link to her blog, She Wears Shwe Shwe, where she posts pictures of women in South Africa wearing traditional shwe shwe fabric.

Needless to say, I love this project. Not just because I love the dresses and the gorgeous fabrics (I do) but also because Ann seems to be going about this in such a lovely and respectful way. She asks permission to photograph the wearers. She gets their mailing addresses so that she can send them a copy of the photo. She asks them questions about their dresses. Who made it? What design decisions did they make? What do they want to tell her about it? If she can (she's often driving when she spots women in shwe shwe) she offers the women rides.

There's a difference between photographic exploitation and photographic celebration, and I get a more celebratory feel from this site. I hope you do too.

This shwe shwe wearer is Rachel. She made this dress herself, out of two complementary prints. Look at the pockets!

All I want for Christmas …

Jacques Fath archives

You know, I've never really gotten the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book before (that's both a literal and a figurative gotten). I'm much more of an Heifer International catalog kind of person. Who really needs a gold-plated Hummer or a week's holiday in an undersea hotel, when you could have a no-maintenance water buffalo, instead? (And I bet the sheets at the undersea hotel are clammy.) But Ann S. (thank you, Ann!) sent me a link to this NM holiday item, and now — now I get it.

What is it? Well, I'll let the copywriters explain:

… the only archival record of the House of Fath. This museum-quality collection includes 26 volumes of original sketchbooks from 1948 through 1956, with more than 3,400 couture designs. The collection also includes three exquisite Fath haute couture dresses, each with its accompanying sketch. With this archive, the possibilities are monumental. Endow a wing of your favorite museum with a comprehensive overview of fashion history or launch your own research center to inspire the Faths of tomorrow.

How much, you ask? Only (only!) $3.5M. That's a three, a five, and five zeros (plus two more after the decimal point, for you sticklers out there). I'm sure I can pull that together if I remember to check under all the couch cushions.

TWENTY-SIX volumes of sketchbooks! 3400 designs! The only question would be, would you neither sleep nor eat until you'd looked at everything, or would you ration the books over some long-drawn-out period of time, so as to make it last longer?

(I'm not so sure about the "endow a wing of MY favorite museum" part, though. I mean, I'd be worried about the mustard getting on the clothes.)

But I do hope someone buys this and gives it to the Costume Institute at the Met, or to the Costume Museum in Bath, or to FIT, or some other place that will keep it safe and accessible to researchers, and who will mount an exhibit so that folks like us can check out every one of those 3400 designs (web site? please?).

Of course, being NM, it will probably be bought by some Texas oilman as a present for his spoiled teen daughter designer wanna-be. (He'll get the gold-plated Hummer for his wife.) But I'm not going to think about that now! I'm just going to go write a quick note to Santa.

McCardell. With bows on.

McCardell with bows

Now, y'all know just how much I love Claire McCardell, but even if I didn't already worship her, this dress would have made me an acolyte, even if being said acolyte involved wearing unflattering white robes and holding stinky candles through hours of chanting.

It's difficult to make bows seem sophisticated (of course, it helps to do them in black — this dress in pink might cause tooth decay) but these are without even a whiff of the sub-deb set.

I'm also impressed by the shirring of the shoulder seam. So luxurious! It's from Dorothea's Closet Vintage and is rayon faille, near-mint, B36 (and fairly expensive at $625, but for McCardell, if you were looking to splurge, this would be the best combination of whimsy and wearability that you could find).

It's all workin' out.

Chess Dress

Isn't this an interesting image? It's from the National Archives of Canada, and it's "Mrs. Ritchie, who here portrays Chess in a black costume with red and white checkered inserts, and a necklace and coronet made of chess pieces."

This dress comes to you because I was driving home from the airport late last night, and the iPod served up Travis Morrison's "Checkers and Chess", which has the lyrics:

Checkers and chess
I like your dress
Your dress likes me
It's all workin' out

At least, that's what *I* think the lyrics are. I could be mondegreening.

I think a Black Queen Chess Dress costume would be great for Halloween. Long black dress, pointy hat, forbidding expression, rapid yet stealthy movement at all times — you're done! And you can be warm, instead of freezing to death in something like this:

Jungle Queen Costume

I mean, sure, if you want to be the queen of the jungle, hey, knock yourself out — just carry a sweater or something, okay? Do you have money for a cab? You know I worry about you.

And, shoes.

Jeffrey Campbell Park

I know I managed to talk about this (at great length) before–the problem I've had with the Duro-dress shape is that it somehow demands new shoes for the new proportion. I had found summer shoes, but, if you hadn't noticed, summer has slipped away. It has already *snowed* here in Chicago!

The new shoes I found are the ones at left, which satisfy my stringent shoe requirements (not too high a heel, ankle strap, round toe) and have the added benefit of making a lovely resonant clomping sound if you really stomp. (I swear, I'm perpetually six years old.) Plus the platform wedge makes you a lot taller without the concomitant foot pain of "real" heels.

I also managed to track them down in brown. I was tempted by the red ones — who isn't tempted by red ones? — but I haven't managed to successfully wear red shoes since eighth grade. Buy them, yes. Manage to leave the house in them? No.

I have these perpetual dreams of becoming (at this late stage) one of those elegant minimalists; somebody who buys two of everything, one black and one brown (or red, or cream) and eases through life effortlessly coordinated, slippery as an eel. This, as you might imagine, remains only a dream. Every time I work towards this ideal (which in my head is occasionally called the "live like a stereotypical architect project"), perhaps by making five identical skirts in dull colors, I am distracted by something shiny and whoops, I'm off again in some wild print, leaving the poor dark-brown skirt moping in the closet.

The closest I ever get to that blissful minimalist state is by managing to sew a series of wild prints in a similar color family, so at least I can get by with a few pairs of monochrome tights and a couple of cardigans. And two pairs of shoes, one black, and one brown. If I'm lucky, and I don't get distracted by patterned tights and sweaters, this mostly works.

Does anyone here have the expert-recommended two- or three-color closet? How do you do it?