Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Proud To Be Paisley Dress

This year, fabric-buying-wise, has been all about white fabric with blue motifs. I don’t know why, how, or who influenced me in this, but somehow this theme has sunk its way into my consciousness. Maybe it’s my way of attempting to stay cool and collected in Mumbai’s oppressive year-round humidity, and these attempts, I should tell you, fail miserably. I usually show up everywhere sweating profusely, hair frenzied and breaking free of whatever weak excuse for a hair tie is trying to keep it in check, cheeks red, body thrumming with heat. It’s a very attractive sight, I gotta tell you.

One of the strangest things for me is how many women here wear full length shirts and pants and skirts and sometimes even sweaters and seem totally comfortable, nary a drop of sweat clinging to their noses, while in my lightweight cotton skirts and tops I’m a maelstrom of discomfort. My mother in law primly informed me that women here cover up to avoid getting darker in the sun, with the superior tone Northerners so often use in these commentaries. That is probably true for some, I suppose, but a lot of people I know just say they are more comfortable that way. Most of me thinks “THAT’S A DAMN LIE PASS ME THE WATER!” but some part of me wonders if that might be true. I doubt very much I will ever feel that way. When What’s-his-face donned a flannel on the crisp (ha!) evenings of 75 degrees during Bombay’s two-week winter the past January, and shivered as we waited for a rickshaw to take us to the movie theater, my mocking cackle rang out into the night.

I grew up going to San Juan regularly, and the same was true there, in the “winter” people shivered in jeans and sweaters while I gleefully played on empty beaches, ran around in shorts, and proclaimed to all and sundry how warm the weather was compared to winter in Philadelphia. Someone I know who has been living in Mumbai for the last nine years or so told me recently they tend to reach for long sleeves and pants as a matter of course now, but I doubt I will ever get to that point (and besides, I’m not willing to stay nine years to find out…). So I suppose I will just keep having to aspire to coolness in my clothing. I have recently (i.e. last night) picked up two lengths of a lightweight textured cotton to make wide-legged culottes hacking a la this tutorial, so maybe that’s my concession to pants right now. That’s as far as I think I can currently go. If I’m sweating right now, in a t-shirt and knee-length skirt, I don’t even want to know what I would be like in MORE clothing.

Anyway effective or no, the white and blue fabrics, most of which were purchased on my trip to Rajasthan and Delhi, are at least visually soothing. The one I used to make the dress I’m about to display, however, was purchased right here in Bombay, just down the road from my apartment in Santacruz West at Sew In Style, proving that cool fabrics are to be found everywhere, if only you look for them.

On a related but unrelated note, I have never really liked paisley, probably because my mother has never liked paisley and that’s one of the taste things we share. For her, it’s probably a reaction to the 1970’s, a decade she lived through in all its paisley horror. That being said, I’m actually very excited for this show, is anyone else? But when I showed her this dress, she said, and I quote, nice paisley! I hadn’t really thought it WAS paisley, but even if it is, I like it! So I’m proud. Maybe the Mughal tinge off-sets the 70’s curse…

img_20160911_161525So the pattern is my bodice block, but this time I added 1.5 inches to the side seams and lengthened the bodice by 3 inches. I wanted it to be looser and less fitted than normal, because again, so hot… the less fitted thing takes getting used to, because I usually think it makes me look bigger than I am, but the comfort is great, so I’m trying to get into it.

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I self-lined the bodice but didn’t line the skirt, and I wear a slip I made under it because the skirt is a little transparent and homie don’t play that in India. These photos were actually taken in Delhi, where I went from hotel to cab to restaurant to cab to hotel, you get the picture. Turns out you can wear whatever you want in Delhi as long as…no one sees you.

The one thing about self-lining the bodice is that the motif sort of shows through. Ah, well. I can live with that.

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I put in pockets! Duh.

Not only does it have pockets BUT my phone upon which these photos were taken, does this animation thing so the photo above is slightly animated! It’s slow, though, at least it is on my browser, so you can really spend time with some of my more attractive faces.

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The skirt is one I draped, with a large central pleat and smaller ones on each side.

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A little back view for you.

And a little close up!

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See it’s a bit of a paisley but it’s also sort of something else, I don’t know, I like it, though! It looks historic and interesting not, you know, cheap and polyester…So that’s a plus!

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So there you go. For once, proud to be paisley! And generally hoping to stay cool. Welcome to my life.

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Big buns and pockets. The India story. In my quest to try out new things, new shapes, like my crop top and pants (by the way, thanks for your lovely words and thoughts and concerns, wonderful Internet friends!) sometimes I look at the photos and think, oy to the no. But, hey, try it, right? I can get used to this looser shape, and this really isn’t that loose. Wait and see what I’ve got coming up next….

 

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Filed under Self Drafted, Sewing

The Resting in Rajasthan Robe (and nightgown!)

The East has long been associated with luxury, a luxury that makes one soft, weak, effeminate. From the ancient Greeks, who viewed their Persian neighbors (and frequent enemies) with suspension for their trousers, soft pillows, and luxury oriented ways, to the British, who justified their growing expansion and imperial conquest of India as a government-run colony, rather than a vassal of the East India Company  in the 19th century the “effeminate oriental” and the association of luxury as A. Eastern and B. decadent, therefore weakening. If a concept of  virtue in the west after the Protestant reformation comes from deprivation, from austerity, from self-denial, than the grandeur and majesty of eastern monarchs, with their ceremonies, formalities, intricacies of rank and service, translated to a bewildered and derogatory image of the east as a place of weak and inefficient dilettante. You can read a lot about this here, or a little about Edward Gibbon’s many references to this in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire here, or you can just giggle at the thought of scandalized physically uncomfortable European ambassadors being all jealous and casting shade.

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PS: If you aren’t following Fly Art in some way shape or form at this point, you probably should look at your life, look at your choices.

I am 100% sure that given the European desire for Eastern goods, the roots of this was a certain amount of envy. But whatever the cause, between the silk and the tea, the diamonds and the spices, the East was where virtue went to die and decadence when to thrive. It’s telling, then that the word for pillow in Spanish (almohada) comes from Arabic, the idea of slippers emerged out of the Ottoman empire, and every dish you’ve ever seen incorporating gold foil probably made its way to you via India. This is a culture whose rulers traditionally wore glorified pajamas.

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It’s very hot here. Who can blame anyone for wanting to be comfortable? The British. That’s who. Here is what Gibbon  had to say about men wearing silk:

“Two hundred years after the age of Pliny, the use of pure, or even of mixed silks, was confined to the female sex, till the opulent citizens of Rome and the provinces were insensibly familiarized with the example of Elagabalus, the first who, by this effeminate habit, had sullied the dignity of an emperor and a man…”

What. Is. Your. Deal. Men can’t feel a little fancy? I hope Gibbon wore sackcloth his whole life. Put your hair shirt away, Thomas Beckett, and get on the comfort train!

I, personally, have always wanted a bathrobe. In fact, I’ve owned a few, but I’ve never really used them. I don’t know what it is, maybe I never got the right one for me, but something about them always seemed a little unnecessary, silly, dare I say it, decadent? I would throw one on, feel like I was a character in a movie from the 1950’s, and take it off again. Robes seemed like something that television characters can’t live without and real people don’t live with. What is the use of a garment that you wear for what, an hour at most? In that brief window between pajama time and real clothing time on days when that window is more than, say, seven minutes? The allure of the robe was strong, but the practicality of it seemed lacking.

However, on a recent trip to Rajasthan, I stayed in an amazing place (seriously. Stay here when in Jaipur. Do not pass go, do not collect 100 dollars. Just stay here) where they gave us these gorgeous block printed cloth robes and something about being there with the beautiful robes made lounging around in them just heavenly and I thought, why can’t every day be like this?

So I decided to make a robe. Screw it. I live in a land of fabric, I can buy yards and yards of the stuff and make it into a robe and lounge about it for five minutes a day and feel amazing. And frankly, if I can feel truly glamorous and decadent and amazing for a full five minutes a day (and sometimes longer on weekends!), is that really a waste? Is that, in fact, what the Europeans did not get about the concept of luxury? That in small doses it can be just enough, and make all that virtue all little easier to swallow.

So, without further ado, my Resting in Rajasthan Robe!

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Oh, that style. Isn’t it just too chic for words? I love the kimono elements, the self-attached tie (isn’t that the thing that is always getting lost?) the sleeves, the sleeves! I could bask in them.

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I cut a Large, which was a bit large, but I wanted it big, frankly. I recently made a medium for a friend and frankly, that would have been just fine, but I’m not taking this thing in, what’s the point? A robe should be loose and make you feel embraced by soft softness.

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The fabric is a heavenly buttery sheerish white cotton stamped with a highly traditional Rajasthani motif that I picked up while fabric touring in the North with Liz. The large motif meant it didn’t scream garment to me, but I knew I wanted to do something with it. And this robe really fit the bill.

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I lengthened it about five inches, which I think works. I can’t imagine it shorter, that’s for sure! Well, it actually only looks really short in this photo, it’s pretty perfect in real life.

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The one thing I would change (and did when making this for a friend) is the back seam. I just don’t really know why you need that, if you have a fabric that is wide enough. Of course, if you don’t, it makes the sense, but for a fabric wider than 45 inches, go nuts!

I used french seams throughout and some self-made bias tape to finish the front edges. All in all, it truly is as Seamwork promises a quick project. Maybe 3 hours, from cutting to (machine) hemming!

I also wanted to show it to you while open. And you can see the nightgown underneath!

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It’s a Deer and Doe Plantain. I don’t really make other knit tops these days, I’ve realized…..This one I just lengthened to dress length for a night-gown. I rarely wear them but when I do, the glamour is way up. So why no combine it with a robe? (Side note, I never look this put together when I sleep. IT’S ALL AN ILLUSION.)

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THOSE SLEEVES. Sigh.

I realize, I’ve actually made a bunch of Seamwork patterns and documented….zero of them. Guys, how great is Seamwork? I love it!

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That’s right! I used a prop! Trying to step my photo game up a bit! That being said, you can totally see Cadfael’s food area at the bottom of this photo soooooo….win some, lose some.

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Ahhhh, luxury. Whatever, Western morality, I’ll take this any day of the week. For about five minutes. And then I have to get dressed and go to work.

 

 

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Filed under Clothing, Colette Patterns, Deer and Doe, seamwork, Sewing