Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Elephants See Manhattan Dress

One night thing about sewing is that you can always make yourself a new outfit for an occasion. This is also a very dangerous thing about sewing, because you can just make new things all the time, so your wardrobe can become populated with dresses themed to specific events and therefore limited in their use, and also, if people know you sew, because you’re like me and you proudly declare it to every damn person that you meet who doesn’t really care about your weird hobby but is just trying to buy some coffee so great, thanks, bye, then people start asking you if what you are wearing is a new outfit and then you feel some kind of compulsion to make something new for every occasion and then even more stuff finds its way into your closet but your life in New York, a land where closets are an endangered species, so you end up getting rid of a lot of stuff all the time which is why you might someday see a homeless person wearing a dress I made. And thus, the cycle of life continues.

As discussed in posts from previous years, I really love my birthday. But this year, I suppose, my birthday and I hit a bit of a rough patch. We’re dealing with it, we’re talking it out, we’re getting to a good place, I have every hope for the future, but honestly, this year? My birthday was basically cancelled. I had big plans to make a new dress, have drinks with all my friends, enjoy the evening in the company of people I love and wine that loves me back, and yet, it was not to be. I caught an awful and debilitating summer cold, which arrived in my chest and spent several days there, before deciding it wanted to see more of the world and traveling up to my head. This cold, a sociable fellow, called it’s business associate, a fever, over for tea, and the two of them kept me company instead of all my friends. It’s always nice to meet new people, but this was outside of enough. When the two finally departed and I was back to feeling like my normal, unoccupied by illness self, I had already cancelled my birthday plans and honestly, it just seemed silly and after-the-fact to try to do anything else. So there you go. No birthday for me. I didn’t even get to finish my birthday dress! The biggest tragedy of all.

But, on the upside, I was lucky enough to have another event on the horizon that was dress-friendly and worth something special, and that was my friend Becca’s bachelorette extravaganza. So I figured, no one had to know that this was a birthday dress, right? Except…all of you. Who I am telling right now. Oh, well…

As the day included a variety of activities, from mimosas and wine-glass decorating to trivia games to dinner to 80’s tribute dance party, the dress had to include comfort, style, and pockets. And you know what? I think it does!

ESM 2.jpg

And, happy bonus, elephants. And of the many things Becca and I both love, elephants are very much among them. Elephants are amazing, the most precious and perfect of pachyderm. Sorry, rhinos and hippos! Rhinos, you are basically dinosaurs, and hippos, you look really cute but you are mean. Elephants are gorgeous creatures and so astounding. Their trunks have over 40,000 separate muscles, and that’s just the beginning of the amazingness of their trunks along. Find out more here. And their babies? Are the damn cutest. Look. Look at this. Come on:

and look at this:

They are wonderful animals and yet they are abused and slaughtered all over the world. There are many amazing charities to support elephants, and I like this one a lot, if you are interested.

At any rate, the elephants on my dress enjoyed adventures in Manhattan to celebrate the end of Becca’s non-married life. But before all that, I had a chance to force my friend Jenny, who was in town for the event, to snap some photos. The best part was that the last time I got to see Jenny was her OWN wedding, where she and Becca and our friend Lisa and I enjoyed the event and the chance to have a reunion. Seeing all these amazing women in the same room again for the first time in two years made me happier than an elephant in a mud pit.

Which is really very happy. I can assure you.

ESM 3.jpgThis fabric, while appearing Indian in nature, is actually faux-Indian, or Findian, which is a new word I’ve recently invented and feel I might be using a lot in my life. (Mr. Struggle is Indian, for those who hadn’t picked up on the clues.) I actually bought this fabric three years ago at the Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet, aka one of my favorite places on earth. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, but I loved it, and I bought it, and I buried it in boxes and storage containers over several moves and cycles of warm weather, loving it, taking it out and touching it, thinking about it, and then putting it away again, unused. But this year, I was ready, and I think I used it well, if I do say so myself.

ESM 4.jpgI used my trusty bodice block. God, that thing. I cannot thank my friend Liz, who drafted it with me, enough for this. It had changed my life. I altered the bodice to be a square lower neckline and sheared a little off the back bodice pieces at the neck to make it almost a boatneck on the back.

ESM 5.jpgYou can’t really see that here. Sorry. But I loved this photo, Jenny kept making me cry with laughter as she directed me like a fashion photographer and told me to pop the leg. Vogue should hire her. It’s a shame she wants to be a doctor, sigh, she’s really missing her calling.

ESM 6.jpgThe skirt was just a gathered rectangle. Or rather, three gathered rectangles, as there had to be seams to accommodate the pockets. I used a vintage metal zipper I had in my stash, in a nice teal color. I hand-picked the zipper and hand-stitched the hem. Otherwise this was very simple to put together. Other than the 16 darts in the bodice, 8 in the elephant fabric, 8 in the lining, it all goes very fast. Or it would, if I hadn’t gotten that cold in the middle. Sigh. Clearly this dress wanted to be used for a higher purpose then my birthday.

ESM 7.jpgPockets like these are really good for holding your phone during 80’s night and having it handy for quick photo opportunities of the bride-to-be in all her drunk dancing glory.

ESM 8.jpgA little close up of the fabric for you. How cute are those elephants? Another friend there, Kira, wore elephant earrings. Clearly it was an elephant kind of day.

ESM 1.jpgI can assure you that this dress, of the many I’ve made, is guaranteed to be a frequent flyer in my wardrobe. The elephants would protest, otherwise. And they would be correct in doing so. They deserve to see the world, don’t they?

 

9 Comments

Filed under Clothing, Fabric, Sewing

The Poppies My Pretty Dress

The idea that there are people out there who have never seen The Wizard of Oz is a very strange idea for me. Since 1939 it’s been such a fundamental movie to public consciousness here in the United States, and also to popular culture, that the fact that people exist in the world who haven’t seen this movie seems like a sad odd fact. Obviously it isn’t, if you have no context for Kansas or the politics of the age, which many people think Baum was actually writing about, then why on earth would you be interested in this strange film, but still. Come on. It’s the first color film. It’s a great story. Who wouldn’t want to see this movie? Still. Out there, somewhere, I understand, it doesn’t make any sense. Still, I hope that anyone reading this will look it up, because I love The Wizard of Oz, and it’s just one of the best stories to tell your children that there ever could be. It’s about courage and adaptation and finding qualities within yourself you never knew you possessed and also, home, and what that means, and why it’s worth returning to. And why worlds beyond your own are worth discovering and exploring and finding and enjoying. And why everyone is worth something in their own way. And why what lives within us all is the most powerful of things, and should be valued and respected. And besides, the costumes are great, even if you don’t like the rest of it.

 

This Hanukkah, my amazing roommate Emily bought me a yard and a half of Liberty of London fabric. This was an astounding gift and I couldn’t have been more thrilled and happy to get it. I thought for a long time about what to do with such a special buttery length of amazing fabric, the lawn that puts green grass to shame. I thought long and hard about this wonderful piece of cloth, and then I finally made something I knew I could be proud of, a dress that I knew would appeal to my sense of whimsy and my everyday life. Such things are not easy to find, as you well might imagine. So here is this one:

LFA 3.jpgI used my bodice block which I developed with my friend Liz last year, and folded the skirt fabric into place in a new way, which I”m actually pretty happy about.

LFA 4.jpg

I initially thought I would gather or pleat this the way I normally would, but when I was making this skirt I started playing around with it and this is what I came up with. I think it’s rather cute, as it turned out!

LFA 7.jpgOtherwise the construction was very straightforward. I made this dress to take home to Philadelphia, and it turned out to be a lucky thing that I did, because my parents took Mr. Struggle and I out to dinner for my birthday, which was utterly lovely.

LFA 1.jpgAnd I had a dress all ready for the occasion! Which is a rare thing.

LFA 5.jpgI did not quite match up the print in the back. Ah, well, no one is perfect. I still think Dorothy could have gotten drugged in this dress, if she’d wanted to.

LFA 6.jpgWhat else can I say about this, it’s a figure hugging dress with a full skirt. So, my favorite thing there is.

LFA 2.jpgThis dress stood up to an evening of Italian food and a meal full of family bickering and several cocktails. So, basically, it’s up to the task of being a part of my life. And I’m glad to have it. It has yet to cause any soporific effects, but I don’t mind that. I’ll get to that field of poppies when they come.

5 Comments

Filed under Clothing, Sewing

The Lots To Celebrate Dress

Ah, the 4th of July. What a holiday. Who would have known that when a bunch of slave-owning white man got together and said, you know what is the worst, paying taxes to other white men who speak our language on a tiny island far away, let’s deal with that in a long and elaborately worded “Dear John (or George, as the case may be) letter”, we would, some three centuries later, be celebrating that half-assed international mailing with fireworks, beer and awful displays of jean-short madness? Also, quick side-note, given that overseas mail took signficantly longer then, that must have been the most anti-climactic break-up ever. That’s like sending an “it’s over” text via carrier pigeon.

Look, I’m just kidding, I’m a huge fan of the founding Fathers of the United States, specifically Benjamin Franklin who gave us firehouses, public libraries, bifocals, and the best children’s book ever.  My father is probably Franklin’s biggest fan, and you can’t help but be a bit of a groupie if you grow up in Philadelphia, Franklin’s adopted city. He was actually from Boston, and was apprenticed to a candlemaker until he escaped and…you know what? You should read his autobiography. I did. At the age of 13. Because my father made me. And then you can come to Philadelphia and see his home and his grave and the University he founded and the museum named after him and you can cry to your dad that you don’t WANT to read more about Franklin and you like John Adams because Principle Feeney played him in this movie and besides he seemed like a cool guy who respected women and oh my god I need a moment a lot of my childhood just flashed back excuse me. Sob.

ANYWAY.  I even love celebrating July 4th.  Who doesn’t love freedom? Specifically a freedom only granted to landowning White males of a certain income and education level? It’s a great excuse to grill a bunch of things, drink a bunch of wine (I don’t CARE if it comes from Europe, it’s freedom juice to me!) and enjoy some time with my family. That’s worth celebrating, right? It’s certainly worth a new outfit….

And with no further ado, may I present to you the latest in a long line of Plantain and Plantain hacks, my Lots To Celebrate Dress? Don’t mind if I do!

LTC 2

Ah, I love this dress! And could it BE more patriotic? My cynical ramblings are totally negated by this dress, aren’t they?

So, yes, Plantain. To this. How,you say? Well, I took the top part of the top, that is, above the waist, and used that to cut the bodice. I then slimmed it on the front and back pieces by about two inches, and used the sleeves as they were, and the neck binding. Then I just cut and gathered the skirt. Gathering a knit is the damn worst. I don’t recommend it. It’s dumb. Still! I like this.

LTC 4

 

The fabric I got at my beloved Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet for literally 1.98 a yard. Because, Philadelphia. I got two yards and I still have enough to make a tank top. Luckily it stretches in both directions because the vertical stripe and I are good friends.

LTC 5Although I do think that it is deeply hilarious that the stripes look bigger on the bodice because of my, um, front area. Sigh. Whatever. Franklin would have appreciated this. He loved himself some ladies.

LTC 3A little rear view for you. This dress was insanely easy to sew. I have made this pattern 10 times now and it only gets easier. And it wasn’t hard to begin with. Make this pattern. It’s awesome. That’s all I can say about it. It’s easy and fast and free. What else do you want on July 4th?

LTC 6Obviously these photos were not taken in Brooklyn, but rather at my parent’s house in Philadelphia where we had a lovely BBQ to celebrate the holiday. Not that we are so into it, but, honestly, any excuse to grill…

LTC 8Obviously I left Cadfael in Brooklyn but that’s okay, I wasn’t lonely:

LTC 7Cats gotta be a part of everything, am I right?

LTC 9We made some excellent slaw from this excellent blog. Try that today, too.

So, obviously, celebrating the United States and it’s weird and wonderfully awkward revolution is important. But it’s also important to celebrate personal things too, like this dress, or the slaw I made with my mom, or, you know, getting engaged. Which I also did. So there’s that.

LTC 11Yes. Sharp eyed readers will have noticed this new piece of jewelry making it’s first appearance on the blog. And in my life. As it turns out, what’s-his-face was not just hanging out with me for the sewing tips, and he proposed to me recently. So in honor of that event, and because my mom is unhappy with the moniker “what’s-his-face”, my gentleman caller is being upgraded to Mr. Struggle. I don’t know that you will ever see him on this blog, as he is shy, but I do know that I will be documenting all of my wedding-related makes here, so it seems only fair to tell you why all the white all of a sudden. And why I have a lot to celebrate. He took these photos of me. Maybe that’s why I look so happy? Hard to tell. It’s probably just dreaming about Ben Franklin….

LTC 1Yeah. That’s gotta be it.

I hope you had the best 4th of July possible if you live in the United States, and if not, I hope you had a lovely Friday that had no other meaning to you. I know I did. Thanks, dead white guys!

 

13 Comments

Filed under Deer and Doe, Life, Sewing