Category Archives: Self Drafted

The Proud To Be Paisley Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I put in pockets! Duh.

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

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

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A little back view for you.

And a little close up!

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

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

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

 

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Filed under Self Drafted, Sewing

The Hemline Adjustment Skirt (and a top, just for fun)

“Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening,” said Coco Chanel.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a slave to fashion, but I would say that my clothing has to be a slave to my life. Long before I started sewing clothing, I was fairly practically minded with my sartorial choices. Shoes had to be walkable. Clothing had to work in various situations. My most pervasive question for any shopping experience was, okay, but where will I wear that? If anything, I have to say, I’m more willing to take a risk now that I’ve started sewing than I before I sewed.

Through sewing I have tried new styles, like my current Indian lifesaver, a style I honestly never though I would be into, the Maxi-dress. I made my first of these two years ago, but it wasn’t until I was planning my move here to Mumbai that I put my maxi creation into high gear, and since I’ve arrived here I’ve already made three, (posts to come, I promise).

Perhaps that’s in some ways counterintuitive, because I work so much harder for each piece of clothing now than I ever did before (although sidenote, trying to find something worth buying from my college Urban Outfitter’s store’s sales section WAS in fact work, don’t get me wrong) but I somehow don’t mind trying new styles and sometimes making things which I know I might never wear again for one event or as a Halloween costume. Maybe it’s because I value  my labor very little, or maybe it’s because the process is enjoyable for me so if the product isn’t re-usable I don’t mind giving it to a thrift store to be a staple in someone else’s life. Generally I try not to do this, because I think it’s wasteful, so I try to find things a home with a friend first, but I figure if someone else can get something out of my clothing, why not.

But beyond those rare exceptions, and experiments which have mixed results, I do find that functionality is my watchword, with life, and with clothing. My shoes are all bought on the basis of walkability, and my clothing is stitched based on how wearable it is, how it will fit into my life and what I need to do day-to-day. This can be, in its way, a little limiting. In the period of my life when I was biking to work I was, consequently, not churning out pencil skirts. Obviously we all sew for the seasons, the climates we live in, the times of year and materials that we crave.

Sometimes sewing this way ends up helping people out. In the dead of winter I often construct beachey wear for my mom to take to Puerto Rico. For a vacation to Morocco my friend Emily needed tunics and pedal pushers, not the normal things she would have usually asked me to make her, and I was able to whip up some options without her filling her wardrobe with store-bought options she would never use again.

And now that I’m here in Mumbai, functionality has taken on a different meaning. Dressing for a different country, especially one that has different standards of modesty and different expectations of women than the country from which I’m coming, is a challenge. I’ve written the first of many exhaustive (I anticipate) perspectives of this over here, so you are welcome to check that out if you chose to do so. Look, I didn’t move to a tiny village somewhere like this lady, I’m in Mumbai, which is, frankly, comparatively a safe and easy city for women in which people dress in all sorts of ways, and while a majority of people I see on the street are dressed in Saris and Salwar Kameez (does anyone know how to make that plural? Asking for a friend), there are a surprising amount of ladies in shorts out there, not to mention skirts, dresses, capris, and everything in between, in Indian and Western styles and fabrics. But I still consider my wardrobe carefully before I leave the house, not just because people around me might be conscious of it, but because I want to be comfortable, but still look like myself. This isn’t a vacation, but it’s not New York, either. I have to find a way to make the look I like work for me.

Hence my hemline adjustments. The Hemline index may not be a viable economic theory, but for me, hemline adjustment is a cultural move anyway, so I don’t mind all that much.

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As I said, the maxi dress and I have a back and forth relationship, we are the Sam and Diane of outfit-person pairings, sometimes wildly in love, sometimes at complete odds. So while I’ve grown more into the look, I still need other things. We are in an open relationship, let’s say. And as a short person, I think for me a kind of modified tea-length, maybe let’s call it iced tea length? doesn’t look too shabby, and it solves a lot of my open rickshaw exposure concerns. HA 2

This skirt is self-drafted with big box pleats to use the most of this fabric, which I found on my second fabric shopping expedition in Mumbai to Mangaldas Market (SO much more on that in its own post) and just adored.

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AM I RIGHT? You can’t see it but the background has a kind of cool scouring thing going on too, so it’s just idea. Planes plus color all for less than 5 US Dollars a meter? WHICH IS EVEN LONGER THAN A YARD? I want to go to there.

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See, it’s not quite tea length, but it’s not knee-length either, it’s in a weird in between space, otherwise known as where I like to live. It was a very basic construction, pleat, stitch, add a waistband, zipper, buttonhole, hem. BOOM. Hemline? Adjusted.

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Oh, I also made the shirt. It’s a Grainline Scout T. I’ve made at least 5 of these. Can’t stop, wont stop. It’s a woven t-shirt. What’s not to love? I made this in a silk twill with a really light weight, it’s just heavenly and breathes beautifully in the sticky Mumbai heat.

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In this photo I think you can see the weave better. It’s just lovely.

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And there you have it, one step towards a Mumbai uniform.

What about you? Have you changed how you’ve dressed or, more importantly, what you’ve stitched when you moved somewhere new? Or when you’ve gone somewhere new? How much do you think about the clothing culture you’ve entering when you travel or move? Does it alter across your country or within your state? Inquiring Leahs want to know.

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Filed under Clothing, Grainline Patterns, Self Drafted, Sewing, Travel