Tag Archives: bodice block

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!

 

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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.

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

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

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I put in pockets! Duh.

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

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

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A little back view for you.

And a little close up!

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

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

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

 

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Filed under Self Drafted, Sewing

The 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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Yeah, I put in pockets. #Stayingonbrand.

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A little back view for you.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

 

 

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The Worth The Wait Dress

This is the first thing I ever made when I came to India, and it is sort of strange and wonderful and awful that I haven’t blogged it before now. But the thing about this dress is, it is probably also my favorite thing that I’ve made here to date, and I’ve worn it so many times and thought about photographing it So. Many. Times. that it in some strange way makes sense that I never took a moment to photograph it before because I was too busy loving it to get a moment to document it. I have seriously worn this dress in all kinds of circumstances, in several Indian cities, all over Mumbai, and now, finally, in Udaipur, the most romantic of Indian cities, which I recently visited (i.e. returned from today) with my friend, Emily. We had a very romantic time in Udaipur, although people did ask me where my husband was, but I mentioned that such a thing would be wasted on him….

Isn’t is amazing how the garments that are most useful to you end up being the very last that you document and share with the world? I have put this dress on so many times and told myself I was going to get photos of it and every time that has been a huge fail. The very evening I finished it I was all set to go out in it, and then our plans got cancelled, we ended up in with wine and netflix, and that was the first time of many that the documentation of this dress was a dream deferred. I wore this to work, to be the hospitality official for a Bollywood celebration event (don’t ask, I can’t even deal with my life here sometimes), out to a birthday party in Kolkata, to my friend’s literary panel in Bangalore, and now, strolling the streets of Udaipur. This dress gets around.

Maxi-dresses were never really my thing, but I have to say, it’s a really useful thing to have here in India. If you are planning a trip to India, let me recommend the maxi-dress. Maxi-dresses are extremely useful here, they keep you cool and comfortable and you still subscribe to Indian modesty standards, limiting and arbitrary as they are. I personally am not a huge fan of the way that some clothing traditions restrict women and not men, especially when they have no cultural or religious injunction and are a modern invention that has had an imagined social history established as part of a national myth, but you should check out my other blog for my more articulate feelings on THAT subject. Nevertheless, I live in India, and however else I feel, I still want to adapt. Maxi-dresses are a helpful way to do that. They work really well in a rickshaw, which is good, because the open-air of the experience along with the bumps in the road make you happy you have covered your lower body and don’t have to think about anything. Except how awesome this looks! Check it out:

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As maxi-dresses go, I happen to think this one is aces. And I finally got a chance to take photos of it, courtesy of Emily! Thanks, Emily! And the setting couldn’t be more perfect. Thanks, Udaipur!

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As I said, this was the first thing I made when I got here. I found the fabric quite near to my apartment between Santacruz West, where we live, and Bandra, a super hip neighborhood. I was going to meet my friend Natasha, hi, Natasha! for lunch, when she texted that she would be late, a common ailment in Mumbai because of the traffic. I took a moment to explore the neighborhood around the place we were to meet, and found Sew In Style, a fabric store along the way.

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I picked up this Ikat fabric, and cut out a maxi dress from it, employing a little strategy mixing directions along with my bodice block for the bodice. I wanted a slightly looser style, so I added a larger seam allowance than usual, and I finished everything with bias tape instead of lining it. Very Mumbai weather friendly…

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I drafted the skirt, whose large box pleats do not seem that evident in these photos, and it’s turned out quite well. The hem is a little narrow for the strenuous activity I have performed in this dress, but what can you do? Sometimes you buy fabric first, realize what you need later, it is what it is. And I sort of like lifting up the skirts of this dress as I climb up large temple stairs and pitch myself over obstacles. I feel downright historical.

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A little back view for you, with the skirt in a very bell-like situation.

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A little close up of the bodice, slightly obstructed by my hair, for which I will blame Udaipur. Udaipur, which is a small city in Rajasthan, is simply gorgeous, and on a small lake.

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Everything in this town is about the lake, the views, the sunset over it, the palace near it, etc. It’s great.

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But the wind is also…a thing .

Also, we realized I had been standing in front of an amazing royal marble bench that whole time and not even used it! A fatal crime, am I right? I had to deal with that.

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My best possible Maharani pose. I think I do the Mewar dynasty fairly proud, don’t I?

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Okay, I couldn’t keep it up for long. But what can I say, I’m just a girl in a maxi-dress, making life work for me as best as possible. I am so glad I finally blogged about this dress, though. Of all the places I wore it, this was the best, view-wise. Well worth the wait, I say. For the first dress I made in my new home, I knew something special was in order. Thanks, Udaipur. You, like this dress, were worth the wait.

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The Market to Market Dress

I’ve made a lot of things so far here, and then the old problem of documenting them begins again.  But my New Year’s resolution is to post at least once a week, so let’s see if I can keep that, shall we?

I almost named this dress the Mangladas Market dress, but I didn’t, for reasons which will soon become abundantly clear.

Guys, you’ve probably never hear this before but India is an amazing place for fabric. I KNOW. I KNOW. It’s madness. I’m blowing your mind here. The thing is, before I moved here I had a very limited idea of what Indian fabric really looked like. We get a certain idea of a certain kind of fabric in the States, but that’s actually just a small fraction of the options. My Indian fabric education has only just begun.

Before I moved to India, I had a very specific idea of what fabric from India looked like. Once I moved here, I realized that I wasn’t wrong, per se, but I was limited. India is a land of major fabric production, and there is no one way to make fabric here, there are a thousand, and that’s just in one city. From North to South, East to West, the range of how fabric looks is wildly divergent. There are, of course, similarities, the material base is limited, mostly cottons and silks with wools in the far North, but the history of weaving in India dates back thousands of years, older than most other world civilizations. The Indus River Valley excavations show evidence of woven cloth and even some proof there was trade between China, India and the Middle East over 5000 years ago, which is fairly nuts, if you think about the fact that even today, Indian cotton production creates the most sought after products in the world.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a chance to visit the block printing museum in Amber (post to follow) and learned more about the printing techniques of the Northwest, which make up a lot of what I once thought Indian fabric looked like. The prints from Rajasthan come in many colors and shapes, but they are what I once believed the majority of Indian fabrics were, and I still have a huge adoration for them, despite all the others I’ve discovered. Recently, on a trip to Kolkata, I visited Dakshinapan Market, which I would recommend for any visitors to the city. It’s a huge government emporium, which means the prices are subsidized, and you can see goods and fabrics from all over the country. It was in Dakshinapan where I realized what came from where, what fabrics came from which part of the country. Although I gloried over the Bengali muslins, their high (and well deserved) price points made me sorrowfully put them aside in favor of other, cheaper, cloth. And luckily for me, I found some gems.

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I wore this dress for the first time fabric shopping with my friend Natasha (hi, Natasha!) In Mangaldas Market, which is where I would recommend anyone go fabric shopping if the come to Mumbai. Hence the name. From one market to another, the fabric works.

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Mangaldas is a little bonkers, but it’s fun, and filled with magnificent finds and amazing prices.

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My favorite fabric store is Rinkoo Fabrics.

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They are the damn best, with amazing options and tons of cool Japanese prints, which I can’t find otherwise.MTM8

Stores are divided between mens shirtings and suitings and womens stuff, but you can find amazing things at both.

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I felt super cool wearing the fabric from one market at another. I made this out of my bodice block, with a gathered skirt and pockets. I cut the border off the side and added it to the bottom (side note, I do not understand the border printing on a lot of Rajasthani fabrics.)

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A little back view for you.

MTM4This is what happens when you try to take photos in Mumbai. It’s a fun place to live.

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I may fall in love with a lot of Indian fabrics. I sort of already have. But I don’t think I will ever stop loving these Rajasthani prints. How could I? How could anyone?

Happy New Year, everyone! All my best for the year ahead!

Thanks for the photos, Natasha!

 

 

 

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The Make It Work Dress

As surprising as it seems, I have never seen Project Runway. Yes, I know, its about sewing. Yes, I know I sew. No, I don’t care. I’ve never seen The Wire, either. I’ve also never seen The Real World or The Jersey Shore. We’ve all got our stuff, okay? Have you seen every episode of Pushing Daisies? Or been to China? No? I’ve done both of those things. So shut up. The point is, even though I’ve never seen the show, I’m aware of it, and of Tim Gunn’s famous phrase, “make it work”, which, given that I have no context for it, I assume is in reference to people making something work. In terms of clothing. That’s logical, right?

So recently I was in a situation where, in fact, I couldn’t make what I was making work. Now, normally, who cares, right? It’s a bummer but life, she goes on. But this particular dress was for my friend Becca’s wedding. Now, I understand realistically no one cares what I’m wearing to this wedding, because I am not the person in white, but nevertheless, I love Becca, I didn’t want to look terrible, and besides, I have a reputation to uphold! People expect things of me and my sewing machine! I had to make it work!

So, despite the late hour and an early morning of teaching 9 year olds how to sew the next day, I cut and stitched a new dress. Because being exhausted is a great way to deal with 8 small girls and their incessant and well-considered questions that I have no idea how to answer, despite knowing how to sew. (This is interesting, how is it that you can do something but have real trouble explaining how things work to a beginner? I will be honest, I have totally resorted to, it just works, okay? when getting a hard question about stitching.) But I simply had to make it work. The wedding demanded a new dress! (Literally no one demanded this. I did all of this to myself.) And you know what? For something that I threw together, I completely love this dress!

MIW 1Turned out nice, right? I grabbed my bodice block, gathered the skirt, lined the bodice in a blue silk taffeta I got for free from a dressmaker looking to unload her stock. (THANK YOU!). The fabric comes from India via Mr. Struggle, and it has a lovely sheen to it, which I thought might make this appropriate for this black-tie-optional affair. The fabric is actually quite quite lovely, and I got scores of compliments on this dress to prove it. Well done, Mr. Struggle!

MIW 2Yes, I had to admit that he did something well. Yes, it hurt.

MIW 4I joke, I joke, he’s wonderful. The neckline of the dress turned out to be an excellent frame for the truly gorgeous necklace my new in-laws gave me to celebrate our marriage. It was a very India-centric outfit, as it turns out, which was of course totally appropriate for a Brooklyn wedding. The ceremony was truly lovely, and the girl in the white dress looked insanely gorgeous, not to mention happy. Hmmm, I wonder why?

MIW 6I didn’t get any amazing back shots but that’s okay, life goes on.

MIW 5 Oh, those shoes. So cute. So painful at the end of the night. How do women wear stilettos? These are thick chunky 1940’s style pumps and they still made my feet bleed. Thank goodness I picked a profession when I spend most of my time in my pajamas writing barefoot on the couch.

MIW 7After the disaster that was the first attempt to make something for this wedding (slippery silk did not participate or play well with others) this was super fast and basic, I’ve made this pattern many times before and there are no surprises, just lots of darts. I altered the neckline a bit but otherwise, boom. Nothing crazy. The only crazy part was ME.

MIW 3Jenny, my friend who took these lovely photos after the ceremony (so I’m smiling really hard to hide the fact that I’ve just been sobbing, weddings are emotional!) taught me this pageant pose which makes your waist look tiny. Thank you, Jenny! I will forever be grateful.

It was just a lovely wedding, and I was so happy to be there, to celebrate with my friends, and, of course, have a new dress, the most important part. Sometimes, regardless of your desire for sleep, you just need to make it work. Becca likes Project Runway, so I knew she would approve. Congratulations to an amazing couple, and stay tuned for an upcoming post on the dress I made to ANOTHER wedding of another amazing pair! I promise I will stop making party dresses, guys, for real. After all, it’s fall soon, right? Back to wools and heavy knits and pants! But first, a little more icing, cool? Get excited.

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The Elephants See Manhattan Dress

One night thing about sewing is that you can always make yourself a new outfit for an occasion. This is also a very dangerous thing about sewing, because you can just make new things all the time, so your wardrobe can become populated with dresses themed to specific events and therefore limited in their use, and also, if people know you sew, because you’re like me and you proudly declare it to every damn person that you meet who doesn’t really care about your weird hobby but is just trying to buy some coffee so great, thanks, bye, then people start asking you if what you are wearing is a new outfit and then you feel some kind of compulsion to make something new for every occasion and then even more stuff finds its way into your closet but your life in New York, a land where closets are an endangered species, so you end up getting rid of a lot of stuff all the time which is why you might someday see a homeless person wearing a dress I made. And thus, the cycle of life continues.

As discussed in posts from previous years, I really love my birthday. But this year, I suppose, my birthday and I hit a bit of a rough patch. We’re dealing with it, we’re talking it out, we’re getting to a good place, I have every hope for the future, but honestly, this year? My birthday was basically cancelled. I had big plans to make a new dress, have drinks with all my friends, enjoy the evening in the company of people I love and wine that loves me back, and yet, it was not to be. I caught an awful and debilitating summer cold, which arrived in my chest and spent several days there, before deciding it wanted to see more of the world and traveling up to my head. This cold, a sociable fellow, called it’s business associate, a fever, over for tea, and the two of them kept me company instead of all my friends. It’s always nice to meet new people, but this was outside of enough. When the two finally departed and I was back to feeling like my normal, unoccupied by illness self, I had already cancelled my birthday plans and honestly, it just seemed silly and after-the-fact to try to do anything else. So there you go. No birthday for me. I didn’t even get to finish my birthday dress! The biggest tragedy of all.

But, on the upside, I was lucky enough to have another event on the horizon that was dress-friendly and worth something special, and that was my friend Becca’s bachelorette extravaganza. So I figured, no one had to know that this was a birthday dress, right? Except…all of you. Who I am telling right now. Oh, well…

As the day included a variety of activities, from mimosas and wine-glass decorating to trivia games to dinner to 80’s tribute dance party, the dress had to include comfort, style, and pockets. And you know what? I think it does!

ESM 2.jpg

And, happy bonus, elephants. And of the many things Becca and I both love, elephants are very much among them. Elephants are amazing, the most precious and perfect of pachyderm. Sorry, rhinos and hippos! Rhinos, you are basically dinosaurs, and hippos, you look really cute but you are mean. Elephants are gorgeous creatures and so astounding. Their trunks have over 40,000 separate muscles, and that’s just the beginning of the amazingness of their trunks along. Find out more here. And their babies? Are the damn cutest. Look. Look at this. Come on:

and look at this:

They are wonderful animals and yet they are abused and slaughtered all over the world. There are many amazing charities to support elephants, and I like this one a lot, if you are interested.

At any rate, the elephants on my dress enjoyed adventures in Manhattan to celebrate the end of Becca’s non-married life. But before all that, I had a chance to force my friend Jenny, who was in town for the event, to snap some photos. The best part was that the last time I got to see Jenny was her OWN wedding, where she and Becca and our friend Lisa and I enjoyed the event and the chance to have a reunion. Seeing all these amazing women in the same room again for the first time in two years made me happier than an elephant in a mud pit.

Which is really very happy. I can assure you.

ESM 3.jpgThis fabric, while appearing Indian in nature, is actually faux-Indian, or Findian, which is a new word I’ve recently invented and feel I might be using a lot in my life. (Mr. Struggle is Indian, for those who hadn’t picked up on the clues.) I actually bought this fabric three years ago at the Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet, aka one of my favorite places on earth. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, but I loved it, and I bought it, and I buried it in boxes and storage containers over several moves and cycles of warm weather, loving it, taking it out and touching it, thinking about it, and then putting it away again, unused. But this year, I was ready, and I think I used it well, if I do say so myself.

ESM 4.jpgI used my trusty bodice block. God, that thing. I cannot thank my friend Liz, who drafted it with me, enough for this. It had changed my life. I altered the bodice to be a square lower neckline and sheared a little off the back bodice pieces at the neck to make it almost a boatneck on the back.

ESM 5.jpgYou can’t really see that here. Sorry. But I loved this photo, Jenny kept making me cry with laughter as she directed me like a fashion photographer and told me to pop the leg. Vogue should hire her. It’s a shame she wants to be a doctor, sigh, she’s really missing her calling.

ESM 6.jpgThe skirt was just a gathered rectangle. Or rather, three gathered rectangles, as there had to be seams to accommodate the pockets. I used a vintage metal zipper I had in my stash, in a nice teal color. I hand-picked the zipper and hand-stitched the hem. Otherwise this was very simple to put together. Other than the 16 darts in the bodice, 8 in the elephant fabric, 8 in the lining, it all goes very fast. Or it would, if I hadn’t gotten that cold in the middle. Sigh. Clearly this dress wanted to be used for a higher purpose then my birthday.

ESM 7.jpgPockets like these are really good for holding your phone during 80’s night and having it handy for quick photo opportunities of the bride-to-be in all her drunk dancing glory.

ESM 8.jpgA little close up of the fabric for you. How cute are those elephants? Another friend there, Kira, wore elephant earrings. Clearly it was an elephant kind of day.

ESM 1.jpgI can assure you that this dress, of the many I’ve made, is guaranteed to be a frequent flyer in my wardrobe. The elephants would protest, otherwise. And they would be correct in doing so. They deserve to see the world, don’t they?

 

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