I have wanted to re-make Simplicity 1720 for years, and I have to say, I’m glad I waited, because this fabric was the right fit and anything else would have been somehow a lesser make. I truly believe this. I have to. It’s the only way to keep going in this life, believing the stories we tell ourselves.
However, I have to tell you something awful. When I opened up this pattern for the second time, I realized that I was missing some pattern pieces! I managed to sort of figure something out, but I’m not sure whether it’s worth keeping this pattern now. What do you think, folks? It’s hardly the only shirtdress I have. Hell, it’s hardly the only 1940’s shirtdress pattern I have. I might have a shirtdress problem. Or is it a shirtdress SOLUTION???
At any rate, it’s funny how the years between making this dress the first time and the second time have changed the way I sew. I remember making it back when I was in graduate school and being very confused by the unmarked pattern pieces and overwhelmed by all the seaming and just, the process, it took me a long time to make. This time around it was…just like any other garment. What a difference nine years of sewing makes, I guess? Who would have thought…
Of late, I have found myself re-watching older shows I’ve loved, which is something I’ve always done, really, just like I will re-read certain books, mostly Terry Prachett novels, as a comfort mechanism. Of course, I’m also watching new things, (I May Destroy You, The Alienist Angel of Darkness, Perry Mason, just a dark trio of darkness), but a multi-season lighter show can be great background for me as I cook and sew and….contemplate how painful this existence is and how much is out of my control and how devastating and strange and boring and stressful and joyous, in little bits, these current times are, and why my cat only wants to cuddle with me when I am sweating buckets in the Mumbai humidity. So recently I’ve been re-watching Psych, in anticipate of the new recently released Psych movie, which my husband is so annoyed by that he’s starting mocking the theme song under his breath. But you can pry this show out of my cold dead hands, because it is truly an excellent piece of television, with one of the best friendships in media (Shawn and Gus, obvi), and some really stunning catchphrases and lines. I mean, come on. Plus, an all consuming love of pineapples. You know that’s right.
One thing I wish I had done was lengthened the front bodice a bit. I used my bodice block to replace the bodice pieces that were missing, but I ended up with a shorter front bodice and no front yoke (these two things are probably related…) and so this feels more like an empire waist, which I do not enjoy. That said, the paneled skirt fits true to my waist so it’s not terrible, as I believe an empire waist looks on me, and I can and will absolutely wear this, but it’s not quite my thing. That said, getting beyond “my thing” is never a bad thing.
This print is SO good.
I got it at Thakur fabrics, my go-to Mumbai fabric store, and it’s a block print, possibly from Rajasthan, probably from somewhere in North India at least.
This time I put in the patch pockets and pocket flap piece.
Adorbs. I happened to have these yellow wooden buttons in my stash, which was a total score, because the button shop I go to is very cramped and crowded. Here in Mumbai people are wearing masks, yes, but social distancing is a foreign concept, literally, and people just don’t really deal with it and it’s very stressful. So not having to go to the button shop is a plus.
The smirk of a woman who knew all those buttons would come in handy one day.
A little back view for ya.
And le bodice.
The flat outside of my body version. I love how the block print kind of references 30’s/40’s prints but is also very much it’s own Indian thing.
Here we have it. My second pineapple dress, my ode to Psych, my however many shirtdresses I have dress. So many things at once!
Did you know that there have been three movies made call State Fair and not one of them has been set in Minneapolis, Minnesota? There is the 1933 version, the 1945 version, and the 1962 version, although that last one is apparently worthless. Obviously the 1945 version is the best, because it is equal parts classic and deeply troubling (for SO many reasons, but like, these pigs communicate with each other and everyone gets drunk and it’s just, it’s a lot), but it has the BEST costumes for it’s female star, Jeanne Crain , which were all designed by Rene Hubert. That said, it’s a bummer because the actress was dubbed in this movie. Sigh. Lame. Didn’t you people see Singing in the Rain? Dubbing is evil!
BUT THE COSTUMES:
This is a fact that will, no doubt, enrage and sadden my new sister-in-law, Becca, when she reads it, because according to her, the Minnesota State Fair is the greatest state fair of all and she is prepared to fight anyone who says otherwise. I gotta say, she’s small, but she’s feisty, and I’d put my money on her to win. Now, I have not been to another state fair that I remember (my mother keeps insisting that I did attend the Pennsylvania State Fair as an infant but honestly, if you don’t remember it, did it really happen?) and I would agree with Becca that the Minnesota State Fair is massive and magnificent, although honestly, if I didn’t agree I would probably keep it to myself because, well, see above.
This is how Becca probably feels about the fact that the 1945 State Fair isn’t set in Minnesota:
Anyway, I recently attended this real state fair, not the fictional one depicted over and over again in these movies (why…was this such a popular genre? In India they have these things called melas which are like fairs but millions of people come and scientists think the 1850’s cholera epidemic that decimated London and lead to my favorite non-fiction book ever , and that’s a theme in movies because people can literally lose their families there, but this is like, a place where people eat cheese curds and look at farm animals, I don’t get it). This event might actually have been the most American thing I have ever done in my life, and I knew I needed to dress the part. And what is more American, more state-fair appropriate, than gingham?
I mean, just look at this. Of the two, count em, TWO pinafores Jeanne Crain wears in State Fair, ONE of them is gingham:
Or maybe it’s just striped squares? CLOSE ENOUGH, people. You know it’s state-fair appropriate. It’s as American as apple pie, or nut roll, which is a thing we had at the fair:
I’m not going to lie to you, attending was an intense life experience. There were so many people that what’s-his-face and I joked that we were back in India, but, ya know, without as many Indians. But, it was also very interesting! We enjoyed seeing more types of rabbits than we knew existed:
and learning about how goats are judged (milk OR meat, but not both!):
and learning the wonder that is the cheese curd!
Everything can be on a stick:
Except for corn, which comes on its own stick:
Many things were cute at the fair, but I would venture to say that my dress was up there among the cutest because HOW CUTE IS THIS DRESS?
The pattern is a vintage one, Simplicity 3044. I can’t even remember where I got it, maybe a pattern box from Ebay from long ago?
I’ve had it for a while, but never tried it out before. I was suspicious of the “slenderette” label, but I simply adjusted the bust to be fuller and the rest was fine. God bless vintage patterns and their comfortable/generous ease! I also made the skirt a little more flared, with the old “eyeball it” method that I am so into that is so unprofessional but totally works so…whatever! It’s a 1960’s pattern, and I couldn’t resist the adorable collar, it’s just the top.
I literally made a version of number 1 down to the fabric and I’m okay with that. I cut that part on the bias, just as the illustration implies, and I love how it turned out.
The construction for this was very simple, frankly. It’s unlined, and the collar is faced, which I normally hate, but it works with this, and I stitched the facing down at the zipper and shoulder seams to avoid the thing I hate about facing, aka the flip out.
The back of the collar is awful adorable, and I’m proud of those points!
Gotta do a second back shot, in honor of that collar. It’s up there with my best collars ever. Is there a hall of fame for that? There should be!
The wind was swishing the skirt around, but I can assure you, the skirt checks match up!
These pigs were not as enthused by my dress as I was.
I feel like State Fair is ready for a new update! And may I suggest a change of location? Minnesota, perhaps? It’s a friendly place for a fair!
Look at those open arms from that slightly terrifying beaver sculpture! Doesn’t that inspire song in your heart?
Have you been to a state fair? Or a mela? Or something in between? What would YOU wear?
Some projects are long in the making. They require time and space and long hours of contemplation. They live in the imagination like phantoms, lying in wait for the right fabric, the right moment in time, the right feeling.
This is not one of those projects.
This is more of a project that is like that song by the Shirelles. You know the one I mean….
If you don’t know or at least enjoy that song on first listening then you are dead inside. Please stop reading this blog, I don’t want no zombies here. Thanks! Bye.
Seriously, Walking Dead, get out of here. You are by FAR the least interesting thing AMC has ever produced to my mind. Yes, I know about Turn. Yes, that sounds cooler to me. Come on, now, you know you are into that period! What else has Lin-Manuel Miranda given us, if not that?
Side note, how are zombies cool now? They are legit the least sexy mythical creature. They are rotting, all the time. They are the sexual equivalent of a compost bin. COME on, people!
ANYway. The point is, this was a project that I was like, oh, yeah, I want that. I want to make that. And within three days, I sure had!
It also involves a pattern company I had never heard of before! Have you guys heard of Peppermint Magazine? It is straight up delightful, with a free pattern monthly and a lot of excellent sustainable things! But also, FREE PATTERN MONTHLY! I mean, how do you walk away from that?
I saw it on a Thursday, I made in on a Saturday. I took photos of it on a Sunday. I cut out two more on a Monday.
Not convinced? Enjoy the photos!
Fun fact, it was literally 105 degrees fahrenheit when we shot these photos. BUT. This blouse looked better with jeans than with the shorts I’ve made in the past. It’s so billowy that it needs a slim leg below, right? So I wore jeans. For you guys, FOR THE READERS. I know, I know, send in my candidacy for sainthood. No matter that I’m Jewish. CALL THE VATICAN!
So first of all, I was trying to be conservative with my size by cutting a size G, but this is too big. Which is fine! I still like it. I cut a size G because it said the finished bust size was a 44, and my size D chest is 42 inches at the fullest point, so two inches of ease, sounds like a plan, right? Wrong. This is WAY more than 44 inches in width! I like the loose look, don’t get me wrong, but I’m going down a size for my next try.
But also, look, I totally like this shirt. Obviously! I cut more!
But also, again, it does sort of remind me of something….
Good lord, why do we glorify hippies? These are hippies:
Disgusting. Weird, cult-oriented, weirdness. But mostly, disgusting. You can hate the Man with showers! Right?
This is one of my favorite things among a thousand things about Mad Men, the fact that they depict hippie cults clearly:
Just horrific. Margaret!
I don’t care how happy and free she is. SHE LOOKED BETTER REPRESSED:
Oh, god. I have betrayed everything my mother fought for. I am horrific. BUT I’M CLEAN, RIGHT?
Yep. Hair combed, body cleansed, blouse a little 70’s but still fairly modern!
And the back! This is a stupid easy make, and I LOVE the way that Peppermint Magazine has included a ton of detailed instructions to make the finishing of seams as clear and wonderful as possible. Well done! They have so many great patterns, I’m excited to make the others!
Happy Monday, all! My gift to you is some pattern inspiration to help you figure out how to make that Maisel costume into the outfit of your dreams. I still haven’t decided what I’M doing yet, although I do know that I’m going to make SOMETHING in a wool, potentially a raspberry or a grey, classic Midge power colors. Know what I mean?
Now, of course there is the option for this one to go vintage pattern, and I may well be taking it, honestly, but thank goodness we live in a world that also gives us the opportunity to buy vintage reproductions, in a multi-size pattern, that we don’t have to worry about scaling or changing or damaging throughout the sewing process, am I right?
So here are some of my thoughts, although I welcome your ideas too!
Obviously, the outerwear is amazing. I don’t know if I can justify this to myself because…when would I wear it, but gosh, I’m tempted, aren’t you? All those gorgeous coats, so impractical with no closures, so amazing!
Luckily, there are some options for you if this is your deal.
The obvious contender, and it’s already in raspberry! IT’S A SIGN.
Also an option.
Sometimes these dress patterns sneak in a coat pattern. LUCKY FOR US!
The Colette Patterns Lady Grey would also work as a tribute piece!
I feel like if you made that up in a wool it would totally echo that tan coat Midge is sporting above, no?
This is technically not a coat but, I just, I die:
The men of Maisel rock a separate, and Susie is all about a jeans and knit top combo, with her leather jacket, natch, but more often than not, Midge and Imogene are in dresses. Rose is all about a suit, very appropriate for her age in that period, and Rose is all ABOUT appropriate, as we know. This would totally be the time to make a suit, if anyone is itching to do that, but for now, I’m going to focus on the more unconventional separates the show gives us.
I love Midge in pants, so beatnik chic! There are some great options for that flat-front 1950’s look that was so popular, apparently people felt that the zipper front on women was vulgar.
I have been searching for a cute 1950’s blouse pattern for YEARS, any leads? But for the turtleneck, look no further than Seamwork!
Shorten Neelah into a shirt and there you go!
This outfit is a popular one on the internets, maybe because it’s so contemporary looking? I like the color combo, though, so bold! For this one, you might like the combo of Colette patterns Selene with a knit tee in a merino wool. Oooohhh, that would be cute…
And of course, who doesn’t love Midge’s work out gear?
For the shorts, I think the Weston shorts are a solid option:
You could also lengthen these to make Susie’s high waisted pants!
And the Astoria sweater would be too cute for Midge OR Susie! Material is everything.
And for the leotard, I mean, look no further than the Closet Case Nettie…
Okay, okay, fine, let’s get to the dresses!
I love literally everything each of these women is currently wearing.
This simplicity number feels right on the money! Add a bow, it’s there!
The top is a little off, but I think you could alter this one to make it work, and I love that back detail! It also reminds me of this number:
And then we have this one:
This one is a little intense, but also excellent. And look at that, a near-perfect pattern match!
Oh, love it all. LOVE IT ALL! Nothing exact here, but some options for an approximation:
Colette Patterns Claudette Dress, a classic!
Love those design lines.
And then of course, the party wear:
Now, Gertie said she might be developing something similar in an instagram post, so, ya know, maybe? But this is also not terrible:
And of course, the dress that requires pearls:
Oh, hello, lover. I mean, look, I have no idea if anything will ever be this good in terms of FIT, but in terms of LOOK, I humbly offer a few options:
Siiiigh. I had nothing for the men, honestly, although I’m happy to source that if anything is going there….
What do you guys think? Any other ideas of great patterns to use? Any real vintage favorites?
Thanks for the positive responses on the sew-along, people! The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won TWO golden globes last night, so now you HAVE to see it, am I right? I will be posting in upcoming weeks with pattern ideas, and some giveaways, but for now, just comment on the original post if you are interested!
The thing about being interested in sewing and textile, once your friends know about it, is sometimes you become, like, that person, you know what I mean? You are someone’s sewing friend. This is often fantastic, because people give you fabric (thank you, friends!) and sewing supplies, and send you cool articles about textile and stuff. Sometimes this is not as fantastic, like when people think you are their new free tailor and bring you broken zippers to mend. And sometimes it can sort of, well, be a little ambivalent when you are moving out of New York and the Met has a huge textile show and everyone suggests it as a fun friend activity and you end up seeing China through the Looking Glass THREE fricking times even though, from a curatorial standpoint, it was worth one.
But, hey, I mean, I got to know this bowler hat really well, soooooooo, win some, lose some.
Whatever my issues with this exhibit, which, while interesting, did not achieve any of the depth or breadth of knowledge OR commentary that, say, Interwoven Globe or Global Fashion Capitals did (am I a museum exhibit snob? OBVIOUSLY. What, this your first time here?) I can’t say it didn’t stick to my consciousness, especially living here in India, the land of fabric, where the idea of clothing and textile exchange has been reflected and refracted and remade and reused and absorbed and rediscovered and rejected. The sari is a political garment, don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t, and the clothing that people, women, really, wear here in India has a moral and social consequence. One could, of course, argue that this is the case everywhere, but I have yet to visit a place where it is so visible, so much a part of daily life, and yet so rarely discussed. Indian women know what to wear in which location, what keeps them safe, of course, nothing really keeps anyone safe, in the end, but perhaps what gives the illusion of safety, of appropriateness, of invisibility, which is of course the only safety any of us can try and bank on, that if we are not seen we will not be hurt. Adding the layer of physical security on top of layers of history only makes textile and clothing here all the heavier, despite the lighter weaves.
There are a thousand and one opinions about appropriation in art, but I would argue that when it comes to clothing, the history of the world can be written in a garment, and often is. Global garments stretch far back into history, and perhaps there are those who see me, in my ikat fit and flair dresses, stitching up block printed fabrics into 1950’s patterns, as an appropriator of the worst kind, but I would say it’s homage, not theft. Of course, Picasso tells us, “Bad artists copy, good artists steal”, but maybe that’s the problem, there, maybe if we acknowledge that we are borrowers, and lenders, the accusation of theft and desecration wont hang so heavy over art and art making. Polonius gave a lot of bad advice as well as good, perhaps we should throw that one away, and make things that proudly say, I borrow from here, I’m using this, but I promise I’m not the only one, you can have it back when I’m done, or better yet, there is more than enough to share. Is culture a finite resource? I hope not. I might be using up too much.
When I saw Colette Pattern’s new pattern release, Prudence, I couldn’t help but think both of China Through the Looking Glass (I mean, see a think THREE TIMES it’s going to live in you, you know what I mean?) as well as much smaller but lovingly curated show at MOCA, Shanghai Glamour. I have always loved the way a qipao, or cheongsam, looks, but have never worn one, partially through a fear that I would be a little appropriative or costumey, and partially because I hadn’t found one that worked with my, er, frame. This show, Shanghai Glamour, in fact demonstrates part of my very point, which is, that the qipao as it exists today is an amalgamation of East and West, it is history in a garment, it represents a traditional shape that has been altered through Western-influenced tailoring to create a unique garment that evolved and changed over time. Take a look at Suzy Wong:
Chinese silk, traditional idea, with a bullet bra and darts for days. Nothing we do is new, is it?
Back to Colette. The dress reminded me both of the qipao, hey, we call it a MANDARIN collar for a reason, remember, and also 1940’s Western styles echoing Chinese influence in Western shapes:
And I knew I had to have it. And I love it, I do, because somehow the confluence of vintage glamour and Asian influence just, sort of, I don’t know, speaks to my life, I guess?
I mean, I also just think it looks great, let’s be real.
I cut a size 12 in Colette, tapering down to a 10 at the waist. The result is slightly loose at the waist, but still a nice amount of definition, for that sweet spot of, I look nice and I can eat. Both vitally important things!
The bust is generous in this pattern because of the shape, so I didn’t have make adjustments, which is always nice.
I made a few changes, most notably moving the zipper to the back, which has resulted in a slightly tighter neck, which puts a bit of a strain on that cute little button there, I must say. This is 100% my bad, I didn’t add any extra seam allowance so…that’s on me. It’s still really lovely and comfortable, but for next time, I’m thinking of going with a shorter flared skirt, I will totally add a little breathing room. I made a thread loop for the fastener, that’s always fun!
All in all, this puppy got a lot of hand sewing, part of my vow to try and take a bit more time with stuff. I stitched down all the facings by hand, as recommended, as well as hand picking the zipper and hand stitching the hem. Otherwise, it’s all french seamed, natch. It’s kind of nice to take the time to hand sew, I guess? I don’t know, I suppose it’s a little soothing. You can see I used a non-matching zipper in this photo, it usually is hidden, ah well.
The fabric, you might note, is also vaguely Chinese influenced, look at that butterfly!, but it’s a rayon I bought at Mangaldas Market. It has a nice drape, and didn’t break the bank, which is good because this dress eats up a nice amount of fabric.
It’s all the skirt, though, and why does the skirt need so many panels, I ask you? It has, like, 6, I did so many french seams, what’s that about? I feel like a straight piece of fabric could have gotten that done, just saying.
Well, I supposed that’s all I’ve got to say about this process. I am a big fan of this dress, and I will make another soon with a shorter skirt.
“Disorientation is loss of the East. Ask any navigator: the east is what you sail by. Lose the east and you lose your bearings, your certainties, your knowledge of what is and what may be, perhaps even your life. Where was that star you followed to the manger? That’s right. The east orients.
That’s the official version. The language says so, and you should never argue with the language.
But let’s just suppose. What if the whole deal – orientation, knowing where you are, and so on – what if it’s all a scam? What if all of it – home, kinship, the whole enchilada – is just the biggest, most truly global, and centuries-oldest piece of brainwashing? Suppose that it’s only when you dare to let go that your real life begins? When you’re whirling free of the mother ship, when you cut your ropes, slip your chain, step off the map, go absent without leave, scram, vamoose, whatever: suppose that it’s then, and only then, that you’re actually free to act! To lead the life nobody tells you how to live, or when, or why. In which nobody orders you to go forth or die for them, or for god, or comes to get you because you broke one of the rules, or because you’re one of those people who are, for reasons which unfortunately you can’t be given, simply not allowed. Suppose you’ve got to go through the feeling of being lost, into the chaos and beyond; you’ve got to accept the loneliness, the wild panic of losing your moorings, the vertiginous terror of the horizon spinning round and round like the edge of a coin tossed in the air.
You won’t do it. Most of you won’t do it. The world’s head laundry is pretty good at washing brains: Don’t jump off that cliff don’t walk through that door don’t step into that waterfall don’t take that chance don’t step across that line don’t ruffle my sensitivities I’m warning you now don’t make me mad you’re doing it you are making me mad. You won’t have a chance you haven’t got a prayer you’re finished you’re history you’re less than nothing, you’re dead to me, dead to your whole family your nation your race, everything you ought to love more than life and listen to like your master’s voice and follow blindly and bow down before and worship and obey; you’re dead, you hear me, forget about it, you stupid bastard, I don’t even know your name.
But just imagine you did it. You stepped off the edge of the earth, or through the fatal waterfall, and there it was: the magic valley at the end of the universe, the blessed kingdom of the air. Great music everywhere. You breathe the music, in and out, it’s your element now. It feels better than “belonging” in your lungs.”
When you have a pattern stash, of any size, and you are trying to limit that pattern stash, or you’ve been FORCED to limit that pattern stash, because of moves to India, or a place like that (I don’t know what else is like that, Bangladesh I guess?) you might find yourself cycling through patterns, creating trends within your own collection. For example, there might be a time when you are making a handful of patterns over and over again and then for no real reason you stop, and move on to something else. But then you come back to the pattern you loved, after a while. Has anyone else had this experience?
Of course this pre-supposes that you, like myself, make patterns over and over again. It’s a rare pattern I don’t make multiple times, because I’m cheap, and it just seems like a waste not to, especially when a pattern is expensive. It’s actually why I love Colette Patterns Seamwork, because I can try stuff and feel okay only making one of them, because they are reasonable and release regularly. At any rate, I’m not talking about making 10 pleather body suits here, but classics like a woven t-shirt, well-fitting pants, a full skirt, that’s stuff I just keep on making.
It’s kind of like food. When I was a kid my father was the one who got us up in the morning and got us ready for school while my mother slept. We had to wake up stupid early, like 5:30am early every day for the school bus, don’t ask me why, probably because we lived in the city and our school was in the suburbs, like a punishment for living in a better place. WORTH IT. ANYway, to make things simple my father would figure out a meal we liked, for example, eggo waffles, and buy like twenty boxes of them and we would eat them for years. And then we would revolt, we would rise up and say NO to the oppression of eggo waffles! And then he would give us cheerios, which we loved because they weren’t fricking eggo waffles so they tasted like the literal best thing ever and then he would return home from the grocery school with twenty boxes of THOSE and the cycle, she would repeat itself all over again.
And my clothing production…may or may not sometimes work a little like that. Sometimes I get in a groove and then I realize I’ve made five of the same things in a row, and I feel so bored, and then I try something else and do it all over again! Damn you, Papi, and the things you’ve unconsciously taught me! Sigh. Ah, well. I do like a bit of a uniform, so maybe it’s for the best.
Now the rains have come to Mumbai, but just before the monsoon arrived the heat was laden with humidity and as oppressive as a fascist regime. So on days when I knew I wouldn’t have to run an errand, given that I work from home, my uniform became shorts, which I don’t tend to wear out in India, and lightweight shirts. And that’s when I realized, I had just made my third Archer in as many months, in my new favorite shape, selfless, with a back ruffle, and a little long. Boom.
These shorts are also me made, from FOREVER ago, a vintage pattern from the 1950’s which I no longer have because it was fine but not AMAZING and again, trying to keep that pattern stash in check.
The fabric comes from Mangaldas Market, and it’s a night lightweight cotton. I can’t get over how much I love these fish. When you have animals on your clothing you can never be lonely, because you always have friends! I DON’T CARE HOW PATHETIC THAT SOUNDS IT’S HOW I FEEL.
Apart from lengthening the pattern, which has become my standard adjustment for the Archer, I didn’t change anything about the pattern. I used french seams throughout, like I do, and bias tape for the armholes. Otherwise, pretty standard. I mean, when you make a pattern over and over and overand over again you kind of…get the hang of it.
I could probably go a size or two down on this pattern, or bring it in at the side seams, but it’s been so nice in the heat of Mumbai to have stuff that just drifts off my body.
Man, I love that back ruffle. I never thought I would, but I’m so damn into it!
What’s-his-face really wanted me to take photos eating a peach. I don’t…really understand why, but hey, what is marriage but doing weird things your partner insists on and being photographed?
And that’s about it! Oh, the name is obviously a joke on mob movies, because I don’t sleep with the fishes, this is a day-time kind of shirt. Although, I wouldn’t mind fish pajamas….new mission? Accepted!
Isn’t it an awfully strange feeling to show someone someplace you love? Maybe everyone doesn’t have the same sense of place as personal, but I do, and I think I probably always have. My mother trained as an architect, and she renovated the house I lived in from the age of three months on, so I can say with honesty that I lived in a house my mom built. Space and its meaning and memory therefore have always had resonance for me. When I meet people who say they don’t care about where they live, I find it difficult to comprehend the words coming out of their mouths. Whatever space I’m in has always affected me deeply. When I was 22 and just out of college I lived in Spain for three months I lived in a tiny room with no windows. That was like a prison, and while Spain might be fun for many people, on some level it was difficult for me to enjoy my time there because the space I inhabited was so unbearable. But when I moved to Brooklyn, I moved into an amazing apartment, a place that felt cozy and comfortable and fit me well, and every day felt like an adventure, with a safe spot to return to at night. It’s not just where I live, though, it’s also places, and what they mean. Despite that apartment, Madrid will always be a place I long to return, because it’s streets are so gorgeous, it’s museums so glorious and bursting with art, it’s buildings so charming and enticing. Philadelphia, my hometown, will always fit me like a soft pair of jeans. And Puerto Rico will always feel like a sigh of relief, coupled with the anticipation of seeing something insane. It’s a rare place, a mix of comfort and crazy. Sharing it with people is wonderful, but also worrisome. What if they don’t like it? What if they don’t get it? It’s another house my mom made. Will they enjoy her, her style, her touch, her details? Will they love it the way I do? Why do they have to? I can’t help but get worried when I bring people. Luckily, Mr. Struggle loved it. Problem, solved. The thing is, though, I am in every way a creature of habit. It’s a difficult thing, I think, because people who I meet who are NOT that way tend to find it a curious quality, rather than a way of life. Especially Mr. Struggle. He is not as into the habits, and so the explanation of “this is what I do and therefore we should do it” doesn’t always, how shall I say, fly? So when we went down together, he wanted to do new things, things I hadn’t done there. This filled me with something like dread. NEW THINGS? DIFFERENT THINGS? What am I supposed to do with that? Well, a lot, as it turns out. Mr. Struggle is a smart guy. So now when we travel, even to a place I’ve been, I try to remember that there is new stuff out there, and I can make a new memory in an old place. This time, when enjoying San Juan, Mr. Struggle found a new bar, which is very much his style, and I have to say, it was an excellent discovery. The bar is called El Farolito, or The Lamplight, like the lantern on a lamppost, and it’s AMAZING. If you ever go to San Juan, go the hell there. Bourbon and Coconut water is a surprisingly stellar combination, and that’s the least of what they do. So this dress is named in honor of that bar, which was a surprise for me, something I usually abhor, but am learning to hate a little less. And this dress was a combination of two familiar patterns grafted together in a new way. So that’s something new too! So the bodice is my self-drafted bodice pattern, and the skirt is my all-time favorite, Simplicity 4529. Can’t stop, wont stop. This dress therefore between the bodice and the skirt has 26 darts. You read that correctly. 26. That’s a real thing. Enjoy that. God knows I didn’t when I made it…. The fabric I actually got for free from a friend and co-worker of my friend Liz, a seamstress and costume historian who was giving away huge amounts of fabric to make space in her apartment. GOD. BLESS. NEW. YORK. These tiny places really work out when you need free fabric! A little side view for you. Enjoy. That’s our green roof! A big thing my mom wanted to include with this property. It’s very cool. I love it a lot. The perfect place for these photo shoots which I force Mr. Struggle to do. Oh, I was out of matching zippers so I had to use a maroon one which you can JUST see in this photo. Enjoy that. A little bodice close up. How lovely is this print? I can’t honestly believe it was free. And so MUCH of it! Liz told me to make something and then give her the remainder, I can’t wait to see what she does! Ah, the view from our roof. See why I love it here? Yes it’s a little non-pristine and maybe slightly odd, but it’s also glorious with the sun and the clouds. Don’t you think? The “green” aspect of the green roof, complete with my father’s many solar lights. So there you are. Something familiar, and something new. All that’s missing is an amazing cocktail. And for that? You’d need to go to El Farolito.
I’m a firm believer in the fact that there are many kinds of sleep. I’m not a light sleeper, a fact that makes Mr. Struggle green with envy, as he is, and can often describe the many things that happened during the night including horrific storms, police sirens, and my own verbal mumblings (because apparently I’m talkative even in my sleep, who would have thought?) but I do sleep differently in different places on earth. I always sleep well, for example, if I’ve gotten to spend any amount of time in the ocean. Something about the waves helps soothe me and I drop right off, dreaming of the water. I never sleep well before a flight, no matter what time of day or night it is. And I usually enjoy sleep somehow less when I’m on vacation, because I often wake up with the troubling feeling that I’m missing something. Why do I travel if I’m just going to sleep the whole time? I always feel that if I sleep deeply and for a long time somewhere else it was a waste of a trip. I am aware that this might be a little neurotic, but hey, neurotic and I are old friends from way back.
That being said, I’ve had a stressful fall so far with many a night of less sleep than I would like, (which, by the way, is a lot of sleep, sleeping is the best, people who can live on four or five hours of sleep amazing me, I feel like they are the waking dead) so on our recent trip to Austin I was determined to be less worried about seeing all the sights (which I have in fact seen before, I’ve been to Austin) and allow myself to enjoy the deep sleep that only meals made entirely of smoked meat can give you. Letting the scent of brisket and the comfort of the south soothe me, I slept deeply in our lovely Airbnb, and woke each day refreshed. Why can’t I have that at home? I think I finally achieved this elusive Vacation Sleep so many have described to me, and while I do credit Texas with some of that, some of that might have been my new pajamas.
So I have made, and never documented, something like 10 Grainline PatternsTiny Pocket Tanks. I have never included the pocket. What can I say, I’m a rebel. I don’t know why I don’t blog about these, I guess because they seem so damn simple? Which I love, by the way, but somehow I feel weird talking about the stuff that is super duper easy for me to make, it’s like asking for a congratulations when I toast a piece of bread. Nevertheless, here we go, Tiny Pocket Tank. Love this pattern. Love it. But it IS awfully simple, so I decided to spice it up a bit for my vacation pajamas and used this tutorial to guide me. The result was perfect for warm nights in Austin, I’m not going to lie to you:
See, from the front it’s all normal blah whatever. BUT FROM THE BACK?
I’m kind of holding it in place here so my bra, which I wore just for these photos (I don’t sleep in a bra that’s weird) wouldn’t show. This split is VERY splity. I would make this less splity for daywear, real talk.
How do we feel, collectively, about the split-back top trend? I think I like it, but then sometimes I don’t. It’s like that friend you make in college who seems super fun and always finds the good booze at parties and makes you have ice cream for breakfast and wants to travel around Europe and be bohemian and challenge expectations but also will totally hook up with your ex-boyfriend and you forgive her a lot because she seems so cool and awesome with her bangles and her starfish tattoo which means regeneration or some crap but sometimes she leaves you feeling like there is something wrong with you for having feelings. You know that friend? This top might be that friend. I can’t tell.
That being said, it’s great to sleep in! I used a vintage pajama pant pattern for the shorts, I can’t remember the number I’m sorry but it’s a Simplicity from the 1960’s which I have altered beyond recognition.
The fabric I got on ebay a year ago, and as I’m trying to hold off buying anything new until November, I was happy to be able to use this.
This split back thing is, I must admit, rather brilliant when you are sleeping in a warm place. It’s airy without being too bare for me. So maybe that college friend IS good for something….
That’s how I feel after so much lovely sleep and, of course, excellent food! Plus, I dragged Mr. Struggle to an art museum, so, you know, perfect trip, really.
Back at home, Cadfael was overjoyed to see us. Can’t you tell?
I have two more summery posts, which is insanely lame, as it’s October and I’m ready to document cold-weather clothing. Never fear! That’s coming too.
As my friend and former co-worker (oh, I’m done at the costume shop! So sad, I will miss it so much) Martin once said to me, you’re, like, a cat lady but not, like, a sad one. Like, you just have one cat. And you love it, but not in a creepy way….little does he know! My love for my cat is deeply creepy. Deeply. This animal contributes nothing to my finances or my professional life and yet I prioritize him above most things. I wake up early to feed him because he screams at me. I order special food for him because he’s enormous and therefore on a grain-free diet (which is the closest either of us will ever get to Paleo). He has never read any of my writing, or been supportive of my internal struggles, and yet I assume he knows me deeply. Don’t you think that’s just a little creepy? In fact, don’t you think that animals, all of the ones we keep in our homes, have the better end of the deal on this domestication business? I personally think they all get together and have meetings and toast with catnip and dog treats and whatever it is that rabbits enjoy, to their long con deceiving and manipulating their human slaves. And whenever we start catching on they just become cuddly and loving and lure us in with their stupid wonderfulness! Damn them!
So I’m sorry, Martin, but clearly I AM that creepy person you assumed I wasn’t. Sigh. What can I do? I love my cat. I also love Ikat! (I know, I know, its that smooth transition you’ve come to expect from this here writer). I a m a big Ikat fan. Maybe because it has the word cat in it, sort of. Maybe because it’s just a beautiful fabric printing technique and it’s literally everywhere right now. Maybe because it makes me feel like I’m in a Bedouin tent but without the scorpions and lack of water. I don’t know. But I’m into it.
And so when what’s-his-face brought me fabric from India this winter, and one of the pieces was a sort of batik-Ikat hybid, I was understandably excited. I am not, by nature, all that into batik on me, though I admire the process and love it on other people, but this was a kind of tribute to both techniques, or looked that way to me,without the color gradiation of traditional batik. It’s actually one of my favorite pieces of fabric that I’ve been given, and usually that would me that I stare at it for years and lovingly stroke it and never actually do anything with it. (That is a true story, I have lots of fabric I bought years ago that I just take out and look at and then return to the box, unsure what to do with something I love so much.) But this time I decided to be brave, and jump, or cut, right in. And I have to say, I’m very pleased with the results, though I don’t think these photos make it look as nice as I think it is. Oh, well, what can you do? So check it out:
See what I mean about the fabric? Pretty gorgeous, right? A friend recently said it reminded her of the sea. And I do so adore the ocean…
For the pattern, I used a very altered vintage Simplicity 5355. The original pattern calls for gathers instead of darts at the waist, but I wanted darts, so I converted them to darts, and re-drafted the neckline to be a square. I also skipped the pencil skirt and made it a full pleated skirt. As you can see, I cut the skirt cross-grain, which I really love the look of, even if it’s unconventional. I used the sleeve pattern from the original pattern and pleated the shoulders very slightly to make them fit without gathering. This was a very anti-gathering process, I realize.
I’m a big fan of the square neckline, I realize. The bodice looks more form-fitting in person, but in general it’s a comfortable and not-over-tailored bodice. I lined just the bodice,but let the skirt go unlined, because summer in New York isn’t a good time for linings.
I hand-picked the zipper, and I didn’t hem the sleeves or skirt, because both were cut on the selvage! Sneaky sneaky seamstress…
Oh, my camera caught a little swish there! I took this by myself in my living room with my tripod, so there was a lot of setting the timer and running for the shot.
So there we go, a summer dress in a fabric I adore, an Ikat overlaid with a sort of batiking thing (I’m pretty sure that’s the technical textile term). I know I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this one, it’s comfortable, flattering (well, I think so! And Cadfael, my cat….is sleeping. He doesn’t care. Sob.) and easy to wear. I love summer and summer dresses but I hate anything that I have to adjust all the time. This fits the bill! So maybe I’m creepy, but at least I’m well dressed.
I am a big pajamas fan. I know this is a strange thing to love and enjoy, but I do. I love pajamas. I love making them. I love wearing them. I think at this point it’s actually something I have almost entirely replaced in my wardrobe with all self-makes, which I honestly cannot say about any other group of clothing I own. I have actually always really enjoyed pajamas, especially pajama sets, and as a younger person I demanded such things of my parents for Hanukkah year after year, which is how I ended up with a set with cow prints on it that I loved so very much I couldn’t stand it. My mother eventually convinced me to give it up when it had almost fallen to pieces, but that was a sad sad day for me. And for cows, obviously.
I particularly love vintage pajamas, or pajamas that look vintage. Not the little fluffy sets, but the actual full pajamas with collars and cuffs. And when we recently made a pajama set at work for a production of Marisol, I admired the silky seperates, and even felt sad when we had to scuff them and cover them in fake blood (it’s a strange play, go with it). So I thought I would make myself a pair of pajamas as a memorial to those fallen comrades. I picked up a vintage pajama pattern, McCalls 4201:
and got to work, basing my pair vaguely off of these Mad Men duds:
I actually have glasses like this but what’s his face hates them so they are rarely worn. Maybe if someone arranges for a home massage for me I will break them out again.
These are a bit looser then Joan’s, of course, but come on, I just don’t see the point of tailored pajamas. I might make the pants a little slimmer next time, but as it is, I’m very happy in these, and I slept wonderfully in them!
If you look at the pattern you can see there was originally a dart in these but I just let that go. I really don’t think bust shaping is going to help me sleep better.
The collar is nicely rounded, which makes it easy to turn:
It’s a little blurry but you get the idea. Also, I don’t did three buttons. PAJAMAS. ARE AWESOME.
The fabric is a kind of seersucker, which I don’t think you can see in these photos with little flowers on them. I got it from work. This was very much a work-inspired project, as you can see. The fabric is lovely and light-weight, and very comfortable, and I must say, this is extremely silly, but I kind of love feeling fashionably vintage even as I sleep. I swear I had sepia-tinted dreams. A
A little back view. See, the pants are baggy, which, well, they should be, but they could probably slim down a bit. Ah, well, next time. This was an easy and fun pattern, I can see myself making it again. Maybe with short sleeves and shorts for summer? That could be cute…oh, I am just filled with pajama plans!
I know, I’m not Joan. But at least I can sleep like she does now!