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 …

Girls Rule!

new-vintage little girl's dress

If you aren't saying 'awwwwww' right now, your awww-er is broken, and you should seek medical attention. Seriously, isn't this cute as a whole button-factory's worth of buttons? Missy (who sells on eBay as Spring*Bean) made this … that's her youngest (I think) modeling.

You know who else makes incredibly adorable girls' dresses? With the smocking, and the bows, and everything? Retro Grace. I've become addicted to her blog … but who can blame me when she features things like this?

new-vintage little girl's dress

or this?

new-vintage little girl's dress

I think it's probably lucky that I have a little boy, because if I had a little girl I would be doing nothing but making her dresses like these, and (knowing the way the universe likes to have its little joke) she would probably hate them, and want to dress like a Bratz doll. And besides, it's a lot faster to make the kind of thing my son likes (namely, silly CafePress t-shirts).

Does This Make Me Look Crazy?


I was recently packing for yet another trip, this one complicated by trying to decide what, from my limited collection of camera-ready clothes ("camera-ready," in this case, meaning 'having a pattern that doesn't induce seizures in any eventual watchers and is not white or black') would be suitable for both a taped interviewy thing and a taped rock concert, and as I was trying stuff on, I found myself asking the eternal question:

"Does this make me look fat?"

Luckily, I was only asking myself, not pestering my long-suffering husband. (He likes to make himself scarce while I'm packing; he doesn't need to increase his store of profanity.) We have a deal: I don't ask him if I'm fat, and he doesn't ask me where his wallet and keys are. (We break this deal, like glass, in cases of emergency.)

At the moment of asking, though, I stopped for a minute. Why is "fat" automatically the one thing that must be avoided? I'm not talking "need to be airlifted from house for medical attention," fat, I'm talking "fifteen extra pounds from a crappy winter" fat. (Not that the degree really matters.) Why, of all the aesthetic choices that can be made, is "slim" the one that has to be prioritized? Why am I not asking myself, first and foremost, "Does this make me look unhappy?" or "Does this make me look boring?" or "Does this make me look fashion-victimy?" or "Does this make me look like a visiting space alien, and not in the sexy lamé-bikini-and-boots way?"

So I stopped asking the "fat" question, and started asking the "unhappy" one, and this is one of the things where the answer was "No, it doesn't make you look unhappy. Quite the reverse!" But: does it make me look TOO HAPPY, aka crazy? (I already know that it doesn't make me look slimmer, and that's okay.)

Here's a close-up:

It's a skirt that used to be a plain circle, without a waistband, and recently I got tired of skirts without waistbands, so I took it apart and added one. (With quite a bit of cursing and muttering, I might add.) The fabric is from Ikea; someday I'm going to walk into someone's house wearing this and match all their couch cushions. Then it WILL make me look crazy, but I'll be happy, so I don't care.

I'm NOT quite sure this is actually camera-ready (stripes might be bad, right?) but if it does end up airing (and yes yes I will give you all details when I know them) I'm sure they'll post some kind of warning.

In Soviet Russia, Bow Wears YOU!

80s bow dress

(Does anyone even remember those jokes?)

Nancy sent me the link to this when it was still gloriously for sale on eBay (from seller The Olive Shoppe). Whoever grabbed this is going to wang chung tonight, that's for sure.

I kid, I kid, but only because I love. Or rather, I used to love. I'm sure I would have been all over this (or it would have been all over me) when it originally came out. Although I'm sure I would have preferred the bow to be fluorescent yellow, and I would have accessorized with an armful of rubber bracelets, no doubt. Not to mention playing Sade's "Diamond Life" or The Fixx at full blast while getting dressed. I'm not sure I could wear something like this with a straight face now. (Of course, when do I wear ANYTHING with a straight face?)

But this dress, more than all the hot pink & black electroclash fashions of the past few years, has let me know that I'm finally at the point where I can be the person who ruefully says that she can't see wearing the retread of anything she actually wore the first time it was popular! It's a milestone I'm happy to reach, in fact. Now if only my hair would hurry up and go all the way gray. Gravitas, it's all about the gravitas …

Gorgeous Ugly Fabric

gorgeous ugly alpha fabric

Isn't this great ugly fabric? I mean, I think it's very attractive, in a charmingly grotesque way. I have no idea why the pattern designer thought only the letters a-e-g-i-s-v were needed (is it supposed to spell 'visage' and if so, why?) and I don't know why there's some kind of craquelure behind those letters, but I don't care. I like it. Which is why I now have four yards of it. (And it wasn't even on sale–I liked it that much!)

As you all know by now, I'm a huge fan of the unconventionally pretty, which is not to say, in so many words, the downright ugly. I like things to have a hard edge, sometimes, and to make you work to see how beautiful they are. The easy beauty of pink roses and sunsets is one thing; the difficult, ornery, belligerent beauty of rough concrete and sheets of rain is another.

This fabric wants to be a narrow 'secretary' dress with a round collar, midriff band, and contrast piping (and, thanks to Lydia, I actually HAVE this pattern right now) but I don't know when I'll get a chance to make it. I'm pretty overwhelmed with Actual Work at the moment. Making a new dress is starting to feel as far away as some of my other nebulous goals, like "lose fifteen pounds" and "answer all my email" and "live on Moon colony before I die," and having "make new dress" slip into that category is a bit depressing.

But, I'm sure things will lighten up around here eventually, says the woman who is traveling three out of the next four weeks …