Tag Archives: Kalle Shirtdress

The Luxe Life Shirtdress

One of the greatest things about other people is the things they introduce to your life. I am, of course, enough of a Sartre fan to feel deeply that hell is, in fact, other people, and I wanted to put that on my yearbook page my senior year, but my mother told me it would be too negative. Deborah was probably 100% right, and she herself had a cynical senior yearbook page and knew of what she spoke, so I trusted her, but I’ve always been one of those people who was like, ohhh, man, PEOPLE, am I right? The worst! And yet, I also need and crave them, which is why when I find MY people, I’m a stage five clinger, and let go for nothing. I sing their praises to the world like troubadours of old, and I go to them for the wisdom of the ages. And I am forever grateful for the things they introduce me to, the books they recommend, the television shows they adore, the life hacks they tell me about (I would…not know what a lifehack was without my friends. For reals.) and all they bring. So today, I will celebrate Liz, my friend who introduced me to the joy that is going nuts over luxury hotels.

When Liz visited me in India, we traveled North together in May, a time when most people I know told me I was literally out of my mind because of the ground-baking heat. I maintain, however, that this was the best time to visit Delhi and Jaipur, specifically Jaipur, because yes, it was a daily desert, BUT, there were no other tourists! In India, I will take bad weather over crowds ANY DAY OF THE WEEK (please refer to the earlier statement about Sartre, kay, thanks) AND all the prices were slashed because it was the low point of tourist season. So we spent five nights at the Royal Heritage Haveli, which is seriously one of the best hotels I’ve even been in, a renovated Maharaja’s hunting lodge in Jaipur and just an amazing place to stay. I had stayed with my parents previously, but in the May scorching heat, Liz convinced me to spend a day lounging at the fabulous pool and soaking in the stunning Rajput inspired renovation. It was so wonderful, and I had never before spent a day during a trip not….doing anything. It was a revelation, and while I’m still a very active tourist wherever I go, hunting down historic sights and museums with the single-minded focus of a falcon hunting for mice, I do value lounging at a nice hotel and even taking some downtime, once I’ve exhausted my list of activities, that is.

Luckily, in Singapore, I’ve done most of the things that interest me from a tourist perspective, several times, so when Liz stopped by between traveling with her mother in China and being stuffed full of delights by her family in Hong Kong, we could focus on eating, hanging out by the pool, and squealing about our hotel.

Obviously, it’s clear to me that my life as a writer will mean millions and millions of dollars, fame, a-list events, and celebrity friendships. I mean, that’s really why I got into it in the first place, all those stereotypes about how easy it is, the glitz, the glamour. I obviously joke, but I hope that even if I do achieve modest success, and end up staying in a series of nice hotels, I still have the same feeling of joy and delight that I do now when I stay somewhere sleek and shiny and pretty. Or somewhere charming and historic and pretty. Basically, I just never want to take nice stuff for granted. Nice stuff is nice, and it’s a privilege to get to spend a night or two or however many in a lovely place like the Pan Pacific Singapore. If anyone in my life ever hears me being like, well, it’s nice, but it’s no Ritz, please, shoot me. Shoot me immediately. It’s fun to read Crazy Rich Asians, but I think it would be hell to live it.

So here is my latest Kalle Shirtdress, the third I’ve made, with the third button placket style, photographed in my most glamorous style possible with my expert photographer/partner in hotel adoration, Liz:

I have a lot of wonderful people in my life who take my photos, but I will say, Liz, with her eye for clothing and fashion, given that she sews herself and is a costume historian, really knows how to photograph my makes. She gets into it! Which is good, because 99% of the time, I feel like an idiot getting my photo taken. But here? I knew and know, I was super cool.

This is my third Kelle shirtdress, and this time I stitched up a 12, while my two previous incarnations had been a 14. It’s a roomy pattern, and I knew going down a size wouldn’t do much.

I made my usual adjustment of adding five inches at the hem, and that’s about it. Oh, I also did the inverted V rather than the pleat.

These photos were taken on our hotel room balcony. OUR HOTEL ROOM HAD A BALCONY! That was awesome.

The fabric is from my newly beloved Thakur, and this time I did the concealed placket. It’s a little more work, but it’s a cool effect, so I didn’t mind.

 

Liz was like, grab your sunglasses! She needs to add “shoot styling” to her resume.

Ahhh, enjoying the steamy humid Singaporean sunshine.

I have made three of these dresses, but I don’t know if I’m interested in stopping any time soon. They are so comfortable and airy in the clinging Mumbai heat, or, in these photos, in the Singapore stickiness, that I feel like I could just make them forever. Kalle shirtdress for life!

Meanwhile, I’m currently listening to this song and making this soup and talking with my co-worker about Joan’s style evolution on Elementary. What are you guys up to?

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The Annual Elephant Dress Round Three!

Here we go, my annual elephant dress in its third incarnation! Those who have missed the first two rounds of this tradition can check out year one here, and year two here. And if you are wondering why I like elephants then I would kindly request that you stop reading this blog because you are obviously a heartless monster.

LOOK AT THEM:

I am this baby elephant at all times.

I really am making this thing a tradition, guys. Which makes sense, because there is nothing that is easier to get in India than fabric with elephants printed on it. I mean, it’s a CENTRAL theme, in a big way. Elephants walk across fabric the way they walk across the subcontinent itself, and as a result, I can be a little picky about my elephant fabrics. After all, I don’t want just ANY elephants, and I don’t want to look like my whole body is a white tourist in Thailand.

UGH. THE HUMANITY.

Fun fact, on a recent trip to Sri Lanka, my friend Ben and I decided to count elephant pants, because we are united in many things, not the least of which is our loathing for these pants, and we counted like 10 pairs in one day at one tourist site before I gave up because as some point you are just setting yourself up for failure. Good GOD, just buy a pair of loose-fitting pants in a linen or cotton in your own country BEFORE YOUR TRIP! Note to tourists of South and Southeast Asia, THESE ARE NOT REQUIRED. They WILL let you in the country without them. Alternatives to these monstrosities include ANYTHING ELSE. These will not actually help you on your trip, they will fall apart as soon as you get home, and while you are traveling they are like putting a “please overcharge me for everything” sign on your head. Get a pair of loose-fitting, lightweight and dark pants, and you are DONE. End this madness! It starts with you!

So, I didn’t want THAT. I wanted something more subtle, more interesting, more me, less backpacking-through-Cambodia.(I tugged a WHEELIE bag through Cambodia, thank you VERY much.) So I waited, and watched, keeping an eye out for the right fabric, knowing it would come to me in time, with patience. Much like the elephants themselves, wise great creatures that they are, I picked my moment. And when I found this subtle green fabric with origami elephants on them at my newly beloved Thakur Fabrics, despite the fact that the color might not be exactly my perfect shade of green, I went for it. Because sometimes, you just gotta go with a color you know isn’t in your seasonal palette because dammit, the elephants! And then, once the fabric was secured, which pattern? Well that part was easier, because right now all I want to do is make Kalle dresses. Actually, that’s another thing that I’m on the fence about in terms of it being flattering, but honestly, they are such perfect dresses for hot humid weather which is basically most of my life right now that again, I’m letting that go. I’m letting so much go, and embracing elephants. What a life.

So here we are! My second Kalle, by third Elephant dress, shot in the blinding sun of San Juan, Puerto Rico. This face really reflects the ambiguity I feel about this color coupled with a lack of caring. This shot is the most reflective of the dress’ coloring, fyi.

Once again I lengthened this dress (seriously it’s so short, does any one else feel that way? I am a short person!) by five inches, and this time I put in the band collar which, if I’m honest, I probably wont be doing again soon, not my style, but I like to mix it up!

See, the elephants are very small and subtle here, basically they opposite of the way they are in…life. Elephants, great and small, are all amazing.

I don’t really have much to say about this dress, honestly. It came together fast, it’s comfortable as hell, and I am going down a size to the 12 for my next version (already cut!). That’s…about it.

I mean it’s basically a well-shaped sack pretending not to be. I love it.

The sun was extremely bright, and my grimace game strong, but here you go, me, a street in San Juan, elephants. What else is there to say?

If you too love elephants and want to contribute to their safety and survival, there are many places you can donate, and may I suggest this one for today?

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The Work In Progress Dress

Ah, it’s that time again, Me Made May! At this point, to be fair, my life is a me made life, with the rare RTW item surfacing, usually around workouts, or as undergarments, or recently with swimwear and jeans (I know, I KNOW I can make my own, and have made my own active wear and swimwear, as well as denim items that are not technically jeans, but my machine here in India hates most knit fabrics, sigh, and I’m afraid of the hardware, and I will eventually sew both jeans and swimsuits again, but for right NOW this is where I’m at).  But I like participating in Me Made May, to show off stuff that doesn’t seem worth a blog post, i.e. one of a thousand Scout Tees and Plantain Tees and other things that just don’t make it on here, but that pepper my wardrobe nonetheless. Additionally, this year I’m going to be traveling for half of May, so I’m eager to challenge myself with a me-made travel wardrobe and, hopefully, not bore us all. I’m documenting my Me Made May 2017 journey on Instagram, so follow me @lfstruggle for images and updates!

Me Made May also forces me TO document for the blog some of the projects that I’ve been behind on photographing. This, however, is not one of them. No, I made this project, The Kalle Shirtdress, extremely recently, over the course of about a day, because honestly, despite the fact that it is a shirtdress, with buttons, and a popover placket, I have to say, it was just so easy to make! I am sure I am not alone in my gratitude for Closet Case Patterns, for this wonderful pattern. I remember the day I saw Heather’s blog post on the self-drafted shirtdress that started it all, and I thought, damn, not only is that a much better version of the Archer Hack I made, but how wonderful would that pattern been in Mumbai all year round and during the summer anywhere? So when Heather actually released the pattern, it was one of those rare for me moments when I actually bought something immediately. I’m a planner, and I like to “visit” purchases, consider them, do I really need them, and when it comes to patterns, will I make this again? Do I have an occasion for this? But with this pattern, none of those questions could be answered by anything other than a resounding YES so click, buy, print, assemble, make, done. Honestly, if I wasn’t writing one novel, editing another, and, you know, working at a job job, I probably would have just sat down and made it the day I bought it, but alas, life sometimes gets in the way of sewing, who knows why.

 

Of course, when I wore this dress to work and convinced my co-workers to photograph me, we managed to find a primo spot in the open construction site that literally IS Mumbai, and the nearby sign really spoke to me as a human (ugh, I deplore that phrase but watcha gonna do). Who among us does not feel like a work in progress? Who feels done, over, sorted? I don’t know to know people like that. I don’t want to bother with complacency. In fact, it is one of the most interesting and frustrating things to me about spending time in India, the way that culture and ground realities of Indian life have conspired in so many to create a language and vocabulary about inherent and intrinsic qualities, the repetition of the phrase “but they are just like that”, or, “that is just how things are”. If I felt I could not be constantly working and striving to improve the world around me, starting with myself, I don’t know how I would find motivation to try or accomplish anything. And in some ways sewing is a wonderful microcosm for me in my ability to learn, and to keep learning. Much as I envy lifelong stitchers, the fact that I have learned this skill fairly recently, almost 8 years ago, I suppose, now, wow, scary thought, and the fact that it has led to other skills and crafts and interests, speaks to me of the elasticity of the human mind, and the way learning and growing is not only possible but essential.

Anyway, enough of that. For more ruminations on India, you are welcome to check out this other blog.

For my first of many, I decided to try the dress option with the pleat back and a popover placket.

I wouldn’t say I got any truly fantastic photos of the back of this dress, but here you can see the pleat and a little of the fun I had with the yoke, cutting it cross-grain for some contrast.

I love a popover, I really do, finicky as it is. This attempt might not be the plutonic form of popover but I’m okay with it, and that’s what really matters, right?

I cut a size 14, because I have found in the past that Closet Case Patterns run small, or at least, that’s my perspective. I wanted to make sure this fit in the bust, that was the most important thing. Heather is running a sew-along for the pattern with a full bust adjustment post, which I plan to read, but for this time around, I just cut the size with my full bust measurement and figured the rest would be fine, it’s a looser-fitting style, anyway. In fact, a co-worker commented that this dress didn’t have my usual waist-hugging style. Beyond being flattered that someone had noticed my style, I had to agree with her. But I will say, I love the way this is drafted so that it glances off the body but still feels, dare I say it, sexy, flattering, body-skimming.

For the fabric, I picked this cotton from Thakur, my serious forever new favorite. I would say I’m financing someone’s country home or something there but it’s so cheap, in fact, that’s part of why I love it. This fabric, which was 60″ wide, was 190 rupees a meter, which is about 3 dollars. RIGHT? RIGHT? Yes.

Stitching this up was really easy, in fact, as I said, I did it in one day. The kimono sleeves mean there is nothing to set it, which is nice, and the collar method Heather has in her instructions is fantastic, seriously, unconventional as she describes it but made for one of the cleanest collars I’ve ever stitched. I didn’t mind finishing the hem with bias tape, yes it’s finicky but it makes for a clean curve which is lovely.

One thing I would say, though, about this pattern, is that I added a good 4.5 inches to the hem, because it seemed awfully short to me. Part of this, I know, is what being in India has done to my understanding of hemlines, because I have seriously warped vision about short, too-short, etc, not because Mumbai is so restrictive, it really isn’t, but because women’s legs are just not as visible here, and the few exceptions I see on a Saturday night, women in fancy bars with body-con dresses and micro-mini shorts, don’t make up for the overwhelming numbers of legs covered by leggings, pants, jeans and saris, even on the hottest of days.

 

That being said, this dress is short, even by my pre-India standards, and I don’t regret lengthening the hem. I’d do it again in an instant!

As a side note, I really did think my hair looked okay and then I saw these photos and I was like, oh dear god, the horror. Le sigh. Thanks, never-ending humidity!

This tree is just outside of my office building, and you can always have a little Ganesh sesh when you need to, I guess. I have no idea. The longer I’m here, the less Hinduism makes sense to me. But you do you, Ganesh! You do you.

 

And I’m going to do me. Painful smile, messy hair, wonderful dress, a classic combo.

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