Linktastic Friday No. 3

measuring tape lights

Carmen sent a link to the lamp above — made of measuring tapes! So cool.

Cel sent this link to "Make It Yourself": Home Sewing, Gender, and Culture, 1890–1930 by Sarah A. Gordon — really worth looking at.

Jay at CLMP let me know about Sonya Naumann's great art project: Thousand Dollar Dress. Sonya is taking pictures of a thousand different people wearing her thousand-dollar wedding dress! Genius.

If you want to make the world a better place for women, I can't imagine a more satisfying place to put your money: Goods4Girls gives reusable "sanitary supplies" (that is, menstrual pads) to girls in Africa, because if they don't have them, they can't go to school. (And regular paper products, when they can get them, can't be disposed of safely.) I suggest donating a week's worth of pads, if you can; they don't take direct cash donations but offer a list of suppliers who will make them and send them to Goods4Girls for you (they also offer instructions to make your own).

"The untidiness men find repugnant … the carelessness men can't stand …". Thanks to Deborah for the link (and check out her magnificent coat on the cover of Vogue Knitting)!

Nikkie, the curator the Fort Morgan Museum in Fort Morgan, Colorado, is looking for help; they are having an exhibit this fall on the WPA (Works Progress Administration, later the Works Projects Administration) and its impact on Morgan County. One of the local WPA works in Morgan County was a Sewing Project, where simple, serviceable apparel was made and then distributed as part of the relief efforts. If you have any of the standard patterns used for the WPA program, or any finished clothing items, and would be willing to lend them to the museum, would you contact her through the link above?

Jezebella sent in this skirt. Please click that link to see the best and most hilarious pocket ever.

Julie sends in these very nice paper dolls

Rita made a vintage-patterns video!

Hilarious 1950s Atlantic piece on the sameness of women's magazines … [via Faking Good Breeding]

Elisa (aka The Mad Fashionista) was in the NYT! Congratulations!

Nora sends a link to Etsy seller Jane Bon Bon who makes GORGEOUS skirts and dresses, including plus-size. Marvelous appliqué. She makes stuff to order, with no extra charge for plus-size and her prices are very reasonable for custom work!

Remember, if you want to send me a link for Linktastic Fridays (no promises!): 1) email me links to pictures, not the pictures themselves, if at all possible; 2) if it's your auction/site/whatever, please disclose; 3) tell me if you want your name (and how much of it) attached to the link and linked to your site, if applicable. Thank you!

Actually, there IS such a thing as bad publicity; let me show you it

I get a LOT of press releases, all clamoring for me to push something on this blog. Somehow last year I made it to some list of the Top Fifty Fashion Blogs (number 37! represent!) and now everyone and her intern has my email address.

Now, I don't mind a GOOD pitch, but I don't get very many of those. (Most of the good pitches are for books, which is probably because book publicists actually READ.)

I do mind a BAD pitch. What makes a pitch bad? Lots of things. The worst are pitches that make it embarrassingly apparent that the pitch-er has never read my blog before. Do I feature jewelry consistently? No. What makes you think I will start doing so for your product? Do I breathlessly report the doings and wearings of starlets? No again. So why would I be interested in your report of a C-list personage involved with your product in some way? And, more importantly, why would the people who read this blog be interested?

Sending out hundreds of badly-worded, badly-targeted pitches is spamming, no more, no less. What really gets me is that these poor designers are brainwashed into thinking they need to PAY these clueless "PR reps" to piss off bloggers and editors for them. It's shameful. (If the goal was to piss off editors and bloggers it'd be cheaper and more fun for the designer to just go around and egg everyone's houses.)

A little while back I got this pitch. (Client name blocked out to avoid giving them any publicity, even the bad kind.)

Check out our exclusive photo of Rumor Willis wearing a $32,000 ring, designed by —— —–, the hottest jewelry designer out there.

[note: I have never heard of this designer.]

The ring is almost 4CT in diamonds! Rumor drooled over the ring when she recently stopped by —– show room.

We would love to see this photo on your awesome blog! You guys do a great job!
Call/email me with any questions..

Kate Long
PeakPR Group

Yep, that was the whole release, word-for-word, and exactly as sent to me (minus client name and rep's contact info). First of all, there was no link to the photo to "check out." If I WERE interested, I'd have to write back for it. Dumb. (Of course, that's much better than the PR reps who insist on cluttering my inbox with eight .jpgs all named things like JPG001.jpg!)

My blog is called A DRESS A DAY. I write about sewing and vintage: not exactly an upscale lifestyle. Why are you sending me press releases for hugely expensive diamond rings? My last CAR didn't cost $32K.

Also — "Rumor" Willis? If even I, disassociated as I am from tabloid culture, know that her name is spelled "Rumer," how dumb do YOU look?

And Rumer is famous solely because Ashton Kutcher is her step-dad. This does not mean she is a style arbiter. Again: why should I (or anyone) care?

One more thing: It's pretty apparent that I write this whole blog all by my lonesome. Why use "you guys"?

For some dumb reason (I blame low blood sugar) I replied to this PR missive, pointing out the above errors, explaining that their releases did not inspire confidence in their services or their clients' products, and asking to be taken off their list.

Then, I got this gem back:

My intern sent that, thanks for pointing it out.

[Worst. Excuse. Ever. So you're charging your clients … for work done by interns? That you evidently didn't check? And you're advertising this fact? It's not the intern's fault, if she is an intern. It's yours.]

By the way your English have been "are not applicable."

[I wrote "I'm the only person writing [my blog], so "you guys" is not applicable." Which is less correct than the sentence above, apparently.]

Also, we rep 160 retail stores, so we are very inspired..

[Quantity equals quality! We all know that.]

They happen include major leading fashion designers.

[That sentence no verb.]

Clearly you should be more polite regarding a simple spell check, it is clear your blog is amateur,

[Which is why … you wanted me to feature your client on my amateur blog?]

you never know the help one needs on the way up. Politeness is the door to success.

Christine Peake,

That last bit just kills me. I always assumed KNOWING HOW TO DO YOUR JOB was the door to success; politeness just oils the hinges of that door. I think Ms. Peake and her PEAKPR group are pushing (hard) on a door marked PULL.

This (replying to stupid pitches pointing out their stupidity and asking to not be sent any more stupid pitches) probably falls under the heading of not teaching pigs to sing (it wastes your time and annoys the pig). But, damn, rank incompetence annoys me! How hard is it to do a little RESEARCH? Spend a little time reading?

For a much better rant on this subject, check out Chris Anderson's. Be sure to read all the comments for your RDA of other-people's-cluelessness.

Shirtdress #3

When you make the same pattern multiple times you really begin to understand how a few small changes will change the look completely, to wit:

Liberty Corduroy shirtwaist

This is Liberty babycord (sometimes called Kingly cord; I'm not sure if that means they think kings are big babies, or what); as usual, I forget the style name. I went to eBay to see if I could find any and ended up buying four more meters of a *different* print, so I think I'll leave it as unknown for now, thank you!

The buttons are olive plastic (all the buttons on these three dresses have been just standard off-the-revolving-rack ones from Hancock's Fabrics; I have tons of vintage buttons, of course, but not TEN of any one kind, which makes it a bit difficult to use them up with shirtdresses). I also had a set of bright teal ones under consideration for this dress, but they were a little headlighty against the swirly print.

The cuffs were actually not as much of a PITA as I thought they would be; there's a slight bobble on one of them where the brown ribbon that edges the placket meets the cuff proper (which of course I didn't think to take picture of). But considering I move my hands so much when I talk, no one will ever notice.

Here's a slightly better look at the fabric:

Liberty Corduroy shirtwaist

I also have a midriff-y dress made in this same colorway, only in lawn. I can't remember if I've ever posted it, though. Right now it's waiting for a button fix, sadly.

Sewing with Liberty cord isn't hard; it's very fine and lightweight, not bulky at all. The print obscures any nap problems and the wales are so fine that you don't get that weird separation you sometimes have at the seams with wider-wale corduroy. Also, it is sooooo soft, like very thin velvet. If you wear Liberty corduroy, people WILL pet you. Be prepared.

I used sewn-in organza again for the interfacing; worked fine. It helps the collar keep a soft shape without me having to mash it with the iron (not good for corduroy). And this one, unlike yesterday's version, is VERY warm and looks good with a (cream-colored) t-shirt under it, too.

To answer one of the questions that came up yesterday; these are all throw-in-the-washing-machine dresses. If I get to the washing machine before Mr. Dress-A-Day does, I hang them up when they're damp; otherwise they go in the dryer, too. (Since we both work from home, we tussle a bit over who gets to procrastinate by doing the laundry. My office is closer to the machines, but he can actually remember when the cycle is up, so he usually wins.)

More shirtdresses/shirtwaists are in the works … watch this space for further installments!

Shirtwaist #2

Liberty shirtdress #1

So, after I finished yesterday's shirtdress (that is, the shirtdress I posted yesterday; I didn't make a damn thing yesterday except trouble) I was pleased enough by the results to jump in with another, this time in Liberty lawn. (I did wear the first dress once before making a second — you never really know how a dress has turned out until you wear it for a whole day.)

This one is a very lightweight Tana lawn, which is killing me … because I made it back in January to wear on a quick trip to sunny California, and since then it's been too friggin' cold in Chicago to wear it here! I take comfort in the fact that the Trib's weatherguy has pointed out that March usually sees at least ONE 70-degree day each year. I'll take mine March 1, please.

Liberty shirtdress #1

Again, I shortened the sleeves and added pockets. Also, I forgot to mention that the gray dress was about 5/8ths of an inch too short in the bodice (I overestimated my short-waistedness, for once) so for this dress I let it back out again. This dress, too, has a button at the waist!

Instead of using the Pellon Shirtailor interfacing on the collar and button/buttonhole facings, I used silk organza, which turned out to be the right idea. It's not too stiff but it does reinforce the fabric just enough. I can't remember where I purchased the organza I used for this dress (I have a suspicion it was left over from a fancy dress I made in 1995), but I just bought some more from Dharma Trading, which seems fine. Since I sew with a lot of light colors I mostly just buy off-white organza and use it for everything. If I did more dark sewing I'd probably buy a couple yards of black silk organza to have around.

Because the lawn and the organza are both so light, I just basted the organza to the facing (just inside the fold) with a long running machine stitch, and then finished the edges by zig-zagging all around them. It sounds more complicated than it is, believe me.

Liberty shirtdress #1

I forget the actual name of this Liberty print — in my head I call it "martini olive." I bought it on the first trip to Shaukat, I think.

Tomorrow: a long-sleeved corduroy version.

Shirtwaist #1

Simplicity 5232

So far, in my new obsession with shirtdresses, I've made the pattern above three times.

Here's the first version I made ("the beta"), in the gray polka-dot cotton I bought in Japan:

Gray Dot Dress 1

I was pretty ambitious for a beta version; check out the rickrack on the collar and the inserted cording along the front dress edge:

Gray Dot Dress 2

I did make some alterations to the pattern: I added pockets (they're hidden in the front skirt seam, under those pleats); I shortened the sleeves (a LOT), and I gave myself more room in the waist.

Of course, it being the first go-round, I did screw up a couple things. First of all, Pellon Shirtailor interfacing could probably compete in an Ironman. (Heck, it's probably used in IRONMAN's suit!) That stuff is STIFF. I didn't really want the dress to stand up by itself …

Also, I messed up the placement of the buttons. The pattern suggested the spacing I used, with no button at the waist, since it will get caught up on your belt. But I forgot that I don't plan to wear a belt with this. This means I don't have a button at the waist to hold it together, and have a hook-and-bar-tack closure instead. I *hate* hook-and-bar-tack closures. (I suppose I *could* break down and wear a belt, but I have a huge ranty post coming up about the current belt insanity, and I'm afraid wearing a belt now will hurt my credibility later.)

Of course, looking at the picture, it looks like I could sneak in one more button just a teeeeeny bit under the waistline, and have the buttons still look more-or-less spaced. Hmm. Must consider.

Despite these gross errors, the dress is still wearable — I've worn it two or three times. I like to wear it with bright tights and a matching cardigan (that is, a cardigan that matches the tights — especially a yellow tights/yellow cardigan combo).

Tomorrow: version #2, in which I make significant improvements.

Oh, yeah, weren't the Oscars last night?

Keri Russell

I have to admit: I watched not one minute of the Oscars yesterday. I don't see the point, really, now that we have the Internet. I could spend six hours watching it all unfold in real time, or I could spend twenty minutes the next morning on the highlight reel. I like to maximize my entertainmental efficiency. (So I watched THE WIRE instead. Oh, McNulty, you are so damaged and yet so compelling! Lester, are you deluded, or a genius, or both?)

Anyway, the whole point of the Oscars is, of course, the dresses, so here is the Dress A Day Completely Random Commentary on Oscar Fashion of 2008.

First off, above: Keri Russell. I don't really like this color, but Keri Russell is so gobsmackingly beautiful that it doesn't matter. Which is pretty much the way I feel about all of the actor/dress combos: to get to Oscar level, you pretty much have to be either gobsmackingly beautiful, or have great talent and personal charisma. And if you are pretty, talented, and charismatic, what you wear is a mere DETAIL.

That said:

How much do I love Julie Christie for designing her own dress? I love her with ALL MY LOVE:

Julie Christie

Do I wish it were full-length and do I not comprehend the gloves one bit? Yes. But still: it's the thought that counts. Take that, Fashion Hegemony!

And Miley Cyrus:

Miley Cyrus

You look charming, adorable, and AGE-APPROPRIATE. Congratulations! Your parents must be so proud of you.

Also, Miley, while you're up, could you tell Anne Hathaway that she's about twenty years away from playing grande dame parts, no matter how much she'd like to, as evidenced by this dress?

Anne Hathaway

Helen Mirren, you continue to dress perfectly. I love the color and the sleeves and YOU. I would say "don't ever change," but your realization that people Actually Age (unheard of in Hollywood) means that you will continue to change WELL.

Helen Mirren

Jennifer Garner: I love you. I watched all of Alias TWICE. That Catch and Release movie you did was pure genius. But please, Get Away from Rachel Zoe! Only an evil schemer would put all that hair over your charming and expressive face. The dress is fine, though, but I liked that pink thing you wore a while back much better.

Jennifer Garner

And Callista Flockhart:


This dress really works for you! You look elegant and like yourself. Great job!

Thus concludes our Oscar coverage. Same time next year?

[All pictures Reuters.]

Linktastic Friday No. 2

French newspaper dress

So apparently, in the 1980s, French newspapers were (occasionally) printed on fabric. Who knew? (And more to the point, why didn't I know THEN, when I could get some?) [Thanks to Robin for the link, and click on the image to visit the Etsy auction for this dress made from said papers.]

Rita at Cemetarian sent in this pocket-licious pattern. I would CLANK when I walked if I made it (because I've never seen a pocket I couldn't overstuff), but I'm still tempted …

Carolyn sent a link to this astounding crochet UNO dress (But wouldn't you always lose in a UNO dress? You'd never get rid of all your cards!)

Great story in New York magazine about people who only wear one color … and it's not black. Plus, bonus points for including Stephin Merritt.

[Another] Erin sent me a link to ceramicist Sunny Shultz and her clay dresses. The grayish-brown clay and all the layers make them look very post-apocalyptic. (Which is a GOOD thing, in case you were wondering.)

Tracy sent me a link to these vintage pattern lightswitch covers.

BeSewStylish has a downloadable glossary of spelling terms (PDF).

Charles Savoie sent me an email asking me "[are you] sure you want to recommend that title [Fashion is Spinach (now online free at the Internet Archive, btw!)]? The author advocated men wearing skirts". To which I reply "Wha huh? And that is bad why?" I do not discriminate on the basis of gender; if a guy wants to wear a skirt, dress, muumuu, whatever, it's totally fine with me. But, gentlemen, if you're really so easily swayed that my merely recommending a book will put you into non-bifurcated garments, may I recommend the Utilikilt? (Warning: last link has video/audio at load.)

I should really put this on the other blog (and I will in a minute) but I couldn't resist the urge to make Semicolon Appreciation Society T-Shirts (and stickers, so you can "edit" faulty signs).

semicolon shirt

Here's the back (on the white shirts only, no back printing on black shirts):

semicolon shirt

And oh, if you're only going to visit one of my links today, you should really make it Invisible Magnet, a new blog about perfume. Personally, I'm not very knowledgeable about perfume (or adventurous, either — I wear Fracas, which is really just a very expensive upgrade from Love's Baby Soft), but I have a feeling that after a few months of reading this new blog, I will be. It's written by Ana (whom I know & love) and Liz (whom I'd REALLY like to meet) and they are covering the whole spectrum: the chemistry, the personalities, the packaging, and that I Hate Perfume guy who makes stuff that smells like burning leaves. Also they do that great blog thing where they post their conversations. (For what is the use of a blog, without pictures, or conversations?)

[Housekeeping notes: if you send me links for this now-regular Friday feature, do let me know 1) if you want your name included, and if so, how MUCH of your name, and 2) if you want me to link your name to your blog, send me that URL. Also: I reserve the right to ignore your link if it's something I've already posted about, isn't appropriate for this blog, is obviously over-the-top self-promotion (minor self-promotion is fine), or if I just get absent-minded and forget about it. Please don't send me huge images via email; send links instead! The little elves that run Thunderbird thank you for that courtesy.]

Whew! That's a wrap on another linktastic Friday, folks. See you on Monday, have a great weekend. Courage.

Interview with Designer Lara Cameron

Lara Cameron Fabric

You all know Lara Cameron, right? The wonderful Australian textile designer? Proprietress of the Kirin & Co textiles and crafts online shop? Moo Card designer?

She was gracious enough to grant me an interview, and I hope you all enjoy her answers as much as I did …

Q. I read on your site that you started out as a web designer. How did you transition from web to textiles? What was the hardest part?

The transition from web to textile was somewhat accidental really 🙂 It began when I started up my blog, as a means of encouraging myself to experiment with different things. After a while I started experimenting with patterns, and found that I loved the technical challenge of getting designs to repeat. I got such good feedback from my blog readers about my patterns that I decided to keep on designing, and then decided it was time to make something from them. Textiles were actually the most accessible medium that was financially viable.

Q. Finding suppliers has been tricky for people who are somewhere between handmade and mass production. From your blog posts you seem to have a very good relationship with your textile printer. How did you find them? Were there bumps along the way? What do you recommend people do who are looking to find suppliers or printers?

This question actually answers the second half of the above question! The hardest part by far was sourcing suppliers. It took me ages to find someone who could print fabric for me. I managed to find them by asking around other people in the screen printing industry. After being sent from one business to the next the lead eventually brought me to my printers! The most fortunate thing however was that they happened to be just around the corner from my house, so I could go and meet with them face to face rather than having an awkward telephone conversation (which I was really apprehensive about at the time). The fact that they're so close also helps with our working relationship I guess as I can go over there to discuss things really easily.

I recommend a similar approach for anyone else looking for a textile printer. I found that business in this industry rarely advertise or have any much of a web presence, so the 'lazy' avenues that we've become accustomed to use (google, email) aren't available. It's all about word of mouth.

Q. If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your work in textile design and production, what would it be?

To have a bit more confidence and not fret so much. My first ever print run was only 20m and I was so scared that it wouldn't sell. So funny to think back on that now.

Q. Your designs manage to be modern and organic at the same time, and the colors you choose seem to be very much of the zeitgeist in home design. Do you 'feel' what colors you want to use, or is there more calculation involved?

Sometimes I feel like every part of the process is very 'calculated'—from choosing the colours through to conceiving the design itself. This probably isn't actually the case and is just something I tell myself when I'm feeling 'not creative enough'. I think it's all a process of exposing myself to a lot of modern design and current trends, absorbing it all, and then whatever comes out is an inspired rendition of all of that.

Q. What's your favorite thing anyone's ever made from your fabric?

Oh there have been sooooo many gorgeous things made with my fabric, it's my favourite part of the whole process—seeing what other creative people make from something I've made. It's such a good feeling. My favourite thing definitely has to be Salsa the 'Peg Bear' by Jhoanna of One Red Robin. I loved him so much I just had to buy him to have at home with me.

Q. What do you see yourself doing next? Any "dream" fabrics you'd like to make real?

This is a very good question! I'm really a bit unclear on it all at the moment. I would definitely like to grow my business, and probably branch into the production of homewares etc… I also imagine sharing a nice big warehouse space with a few of my fellow textile designers and setting up an area where we can do some of the printing ourselves. One of the most frustrating things for me at the moment is the lack of control over the process or ability to experiment with different things. I feel kind of guilty too when I have to tell people that no, I don't do the printing myself.

Q. What do you turn to for inspiration?

Blogs, blogs and more blogs, nature / plant life, and urban landscapes – I love walking around the city of Melbourne absorbing the mix of period architecture and contemporary design 🙂

Many thanks to Lara for her time and her inspiring answers … go check out her blog, you won't be sorry you did!

It's not a shirtdress, but …

Butterick 6183

I had to have it. You understand why, don't you?

First off — those little button flaps! Adorable! I really, really hope they actually button, but if they don't, well, I have ways of MAKING them button.

I've made variations of this pattern every summer for years — short kimono-sleeved bodice and big full skirt. They're cool and breezy to wear and make up great in lightweight cottons — even quilting cottons, which often don't hang right in a narrower skirt.

And the six-gore skirt is just ideal for adding pockets; it's so easy. (Figure out where you want the pocket to hit on the side gore. Trace the side gore pattern from that spot down to where you want the pocket to stop. Add seam allowances to the top and the bottom of traced pocket piece. You can either line/face the pocket or finish the top with bias binding. Finish the top of the pocket — may I suggest piping? — and turn under the bottom seam allowance. Top-stitch turned-under bottom of pocket to gore. If you don't like the top-stitched look, sew pocket to gore across bottom, right sides together, and press the pocket up. Sides of pocket will be secured when you sew the side seams. See? Easy!)

Whew. Sorry for that pocket-making digression. Anyway, I can't wait to get this pattern (from Best Vintage Patterns) and go to town.

And — as for what the women in the picture are saying — I think Yellow Dress just said something like "Check out that guy's butt!" and Black Dress is about to inform Yellow Dress that "That Guy" is in fact the boyfriend of Black Dress. But that's just my take. What's yours?

What's Up, Buttercup?

Butterick 3548

Now, usually I'm a fan of the florals. I like flowers (and puppies, and babies, and long walks on the beach …) but I like them in their place. Not as the place. This dress gives me Day of the Triffids flashbacks, which are not good things to have.

Of course, it's technically not a dress, but a beach coverup (which explains the barefooted model, if not her biceps bracelet; nothing short of enslavement by Jabba the Hut explains the biceps bracelet). Perhaps the petaled hat (and petaled cape collar) keeps out the sun (and gives you REALLY odd tan lines).

I like how the full-on daisy on the left is labeled "JUNIORS" while the yellow version, ostensibly more sedate, is labeled "MISSES". Yes, you need this guidance, because heaven forbid you dress up as a TOO-YOUNG Giant Flower. A scandalized hiss would run through the cabanas!

Thanks to Stacie for the link … the pattern is from Etsy seller joules (and has already sold, but she has OTHER patterns …)