I have wanted to re-make Simplicity 1720 for years, and I have to say, I’m glad I waited, because this fabric was the right fit and anything else would have been somehow a lesser make. I truly believe this. I have to. It’s the only way to keep going in this life, believing the stories we tell ourselves.
However, I have to tell you something awful. When I opened up this pattern for the second time, I realized that I was missing some pattern pieces! I managed to sort of figure something out, but I’m not sure whether it’s worth keeping this pattern now. What do you think, folks? It’s hardly the only shirtdress I have. Hell, it’s hardly the only 1940’s shirtdress pattern I have. I might have a shirtdress problem. Or is it a shirtdress SOLUTION???
At any rate, it’s funny how the years between making this dress the first time and the second time have changed the way I sew. I remember making it back when I was in graduate school and being very confused by the unmarked pattern pieces and overwhelmed by all the seaming and just, the process, it took me a long time to make. This time around it was…just like any other garment. What a difference nine years of sewing makes, I guess? Who would have thought…
Of late, I have found myself re-watching older shows I’ve loved, which is something I’ve always done, really, just like I will re-read certain books, mostly Terry Prachett novels, as a comfort mechanism. Of course, I’m also watching new things, (I May Destroy You, The Alienist Angel of Darkness, Perry Mason, just a dark trio of darkness), but a multi-season lighter show can be great background for me as I cook and sew and….contemplate how painful this existence is and how much is out of my control and how devastating and strange and boring and stressful and joyous, in little bits, these current times are, and why my cat only wants to cuddle with me when I am sweating buckets in the Mumbai humidity. So recently I’ve been re-watching Psych, in anticipate of the new recently released Psych movie, which my husband is so annoyed by that he’s starting mocking the theme song under his breath. But you can pry this show out of my cold dead hands, because it is truly an excellent piece of television, with one of the best friendships in media (Shawn and Gus, obvi), and some really stunning catchphrases and lines. I mean, come on. Plus, an all consuming love of pineapples. You know that’s right.
One thing I wish I had done was lengthened the front bodice a bit. I used my bodice block to replace the bodice pieces that were missing, but I ended up with a shorter front bodice and no front yoke (these two things are probably related…) and so this feels more like an empire waist, which I do not enjoy. That said, the paneled skirt fits true to my waist so it’s not terrible, as I believe an empire waist looks on me, and I can and will absolutely wear this, but it’s not quite my thing. That said, getting beyond “my thing” is never a bad thing.
This print is SO good.
I got it at Thakur fabrics, my go-to Mumbai fabric store, and it’s a block print, possibly from Rajasthan, probably from somewhere in North India at least.
This time I put in the patch pockets and pocket flap piece.
Adorbs. I happened to have these yellow wooden buttons in my stash, which was a total score, because the button shop I go to is very cramped and crowded. Here in Mumbai people are wearing masks, yes, but social distancing is a foreign concept, literally, and people just don’t really deal with it and it’s very stressful. So not having to go to the button shop is a plus.
The smirk of a woman who knew all those buttons would come in handy one day.
A little back view for ya.
And le bodice.
The flat outside of my body version. I love how the block print kind of references 30’s/40’s prints but is also very much it’s own Indian thing.
Here we have it. My second pineapple dress, my ode to Psych, my however many shirtdresses I have dress. So many things at once!
While I have heard a fair amount about Japanese fabric (and even used it myself, on occasion, double gauze, anyone?) I don’t know that much about Korean fabric. On a recent trip to Seoul, however, I did get some time in the National Folk Museum of Korea, which is nestled in the Gyeongbokgung Palace in South Korea’s capital. Dodging herds of giggling hanbok-clad palace goers (you get into the palace, which is a museum, for free if you wear traditional Korean clothing, although many people end up renting the clothing from nearby shops that offer it on loan for palace visits, so how free is any of this, really?), I trudged through the palace grounds, enjoying the buildings that were all re-built in the early 1900’s, giving me a Disneyland vibe.
As a history seeker, Seoul could not really feed my love of the old, outside of museums, that is, my happy places, but I can’t much blame the place for this, any more than we can blame Berlin or Rotterdam, that is, when you are destroyed by war, you are destroyed by war, that’s all there is to it. But the many palaces of Seoul have been rebuilt, shiny and new, so modern visitors can pretend they are living in 1300 but with decent dental care. That’s a fantasy I can get behind, really.
Paying full price also meant not being hampered by full skirts, so I was able to nimbly make my way past many a selfie stick and ended up exploring a place that few other people seemed interested in, but was 100% up my alley, that is, the National Folk Museum of Korea, free with palace entry, by the way, and fitted out with a delightful gift shop (museum shops are always the best shops, am I right? It’s like passed hors d’oeuvres at a wedding, or at least, at a Western wedding, always the greatest, it’s all downhill from there). While the museum had many amusing things carefully explaining to visitors how agriculture works (either Korea has already developed so so quickly that people no longer realize how plants work, or, I don’t know, they just really want to cover their bases explaining that one must plant in Spring and harvest in Fall?), it also had a wonderful textile collection, outlining the historic use of a cloth made from ramie, which is in the nettle family and one of the oldest fiber plants humans have cultivated, according to the internet. I couldn’t find it for sale anywhere, apparently it’s expensive to make and hard to find now, but it was once commonly used in Korea, where it’s strength and luster made it popular.
The other popular material I saw a lot of was hemp.
Obviously the weaving width is thin on these, which maybe explains how Korean garments were cut and stitched.
I loved these. Fascinating in construction and, like so many things, now almost contemporary in design. It’s all cyclical…
Of course, silk, cotton and fur were all used as well, to survive the brutal South Korean winters and baking summers.
Both of those last two garments were quilted, one a little child’s jacket, one part of a woman’s hanbok.
Apparently people also worn objects made of rattan, that is, plant vines, under their clothing to keep cool in summers. I…don’t understand how this worked?
Yeah, no sense of a how-to guide on these.
One of my favorite things was this, actually, these spools for thread. I guess these must have been for rather fancy folk, no?
This is actually the outfit civil servants wore, but can’t you just see that at an art opening in Chelsea?
But my all time favorite thing from the museum must absolutely in all ways be this poem:
This was 100% written by a man, and I would bet a man who never had to do his own laundry. Only a person of great privilege and social distance would romanticize the act of doing laundry in freezing water this way.
Men: trapping women in endless cycles of domestic labor and then praising them for that labor so they wont question the inequality of said labor since….always.
I write, briefly, in praise of Seamwork. I am sure you know about Seamwork, but just in case you don’t, Seamwork is the digital magazine created by Colette Patterns which releases patterns monthly as part of the magazine. The original idea was that these patterns be ones a sewer could stitch up in less than three hours, although I think that is no longer the case, given the fact that they have released some outerwear and trouser patterns! But I digress. The point is, over the years in which Seamwork has been a thing, they have released scores and scores of patterns, along with fascinating articles and ideas for pattern hacks, for an excruciatingly reasonable price. Sometimes I like the patterns, and sometimes I don’t, but that’s sort of the point, right? Releasing patterns all the time means that people have endless options, and that I can wait for the item that fits my style.
Of course, a psychologist/Don Draper might critisize me for my constant hunger for the new. Seamwork is the Instagram of pattern sources, always offering me something new, eager to present me with options rather than forcing me to evaluate what I already have. But as someone who likes to try new things, but also feels she has to get her money’s worth, I tend to make patterns over and over again, partially because I like them, I’m not insane, but partially because I feel like they need to earn their keep, and that can make my sewing a little, well, boring. New patterns stimulate and challenge me, and I like that I don’t have to feel that I wasted money on something I only made once, or that I have to make something work in multiple iterations if it just doesn’t. Does anyone else out there have this dilemma, that when you spend 20 dollars on a pattern you have to make it over and over again or you will feel guilty? Ah, guilt, my constant companion, welcome home.
And while they might not all be three-hour speed racers, they are all pretty simple, in their way, and yet I do learn from them, which I love. I am constantly impressed by the team at Seamwork for their designs and ideas, and this month was one of those times when I saw the new releases and almost sprained my finger trying to download them as quickly as possible. And then I taped, cut, traced, cut, and went to sewing, throwing everything else to the side, because I was extremely eager to wear Rachel.
The Rachel shirt (and bonus tunic/dress hack), is your straightforward button down, but the thing is, I’ve been looking for one of those! Isn’t it delightful when things come to you right as you decide you need them?
Of course, I have made the Grainline Archer many a time, but while I love it, I don’t know, the fit has never been 100% right. And yet I never tried another button down! I shop around for zucchini, I try three shops for cat food, but I never tried to make a different button down pattern. Maybe I am insane….
So I went ahead and cut two out! Which I maybe shouldn’t have done until I tested the fit but OH well…..A long sleeve shirt version is still on my sewing table, paused because of a weekend in Kolkata from which I have only just returned, ready to complete it, but I knocked out a short-sleeve version of the tunic/dress last week, and harassed What’s-his-face until he took my picture. So here you go, my first iteration of Rachel (can’t quite shake that “make multiple” thing yet) in a fabric I can only describe as magnificent, one in which I am as happy as a clam, as playful as a dolphin, as optimistic as an octopus, because it is covered in whales:
You see, when you wear fabric printed with animals, you can never be truly lonely, because you are never alone!
I adore adore adore this fabric, and I like the way this turned out, eventually, but I gotta say, there were some bumps on the road.
I wanted this to be a dress, rather than a tunic, but I have to say, the (absolutely gorgeous) model they used must have legs for days because I lengthened this a few inches and it was on the way to a maxi, then I cut it back to the original hem length and it’s still at my knees! That’s fine, makes it India appropriate, but jeez, way to make a girl feel short!
That’s okay, I can’t stay mad at this dress, look at the whales!
Thinking about my bust measurements alone, I cut a 14, because I figured the rest would be big but that was fine. But when I tried this on, I was SWIMMING in it. Instead of the slim skirt I admired from the photo, I had a tent. Okay, I thought, this is on me, I wanted a roomy bust and got a roomy everything! But the bust ease was also a lot more than I had planned for, and I ended up taking in the sides over and over again in little degrees, trying to make this less of a tent while maintaining the ability to get into it, because the buttons only go to the waist, so I worried that I would reduce it to the point that I couldn’t, ya know, get into it.
I think I ended up taking out like, 8 inches on each side. Oy. Next time I will just cut a size 10 or 8, and grade out at the bust if I’m nervous. It’s still quite loose fitting, which is of course the design, but while my whales are happy swimming, I don’t want to be!
I kind of like the fact that there is no yoke, although I also love a yoke. Variety, it’s the spice of life!
Of course, I can always belt it, but it’s nice to have it be loose and airy in the Mumbai heat. I love to wear things like this at home when I’m writing, because it is comfortable but I don’t look like I was raised by wolves. That’s the sweet spot, right there.
You can see the waist seam here. The collar is a little smaller than the Archer, which I like. For the sleeves, I used the original sleeve pattern and just shortened it.
I’m so happy with my whales. And my shoes!
Aren’t they cool?
That about wraps up my Rachel. Do you guys like Seamwork? What is your pattern use philosophy?
Oh, and one last thing, if you, like I do, love the ocean, the many animals and plants that live in it, and want to protect, conserve, and help oceans, consider a little year-end donation to Oceana!
Recently, I was at this very cool Durer show in Milan, because my life is REALLY THAT GLAMOROUS, with my friend Liz, because she is amazing and we like to meet in delightful places and talk about how delightful we are, and there was a line in the (very extensive, mayhap too extensive?) wall text which described Milan as “the undisputed design capital of Europe”. Which….I feel like there actually might be a few people who WOULD dispute that, I don’t know, Paris, maybe? But sure, why not, let’s give it to Milan, because it really is an unbelievably fabulous city jam packed with stylish people walking past stylish buildings, doors that open to elegant interior courtyards, food that makes me want to drop everything and work in one of these kitchens, and charm to spare.
It was so hard to leave the amazing residency I attended, which was tranquil and calm, tucked into the hillsides of Piemonte. It is a really amazing place, and one you might want to consider when thinking about artists residencies, for any of you artists out there! You can also visit for other purposes, and I would strongly advise you do so. But at any rate, while it was jarring to return to busy streets (to think, I am calling Milan busy, I live in Mumbai!) and the hubbub of human life, it was also delightful because Milan is simply great. Sophisticated but welcoming, sleek but homey, with grand avenues and cute tiny streets both in spades, I enjoyed myself immensely, and so did Liz, oh, and what’s-his-face, who was also there! In fact, I made him take these photos of me after we visited the Pinacoteca di Brera, a lovely museum in the Palazzo Brera, a palace in the heart of Milan’s Brera neighborhood. Once the artistic capital of Milan, now it is a chic area of tons of fancy designer shops and thronged with tourists, but I can’t complain, I was one of them.
As I so often do when I travel, I went to the art museum, not the modern one(s), (Milan is modern as hell), but the historic ones. The Pinacoteca di Brera is a lovely collection of some excellent pieces in a very digestible way, i.e. it’s not extremely overwhelming but it has some top tier stuff, and the building is really pretty. Ah, Italy, full of urban mansions and palazzi, why you gotta be so charming? This is why said tourists do said thronging….
If you are in Milan and into this sort of thing, you should totally check out this museum. It has this stunning Rubens:
And this excellent Caravaggio:
Man, Caravaggio, am I right? What a baller. Actually, it’s funny, the first time I ever saw one of his paintings was also in Italy which…makes sense, and it was this one:
Which is in the many many rooms of art you see on the way to the Sistine Chapel and my mother, to whom I owe so very much, pointed it out to my brother and I. We’ve both been pretty hooked ever since.
This is the second version of this dress that I have made, and the first, while cute, had some bodice wonkiness. I mean, I’m still going to WEAR it, already have, at least twice, but it is not for le blog. But this one turned out well, partially because I was more careful making it and partially…nope, that’s it, that’s the only reason.
So without further ado, here you go!
I mean, sure, it’s no Caravaggio, but it’s still pretty cute!
I picked up this fabric at, you guessed it, Thakur, after someone I am teaching to sew snagged some for pillows. So I’m basically wearing her couch. I DON’T CARE! It’s lovely, a nice contemporary ikat-style fabric with a good weight so its sturdy and holds its shape in the sheath.
You can kind of see the lining in this photo, sigh, sorry, I didn’t have an iron with me! AH well, at least you know I lined it, now!
I love this dress. Seriously, I really do. I cut a 12, for the hips, and did a full bust adjustment and then took the waist in about an inch or so I would have some wiggle room (GET IT?) but still have it be fitted. In this iteration I made the version with two large bust darts, rather than the princess seams.
I feel like there is a SMIDGEN of breast-flattening happening here, still, but it’s pretty cute nonetheless.
I’m not NOT proud of my stripe matching, I think given the darts on this sucker this was the best I could do. AND THAT IS GOOD ENOUGH!
And I’ll murder anyone who says differently, got it? But I really am into this make, and I’m so glad it was a lovely day in Milan so I could get this one photographed. The weather turned chilly and rainy soon after, and anyone who has been following my instagram Me Made May stories can probably tell that I’ve been recycling a few outfits over and over and praying for a warmer day. Luckily it’s turned slightly warmer here in Parma, from which I write this post, and looks like it will be nice in Venice, were we end our Italian adventures, and lovely in New York and Philadelphia, to which I will be heading afterwards, so fear not, my Me Made May outfits are sure to improve!
I have no construction notes, this is easy to put together and I french seamed the skirt and the sleeves. I did not, as instructed, hand stitch them. That sounds….exhausting. I got places to be, people! In Milan! Or whatever!
I hope you are having a lovely May, me made or otherwise!
Happy Monday, all! My gift to you is some pattern inspiration to help you figure out how to make that Maisel costume into the outfit of your dreams. I still haven’t decided what I’M doing yet, although I do know that I’m going to make SOMETHING in a wool, potentially a raspberry or a grey, classic Midge power colors. Know what I mean?
Now, of course there is the option for this one to go vintage pattern, and I may well be taking it, honestly, but thank goodness we live in a world that also gives us the opportunity to buy vintage reproductions, in a multi-size pattern, that we don’t have to worry about scaling or changing or damaging throughout the sewing process, am I right?
So here are some of my thoughts, although I welcome your ideas too!
Obviously, the outerwear is amazing. I don’t know if I can justify this to myself because…when would I wear it, but gosh, I’m tempted, aren’t you? All those gorgeous coats, so impractical with no closures, so amazing!
Luckily, there are some options for you if this is your deal.
The obvious contender, and it’s already in raspberry! IT’S A SIGN.
Also an option.
Sometimes these dress patterns sneak in a coat pattern. LUCKY FOR US!
The Colette Patterns Lady Grey would also work as a tribute piece!
I feel like if you made that up in a wool it would totally echo that tan coat Midge is sporting above, no?
This is technically not a coat but, I just, I die:
The men of Maisel rock a separate, and Susie is all about a jeans and knit top combo, with her leather jacket, natch, but more often than not, Midge and Imogene are in dresses. Rose is all about a suit, very appropriate for her age in that period, and Rose is all ABOUT appropriate, as we know. This would totally be the time to make a suit, if anyone is itching to do that, but for now, I’m going to focus on the more unconventional separates the show gives us.
I love Midge in pants, so beatnik chic! There are some great options for that flat-front 1950’s look that was so popular, apparently people felt that the zipper front on women was vulgar.
I have been searching for a cute 1950’s blouse pattern for YEARS, any leads? But for the turtleneck, look no further than Seamwork!
Shorten Neelah into a shirt and there you go!
This outfit is a popular one on the internets, maybe because it’s so contemporary looking? I like the color combo, though, so bold! For this one, you might like the combo of Colette patterns Selene with a knit tee in a merino wool. Oooohhh, that would be cute…
And of course, who doesn’t love Midge’s work out gear?
For the shorts, I think the Weston shorts are a solid option:
You could also lengthen these to make Susie’s high waisted pants!
And the Astoria sweater would be too cute for Midge OR Susie! Material is everything.
And for the leotard, I mean, look no further than the Closet Case Nettie…
Okay, okay, fine, let’s get to the dresses!
I love literally everything each of these women is currently wearing.
This simplicity number feels right on the money! Add a bow, it’s there!
The top is a little off, but I think you could alter this one to make it work, and I love that back detail! It also reminds me of this number:
And then we have this one:
This one is a little intense, but also excellent. And look at that, a near-perfect pattern match!
Oh, love it all. LOVE IT ALL! Nothing exact here, but some options for an approximation:
Colette Patterns Claudette Dress, a classic!
Love those design lines.
And then of course, the party wear:
Now, Gertie said she might be developing something similar in an instagram post, so, ya know, maybe? But this is also not terrible:
And of course, the dress that requires pearls:
Oh, hello, lover. I mean, look, I have no idea if anything will ever be this good in terms of FIT, but in terms of LOOK, I humbly offer a few options:
Siiiigh. I had nothing for the men, honestly, although I’m happy to source that if anything is going there….
What do you guys think? Any other ideas of great patterns to use? Any real vintage favorites?
Thanks for the positive responses on the sew-along, people! The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won TWO golden globes last night, so now you HAVE to see it, am I right? I will be posting in upcoming weeks with pattern ideas, and some giveaways, but for now, just comment on the original post if you are interested!
The thing about being interested in sewing and textile, once your friends know about it, is sometimes you become, like, that person, you know what I mean? You are someone’s sewing friend. This is often fantastic, because people give you fabric (thank you, friends!) and sewing supplies, and send you cool articles about textile and stuff. Sometimes this is not as fantastic, like when people think you are their new free tailor and bring you broken zippers to mend. And sometimes it can sort of, well, be a little ambivalent when you are moving out of New York and the Met has a huge textile show and everyone suggests it as a fun friend activity and you end up seeing China through the Looking Glass THREE fricking times even though, from a curatorial standpoint, it was worth one.
But, hey, I mean, I got to know this bowler hat really well, soooooooo, win some, lose some.
Whatever my issues with this exhibit, which, while interesting, did not achieve any of the depth or breadth of knowledge OR commentary that, say, Interwoven Globe or Global Fashion Capitals did (am I a museum exhibit snob? OBVIOUSLY. What, this your first time here?) I can’t say it didn’t stick to my consciousness, especially living here in India, the land of fabric, where the idea of clothing and textile exchange has been reflected and refracted and remade and reused and absorbed and rediscovered and rejected. The sari is a political garment, don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t, and the clothing that people, women, really, wear here in India has a moral and social consequence. One could, of course, argue that this is the case everywhere, but I have yet to visit a place where it is so visible, so much a part of daily life, and yet so rarely discussed. Indian women know what to wear in which location, what keeps them safe, of course, nothing really keeps anyone safe, in the end, but perhaps what gives the illusion of safety, of appropriateness, of invisibility, which is of course the only safety any of us can try and bank on, that if we are not seen we will not be hurt. Adding the layer of physical security on top of layers of history only makes textile and clothing here all the heavier, despite the lighter weaves.
There are a thousand and one opinions about appropriation in art, but I would argue that when it comes to clothing, the history of the world can be written in a garment, and often is. Global garments stretch far back into history, and perhaps there are those who see me, in my ikat fit and flair dresses, stitching up block printed fabrics into 1950’s patterns, as an appropriator of the worst kind, but I would say it’s homage, not theft. Of course, Picasso tells us, “Bad artists copy, good artists steal”, but maybe that’s the problem, there, maybe if we acknowledge that we are borrowers, and lenders, the accusation of theft and desecration wont hang so heavy over art and art making. Polonius gave a lot of bad advice as well as good, perhaps we should throw that one away, and make things that proudly say, I borrow from here, I’m using this, but I promise I’m not the only one, you can have it back when I’m done, or better yet, there is more than enough to share. Is culture a finite resource? I hope not. I might be using up too much.
When I saw Colette Pattern’s new pattern release, Prudence, I couldn’t help but think both of China Through the Looking Glass (I mean, see a think THREE TIMES it’s going to live in you, you know what I mean?) as well as much smaller but lovingly curated show at MOCA, Shanghai Glamour. I have always loved the way a qipao, or cheongsam, looks, but have never worn one, partially through a fear that I would be a little appropriative or costumey, and partially because I hadn’t found one that worked with my, er, frame. This show, Shanghai Glamour, in fact demonstrates part of my very point, which is, that the qipao as it exists today is an amalgamation of East and West, it is history in a garment, it represents a traditional shape that has been altered through Western-influenced tailoring to create a unique garment that evolved and changed over time. Take a look at Suzy Wong:
Chinese silk, traditional idea, with a bullet bra and darts for days. Nothing we do is new, is it?
Back to Colette. The dress reminded me both of the qipao, hey, we call it a MANDARIN collar for a reason, remember, and also 1940’s Western styles echoing Chinese influence in Western shapes:
And I knew I had to have it. And I love it, I do, because somehow the confluence of vintage glamour and Asian influence just, sort of, I don’t know, speaks to my life, I guess?
I mean, I also just think it looks great, let’s be real.
I cut a size 12 in Colette, tapering down to a 10 at the waist. The result is slightly loose at the waist, but still a nice amount of definition, for that sweet spot of, I look nice and I can eat. Both vitally important things!
The bust is generous in this pattern because of the shape, so I didn’t have make adjustments, which is always nice.
I made a few changes, most notably moving the zipper to the back, which has resulted in a slightly tighter neck, which puts a bit of a strain on that cute little button there, I must say. This is 100% my bad, I didn’t add any extra seam allowance so…that’s on me. It’s still really lovely and comfortable, but for next time, I’m thinking of going with a shorter flared skirt, I will totally add a little breathing room. I made a thread loop for the fastener, that’s always fun!
All in all, this puppy got a lot of hand sewing, part of my vow to try and take a bit more time with stuff. I stitched down all the facings by hand, as recommended, as well as hand picking the zipper and hand stitching the hem. Otherwise, it’s all french seamed, natch. It’s kind of nice to take the time to hand sew, I guess? I don’t know, I suppose it’s a little soothing. You can see I used a non-matching zipper in this photo, it usually is hidden, ah well.
The fabric, you might note, is also vaguely Chinese influenced, look at that butterfly!, but it’s a rayon I bought at Mangaldas Market. It has a nice drape, and didn’t break the bank, which is good because this dress eats up a nice amount of fabric.
It’s all the skirt, though, and why does the skirt need so many panels, I ask you? It has, like, 6, I did so many french seams, what’s that about? I feel like a straight piece of fabric could have gotten that done, just saying.
Well, I supposed that’s all I’ve got to say about this process. I am a big fan of this dress, and I will make another soon with a shorter skirt.
“Disorientation is loss of the East. Ask any navigator: the east is what you sail by. Lose the east and you lose your bearings, your certainties, your knowledge of what is and what may be, perhaps even your life. Where was that star you followed to the manger? That’s right. The east orients.
That’s the official version. The language says so, and you should never argue with the language.
But let’s just suppose. What if the whole deal – orientation, knowing where you are, and so on – what if it’s all a scam? What if all of it – home, kinship, the whole enchilada – is just the biggest, most truly global, and centuries-oldest piece of brainwashing? Suppose that it’s only when you dare to let go that your real life begins? When you’re whirling free of the mother ship, when you cut your ropes, slip your chain, step off the map, go absent without leave, scram, vamoose, whatever: suppose that it’s then, and only then, that you’re actually free to act! To lead the life nobody tells you how to live, or when, or why. In which nobody orders you to go forth or die for them, or for god, or comes to get you because you broke one of the rules, or because you’re one of those people who are, for reasons which unfortunately you can’t be given, simply not allowed. Suppose you’ve got to go through the feeling of being lost, into the chaos and beyond; you’ve got to accept the loneliness, the wild panic of losing your moorings, the vertiginous terror of the horizon spinning round and round like the edge of a coin tossed in the air.
You won’t do it. Most of you won’t do it. The world’s head laundry is pretty good at washing brains: Don’t jump off that cliff don’t walk through that door don’t step into that waterfall don’t take that chance don’t step across that line don’t ruffle my sensitivities I’m warning you now don’t make me mad you’re doing it you are making me mad. You won’t have a chance you haven’t got a prayer you’re finished you’re history you’re less than nothing, you’re dead to me, dead to your whole family your nation your race, everything you ought to love more than life and listen to like your master’s voice and follow blindly and bow down before and worship and obey; you’re dead, you hear me, forget about it, you stupid bastard, I don’t even know your name.
But just imagine you did it. You stepped off the edge of the earth, or through the fatal waterfall, and there it was: the magic valley at the end of the universe, the blessed kingdom of the air. Great music everywhere. You breathe the music, in and out, it’s your element now. It feels better than “belonging” in your lungs.”
One of the greatest things about other people is the things they introduce to your life. I am, of course, enough of a Sartre fan to feel deeply that hell is, in fact, other people, and I wanted to put that on my yearbook page my senior year, but my mother told me it would be too negative. Deborah was probably 100% right, and she herself had a cynical senior yearbook page and knew of what she spoke, so I trusted her, but I’ve always been one of those people who was like, ohhh, man, PEOPLE, am I right? The worst! And yet, I also need and crave them, which is why when I find MY people, I’m a stage five clinger, and let go for nothing. I sing their praises to the world like troubadours of old, and I go to them for the wisdom of the ages. And I am forever grateful for the things they introduce me to, the books they recommend, the television shows they adore, the life hacks they tell me about (I would…not know what a lifehack was without my friends. For reals.) and all they bring. So today, I will celebrate Liz, my friend who introduced me to the joy that is going nuts over luxury hotels.
When Liz visited me in India, we traveled North together in May, a time when most people I know told me I was literally out of my mind because of the ground-baking heat. I maintain, however, that this was the best time to visit Delhi and Jaipur, specifically Jaipur, because yes, it was a daily desert, BUT, there were no other tourists! In India, I will take bad weather over crowds ANY DAY OF THE WEEK (please refer to the earlier statement about Sartre, kay, thanks) AND all the prices were slashed because it was the low point of tourist season. So we spent five nights at the Royal Heritage Haveli, which is seriously one of the best hotels I’ve even been in, a renovated Maharaja’s hunting lodge in Jaipur and just an amazing place to stay. I had stayed with my parents previously, but in the May scorching heat, Liz convinced me to spend a day lounging at the fabulous pool and soaking in the stunning Rajput inspired renovation. It was so wonderful, and I had never before spent a day during a trip not….doing anything. It was a revelation, and while I’m still a very active tourist wherever I go, hunting down historic sights and museums with the single-minded focus of a falcon hunting for mice, I do value lounging at a nice hotel and even taking some downtime, once I’ve exhausted my list of activities, that is.
Luckily, in Singapore, I’ve done most of the things that interest me from a tourist perspective, several times, so when Liz stopped by between traveling with her mother in China and being stuffed full of delights by her family in Hong Kong, we could focus on eating, hanging out by the pool, and squealing about our hotel.
Obviously, it’s clear to me that my life as a writer will mean millions and millions of dollars, fame, a-list events, and celebrity friendships. I mean, that’s really why I got into it in the first place, all those stereotypes about how easy it is, the glitz, the glamour. I obviously joke, but I hope that even if I do achieve modest success, and end up staying in a series of nice hotels, I still have the same feeling of joy and delight that I do now when I stay somewhere sleek and shiny and pretty. Or somewhere charming and historic and pretty. Basically, I just never want to take nice stuff for granted. Nice stuff is nice, and it’s a privilege to get to spend a night or two or however many in a lovely place like the Pan Pacific Singapore. If anyone in my life ever hears me being like, well, it’s nice, but it’s no Ritz, please, shoot me. Shoot me immediately. It’s fun to read Crazy Rich Asians, but I think it would be hell to live it.
So here is my latest Kalle Shirtdress, the third I’ve made, with the third button placket style, photographed in my most glamorous style possible with my expert photographer/partner in hotel adoration, Liz:
I have a lot of wonderful people in my life who take my photos, but I will say, Liz, with her eye for clothing and fashion, given that she sews herself and is a costume historian, really knows how to photograph my makes. She gets into it! Which is good, because 99% of the time, I feel like an idiot getting my photo taken. But here? I knew and know, I was super cool.
This is my third Kelle shirtdress, and this time I stitched up a 12, while my two previous incarnations had been a 14. It’s a roomy pattern, and I knew going down a size wouldn’t do much.
I made my usual adjustment of adding five inches at the hem, and that’s about it. Oh, I also did the inverted V rather than the pleat.
These photos were taken on our hotel room balcony. OUR HOTEL ROOM HAD A BALCONY! That was awesome.
The fabric is from my newly beloved Thakur, and this time I did the concealed placket. It’s a little more work, but it’s a cool effect, so I didn’t mind.
Liz was like, grab your sunglasses! She needs to add “shoot styling” to her resume.
Ahhh, enjoying the steamy humid Singaporean sunshine.
I have made three of these dresses, but I don’t know if I’m interested in stopping any time soon. They are so comfortable and airy in the clinging Mumbai heat, or, in these photos, in the Singapore stickiness, that I feel like I could just make them forever. Kalle shirtdress for life!
Meanwhile, I’m currently listening to this song and making this soup and talking with my co-worker about Joan’s style evolution on Elementary. What are you guys up to?
Here we go, my annual elephant dress in its third incarnation! Those who have missed the first two rounds of this tradition can check out year one here, and year two here. And if you are wondering why I like elephants then I would kindly request that you stop reading this blog because you are obviously a heartless monster.
LOOK AT THEM:
I am this baby elephant at all times.
I really am making this thing a tradition, guys. Which makes sense, because there is nothing that is easier to get in India than fabric with elephants printed on it. I mean, it’s a CENTRAL theme, in a big way. Elephants walk across fabric the way they walk across the subcontinent itself, and as a result, I can be a little picky about my elephant fabrics. After all, I don’t want just ANY elephants, and I don’t want to look like my whole body is a white tourist in Thailand.
UGH. THE HUMANITY.
Fun fact, on a recent trip to Sri Lanka, my friend Ben and I decided to count elephant pants, because we are united in many things, not the least of which is our loathing for these pants, and we counted like 10 pairs in one day at one tourist site before I gave up because as some point you are just setting yourself up for failure. Good GOD, just buy a pair of loose-fitting pants in a linen or cotton in your own country BEFORE YOUR TRIP! Note to tourists of South and Southeast Asia, THESE ARE NOT REQUIRED. They WILL let you in the country without them. Alternatives to these monstrosities include ANYTHING ELSE. These will not actually help you on your trip, they will fall apart as soon as you get home, and while you are traveling they are like putting a “please overcharge me for everything” sign on your head. Get a pair of loose-fitting, lightweight and dark pants, and you are DONE. End this madness! It starts with you!
So, I didn’t want THAT. I wanted something more subtle, more interesting, more me, less backpacking-through-Cambodia.(I tugged a WHEELIE bag through Cambodia, thank you VERY much.) So I waited, and watched, keeping an eye out for the right fabric, knowing it would come to me in time, with patience. Much like the elephants themselves, wise great creatures that they are, I picked my moment. And when I found this subtle green fabric with origami elephants on them at my newly beloved Thakur Fabrics, despite the fact that the color might not be exactly my perfect shade of green, I went for it. Because sometimes, you just gotta go with a color you know isn’t in your seasonal palette because dammit, the elephants! And then, once the fabric was secured, which pattern? Well that part was easier, because right now all I want to do is make Kalle dresses. Actually, that’s another thing that I’m on the fence about in terms of it being flattering, but honestly, they are such perfect dresses for hot humid weather which is basically most of my life right now that again, I’m letting that go. I’m letting so much go, and embracing elephants. What a life.
So here we are! My second Kalle, by third Elephant dress, shot in the blinding sun of San Juan, Puerto Rico. This face really reflects the ambiguity I feel about this color coupled with a lack of caring. This shot is the most reflective of the dress’ coloring, fyi.
Once again I lengthened this dress (seriously it’s so short, does any one else feel that way? I am a short person!) by five inches, and this time I put in the band collar which, if I’m honest, I probably wont be doing again soon, not my style, but I like to mix it up!
See, the elephants are very small and subtle here, basically they opposite of the way they are in…life. Elephants, great and small, are all amazing.
I don’t really have much to say about this dress, honestly. It came together fast, it’s comfortable as hell, and I am going down a size to the 12 for my next version (already cut!). That’s…about it.
I mean it’s basically a well-shaped sack pretending not to be. I love it.
The sun was extremely bright, and my grimace game strong, but here you go, me, a street in San Juan, elephants. What else is there to say?
If you too love elephants and want to contribute to their safety and survival, there are many places you can donate, and may I suggest this one for today?
Okay, guys, we need to talk about culottes. Culottes. I never thought this day would come. What is this, 18th Century France, am I right? I mean, politically and personally I have always thought of myself as a sans culottes, you know what I mean? That’s a little French Revolution humor for you, for the cheap seats. I’m just kidding, there are no cheap seats at Versailles! Hey-o! Tip your guillotine operator, try the cake.
ANYway. Culottes. This is a thing. This is a thing in the world we live in and I have resisted it, as I do with so many things, until the point that I flip and wholeheartedly embrace it and THAT, my friends, is what is happening right now.
I want to talk to you about Megan Nielsen patterns. I really like Megan Nielsen patterns in that I really like the design. Seriously, lovely design, time and again. But the fit? The fit, my friends, is a situation. When the Flint Pants pattern came out, I was deeply deeply excited. I have been looking for a wide-legged loose fitting pleated pant that I could make in a lightweight fabric that would be good for the heat of Mumbai. I have tried a few options, and generally found myself disappointed. So when the Flint pattern came out, I was like, this is it. Pockets. Pleats. Wide legs. Cute closure options. Loose fit. IT’S THE GRAIL.
But then I tried them. I wanted a loose fit, because, um, isn’t that the point? So although my literal hip is an L, and my waist is a M (ummmmmm, question, why is a woven pattern S-XL?), I decided I would cut an XL to be safe, because the finished garment measurement had no ease, or so it appeared to me. Well, I cut and stitched up a pair of shorts in a turquoise fabric, and, um, I mean, technically they fit I guess, but it was a literal disaster. Puzzled, I measured the hip, and found that the finished shorts were actually the M hip measurement! What the WHAT? I am not a large person. I am never an L, let alone an XL, and now these shorts wont fit? I blame my butt. These CANNOT have been drafted for any junk in the trunk, am I right? Yes, there is an ego issue here, but beyond that, it was bewildering. I fumed. I sighed. I was OVER this, over pants, over everything! But no, NO. I bought the physical paper pattern, not even a PDF. I committed to these pants. I was going to make this WORK if it killed me. I decided to go all out, and I added two inches to each side of each leg pattern piece for a pair of shorts I was making. This…might have been overcorrecting, because I ended up with super loose shorts and I took the waistband at least 6 inches, so it’s back down to the pattern M measurement. But while big, these shorts, which I may photograph later, were much closer to what I had been looking for. Loose flowy comfortable shorts/pants/MAYBE CULOTTES WHAAAAAT?
Yes. Culottes. In the third iteration of my attempts to make the Flint pattern, I think I’ve hit my sweet spot. I added 1.5 inches to each side of each leg piece, so essentially adding a nice 12 inches to the leg pieces, giving me ample room through the hips and posterior, while grading to a M at the waist. I might not love the originally drafting here, but I’m glad I stuck with this pattern and made it work for me. Finally I have the comfortable loose fit of my dreams. Hard work, it pays off, whether you are overthrowing the French Monarchy or just making a pair of pants happen, am I right?
So here you go, without further ado, my Flint Culottes:
When my friend Liz was here, she bought this purple and white khadi that I adored but graciously let her buy because I am an amazing person/hero. However, when I saw this, virtually the SAME FABRIC, in Darjeeling in a Khadi Store, I luckily had no one else around me interested, and I could scoop it all up furtively and get out of there before anyone tried to take it. I had just enough to make these culottes, which, when I cut them, 100% reached my ankles and could have just been straight up pants. That might be another drafting issue, actually… Ah, well, that’s what hemming is for.
The shirt is actually something I bought. WHAT? I KNOW. But it’s a linen t-shirt from J Crew and I have to say, I adore it. Linen. I love you. And as a knit? I want to go to there. I might buy more, guys. I want five of these. I live in a hot place. Linen is amazing.
Here I am, posing by the synagogue in Cochin, a city in Kerala, which I recently visited with my friend Sarah who was in turn visiting ME from the States. I got Jews in different area codes, am I right?
This very sweaty back view is my gift to you from Kerala.
I love love love the waist tie detail. There is a button on the inside, which cleverly keeps the whole pant-system in place. How amazing is this khadi? The texture is so great, and I think it really works with this pattern, much as I’ve adapted it. It makes for loose pleats, but they still have weight and definition.
These pants were, for all their struggle in the making, for all my emotional upheaval around making, and WEARING, culottes, because, you know, the horror, the humanity, but these were seriously magnificent for walking around Cochin. So. Damn. Comfortable, and the pockets? YES. And the loose fit I engineered, knowing it was all I wanted, kept me cool in the heat of Kerala. The khadi did it’s job, of course, and all in all, I have to say, for all the pain these caused me on the way, they were wonderful in their actuality.
Emotionally, mentally, yes, I’m still very much sans culottes. But, when it comes to real culottes? I might be more pro than I thought.
One of the many things I’ve fallen deeply in love with from a textile perspective since I’ve started spending time in India has been ikat. Of course, I did love ikat before, and a search through my blog archives might reveal a post or two in praise of this weaving technique. But being so close to so many wonderful ikats has only nurtured my affection. It’s like, before, it was an interest, right? Like we were flirting, we’d say hi at the gym or whatever, I’d creep on ikat a little at the farmer’s market, try to think of cute weaving puns, google ikat and pretend I hadn’t, But you know, it was just a passing thing, one of the many fabrics I might potentially see a future with. Now, though, it’s a little more serious. I mean, it’s not marriage or anything, but we might be dating on the regular, you know? Obviously I’m not a one-fabric woman, gotta keep it fresh, but ikat might be moving into a regular part of the rotation.
So when I spent last Sunday with my friend Sarah who is visiting from the States going from Chor Bazaar, an antique/flea market in Mumbai which shares space with countless electronics second-hand stores and auto parts resellers, so that you end up pondering priceless antiques from all over India in the shade of twelve car body frames stacked high, to the CSMVS Museum, I decided that all that moving around deserved my crush-turned-casual dating fabric, ikat. Specifically this recent make:
Sarah graciously agreed to take photos of me after our whirlwind day scouring through antique stores to score her the perfect souvenirs to take home with her. While many like the handicrafts or the bangles, Sarah was looking for someone unique, so we evaluated brass door handles, wooden shutters and clay figures trying to find her the perfect gifts to others, and herself. Chor Bazaar is one of my favorite places in Mumbai to take visitors, but it’s not for the faint of heart or stomach, and it’s a ways away from my own neighborhood, so I don’t end up going all that often. South Bombay is like Manhattan when you live in Brooklyn, if you don’t HAVE to go it’s like, ugh, why bother. But it’s of course actually quite excellent and trekking down has many rewards.
Here I am, in front of the museum, which used to be the Prince of Wales Museum, but, like so many things in Bombay, has had its name changed to reflect an Indian future, rather than a colonial past. It’s now the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, say that five times fast, but if you ask a cab driver to take you to the Prince of Wales Museum, they know where to go. In many ways the museum itself, one of India’s finest, reflected the antique market we had just come from, jumbled items with few explanations, an assortment of bewildering goods that have no relationship to each other, in a fascinating place. Sigh.
But at least I looked cute! This fabric came from Kolkata, and when I got back from my last trip there I quickly whipped up this dress, which I’ve worn more than once before I conned Sarah into photographing it.The pattern is my bodice block, to which I added sleeves from the Grainline Studio Scout Tee, a genius move if I do say so myself, they fit perfectly and are great. I made this one a little bigger to give it a loose fit, although I usually belt it so you can’t really tell here. It’s deeply comfortable, and just the thing for rainy Bombay days, of which there are many right now, in the monsoon. My shoes here are legit made of rubber.
I gathered the skirt and of course I have pockets. This was deeply simple to put together, but I appreciate the celebration of ikat!
I cut the bodice on the cross-grain to have some fun with the ikat’s stripe pattern.
This dress was very motivational as we went from this:
And regardless of the rain, my dress was up to the task. Sarah declared Chor Bazaar to be one of her favorite things in Bombay too, so victory all around! More monsoon outfits to follow, I promise. They might be a bit damp, but I’m still making them!