Tag Archives: bodice block

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.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Sewing, Travel, Uncategorized

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.

3 Comments

Filed under Sewing, Travel, Uncategorized

The Red-y For Thirty Dress

Oh boy, thirty years. That just happened. #thirty

I don’t know that I had any special feelings about thirty. I mean, it’s a liminal point in many lives, I suppose, and I certainly viewed its approach with a certain amount of bemused trepidation, trying to figure out if I feared thirty, or just felt like I was supposed to. And had I done enough in my first thirty years on earth? I asked what’s-his-face but he said that I hadn’t done as much as the guys who created Snapchat so probably not. Thanks, guy. Super glad we got married three times. #couplegoals

So I had to, gasp, evaluate my own existence on my own, without aid. Ugh. So I thought about the things I have done, and the things I haven’t done, and all the ways I would like to make the world better, and all the things I’m lucky to have had and experienced, and then the list became too long and my head was spinning and I decided that perhaps, just perhaps, thirty years is just that, all that, and only that. Yes, I did not make snapchat. In fact, I do not actually know how snapchat works even though my friend Ben explained it to me in the Brooklyn Museum one time. #millennials

Here are six other things I didn’t do by my 30th birthday:

  1. I have yet to figure out what to do with my hair. I don’t have a hair dryer. I don’t know how they work. I mean, I understand the mechanics because I get how basic electronics function, but the closest I’ve come is using a rickshaw on the highway as a wind-tunnel cum hair dryer. #class
  2. I have never backpacked through Europe. Or Southeast Asia. Or anywhere. I do not own a large backpack. I own a small one that whats-his-face made me buy and I hate wearing it because I feel like I look like a 7-year-old. #backpack
  3. I have never seen the wire. I am not going to see the wire. Stop telling me I need to see the wire. Oh, and I don’t like Tarantino films, and that’s not because I don’t “get them”, I get them. I don’t like them. That is a fair and legitimate thing to feel. You are allowed to just not like stuff. That’s not a comment on its quality, or my intelligence. #thewire
  4. I have never learned to enjoy grapefruit juice. Or okra. Or tripe. Is there a point when your palette stops evolving? #thebigquestions
  5. I have never understood how to keep my voice down. I just don’t here it. It’s loud. I project. Blame my theater training. #volume
  6. I have not won an Oscar. Or a Tony. Or a Pulitzer. YET. #futureme

Here are six things, however, that I HAVE done already in my life:

  1. I learned to sew, cook, knit, read a map, fold my laundry, figure out basic plumbing and keep plants alive and thriving. I can spatchcock a chicken, I can debone a fish, I can putty a wall, I can help a seed to grow, I can make my own wardrobe, I can build a bench,I can give a cat a home and all the love in my heart. #skills
  2. I have traveled, with a bag that is on wheels, by myself and with other people, to stand in a room with three Vermeer paintings in the Hague, to toast strangers with vodka in St. Petersburg, to dance until 5am in Buenos Aires, to the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal. #global
  3. I have seen 30 Rock and Mad Men both from pilot to finale twice. And also like a billion plays, and a bunch of movies, WITH subtitles, and so much television like Fleabag, Glow, The Good Wife, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Insecure, Blackadder, Yes Minister, Yes Prime Minister, Are You Being Served, Fawlty Towers, Gilmore Girls, Parks and Recreation, Better Off Ted, Arrested Development, Nashville, Hart of Dixie (NO REGRETS), Better Call Saul, Sherlock, Poirot, Miss Marple, Grantchester, Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, Doctor Blake, Miss Fisher, Murdoch Mysteries, Death in Paradise, Seinfield, New Girl, Bob’s Burgers, Archer, Law and Order (ALL OF THEM), True Detective (YES REGRETS), Lovesick (formerly scrotal recall), Gavin and Stacey, Claws (IT IS SO GOOD WATCH IT MY FRIEND JEFF WROTE IT ALONG WITH OTHER PEOPLE), The Mick, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia…..  #accomplishments
  4. I have learned to accept gin as a part of life. #colonialism
  5. I have learned to be okay with my voice. And my hair. And my body, like, once a month. Maybe. #selflove
  6. I have sold a novel. And my friends who are amazing produced my play.  And I married my writing partner which is the best thing I could have ever done, because what’s-his-face and I have all sorts of plans. #blessed

And here are some things I want to do:

  1. I want to see more places. #go
  2. I want to learn more things. #do
  3. I want to write more, and do more, and love just as much. #yes

 

And here is a dress I made:

I used my trusty bodice block and obviously modified it for this very-unIndia friendly dress.

I mean, the fabric COMES from India, but the cleavage is basically A Fistful of Dollars it’s so Western. GET IT?

I took the sleeves from the Grainline Scout Tee and draped the skirt myself. The fabric is a subtle ikat from Thakur, and I have already made my feelings clear about Ikat sooooo….

And yes, pockets, obviously, you know the drill. I made what’s his face take these photos in this very cool hotel we stayed in recently in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

POCKETS FOREVER.

I finished the neckline with bias tape and french seamed the other seams. LIKE YOU DO.

And there you go. Red, and Red-y.

So maybe I’m okay at thirty. Maybe I am whatever I could have been. Despite the lack of snapchats to sell.

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Life, Sewing

Rainy Day Ikat Dress

One of the many things I’ve fallen deeply in love with from a textile perspective since I’ve started spending time in India has been ikat. Of course, I did love ikat before, and a search through my blog archives might reveal a post or two in praise of this weaving technique. But being so close to so many wonderful ikats has only nurtured my affection. It’s like, before, it was an interest, right? Like we were flirting, we’d say hi at the gym or whatever, I’d creep on ikat a little at the farmer’s market, try to think of cute weaving puns, google ikat and pretend I hadn’t, But you know, it was just a passing thing, one of the many fabrics I might potentially see a future with. Now, though, it’s a little more serious. I mean, it’s not marriage or anything, but we might be dating on the regular, you know? Obviously I’m not a one-fabric woman, gotta keep it fresh, but ikat might be moving into a regular part of the rotation.

So when I spent last Sunday with my friend Sarah who is visiting from the States going from Chor Bazaar, an antique/flea market in Mumbai which shares space with countless electronics second-hand stores and auto parts resellers, so that you end up pondering priceless antiques from all over India in the shade of twelve car body frames stacked high, to the CSMVS Museum, I decided that all that moving around deserved my crush-turned-casual dating fabric, ikat. Specifically this recent make:

Sarah graciously agreed to take photos of me after our whirlwind day scouring through antique stores to score her the perfect souvenirs to take home with her. While many like the handicrafts or the bangles, Sarah was looking for someone unique, so we evaluated brass door handles, wooden shutters and clay figures trying to find her the perfect gifts to others, and herself. Chor Bazaar is one of my favorite places in Mumbai to take visitors, but it’s not for the faint of heart or stomach, and it’s a ways away from my own neighborhood, so I don’t end up going all that often. South Bombay is like Manhattan when you live in Brooklyn, if you don’t HAVE to go it’s like, ugh, why bother. But it’s of course actually quite excellent and trekking down has many rewards.

Here I am, in front of the museum, which used to be the Prince of Wales Museum, but, like so many things in Bombay, has had its name changed to reflect an Indian future, rather than a colonial past. It’s now the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, say that five times fast, but if you ask a cab driver to take you to the Prince of Wales Museum, they know where to go. In many ways the museum itself, one of India’s finest, reflected the antique market we had just come from, jumbled items with few explanations, an assortment of bewildering goods that have no relationship to each other, in a fascinating place. Sigh.

But at least I looked cute! This fabric came from Kolkata, and when I got back from my last trip there I quickly whipped up this dress, which I’ve worn more than once before I conned Sarah into photographing it.The pattern is my bodice block, to which I added sleeves from the Grainline Studio Scout Tee, a genius move if I do say so myself, they fit perfectly and are great. I made this one a little bigger to give it a loose fit, although I usually belt it so you can’t really tell here. It’s deeply comfortable, and just the thing for rainy Bombay days, of which there are many right now, in the monsoon. My shoes here are legit made of rubber.

I gathered the skirt and of course I have pockets. This was deeply simple to put together, but I appreciate the celebration of ikat!

 

I cut the bodice on the cross-grain to have some fun with the ikat’s stripe pattern.

This dress was very motivational as we went from this:

To this:

And regardless of the rain, my dress was up to the task. Sarah declared Chor Bazaar to be one of her favorite things in Bombay too, so victory all around! More monsoon outfits to follow, I promise. They might be a bit damp, but I’m still making them!

2 Comments

Filed under Clothing, Self Drafted, Sewing

The Recipe For Disaster Dress

It is excellent advice, in a sea of far too much advice, that Polonious gives to his son, Laertes: To thine own self be true. Of course, it comes with a bunch of other stuff around it that is questionable, I mean, neither borrower nor lender be? I think the banking industry would have some issues with that one. Do not dull thy palm with entertainment/ Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade? That’s basically telling him to never make a new friend. Don’t you want your kid to have FRIENDS, Polonius? Jesus. But the worst one for me is probably: give thy thoughts no tongue, which is just….I mean. That’s pretty much, like, my entire personality and career. So THANKS, Polonious, for that nugget of wisdom. But the last thing he says, the be true to yourself thing, is pretty good, and often quoted by many, and we all like it, right? It’s very new-agey for an Elizabethan writer. You can just imagine the teenagers who went and saw Hamlet at the globe and then came home and were like MOM I’m not GETTING married or getting APPRENTICED or ANYTHING. I’m becoming a LUTE PLAYER because that’s who I really AM. I’m being true to ME. It’s a wonder that play wasn’t banned, I swear.

But the point is, you SHOULD be true to yourself, really, I do believe that, and that starts with knowing yourself. But that said, I do sometimes make things that, despite real and sincere efforts towards self-knowledge as an adult human, have nothing to do with me and my life. I mean, I’m the kind of person who should wear a bib at leas 75% of the time, because I am klutzy in the extreme, prone to spilling, dripping, splattering and dropping anything and everything on myself within mere minutes of donning a light-colored ensemble. And yet, for some reason, my clothing for the past few months has been trending towards a color I should really avoid, purely because I rarely treat it well. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about white. White, whose pure expanse I ruin with coffee, sauces, dirt, lipstick, you name it, I’ve done it. There isn’t a white I own that I haven’t spilled something on. Truly I, like Laertes, ought to be true to myself, shouldn’t I? I should be true to the me that spills and wear clothing made out of whatever fabric those absorbent Dockers are made of, honestly, because that would probably be the best bet. Or some kind of laminated fabric, raincoat material. Or all black, all the time.

But for whatever reason, it seems that I have had a growing attraction to said color this year. I’ve been flirting with all white dresses this year by making a bunch of things like this, and this, and this, that aren’t all white but are MOSTLY to 50% white. But this time? I went all the way. WHY? Why did I do this? When I put this dress on, what’s-his-face was like, are you sure you want to wear that? We are going to lunch and you….and then he discreetly trailed off. He blamed Indian food, which he said has the propensity to stain. Yeah. Sure. The FOOD is the problem.

I ditched this number for the lunch, but put it back on again for a friend’s birthday, and of course I spilled on it, and life went on. The truth is, I like white, and I spill on everything, and I just have to accept that. Perhaps THAT is being to mine own self true.

Enough with the philosophy! To the dress:

I used my typical bodice block, which I wanted to be a bit loose because I knew it would have to fit over a slip, so I added two inches at the side seams, and I pleated up a skirt. Pockets, natch, self-drafted sleeves that are a bit floofier than I had wanted but they’ve grown on me, and that is about it, honestly.

Love a pocket! Don’t you?

See, a little self-conscious of the floofy sleeves. But the pleats look nice in this one! The fabric is really the star here, I believe:

I love the vertical pattern of the eyelet, I think it makes it less cutesy, although this is still solidly in the cutesy category, and more clean. I got it at Thakur, of course, my new favorite.

I would say, stains aside, white is quite nice in the Mumbai heat.

Side view for ya.

And back!

So there you have it. A dress that would probably be better for someone who isn’t me, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Maybe that’s the real problem with Polonious’ advice, that one’s own self is sometimes a bit of a conundrum, confusing even to the self that one is. Ah, well. For as long as I have this dress and don’t stain it irrevocably, I like it!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Clothing, Sewing

The Proud To Be Paisley Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

img_20160911_161515

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

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

img_20160911_161525-animation

 

I put in pockets! Duh.

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

img_20160911_161504

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

img_20160911_161541

A little back view for you.

And a little close up!

close-up

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

img_20160911_161524

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

img_20160911_161504-animation

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

 

7 Comments

Filed under Self Drafted, Sewing

The Somewhere Columbus is Happy and Doesn’t Know Why Dress

I am sure you, like most people who went to kindergarten, know, that the whole Indians-Native Americans thing exists and is such a damn mess because of Spanish explorers like Christopher Columbus and Portuguese explorers whose names no one remembers after that 11th grade final history exam. Geographically challenged explorers trying to get their hands on some pepper just assumed that the people they met in the New World must be Indians, despite the fact that I’m sure those guys tried to explain that these were NOT THE SAME PEPPERS, IDIOTS. Ugh. Translation issues, am I right? Tower of Babel indeed.

Peter Bruegel the Elder's Tower of Babel. Where all the trouble began....

Peter Bruegel the Elder’s Tower of Babel. Where all the trouble began….

Sidenote, how boring must food have been before the spice trade kicked in? My friend Ben and I (hi, Ben!) were wandering the Brooklyn Museum the other day in the Egyptian wing (I recently visited the States, more on that in a moment, GOD I’ve missed museums, like, really good museums, come on, Indian museums, step it up!)  and we were talking about pre-sugar societies. I think I could do a pre-sugar society, but pre-salt, no way to the Jose. What is life without salt? I’ve read the Grimm tale but it turns out it’s a universal one, check out this Punjabi story on the same theme.  But pre-spice society also sounds fairly lame. No wonder hundreds of Portuguese guys killed themselves trying to navigate the Cape of Good Hope trying to get to that Indian pepper, that ginger, the cardamom, those cloves. In medieval Europe spice stores were locked up and specially opened for feasts. Princesses came to their new households with dowry boxes full of spices as well as gold and silks. Spices changed the world, and if you don’t believe me, you can read about it in this, one of my favorite books on the subject.

So it’s not so surprising that the early Europeans who came to a place like Puerto Rico would have wanted it to be India, because, duh, spices, but it is sort of surprising that when they discovered it WASN’T India they didn’t, I don’t know, find another name for the natives. Oh, well, I guess they didn’t care because they were too depressed about the lack of pepper or too amazed by the taste of peppers. One of those two. So the word in Spanish, indio, still means native person, for no reason anyone can tell, and the West Indies are still a thing, despite the fact that literally the entire New World could be characterized as West of India.

So, end of the day, the Spanish didn’t get to bring any Indian stuff back from Puerto Rico. But I did get to BRING some Indian stuff to Puerto Rico this past March, when I got a chance to stop by San Juan during my trip back to the United States. So, there you go. It’s the circle of life. I really should have gotten some peppercorns to sprinkle around, like you do with malt liquor when a fellow gang-member dies. Instead, I just brought a pretty (if I do say so myself) block printed dress. Ah, well. Close enough, right? If those guys couldn’t figure out that Latin America isn’t India, they probably would buy that this dress was an exotic kind of pepper…

IMG_20160319_172443

So, I used my handy bodice block for this one, and I have to say, I think the darts actually did something really cool with these lines of darts on this fabric, I love it! Totally unintentional, but I’m going to pretend it was my idea all along. Natch.

IMG_20160319_172550

See? It warps the lines of printing around my (not unsubstantial) bosom, giving it a cool look. I tried to do a split neck thing here but it instead keeps flapping open, grrrrrr. The lining I used, which the smiling men at the fabric stall not too far from my apartment in Mumbai ASSURED me was 100% cotton and is probably like, 10% cotton 80% polyester 10 % LIES, is really light and drapy, so I probably should have interfaced around that slit. Oh WELL. I can live with it. Sigh.

IMG_20160319_172640

 

I drafted the skirt, in that I cut large rectangles and pleated them in large box pleats. Does that count as drafting? I’m going to say no, it’s too fancy a word for what is essentially some fabric folding.

IMG_20160319_172655

Yeah, I put in pockets. #Stayingonbrand.

IMG_20160319_172524

A little back view for you.

IMG_20160319_172512

The fabric is a block print from Rajasthan which I bought in Kolkata. That might sound confusing to you, but go with it. India has large government emporiums where they sell goods from each state at prices subsidized by the government so they are cheap and amazing, and a lot of those goods are, shall we say, of the textile variety? So this fabric came from one of those markets in Kolkata, but it is a Rajasthani bock print, nonetheless. It’s fairly different from the more traditional prints, which is what attracted me to it. That and the color. I should just live my life in this color, I’m telling you.

IMG_20160319_172803

Ug, that neck split. WHATEVER. I’m moving on with my life! I’m not going to dwell like the Spanish Empire did! If there is one thing I promised my self I wouldn’t do with my life, it was become like the Spanish Empire.

IMG_20160319_165008

A little hand stitching on the hem. I also hand-picked the zipper. I’m back to doing that. After a brief foray with the machine stitching, I’ve returned to my one true love, the hand stitched zipper.

IMG_20160319_172646

Neck split aside, I love this dress. It’s colorful, cheerful, and it mentions India without screaming it out. Much as the Spanish probably did when they saw Puerto Rico. Idiotas!

IMG_20160319_170625

Here’s to you, Cristobal. Sorry about the pepper. Enjoy the peppers. I will be enjoying this:

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Sewing, Travel