Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Springtime in Bombay Outfit

I have no idea what springtime means in Mumbai. So far, it seems like there are only really three seasons here. Monsoon, slightly cooler handful of days (aka winter), deeply humid sea of time (summer). Right now I’m in the deep humid sea that is the Mumbai summer, but I’m also just a wee bit delusional, and I want to pretend that it is actually spring.

When I went back to the States last month I was so happy to be back in the cold. I know, I know, you are amazed, but seriously, I miss seasons. I miss SEWING for seasons. It’s one of the difficult things for me about living in Mumbai, and of course that means it’s also one of the things that what’s his face likes best, adoring how warm it is while I close my eyes and think about cold rainy days in which I was completely miserable and had wet feet with something like longing.

I like watching the world change and I like watching my wardrobe change with it. I think it goes back to when I was young and I had a subscription to YM Magazine (which I LOVED, by the way, and now that I look back on it it was so sad and anti-feminist and I want to squeeze younger me hard and get her the later subscription to Jane that changed my life sooner. Guys, did you read Jane? Jane was amazing. India needs something for young women that teaches them all the ways they are are okay, just like Jane. India? Get on it.) Anyway, pre-Jane me loved YM, and always stared with rapture at the changing seasons fashion spreads, the plaid schoolgirls skirts and sweaters which were always completely the same in every way. I sometimes think my whole adult life is just about unlearning the lessons of YM and influences like it.

But not that one. I love that 60 degrees in September feels cold and 60 degrees in April feels warm. I love that one inspires the donning of wool and one the discarding of it. I miss that. So despite the fact that Mumbai legit has no Spring, in fact, the one great thing about this sweltering heat is that it kills the winter mosquitos, I am clinging to the concept of spring with both of my nail-bitten little hands and making spring-inspired things. Including this outfit.

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I feel like this would have been a great May outfit in New York. Maybe with a little cardigan? Sigh. But it’s a pretty good Mumbai outfit as well. You can totally see the lines of my bra under this shirt, sigh. OH well!

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The skirt is, believe it or not, and when you see it up close you totally WONT, a Deer and Doe Chardon skirt. This whole outfit is a Deer and Doe special, actually!

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In person you must trust me, the pleats are real pleats. In this photo? They totally look like gathers. Who knows how these things happen?

This time I added the belt loops, and I’m thrilled I did, I love this with a belt.

 

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Can you guess what the shirt is? Can ya? CAN YA?

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Duh, it’s a Plantain. I know there are a lot of knit shirt patterns on the internets now, as opposed to, like, five years ago when there were NONE, but this is my favorite. I live and die by the banana.

The skirt sewed up quickly. As I have been these days, I lengthened the hem. I wouldn’t say it’s a requirement here in Mumbai, but it’s definitely something I’ve been doing a lot that makes things just a little bit more comfortable out on the street. And I spend a lot of time walking around, taking trains, taking rickshaws, so it does sort of make sense.

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Honestly, I could probably do everything knee length or above and live with it here, but I don’t know, somehow living in a more conservative place has always changed my own sense of what is too short and what is the right length. It’s made my other pre-India skirts seem really short, though!

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The shirt is a breeze, as knits and tried and true garments always are. The skirt has pockets, which of course are magnificent.

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A little hand stitched hem for you. I made a nice deep hem for this guy, which is always nice, it gives the hem a little weight, which this light-weight fabric needs! It’s a Rajasthani block print from Kolkata, but not from my favorite market. Still, it’s nice.

The shirt fabric is from Girl Charlee because it’s really hard to find knits here, sigh, so I brought a TON of them back from the US with me. No clothing, just jersey. The customs guys must have laughed and laughed.

So now I’m back in the humid sticky arms of this hot city, dreaming of chilly nights and cherry blossoms. Sigh. Enjoy Spring, people who have it where you live! A luxury I miss…

 

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The Somewhere Columbus is Happy and Doesn’t Know Why Dress

I am sure you, like most people who went to kindergarten, know, that the whole Indians-Native Americans thing exists and is such a damn mess because of Spanish explorers like Christopher Columbus and Portuguese explorers whose names no one remembers after that 11th grade final history exam. Geographically challenged explorers trying to get their hands on some pepper just assumed that the people they met in the New World must be Indians, despite the fact that I’m sure those guys tried to explain that these were NOT THE SAME PEPPERS, IDIOTS. Ugh. Translation issues, am I right? Tower of Babel indeed.

Peter Bruegel the Elder's Tower of Babel. Where all the trouble began....

Peter Bruegel the Elder’s Tower of Babel. Where all the trouble began….

Sidenote, how boring must food have been before the spice trade kicked in? My friend Ben and I (hi, Ben!) were wandering the Brooklyn Museum the other day in the Egyptian wing (I recently visited the States, more on that in a moment, GOD I’ve missed museums, like, really good museums, come on, Indian museums, step it up!)  and we were talking about pre-sugar societies. I think I could do a pre-sugar society, but pre-salt, no way to the Jose. What is life without salt? I’ve read the Grimm tale but it turns out it’s a universal one, check out this Punjabi story on the same theme.  But pre-spice society also sounds fairly lame. No wonder hundreds of Portuguese guys killed themselves trying to navigate the Cape of Good Hope trying to get to that Indian pepper, that ginger, the cardamom, those cloves. In medieval Europe spice stores were locked up and specially opened for feasts. Princesses came to their new households with dowry boxes full of spices as well as gold and silks. Spices changed the world, and if you don’t believe me, you can read about it in this, one of my favorite books on the subject.

So it’s not so surprising that the early Europeans who came to a place like Puerto Rico would have wanted it to be India, because, duh, spices, but it is sort of surprising that when they discovered it WASN’T India they didn’t, I don’t know, find another name for the natives. Oh, well, I guess they didn’t care because they were too depressed about the lack of pepper or too amazed by the taste of peppers. One of those two. So the word in Spanish, indio, still means native person, for no reason anyone can tell, and the West Indies are still a thing, despite the fact that literally the entire New World could be characterized as West of India.

So, end of the day, the Spanish didn’t get to bring any Indian stuff back from Puerto Rico. But I did get to BRING some Indian stuff to Puerto Rico this past March, when I got a chance to stop by San Juan during my trip back to the United States. So, there you go. It’s the circle of life. I really should have gotten some peppercorns to sprinkle around, like you do with malt liquor when a fellow gang-member dies. Instead, I just brought a pretty (if I do say so myself) block printed dress. Ah, well. Close enough, right? If those guys couldn’t figure out that Latin America isn’t India, they probably would buy that this dress was an exotic kind of pepper…

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So, I used my handy bodice block for this one, and I have to say, I think the darts actually did something really cool with these lines of darts on this fabric, I love it! Totally unintentional, but I’m going to pretend it was my idea all along. Natch.

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See? It warps the lines of printing around my (not unsubstantial) bosom, giving it a cool look. I tried to do a split neck thing here but it instead keeps flapping open, grrrrrr. The lining I used, which the smiling men at the fabric stall not too far from my apartment in Mumbai ASSURED me was 100% cotton and is probably like, 10% cotton 80% polyester 10 % LIES, is really light and drapy, so I probably should have interfaced around that slit. Oh WELL. I can live with it. Sigh.

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I drafted the skirt, in that I cut large rectangles and pleated them in large box pleats. Does that count as drafting? I’m going to say no, it’s too fancy a word for what is essentially some fabric folding.

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Yeah, I put in pockets. #Stayingonbrand.

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A little back view for you.

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The fabric is a block print from Rajasthan which I bought in Kolkata. That might sound confusing to you, but go with it. India has large government emporiums where they sell goods from each state at prices subsidized by the government so they are cheap and amazing, and a lot of those goods are, shall we say, of the textile variety? So this fabric came from one of those markets in Kolkata, but it is a Rajasthani bock print, nonetheless. It’s fairly different from the more traditional prints, which is what attracted me to it. That and the color. I should just live my life in this color, I’m telling you.

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Ug, that neck split. WHATEVER. I’m moving on with my life! I’m not going to dwell like the Spanish Empire did! If there is one thing I promised my self I wouldn’t do with my life, it was become like the Spanish Empire.

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A little hand stitching on the hem. I also hand-picked the zipper. I’m back to doing that. After a brief foray with the machine stitching, I’ve returned to my one true love, the hand stitched zipper.

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Neck split aside, I love this dress. It’s colorful, cheerful, and it mentions India without screaming it out. Much as the Spanish probably did when they saw Puerto Rico. Idiotas!

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Here’s to you, Cristobal. Sorry about the pepper. Enjoy the peppers. I will be enjoying this:

 

 

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