Category Archives: Sewing

The Be A Pineapple Dress

I have to admit something, a dark and shameful secret. I am terrible at muslins. I just am. I never really make them, is the thing, because I always want them to be wearable because, well, I don’t know, I guess sometimes it feels like a waste of time although of course it IS NOT and I have botched a lot of things and ruined good fabric more times than I can count through NOT really muslining, by just cutting out a dress or shirt or whatever and realizing it doesn’t fit correctly and I hate it. Ugh, sigh, foolish Leah. I don’t know, I just have a hard time sewing when it doesn’t create a wearable product, which isn’t great, I should be more process oriented, more fit oriented, but I find myself just…not being that way.

Should I just bite the bullet and actually commit to muslins? Yes, yes I should. WILL I? I honestly can’t say.

So this dress was my SECOND muslin/tester/just a dress I made because I’m a muslin fail, as you know. I have to make a dress for my friend Ekta’s upcoming wedding (hi, Ekta!). Well, I mean, I don’t HAVE to but I want to! And it has to be formal, a gown, really. I have been encouraged to make something Indian, but I just, can’t even with that. First of all, I like traditional Indian clothing on other people but I’m not all that wild about it on myself, unless it’s like a sari or a lenhga. The whole mashed-up Indian outfit options are beautiful, but just not really me. I think it might be the lack of waist definition, which is so big in concepts of Western beauty, but not as important here in Indian clothing. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See, all very nice, but not very me. So Ekta will have to be down with my gown!

I knew I wanted to take a dress pattern and lengthen it to make it a gown, so I decided to try my hand at New Look 6526, because I really liked the bodice details. But alas, it was not to be. There were so many issues, from the bust to the armscye, and I just didn’t know where to start or if it was even worth it. So I took a step back and thought about what I liked about this pattern, really liked about it, and decided it was the princess seams and the v-neck. So I took out another pattern I had, McCalls 7503, with some similar elements, and tried that one out for size. This pattern also had multiple cup size options, which is always a good sign, because New Look 6526 is going to need a full bust adjustment and a HALF to get that to fit.

I was worried about the bust size, though, so I cut an 18 for my tester, which means this dress, which is a dress, honestly, not a muslin, I mean, I frenched every seam, I’m insane, is a bit big, but that’s fine, for a “day frock”, as my friend Lucy, who shot the photos below, put it. I will go down a size all over and maybe two at the waist for my dress for Ekta’s wedding (technically it’s for her Sangeet, the wedding gets a sari!).

But honestly, this dress could be four sizes too big and I would still love it because the fabric is just the best. It comes to me courtesy of my friend Meredith, who handed it over to me when she left India, because she never got a chance to take it to a tailor. Meredith’s loss is my gain!

Pineapple party!

Good advice for us all. I am not tall, but I did wear these wedges, so that helped, but hey, where is my crown?

As I am fond of remarking, one of the positive things about India is the constant abundance of fresh tropical fruit. Does it make up for the constant abundance of feces dotting the streets? Jury is still out. Still, I love me some watermelon, so I enjoy that daily, and we have recently started adding pineapple to our green juice (yes I drink home-made green juice daily, don’t care that it’s #basic, it’s healthy!), which I buy from a streetseller across from my gym. And now I can match him!

So I made a few changes to the original design, adding these flutter sleeves (the sangeet version will have cap sleeves, fyi) and moving the zipper to the side. I didn’t have enough fabric to line it, which is okay, this is a solid cotton, so I finished off the sleeves and neckline with bias tape.

This fabric is so busy that you can’t really see the princess seams, etc, but they are there, along with a bust dart. It’s a nicely drafted pattern, I think!

I finished the hem with horsehair, as instructed, which gives it a little body and bounce. I struggled to figure out how to describe this in my notions shop, but it turns out the word in Hindi for horsehair is…horsehair.

 

This was an easy make, even with all the french seams I did, which I think is a good thing, because I’m about to attempt this in a different fabric, with a full length skirt, which will be flared if I have enough fabric, and something else if I don’t…and lined, and fancy, and probably a bit more challenging. So at least the base pattern is easy!

Lucy took these photos at golden hour, so this was me trying to do my most romantic golden hour pose. Nailed it.

We took these photos in this gloriously empty lot near a movie theater after watching The Post (it’s pretty good! Meryl is amazing, Hanks is good, the costumes are fun, the press stays free) and there was also this giant jar there. WHAT IS THIS THING?

Never mind, I will just keep on being a pineapple.

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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

New Year, Same Me, A Sewalong!

So, I have an very important question to ask you guys, and that is, um, well, oh boy, this is so hard to ask, but, would you do me the honor of….participating in my sew-a-long?

Oh, let’s back up.

First of all, Happy New Year, y’all! I hope that you had the most wonderful Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanza/Festivus/Saturnalia/Satanic ritual/whatever you’re into, and the most lovely New Years Eve! What’s-his-face and I had a latke party and then we rang in the New Year by eating pizza and watching Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (for the hundredth time, obviously) and then we watched some of this which is absolutely bonkers.

Seriously, check it out:

Thinking back on my many sewing projects of the year, many of which, alas, went undocumented, as always, I will say that I think I tried a few new things, style wise, which is always fun, and I’m looking forward to trying some more in the year to come. I also want to challenge myself more to try a few new things, including more (any) outerwear (which is hard, because I spend so much of my time in India right now and Mumbai is not an outerwear kind of a place, but I can still try!), and taking more time with projects that have challenging details, like some formal wear for weddings and events, and more vintage items that require me to spend more time with them during construction.

Do you guys have any sewing goals? I rarely make other kinds of resolutions, and I’m already starting every day with homemade green juice (recipe courtesy of my friend Rakhee, follow her on Instagram at @rakheejainarora! And follow mine, I figured out how to put a link on the side and everything! @lfstruggle!), and I have a big year ahead what with my first novel release and What’s-his-name’s projects, stay tuned for more on all counts, so I feel like I have a lot covered on the personal front. So sewing can have a lot of my intentions, right now!

And speaking of sewing goals, in the spirit of wanting to sew more vintage, and in celebration of what I think was one of the best pieces of television, nay, MEDIA in 2017, I am thinking about hosting a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Sewalong! Who is with me?

First of all, we’ve all seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, right? RIGHT? NO? Okay, um, wow, well, don’t even worry about it, I can just hang out here for a day while you binge it. But, like, seriously, WHAT ARE  YOU DOING WITH YOUR TIME? And if you say watching Black Mirror I will BREAK YOUR FACE OFF YOUR FACE. Watch that on your own time! We have a female centric passes all kinds of Bechdel tests smart, funny, stupidly well acted period piece from what may well be the most flattering period of fashion for women in the last century and you…had better flipping things to do with your time? LIKE WHAT, PRAY TELL?

Ahem. This show is an Amazon Prime production created by Amy Sherman Palladino and Daniel Palladino, the team behind Gilmore Girls, which, if you haven’t seen that, then, I don’t know, maybe just stop reading my blog, or whatever? I mean, you make your choices, you know? AND I MAKE MINE. It features the magnificent Rachel Brosnahan, and the wonderful Alex Borstein, and it is just a sheer delight, complete and utter modern feminism wrapped up in a perfectly coordinated 1950’s package. The show is splendid, really lovely, and worth talking about for days, but the costumes, my friends, oh, the costumes. Now that’s something else entirely.

Lovingly designed by Donna Zakowska, with the kind of precision, character building, and thought process we haven’t really seen since, well, Mad Men, basically, and before that? Maybe never? these costumes really are a character in the show. They have inspired envy from the least vintage oriented of my friends, and I myself have drooled over them, longing for a cacophony of coats in impractical wool weights with no closures and all class! Hey, now, maybe THAT is where my interest in outerwear has come from….

But seriously, the costumes. First, enjoy this article. Then, look at all this:

And that’s just Midge. That’s just one character. Good. Lord. I mean, yes, it’s the MAIN character, but, like, still! I didn’t even show you her wedding dress. Listen, just watch the damn series, okay? Amazon Prime. Oh, and while you are at it, check out The Collection for a costume porn double header and then you come right back here and let me know, is anyone down for a sew-a-long?

Because I think this could be a ton of fun! So I will follow this up with a series of posts with inspirational pattern ideas, a giveaway or two, and we can reveal our Maisel outfits in a few months, let’s say, the 1st of April? That gives everyone a little time to join and try stuff out! And I promise to do a few myself, and I know that everyone’s favorite Blog for Better Sewing has a Charm patterns release coming up which she said should make fans of that red number up there very happy, soooooo…….

Who is in? Comment below if you are down, otherwise I will…totally just make a bunch of stuff on my own and wear it all and wish Miriam Maisel was my friend. And check out this pinterest board, it’s full of ideas already!

 

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The If You’re Gonna Go, Go Goa Dress

As you may have gleaned from my previous blog post, I was recently traveling once again, as I seem to do so very often.

Actually, wait, you know what, before any of that stuff, so sorry but my publishing company, well, the publishing company publishing my book, its not MINE per se in terms of ownership, has finalized my US cover and I just have to share it with all of you amazing people because…come on!

Oh, and the UK cover ain’t half bad either, AKA it’s equally gorgeous!

And it’s available for pre-order! So go ahead, buy it today! Or tomorrow! I don’t know how your day is laid out.

ANYway. Back to the reason you come here, handmade clothing, quirky commentary.

So as I’ve mentioned, my friend Ben and I, (hi, Ben!) made a sojourn to Goa, Hampi, and then Goa again! Goa is actually a state in India, but it’s quite small, by Indian standards. Nevertheless, we realized we had to split up the trip to visit the multiple things we wanted to see. If you want to soak up sun and enjoy pristine beaches, South Goa is the place to be. If you want to revel in Portuguese-Indian fusion and enjoy the colonial hangover along with a nice glass or five of feni, cashew liquor, you go to Old Goa. If you want to party with Russian oligarchs and risk a staff infection, check out the beaches of North Goa! We only wanted to do two out of these three things, so….we went to Old Goa as the final stop on our trip. And on our day exploring Velha, or Old, Goa, the remains of the once great Portuguese empire in India, I wore this dress I had recently made:

You know when you sew something for a trip and you save it and save it for the perfect day that fits your outfit? No? That’s…not a thing other people do? Yeah, no, me neither. Except of course YES that is a thing I do and this dress fit THIS day of exploration with its 1950’s flare and literal flare, because circle skirt, baby!

So this dress is pretty basic in construction etc, I made it from my bodice block which, I need to buy my friend Liz like, a case of wine or something for this, because I use that ALL THE TIME and it has changed my life. Thank you Liz! She helped me draft it, because she is a boss.

And then I just added a circle skirt. It has pockets!

It’s unlined and the neckline is finished with bias tape. I used french seams throughout, etc. I don’t know what else to tell you. Machine hem! I know, I know, the worst, but like…also sometimes you just can’t. Hand picked zipper, sooooooo, cancels out?

A little twisty twirl!

This was a nice spot for photos because we avoided a large group of European tourists, but it was a little dark, so I don’t know if you see the true color of the fabric.

The fabric is from my beloved Thakur, and those circles have little hearts in them! It’s sort of pseudo Japanese, and it’s so cute I can’t stand it.

This is a bit blurry, sorry!

This is a bit truer to color! Here I am, posing in the ruins of the church of St. Augustine, which fell to pieces some 100 years ago or so, and now sits as an archeological site, perfect for picturesque photos. Please note, there are signs everywhere saying no video cameras, so you know that at multiple points people have tried to stage their own romantic Bollywood video tributes there. Ben and I did not choose to try to do this. What can we say, we were too busy pretending to be 15th century missionaries. To each their own!

So there you go! In Goa! But I would say, for all the stereotypes around visiting Goa, which has long been the destination of choice for Russian millionaires, drugged out hippies, Israeli backpackers and Indian honeymooners, it does kind of live up to the hype. I mean, if you plan on visiting India, and you are self-aware enough to build in a break from all the…India of it all, if that is indeed something you might need, I would say, throw a day or two in Goa on the itinerary. I mean, it’s calm, it’s stunning, it’s fairly clean, relatively, and the laid back attitude is the best version of a mix between Southern European and South Indian culture. I say, if you’re going to go, go Goa. 

And that’s about it for me on this dress. It’s totally one of those projects I easily could have not shared because I’ve made many like it, but then it turned out so well and it’s so cute and I just, I wanted to feel pretty, YOU KNOW? You know. You get it.

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The Happy in Hampi Shorts

It is interesting for me to consider the way my sewing and dressing trends have been affected by spending so much time in India. I’ve written about this before, of course, but it’s a continually evolving relationship, I realize, as I change, as India changes, as my comfort levels rise and fall. When I first came to Mumbai I was fairly nervous about clothing, what to wear, what was appropriate, what would make me feel safe. Of course, it is patently insane that women have to police their own safety through their clothing and feel that what we wear needs to safeguard us, that we need to work to not “provoke” men with our garments, but hey, that’s the world we live in, and as much as I loathe it, I also participate in it. I’m so extremely visible in India, although of course if I were blond and blue-eyed I would no doubt be even MORE visible, so I’m grateful for my hair and eyes, at least! But that visibility also makes me self-conscious, because it’s like a sign that says “look at me” in a country where man habitually stare at women ANYWAY.

Now, living in Mumbai, which is, in my limited experience, the best city for women in India, I am in a rare and privileged position because people come from all over India to live in Mumbai, the city where you can do and say and wear anything, relatively, that is. But I still feel tentative with my clothing choices, because while the temperatures are consistently steamy and you do see women in shorts and mini skirts on occasion, it’s still India, and the overwhelming majority of people dress in traditional Indian dress or a Western-inspired derivation of it. While my initial ideas of what to sew and wear in Mumbai might have been more limited, and I’ve certainly expanded my shapes, silhouettes and hemlines over the past two years, there are some styles that I have, well, say reserved for trips to Singapore, Puerto Rico, or the US in the summer.

But recently, I’ve decided to take the leap, and I’ve made a few pairs of shorts. I know! Scandalous! I experimented with a few patterns, finally settling on the Deer and Doe Goji Shorts. At first I just wore them at home, but having completed a pair of slightly longer sorts out of a lovely lightweight denim I picked up at Thakur, I decided to test them out on the world, and tried them out for a meal out, and then an afternoon coffee, carefully observing rickshaw drivers and waiters to see if anyone was shocked. As far as I could tell, at least in my very sophisticated and upscale neighborhood, I wasn’t making any waves with my outfit!

So I figured, let’s take this show on the road, and wore these shorts on a recent trip to Goa, which I knew would be completely fine, as the laid back party capital of India plays host to thousands of backpackers in skimpy outfits yearly, so my shorts put me on the more conservative side down there. But the real test was sporting these in Hampi, an AMAZING archeological site in Karnatika, which my friend Ben and I visited and basically had our mouths open in awe the entire time. It’s hard to get to, but absolutely worth it if you are in that part of the world.

And I explored it in shorts!

As I mentioned, these are the Deer and Doe Goji pattern, which is really easy to put together. This is my second pair. I did a first as a wearable muslin, which are great, but they are pretty short. I don’t even think that’s, like, my India-based consciousness, they are SHORT. I wore them in Singapore, and I do love they way they look, but I lengthened these about five inches, and one inch became the hem, but just so you know, and it’s not like these are really long!

The original pattern has a facing for the hem, but I find that a little fussy, so I just allowed for the hem when I lengthened, as I mentioned above.

So this pattern can be a skirt or shorts, but I prefer the shorts. All the details make it fun, the paneled legs, the patch pockets (which are wonderfully designed and like, the perfect size and shape!), the drawstring waist. I made the string a little wider, because I like that look. These are wrinkled from days and days of wear, but I think you can still see the lovely color of the denim. It’s a nice lightweight but it still has body and substance. Thakur, you get me!

I didn’t, sadly, make the t-shirt. It’s actually from Lulu Guinness’ collaboration with Uniqlo from YEARS ago.

Isn’t it weird that when you have a sewing blog and you make a bottom you are basically like, okay, guys, check out my butt? But….check it out! Also, I’m basically imitating this Russian chick we saw have her MUCH older husband/boyfriend/whatever take sexy photos of her on the beach in Goa. Oy.

And check out Hampi!

It’s the second largest archeological site in Asia! And it’s STUPID awesome.

Like my shorts!

 

 

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The Big Hit Dress

I am very clumsy person, it’s true, but the story behind this dress, or more specifically, behind the PHOTOS for this dress is really not my fault. Seriously. SERIOUSLY! I swear!

So after I met my friend and stylist Liz in Singapore, I jetted off to Thailand. Please don’t stop reading because you are like, over me and my champagne lifestyle. First of all, I mostly drink passable but inexpensive local white wine from India’s nascent wine industry and second of all, I KNOW I’m insanely lucky to be in this region where travel is cheap and easy, I know, I really do, I am grateful on a daily basis, I promise. Spending time in this part of the world has its drawbacks, to be sure, but it also has its advantages, and this is certainly one of them. ANYway, what’s-his-face and I sped off to Thailand, first to Bangkok, which we adored, staying as we did in the old city, eating our weight in street food and enjoying the scruffy but cleaner-than-India charm of the city. Phuket, on the other hand, we did NOT like all that much, frankly, because it’s a tourist trap and a half, getting around the island is difficult and expensive, EVERYTHING is expensive, come to think of it, and the beaches are lovely, but is it really worth it? Not for us, I suppose. We did, however, have an enjoyable day in Phuket town, which is rather cute and quant with charmingly maintained Chinese shop houses, which in the past would house a family on the second floor and their business on the first. Phuket town was a bustling port city at one point, bursting with the tin-trade an a favorite for Chinese merchants, so it makes sense that style would linger.

What’s-his-face has spent years and years in Singapore, which has a handful of these buildings as yet un-demolished to make way for shiny new condos, so he’s, like, over le shop house, but I am still enthralled.

I was LESS enthralled, however, by an extraordinarily low-hanging awning, held down by a sturdy pipe, which I walked directly into as I strolled down the street during my explorations. The stunning pain of hitting the pipe with my firm but tender forehead literally knocked me to the ground, and, after peeling myself off the sidewalk, I staggered about, dazed, until I wandered into a food stall where the owner quickly furnished me with some ice. She then, upon hearing my story, took me by the hand and made me lead her back to the offending awning and the shop it belonged to, where she proceeded to yell at the shop owner in Thai to raise her awning, dammit! Which. FAIR. When she asked me where I was from and I told her, she was surprised because Americans are usually angrier about this kind of thing. I didn’t have the energy to inform her that India will scrub the indignation right out of you, while, of course, leaving you with a much deeper seated low-simmering rage. Instead, I continued on my wanderings, holding fast-melting ice up to my forehead and trying to see straight.

Hours later, I asked what’s-his-face to take these photos. Obviously I should have gotten him to do them BEFORE the run in, literally, with the awning, but hindsight is twenty-twenty, now, isn’t it?

Ah well. Do ignore the bump, please. I LOVE this dress, it really IS a big hit, and I also SUSTAINED a big hit, so yeah, double meanings, etc. Score one for social media not being deceptive, I guess?

QUITE a bump. Sigh. But the dress is nice! I altered my bodice block, adding 2 inches on each part of the front bodice piece for the button placket, and extending the shoulder seams to make kimono sleeves.

The skirt is a circle skirt, and lucky for me this fabric, from Thakur, was wide enough for a nice length on the skirt in one piece!

The dress is extremely comfortable, and I keep reaching for it weekly.

See, I’m just smiling through the pain here, seriously.

NICE shot of the bump, there. It has since shrunk away to nothing, thank goodness, but yeah, nothing ruins a vacation picture like a firm blow to the head. Here, though, you can see that the fabric is a very subtle large print gingham/plaid sort of a thing, in shades of blue.

So there we go. I adore this dress, it was easy to make and it’s consistently easy to wear. Easy to explore new places in, easy to walk directly into a low hanging awning while wearing, it’s the grail.

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Filed under Sewing, Travel, Uncategorized

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