How to Give a Dress

Since the holidays are coming up, I thought this extract from Miss Leslie's Behavior Book would be helpful:

In presenting a dress to a friend whose circumstances are not so affluent as your own, and who you know will gladly receive it, select one of excellent quality, and of a colour that you think she will like. She will feel mortified if you give her one that is low-priced, flimsy, and of an unbecoming tint. Get an ample quantity, so as to allow a piece to be cut off and laid by for a new body and sleeves, when necessary. And to make the gift complete, buy linen for the body-lining; stiff, glazed muslin for the facings, buttons, sewing-silk, and whatever else may be wanted. This will save her the cost of these things.

If there are givers reading this blog solely to get ideas of what to give givees who are very interested in sewing, a length (four yards is safe) of a very nice fabric is always welcome. Choose a color you've seen your givee wear, and ask for in the store for advice about fabric if you're unsure — natural fibers are best. Or you could visit some of the advertisers there on the right and choose a fantastic vintage pattern or vintage accessory — always welcome!

Oh, more about the charity drive for this year: first, we're up to $860! Second, I was wrong about international donors — it only works for Non-USians if you use Paypal. If you can't use Paypal and want to donate to an equivalent prisoners' or literacy charity in your home country, you're still eligible, just forward me your receipt! Remember, one lucky donor will have a character in my forthcoming novel named after them (or after a person important to them) — go out and donate here. Thanks!

Reaching New Depths

Modes Royale 154

Beth B. sent me this, from SoVintage Patterns. Now, THOSE are pockets, yes?

I'm pretty sure that they don't really go all the way to the hem, but are, instead, given a kind of apple.jpge-bed treatment. Right? Otherwise I see a LOT of things going through the wash that shouldn't go through the wash …

And I don't know about you, but I think those buttons are overkill. Giant pockets, center zipper, AND button trim? Girlfriend is trying a bit too hard. (Plus, I think she's only pretending to read. That book is too far away and I have a sneaking suspicion it's upside-down. It seems odd that all the lines would be right-justified …)

Oh, and thank you all SO much for your wonderful response to last week's charity drive kickoff! We're already nearly halfway to the goal of $1500 for Books Through Bars … and I forgot to mention the end date, which, this year, will be Epiphany. (Seemed appropriate, and if money's tight before the holidays, if gives you a little longer to donate …) A few folks have had trouble with the Network For Good widget interface, so I'm going to ask Books Through Bars if they have alternate avenues … Overseas/UK folks *can* use the widget (which asks for state/zip code) by putting their equivalent geographic locations/postal codes in those fields, btw. Don't forget to put "Dress A Day" in the "Dedication" field so that we can track the donations … to donate TODAY, click here. When you get your receipt, forward it to me, since one lucky donor have a character named after him or her in my forthcoming novel, "The Secret Lives of Dresses"!

The Secret Lives of Dresses Charity Drive 2008

If you've been a reader of this blog, you probably know about the Secret Lives of Dresses series. (If you don't know about them, the links are over there in the sidebar, on the right.)

And you probably also know that, for the last couple years, I've been lucky enough to be able to raise money for some great charities by offering to write new "Secret Lives" vignettes if we reach our donation goal.
This year, I hope we can raise $1500 for Books Through Bars, a charity in Philadelphia that provides books, especially dictionaries, to prisoners. They are working towards starting a program in a nearby women's prison, and our donations would go towards that effort.

If we make our goal, I have a new prize this year. You see, there's going to be a "Secret Lives of Dresses" book (just like many of you have asked for!) sometime in 2010, from Grand Central Publishing in the US and Hodder in the UK. And guess what? It's a novel! A novel that I haven't exactly finished yet, so I have room to rename a character! If you donate to this charity drive and email me a copy of your receipt (email is erin at dressaday dot com), I will choose one name from all the donors and name a character in the novel after him or her. (Yep, seriously.)

I don't care if you give a dollar or a hundred dollars (although obviously, I'd prefer you give a hundred dollars, if you can …). But if you give anything at all, you have a chance to be a character (or at least a character's name) in the "Secret Lives of Dresses" novel. In addition, my wonderful editor at 5 Spot/Grand Central, Caryn Karmatz-Ruby, has offered to send me a box of their fantastic books to give as prizes for some runners-up (whom I'll also select randomly from all donors) …

So, what are you waiting for? Scroll back up and click the "donate" button, and help a woman in prison educate herself so that, when she is released, she never has to go back.

The Donate For Good site accepts PayPal and credit cards; please put "DressaDay" in the "Designation" box so that Books Through Bars can make sure that our donations go to their women's program.

[Oh, and speaking of contests, the winner of last week's "enter a fabric store on the wiki and win a pattern" contest is Jinnan-tonnyx — Jinnan, drop me an email with your mailing address, okay?]

While You Wait


I'm still waiting to get one more piece of info before I post about the thing I said yesterday I was going to post about today, so in the meantime, please enjoy this fantastic dress-and-jacket combo, courtesy of Rita at Cemetarian. (Only $12!)

I love this so much I can't look away. It's a fantasy, really: The hats! The white shoes! The shortie gloves! The bracelets! The bouffant hair! The complete absence of pockets! (That's how you know it's a fantasy, although I suppose you could do an inner breast pocket in the jacket … ) I bet there's a boxy white handbag just out of the frame.

The idea that you could make one jacket and two coordinating dresses is so seductive. You could pack the whole thing (not including the hat) and a bikini in your hatbox, and, carrying that and your train case (which holds your negligee and make-up), get on a flight to who-knows-where for the weekend, escorted by your much-older, captain-of-industry boyfriend, of course. (His wife "doesn't understand him," and thinks he's at a sales meeting.)

Or you could get this pattern, make it up in good men's suiting, and wear it to meetings. (But that's not nearly as funny.) But either way, it's a great pattern, isn't it?

A Congerie

Advance 8848

It's at MOMSPatterns, B34, $16.99. But probably not for long …

These are awesome (Marimekko Memory Game tiles), although I think I would make them into a little mobile, instead.

This makes me wish I were going to London this weekend: £50 for all the vintage and costumes and paste jewelry that you can stuff into a bag? Whoa. (Thanks, Eirlys!)

Did you all know about the vintage fabric group on Flickr? And if so, why have you been holding out on me?

At least some of you are still sending me links, like Kristina and Cécile, who sent me to this Chinese ceramic dress art. And Kay sent me a link ages ago to this dress wallpaper (caution: some of the other wallpaper patterns on that site may not be Safe For Work).

If I had a spare gazillion dollars (and about three inches more height and a lot more hair: these coats really call for long wavy hair and a modicum of willowiness) I might spend some of my loot on an elaborate brocade military coat at

And while I'm thinking about coats, did anyone but Jonquil notice the Pirate Queen jacket at EvaDress? It's not OFFICIALLY a Pirate Queen jacket, because you don't just go around advertising that you're a Pirate Queen. There should be a little stealth involved, at least until you come alongside and attempt to board.

Sometime this week — tomorrow, I hope, since there's not a lot of week left — I'll announce this year's Dress A Day charity effort, and some other good news!

Book Review: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me

Things I wish my mother had told me

Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me: A Guide to Living with Impeccable Grace and Style is by Lucia van der Post, who is (was?) a columnist for the Times of London. (The book came out last year in the UK, I have the new Americanized edition.) I hadn't been a reader of Ms. van der Post's (and was dismayed to find that she thought the Marc Jacobs "Tribute" bag was "witty"), so I surprised by how much I enjoyed her book.

First off, Ms. van der Post is a woman of a certain age, and that age is old enough to have grandchildren. I have never understood why people would want to read fashion advice from someone younger than they are. (Everything looks good on people who are twenty; getting fashion advice from someone who can sleep in her makeup without consequence is like getting a restaurant recommendation from a fourteen-year-old boy.) Fashion advice should be dispensed, ideally, by elegant silver-haired matriarchs, who know all and have seen all … like Ms. van der Post. Even if you aren't trying to disguise middle-aged spread, or worrying about wrinkle creams, well, forewarned is forearmed, I say.

And although the book is jam-packed with useful information, like where to buy retro sunglasses (Cutler & Gross in the UK) and mothballs (Lakeland) and hats (, the real value is in her insistence that fashion is about happiness ("Completely pragmatically, one observes that those who dress prettily, elegantly, or glamorously have a lot more fun than those who don't.") and that you shouldn't take yourself too seriously ("Only small people take offense," she says, quoting her father).

In addition to the usual topics of style advice books (hair, diet, clothes, accessories, manners, and men) there is an excellent section on home decor, which doesn't assume you will have hot and cold running decorators or a fifteen-room manse to decorate. (My favorite house advice was to buy slowly, one by one, things you really love, so that you don't waste money on temporary solutions … even though I am the queen of the "let's buy this $5 Ikea lamp until we figure out what we really want.")

But the worklife section is a bit … antediluvian. "Usually — but by no means always — it's in the family's interests for the man's career to be given most attention …" Really? C'mon. You get the feeling that the "by no means always" was inserted by the editor in a desperate attempt to ward off the stink of irrelevance. And Ms. van der Post's musing on whether any "… alpha woman (or any woman, come to that)" would want a "meek, docile, beta house husband"? Sheesh. If all "housewives" aren't docile (and we know they're not) why should we assume all "house husbands" are?

Actually, when reading through it, I kept having the feeling — not a bad feeling, but a strong feeling — that this could be one of those advice books from the early 1960s, like Dariaux's Elegance, reprinted. If it weren't for the URLs (and the odd mention of Uggs or Jennifer Aniston) there wouldn't be all that much to set it apart from those earlier books. And even the year's time since publication in the UK makes for some of those "window on an earlier era moments": Ms. van der Post recommends "Pepe jeans" as a good present for a "Young Boy," as well as "iPod socks."

But really, that's as it should be. Some kinds of advice are timeless (iPod socks notwithstanding), and if we have to republish it every decade or so under a different name with different quirks, I'm happy to read it every time. And really, who doesn't need to be periodically reminded of some of Ms. van der Post's maxims, like "clean and tidy less, and read more." Or "Never go out with a man who doesn't make you laugh." Or "Use the things you love every day. It's never worth saving things for a special occasion."