Tag Archives: mccalls 7351

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 Years later, when I went to the Natural History Museum in New York, I gave the horribly outdated and not a little bit racist anthropology section some side eye, and raced over to the dinosaurs.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 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 Fishing For Compliments Dress

Sometimes a fabric is so appealing to you that when you come across it a second time, you have to buy it, come hell or high water. I think I have demonstrated my proclivity towards this sort of thing with this dress, but just to remind you, I am totally the kind of person whose taste tends to run the same way year after year and who, when encountering a print she loved, will jump on that thing like its a damn trampoline. So I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised when I presented my latest creation to what’s-his-face and he screwed up said face and said, “Haven’t I seen that before?”. Well, yes, I patiently explained, in a way you have, but as a shirt. This is a dress. The difference was not immediately clear to him, proving that men do not understand how clothing works on fundamental levels. Ah well, at least he’s pretty…

So yes, I found a fabric I had enjoyed before, and I purchased it, and made something else with it. And I have to say, I’m so thrilled with the results that I legitimately do not care if people think I made all my clothing out of one fabric. Of course, how much attention is anyone actually paying to my wardrobe anyway? If what’s-his-face doesn’t even notice, I think I’m probably good, right?

Okay, so check out my latest incarnation of McCalls 7351, the shirtdress sweeping the nation, or at least the blog universe:

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We found a wedding happening in our building complex (of COURSE we did, its India, it would have been that or a guru visiting, I swear), and what’s-his-face decided this would be a great background for this dress. We totally delayed a couple for this wedding by hogging the entrance. I would feel guilty, if I hadn’t been delayed by a thousand Indian selfies on various occasions myself.

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Using the pattern as a base, with a cut size 14, I altered it just like I did the last time I made this dress, taking in the waist a bit by adding front waist darts, but this time I made slightly smaller darts, taking in about 3.5 inches off the waist so that it’s well-defined and doesn’t require a belt. I also lengthened the sleeves a tiny bit, and chanced the skirt to a box-pleat rather than the knife pleated or circle skirt option. I do want to make this with a circle skirt, maybe in a plaid? I really like this pattern! I mean, it’s a simple shirtdress but it’s cute and comfortable and I like the look. I made the sleeves a little bigger to accommodate my muscles, but I think I need to make them even bigger next time. Ah, well, that’s the price of strength I guess…

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Now, of late I’ve been pretty into white, or stuff printed on white, which is objectively dumb because there is nothing I own that I haven’t spilled something on, multiple times, but whatever, sometimes you sew aspirationally, I guess! But the problem with such materials is a tendency towards transparency, so I also made a slip to go underneath this and other dresses of its type. I grabbed a white cotton with a nice texture at my new favorite place, Thakur, which is also where I got this fish fabric, by the way, and I made a Seamwork Savannah camisole which I lengthened to become a bias-cut slip. I trimmed it with a cotton eyelet lace, and used that as straps, but I don’t have photos of that, sorry. You’ll just have to trust me that this exists and is under this dress.

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I had some fun playing with the direction of the fish, making the bodice vertical and the skirt and bodice yoke and sleeves horizontal. I mean, these fish are pretty fun by themselves, but why not add to the party?

There is a Bengali folktale called the marriage of the fishes, in which a group of fish in a pound have a wedding, but they don’t want to invite the biggest fish in the pound because he will eat all the food. Of course, the unfortunate consequence of this is that he comes and eats all the FISH. But so far, my fish seem pretty content with each other. Let’s hope that lasts…

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Enjoying this charming wedding entrance. How nice that they did this just for my photos, right?

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Oh, and I used green shell buttons, you can sort of see them here. I also used green thread for a lot of the construction/topstitching, which was new for me, I don’t usually do a contrasting topstitch, but I like it! And so do the fish, I feel.

I mean, they haven’t said anything, but you know, they feel happy.

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And so am I!

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Cadfael, on the other hand, misses the days this dress was a floor covering he could enjoy in comfort and peace. Ah, well, you can’t please everyone…

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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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