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The If One Can Toucan Dress

Ah, the well fitting woven wrap dress, a creature not unlike the Yeti, in that it is often discussed, frequently mythologized, and almost impossible to find, at least, if you have something going on up top.

You see, I love a wrap dress, I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I love it because its fun, it makes you feel like you are going out dancing in the 1970’s, but, thank goodness, you aren’t, not if you don’t want to be doing so. But the downside of the wrap is the neckline, an ever-shifting proposition that highlights slim sternums and reveals generous busts alike. I have made a certain amount of peace with my generous bust, but that doesn’t mean I want everyone to see it all the time, so a woven wrap dress, even more than a knit one, which has that lovely stretching ability, needs to have a neckline that stays in place for me, even as the rest of the skirt gears up for dancing, should dancing occur.

Honestly, on the subject of dancing, and this is just me personally, but I would much rather dance around my living room than in some kind of evening organization. I feel like going out dancing was probably a lot of fun in, like, 1952, and was probably a lot of fun if you like a drug-fueled mess in 1975, but now, going out dancing as a concept makes my head hurt, because I’m thinking about how loud it is. I think I’ve been to approximately 5 clubs in my life, my first at the age of 16 on a trip, and even then I remember thinking wow, this is really truly terrible. It’s just so loud, you can’t talk to anyone, it becomes a swirling mass of bodies, it kind of goes to a Bosch hellscape space for me.

Talk about Saturday night fever, am I right?

I am sure that there are many people who just love love love going out dancing right now, in 2019. I mean, something keeps the clubs in business, right? Here in Mumbai, many bars turn into a club at some point on a weekend evening, at which point What’s-his-face and I usually Irish exit that situation. Obviously for many, these are not Bosch’s hell, but his heaven, where you can dance around inside of blue raspberries and be cool.

Oy. For me, I would rather be dancing by myself, in a woven wrap dress of my choosing. And this is the wrap dress I’ve chosen!

And it’s covered in toucans!

Seriously, the print makes this dress.

The FABRIC makes this dress, actually, it’s light and floaty and excellent, and it feels like a breeze on my skin even on humid Mumbai days, or even hot Goa days! I wore this dress in Goa this weekend, and it was heavenly.

This is, would you believe it, a MUCH altered Seamwork Ruth dress? Well, it is! I removed the collar and finished the neckline in bias tape, and changed out the skirt for a circle skirt. Sliding it over a Seamwork Savannah top lengthened into a slip, it’s basically two Seamwork hacks in one!

I loved the shape of the bodice, the grown-on sleeves, I’m just very into that look right now, I don’t know why! We go through stages, right, of looks we love? Right now, I’m all about the sleeve that just blossoms from the bodice, what can I say?

I also like the blousy back, especially coupled with this floaty fabric.

In order to secure the neckline, I put a snap right at the point I wanted the wrap edges to meet and stay. So far, so good!

See, you get a hint of decolletage, but not, like, the whole sha-bang. The time before the Mumbai bar becomes a club, but not, like, the club time. Get it?

This was a great dress to swish around in while exploring Goa!

I feel like it fit the lovely charm of Colva and its Portuguese roots.

I can see this being a real summer favorite aka always favorite because I live in Mumbai right now and that is a land of endless summer.

I will not be bringing my toucans to any dance clubs any time soon, but I promise, we will be dancing all the same, just in a more on the street, in my apartment, basically anywhere that isn’t a dance club, sort of way. I think that’s what the toucans want, too!

Happy Me Made May, all! Hope it’s going well for you thus far!

 

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The Walk with the Dinosaurs Shirtdress

I have waxed eloquent in the past about my love of shirtdresses, so I am not going to do that here. Instead, I’m going to wax eloquent about my love of dinosaurs.

I love dinosaurs. Who doesn’t? I mean, could this be the one thing that everyone everywhere could agree on? That dinosaurs are amazing? That they are so cool and so weird and so huge, and there was one that was basically a dragon, and there is this new book about them and my friend Ben read it and said that it was great.

When I was a kid, on vacations, my parents would load my brother and I up with their museum memberships and leave us at a museum for the day. One of those museums was the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and we would read all about the lives of dinosaurs and marvel at their massive structures, their giant bodies, their fossilized eggs. We would wander the museum in the shadows of giants. Museums are still my happy place. Years later, when I went to the Natural History Museum in New York, I gave the horribly outdated and not a little bit racist anthropology section some side eye, and raced over to the dinosaurs. What marvelous beasts, what magnificent monsters. How can you look at a dinosaur’s skeleton and not be inspired to invent mythical animals? When people first found their fossils, they must have thought they were the craziest things ever. No wonder little children are so into dinosaurs, right? They are just so cool. They are the James Dean of history. Name a cooler group of animals, I dare you. Why else do we keep making Jurassic Park movies? The story is literally a one trick pony but we keep bringing it on back again so we can pretend that dinosaurs could be real. Clever girl…

 

So that’s why when I saw a dinosaur themed fabric at Thakur, I knew I had to get it. In fact, I got a lot, so I could make What’s-his-face a shirt that he will never model and myself a dress. I promised him we would never wear both of these garments at the same time. That reminds me, did you know that in South Korea they have this thing where couples dress alike to show the world they are a couple?  

It’s real. It’s a whole thing.

What’s his face would have ALREADY divorced me if I suggested this.

So you will never see us in our matching dinosaur outfits, but trust me, that would be ADORABLE. And intimidating! Because, dinosaurs!

Dinosaurs! DINOSAURS! It might just be my imagination, but honestly, I think people respect me more when I wear this.

It’s got triceratops, brontosaurus, stegosaurus, and a dinosaur I don’t know the name of.

The pattern is a MUCH modified McCalls 7351 which I edited to include dolman sleeves and a cuff, as well as a circle skirt.

I also put in some waist darts.

I love the way this turned out, really I do. I love the shape, I love the circle skirt, I love built-in sleeves, I love it. I wouldn’t WANT to wear this if What’s-his-face was around, because it might divide the attention of onlookers, and this dress deserves attention.

Oh, I also eliminated the yoke. Told you it was much modified!

So there you go. A dress covered in scaly friends who help me roam the earth with giant confidence. I am so happy to debut this dress during Me Made May 2019 because I love it and there is nothing like  How is your May going, me made or otherwise?

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The Book of Ruth Dress

The biblical story of Ruth…has nothing to do with this dress. I don’t know, guys, sometimes it’s hard to make a catchy title!

That said, the story of Ruth and Naomi is very interesting,  because it’s about these two women who are related to each other in a way that is often seen as contentious, that is, they are daughter and mother-in-law, and yet their closeness was a big part of their survival. This is actually sort of close to the theme of my new novel, more on that in the months to come, so I don’t mind naming this dress which I love so much after that story, even if it has nothing to do with it!

That said, when was the last time you met someone named Ruth? It’s a name that I feel has gone out of fashion, although that probably means it will be soon in fashion again and there will be four Ruths in every kindergarten class. Isn’t it funny how names come in waves? When I was growing up I knew, like, 10 Sarahs. I have met many a Priya my age here in Mumbai, so obviously that had its moment. The Bachelor franchise is a great indicator for this, actually, whatever names (and made up names, I’m looking at you, people named Wes and Ames and Kalon and whatever the hell) were popular like 30 to 23 (shudder) years ago make their way onto those hallowed halls of ugly crying and right reasons.

At any rate, Seamwork toils hard monthly to give us new patterns with new names, and in January, that meant we got the Ruth Dress and the Sky Jumpsuit, so one named by Upper West Side Jews and one named by West Village hippies, both in 1965. As you know, I made Sky recently. But did you know I made Ruth, as well?

Well, NOW you do! And my friend DP took the photos, working hard to find a good background, thank you, DP! And they were on his phone in google photos and the powerful and might google made a GIF! It actually made two, but I will save the next one for the end. I don’t know why it does that, but I kind of love it? Maybe? I don’t know!

I really like this dress. I love the design, honestly. Sometimes I like Seamwork, sometimes I’m meh with Seamwork, and sometimes I straight up fall in love. This is one of those times. It combines many things I love and struggle to find the perfect version of. A woven wrap dress that doesn’t look like my breasts are going to explode out of it? A shirt-dress feel without buttons? A notched collar that doesn’t look like garbage? Check, check, and CHECK!

This was another print out that I realized had printed out of scale, so I cut out a twelve, but it is still a little big. I’ve just cut out another while slimming down the bodice and the waist. Who even knows what size that is? I sure don’t! Eh, whatever works.

The print is from Thakur, of course, obviously, always, and it’s sort of polka dots but it has a sort of floral or seed formation look, I don’t know, I like it! I feel like I wear a lot of bright colors these days, after all, pink is the navy blue of India, so it was kind of nice/odd to walk about in black and white. I did feel quite sophisticated, though! Something about this design just feels very put together (the dreaded phrase) to me, which I love, there is a polish but also a little bit of sexiness, what do you think?

I also love a blousy kimono sleeve.

The tie is subtle, which is nice, I don’t know, as I said, when Seamwork works, it really works for me! Which I guess is the point of constantly releasing new patterns, that you are going to appeal to different people every month and that diversifies your fan base.

It was quite windy when we took these photos! That said, it’s a good way to see that the two halves of the front skirt really do overlap completely, which is good, if you like that sort of thing, which I do!

Speaking of a wrap dress and boobs, I did add two snaps to the spot where the two sides of the dress cross to avoid wardrobe malfunctions aka showing the world which bra I’m wearing. Just a little insurance!

I am so into this dress, I can’t wait to make it all over again! What Seamwork patterns do you love? All? Some? None?

Happy dress dance!

 

 

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The Whale Tale Dress

I write, briefly, in praise of Seamwork. I am sure you know about Seamwork, but just in case you don’t, Seamwork is the digital magazine created by Colette Patterns which releases patterns monthly as part of the magazine. The original idea was that these patterns be ones a sewer could stitch up in less than three hours, although I think that is no longer the case, given the fact that they have released some outerwear and trouser patterns! But I digress. The point is, over the years in which Seamwork has been a thing, they have released scores and scores of patterns, along with fascinating articles and ideas for pattern hacks, for an excruciatingly reasonable price. Sometimes I like the patterns, and sometimes I don’t, but that’s sort of the point, right? Releasing patterns all the time means that people have endless options, and that I can wait for the item that fits my style.

Of course, a psychologist/Don Draper might critisize me for my constant hunger for the new. Seamwork is the Instagram of pattern sources, always offering me something new, eager to present me with options rather than forcing me to evaluate what I already have. But as someone who likes to try new things, but also feels she has to get her money’s worth, I tend to make patterns over and over again, partially because I like them, I’m not insane, but partially because I feel like they need to earn their keep, and that can make my sewing a little, well, boring. New patterns stimulate and challenge me, and I like that I don’t have to feel that I wasted money on something I only made once, or that I have to make something work in multiple iterations if it just doesn’t. Does anyone else out there have this dilemma, that when you spend 20 dollars on a pattern you have to make it over and over again or you will feel guilty? Ah, guilt, my constant companion, welcome home.

And while they might not all be three-hour speed racers, they are all pretty simple, in their way, and yet I do learn from them, which I love. I am constantly impressed by the team at Seamwork for their designs and ideas, and this month was one of those times when I saw the new releases and almost sprained my finger trying to download them as quickly as possible. And then I taped, cut, traced, cut, and went to sewing, throwing everything else to the side, because I was extremely eager to wear Rachel.

The Rachel shirt (and bonus tunic/dress hack), is your straightforward button down, but the thing is, I’ve been looking for one of those! Isn’t it delightful when things come to you right as you decide you need them?

Of course, I have made the Grainline Archer many a time, but while I love it, I don’t know, the fit has never been 100% right. And yet I never tried another button down! I shop around for zucchini, I try three shops for cat food, but I never tried to make a different button down pattern. Maybe I am insane….

So I went ahead and cut two out! Which I maybe shouldn’t have done until I tested the fit but OH well…..A long sleeve shirt version is still on my sewing table, paused because of a weekend in Kolkata from which I have only just returned, ready to complete it, but I knocked out a short-sleeve version of the tunic/dress last week, and harassed What’s-his-face until he took my picture. So here you go, my first iteration of Rachel (can’t quite shake that “make multiple” thing yet) in a fabric I can only describe as magnificent, one in which I am as happy as a clam, as playful as a dolphin, as optimistic as an octopus, because it is covered in whales:

You see, when you wear fabric printed with animals, you can never be truly lonely, because you are never alone!

I adore adore adore this fabric, and I like the way this turned out, eventually, but I gotta say, there were some bumps on the road.

I wanted this to be a dress, rather than a tunic, but I have to say, the (absolutely gorgeous) model they used must have legs for days because I lengthened this a few inches and it was on the way to a maxi, then I cut it back to the original hem length and it’s still at my knees! That’s fine, makes it India appropriate, but jeez, way to make a girl feel short!

 

That’s okay, I can’t stay mad at this dress, look at the whales!

Thinking about my bust measurements alone, I cut a 14,  because I figured the rest would be big but that was fine. But when I tried this on, I was SWIMMING in it. Instead of the slim skirt I admired from the photo, I had a tent. Okay, I thought, this is on me, I wanted a roomy bust and got a roomy everything! But the bust ease was also a lot more than I had planned for, and I ended up taking in the sides over and over again in little degrees, trying to make this less of a tent while maintaining the ability to get into it, because the buttons only go to the waist, so I worried that I would reduce it to the point that I couldn’t, ya know, get into it.

I think I ended up taking out like, 8 inches on each side. Oy. Next time I will just cut a size 10 or 8, and grade out at the bust if I’m nervous. It’s still quite loose fitting, which is of course the design, but while my whales are happy swimming, I don’t want to be!

I kind of like the fact that there is no yoke, although I also love a yoke. Variety, it’s the spice of life!

Of course, I can always belt it, but it’s nice to have it be loose and airy in the Mumbai heat. I love to wear things like this at home when I’m writing, because it is comfortable but I don’t look like I was raised by wolves. That’s the sweet spot, right there.

You can see the waist seam here. The collar is a little smaller than the Archer, which I like. For the sleeves, I used the original sleeve pattern and just shortened it.

I’m so happy with my whales. And my shoes!

Aren’t they cool?

That about wraps up my Rachel. Do you guys like Seamwork? What is your pattern use philosophy?

Oh, and one last thing, if you, like I do, love the ocean, the many animals and plants that live in it, and want to protect, conserve, and help oceans, consider a little year-end donation to Oceana!

 

 

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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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The State Fair Dress

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?

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The Khadi Body Dress

My love of khadi, the Indian handloom cloth popularized by Gandhi as the icon of the Swadeshi movement, knows no bounds, but most of my experience with the cloth has been crafting shirts for what’s-his-face, which you will never se because he is very not into being featured on the internet in any form. What’s-his-face is firmly of the opinion that the internet is for him to learn about the world, not for the world to learn about him, which I respect. But that means that the many lovely khadi shirts I have made him to help battle the intense humidity of Mumbai (and this summer, New York, more on that later!) remain undocumented. Sigh. C’est la vie. I have made some khadi stuff for myself, although not as much as I would like to, and this dress, made for our friends’ wedding, is a good start towards a khadi filled life.

I found this fabric on a trip to Kolkata, because the one thing that Mumbai DOESN’T have is khadi. I really don’t know why! But the lightweight wonder is absent from those Marathi shores. So it’s something I look forward to whenever I go to Kolkata because I get a chance to really go nuts and indulge. As opposed to my regular life in which I….buy a lot of fabric regardless.

The big revelation I had recently was that khadi can be silk as well as cotton. Point of fact it can be wool, too, I read, but most of my life isn’t super wool-friendly right now, so I’m sticking with silk and cotton for the moment. I snagged this truly excellent silk khadi with my mother-in-law about 8 months ago, and I knew, I just knew, it would be ideal for the wedding. And sure enough, it was!

It’s my new favorite, McCalls 7503, which I have now made four times!

Although….it also turned out super super duper low cut, which…I don’t really understand? Because I’ve made this pattern a bunch of times now? But somehow, I don’t know, in the cutting or stitching I must have lowered the neckline or something because this is…a lot of decolletage! A not-India-appropriate level of decolletage. Which is fine! Because the wedding was in America! But oh boy, India has totally changed the way I feel about parts of my body being out in the public gaze….oy. Something else to talk to my therapist about!

The fabric, it’s the star here, seriously.

I mean, look at it! And it’s khadi, and it’s silk, and oh boy, that’s a lot of my chest out there. But the fabric!

The design lines totally get lost in the busy print but I am fine with that. Maybe I should make it in stripes or something, something to highlight that.

I drafted the skirt, aka pleated it in a way that I thought looked nice, and the sleeves, and underlined and lined the bodice, and underlined the skirt, because this silk is so lightweight I knew it needed some structure.

 

Sideview!

 

This is what happens when I wear heels! Not a ton of balance, here….

And there you go! A khadi dress, for a khadi lover, so now I have a khadi body!

 

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