Ideas I Am Going To Steal

Eirlys sent me this fantastic Etsy skirt, by deciduoussoul:

writers wrap skirt

I love this skirt, but I don't wear wrap skirts (that is, I haven't worn a wrap skirt since about 1977) so I have put this on my list of cool ideas to steal someday. Banding alphabet fabric (of which I have a gracious plenty) at the bottom of a plain A-line skirt? Genius.

Ktbb sent this link, in a comment a few days back:

rickrack sheath

I've done rickrack on skirt hems before, but not on midriff bands. I think I see a Duro Jr with this effect coming up …

And Lisa sent a link to this eBay auction for a terrific rocketship sundress … the dress itself is a bit banged up, but the fabric is so darned great I see another Spoonflower order in my future:

rickrack sheath

I don't feel bad about this at all — we get inspiration from everywhere, and there's a bright line between inspiration and slavish imitation. (I was going to throw in the Picasso quote "All art is theft" here, but I've looked that up in both the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (and the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations, just in case) and in the new Yale Book of Quotations, and can't find it. So I'll just have to steal without the glamour of Picasso having said it was okay.)

What good ideas have you wanted to steal lately?

Lead Me Not Into Temptation (I Already Have Temptation-Enabled GPS)

I knew this would happen. I asked y'all to make a list of your favorite fabric stores online — how could I think that I wouldn't do a little browsing? And that a little browsing wouldn't naturally lead to an "OMG! I MUST HAVE THAT!" moment?

Which is what happened to me with this, from Waechter's:

Fine Cotton Lycra Stretch Blend Ecru with Dark Green, Teal and Black Geometric Print

Isn't it FANTASTIC? It's a bit pricey, but I don't mind pricey when it's something that's this perfect (and it's cheaper than Liberty!). I'm not quite sure what I'll do with it yet, but I'm sure I'll figure out something. At the very least, it would make a brilliant circle skirt …

Deco Vibe: You Can Has?


This is the new HotPatterns Deco Vibe dress, and I'm really feeling it — can't you see the Duroesque nature of the short version that's front and center? That kind of louche, qiana-flavored 1970s attitude is becoming ever more attractive as we head into a sweater-wearing, oil-crisis-flavored 1970s deflationary malaise … and Jeremy from HotPatterns offered me a copy of this pattern, too!

The thing is — as much as I love the feel of this pattern, I'm just not up to it. I don't have a slinky bone in my body (forget the oxymoronicness of "slinky bone": you know what I mean). And you can't put pockets in this one, and I know I'd put that gorgeous grey clutch handbag (in my head it's suede, of course) down to pick up my cell phone or a Diet Coke and it would be gone forever, with my car keys in it.

So instead of hoarding the pattern to myself, and taking it out every once in a while to double-check that yeah, I'm still not slinky, I'm going to give the pattern (when it comes) to one of you. One you slinky goddesses out there, or one of you who can fake "slinky goddess" when this pattern hums a few bars. What do you have to do to get it?

You have to add a link to one of your favorite online fabric stores to the Vintage Pattern Wiki's new Favorite Fabric Stores page! I've put one link in there so far (just the first one I could type the URL of off the top of my head, which, frankly, is frightening) as a model. I'll look at the page history next Friday and choose one person who has added a link to get the pattern — so if you want to win, it helps to be logged in to the wiki, so I know who's who!

I would prefer that people add links ONLY to stores that sell fabric, notions, or trim online, not to stores that will mail-order if you email and ask. (We can sort those out later … or maybe this will be an incentive for them to get all the way online!) If it gets long, go ahead and add categories: knits, quilting, buttons, etc. Feel free to add a little note about the link, but please, just a few words — if we start seeing spammy or overly-marketing-y disquisitions, I WILL go in with my Avenging Editor hat on and clean it right up. (The Avenging Editor hat looks like something Rosalind Russell would wear: jaunty, with a little feather, tilted slightly to one side, and firmly pinned in place so that you can slug a reporter while wearing it and have it not come off. It SO hurts your dignity if your hat falls off when you're hitting someone.)

Anyway: back to the contest! If every tenth person who reads this blog adds just one link … let's just say there probably aren't that many online fabric stores in the world. Have fun!

Bewitched, Bepocketed, Bewildered

Advance 5247

Julie (of So-Retro Vintage Patterns) sent me this link to one of her babies. (Click on the image to visit the listing). Back me up on this, folks — the woman on the right could fit HER OWN HEAD into her pockets, right? I'm not hallucinating?

Actually, even if I AM hallucinating, I'm not sure I care. Really, if you compare these pockets to all the enormous, obscenely expensive handbags that seem to be causing every celebrity ever snapped by a tabloid to list slightly to the right, they seem restrained — sane, even.

(The dress on the right is actually very close to one of my favorite patterns, Butterick 7130, only with bonus giant buckled pockets.)

I do like how the woman in red has turned her face away from the spectacle, but is casting her eyes back … Can't look, can't look away!

I was going to put a poll in this post but it would involve a lot of messy upgrading of my template, so I'll just ask you to leave a comment instead with your answer. Are these pockets:
A) ludicrous
B) practical
C) ludicrous, but less ludicrous than those ridiculous handbags (and certainly less ludicrous than legwarmers, which I thought had died in the 1980s and I'm disappointed in ALL OF YOU responsible for bringing them back, actual ballerina/os excepted)
D) "I'm wearing them right now, AIFG!"
E) Other (please specify).

(I promise I'll do a proper poll someday …)

10,000 Hours. (What Are You Waiting For? Start Now.)

Charles James Butterfly dress

Has everyone heard about Malcolm Gladwell's new book? It's called Outliers: The Story of Success.

There's an excerpt in the Guardian which is fascinating; you should go read the whole thing (and check out his Pop!Tech talk, too) but here is the two-minute takeaway: when we look at people who are at the top of their game, it's not so much that they are fantastically talented — it's more that they put in the time. How much time? About ten thousand hours of time, if you want to be the best of the best. (If you want to be merely good, shoot for 8,000 hours, and if you're okay with being just north of mediocre, 4,000 hours.)

The dress above is something I would love, someday, to be able to make. (It's the Charles James Butterfly dress, from the Chicago History Museum.) Let's assume, whether it's true or not, that I don't have to be a staggering 10K-hour rocket scientist to make it, but could skate by on merely 8K hours of practice. How far am I from being able to make this dress?

I've probably sewn an average of 15 hours a month for the past twenty-five years, sometimes a little more, and sometimes a lot less. But let's take 15 hours a month as average. 15 x 12 x 25 is 4,500 hours, putting me just above mediocre … which, to be honest, is right where I would say my own sewing skillset is (and those of you who keep pointing out — rightly — that I should match my patterns better will agree!). But if I keep sewing at this rate, or, better yet, crank it up a bit more, I could be at Charles James Dress Level in another decade or so — which certainly worth trying for, right?

TEN THOUSAND HOURS may sound a bit frightening, but to me (since I'm almost halfway there!) it sounds fantastically encouraging. To hear that I don't have to have some ineffable pixie-dust sprinkle of magic called talent or genius or knack to make the kinds of dresses I dream of — all I have to do is KEEP AT IT? And that this notion is backed by Science? How great is that?

I'm also going to be more generous from now on in what I call "practice." Reading sewing blogs & magazines and seeing new techniques? Practice. Hanging out in the fabric store? Practice. Idly googling "Callot Soeurs"? Practice. These next 5,500 hours are going to FLY by, I tell you!

So … what do you want to be great at? How fast can you get to 10,000 hours? I'll wait while you do the math.

This –>

Butterick 7649

I wish someone hadn't snapped up this pattern (from Lanetz Living) before I got to it … it's one of those ones that I want just for the illustration. The ecstatic trance that Coat Woman is in … can I have what she's having, please?

And I like that the original owner of the pattern had to re-focus attention to the actual dress illustration with the scribbled "This" — you know, since all eyes are so obviously elsewhere.

Why don't we wear these coat/dress combos any more? I know it seems a bit overkillish (or inconvenient) to have a separate coat for every dress, but I really wish I did. And that they were weightless and massless, so that I could cram them all into my suitcase. Now that the weather's gotten colder my packing is always dependent on whatever coat I can take that will go with everything in my suitcase … and nothing ever does.

I am currently searching for a green leather coat, which I think (ha!) will go with everything I ever wear. I want a single-breasted green leather vintage coat with a slightly frock-coaty vibe, and as far as I can tell, this Does Not Exist. (If you've seen one, you know where to find me.) Green goes with black AND brown AND gray AND the darker reds and oranges that I like, and leather can be dressy or sporty (and doesn't show dirt as much). And if it's vintage, of course, it has that kind of beat-up, broken-in cool … oh, why can't I find you, Perfect Coat?

The square neckline with the kimono sleeves is also wonderful, isn't it? The little tucks really make it special. Too bad they're hidden under the coat …

My Son, the Fashion Designer

ebay item 8305987417

My son did this sketch for me a couple of months ago and I have been meaning to post it for ages. It came about because I was curled up on the couch reading Vogue while he was organizing Pokemon cards or some such fourth-grade activity, and some picture caught his eye. Embarrassed at being caught being INTERESTED in something, he shrugged off the picture as "that girly stuff" … until I told him that (whatever it was, I can't remember) cost $1200. (It was in Vogue, remember?)

After his incredulous "REALLY?" we had a little talk about fashion designers, and how a lot of them were men … at which point he sat down and drew the above picture. I think he has a lot of promise as a fashion designer. First of all, he totally caught the Goth-Loli zeitgeist thing that's going on; for another he's very self-critical (he wrote the "D+" on the picture himself when he was done). He even named the look ("Moon Heart").

I also think he has a great eye for merchandising and diffusion/bridge lines — sure, the dress is $800, but the stockings (which make the look, you have to admit) are only $20. Affordable luxury! Not to mention the well-thought-out hair and makeup, right down to the dramatic lipstick and the heart and moon patches on the face …

The last cool thing is that he drew penny loafers. Since I wear penny loafers ALL THE TIME, I loved that part best of all. When he actually is a famous fashion designer (unlikely, as he mostly wants to be either a scientist or a book illustrator, or, failing that, Indiana Jones) I will take full credit for being his muse and inspiration. (He designed the dress for someone my height, as you can see.)

Look for him on Project Runway in about … 2018.

McCardell Update

McCardell pattern

Remember this pattern? I did eventually make it up (see here). At the time I was really shaky about cutting into this pattern — it's a Claire McCardell, after all — but I eventually sucked it up and did it, and I was more-or-less happy with the results.

However, YOU don't have to worry, because EvaDress has added this pattern to their repro line, and multi-sized it, too! Click on the image to visit her site.

Also — it's Veteran's Day (or Remembrance Day, for some of you out there), and if you do anything today (especially if you have the day off), could you do something tangible for a veteran? My son and I are boxing up a ton of books and magazines to send to his teacher's nephew, who is in the hospital in Maryland, recuperating from injuries he got in Afghanistan. I'm sure you know someone (or know someone who knows someone) who is in a similar position. Or you can check out this Metafilter post about other easy ways to send books to soldiers. If you are really motivated, you could also make a small donation to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. (I try to earmark mine for their women veterans program.)

And after you've done that, you can enjoy the Veteran's Day sales with a clear conscience. Like the one Sandritocat is having (free shipping to the USA and half off international shipping, plus the 10% DressADay discount you always get in her store).

Meet Our Advertisers #12: Lisa of Miss Helene's

Advance 9627

how long have you been in business? Since 1999, but I didn't start
selling patterns till 2000. I moved off eBay to Main Street Mall
Online's pattern mall three years ago, and I recently bought the
Vintage Fashion Library site, as well. Yeah, I'm not one to tolerate
not having anything to do!

what motivated you to go into the vintage patterns business? I was
looking for an interesting way to make some extra money on eBay. I
needed something that would be easy to hide from my rather OCD
husband, who hates clutter, so I started selling patterns, which were,
I figured, easy to hide in a closet. That was 17,000 patterns ago.
Hubby has now given up hope of having a room that is patternless.

what did you do before this? My "real" job is as a phone triage
nurse, taking phone calls from people who have medical questions.
It's pretty amusing, most days.

where are you based? Indianapolis. We live about 8 blocks from the
hospital where my husband was born, in the neighborhood he dreamed of
living in when he was a kid. Do I have a chance of moving? Never. I
did, however, grow up moving all the time, and had moved 12 times by
the age of 16. I like having roots now.

More fun questions:

what's the weirdest/best/craziest/most beautiful thing you've ever
Most beautiful and best would
have to be my new favorite vintage pattern catalog (I collect). It's
a 1954 Spadea, full of Ceil Chapman, Tina Leser, Clare McCardell, Jo
, and more. I'll sell it after I get it catalogued — MAYBE.

Coolest would have to be the faux-lero pattern, which I'm still
waiting on Janet to sew, so I can see it (hint hint), another would
be a 1932 Vogue Pattern Book, that has a handwritten note next to one
dress, saying that she's wearing that dress on election night, "to the
Democratic candidate, Roosevelt's, house, on election night." Too

Craziest would probably be a vintage obstetrical corset, from the 40s.
I can't imagine strapping in a pregnant belly, but it came with
instructions on how to adjust it every month, as the belly grew. Oye.

what do you have in stock that you can't believe hasn't sold? The
Schiaparelli and Adrian patterns I have. But oh, they'd have to be
listed, right? Of my listed ones, I'd love to see the daring person
who snaps up this one!

what do you dream about finding? Pictorial Review catalogs from
the 1920s, with my grandmother's name in them. She was the original
Miss Helene, and was an editor for Pictorial Review.

what do you enjoy most about working with vintage patterns? I just love looking at them. It reminds me of years past, when ladies dressed like ladies, but it's also such a piece of history, watching the trends in styles, sizes, etc. I just love patterns, period.

what do you wish someone would ask you about your site? Not so much a question, but I like input as to what people like to see on the site. Probably my favorite thing is when people ask me "can you find XXX pattern for me because……" It's like a treasure hunt, and I have a pretty good success rate, even if they don't know the pattern number. And I just added credit card capability to the VFL, so now people don't have to just use PayPal, they can use plastic!

it's a good day at work when …
I find a bunch of 30s patterns, or some Vogue Pattern books. Of course, no listing gets done, but I sure do enjoy looking at them.

if I ran the internet for a day I'd … get rid of spam.

the blogs I read (other than ADAD are …) The Girl Can't Help It
(hilarious!), The Vintage Traveler (such a nice read), The Vintage Goddess/Damn Good Vintage, and Zuburbia.

you'd laugh if you knew this about me … I don't sew. I passed
home ec because I could cook. My sewing skills are rather limited,
but it's on my list of things to master before I die. God knows I
have enough patterns to choose from!

Oh, and a couple of other advertiser things to let you know about:

Sheila of Out of the Ashes decided to go camping this weekend and so she's having a special "gone camping" sale until Sunday, offering 15% off. Use coupon code GLAMIS!

Penny is renovating the Antique Dollhouse of Patterns, so her site will be down until December. Look for a big sale when she comes back, and you can still email her with pattern requests!

These are a few of my favorite things …

As most of you have probably figured out, I am a person of random enthusiasms. Get stuck talking to me for a few minutes at a party or in an elevator and I will try to convince you of how great roller-skating is, or that liverwurst sandwiches with spinach and mustard on wholegrain bread are underrated, or how you should really try my new stupidly-expensive-but-actually-worth-it favorite lip balm.

So I thought today would be a great day for a random post about stuff I like (but sadly, even though I live in Chicago, I can't actually GIVE you all the stuff I like, the way Oprah would). Stuff such as Pearson Coffee Nips, which I can't actually eat more than once or twice a year anymore because they really do a number on your teeth:

I know, they are total grandma candy, and weird because I don't actually like to drink liquid coffee in any form, but, oh, the deliciousness. Mmmm.

I also really like Veronica Mars. Seriously, if you have never watched this show, block out a week or two and sit yourself down on the couch. I've been rewatching (as I walk on my treadmill, another favorite thing) and I have been bowled over (again) by what a great show this is. (Also: LoVe 4eva!)

And has everyone here read Josephine Tey? I recently grabbed one of her books off the shelf — Brat Farrar, my favorite — to keep me from getting a cold (did you guys know this works? A favorite mystery novel, taken with either a hot bath or a bowl of popcorn, will usually pull me back from the brink if I feel like I'm coming down with something), and wondered if people even read Josephine Tey any more. And they should.

I also really like — and sometimes people are shocked to hear this — Wikipedia. I've worked on reference books professionally, and I know what kinds of shenanigans can go on with them, but I find that by and large, Wikipedians do a great job giving you the gist about anything you may care to look up. And if you can't trust an article unless you know that it was written by underpaid and overstressed professional reference book editors, well, you can always skim down to the bottom of any article and look for the source links, and then go read THEM. That alone is worth the (free) price of admission! (Disclosure: I'm on an advisory board for Wikimedia Foundation, but they don't pay me anything.) If you have used Wikipedia this past year, please seriously consider donating to the Wikimedia foundation's fundraiser:
Wikipedia Affiliate Button

I could go on and on — I haven't even gotten to how fun it is to carry around a toy sonic screwdriver, or even expounded on the whole liverwurst thing — but I'm sure you all have work to do or other blogs to read. (Speaking of which, I did a top-ten list of blogs for this morning … it was kind of a stream of consciousness list and was, by necessity, inadequate. Ten?? I need a "Top 350" list to represent all the blogs I really love … Anyway, if you were on my list, you can pick up your fancy-shmancy blog badge here.)

So, happy Stuff I Like Thursday! Let me know if you end up having liverwurst for lunch.