Hey Viv! Need a Crinoline?


Theresa sent me this link to the Hey Viv! store, where you can buy yourself a brand new 50s-style crinoline, for all your swishy-skirt needs. They're about $27, not including shipping, and also come in black, pink, and red.

I'm not a big crinoline-wearer myself — I have enough trouble getting in and out of cars as it is — but I'm tempted to get one. Just for parties, I'm telling myself, although I know if I had one I'm sure I'd try to wear it every day, like a six-old-girl with brand-new patent maryjanes.

I think some of you have sent me links to other retro-undergarmenty places in the past, links I have carefully filed, never to see again. If you feel generous, leave them in the comments?

Hints for actually managing the wearing of a crinoline are welcome, too.

Somebody Thinks I Think, I Think

Thinking Blogger Award

Julie (of the blog High Fiber Content) has nominated me for the Thinking Blogger Award! Which, whoa.

In order to claim my award, I have to link to five blogs that make me think. Which, upon reflection, was harder to do than I thought it would be: I really ONLY read blogs that make me think, because I prefer thinking to almost any other form of activity. (Except, perhaps, roller-skating.)

Anyway, here are the five blogs that routinely make me think HARD, in alphabetical order:

Fashion Incubator. I love to read Kathleen's blog, because I like to know what goes on behind the curtain of the garment industry, and she pulls it all the way back.

I Blame the Patriarchy. Twisty is helping me try to reduce my complicity in the patriarchial system. Somewhat. I'm working on it.

Jane In Progress. Again, another blog that pulls back the curtain, this time on television. I love to see how things work with their cunning gears and wires! And Jane shows how scripts work. And jokes. And lunch. Delish.

Raw Thought (from Aaron Swartz). Is it cheating to nominate a blog with "thought" right in its title for a Thinking Blogger award?

Think Denk. I know NOTHING about classical music, and in the real 'nothing' sense, not the "I know NOTH-ink!" Hogan's Heroes Schultz sense. But when I read this blog I can sometimes see things swimming toward me out of the fog.

Thank you, Julie, for nominating me!

Any Chinese Translation Help?

Memory Dress

Dress A Day reader Erma's husband is a non-native speaker of Chinese and a linguistics professor, and he has a dress-related translation question. Does anyone know the meaning of the Chinese character bai3 ()? It's used in compounds such as qun2bai3 (), where qun2 means skirt. It was used in a sentence which translates to something like "Under the rustling of the evening breeze, the entire bai3 of the skirt was billowing".

The dictionary defines bai3 as "hem or lower part". But a native speaker told Erma's husband that bai3 refers to width — a narrow skirt has a "small bai3" and a wide skirt has a "big bai3".

Anyone have some input? I have to say, if we figure this one out, I'm going to steal that word into English and use it to refer to this concept all the time. "I only wear skirts with big bai," I'll say.

[The image is an artwork called "Memory Dress" by Yu Hong.]

Whatta dress!

Womans Day 5026

This dress is actually made of awesome, is it not? It's from Jen, at MOMSPatterns — you know Jen, her ad's right there on the right (your right, my left, as I face you through the computer).

If this weren't a B32, you'd never see it here, as I would be jealously guarding the auction like some kind of medieval guardy thing, waiting for my bid to go through at the very last second. But since it's on the small side, I'm happy to share it with you. Go! And if you win it, make it IMMEDIATELY, and send me a picture, please.

Of course, if you're not on the small side, Jen has something for you too — in fact, she's running a special sale! MOMSPatterns is having a Weekend Spring Cleaning Sale and A Dress A Day readers get 1st dibs on more than 1,000 vintage sewing patterns …

The sale starts today [Thursday] and ENDS at midnight Sunday, April 29, 2007. Use coupon code 'springcleaning30' to save 30% off of ANY sized order. Don't forget that Jen ships for free to the US & Canada with the purchase of 5 or more patterns …

That panel-ly thing on the side of the skirt, up there? Actually BUTTONS ON. For extra swoosh. Man, I wish this was in my size!

Dvorak or QWERTY?

keyboard dress

Angela at Dorothea's Closet sent me this — it's not for sale, though, so put your credit cards away. She bought it to sell and had to keep it (that's one of the reasons I'd never be a good vintage store proprietor: I'd keep too much)!

Angela said her four-year-old daughter told her it looked like the dress had "buttons" — she meant "keyboard keys". (I remember when my son was four; he was obsessed with pushing buttons. We spent a lot of time in elevators that were making unscheduled stops at all floors.) And, yes, don't they look like keyboards?

Isn't this a great dress? I'm happy just knowing it exists. I'm even happier knowing it has pockets:

keyboard dress

Pockets that LACE UP, no less!

Overuse of Flash Animation is Probably Not the Main Reason the GAP is Going Down The Tubes, But It Doesn't Help, Either

Doo.ri Gap dress

I saw this Doo.Ri for GAP dress in an actual GAP store when I was in NYC, and I was tremendously impressed — it was even cute on the hanger, and I loved the versatility of it — you could belt it with any number of scarves and ties and whatnot, wear it as a white dress all summer, and then (when it got grimy, as it eventually would) dye it black and wear it all NEXT summer. Genius!

So I went to the GAP site to check it out and the GAP site is now a horrific swirling mess of crappy Flash animations. You can't click anywhere, you can't find anything, it's all five second movies by wannabe web auteurs. I hate hate hate it. Catch me plunking down my money at a site like that. And to add insult to animation, the dress isn't even available online!

So if you're walking by a GAP anyway (check their site for the stores that even HAVE this "Design" line, not all of them do) and feel like checking for this dress, it's probably worth it — it's only $88. Otherwise, feel free to use my irritation at the complete suck of the GAP website as an excuse not to hand them any of your money.

Every Dress Tells (or Sometimes Reads) a Story

lion dress

Robin sent me this adorable dress, which is being listed (by fandon) on eBay and ends TODAY so scoot scoot if you want it.

Here's the full dress:

lion dress

I was actually thinking about dresses and stories yesterday, because Friday I was at the GEL conference and heard Ira Glass talk about what good stories do, and how they do it. And of course, whenever I hear anything I particularly like, I think "how does this apply to dresses?"

And then I realized: stories are why I sew. Personal sewing gives a garment an inescapable story, with an inherent narrative that pulls you along to the next bit: where I found the fabric and the pattern, and how long they waited to be made; how difficult or easy it was to put together and what halfassed compromises I made with my original vision; how it turned out, and so on. (Compare this with "I saw it at the Gap and bought it.") Every dress I make is an opportunity to recount a story, as well, and being (mostly) Irish and an aspiring raconteuse, I rarely turn down an opportunity to tell a story … especially ones that are (as so many dress stories are) stories of triumphing over adversity, however small that adversity is.

Sewing's not the only way to give a garment a story, of course. Think about your favorite clothes: don't they have stories? The clothes you bought on vacation, or received from a friend or inherited from a relative, the clothes you wore on a special day or with a special person … I heard a great story about a jacket this past weekend from Henning Rübsam (I heard this story because I exclaimed over how beautiful his jacket was). He saw a gorgeous jacket in a shop, a beautiful one that not only fit him perfectly physically, but fit him spiritually as well. It was far, far, far too expensive, so he regretfully left it behind. He went into the same shop a year later, and it was still there … and, even on sale, far, far too expensive, still. A long while after that … he found it waiting for him at Century 21, finally at a price he could afford, and now it is his, and he's been wearing it, and its story, ever since.

I can see why maybe some people don't want all their clothes to have stories—it'd be exhausting to be overwhelmed with associations each time you pulled on a pair of socks—but I think, in general, garments with a narrative of their own are preferable to garments without.

Prom Time (circa 1989)

Prom 1989

It's prom time, isn't it? I am starting to see prom stories in the news, and folks on the various sewing lists I'm on are starting to post their war stories of sewing dresses for their daughters … so I thought I'd dig up the photo of the great dress my mom made for me.

My mom has actually made me two prom dresses; the first was for the freshman prom. Not my freshman prom—a guy named David Goldman's freshman prom. I was just a very flattered eighth grader. (So thanks again, David, wherever you are!) Luckily no pictures of that dress survive; the dress was fine—but let's just say eighth grade wasn't an especially high point for me (aside from being asked to that prom).

The other dress my mom made was for my Senior Prom. See that picture up above? That's me, on the right. On the left (and isn't he dapper!) is Dave Hampton, who is now an architect right here in Chicago (and he's single, so area ladies, if you want an intro, drop me an email). We went As Friends, as my boyfriend at the time was a College Man and couldn't be bothered about a rinky-dink high-school prom. (That is, until the last minute, when he crashed our pre-prom dinner. Which was Chinese takeout in my folks' dining room, but still.)

I don't know how my mom did it, but she took my vague instructions about a square-necked full-skirted dress and made it real. (Well, she wouldn't cut the neckline any lower, or take the waist in any tighter, but moms have to hold the line where they can … and anyway, constructing something like this was way way beyond my capabilities at the time. )

Dave and I had a great time. After the prom our whole group had a sedate and lovely moonlight picnic in Reynolda Gardens, which I think was (and is) against their posted rules, but the local police were much more interested our harder-partying classmates, so we got away with it.

The dress was dark green polished cotton, and I still have it — it's in a box somewhere upstairs with a few other things I can't imagine ever wearing again but couldn't possibly get rid of. I wish I still had those shoes; they were even cuter in person. (Of course, with Dave, I probably could have worn four-inch heels; he's a bit on the tall side … )

I *really* want to hear about y'all's prom dresses — that's what the comments are for …

Rude? Or Just Clueless? Or Something Else?

walmart wrap dress

So a while back (I'm not telling you how long, but I did finally resurrect it from my inbox, so if you're still waiting for me to post something you sent me, take heart) … where was I? Oh, yes. A while back, Dress A Day reader Carrie sent me this story. It seems she had bought an inexpensive wrap dress that was featured in a "work wardrobe" story in Glamour mag — nothing fancy, just a $20 wrap dress from Wal-Mart. Carrie was a bit nervous about it (it being $20, and from Wal-Mart) but she tried it on and it was pretty good quality and (being a wrap dress) really flattering. And it was black with a subtle purple dotted swirl pattern, which she liked. So she bought it.

She was about two weeks into a new job (thus the acquiring a work wardrobe part) and had to go to a training session at a customer site. Great time to pack a wrap dress, right? It doesn't take up much space in a suitcase or wrinkle. (Carrie is in clinical sales; she was traveling to a hospital to represent her company and train a few people in the lab on how to use a piece of diagnostic equipment. Having worked in the field for a few years, she figured that it would be business casual, meaning no jeans, but no suits, either.)

Carrie thought (and I agree) that the dress was simple enough and could pass for business casual or slightly nicer. She wore it with pumps and hose and small silver hoop earrings. Unexceptionable, right? But her two coworkers told her that she was overdressed and would intimidate the customer! In a $20 Wal-Mart dress!

Carrie responded only by praising the comfort and convenience of the dress, and tried to let it go … only to have dinner weeks later with two colleagues who ended up mentioning that they had heard about it!

I think that her co-workers (or cow-orkers, in this case) were way out of line. First of all, it's a hospital, full of doctors … doctors are not going to be intimidated by a simple wrap dress. Then, of course, it's always rude to comment on peoples' clothing, unless you are complimenting them (or telling them a slip is showing, etc.). It's doubly rude to say something deflating if the person has no chance to go and change.

(To make the story complete we have to give you Carrie's description of her critics. "The 'business specialist' [basically a technical sales person] wore navy dress 'slacks', a hawaiian button-down shirt, and an ill-fitting khaki blazer. The other co-worker, the woman doing the training [Carrie was observing her to learn the training] wore khaki dress pants and a coral sweater twinset with a ring of smallish faux crystals along the neckline.)"

I can't imagine that "intimidating the customer" was really the issue … I'm sure it was something else. Hazing of the new girl? An international conspiracy of pants manufacturers to bulldoze dress-wearers into pants-wearing compliance? What do y'all think?

(The dress above isn't the one Carrie bought, but a similar one from Wal-Mart.)

I'm Not Sewing

jellybean dress

Seriously. I am not sewing right now. I mean, I'm still thinking about sewing, and planning to sew, and still doing the occasional bit of mending, and Lord, am I ever still buying fabric (look here soon for something made of REAL DOTTED SWISS) but I'm not actually sewing. Too much work right now, and the weather's still too crappy for the instant gratification of make-summer-dress, wear-summer-dress.

So this, then, is not a recent creation, but a 'test garment' that I did several months ago. It went together fine, and then I realized that I didn't have enough of the 'real' fabric to make the dress now that I knew it actually fit, so the project was abandoned. This test dress is wearable, though! I need to hem the sleeves (or rather, tack down the facings), shorten the skirt (and eventually hem it), and I have to take the front of the skirt apart and add big flappy patch pockets, but that's not a big deal.

I'm calling this the jelly bean dress, because it reminds me of nothing so much as it does Yarnstorm's lovely jelly bean cushions. I think if I ever were lucky enough to meet Yarnstorm I'd have to wear this dress … and then we'd eat candy-covered cupcakes that matched it. I'd better get cracking, right? Always better to be prepared.

The fabric is from the remnant table at Vogue, from the depressingly tiny "60 inch wide cotton prints" section; I'm there so much I should really send the nice remnant-watcher lady a Christmas card. And this is a vintage pattern, but I don't remember the number and if I go upstairs I'm going to wake my little boy, and if I wake him he'll wake my husband. The boy doesn't have school today, so might as well let 'em sleep …