Tag Archives: Allison

The Hanoi Blues Dress

Another day, another shirtdress, am I right? But there is something about this form that gets me every time, and that is why I have made so many incarnations of the shirtdress, from vintage to modern, and I think I have finally figured out what exactly that thing is that I love so much.

It’s pretty simple, really. Shirtdresses make me feel put together.

See, the thing about that phrase is, and I really believe that, it is something that women with curly hair rather hear in regards to themselves. Growing up, when talking to or about other women, I heard this phrase for some of them over and over again. My friend Presca, in college, who had and still has great style. My friend Betsy, who I studied abroad with, ditto. My friend Becca, also great style. But I have lots of friends with style! I mean, I don’t want to brag or anything, but, um, my friends are great. And they certainly know how to “put themselves together”. I mean, I hardly ever see one of them losing a tooth or a finger or something, ya know, falling apart at the seams. So what separates “put together” with not put together? I would admit that when I was younger, especially before I started sewing, I didn’t have a defined idea of my style. So I get that, up to a point. But in the years since I’ve been sewing, I have certainly found an aesthetic that I think works for me, and given that I, well, put it all together, it surely has some sense of cohesion, of being “together”, doesn’t it?

And yet, I have never heard that phrase directed at me. And I have to say, I think it’s the hair. I think there is an association with straight hair as smooth, cared for, styled, that there is a thought process behind it and therefore it is put together. It makes women look like they have tried. Well, first of all, women have tried in eight million directions outside of hair, people, so that’s something right there, and why do women have to try, at all, god knows it rarely seems like some men do, and then there are the cultural and racial implications of who has “straight” hair and who doesn’t and what that is supposed to mean about us, containing our curls across cultures. And then of course, there is the act of having curly hair at all, which, I can assure you, also takes maintenance, moisture, and money, so the idea that curls springing from one’s head means someone didn’t put the time in is just…all kinds of idiotic.

But whatever the world thinks about my hair, and, screw everyone who DOES feel some kind of way about my hair, by the way, whoever you are, a shirtdress does make me feel put together, no matter that no one has every told me that my thought process is reflected in their own. The coherency of the design, the crisp collar, the extension of the shirt into a skirt, it all works for me, it makes me feel purposeful, assembled, in line with myself. Which is, I believe, all put together should really mean. Regardless of this straight hair conspiracy.

I like to take my shirtdresses with me on the road, and this one accompanied me to Vietnam where I traveled with my friends Ben, Jill, and Travis, who indulged me in a photo shoot at this Buddhist temple.

The fabric is the star here, because it’s this lovely blue that actually shifts in tone, an ombre, hombre. When I saw it I knew I loved it, and I knew I wanted to make a dress that when from lighter blue around my shoulders to deeper blue around the hem. That meant I had to cut it on the crossgrain, and I’m okay with that.

I used McCalls 7351, once again, as the bodice, and added my usual two waist darts at 1.5 inches each on size 16 to get more waist definition. For the skirt, I simple draped it myself AKA it is just some big box pleats. Everything that can be french seamed is french seamed, and I have made this dress many a time, so to quote Bigmouth, NO NOTES!

I enjoyed this temple. First of all, it was pretty, and a fun place to take photos because it gave my friends places to photo bomb me from:

Where is Jill? It’s so mysterious, I have to look off in the distance.

Second of all, it included helpful advice for how to live your life well now to avoid unpleasant karmic consequences in reincarnation:

The use of the lower back tattoo as “too much cleavage” is magnificent.

Apparently becoming a mental illness means playing in a rock band in a mental institution which actually feels like a great movie idea, but what do I know.

It really was quite pretty, though:

And we found some great spots for me to poise against, which is of course the only reason to see anything, right?

So there you go. Don’t I look put together?

 

Well, frankly, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks, right? It matters what I feel.  And in this, or any shirtdress, I feel put together as hell. 

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“Don’t go to the well, Peter, there’s no more water there”

People, sometimes being a planner can be a problem. I’m all about the plan, the inspiration board, the concept. I thought I had this Mad Men Challenge in the bag people. IN THE BAG. The best laid plans of mice and men. Am I right? AM I RIGHT?

Let me start by saying, I am a huge fan of the TV show. Just a really huge fan. I know there are people out there who are into it for the vintage style and the pretty ladies, and that’s all well and good. And I know there are people who don’t even like the show itself, and while I literally can’t understand that, I totally respect your right to not invest in the story. Hey, man, I couldn’t get past chapter 1 of The Hunger Games (but I swear I’m going to try again! It’s such a  disturbing concept…) and I don’t even watch The Wire! So I’m guilty of some stuff. When it comes to Mad Men, however, I am a fanatic. So if you don’t get some of the references and direct quotes coming up, just ignore them, that’s totally fine by me. But know this. They will be coming at you fast and furious. Get excited.

Let me first say that I knew from the very begining that I didn’t want to emulate Joan. Don’t get me wrong, I love Joan. I love Christina Hendricks! I loved her on Life! Remember Life? Great show. Sorry it was canceled. Damien Lewis, please feel free to CALL ME. But I didn’t want to go for Joan. SO mainstream. How can I express my true and complete fandom by dressing like the one character everyone knows? So I thought at first I was going to replicate something of Trudy Campbell’s. Not only does she have the same last name of one of the best people I know (talking to you, Lisa!), but I just adore her. Yes, she has gotten repeatedly screwed (on many levels, HEYo!) by Pete, and yes, she wears some insane hats. But I love her. Girlfriend is a treat. “This is America, you don’t just SHOOT the President!” Fact. Love her. But then I realized that because Trudy is so fashion-forward (read, trend obsessed) she rocks a lot of ensembles that don’t suit my personal taste. Okay, I thought, I have a near-encycolpedic knowledge of this show, let’s do this. I did love me some Helen Bishop! All progressive and pro-Kennedy despite her son Creepy Glen and her scandalous divorce. But she’s clearly an Autumn. And I’m a winter. That’s no good. Megan and I have simular coloring! But she’s a stick. And also more into the late 60’s aesthetic which frankly is abhorrent to me on so many levels. (Mod and I do NOT get along.) Allison is pretty! But she dressed pretty terribly, let’s admit that, shall we? Plus, she slept with Don and then freaked out and took it out on Peggy (and I’m very protective of Peggy) so I don’t want her life. Kitty is cute! But rather garish, though I do love her! And I don’t want to end up married to a gay man. Dr. Faye is super cute! But she’s a blond. That’s not happening.  And I’m not really into the boho thing going down with Madge (though I love me some Rosemary DeWitt). As a Jew and the decendent of department store owners, the Rachel Mempkin thing seemed a TOUCH on the nose, plus her best thing were her suits, which I don’t feel up to right this minute, or this amazing nightgown: Super practical. Where WOULDN’T I wear that? I loved this golden dress Bobbie Barrett wore, but I really have been trying to shop my stash and there is a curious lack of gold up in there: Besides, who wants to emulate Bobbie? Girl had issues. “The full Don Draper treatment”? Gross. I’m not going to discuss Betty and Peggy, because my mom already thinks I dress like a little girl, so those full skirts and florals aren’t going to do me any favors, and besides, I already have a ton of ’em.

So there I was. Sigh. I didn’t want to go there, I really didn’t, but in the end, I ended up with Joan. Still, if you have to end up with anyone as your inspiration, oughtn’t it to be the most gorgeous woman on television? With curves for days and some of the best most silkily delivered insults anyone has every heard? “The last thing I would have thought Paul was was open minded”. GOOD lord. “I’m not a solution to your problem. I’m just another problem.” JOAN. Be my friend, please. Thanks.

So I decided to try and emulate one of her outfits. No big deal, right? Of course not, easy peasy lemon squeezy. I wanted to use Simplicity 4558, which I had bought on Etsy. HOWEVER. When I took said pattern out to make a muslin, I had the shocking realization that this pattern is skirtless. I mean, I’m sure there was a skirt originally included but somehow I had bought the pattern without a skirt. No wonder it was so cheap….

Okay, I thought, I can use a skirt from so other source, no problem. Then I make the bodice muslin. And I just thought, no. This is not good. I do not like this. A. it needs a FBA (god, that’s just going to be my life, isn’t it? How did I get away with not doing them for TWO YEARS?) and B. I just didn’t love it! So what was I to do? Then, like manna from the heavens, I thought, the Pastille dress! I like the pattern, I’ve already adjusted it to fit my frame, I know how to make it, let’s do it! I ditched the pale pink and pulled out a hot magenta viscose I had bought at Mood Fabric all those months ago. It has a great drape and a nice hand (look at me, using fabric words!) and I thought it would be perfect in replicating that amazing magenta dress Joan wears. Of course, it’s a promo dress, I don’t think it ever made it onto the actual show, but you know what? I don’t even care. I DON’T EVEN CARE.

Ah, Joan, you help me stay calm.

So anyway, I’m almost done the bodice and then it’s skirt darts, attach skirt, install zipper and hem. I’ve made a few adjustments to the original pattern that I will outline later in more detail, but I’m just so thrilled to have something that I’m happy with and happy to be making and, hopefully, pays homage to one of my favorite things on television. And I watch a LOT of TV, folks, so that’s a stiff competition right there.

So, what’s going on with you? Are you a Mad Men fan, or do you just not get the hype? Did my Hunger Games confession concern you? I promise, I’m going to try again!

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Filed under Clothing, Colette Patterns, Inspiration, Sewing