Stripes and Pockets Forever

40s striped dress with pockets

Frequent link-sender to the blog Robin is making a little room in her closet by listing some dresses on eBay, including this wonderful 1940s stripey dress. Robin thinks it may have been a candy-striper's uniform … but it could certainly have a new life at work or play, no sponge baths required. Think of it with little navy wedge shoes … It's B36/W26.5.

I love these 1940s striped outfits — they're so precise! And that center-front zipper is just perfect. This is a no-nonsense, get-it-done dress, but it can still have fun.

I think Robin has the right idea, too. If you're not wearing something, you should set it loose into the world to be free and be loved by someone who will wear it. (Which reminds me, I should REALLY do a purge of my own over the next month or so. Especially of shoes!)

YAS (yet another shirtdress)

Advance 8524

I just bought another shirtdress pattern. If this goes on I will soon have every button-front dress with a collar EVER MADE. This one came from Out of the Ashes; I guess that means I can stop my eBay search for it. Possibly not. I could try to corner the vintage-shirtdress-pattern market … [insert evil laugh here]

I bought this for the yellow version, but I have a sneaking suspicion the red might get made, too. Aren't those neckline pleats lovely? Not so sure about the one in the middle; it looks a bit fussy to me …

There's a back view, too, and I think — I'm not sure, but it's entirely possible — that the collar is constructed with a diagonal seam at the point. I love collars like that. Of course, I could be totally wrong — it has happened, oh, once or twice before — but even if I am it's a lovely, lovely dress. (Even if it is virtually indistinguishable from the last five shirtdress patterns I've bought.)

Of course, I still have to figure out where the pockets will go. I think that I will have to recut the skirt so that the front piece doesn't have a center front seam, but instead two offset front side seams, and put the pockets there. (This also has the advantage of not having to make sure that center front seam is both physically and optically in line with the bodice buttons!)

Linktastic Friday will be back next week, by the way. Possibly on Wednesday or maybe even on Monday. As all the psychologists know, intermittent reinforcement is the best way to keep people's interest up …

Secret Lives of Dresses #14

Secret Lives of Dresses #13

She was sitting on a gunmetal-gray velvet pouffe, feeling uncomfortable. It wasn't my fault; I'm very comfortable. I know every dress says she's comfortable, but I really am.

The waiter had already come by twice, but she hadn't touched her champagne. I think she only took it to keep them from asking her if she wanted any.

I knew something had happened when I felt myself tighten; she'd taken a deep breath. She didn't let it out for a long time. She stared into the bottom of the glass.

A shadow loomed over us, and a light voice said "Kathy! You, here?"

He wasn't very tall, and he wasn't very young, but he wasn't old, either. In brighter light I bet you'd see gray in his hair. His evening dress was immaculate, but it looked as if he wore it every day, like he put it on right after breakfast. It was tailored to hide a little bit of a belly, I thought.

He sank down beside her. A waiter immediately appeared, and he took a glass. I could feel him staring; it felt like being next to a hot radiator.

"You look perfectly elegant," he said.

"It'd be a nicer compliment if you didn't sound so surprised," she answered. She took her first sip from the glass.

"Well, I usually see you in dungarees and an old shirt. Or a boiler suit. Although I must admit the boiler suit can be pretty cute."

"That's what I paint in. This is what I — " she waved the glass around " — whatever this is — in."

"This is Elena's showoff party. Are you showing off?"

"I think I'm being shown off. Or I'm going to be. She bought something last month. The big canvas — you remember? And with a big canvas you get a personal appearance by the artist. Plus Green Stamps."

"Ah." He smiled. "That explains all. Even the dress. Did she send it?"

"Her secretary did. I even get to keep it."

"Elena likes to make sure of all the details, she does. It's endearing in her … and lovely on you."

She looked into her glass again. "Where's the Countess? I didn't see her."

"She's with the Count. Wherever he is."

I could feel her turn towards him, slightly. "Should I feel sorry for you? Or for her?"

"Do you feel sorry for the library book when it has to go back to the library?"

"Sometimes, sometimes I do. If I didn't get a chance to read it before it was due."

"Well, then, you shouldn't feel sorry for either of us on that account. We figured out how the story ended."

"And it's really ended? This time?"

"Big letters, saying "THE END" appeared on the screen. I believe there was a sunset involved. Probably a horse, too."

"You're mixing things up. We were talking about books, not movies."

"We were?"

Music started in the other room.

"C'mon," he said. A waiter was right there, again. He was the kind of man waiters liked. He took her glass away and put it on the waiting tray, next to his. "Let's dance."

When he put his hand on her waist I felt her gut clench, but I don't think he felt it.

"You dance like you paint," he said.

"Lots of blue?"

"Lots of air." He smiled down at her. Not very far down; their faces were close together. "Lightness. Lots of little surprises, surprises you only find after a very long time looking."

She didn't say anything, but I felt her relax, just a bit.

"The funny thing about you, Kathy, is that as a woman, you're very direct. More direct than most women. As an artist, though … you're oblique."

"That's an interesting interpretation," she said. "I have told you how much I hate being compared to 'most women', though, haven't I?"

"You see? Direct. Of course, most women want to think they're unique. The difference is, you actually are."

He sounded so dispassionate, as if he were talking about auto insurance or Korea; that alone should have tipped me off that he wasn't.

"And what about you? Are you unique?"

"Me, I'm right off the assembly line. They make ten thousand of me a year, and you can get me in any color you like, with an optional radio."

"I could give you a custom paint job." She grinned at him. It was the first time she'd smiled since she put me on.

"I bet you could. Good thing I like blue."

They had drifted to the edge of the dance floor as the music stopped. A large woman in an electric-green dress swooped down on them. There was a jeweled clip in the shape of a peacock feather in her hair, and her eyes were lined in the same peacock color. She spoke in a low voice but it carried like a shout.

"My two geniuses! Of course you know each other! How perfect! Clancy, doesn't she look deee-vine?"

"Absolutely," he said. "I was just telling her so."

"Liar," she said.

"I was getting around to it." He looked like a sulky boy, just for a moment.

Elena wasn't paying attention; she had her head turned towards the band. "Clancy," she said. "I know I said I wasn't going to make you do this, but the drummer got a hernia or indigestion or malaria or something, and the replacement won't be here for twenty minutes — would you play something?"

He looked doubtful. Elena didn't notice.

"Please, Clancy — it would mean so much to me. And everyone here loves you, you know that. Play something for me?"

"For you, Elena, anything," he said. He shrugged. "Although you're making me stand Kathy up for the next dance. I can't dance and play at the same time."

Elena laughed. "If anyone could, you could, Clancy." She was still looking towards the band. "Oh, and play something new, will you? Thanks, darling!" She hurried off.

"Play something new, will you, darling?" she said, imitating Elena.

He looked away, absent for a moment. He took a deep breath. "I think I will play something new," he said. "Be careful what you ask for." He headed up towards the piano.

Elena was already up there. I thought she would make an announcement, but she just said, "Everybody, Clancy!" There was a lot of applause.

She didn't clap. She just looked at him.

He sat down and did an elaborate jokey hand stretch. He dropped his hands on the keyboard in a dramatic chord. The room went quiet.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said. "This is a new piece. It's called "Kathy"."

I can't really tell you what it sounded like; I can only tell you that she shivered and got goosebumps. And that I got really mussed during the cab ride home, but I didn't care.

[NB: this is a first draft … wrote it all this morning very quickly! so it might change.]

[Note: Sarah pointed out that this is really #14, because #13 was the fundraising post back in December. I've updated the list on the sidebar, so everything should be properl
y numbered and ordered now …]

Invisible Mantelpiece!

Butterick 2146

Cookie sent this pattern — which is actually a lovely dress, from So Vintage patterns — for us all to make fun of the picture.

Oh, it's so easy, isn't it? What is her arm resting on? Is the other woman painted on the wall, and Foreground Woman is leaning against the wall? Does Background Woman have an unfortunate and conveniently placed bone spur coming out of her thigh? Or (my favorite hypothesis) was there an invisible mantelpiece, made by some ancient 1960s technology, now lost? Is Background Woman about to say something tactless, or reveal a secret (look at her, on the verge of speech) and Foreground Woman is elbowing her to shut up already? Were they pushing and shoving to see who, in fact, would get to be Foreground Woman?

Foreground Woman could also be a space alien: look at her head and tell me that's not a wig covering up her enlarged brain inside a transparent domed skull.

Too bad the envelope image is so WTF-y; I really like the dress! (But you know I'm a sucker for those single-button bodices. And for transparent domed skulls, when you come right down to it.)

[Cookie, by the way, is also looking for Butterick 2241, a 1960s shirtdress. If you know where one is, want to let me know, or post a link in the comments?]

Rainbow Warrior

multicolor pockets dress

Robin sent me this eBay listing this morning (click on the image to visit the auction page) and … well, I don't even have to tell you, do I? You could go out loaded for BEAR in this dress. Cell phone, iPod, paper and pencil, wallet, business cards, breath mints, five lipsticks … and that's just the red pocket in the front!

And, yes, I realize it's a bit extreme, but sometimes you need to be extreme to make a point. Or to carry all your stuff. And is it any more extreme than this?

OMG the GIANT BIRKIN! Save us!

I could fit my SON in that bag. And he's EIGHT. (And he doesn't go anywhere without his Nintendo DS, so the bag would also play tinny Japanese videogame music.) In fact, I almost expect a bunch of clowns to start extricating themselves from that handbag. (The last one out toots a little horn, and looks suspiciously like Tom Cruise.) Also, that bag costs more than many people's houses, while the dress is at only $26 right now!

Now, I know I carry too much stuff around with me (the four issues of New Scientist is not negotiable, though maybe I could clean out some receipts and lollipops) but the alternative is being bored out of my mind when the inevitable delays occur. Maybe I should take up meditation?

Books: Wife Dressing

Wife Dressing

I've been meaning to review Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife for ages; it's been sitting here on the little typing table I use as an auxiliary desk (which should have a big bin on it labeled "stuff you should get to today but probably won't").

Make no mistake, this is a book primarily about "dressing for HIM" (the sub-subtitle is "With Provocative Notes for the Patient Husband Who Pays the Bills") and, although Fogarty was a very successful designer, she downplays that quite a bit (she spends more time talking about her eighteen-inch waist!). You get the impression that perhaps her Mister (one or all of them; she married three times) wasn't entirely comfortable with a breadwinning wife and that this book, in part, was meant to reassure him that he, too, was important in her life … even if she was selling thousands of dollars of dresses every year.

But once you get past that, the book is full of gems, such as:

A travel wardrobe is personal. … It is a condensation of your regular wardrobe, not a separate entity. After all, you're still the same person whether you're at home or far away, and you'll want familiar garments with you. Never cut your gear so close to the bone that you leave your personality behind.

(italics Fogarty's)

or how about this?

As for flagrant bad taste, there aren't too many examples. Shorts on a city street is one of the worst. This shows a lack of self-respect and a contempt for the people who are properly dressed. …. Strapless dresses in town are as bad. If a dress is strapless, it's either a cocktail dress that should be worn after five or else it's a sundress and should stay in the sun.

And my favorite:

The art of courage and discretion is a clarion cry for individuality, a turning away from slavish adherence to every fashion or beauty trend. Courage and discretion go hand in hand: the courage to dare to be yourself, the discretion not to overdo; the courage to do something unusual, the discretion to temper it.

That's good advice for everyone, whether there's a husband in the picture or not. In fact, it's even good advice for husbands themselves.

Linktastic Friday No. 5

Ann's Shwe Shwe Duro

Wow, it's linktastic Friday again. Where does the week GO?

That Duro dress up there is Ann's — remember her Shwe Shwe blog?

It's snowing here in Chicago today, but Lisa sent me a link to a pink shirtwaist dress that I wish I were wearing today. Outside. On a picnic. Without snow.

This dress would be an excellent picnic dress, too. With those pockets, you wouldn't need a basket …

Nora sent me a link to this alphabet fabric, but I ended up buying this one. Although now I think maybe I should have chosen this one, instead. Ah, well.

Another tape measure bracelet from Lisa … sold out, but I bet if you emailed the Etsy seller she'd make you another one. Ask nicely, now …

Did everyone see this stunning (and stunningly expensive) Claire McCardell pattern on eBay? This one, while not as dramatic, certainly went for a lot less … and ooh! Check out this pattern, it's quite nice and looks very easy … thanks to Jeanette for the pointer to the second Claire pattern!

Completely Magnificent Dress from Sugardale.

Theresa sends a link to StyleShake, which I haven't had a chance to really play with yet. It's another one of those "choose your own adventure dress parts, and we'll sew it for you!" sites. Which generally I'm in favor of. As proof they'll make anything, though, I present to you this:

Styleshake dress

Whoa, that's it for this Friday, even though I have more links I really should post … maybe next week will have two doses of linktasticity. You never know.

Oh! One more thing: Jen at is having another 20%-off pattern sale, now through midnight Monday. (I don't know what time zone Jen is in …) Use coupon code 'slacker20', she says, because she's been slacking this month.

But, before I forget, this blog was given a very generous writeup in a new craft mag, Make It Mine! Thanks!

Start Here.

ebay item 8305987417

I've been looking around a bit for patterns that I think would be easier, if not easy, for beginners. Being a beginner at sewing is a delicate thing: you want to make something that won't frustrate you beyond the bounds of human tolerance, but at the same time, you want to make something that you actually WANT to wear. As I said, delicate.

This is one of those patterns that I think would be good for a beginner (it's up right now at Miss Helene's.) It's interesting without being complicated.

Here are some of my criteria for an "easy" pattern:

— no set-in sleeves
— simple darts (and not too many of 'em)
— full skirt (to obviate hip/butt fitting issues; also, full skirts are more fun and harder to buy in stores)
— pockets (duh)

If I were a beginning sewist making this for the first time, I'd do it in a big wild floral; that would make it easier to hide any bobbles in that front skirt seam. (A very textured fabric, like piqué, might work for that, too.) If I were feeling brave, I'd do a contrasting/coordinating yoke and pockets, as seen here. Maybe I'd do the yoke in black or white, if I were worried about the possibility of a bright unflattering color near my face (which, obviously, I never am, but I hear tell some people are).

Now the only thing that makes this pattern NOT ideal for beginners is that it's an unprinted pattern — your only guidance to what piece is what would be teeny perforations on the pattern tissue. If I were starting out with this, if possible, I'd either find someone who has sewn A LOT to help me pin the pattern and cut it out, or I'd spend a good solid two hours checking and double-checking my layout to make sure I had it right. Two hours spent at the beginning often saves triple that at the end. (And prevents the project from being a "wadder" — something you wad up and throw in the trash!)

What other criteria would you suggest for "beginner" vintage patterns?

More Stunt Dressing: Crossword Dress #2

The ACPT (otherwise known as the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament) was held a few weeks ago in Brooklyn. You all might remember that I made & wore a crossword-puzzle themed dress for last year's tournament; this year I resolved to do the same. (It was much easier — and much, much more likely — than resolving to win!)

Unfortunately, though, my Quasi-Evil Plan to have some crossword themed custom fabric printed went awry (through lack of planning on my part — I didn't leave enough time to get both the fabric AND the dress made). So, I wondered, what else could I do?

I did this:

2008 crossword dress

I can't remember what pattern I used — some vintage 1960s Simplicity thing — I can dig up the number if anyone's interested.

The black and white fabrics are both quilting cottons (which, in part, explains how rumpled and mussed it looks — that stuff is a pain to iron!). The black lines are black bias tape.

What I did was cut out all the dress pieces and do about half the construction — darts, the major seams of the skirt — and then put on the black squares, which are secured to the white fabric by the bias tape.

I did NOT do a good job of matching the blocks across seams, as you can see above, where the waist blocks don't meet the skirt blocks very well (darn pleats!) and here, on the back:

2008 crossword dress

I would have tried harder on the back, but I was still finishing it very late the night before we left, and the only zipper that was right length was an invisible one, and nothing on earth will make me take out an invisible zipper once I have it (mostly) in. My rationalization was "It's Brooklyn in February; I'll be wearing a cardigan over it anyway."

I was also going to use the embroidery function on my machine to do numbers in all the appropriate boxes but it got really boring watching my machine embroider numbers, and again, late at night, so I quit after about three:

2008 crossword dress

In spite of the construction bobbles and my laziness, I think this dress was a qualified success … although it was just slightly too subtle, especially when compared to some of the other crossword-themed clothing at the tournament. (Although it was nice to feel tasteful in a stunt dress, for once.)

Any ideas for what I should do next year?

Is it time to post about shoes again?

Report Hali

I just took these back yesterday (Macy's online had the best price, better than Zappo's, and *returning* things to the Macy's-that-was-Marshall-Field's doesn't violate my still-in-place boycott). I wanted them to work, badly, but they were too narrow across the ball of the foot, and the last thing you want in a low-cut shoe is overflow. Also, I don't like peep-toes where you only see one toe; it feels too "my talon, let me show you it," to me.

Other than that they were lovely. (And they come in this gorgeous blue, too.)

I'm still completely obsessed with these loafers, to the point of buying the gold-colored ones online in the hopes of dying or painting them black. Also, I'm toying with the idea of having a pair custom-made, although I'm holding back because it's 1) insanely expensive and 2) probably a guarantee that I'll lose my fascination for them immediately upon receiving said very expensive, custom-made pair. (That's what happened to my desire for pepperoncini once I bought the Giant Bottle of them from Costco.)

But summer is coming and perhaps I can distract myself from The Quest for Loafers by trying something like this:

Report Hali

I think they'd be really cute with (wait for it …) shirtdresses. What do you think?

There's also these flats, and also these, too …

Of course, it's still entirely possible we could get more snow here in Chicago. I have plenty of time to think about sandals and summer shoes … what shoes are you thinking about for summer?