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mail order pattern 9120

I swear I was going to post about something other than shirtdresses today, but Mary Fran sent me the link to this one, and I could not resist. It's up at MOMSPatterns and it's only $8.50. (And it's only not MINE because it's a B39, and if there's anything I hate more than grading UP, it's grading DOWN.)

I love the little pointy collar, the front skirt seams just scream "pocketize me!" and those gathers at the shoulder just make me swoon. I should add "shoulder gathers" that to the list of my "triggers"—isn't it true that once you're aware of your triggers, you can change them (if you want to)? My trigger list would probably read "penny loafers, robots, sarcasm, Peter Pan collars, synthesized handclaps, Adidas Gazelles (on guys), books that smell like old books, red lipsticks (which I never wear) …" Actually, looking over that list, I don't think I want to change any of those triggers. (Except maybe to start wearing the damn lipstick.) Oh, well.

Before I forget I should let y'all know that Janet at Lanetz Living is going to Mexico. Why should you care that Janet is going to Mexico? Because she's using it as an excuse to have a sale! You can take 25% off on all orders from now until she comes home next Tuesday. The sale will end at Midnight (CST) on 5/6/08. Use the coupon discount code "Mexico25". It needs to be entered on the shipping page as one word. (If you try to put a space between Mexico and 25 it will not work.) And, as always, Janet offers free shipping with 3 or more patterns … and patterns will continue to ship out while Janet's on the beach.

Oh — I really like the idea of Sept. 1 being "wear a dress day," as proposed in the comments on yesterday's post. Let's start working on the logistics, people!

Well, I Guess It's Time To Wrap This Up, Then

Miu Miu Fall 08 runway show

Yes, I did see the NYT article about the "demise of the dress". (I was actually surprised that the story didn't make the NYT's most-forwarded list, since so many people sent it to me!)

The main point of the article seemed to be that those in the fashion industry are tired of dresses, and are looking towards pushing "the pant" for fall. Yes, even though the article touts dresses as "glamorous", "easy", "slimming", "efficient", "flattering", and "attractive", (not to mention the obligatory nod to the patriarchy with "guys like [them]") their time is UP.

In fact, Anne Slowey, of Elle, was quoted saying that the "expiration date" for the dress “is end of August.”

Which gives me, what, 124 days, more or less? Is "" already taken?

No, no, no, don't worry — I've made it this far without taking the pronouncements of the fashion editors seriously, and I think I can struggle through an autumn where "the full-legged, pleated high- and low-waisted legions will be out in the urban jungle" (as Ms. Slowey put it).

But if, like me, you are going to continue wearing dresses past 31 August, there are some strategies for getting through this difficult time of dress shortages and rationing. The most obvious work-around is to learn to sew, so that you simply don't care what's in the stores (aside from the fabric stores). If you don't think you can swing that by the end of August, you should start looking to buy vintage. Don't wait until October when the shortages will be most acute; start searching now — especially if you're an odd size. If you are shopping for velvet in July you won't have many competing bidders, and you can ward off the tragedy of having to wear pants to all your holiday parties.

Don't forget the downturn in accessories availability that accompanies a dress shortage, as well: tights may be in short supply, along with slips of all kinds and full-skirted coats. It's a little trickier to predict what will happen with shoes, but if you want taller boots, they tend to be harder to find in an environment where dresses are scarce.

With some careful planning you should be able to continue dress-wearing activities well past the expiration date forecast by Ms. Slowey and her ilk. And, while they're waiting in line at the tailor to get things taken in and let out and taken up and let down (pants are notoriously NOT one-size-fits-all), you can swan by in your easy, nicely-fitting dress. Don't forget to thumb your nose as you pass.

Increasingly less-rare sighting of alphabet dress in the wild


[photo from GEL 2008 by the fantastic Gene Driskell; L to R: Michael Montes, yours truly, Bran Dougherty-Johnson]

I know y'all are always clamoring for pictures of me wearing the dresses I make, and I know I have been consistently disappointing on that front. (I would do so more often if I weren't too lazy to go get a tripod to use with my camera. Also, I never know what to reply to the inevitable comments of "Erin, I thought you'd be taller.")

But here, ta-dah, is a brand-new dress that I made to wear to last week's GEL conference. (If you don't know the GEL conference, it is my great pleasure to introduce it to you — go check out the link above! Watch the videos! Pressure your employer to send you next year!)

This is made from some fabric I bought from Reprodepot, but which seems to be missing from their site now. And the pattern is Butterick 7513, which sews up like a dream. So easy! (I left off the sleeve bands, though, as I thought they'd be bulgy under a cardigan.)

What you can't see in the photo is that the buttons are covered in scraps of a different-scale black-and-white alphabet print. (You also can't see how hard Michael was making me laugh a few minutes earlier.)

This was a two-alphabet-dress trip for me; I wore the blue letter-and-number print dress the next day. Eventually I suppose I'll have made enough alphabet-print dresses that I can wear nothing but fonts for a week straight, and will have completed my descent into caricature.

Faith in the Youth of Today

Last week I got this wonderful email from Clarissa, who wanted to tell me about her first major project: her junior prom dress.

Not just any junior prom dress: Clarissa, as so many of us are, is infatuated with Audrey Hepburn, and she wanted to recreate (on a scale appropriate for a junior prom) this iconic dress from "Sabrina":

Audrey in Sabrina

With some help from her mom (a former home-ec teacher — thanks mom!), Clarissa modified a Vogue pattern to get this:

Clarissa in Audrey

Isn't it lovely? The overskirt attaches by a waistband, so it can be removed for less-formal occasions. I love that Clarissa didn't try to completely recreate the Audrey dress (that way lies tears, I tell you — it probably took a team of people three months to make that dress) but concentrated on the essential elements: the sheath and overskirt, the colors, and the embroidery. (Clarissa had the front embroidery done professionally, as she doesn't have an embroidery sewing machine.)

And she was so smart to turn it into a sheath with straps; I wore a strapless dress to a prom once and spent the whole night tugging it UPWARDS. Not what you want to be doing at prom!

In short, well done! I'm especially impressed by any young lady who chooses to look so elegant, when there are so many options to look … not-elegant.

Also: those are really cute shoes.

Shirtdresses I Have Not (Yet) Purchased

I know the general perception is that I am cornering the market on shirtdresses, but I swear that is not true. As evidence, I present these patterns that I have not (and probably will not — probably) buy:


This one, from Miss Helene's, is really cute. I love the faux-western yoke. But I am NOT BUYING IT.

And this one,

Simplicity 2342

Sent by Deb, and available from BootyVintage, is really elegant and sophisticated. (Probably too elegant and sophisticated for me, as those of you who know me will attest.) So it's available to YOU!

Both TCarole and Deirdre left comments pointing out this one, which is a new Vogue pattern, and so is available both at the Vogue Patterns site and in major fabric stores:

Vogue 1044

And William N. pointed out this one, at Cemetarian:

Hollywood 1568

Just the thing for when you can't decide between a wrap dress and a shirtdress.

So, see? I haven't bought the ALL. There's plenty left for you guys!

[Update: But that Butterick 7373 at Vintage Martini? Was already sold! Sob.]

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I get a lot of email now from people who are new to sewing, and who want (for some reason) my advice. Just last week I got a very kind email from Elizabeth, who wanted me to help her choose between two patterns.

Now, usually, my advice is just to buy both, to avoid regret, but I went and looked at her pattern choices. Her choice B was unremarkable (and a little difficult for a first project) but her choice A … I fell in love.

If her choice A had been in a romantic comedy, I would have been in the role of matchmaker, and this would have been the perfect guy … who then asked to be set up with my best friend. Hijinks would ensue.

But, I hear you asking, how lovely WAS choice A? Here, you tell me:
Butterick 7373

Now, giving advice to newbies is a sacred trust, and even though the dress was up for auction on eBay, I couldn't go and snipe it! That wouldn't be sporting! So I appeal to you all — does anyone have a copy of this for sale? B36, by preference?

At least I am consoled by the thought that one new sewist is going to have a very happy first dress!

Linktastic Monday!

Oh, yes. The links are too good, and just keep coming. You all spoil me, you know?

First off, I don't know how many of you ARE fans of Simon Winchester, but I know how many of you SHOULD BE fans of Simon Winchester (that would be "all"). He just sent me a link to him talking about his new book on YouTube, and that link would be here. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak in person, grab it (and if you need help figuring out when Simon's coming to your neck of the woods, you can sign up to stalk, I mean track, his readings here). He's tremendously entertaining (and so are his books).

Rita sends me this perplexing novelty-print dress:

Parasols Dress

Where do you think would be an appropriate place to wear this? I'm thinking either the Kentucky Derby (if you're clueless about what to wear to the Derby, i.e., you think "The Derby's in the South … this has Southern belles on it … perfect!") or perhaps the funeral of your hated ex-husband Rhett. ("What? It's black!") I'm happy to entertain your theories in the comments (and if you think "It's perfect! I must have it! Now if only Rhett would die!" click on the image to visit the ebay auction.)

And remember those Liberty-print Jack Purcells? Ronnie sent me a kind email letting me know that they're on sale now, online at the Converse store. You have to click on the "online outlet store" image to get to them, as they don't seem to come up in the search. But now they're only $57, instead of $100. (I got a pair from my lovely husband for Christmas, and plan to wear them constantly now that it's not friggin' SNOWING all the time.)

Cherie at Shrimpton Couture is hoping to get your feedback to improve her site … and if you give her some, you'll be in the running for a $100 gift certificate …

Stephanie asked if there was a dressaday tag on Flickr, and there is. My Dress A Day Flickr stream is here, although I've been lazy about uploading stuff to it. If you want to tag photos "dressaday", please do so and I'll set up a feed to see them! I also set up a Dress A Day group. Go nuts. (And if you want to send me pictures, sending me Flickr links is a great way to do that! Especially if you license them under the Creative Commons!)

Have I linked to the COPA (Commercial Pattern Archive) yet? It's at the University of Rhode Island. There are some broken links AND their CDs don't work on Macs (!) … but it's still pretty neat. I wish there was a way we could hook them up with the wiki … the wiki right now is about 25% of the size of COPA, which has 25,000 patterns dating to 1868.

Kristy (at Lower Your Presser Foot) sent this marvelous link to some Ikea dressers that fit patterns perfectly … so perfectly that her husband thought that she had GOTTEN RID OF SOME PATTERNS. (Ha! Never!)

Eva made a gorgeous dress of Liberty babycord. And she's says it's all my fault. (Who, me?)

Also, Eirlys points out that there's a new exhibition coming to the V&A in May: Story of the Supremes – performance costumes from the Mary Wilson Collection, which means all the sequins your little hearts desire. There's ALSO a good chance I'll be in London the weekend after this exhibit opens — Saturday May 24 — would anyone want to do a Dress A Day meetup at the V&A? And possibly go either fabric-shopping or to tea afterwards? Leave a comment, let me know …

How Not To Respond To Criticism

Butterick 6015

Has everyone heard about the Butterick 6015/St. Louis Fashion week kerfuffle by now? If not, I will give you a precis.

— St. Louis recently had a Fashion Week. (They sent me the release and a gazillion large jpgs. I don't really cover fashion shows, so I didn't post about it.)
— A blogger (who asked me not to use her name) did look at the photos, and noticed right away that one of the dresses was line-for-line a copy of Butterick 6015, aka the Walkaway Dress. See it here?

Butterick 6015 on the runway

— The blogger tries to find out who the designer was that submitted such an iconic dress to a fashion show.
— She finds the designer, Ashley Dayley, and talks with her. Ms. Dayley doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong with just making a dress from a vintage pattern and submitting it to a show.
— She posts all this on her blog. In her post, she gives Ms. Dayley the benefit of the doubt, calling her "young" and "enthusiastic".

Now here's where the story gets interesting — the last three comments on that blog, before the post was taken down, were from anonymous "friends" of the "designer", calling the blogger out for posting about this. They were so nasty that the blogger took down the post.

Dumb. Don't those "friends" know (or doesn't the "designer" know) that the best and ONLY thing to do when you've done something dumb is to take your lumps and own up? Why not say "I didn't know?" Why not say "I won't do it again?" Why not say (as hard as it is, through gritted teeth) "Thanks for letting me know?"

Instead they decided to wear their matching "I'm a Bully" t-shirts (which are probably pink, with sequins) and harass the person who had the temerity to call them on their misdeeds. The commenters, if they are the designer's friends, were just making her look MORE clueless. (If they're her enemies, they're doing a stand-up job.)

Now, I'm not saying that fashion doesn't tolerate knockoffs. (Victor Costa, anyone?) But a fashion show, especially one that was put on to feature "independent designers" is not the place for knockoffs; it's the place for original work.

The best part is the commenters saying that the original blogger didn't have the right to post the pictures of the show. So … let me get this straight: she can't post images that were widely distributed to bloggers just for that purpose, but "designers" can knock off old patterns and that's just fine?

The best way to fix this would be for Ms. Dayley to issue a formal letter of apology to the show's organizers and post it somewhere public online. Then at least the first hit for her might show her doing something thoughtful and grown-up instead of something clueless.

[On a happier note, Marge of Born Too Late Vintage is turning 49, and is offering 50% off shipping on all items in her store to US and international customers from April 18 up to and including April 24th. On everything: patterns, clothes, accessories … Use the code "49 and holding."]

Exercising: Some Options

workout skirt

Although I often declare that I am not athletic, the evidence probably wouldn't acquit me of that charge. Since junior high I have committed the following sports and/or exercise activities: cross-country running (very slowly), throwing the discus and shotput (ineptly), playing soccer, both high-school indoor (hello, knee damage!) and college outdoor (position: benchwarmer), step aerobics (lots of fun but requires suspension of natural sense of the ridiculous), yoga (Iyengar, most fun ever, but really only with one specific teacher [YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE]), treadmill walking [only supportable by viewing of Dr. Who and Torchwood]. Oh, and weightlifting, either intermittently or concurrently with any or all of the above.

And, of course, roller-skating, although anything done in a venue where you can also buy a corn dog is automatically suspect as exercise.

My biggest problem with exercise, of course, has always been the general crappitude of exercise WEAR. Tight pants? Tighter tops? After a certain age, a "Don't Mess With Texas" t-shirt and raggedy soccer shorts just don't cut it.

And then came these folks. They sent me an email and I grudgingly took a look at their site, but the grudging turned to grudging admiration. This skirt is GREEN! It has workout shorts under it! It has TWO pockets. It has something called "tummy-tuck" technology. And the best part? The style name is "Rollergirl."

I don't like the logo (I don't like ANY logos) but hey, nothing's PERFECT.

I'm seriously tempted to get one of these; the weather's getting better, I could use more exercise, my outdoor roller skates have just been gathering dust … and this would solve my "what can I wear skating in the Skokie Sculpture Park and not feel like a very conspicuous idiot in the grocery store on the way home?" problem.

And if I got the black one maybe I'd even feel up to skating in Central Park. Certainly more up to it than skating in street clothes or in the ubiquitous (and too-tight) black lycra capri pants. You never know …

The skirt's $56, click on the image to visit their site. Their size chart goes up to XXL (22), but it looks like this skirt is only up to XL (about an 18).

Bolero? Collar? Huh?

Butterick 7239

Lisa at Miss Helene's sent me this link a while back (click on the image to visit the Main Street Mall listing). She sent it for a linktastic Friday, but it really deserves its own post, because I am simultaneously fascinated and horrified by this pattern.

First off: who dreamed up the fake bolero? (Because, obviously, a real bolero is too much trouble, right? What with all the tedious being able to take it off and put it back on again.) Or is it an elaborate collar? I'm much more sympathetic to the elaborate collar, although I don't like buttonholes that will never feel the touch of a button. Buttons on their lonesome: okay. Buttons sewn over snaps … eh, whatever floats your boat. Buttons condemned to look longingly at their buttonholes across a never-to-be-crossed divide? That's just cruel.

I do like the little contrast print along the roll of the fake bolero/elaborate collar. And the lines of this dress, too, are quite captivating. I love how perfectly the dress nips in at the waist (without a waistline seam, which means it is pure fantasy, or something to be achieved only with terrifying undergarments).

So: I'm conflicted. Is this gorgeous, or is this ludicrous? (Or both? Both is certainly an acceptable answer.) What do you think?

[I'm also wondering if the women on the pattern envelope are laughing about being able to put this one over on the pattern company. "I can't believe they bought this one! Let's try for a fake vest effect next!"]