Category Archives: Clothing

The Orientalist Dress

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.

So I leave you with this photo, which I like:

And this quote from Rushdie, who I love, from the only book he’s written that I really disliked, but the quote is good, so I can let it go:

“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.”

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Filed under Clothing, Colette Patterns, history, Sewing, Vintage

The Luxe Life Shirtdress

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?

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Filed under Closet Case Patterns, Clothing, Sewing

The Annual Elephant Dress Round Three!

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?

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Filed under Closet Case Patterns, Clothing, Sewing, Travel

The Khadi Body Pants

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.

And now, some images from Kerala:

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Filed under Clothing, Megan Nielsen, Sewing

Rainy Day Ikat Dress

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:

To 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!

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Filed under Clothing, Self Drafted, Sewing

The Color Blue Dress

There are so very many reasons I’m sad that Mad Men has ended. Number one, I don’t get to look at John Hamm as much as I would like to. I mean, yeah, sure, I can google him, but that’s, like, so much work, and besides he’s not usually in a suit demeaning a woman while concealing his identity and whatnot so what’s even the point? Number two, when people smoke everywhere in my life now, it’s because I am spending time in India, not because it’s charming and the 1960’s. Number three, amazing storytelling, you grow with these characters, fascinating psychological study, blah blah blah, the usual. Number four, serious lack of Christina Henricks in my life! Yes, obviously I watch Another Period and it’s magnificent and amazing and you should totally watch it, it’s Downton Abbey meets The Kardashians and it’s magical.

But is THIS:

Better than THIS?

Again, it’s THIS:

OR THIS:

Once more, with feeling. You can have THIS:

 

OR THIS:

You know which one is superior.

Which brings me to my most sewing-oriented reason for missing Mad Men, and that is, of course, costume porn. Have there been consolations? Of course there have, the world keeps turning. Feud: Bette and Joan, I’ve heard that show Velvet is good, The Crown , although the British are so damn dour, aren’t they? and that reflects in their clothing, lots of great tailoring, but you aren’t going to get anything close to this kind of thing, right:

Sigh. But the saddest thing about the end of Mad Men, other than the fact that we never got to watch Paul Kinesy get hit in the face, or watch Harry Crane get hit in the face, or just a whole list of white dudes get hit in the face, is that the Mad Men Copy Cat Challenge is no more. Sigh.

But if it HAD happened this year, I can assure you, this would have been my entry:

This is my first iteration of the (rather controversial) Rue Pattern from Colette Patterns. It’s really a lovely pattern, at least, I like it, and I appreciate the changes the company made to it after it’s release, allowing the side panels to sit under the bustline. I still found the armsyc a little tight, but that’s probably because of my sick guns, so…

I really love this print, but it totally does obscure the design lines. AH well. So what I did for sizing was not..the best way to do this, but, yeah. I cut a size 16, which was WAY too big everywhere but the bust. I graded down in the waist, but when I ended up trying it on, I think I took out about 5 inches or so out of the waist. I will say that the bust first beautifully, so I can’t really complain, but I think next time I would go to a 10 or 8 at the waist but stick with the 16 in the bust because although Colette patterns drafts for a C cup, I’m a D, and I think going with the fullest bust measurement is always the best way with Colette Patterns. For this skirt option the hip is sort of irrelevant, honestly, so that doesn’t matter.

Let’s talk about the skirt, actually, while we are here. I honestly think this skirt is sort of whatever. I would totally make this again, but honestly, this pattern is worth it for the bodice, not the skirt. Next time, (I have this mint gingham all ready to go!) I’m thinking of changing the skirt to a circle skirt, and it would be great with a pencil too, but the design options included are just okay, in my humble opinion. I mean, I like it fine, large pleats, what’s to dislike? but it’s nothing to write home about.

A little back view for you. I do love the back bodice, that little dip is so nice!

I had to doctor the color of these photos a lot because my friend Rakhee (hi, Rakhee!) took them late in the afternoon and they all ended up sort of blue toned. Ah, well, fits the fabric…

And it fits the title, which is a reference to the Mad Men episode of the same name. How DO we know that the blue I see is the same one that everyone sees? I don’t know, Ms. Farrell, you were like one of the least interesting people Don has ever slept with, SEE ya!

A little bodice close up for you. There is something just so charming about the bust tucks, seriously.

This fabric, a cotton from, of course, my new favorite place, Thakur, was about 1.40 a meter in USD. WHAT? Yes. But that’s actually great because this dress is a real fabric hog. I thought this fabric would be so appropriate for the pattern, and can’t you just see Betty Draper rocking this? Ah, Betty. I think I miss you least of all.

I didn’t line the skirt, but I did line the bodice, and apart from taking in the waist, as mentioned above, I made no changes.

It is a little hard to swan about all 1960’s like in Mumbai, of course, but I made it work. I mean, if Joan can do it….

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The Work In Progress Dress

Ah, it’s that time again, Me Made May! At this point, to be fair, my life is a me made life, with the rare RTW item surfacing, usually around workouts, or as undergarments, or recently with swimwear and jeans (I know, I KNOW I can make my own, and have made my own active wear and swimwear, as well as denim items that are not technically jeans, but my machine here in India hates most knit fabrics, sigh, and I’m afraid of the hardware, and I will eventually sew both jeans and swimsuits again, but for right NOW this is where I’m at).  But I like participating in Me Made May, to show off stuff that doesn’t seem worth a blog post, i.e. one of a thousand Scout Tees and Plantain Tees and other things that just don’t make it on here, but that pepper my wardrobe nonetheless. Additionally, this year I’m going to be traveling for half of May, so I’m eager to challenge myself with a me-made travel wardrobe and, hopefully, not bore us all. I’m documenting my Me Made May 2017 journey on Instagram, so follow me @lfstruggle for images and updates!

Me Made May also forces me TO document for the blog some of the projects that I’ve been behind on photographing. This, however, is not one of them. No, I made this project, The Kalle Shirtdress, extremely recently, over the course of about a day, because honestly, despite the fact that it is a shirtdress, with buttons, and a popover placket, I have to say, it was just so easy to make! I am sure I am not alone in my gratitude for Closet Case Patterns, for this wonderful pattern. I remember the day I saw Heather’s blog post on the self-drafted shirtdress that started it all, and I thought, damn, not only is that a much better version of the Archer Hack I made, but how wonderful would that pattern been in Mumbai all year round and during the summer anywhere? So when Heather actually released the pattern, it was one of those rare for me moments when I actually bought something immediately. I’m a planner, and I like to “visit” purchases, consider them, do I really need them, and when it comes to patterns, will I make this again? Do I have an occasion for this? But with this pattern, none of those questions could be answered by anything other than a resounding YES so click, buy, print, assemble, make, done. Honestly, if I wasn’t writing one novel, editing another, and, you know, working at a job job, I probably would have just sat down and made it the day I bought it, but alas, life sometimes gets in the way of sewing, who knows why.

 

Of course, when I wore this dress to work and convinced my co-workers to photograph me, we managed to find a primo spot in the open construction site that literally IS Mumbai, and the nearby sign really spoke to me as a human (ugh, I deplore that phrase but watcha gonna do). Who among us does not feel like a work in progress? Who feels done, over, sorted? I don’t know to know people like that. I don’t want to bother with complacency. In fact, it is one of the most interesting and frustrating things to me about spending time in India, the way that culture and ground realities of Indian life have conspired in so many to create a language and vocabulary about inherent and intrinsic qualities, the repetition of the phrase “but they are just like that”, or, “that is just how things are”. If I felt I could not be constantly working and striving to improve the world around me, starting with myself, I don’t know how I would find motivation to try or accomplish anything. And in some ways sewing is a wonderful microcosm for me in my ability to learn, and to keep learning. Much as I envy lifelong stitchers, the fact that I have learned this skill fairly recently, almost 8 years ago, I suppose, now, wow, scary thought, and the fact that it has led to other skills and crafts and interests, speaks to me of the elasticity of the human mind, and the way learning and growing is not only possible but essential.

Anyway, enough of that. For more ruminations on India, you are welcome to check out this other blog.

For my first of many, I decided to try the dress option with the pleat back and a popover placket.

I wouldn’t say I got any truly fantastic photos of the back of this dress, but here you can see the pleat and a little of the fun I had with the yoke, cutting it cross-grain for some contrast.

I love a popover, I really do, finicky as it is. This attempt might not be the plutonic form of popover but I’m okay with it, and that’s what really matters, right?

I cut a size 14, because I have found in the past that Closet Case Patterns run small, or at least, that’s my perspective. I wanted to make sure this fit in the bust, that was the most important thing. Heather is running a sew-along for the pattern with a full bust adjustment post, which I plan to read, but for this time around, I just cut the size with my full bust measurement and figured the rest would be fine, it’s a looser-fitting style, anyway. In fact, a co-worker commented that this dress didn’t have my usual waist-hugging style. Beyond being flattered that someone had noticed my style, I had to agree with her. But I will say, I love the way this is drafted so that it glances off the body but still feels, dare I say it, sexy, flattering, body-skimming.

For the fabric, I picked this cotton from Thakur, my serious forever new favorite. I would say I’m financing someone’s country home or something there but it’s so cheap, in fact, that’s part of why I love it. This fabric, which was 60″ wide, was 190 rupees a meter, which is about 3 dollars. RIGHT? RIGHT? Yes.

Stitching this up was really easy, in fact, as I said, I did it in one day. The kimono sleeves mean there is nothing to set it, which is nice, and the collar method Heather has in her instructions is fantastic, seriously, unconventional as she describes it but made for one of the cleanest collars I’ve ever stitched. I didn’t mind finishing the hem with bias tape, yes it’s finicky but it makes for a clean curve which is lovely.

One thing I would say, though, about this pattern, is that I added a good 4.5 inches to the hem, because it seemed awfully short to me. Part of this, I know, is what being in India has done to my understanding of hemlines, because I have seriously warped vision about short, too-short, etc, not because Mumbai is so restrictive, it really isn’t, but because women’s legs are just not as visible here, and the few exceptions I see on a Saturday night, women in fancy bars with body-con dresses and micro-mini shorts, don’t make up for the overwhelming numbers of legs covered by leggings, pants, jeans and saris, even on the hottest of days.

 

That being said, this dress is short, even by my pre-India standards, and I don’t regret lengthening the hem. I’d do it again in an instant!

As a side note, I really did think my hair looked okay and then I saw these photos and I was like, oh dear god, the horror. Le sigh. Thanks, never-ending humidity!

This tree is just outside of my office building, and you can always have a little Ganesh sesh when you need to, I guess. I have no idea. The longer I’m here, the less Hinduism makes sense to me. But you do you, Ganesh! You do you.

 

And I’m going to do me. Painful smile, messy hair, wonderful dress, a classic combo.

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Filed under Closet Case Patterns, Clothing, Sewing