More Dress Art!

kissing dress project

Check out this work from artist Robin Barcus: "Collecting Kisses". She put up three dress outlines in a gallery and had people leave lipstick kisses on them. Participatory art, yay!

Robin's also doing a series of location-specific dresses for every state in the US, *and* making a movie about it, which is about as cool as you can get without resorting to the illegal use of Freon.

Here's one of her state-specific dresses (for Maine, naturally):

state dress project

She also did a leaf dress that's worth seeing — click on either of the images above to visit her blog.

I had a whole list of art-dress projects to post about before my hard drive decided to become an ossified, non-spinny lump … a list I don't really want to recreate by hand, because I'm lazy. So if you emailed me an art-dress link sometime in the last month, and feel strongly about it, would you email me again? Or at least leave a link in the comments?

Condom Dresses, Again

condom dresses

Looks like the condom dress is an attention-getter that just doesn't quit. Since the last time I posted about them there's been an entire condom-clothing fashion show in China, to commemorate World Population Day (and to publicize the 4th China Reproductive Health New Technologies & Products Expo, held in Beijing back in July).

What I want to know is, why don't I ever see any MEN'S clothing made out of condoms? Aren't they the ones who are supposed to be doing the covering up? Where are the three.jpgece condom business suits? I guess it's just another instance of that old, tired story of birth control being seen as entirely the woman's responsibility.

That said, this little number is kinda cute. I'd love to see a re-interpretation of the condom dress where all the condoms were actually ersatz condoms made of silk organza. (It would certainly be more comfortable to wear!)

If you click through on the picture you'll see the original post featuring the story, with all the stuff-made-from-condoms you could ever wish to see. But be careful, some of the pictures there look as if they might at any time become Not Safe For Work. And oh, lord, I can't wait to see what kind of ads Adsense serves up to this post!

Oh, Fabric, Why Can't I Quit You?

Have you all visited alittlegoodness's Etsy site yet? I desperately need this fabric. (If by 'desperately', you mean 'after sewing up the 15 yards I desperately needed *last* week.')

japanese alphabet fabric

Included in that 15 yards was a good chunk of this fabric, which I posted about yonks ago, and which is now back in stock at Fashion Fabrics Club:

fishes fabric

I also bought (no pictures … yet) a soft, heavy loden green fabric that is possibly a cotton/wool blend, some lightweight teal denim, and a really nice Liz Claiborne browny-gray ombre-ish stripe. Very somber; I'm thinking I'll try another version of the Why Not Plaid dress with that last fabric. You know, Real Soon Now.

I have come to a sort of détente with my fabric stash: I have an enormous amount of fabric, and yet never seem to have anything I can actually sew with. The fabric I want to sew with has to hit that sweet spot: it has to be something I want to wear, yet not so incredibly gorgeous that I am too cowed to cut into it. (Have you ever tried shopping for "good enough" fabric? It's very difficult.*) So my arrangement is this: I simply buy gorgeous fabric and then wait for OTHER gorgeous fabric to arrive and push slightly-less gorgeous fabrics down the ladder of gorgeousness until they are at a low enough rung to be cut into. Some fabrics, it is sad to say, fall rather rapidly; others have maintained an immunity to scissors and pins for years. The worst is when fabric goes from too-gorgeous to too-NOT-gorgeous and misses the scissor-able stage altogether.

*This may be a business model: a site that only sells mediocre-plus fabrics. "Perfect for semi-wearable muslins!" would be its tagline. Or maybe "Fabrics you'll be 'in like' with!"

Zip right up

Advance 7712

This dress (from the eBay store The Lyoness's Den) has got a center front zipper closing, which is a feature I always enjoy on purchased vintage dresses, but not something I've ever sewn myself.

I love looking at the design trajectory of center zippers: it seems to me (and I haven't done any real research on this, so be sure to read the comments where it is entirely likely I will be contradicted by someone who has Real Knowledge of this subject) that early on in the days of 'zip fasteners' they were exotic, interesting, expensive … and thus they were featured prominently in designs — front and center as it were. (I have a late 1930s-early 1940s black crepe dress which would have been very expensive, new, that has a center front zipper.) As zippers became more widespread and ordinary, even quotidian, they moved from the front to the side and then the back — out of sight, out of mind — and visible zippers, front-closure zippers, became a sportif or even déclassé thing. Front zippers were for play clothes, coveralls, and housedresses, like this one.

(It's almost like what happened to Velcro: if you are as old as I am, you probably remember when Velcro sneakers had that early-adopter cool, before becoming at first dorky and then unremarkable. I am afraid I've always hated Velcro, though, because I can't stand that horrible noise it makes!)

Anyway, this dress, with its center front zipper, is $9.95 Buy-It-Now and a bust 38. It's advertised as a housedress that's pretty enough to wear out of the house (to the grocery store or whatnot). If I were going to make it, I'd make it in a gray-and-red geometric-print quilting cotton with a bright red, large-toothed, plastic zipper up the front. Fun!

I Just Don't Know


I've had this site,, open in my browser for a week, trying to decide whether to blog about it.

The pros:

  • it's a site that promotes swapping of clothes as well as buying/selling
  • it lets users donate the money they make from their closets to the charitable cause of their choice
  • the interface looks pretty nice

The cons:

  • sites like this are only as good as their user base, and their user base right now (although they all seem like very nice people!) isn't very large
  • it's only slightly less trouble to take pictures and list items on a site like this as it is for eBay, and eBay would probably net you more money
  • there were only 19 dresses listed when I last checked.

Anyway, I'm not sold yet. I think what would really make this site work is a something like Amazon's "Resell Your Books" feature. Sign up a few big online clothing retailers (, Amazon, Bluefly,, Zappos, etc.), and get them to let users upload their purchase histories. Match people who have similar sizes/purchase histories, and then alert them to each other and see if they want to trade.

They could also let you (with a widget/bookmarklet) "shop" on other, non-partner sites and mark things you've bought, which would add that thing automatically to your "closet".

For every person who says "eeeew … used clothes?" there will be two who will buy that extra sweater if they know they can sell or swap it in a few months for something new-to-them.

Having people upload their own stuff is so old-web, and too much work. Make it passive, or nearly passive, and you're more than halfway there. A really useful site would know/figure out (with my permission) what I've already bought, and then would ping me when people who have similar tastes mark the stuff THEY already bought with a "willing to trade/sell" marker.

So I pose the questions to you, my dear readers. Would you use a site like, as it is now? Would you take pictures of your stuff, describe it, put it up on this site, and then field requests to trade a pair of barely-worn GAP grass-green ballet flats for your barely-worn grass-green cardigan? (Not that I have a pair of shoes like that gathering dust in MY closet …) I'm not sure I would. But I'd sign up for a passive, automatic-info-gathering clothing-swap site in a heartbeat …

(And while I'm talking about advances in shopping tech — someone has finally implemented my dream of a shop-by-color application. It's here at Yahoo! Shopping. Of course, in my dream it was by Pantone, but hey. You take what you can get. Now do you see why my pitch for a shopping-by-color service got third place in the Web 1.0 pitch contest at Wikimania 2006? Vindication is suh-weet.)

A quick Friday hodge-podge

First off, if you are planning to download yesterday's pattern from the V&A site, you might want to hold off until Monday — Cassie, the web content manager for the V&A site, made the dress herself, and emailed me to say that she is going to upload slightly tweaked instructions sometime today. (Also, I forgot yesterday to link to link-sender Catherine's web page; it's here.)

Also, if you are not reading Rostitchery, why aren't you? Today (or maybe last night) she linked to a bunch of sewing machine accessory videos. I really don't like watching tutorial videos (I'm too impatient) but I was TRANSFIXED by seeing this binding foot in action! I want one. I need one. I must have one. Can you say "contrast bias hems for the rest of your natural life"? I can. (There's a slightly scarier-looking one here.)

And one last thing (maybe your Dress A Day Moment of Zen) — Laura bought a copy of a 1958 McCalls Pattern magazine, and uploaded a few images from it. Here's an ad for a particularly wonderful dress:

1958 McCalls ad

I find looking at vintage dress ads almost exquisitely painful; the whole idea of advertising is to get you to covet the product, but the product, here, is almost fifty years gone. The chances of me ever finding this dress, in my size, in wearable condition … well, they're vanishingly small. Which means I will just have to redouble my efforts on the time-machine-development front, right? And just enjoy looking at the picture.

Free Pattern from the V&A!

V&A couture pattern

Click here to find a free pattern from the V&A for (I think) the dress above. It's in UK sizes 10,12, & 14 (I have no idea what those sizes are in Red-Blooded American, but I'm assuming that's something that's Google-able), and it prints on A4 paper (of which I used to have a stash but don't any longer). So all in all I'm not certain how easy this will be for those outside the Empire to manage, but hey, free pattern for cute dress!

Many thanks to Nora and Catherine, who sent me links to this, and to the associated V&A exhibit, The Golden Age of Couture 1947-1957. Which, delightfully, will still be around when I'm in London in October. Hurrah!

I'm thinking it might just be time for me to become a member of the V&A. Have to encourage this sort of thing!

Why not plaid?

Remember this pattern?

McCalls 9215

Well, I really wanted to try it out, AND I really wanted to make a new dress to wander around the Renegade Craft Fair in, AND I had a bunch (as in, more than six yards) of this weird yellow-and-gray plaid fabric I wanted to use, and … well, I did this:

yellow plaid dress

Here's a bigger view:

yellow plaid dress

And here you can see the almost-matched plaid at the center front:

yellow plaid dress

I want to make this again as it was fast (I cut it out in about an hour, and it took about three hours to sew; if I weren't doing plaid it would probably take less time) and fairly easy, and fun to wear. I cut the front bodice on the bias, so that the plaid would purposefully not match at the waist seam. I think it would look better with a belt (I'm planning to try to find the gray patent belt Summerset bought at Target for her shirtdress).

Other than cutting the bodice on the bias, the only other change I made was substituting a center back invisible zipper (running from about the bra-strap line to 6" below the waist) instead of the side snap placket the pattern calls for. It wasn't fun to set in, but by moving the zipper to the center back, I could put in pockets on both sides of the skirt, instead of the one-sided pocket the pattern allowed.

Next time I make this I'm going to lengthen the bodice by about an inch, and widen the sleeve a bit to accommodate my, um, muscular upper arms. I'm also going to try to figure out why the shoulder seam was a bit forward of the top of the shoulder when I was wearing it. Something was pulling, but I can't figure out what!

My camera ran out of juice before I could shoot the buttons in the back, but they were just plain plastic yellow buttons, anyway. I could have sworn I had some lovely gray buttons in my stash, but they managed to disappear.

The best part of this dress was the fun of applying the bias edging to the neck and sleeves. I love doing that. And although the neck is pretty high, I found it quite comfortable.

(If you saw the BurdaNews post yesterday, I'm wearing this dress in that picture, with a gray cardigan.)

All in all, it was probably not the Best Idea Ever to make a brand-new pattern (and one where I made so many little changes right off the bat) in PLAID, but, hey, why not? If something's too easy there's no fun in it, right?

I Don't Know What You People Are Thinking

Neiman Marcus dress

Seriously. Holly at LuciteBox Vintage has had this up as a Buy-It-Now on eBay for like, a week now and it's STILL THERE. I was looking at my list of to-be-blogged topics and thought "There's no way that dress is still up," but when I went to check, it was. Sheesh! What is up? Is everyone still getting back from Labor Day vacation? Are you still trying to get that last week of wear out of your summer sandals? Does everyone have the horrific head cold I came down with?

I mean, check out the back:

Neiman Marcus dress

That alone should have made you hit that handy "Buy It Now" button.

Anyway, it's navy, B36/W26, and just plain gorgeous, and pretty affordable at $74.

Everyone should have a very structured dark dress for the days where you Mean Business. This is a brook-no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners dress. I have one that is black crepe and insanely severe; but it can go from lady-scientist to hardcore-vamp with a change of shoes and a slash of red lipstick. This is one of those dresses, and believe me, once you have a dress like this you feel a renewed sense of confidence. It's like having a $100 bill in your pocket, an unmetered parking space, a new pair of kickass shoes, and a fantastic idea, all at once. Even when you're not wearing it. Just having it in your closet, ready to pull out in case of emergency, is enough.

So why is this one still available? I don't know. I am going to have to fall back on my traditional there's-no-good-explanation explanation: sunspots.

Renegade Craft Fair Roundup!

I made it down to the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago yesterday, and it was great! I think I hit every booth (and gave away a lot of A Dress A Day tape measures) … I'm sorry if I missed you!

Where to start … the first thing I saw that I really wanted (and of course it was sold out) were these hedgehog notecards (so erinaceous!) from Papered Together. Want. Am watching her store to see when they come back in stock!

hedgehog cards

There were so many great print/stationery/card people at the fair, I had to restrain myself from buying a file cabinet's worth of cute paper. I did buy a postcard for my husband from Rar Rar (unfortunately not on their etsy site) that was a lyric from a Kanye song: "Chi-Town, We gon' show em how we get down" in fancy old-timey type. And I bought this from

mama robot

I plan to frame it and put it in my son's room. So cute! (Although also, now that I look at it again, slightly scary!)

Other stuff I coveted, in randomish order:

I also got to talk with Nora and Benedikte of BurdaStyle, so expect some fun things to come out of that, too!

I did not buy any dresses at the fair, but I did make a new one to wear. I'll post it in the next couple days …