Tag Archives: dress

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

A rare planning post

While many plan with the seasons, I have decided to plan anyway in this season-less land. I do very much miss seasons, and someday I will spend more time back in a place that has them, but for now, this nonsense doesn’t really cut it. Funny story, talking to a shopkeeper the other day, I asked him how he was enjoying the comparatively cooler (that is, like 7 to 10 degrees Fariegnheit cooler) weather in Mumbai. Mumbai winters usually last a week or two, with low humidity, days in the 80’s, evenings in the high 60’s, a veritable winter wonderland. He told me he really couldn’t get used to this weather and it was making everyone sick. I do not understand people sometimes, I swear.

Someone recently asked me what is the most challenging thing I’ve ever made. I couldn’t really think of anything that I thought was so very impressive, although there are things I’ve made that were more complicated than others. I think more about the things I HAVEN’T tried, or don’t as well as I would like to yet. I have actually made two coats, although one I never blogged, but I wasn’t really that happy with either, and rarely wore them. So that is a goal for the future, although spending a lot of time in Mumbai makes that unappealing right now, not just because I would have no opportunities to wear it here and could only bust it out when I’m back in the US or traveling somewhere cool, but also because the idea of constructing it in this hot place makes me sweat just contemplating it. But that is on my sewing bucket list, someday, a really nice well made wool-cloth coat. Ah, winter dreams…

Coat cravings aside, there are a few things I do have planned for myself in the coming months. Some are old patterns I’m excited to revisit, and some are new ones I can’t wait to explore. So here are my 2017 crafting plans so far:

Sewing:

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Ah, yes, that elusive beast the circle skirt. I want one of these, I actually want ten of these, but I want at least one or two. The circle skirt is the best, and while I attach them to dresses, I think I want one or two on their own. Solid colors, preferably grey, to go with everything and make me feel like I’m living all my 1950’s movie star dreams. What I need for this one is actually the fabric. I’m having a tough time finding that idea bottom-weight in a solid color I like here. But I continue to search!

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A blazer! (And a pencil skirt to go with it in a cute little set. Which is patterned!) This one I DO have the fabric for:

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So, do I NEED a suit like this? No. No I don’t. Shut up, you can’t tell me what to do! I have a vision of myself in a polka-dotted skirt-jacket combo and I cannot shake it. I have already cut this out, actually, using the Seamwork Delavan pattern for the jacket, and my skirt block for the skirt. I think a whimsical blazer is just the thing that’s going to take me from writer to whimsical-blazer-wearing-writer. Don’t you?

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Blow blouses. I love these things! This is the year I finally find my perfect one. I do enjoy the Seamwork Addison blouse, which I’ve made twice now (both unblogged, ugh, gotta get on that…). But is there a bow blouse anyone else would recommend? I’m also a big fan of the True Bias Sutton blouse, again, made two, gotta blog at least ONE of them…. I have a very lightweight silk that might be nice…

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Using an old favorite, Simplicity 2017 from the 1940’s which I’ve made one before, I want to make a few pairs of lightweight full-length and possibly culotte length trousers. How amazing do these wide-legged orange trousers look? I’m not sure if I could be so daring in color choice, but maybe burgundy? I’ve tried this out recently with strong results, again, gotta blog that. Sensing a theme?

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I’ve cut out the Colette Rue dress in this floral fabric, which I’m excited to stitch up! And then maybe a plaid version….I know, I’m a copy cat but come on, it’s so cute!

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I have made a lot of Closet Case Carolyn Pajamas and never. blogged. a. single. one. Frankly, I have been nailing down a good fit, and I think my last one really did finally get there so I should probably photograph those, sigh. It’s like, what am I even doing with my time? But this cat fabric was just too fantastic and I’m excited to sleep with kitties.

 

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I totally missed the Ginghamalong, mostly because I couldn’t find any gingham, but of course since then I’ve seen it everywhere. I want a gingham dress! How cute are these? This is clearly a more vague idea because I have no pattern OR fabric for this, but I just love it. Thoughts?

Now, for some patterns that I don’t currently own, but might want to tackle this year:
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Clearly a lot of love for Closet Case this year! But the Sophie swimsuit is so great. I am intimidated by the cups and the construction, but that just means I will have to try to figure it out, which is fun! And the Ebony is straightforward but I love it. Raglan sleeves, yes!

Now, a few quilts (baby gifts)

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I love the See Kate Sew Modern Ombre quilt. Wont it look amazing in these fabrics? Again, a tried and true here, I’ve made this more than once. That’s why I want to try something different, adapting this Purl Soho pattern to cottons:

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Now, beyond the machine, there are a few other things I want to do this year:

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I love these coloring books for grown-ups, mostly because I want to use them as embroidery patterns! Isn’t that mouse amazing? Or the whale? I gotta get stitching on these.

And in knitting news:

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I’m currently two-thirds of the way through this sweater for my mom. I picked up some wool to make myself one too, but let’s see when I finally get through this one. For such a simple pattern, it’s taking me FOREVER….

 

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Filed under Closet Case Patterns, Clothing, Colette Patterns, Planning, Purl Soho, Quilting, seamwork

The Blending In Dress

The thing about moving to a new country is that you end up picking up on clothing trends, either because you choose to participate in them, or because you actively don’t. As I’ve mentioned before, in my initial “set in India” post, I’ve made some hemline adjustments, and I’ve said things in passing in other posts about clothing being “India friendly” or not “India friendly”, but generally I think I’m on the actively not participating side of the scale. After all, I haven’t adopted Indian forms of dress, nor do I follow the general “jeans and top” trend on display here among India’s elite. Instead, I tend to stick by my whole dress-and-skirt thing. Side note, try as I might, I genuinely do not understand something about the way people dress in India, specifically people who complain about the heat. Now, if you are comfortable in full-length pants and a long sleeve shirt in this climate, magnificent, no judgment here, you do you. If you wear a kurta and salwar trousers daily, I get that, it’s lightweight and really easy to wear, and I see how even if more of your body is covered, you actually stay really cool and comfortable. No idea what I’m talking about? It looks like this:

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And if you swear by the sari? No comments here, I get it, sari for life. But what I DON’T understand is people who wear long sleeve shirts and pants, and then complain to me about the weather. Why are you wearing a long sleeve shirt? Why? These people are never people without clothing options. They are sitting in a sweater or blazer and trousers and complaining about the heat and it’s like, come on, now, this one is on you. Look at your life, look at your choices. I am one of those people who really prefers not to complain about the weather, mostly because there is nothing I can do about the weather, except try to dress appropriately within it. That, I feel, is on me. People here are constantly asked me, don’t I think it’s awfully hot? And yes, Mumbai is hot and humid, but I can mitigate this with my clothing choices! This is not a high-alert modesty city, so you have clothing options wherever you go, and besides, it’s never the people who walk around on the street who complain about this stuff with me, its people who go from car to cafe to car again. If you are hot, invest in a pair of capris! Wear a short-sleeved shirt! It’s not rocket science, people! COME on! No matter how nice that leather jacket is, you don’t live in a place where that is practical, so save it for your North-bound vacation, or IF you are going to wear it in a city whose normal temperatures are in the 80’s, please don’t complain. Look at your life, look at your choices. You’ve made this bed, friend. Lie in it’s wool-lined sheets and sweat away.

Anyway, rant over. Probably never going to really understand it, sigh.

But clothing cultures do affect me, maybe because sewing has made me creepy and observant and likely to drool over details in other people’s outfits to the point that I’m sure a lot of people think I’m sexually interested in them because of how closely I’m looking. Oh, well, whatcha gonna do. So I did notice that when I visited Singapore for the first time that the clothing culture there is wildly different from India, not just because of Indian ethnic dress, of course, but because it’s a super business-casual kind of town. In my woven cotton dresses and skirts I felt oddly underdressed, and I realized that georgette crepe, pencil skirts and synthetic fabric dresses suitable for a business meeting are more the done thing there, especially walking around during the day. Of course, that makes sense, everyone works in Singapore, it’s business IS business, and it’s highly influenced by Chinese and Western fashions. But the homogeneity of it, or the way it looked homogeneous to me, really amazed me at the time and I wandered around feeling like a shlub both trips times I visited. So by the third time I was set to visit, I decided enough was enough. I was going to make something in that tropical-climate appropriate but slightly more formal but not that formal sweetspot. We have to invent more names these clothing categories…

So without further ado, my dress I constructed to, like a spy or an anthropologist, blend in in Singapore. Not that anyone actually CARES about me blending in there, it’s so not that kind of place. But still, a girl’s gotta keep herself occupied, packing for trip wise.

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Singapore right now is rather rainy, but still humid and hot. But this dress, made of a synthetic double-knit with a nice slightly crinkled texture I got from Fabric.com when I was in the US a few months ago, survived the rain we got caught in this day well. My hair? Not so much…

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Oy. Well, again, WHATCHA GONNA DO.

I drafted the pattern for this, based on my bodice block for a woven, which I converted into a princess-seam bodice and removed the seam allowance because of the knit-factor. I thought I would have to add a zipper because it was a double knit but this thing is stretchy as hell and so comfortable I can’t get over it.

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The skirt is a half-circle and I pleated the sleeve-heads. But really, the fabric is the star here, anti-synthetic bias aside, it’s just great. I love the print and the recovery is stellar. Damn you, synthetic knits!

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A little side view for you. You really can’t see any details of the stitching, ah well, sorry guys. The wind up on the roof of the National Museum of Singapore was a bit fierce, so the skirt looks a little hi-low in this photo, but it’s not, I promise. Boy, this dress post is all about trust, isn’t it?

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I seamed the back which looks okay, not great. If I was doing this again, I would omit the back-seams and just keep the princess seams on the front, which I like, shape-wise.

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So there we go! I probably should have taken some crowd shots so you could see how well I blended in in Singapore. But again, trust me, I’m really basically a native because of this outfit, I promise…

 

 

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Filed under Clothing, knit, Travel, Uncategorized

The Think Zebras Dress

There is a saying, when you hear hoofbeats think horses not zebras. It’s a saying I’ve heard a few times on medical dramas, so I have to assume it’s a doctor thing. I’ve always heard it in the context of looking at symptoms of a disease and thinking of the common options, not immediately jumping to flesh-eating bacteria (although….OH MY GOD THERE ARE FLESH EATING BACTERIA OUT THERE , makes me almost glad what’s-his-face and I never had a honeymoon despite being married literally millions (three) times, because if that’s what happens when you have a honeymoon, I’m out).   Essentially it’s a restatement of Occam’s razor , that the simplest answer is often the correct one.I’m sure that works well for doctors, although it never seemed to be the case on House, but for those of us in more creative less human-mortality based fields, I don’t know if it’s as useful. I mean, why not think zebras? Sure, you might be signing yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment, especially if you live in a horse-rich region, but hey, isn’t the possibility of zebras an exciting one? Surely we all deserve to live in hope, the most dangerous of all human emotions.  Sure, most of the world is horses, unless you life in a zebra-rich region, but maybe it could be zebras, every once in a while. Or giraffes! You never know.

For example, I now live in a city where I frequently see wild green parakeets (thanks, Ronnie, who corrected me when I thought they were parrots) chattering  on telephone wires, and massive brown and gold kites hunt for food and rest on palm trees. God help me if Cadfael gets a look at the kites, he’s dumb enough to think he can take them, the coward. I think this is an amazing, while What’s-his-face just rolls his eyes when I point out monkeys in the trees and kingfishers perching on government buildings. Certainly it’s a high-energy life, noticing everything all the time, refusing to let things be familiar. But I would rather be excited about hoofbeats, and hope for zebras. Maybe someday, that’s what it will be!

And while I’m waiting, I can at least prepare sartorially. On  my fabric-buying trip with Liz this past May, we paid a visit to the Rangotri fabric printing studio in Jaipur, which was magnificent and extremely informative. Moreover, I got a chance to pick up some lengths of fabric from their small but wonderful “overstock” or factory discard section. I scored this piece that I loved, in the continuing white-and-blue theme that is owning my life right now. I used part of it to make our living room curtains, but I had a nice amount left, and much like Maria Von Trapp, I’m cool with wearing curtains. So…

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Although she never WEARS the curtains, come to think of it….

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But I did! Actually, the original fabric had the stripes above the zebras, but I wanted the zebras on the bust, so I cut the fabric along the zebra line, and stitched it back on, before cutting out this lengthened Grainline Archer shirt-dress. I’m thinking more and more about trying the Alder out, especially after seeing this adorable one by Dixie DIY. Thoughts?

But for now, I have this. This is, by the way, also in my current attempts to sew outside my comfort zone, like my recent crop-top situation. I don’t usually go for something so shapeless, something without a waist. I’m not going to lie, I have worn this dress like ten times now and some part of me still winces when I see myself in the mirror, at least a little bit. HOWEVER. I also have worn this dress like TEN TIMES which should tell you something about how comfortable this dress is and how much the loose shape and airy fabric really feel great in the tropics. I wear a self-made slip (an altered grainline tiny pocket tank, alas, discontinued)  under it, because it is indeed quite lightweight, but even with that (the slip is cotton) I feel fabulously cool on steamy days.

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For example, these photos were taken in Singapore, which is humid and sticky year-round, and I was more than comfortable, I was blissful. Of course, the iced coffee also helps.

Here is the thing about Singapore that through What’s-his-face and his friends I have truly come to appreciate. The food. Well, also, frankly, living in India, Singapore is a wonderful place to visit because it is clean and well-organized and more Western than the West, easy to navigate, safe, I don’t see people urinating in corners at every turn…the list goes on. Obviously these are most of the things you just….kind of expect in life, but I live in India now, and boy have my expectations changed. So while I did not appreciate Singapore fully before I had lived in Mumbai, assuming it would be boring (well, fair, it is) with little to recommend it culturally (also true), I did not realize how strongly it holds up in COMPARISON to India. I never thought I would say this, but I love Singapore. It’s awesome.

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Really, it is.

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Both because it is just too Western for words but with some Eastern accents, and because the food is amazing. It’s quite an expensive place, to be sure, but the food hawker stands have all been moved into complexes and they are cheap, readily available, and consistently some of the best meals I’ve had.

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When I first went to Singapore this past January I bought iced coffee in coffee shops for scandalous prices, but then we realized we could also buy that in hawker markets for two Singapore dollars, and once we figured out how to ask for regular milk and not condensed (because then it’s just coffee flavored candy) we were golden.

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So here I am in one of our favorite hawker centers, Tiong Bahru, posing with my iced coffee in my shirt dress after a hearty meal of roasted duck over noodles. I think you can see the seam well in this shot.

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If you aren’t a coffee person, may I recommend a fresh lime juice when strolling Singapore? Super refreshing, despite looking a little toxic…

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What else can one ask for in life? I’ve taken a detail shot of my curtains so  you can see the zebras and the stripes a little bit more clearly, albeit in their original position:

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To alter the pattern, I simply lengthened the hem of the non-peplum back variation, and eliminated the curve in the hem. I made a sleeveless version, altering the back yoke as suggested by Jen on her blog for this variation. It makes a tiny subtle difference to me, but it’s nice. I widened the hem slightly to make the dress as loose and tent-like as the amount of fabric I had would allow. That’s about it, variation-wise. I’ve made this pattern so many times, I swear, but hey, if it ain’t broke…

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I used the striped part of the fabric for the yoke, as a contrast, and used the zebras for the collar. There is a little bit of lower-back pooling, because I didn’t do any kind of swayback adjustment, ah well. I can live with that.

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Don’t you love that Peacock mural photobombing my photos? That mural is like, elephants, zebras, where is the peacock love, lady? All in good time, friend. The animal fabrics, despite what’s-his-face’s judgment, aren’t going away anytime soon! Bahahahahah!

It’s strangely scary sometimes to try a new shape, especially when you have a set idea of what makes you look good, but I’m happy I’m trying some new things this year. The benefits of this looseness in this climate cannot be overstated, and I tend to get compliments on this dress whenever I wear it, regardless of my own self-judgments.

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. So hey, I’m happy to think zebras. Why not, right?

 

 

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Filed under Grainline Patterns, Sewing, Travel

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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The Annual Elephants Dress

I’m a big fan of traditions, as long as they are positive. For example, an institutional tradition of not hiring women? Not a fan. A Russian tradition of long and elaborate toasts? Love it! And so on. I especially like forging traditions, with friends, with family, with myself. As long as traditions can be fluid, as long as they can be explained, they work for me. If you can elucidate the tradition, it becomes exclusive, rather than inclusive, it doesn’t bring people in, it shuts people out.

The most infuriating thing about India (among the thousand and one infuriating things about India) is the way people are comfortable explaining their behavior with the phrase “this is what we have always done”. The positive of this is of course a link with history, that is, “people have been doing this for hundreds of years, isn’t that great?”. The negative is when it comes as a way to block innovation, or when you are trying to understand what’s going on and you are met with a firm “just because”. After all, as Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”. Tradition can represent stagnation, inertia, a dogmatic mentality that values sameness over new evolving needs. But it can also be a sign of valuing what has come before, appreciating that while many things change, what we hold dear doesn’t always have to. Traditions are ours to make, and maintain,

All this is to say, I made another dress with elephants on it, and I think this is now my newest best tradition. As you may or may not recall, I made a dress with elephants on it two years ago (and if you want to see a bunch of adorable elephant videos I advise you click that link and see them on my post). One of the BEST things about India is the elephants. Gentler than their African cousins (who are also amazing), the Indian elephant is less aggressive in its adulthood, which means that elephants are used in farming and as transportation. This is not always great, in fact, it’s rarely great at all, despite being a centuries old Indian tradition (there it is again). But there are places that pack elephants are rescued, taken care of and loved, and there are many places where elephants roam wild, following the paths bisecting the subcontinent that their mothers and mother’s mother’s forged before them (elephants themselves enjoy traditions, hence the saying “elephants never forget”). They color the national imagination of India making their way into images from every age and kingdom. In Rajasthan they adorn every palace, in Maharashtra you seem them in the ancient Buddhist site Elephanta (it’s right there in the name!), along with the tiger they sit proudly rupee notes, so you can have elephants with you everywhere you go.

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They even make elephants out of women here! It’s an amazing place.

We got to visit Elephantastic in December, a place where you can hang out with rescue elephants and be really happy. My family collectively kvelled and what’s-his-face did not understand why we were so happy. I’m telling you, elephants are wasted on this country. People here are too used to them. It’s like, huh, right, an elephant, just like always. When do traditions just become commonplace things? How do you get to see this all the time and not be in a constant state of joy?

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We even got to paint the elephants with non-toxic safe-for-elephants paint. My brother did this one. Miniature Matisse, am I right? What’s-his-face just played with his phone.

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I know, right? WHAAAAAT? How you gonna play on your phone when there are elephants around!

I love elephants. There are many foundations where you can contribute to their preservation and care and I would if I were you (and do, because I am me.) So I think my new yearly elephant dress tradition is going to be a positive tradition for me. And I’m not doing it because this is what I’ve always done, despite being in India, a place where that is a thing. I’m doing it because why not?

and I didn't want to invite the comparison.

Well. I guess that could be a reason….

Well, never mind. To the dress!

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This was my first iteration of McCall’s 7351, the one I made pretty much straight from the packet (and realized I needed to take in the waist for future makes, hence the belt). Or at least, the bodice is unaltered. The skirt is just a pleated skirt all the way around, making it fuller than the original pattern version(s).

I have actually already blogged version number 2, so I’m all out-of-order with this thing.

There is a certain amount of irony in the fact that the dress with elephants on it that I made in the US two years ago looks so Indian, but the fabric was sourced in Philadelphia, and this dress, whose fabric I bought here in Mumbai, looks so…not.

The fabric reminds me of this J Crew fabric I saw years ago in a pair of shorts:

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And yet I bought it at Mangaldas Market, a supremely Indian place. Whatcha gonna do?

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Here I am with my own little elephant-like creature. People here cannot get over how large Cadfael is. I really hope he doesn’t feel they are body shaming him. It’s really hard being a cat-parent these days…

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Come to think of it, that belt might actually BE from J Crew….wow. The details of the dress might be a little obscured by elephants but…who cares. Elephants.

I did cut the front placket thing against the grain to give it a little variety, as you can see, elephants are climbing up and down my body even as they walk side to side. The buttons are a white shell button I bought here, and that’s it for notions, I think. I used white thread for contrast and machine stitched the hem because sometimes that’s how life works.

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A little side view. The pockets are invisible between being in-seam and being all elephant inundated so that’s fun. This pocket is, I will say, much better than the pockets of my trusty McCalls 6696, and by better I mean deeper and more smartphone friendly. So yeah. Better. I would very much do a full bicep adjustment next time (thanks, lovely people who responded to my last post on this pattern!) so the sleeves fit a little better, but otherwise I think it’s a nice fit.

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A little back view for you. That sure…looks like my back. You can’t really see the little pleat at the back but it’s there, I tell you!

I had put waist darts in my second version, which I like, but the loose comfort of this one is nice, and as you can see, I can always belt it!

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I love my elephants. I would wear them forever. And now I can! Not just every summer! Yes, this seems like the start of a beautiful tradition.

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Annual Elephants for all!

 

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Filed under Clothing, McCalls Patterns, Uncategorized

The Edwardian Prison Guard Dress

Sometimes you love something no one else seems to love. I’m sure you’ve had this experience, right? You go to a museum (if you don’t go to museums, imagine you are someone who goes to museums. Also, if you don’t go to museums, out of curiosity, why do you read this blog? I’m one Rembrandt reference away from being a full on Rijksmuseum fan-girl page. Anyway, thanks for reading, hope you aren’t super bored every time I go Van Gogh over here). So, you go to a museum, and you see a painting. Maybe it’s a Vermeer. Maybe it’s a Velasquez. Maybe it’s a Renoir because you hate yourself. I don’t know! But you stand in front of a painting and you feel some way about it. Maybe you love it, because it’s Velasquez, and it’s amazing, and it dazzles your soul, and you read this book a lot as a kid and seeing this painting is a dream come true. I’m obviously talking about this one:

las-meninasAnyway, this painting, it works for you. You love it. And then your friend comes up because they are bored and you’re taking too long and it’s Madrid and they want to party, and they are like, huh, lame painting man. Now, you could slaughter this friend, obviously, and that would probably be legal because, COME ON, seriously? But you are a kind and gracious person and you don’t, you simply accept that people are into different things. You love this, and your lame friend who you need to friend break up with is more into this nonsense:

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I’m not the only person who feels this way about Renoir, by the way, and if you want to meet more like-minded freedom fighters, you can find out about them here. Anyway, in the end, you like what you like, which is the point here, and sometimes after you’ve spent hours explaining why Las Meninas is amazing or why Renoir isn’t, you still wont have changed your friend’s mind, because there is something at the center of interest or attraction that is undefinable, untranslatable, personal.

So that’s probably why when I went fabric shopping with my friend Liz in Delhi we looked at the same fabric and I thought, I want to go to there, and she thought, mattress ticking.

Khadi is one of my favorite Indian fabrics. In its essence, its a rough woven cotton cloth, but Gandhi’s embracing of the cloth as a symbol of Indian self-rule and self sustainability as part of the Independence movement glorified the humble cotton and brought it into the national arena as a symbol of patriotism. Now khadi is all over India, and the lightweight loose weave is a godsend on hot days, of which India has many. The thing I love about it is the way the texture of the cloth is varied and interesting, so that as you sew with it its variety and many inconsistencies or flaws reveal themselves to you. It’s a rather stiff cloth, but it softens with wear, and it’s often woven in threads of two colors, giving the cloth a “change in the light” quality. I bet some language, Japanese maybe, has a word for that. While khadi might not be the best known fabric abroad, as it’s a personal favorite I wanted Liz to check it out when she was here, and we both went home to Mumbai with more than one piece. Now, Liz might have thought I picked up something more appropriate for a mattress than a dress, but I know regardless she will support my sewing choice, as she’s cool that way. That being said, while I love love love the result, I have to say, it might have gone right past mattress and into Edwardian Prison guard territory…

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Ah, well, you know how it is, some days you start out making a charming shirt dress and end up in incarcerated in 1910.e5d26f882abea11a6789a472abc3de36

Maybe I’m not even a guard. Maybe I’m an inmate….

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I guess a show about this wouldn’t be Orange is the New Black so much as it would be something like Tetanus is the New Scurvy.

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See the resemblance? Ah, well. It shows I’m tough, with a degree from the school of hard knocks. I bet that’s going to earn me a lot of street cred here in Mumbai. Or cause colonial flashbacks….

ED 3WHATEVER. I love my dress! Mattress, guard, inmate, see, it’s versatile! This is a version of McCalls M6696, which I have made several times before, here and here and one unblogged version. I love this pattern, but I’ve always had a little bit of chest gape between the buttons which I’ve fixed with safety pins. This time, I just cut the bodice with about 2.5 extra inches of ease, which fixed the issue and gave the bodice a looser fit, which is just fine with me, in Mumbai’s pre-monsoon heat (during which these photos were taken, now the monsoon has come in earnest and as I type this sheets of water pour down) I wanted everything looser and baggier and just not touching my body as much as possible.

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I made this version sleeveless, and I opted to drape my own skirt, aka throw some pleats in that fabric and call it a day. Otherwise I didn’t make any changes other than loosening up the bodice for gaping purposes. I played around with directions of the stripes a little on the waistband and then on the yoke:

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Oh, and I changed the gather to a pleat and took a little bit, maybe 1.5 inches, out of the back in a slight wedge shape to account for the change. That way I get that blousey 1940’s feeling without feeling like I could fit my cat in my back bodice. Side note, I had been walking around for all of ten minutes when we took these photos and you can ALREADY see perspiration on my back. THAT IS WHAT IT IS LIKE HERE ALL THE TIME.

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I finished the armholes with bias tape, as one does. I also french seamed it throughout whenever there was a seam that needed such a thing.

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I’ve taken to hemming things a few inches below the knee, which might not be the most flattering length for me ever, but it is pretty useful in Mumbai and India in general. It’s funny, for a Saturday night at a bar or restaurant I will see, and wear, things much shorter than this, but during the day walking around seeing someone in a dress or skirt is rare in and of itself, and when in doubt, tea-length does work well even if it shortens me. Sigh. Like I need something to shorten me….

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A little close up so you can see the cool wooden buttons, purchased at my local market here in Santacruz (our neighborhood), and the fabric. Ha, one of the buttons is slipping out, I just realized that! Oy. I always like the way darts look in stripes, is that weird?

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So there you go. Maybe it’s a little Edwardian Prison, guard or inmate, but I’ll take it. Besides, most people wont get the reference here, anyway, so I think I’m pretty safe. Although, a lot of people DO like Downton Abbey here, so….well, let’s hope they think guard and not inmate!

Coming soon, dressing for the monsoon! I…don’t know how to do it…

 

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Filed under McCalls Patterns, Sewing