Happy *beep* Halloween *beep*

My son's school's Halloween party was last night, and weeks ago I had promised him that I'd show up as a "robot mama" for the big event. But how to deliver?

I still had the blue box from last year, so I figured that would make a good robot body base … but I really, really wanted to have flashing lights. What's a robot without flashing lights?

A quick trip to the party store and I had eight flashing lights: three of those newfangled "pumpkin lights", and five safety flashers (and some mylar ribbon, which was an impulse purchase).

I traced the lenses of the pumpkin lights to make a template, and used the template to space the holes I wanted to cut in the box. I duct-taped the flashers to the inside of the box; the little safety lights had clips, so I hung those on bits of wire that I threaded through the box and twist-tied on the inside.

The whole thing (including the trip to the store, but not including running around trying to find the duct tape) took under an hour. (And it probably looks like a rush job, to grownups, but I have to tell you — this costume KILLED with the under-seven set. I never had so many people ask to take my picture in such a short time, and certainly never with so many ladybugs, fairies, princesses, Batmans, Spidermans, and monsters …)

Here's the end result — my first-ever Dress A Day video (hard to get the effect of the flashing lights in a still image!). The audio (which is NOT essential, so feel free to turn those speakers down) is me giving instructions to my long-suffering cameraman, Mr. DressADay.

Erin's Robot Costume 2008 from Erin McKean on Vimeo.

The green deelyboppers on my head? A last-minute addition; I keep them in the trunk of my car, "for emergencies".

My Airship Hostess Dream: One Step Closer to Reality

Simplicity 4378

Wundermary sent me this link (from the wiki) and it's a fantastic airship-hostess dress. I love the asymmetry, especially the pocket.

I think that dirigibles (or airships, or, if you prefer the vulgar term, "blimps") are making a comeback, too … there was one in xkcd this week, and nobody predicts the future like Randall. And there are rumors that Google is investing in airships, too …

So if none of my current projects pan out, there is a definite future for me as an airship hostess. I am *really* looking forward to giving the safety demonstrations. (Traditionally, as you know, the safety demonstrations on airships are done as patter songs, so I will have to take a few singing lessons first. But it will be SO worth it.)

And, as you can see on the pattern, my supervisor's name is very likely to be "Betty Smith."

Oh, and some sale info for you: first of all, Jen is running an "Only Hours Long" sale at www.momspatterns.com that will end at the witching hour of midnight EST on Halloween Friday, October 31, 2008. Save 25% off any order starting *right now* … but the code will vanish into the mist as the clock strikes 12 a.m. Coupon code will be 'bewitched'.

Also, Sandra at Sandritocat is running a special Halloween sale, 15% off excluding shipping, starting TODAY October 29th and running through October 31st. Just mention "Halloween15" in your notes. Sandra is also looking for her 700th sale and a special bonus will be going out to the lucky 700th buyer … and I think this pattern would make an excellent 700th sale!

Rant: I See London, I See France

plain white panties

So a couple weeks ago I went roller-skating, on the spur of the moment, in [location redacted]. I went straight from work, so (as is my wont) I was wearing a full skirt and a cardigan sweater.

I get my skates (rentals, and they carved up my ankles something tragic, I'm still sporting band-aids), lace 'em up, and am about to hit the floor, when this Creepy Guy intercepts me.

"I am so sorry for coming up to you like this," said Creepy Guy, and for a minute I thought he meant "on Rollerblades," because, as you all know, I am an old-school quad-skate SNOB, but no — he continued — "I just had to say how BRAVE you are. I've never seen anyone skate in a skirt!"

I was, of course, gobsmacked (as I always am when people are bogglesomely rude and/or clueless), but all I could think of to say was "What do you think people did before 1955?" and fix him with my best Withering Look before I skated away.

But the whole thing really cheesed me off. (Obviously, or I would have titled this post "Musings:" or "Prolegomena:")

First of all, skating in a skirt is not "brave". Rescuing children from burning buildings is brave; wearing a skirt is … wearing a skirt.

So Creepy Guy (who was also wearing one of those arm holders for his iPod, which ALSO pissed me off, because if you are skating at a rink you should do the DJ the courtesy of listening to what he's spinning, even if he IS making Slurpees at the snack bar at the same time) was calling me brave because — as far as I could tell — there was a chance I might FALL and THUS: someone might, possibly, theoretically SEE MY UNDERWEAR.


C'mon, people, are we all six years old?

Let us first admit that all of us know that most people wear underwear. We know this because when people do NOT wear underwear, it is a cause for comment. There are slang terms ("Going commando," etc.) for not wearing underwear; I have not heard any for wearing underwear. Thus not wearing underwear is the marked case.

Let us next admit that most people wear underwear that is, at minimum, the same coverage as a relatively modest bathing suit. How do we know this? A quick investigation of any mass-market store (e.g. Target) shows that the ratio of "bikini," "hipster," or "brief" styles of women's underwear stocked is roughly double the amount of thong underwear stocked (by number, not volume, obviously). Retailers stock items in proportion to their sales.

Given this knowledge, and the knowledge that thong underwear's most typical use case is to avoid a visible panty line, added to the evidence of a FULL SKIRT (= no panty line) we can posit that most people wearing full skirts are most likely not wearing thong underwear. (They may not be wearing granny panties, but they are probably wearing something that could be categorized as "great-aunt panties.")

We also know that these things exist: boy shorts, bike shorts, "shapers" etc., etc. So there are many more types of underwear that do not allow for indecent exposure than there are those that DO.

NOT TO MENTION (as I mention it) that a SIGNIFICANT portion of the women skating in jeans were displaying a "whale tail," which is (as I'm sure you know) the phenomenon where a large portion of the back and sides of a pair of thong underwear is visible above the back waistband of a pair of pants (usually low-riding jeans). And more than a few of the male patrons had visible boxer-shorts waistbands displayed above the waistbands of their pants.

So the ratio of underwear (not counting visible bra straps) displayed by pants-wearing patrons to the underwear displayed by skirt-wearing patrons was something on the order of, oh, I dunno, INFINITE. (I would make a Riemann sphere joke here if I knew anything about the Riemann sphere.)

Given all this, then, could we please lay off the "OMG!!!! Someone might SEE YOUR UNDERWEAR!!!" hand-wringing directed at us skirt- and dress-wearers? I know it's too much to ask the Creepy Guys of the world to cut it out (because if they were self-aware enough to know not to say stuff like this they would not, in fact, be creepy), but, seriously, people. We can wear skirts and dresses and participate in all sorts of normal activities, such as climbing up stepladders, crawling under desks to swap cables, riding bicycles, carrying boxes (up to 70 lbs), and, yes, even go roller-skating.

(I think this was a different rant than the one commenters on yesterday's post were expecting … sorry about that. I promise to rant about actual makes and models of underwear in some future post.)

A Dress A Day: An Artist's Rendering

So, didja miss me? Sorry to be AWOL for most of last week — I was at Pop!Tech08, and Pop!Tech is the kind of conference that is so engrossing you forget about the entire outside world, including your sadly neglected blog.

I talked for five minutes (and possibly some seconds over, although nobody would tell me how many). One of the many cool things about Pop!Tech is that they have a real live artist interpreting all the talks … Peter Durand, from alphachimp.

So I wore this dress:

liberty shirtdress

And this is the artist's rendering:

wordnik dress

I should point out that I wore blue tights and brown shoes, and not brown tights and blue shoes as shown in the picture, but I think that's permissible artistic license. And it's not like I *wouldn't* have worn perfectly matching blue shoes if I only had a pair …

Cool, huh? I think the artist really rose to the occasion — and remember, I spoke for FIVE MINUTES, so he had just that long to do this picture in!

With any luck this week we will return to our regularly scheduled dress blogging. Also: I'm working on a rant about underwear: do you guys want to read it?

An Interesting Failure

Simplicity 4561

I can't remember when I bought this pattern, but it was recently, and I was so excited about it … the simple bodice plus the pocketed skirt seemed PERFECT. I even made a special trip to Vogue Fabrics to buy black denim! But what I got was this:

Not what I pictured

Unfortunately, the neck is too low, and the soft pleats, when made in denim, stick out in a bunchy and annoying way.

And here's the back, with more bunchy pleats:

Not what I pictured

The pockets are edged with metal zipper (and now I'm not so upset that the waist seam didn't match exactly when I put in the side zipper):

Not what I pictured

And I used the last of my Futura-font fabric to make the neck facing (I figured it pops up every once in a while [yes, even with tacking it at the side seams and understitching] so I might as well make it fun):

Not what I pictured

I'm calling this an interesting failure, because, well, when you get right down to it, all failures are interesting. I love to know the "why" when things go wrong. This dress *should* have been a success: pockets, black denim, scoop neck, zippers … no construction issues, no fitting issues … and yet, when I tried it on, I went "Ugh!"

I think this may be salvageable, though. I can take the waist apart (another ugh) and change the pleats to darts. Not much I can do about the low neckline for this version, but I could make a note to bring it up an inch the next time (remembering to make a new facing pattern). I could also (again for next time) use a slightly lighter-weight fabric (this denim is just a bit too heavy). So perhaps this is not a total failure, but instead a very, very detailed (and possibly someday wearable) muslin …

Meet Our Advertisers #11: Tina of What-I-Found Vintage


How long have you been in business?
The facts: My name is Tina Sutherland, I'm a 52 year old former RN, current grandmother and married to a lucky guy. 😉 I own What-I-Found – Sewing Patterns. (I'm one of the several pattern sellers at Main Street Mall Online.) I have been selling patterns for about three years, selling online for 10 years.

What motivated you to go into the vintage business? I live in an RV traveling full time for my husband's work. He does safety inspections on amusement rides so we go from big cities to tiny towns and I shop everywhere, all over the country. I owned an antique shop in Seattle and sold things online from there, but when we hit the road I needed to sell something small and unbreakable. Patterns work out perfectly, I think they are fascinating and they move with us (all 3,500 plus).

What's the weirdest/best/craziest/most beautiful thing you've ever found? The best thing I have found is a letter and I have a dress with iron on details (warning! FAKE POCKETS! —Ed.) that hasn't sold (but I admit I'll be sad when it goes!).

What do you dream about finding? I dream about finding boxes of uncut 1920-30's patterns. Oh, and they would be in wonderful condition!

What do you enjoy most about working with sewing patterns? Since we move so often it's not practical for me to take a "real" job, so working with the patterns lets me be flexible. I can list a ton or take a day off as needed. So long as I have internet I'm a happy gal.

What do you wish someone would ask you about your site? I do wish folks understood that these are pieces of history … a sixties pattern is nearly 50 years old … it's sort of amazing that something made of tissue paper is here and intact.

It's a good day at work when … A good day is when somebody discovers the long lost pattern they have been looking for. They are so happy and send such nice notes. A bride finding her exact dress is exciting too. Even when it's a fauxlero dress!

If I ran the internet for a day I'd … If I ran the internet for a day I'd issue everyone a sixteen year old to stand by as tech support.

The blogs I read (other than ADAD are …) Of course A Dress A Day! Then Lisa, AKA Miss Helene writes Random Acts of Vintage and I'd add Fabulon … it's a treat!

You'd laugh if you knew this about me … You'd laugh to see me wearing my pink hardhat hauling steel. Sometimes we move rides and since I have no real tool skills I get the scut jobs … but I can outwork those young whippersnappers.

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Oh, hey, folks: it's Blog Action Day. And I was resolved not to miss it this year, and what did I post about this morning? Shoes. sigh

This year's Blog Action Day topic is "poverty" — and usually, when we think of poverty, we've been conditioned to think poverty is a problem Someplace Else, someplace far away, where we see news reports of barefoot children and people lined up with begging bowls.

But, of course, people are poor everywhere (some people in our own neighborhoods are poorer today than they've ever been). And so one of my favorite charities has always been the Greater Chicago Food Depository. It's hard to be hungry — and harder still to be hungry in a country where there's fast food on every block, sugary drinks advertised on every billboard, and where an apple can cost more than a hamburger.

If you want to help your neighbors get enough to eat, please do consider making a donation to your local food bank or food pantry.

And (on a lighter note) if you want to help one of our vintage-pattern neighbors …

Advance 8434

Rita at Cemetarian is updating her site, and wants to know what you think of the recent changes. If you make a useful suggestion, she'll offer you a 20% off coupon! And then you can send your savings to the food bank, and everyone's happy!

In Which I Buy More Shoes (But Not Loafers, This Time)

Since Winter will be here ANY MOMENT (I'm told, although it was 80 degrees in Chicago on Monday), I need, as usual, more shoes. Perhaps "need" is too strong of a word; perhaps I'm looking for something like "hankering for" or "appetency". Anyway, I found these on eBay: only $50! Which is good in these times of economic uncertainty, right?

Jeffrey Campbell Herman

I am also havering over these, which are a LOT more expensive, but still cheaper on Amazon than anywhere else:

Biviel 1517

And what seems like months ago, but was only weeks, I'm sure, I bought these, also cheap ($80! For leather boots!) on eBay:

BCBG Elda boots

The calves were a bit too snug, but that's no problem — I took them to my shoe guy and he put little gussets in on either side of the zipper. It took him about a week (plus I had to go in for a "fitting" once he had the new bits inserted, to make sure they were exactly right). Now they fit perfectly, and it was only $50 to get them that way. Considering I've never, ever seen black leather boots I liked for under $250 (and thus have never, ever bought any) I feel pretty good about these!

All of these have heels under about 2", which is good, walking-wise … since, after the collapse of civilization (ANY DAY NOW) I will be walking southward to avoid the zombies and/or cannibals.

So with one new pair of black shoes (okay, two pairs — I bought a pair of Faryl Robins on sale at DSW — marked down to $40! — that I haven't taken a picture of yet), possibly one pair of wine, and a pair of black boots (plus I have brown J. Crew boots from last year that I bought at a thrift store for $7) I should be all set for autumn (if it ever gets here) and winter. So don't look for any more shoe posts from me until AT LEAST April. Right? Right.

Posts about *tights*, though …

More sale notices: Holly at Lucite Box Vintage is having a sale: 10% off anything until October 20th with the coupon code ATCOLORS. Holly (or rather, her adorable apartment) is ALSO featured on the magnificent blog Apartment Therapy, for their Fall Colors Contest — click here to check it out (and leave a comment)!

Mine Mine Mine All Mine

It took more than a year of watching and waiting, but finally THIS PATTERN is mine:

McCalls 9379

And I bought it from Wonderful Wiki Contributor Birgit/Tarna's eBay store, which only makes it better. (She also has a Main Street Malls store.)

I love this dress so much. I think it's because (even though the model in the illustration is clearly an ingenue) this seems like a very attractive (okay, let's admit it: sexy) dress for a woman, not just a girl. Think a kind of lush, mid-career Elizabeth Taylor; before women past 35 were encouraged to inject their foreheads with toxins lest — heaven forbid — they showed a creased visage (or attempted to raise their eyebrows).

And is it wrong that I want to make this dress in every color (starting with orange)? Possibly best not to answer that.

If this pattern makes you long to buy some patterns yourself, you're in luck: Janet at Lanetz Living is running a sale (while she goes off to welcome her fourth grandchild into the world — congratulations!). It's
25% off … just use the code sale25 (make sure it is all one word) and it will be deducted for you. Sale will end at midnight CST on Nov 2nd. You might want to start your browsing with this one

Utterly Great

Ingrid (and Erin, and Mary Beth, and Livebird, and Lisa, and Cindy) sent me this link, to Jodie's selvedge dress:

selvedge dress

This is, as you can plainly see with your own eyes, magnificent. I hereby crown Jodie Queen of Doing Cool Stuff for this week (with the power vested in me by … well, by nobody, but that's beside the point). Anyone who can do this is the Queen of Doing Cool Stuff by general acclamation.

And you have GOT to click on the image to see all the other pictures. The fabulosity quotient here is very high. (Pregnant women and those with heart conditions should fortify themselves with chocolate before clicking through.)

I really, really, really hope that Alexander Henry or Michael Miller or SOMEBODY gets the hint here and does a fabric that's all selvage/selvedges as a boon to all of use who are too lazy to save ours …