It's That Time Again

Crossword puzzle stunt dress time!

Yep, today's the ACPT tournament, and I'll be wearing this:

2009 crossword dress

I haven't sewn down the facings yet in this picture, so they're a little lumpy. Can you see what else is wrong with it? No?

2009 crossword dress

How about now?

Yep. I cut the ENTIRE THING OUT UPSIDE DOWN. (Insert forehead-slap here.) When I figured this out I was hopping mad for about ten minutes, but I didn't have enough time OR fabric for a do-over, so then I just laughed. It's funnier this way, and of course, from MY perspective (that of the WEARER), looking down at the dress, it's right-side-up! So that's how I'm going to think about it, anyway.

It's a Duro Junior (Simplicity 3875), which I think of more as a summer-type dress, but I'm just going to wear it with a black tee underneath it and tights and just hope it's not as cold as the weatherfolk say it's supposed to be. I'll be inside, solving (or, in my case, often NOT-solving) puzzles most of the day anyway.

I found this last stash of Michael Miller crossword fabric at Britex months and months ago — for next year's dress I think I'm going to get some custom fabric made up at Spoonflower. Probably an easy NYT Monday puzzle solved in red ink and tiled to fill the yardage, or maybe even as a scatter print. What do y'all think?

Oh, and tomorrow — check out my last column filling in for Jan Freeman in the Boston Globe; I'm writing about my inadvertent coining of the word "Duro" (and how cool you all were to use it, making it "real").

Your (New) Slip Is Showing

vintage hem

Janine over at VintageHem proposed a giveaway, and since it involved 1) really pretty slips and 2) no actual work on my part, I agreed. Here's the deal: in order to win one of their lovely slips with fancy hems, go to the VintageHem blog and leave a comment on today's post (the one about THIS CONTEST). That's it. They'll pick a winner at random.

(Full disclosure: Janine has offered me a slip, too, for doing this. I will report back on it in this space.)

Here's a closer look at the style of slip they're giving away, "Have a Ball":

vintage hem

I am always looking for new slips. (When I manage to go shopping in an actual store, I usually look for knee socks, tights, slips, colored leather gloves, cardigan sweaters, and penny loafers, not necessarily in that order.) I made some myself last year that I wore to death, and after that I bought some slippery nylon ones at Kohl's six months ago that are okay, but not great. (For some reason, mid-range department stores are the only places I can find slips these days. They're not at the low end [Target] or at the high [Saks, Lord&Taylor, Neiman's] — at least, not at prices I think are reasonable. And I'm not talking about those human sausage casings they call "shapewear," either.) The Vintage Hem slips seem reasonably priced for decorative slips — they run about $30.

Oh, and just in case you don't have it marked on your calendar, this is the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament weekend. Check in tomorrow to see this year's puzzle dress. (Hint: Duro Jr.!)

When is a Problem Not a Problem? When It's An Opportunity.

taped ankle

Reader of the blog Melissa recently sent me this question:

I tore a ligament in my ankle a few months ago and have been sporting white, ever-so-lovely athletic tape on a daily basis since. This hasn't been an issue during winter, the season for multiple layers of opaque tights, but the season for wearing dresses and skirts without attracting weird looks is coming up soon. Not only that, but I have a few occasions coming up very quickly where I need to wear a dress in slightly fancier circumstances (where neither heavy winter tights nor knee-high boots, my winter solutions, are appropriate).

On a daily basis, I have white tape reaching in a semi-spiral half-way up my shin. It wouldn't be as much of an issue, but I'm a 23-year-old student and have to worry about things like making good impressions at job interviews and as I try to get into grad school. Unfortunately, just leaving the tape off isn't one of the available solutions! And, as I mentioned before, there are occasions where I will be expected to wear skirts or dresses.

Do you or your readers have any suggestions about how best to rise to the challenge?

I let this sit in my inbox for a while because I didn't know how to answer it. It's not that I didn't have any suggestions for covering the tape; it's that I didn't have good suggestions for getting Melissa to stop WANTING to cover the tape, and I think that's the real problem. It's totally natural to want to hide anything that might stand out, or call unwanted attention to yourself, or that seems like a flaw. However … NOT covering things up is, long-term, the better solution.

I don't want to be all "Disabilities give you strength!" because, frankly, that is the kind of bullshit able-bodied people tell themselves to feel better. It sucks not to have full use of your body. That's just true. (With the possible exception of being Deaf, which if you are raised in a Deaf community, doesn't seem to be as bad — but then again, I'm not Deaf, so what do I know?)

However, any kind of difference gives you the opportunity to learn how to deal graciously with weird looks and clueless people, and THAT is a life skill whose importance cannot be overestimated. And luckily for Melissa, her White Tape of Difference is purely temporary — she doesn't face the grinding prospect of a lifetime of people asking "How'd you do THAT?" or saying "Wow, that looks like it hurt," and so on. So you practice your "Oh, thanks for asking!" response (the one that doesn't actually answer anyone's question) and remind yourself that just because someone asks you a question, You Don't Actually Owe Anyone An Answer.

It also helps you realize that Really, Honestly, Nobody is Looking That Hard. When you go out of the house with white tape, or a honking big zit, or a birthmark, or so on, you soon realize that for every person giving you the double-take look, there are four, or five, or ten who casually glance your way and never think of you again. Ever.

So, my advice to Melissa is not to worry about how the taped ankle looks. It looks fine. (Remember, you don't owe anyone pretty, either.) And if I were interviewing someone for a job (something I've done a fair bit of) or grad school (something I've never done), I'd be perfectly fine with it, and I'd probably give extra points to someone who dealt with it in a natural and matter-of-fact way, instead of apologizing for it: e.g., "I recently injured my ankle (or use a cane, or have a service animal, or whatever); are there elevators at the interview site? Could you please arrange for me to have extra time between interviews? Thank you for your consideration in this matter."

(Melissa, you can also use this as a way to screen OTHER PEOPLE: anybody who is a jerk or dismissive about your injury or disability is a person you do not want to work for or go be a student of. Believe me. Life's too short.)

So, this may not be the answer you wanted, Melissa, but it's the only one I've got. Good luck!

Eh … What's Up, Doc?

Carrot Dress

Those orange things on the dress above? They are CARROTS. Don't believe me? (Or the fantastic Angela, who sent the link?) Check it out:

Carrot Dress

It's from Etsy seller honeybeevintage, and it's TINY (and $65). But nutritious! (It reminds me of this, a little.)

Two quick sale notices:

Sandritocat is having a "Pre-Spring Cleaning Sale (but it's really a "I've got too many boxes of unlisted patterns sale")" and is offering 20% off plus the usual multiple purchase discounts on shipping, plus free shipping if you purchase three patterns.

— Jen at MOMSPatterns (when she's not taunting me about how much warmer it is in Jacksonville, FL than Chicago, IL) is also having a sale, from now until the end of the month. Kindly use coupon code 'febsale' until Midnight EST Saturday, February 28, 2009 and save 20% off of any order. Jen am listing some DIVINE vintage Vogue patterns, loads of Viva-Las-Vegas-worthy designs, more New Old Stock children's patterns, and she has a dwindling Sale Area where patterns have been marked down to just $1.50. Note: If those aren't gone by the end of the month, Jen's donating them to charity …

— Oh, and check back in Friday (if not before) where I'll be announcing a SLIP GIVEAWAY from Vintage Hem. You know how much I love slips …

Is it Friday already?

ebay item 8305987417

It's been a busy week, and I'm unclear as to which day of it we have attained. But my sources say it's Friday, which means that Wendy of Pattern Stash is having a sale today, Saturday & Sunday. She'll be offering a 15% discount in place of the usual 10%. Use the code Voguesale.

At Pattern Stash, shipping is just a flat $2.50 for all your patterns, no matter how many patterns you purchase (in the US only, sorry)!

And at her new shop all the patterns are new and uncut, and shipping is free.

That's her pattern there, that really 1960s bridal gown. I love that skirt and the short sleeves; not so sure about the chokey collars on the attendants' dresses.

Also, xstpenguin sent the embroidered logo for the Air Hostess Corps, from Urban Threads:

airship logo

So. Awesome, yes?

And How

I know I keep harping on and on about how tired I am of winter, but one of the reasons for said fatigue is that I have been wearing basically the EXACT SAME THING for several months: a circle skirt (with a waistband), tights, t-shirt, and cardigan sweater. This is fine, mostly: it's comfortable, you can have lots of fun with skirt prints and bright tights, it's warm and layerable, and so and so forth. BUT I AM TIRED OF SKIRTS AND WANT TO WEAR SOME DRESSES PLS OK?

I have a few dresses that are good for winter, nice wool, corduroy, heavy cotton and so on, but my favorite kind of dress is in a nice light cotton, preferably in a conversation print. Something with short sleeves, and a little collar, and which does not require any more accessorizing than finding a pair of shoes.

A dress like, say, this one, which I was DESPONDENT to find is not in my size, at Lanetz Living (click on the image to visit the site):

Butterick 7272

So. I NEED this. I've started a search for it, and with any luck (and/or bribery, if you have a copy of this one you don't need) someday I WILL MAKE THIS. YES. I WILL.

(And what's with ALL THE CAPS? I think I am falling under the influence of THIS.)

Also — I'm a little worried about the expressions on the faces of the women in this picture. I think that Blue-Stripe Woman has just announced her intention of going over and slapping the bedickens out of someone, and White-Dress Woman is both worried about the emergent crazy of Blue-Stripe Woman and really, really hoping that the slapping will actually happen.

It's Pointy Shoulders Week!

Atomic Print Dress

Well, two in a row make a set, yes? Check out this atomic-print dress that's up on eBay right now (from seller MemphisVintage).

Here are some more pictures, click on them to check out the auction:

Atomic Print Dress

Atomic Print Dress

Teri gave me the heads-up on this one, and I'm grateful, even though I don't think I'll be bidding. Lately I can't seem to get excited about buying vintage dresses off eBay. Vintage coats, vintage sweaters, vintage shoes, vintage jackets — for sure — but I seem to want to MAKE all my dresses. Go figure. (Although the longer I look at this one, from the same seller, the more I want to make an exception! Pockets!)

You Too Can Enter The Exciting World of Airship Hostesses!

newspaper pattern

So Ashley has sent me this great story:

So I have this image of a 1950s airship hostess pattern [see above], and I don't know where I got it. I don't know if it's a Marian Martin or an Anne Adams or what, but it has held my interest since day one. I don't think it was ever featured on your blog; I searched your dirigible posts to try and find the name of the pattern company. No luck. Searches on Google, eBay, and Lanetz and friends have yielded nothing for months, so I decided to just improvise with patterns I already have, as usual. The bodice is a 1990s jumper pattern with straps extended, pointed, and separated for button-y goodness, and the skirt is a from a 1940s pattern. I added a [poorly done] side zipper. The fabric is simple, rust-orange cotton.

So, just in case you didn't get this at first reading: she saw just the picture, and managed to frankenstein together a pretty good approximation, like so:

Ashley's approximation

I love stories like this. (I also love that color orange.) Was Ashley going to let not having the actual pattern stand in her way? NO! She just jumped right in and DID it. This is what our country needs today. If I were hiring airship hostesses, Ashley would go right to the top of the list.

How would you prove your mettle as a possible airship-hostess trainee? Leave your stories of moxie in the comments.

Best. Readers. EVER.

Tetris fabric

So you know how every once in a while, I toss off some nonchalant comment, like "I wish I had Tetris fabric," or "someone should really make a shirtdress out of this"?

Those are actually SEEKRIT CODED MESSAGES. If you hear them and feel compelled to comply, DO NOT BE ALARMED. It is all PART OF THE PLAN.

Awesome Jenny at Chronically Uncool heard the first coded message, and commissioned a fantastic Tetris-style fabric design from MissBlackPepper on Etsy, to print at Spoonflower. What's better than that, you say? She's making it available to us to use, too! I'm hosting the file for her; you can download it here (ZIP). I can't *wait* to get mine, I'm ordering from Spoonflower today!

Jenny is releasing her Tetris-style fabric design file under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. If you get a copy of the file, you are free to use, share, and remix the design for your own non-commercial projects. If you make a new design derived from this design, please attribute the original design to Jenny. (When Jenny commissioned MissBlackPepper to create the custom design, she purchased the rights to the resulting design from her.) Your derivative work should be released under a similar Attribution – NonCommercial – ShareAlike license.

Next up in the Parade of Awesome is Nancy, who heard my not-all-that-subliminal instruction to make a ruler shirtdress out of this fabric. And here it is!

Ruler Dress

Isn't that great? You can read all about it on her blog. Nancy actually used *babysitting time* to get this done. Now THAT is devotion to the cause …

Now I just have to figure out which of my immediate and pressing desires I should issue a call for. Prepare yourselves to receive instructions!

Meet Our Advertisers #13: Cherie of Shrimpton Couture

Lame dress

how long have you been in business? has been on-line for about 2 years now! But I have been collecting for years and years before that!

what motivated you to go into the vintage business?
Honestly, I am a collector first and foremost so the business was always about being able to pare down my collection and at the same time justify buying MORE! I am really great at justifying purchases of vintage!

I have always been a clothes-crazy girl and I have always been a label and quality snob and quite frankly vintage enabled me to buy the quality I wanted to wear in clothes at a price I could afford it at, early on. I also quickly learned the appeal of being the girl who "had the only one of its kind." As the years progressed I relentlessly "upgraded" my collection. I would buy better vintage and distribute the old to my girlfriends. Eventually the prices I paid for what I had got a bit out of control and so I started selling off my collection. But only to be able to buy more. It was the concept of $1 in – and about $10 out.

I made friends with a few key "pickers" (these are people in the business who source vintage – they "pick" through to find the good stuff) and made deals with them to buy the cream of the crop for a little more than what dealers or store owners would pay them – they loved me for that. I also discovered online shopping but was often disappointed with what arrived. It seemed so hit and miss. As my personal income rose so did my budget for buying vintage and I was able to start shopping current labels as well. This just made me pickier and pickier. I started buying from more established sites online and at some point a light bulb went off and I thought — I can do this better. That's how the website was born.

what did you do before this?
I have been in sales & marketing at some capacity or another for my entire career. I am actually a Vice President and part owner of a company in the commodities industry! So I work a LOT – and I work every day!

where are you based?
Just outside of Toronto on a large property where we are slowly renovating a big, old house. This year we are adding a proper studio for my collection & archives, so clients will be able to come in and shop with me by appointment!

what's the most beautiful thing you've ever found?
I am so lucky to have come across some pretty amazing things but one of my favorites at the moment is a 1930s silk floral gown. The fabric is constructed so it has rows of "frayed" ruffles – but they are really the edges of the fabric. You might know how to describe this better then me actually, being the fabric queen of the internet! The whole gown is shot through with gold lame threading and it is awe inspiring to see in person. The seams are so well done you have to look from the back to see them! Its pricey but its worth every penny – it's the equivalent to a couture piece really – so not so expensive of you think of it that way. It looks like it should have a label in it crediting it as a Chanel piece doesn't it? Its just an truly incredible textile!

Lame dress

Lame dress

You do have to realize though that my favorite/most beautiful thing found changes almost every week …

what do you have in stock that you can't believe hasn't sold?
Since I am biased and think every piece is amazing, I am always in awe that stuff does not get snatched up right away of course, but honestly, I think its the great little black dresses that run through the site. Every girl should have one (or more) in her closet but its so hard to get the look and feel of a garment on-line I guess and black is the toughest to portray. I am also a little sad sometime to see the terrific little day dresses sit. People tend to think of vintage as special occasion wear, but shouldn't every day you are healthy and happy be a special occasion? Don't wait for occasions to wear vintage girls, wear it because it makes you feel special THAT day!

what do you dream about finding?
So many things – the greats of course, a Vionnet gown or a Fortuny piece; a runway Dior piece from the 50s; a closet full of Thea Porters … sigh.

Honestly I just want to find a dozen mad collectors who have rooms and rooms of pristine, fabulous priceless vintage who all, for some unknown reason, decide I MUST be the girl to own it all! I told you I was clothes crazy!

I am am not completely greedy though – anything that did not fit or was the wrong color would promptly go onto Shrimpton Couture!

what do you enjoy most about working with vintage?
The quality, the wit, the workmanship, the fabrics, the strong emotion a great design can create from nothing, how it feels when you slide on a dress from 40 years ago and it whispers to you in the voices of its past owners. The privilege of meeting women who owned and wore the pieces originally, and having them share their memories with me of that dress and that time in their lives when they had nothing but hope.

what do you wish someone would ask you about your site?
"Where do you see your site going and do you offer additional services?"
To which I would reply, that I hope to make it better and better! That it continues to showcase some of the best vintage out there, in fabulous condition and wrapped up in great client service! We also do personal shopping for clients looking for special pieces, or designers, celebrities or stylists that need more privacy – this is all done through custom built password protected pages on the site! And there is a lightbox icon on the site you can use to catalogue and save your favorite pieces. And above and beyond all of that, soon, as I mentioned above, you will be able to shop by appointment directly with me!

it's a good day at work when …
I get an email from a girl who got her dress and she loves it! That is honestly the best part

the blogs I read (other than ADAD are …)
Wendy Brandes' Blog,, Bagsnob, Couture Snob, Vintage-A-Peel, Zuburbia, do we have room for the other 200 or so?

you'd laugh if you knew this about me:
That I was an absolute, total geek in high school. Thick glasses, skinny as a rail, nose in a book, bad style, geek. And that under certain circumstances, despite being able to put together a pretty damn good outfit these days, my inside me can still feel quite overwhelmed by it all and resort back to awkward, shy geekiness.

Cherie is also running a contest for a $300 shopping spree on her site … today is the last day to enter!