Clothes Make the Mom?

Bippety Boppety Boo
But, what if Cinderella preferred her “rags”? After all, she didn’t have to wear corsets or panniers, and her hair was definitely prettier.

Lately, a tempest in a teacup has erupted on the Boston Globe’s website. Last week, a blogger wrote an article titled, It’s Time to Reinvent the Suburban Mom. The author laments, “How did fleece and Lycra become the staples of the suburban mommy uniform? And why is it acceptable to wear leggings outside of the gym, or worse, when you don’t ever go to the gym? When did showering become optional? The suburban mommy needs a new uniform, pronto.”

She then goes on to list 6 items of clothing that every ‘suburban mommy’ should have in her closet. They include

  • “A pair of jeans that flatter you”
  • T-shirts
  • A “great silk shirt”
  • Leggings (Uh, lady, you just said they belonged only in the gym)
  • A Dress
  • A Blazer

All of these are accompanied by a paragraph explaining why people must adhere to this 6-piece capsule collection. Worse than that, the author insinuates that if you don’t stock your closet with these pieces, you are, in the parlance of our political times, a loser.

As you can imagine, this article elicited an… energetic response from readers, one of whom wrote a Counterpoint Article decrying the fact that women pronounce these judgements in a public arena (like the largest newspaper in Boston), while men get a free pass. She makes a bunch of other points, but that’s the one I agree with most.

I know it’s human nature to judge people by their looks, and I’m sure if I walk into a coffee shop with full frizz and no makeup, in shorts and a “Mother of Dragons” tee shirt, someone might think I’m a slob. Conversely, if someone sees me in fahncy jeans and a cashmere sweater with full warpaint, they might think I’m pulled together. But the fact is, I am pulled together, regardless of what I’m wearing. And I try really hard not to judge anyone else by what they are wearing, or how their hair/makeup looks. After all, I don’t know what their life is like, so why get all judge-y about it? I have other things to worry about.

Here’s my advice. Wear what makes you feel good. If that’s leggings, fine. If that’s a designer cashmere sweater over a silk blouse, fine. If you feel good, you will walk taller and have more confidence. It’s about you, not ‘them’.

In sewing news, the organza arrived for my StyleArc Poppy top, so I’ll resume working on that. While I waited for it, I also cut out a blouse using a new Simplicity pattern. This weekend I get to sew, lots, so there will be much to blog about. Until then,

Happy sewing!

When Life Gets Ugly, Focus on the Pretty

Jesus, this month. How much heartbreak can we take?

To lighten the mood a bit, last week I met my friend Angela in New York and spent a delightful day with her. We walked from Battery Park to Chinatown, where we feasted at Nom Wah (Thanks to Rosie for sending us there. Best. Dim Sum. Ever!), then we caught the train uptown to see the “Manus Ex Machina” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So here are some pictures to remind us that when the world gets ugly, and God knows it’s been one ugly-ass summer so far, there is still beauty all around us.

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Neoprene couture wedding gown by Chanel opens the exhibit
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But what’s with the drag lines?
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McQueen metal dresses
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Can’t sit in this one
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Hussein Chalayan
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Dior!
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Crappy cell phone detail of the embroidery on the Dior dress
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Dior’s Petale
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McQueen
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Dior by Yves Saint Laurent
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This is made of plastic drinking straws
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Clear sequins over printed ombré silk jersey
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Halston
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Dior side by side with McQueen
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70s Givenchy, IIRC
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Iris van Herpen is one crazy lady!
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For those days you just want to look like a wooly bear caterpillar
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Valentino and Gres on the left, Iris van Herpen on the right
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Mummy couture
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Classic Chanel? Kinda sorta. That “tweed” is plastic
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Here you can see the “weave” of the Chanel tweed
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Cool idea for a shirt dress from Prada: zipper instead of button placket
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Only a sewing nerd would stick her camera under the dress to see the innards
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Hand crocheted lace
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Chanel fron the 30s

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The exhibit has been extended into September. If you have the chance, do go see it.

Happy sewing!

Les Petites Mains Get Their Day in the Sun!

Photo credit: Chanel.com

In the latest Chanel Couture show, Karl Lagerfeld shone the spotlight on les petites mains who make the clothes that inspire us all. To all our Gorgeous Peeps, this is inspiration and acknowledgement of the work that goes into these amazing garments. Anyone who sews, knows this. Merci, Monsieur Lagerfeld, for showing the women and men behind that curtain!

The link to the full Reuters Story is Here

PS, the fashion world is abuzz with the rumor that Lagerfeld, who is 82 years old, is going to retire soon. We’ll see…

Happy sewing!

“It Reads a Little Missy”

Last Sunday I had the delight of spending the day with my BFAM Emmett. We snoop shopped the 4th floor (Evening Wear) of Bergdorf Goodman. Afterward, I drooled on the windows of Van Cleef and Arpels, then we went for sushi at the Plaza Food Court (seriously – a food court at The Plaza? And it wasn’t outrageously overpriced, and it was really good).

On the 4th floor of Bergdorf’s, caftans are the big thing. Liza and Liz in the 70s, with a little “Maude” thrown in just for good measure.

$4900? Seriously?
$7500 because the tag reads Oscar de la Renta.
Star Trek shore leave outfit, yours for a cool 4 grand.

I need to invest in horsehair braid, obvs.
Seriously, who wears this stuff? There were also some beautiful gowns that you can see in the background, but man oh man, I am SO glad I sew.

After I got home from New York, I worked one finishing my third StyleArc Lori jacket. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen the work in progress, along with my debate beforehand about another possible pattern. For various reasons (mostly fit through the sleeves), the other pattern didn’t work out. I won’t review the Lori again, but you can read my prior review of it Here. The zipper is a Riri from Pacific Trimming. The title quote was Emmett’s read on the fabric when I showed him a swatch – he hadn’t seen the jacket yet. But hey, what are brothers for if not speaking truth? He suggested adding denim, so I’ll give it a shot this week and see how it works.

Enough about last week; here are the pictures of the latest Lori on Shelley:

Front, showing the Riri zipper I bought at Pacific Trims

Silk habotai lining from Gorgeous Fabrics, of course (sorry – it’s sold out)

That’s what’s been happening around here. I hope you had a wonderful Mothers Day if you celebrate it. More on DS the Younger’s prom vest shortly.

Happy sewing!

Wrapapalooza!

Here we are at the last day of August. Ay yi yi, where has the summer gone? Tomorrow, September 1, is Labor Day here in the US, and, along with the holiday, it is the start of National Sewing Month! I thought it would be fun to do a very loose sew along to mark the month. So I looked through my pattern stash and I realized I have at least 4 different wrap dress patterns. That’s when I had a lightbulb moment: let’s make wrap dresses for September! And I shall call it…

Wrapapalooza!

Here are the four patterns I pulled from my stash:

4 Weeks, 4 Wrap Dresses? We’ll see.

Clockwise from bottom left: StyleArc’s Kate, the ever-elusive Vogue 1549 by Diane Von Furstenberg, Very Easy Vogue 8646 and StyleArc’s Tia.

I have two fabrics in my stash that I will use for two of the dresses: one is a sold-out black/white print, the other is Abstract Zigs Rayon Jersey – Blues/Multi. Both are, of course, from Gorgeous Fabrics.

Whether I will make all four dresses in September is up in the air. But I think I’ll start with Vogue 8646 and the black/white ITY jersey. Today it’s really hot, so I am tempted to make the sleeveless version. That should see me through September and into cooler weather under a jacket. I am leaning toward using the Abstract Zigs with the Kate pattern, but I might use it for the DVF. I can make that decision later.

In the meantime, who wants to join me? Leave a comment and let me know if you are in, and what you’re planning to make. What other patterns for wrap dresses do you like? It can include mock-wrap, if you prefer. You don’t have to use Gorgeous Fabrics, though of course that is always appreciated. 🙂

Let’s have a Wrap-dacious, Wrapapalooza September! It will be fun, it will be fashionable and it will be fabulous! Okay, I’m off to check my pattern measurements and pre-wash my fabric so I can get going tomorrow.

Happy sewing!

Charles James at the Met

This is a long one, and picture heavy, so grab a cup or glass, sit back, and enjoy. 🙂

The iconic image of Charles James gowns photographed by Cecil Beaton

I was in New York for a series of meetings this week. Yesterday morning, I got a call about an hour before one of my scheduled meetings that the vendor was sick and couldn’t make it. That gave me a couple of hours to kill. Let’s see, I’m in New York, I have nowhere to be until noon. What to do? It took me all of about a nanosecond to hail a cab and head up to the Met, where “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” is on display. I had less than 2 hours, so I booked it right for the exhibit.

The exhibit is outstanding for the most part. It’s split into two areas. The first area houses the iconic James gowns: Tree, Butterfly, Four Leaf Clover, Swan and many others. These gowns are heavy. They weigh between 12 and 20 lbs. Vogue has a fun article about the comparative weights of several iconic James Gowns. For example, Tree:

Named after Marietta Tree, Mother of the model Penelope Tree
Named after Marietta Tree, Mother of the model Penelope Tree

Weighs 13 lbs, or as Vogue likes to say, about the same as an average sized watermelon. The Butterfly dress, which I am kicking myself for not getting a picture, weighs the same as 5 baby French Bulldogs. Speaking of which, Puppy Dress!!!!

I have never claimed to be anywhere near Charles James' abilities, but I do like French Bulldogs
I have never claimed to be anywhere near Charles James’ abilities, but I do like French Bulldogs
Swan
Swan, with like, a bajillion yards of tulle

Rather than blah blah blah you to death, let me just share the pictures I took. They allowed pictures, as long as you didn’t use flash. I only had my phone with me, so pardon the low quality.

Swan Back
As close as I could get to the Swan from the back. These dresses stood a solid inch away from the body
Back of the Tree
Back of the Tree
Green ballgown, whose name I didn't note
Green ballgown, whose name I didn’t note
Green ballgown with photoshopping to try to see it better
Green ballgown with photoshopping to try to see it better
Evening Dress 2
Evening Dress with velvet bodice and silk satin and faille skirt (color enhanced for contrast)
I cribbed this picture from the Chicago Museum site
I cribbed this picture from the Chicago Museum site

Something cool that the exhibit did was they had videos, camera shots and ‘x-rays’ of the innards of the dresses. They used robotic arms to highlight the areas they were describing on monitors, and they even (and this was totally cool) had one camera that delved under a dress to show the multicolored layers of tulle that made up the underskirt.

The silk and velvet Four Leaf Clover was there, as was this absolutely spectacular lace and silk version

Lacy Clover 1
The best video was the one showing how the lace was appliquéd to this gown.

Lacy Clover Back Lacy Clover 2
Here are some more pictures with some detail shots
Pouf Gown

Seaming and Hem on a Pouf Gown

This bridal dress was designed by Charles for a Modess sanitary napkins print ad. My, how times have changed…

Modess Bridal Gown Back Modess Bridal Gown
This dress was designed for the opening of a Georgia O’Keefe exhibit, and is meant to reference the female genitalia. Can I just say? I am no prude but I don’t need any literal references to the vajayjay running down the front of my dress.

Couture Ew
Couture Ew

There’s a reason that look never caught on, Chuck, trust me.

After the Iconic Gowns, the exhibit continues.
Temple of Dendur

On the other side of the museum, behind the Temple of Dendur (which is so cool, BTW) and down in the basement!
Seriously, the gowns are front and center, and the rest of his work is consigned to the cellar. The curators were trying to say something here. Maybe the curators were inadvertently imagining the wearers of his other outfits to be traveling by subway? Who knows. But in the (basement) Anna Wintour Costume Institute, the works displayed were in many cases, remarkably pedestrian. Coats, day and evening dresses, worn by the socialites of the day, and no doubt worn beautifully, but they were not iconic. They are not notable. They are not even memorable.

Evening Dress
Draped evening dress
Dinner Dresses
Dinner Dresses
Day Dresses
Okay, these day dresses were spectacular.
Coats
But this coat? Not so much

As I said to Phyllis, ‘These reminded me of Ethel Mertz and Mamie Eisenhower.’ I said earlier that the show was outstanding for the most part. The part that was outstanding was on the first floor, not in the basement. The coats, dresses and outfits – even the gowns, are of their time. They are a wonderful diorama of postwar chic. James is considered visionary, but his vision doesn’t translate across time. They are costumes that were worn by our grandmothers. Beautiful costumes, but costumes nonetheless.

While this may be more of an historical reference, the show is really worth seeing. If you can get to New York to see this exhibit, by all means do! It’s a great snapshot of American fashion history.

Happy sewing!

It’s That Time of Year Again!

September! You know what that means, don’t you? Fashion Weeks! Everywhere! New York Fashion Week was last week, Paris Fashion Week starts in a week and a half (more on that later). And today, I went into Boston with DH, DS the Younger and his best friend. What did I see when I got there? The annual Wearable Art fashion show from Mass College of Art & Design. These are juried student works, ranging from daywear to evening looks to, quoting Project Runway (don’t even get me going), the “Unconventional Materials Challenge”, which happens to be my favorite. So enough jabbering, let’s show the looks!

There were three vitrines. Or maybe they were daises, since they were open air. Whichever, the first was day looks:

Color Blocked Day Dress

 

Tweedy Day Look – this one had metallic threads and was very cool.

Time for Change? This one escapes me…
This was, alas, ruined by a poor turn of the lower right (on the mannequin) lapel
This was inspired by the student’s dad, who was in the navy.
Obviously inspired by Yves Saint Laurent

 

Two menswear looks. The one closest was inspired by cock fighting, which kinda ruined it for me.

The next vitrine housed the evening wear looks.

Bound buttonholes. LOTS of bound buttonholes.

 

The scaffolding on the dress reflects the scaffolding they were using in the building.

 

This reminds me of a Stella McCartney gown
Alas, the back kinda ruins it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good dress but…
Thanks to the scaffolding, I couldn’t get individual pictures, but the one on the left was duchesse satin. I didn’t see the fabric content on the black and white, but it looked like toile and matte jersey?
If you were alive in the 80s, tell me – doesn’t this remind you of the Princess Diana dress?

And then on to my favorite, the unusual materials group:

Dress made of faux hair
Braids – hmmmmm….

 

This was made from negatives of the designer’s childhood photos.
This dress is made from the little candle wick stops you see in votive candles. Thousands of them! The dress next to it is made of feathers and….
…Painted Potpourrri!
Here’s a view of the whole dress

 

This dress was made from twisty-ties.
This one is made from 9000 1/2 inch square mirrors
This one is made from 9000 1/2 inch square mirrors. Seriously. 9000.

Okay now, darlings, I need to talk to you. I’m going on a real, honest-to-goodness vacation next week. I’m not leaving until the 21st, but I am going to… Paris!!!!! I’m leaving my computer behind, and while I am gone we won’t be processing any orders. I’m giving you notice now, so you can be prepared. I haven’t unplugged ever in the last 6+ years, but my DH is going to Paris for a trade show, and I don’t know when or if I’ll get another chance, so I’m going!!!!!!!

I will be here  and online all this week, but starting next Saturday, September 21st, all orders will be held until I get back on Thursday, September 26th. Merci in advance for your patience, and I’ll post tons of pictures from the City of Light when I get back!

Happy sewing!

Die, Mullet Hem, Die!

I’m busy muslining the Heather Dress. Good news is that it fits pretty well out of the envelope. I just need to add a skoosh more room around the torso, lengthen the bodice front a bit, and take in the hip area. In the meantime, I have been seeing an awful lot of women and girls wearing mullet-hem dresses and skirts. Man, that is one trend that I wish would wander off into the woods and die. I’m not talking about this:

Or flamenco-inspired like this:

Heck, I’ve worn this:

Not one of my sartorially prouder moments.

No, I’m talking about the likes of this:

Or, God help us, this:

Honey, you forgot to cut the back of your dress down.

There were lots of these mini-to-maxi dresses and skirts that walked across the stage at scholarship night. What struck me about them was how half-assed they looked. That’s a statement about the design, not the wearer. With more fabric and more flow, these might look decent. But if you do a mullet skirt with a single layer of fabric, and not gathered, but hanging straight, with a mid-thigh front and ankle back, it just looks like the designer cheaped out, and the visual effect moving across space is, in the words of Nina Garcia, “not aesthetically pleasing.” I’m betting that by this time next year, they will scream 2013. Here’s hoping.

Well, back to the muslin. Happy sewing!

It’s All About the Butterfly

Have you seen it yet? If not, you must

Last night I had a tussle with my 17 year old. He wanted to watch “Glee”. I was recording “Project Runway All-Stars”, and I set the DVR to record the HBO documentary, “In Vogue, The Editor’s Eye”. Not all three could happen at once, so being the fabulous mom I am, I capitulated and told him to cancel the recording of Project Runway (as a side note, I hear that I didn’t miss anything, which is how I feel more and more about PR these days).

But I did record “In Vogue, The Editor’s Eye”, and tonight I sat down to watch it.

Oh.

My.

God.

If you haven’t seen it, you must! Forget “The Devil Wears Prada”, this documentary immediately pulls you into the world of the fashion editors over the years at Vogue. From Babs Simpson (about to turn 100), through the redoubtable Grace Coddington to Tonne Goodman, this film interviews numerous editors from the magazine through the years – from World War 2 to today. Highlights include Polly Allen Mellen (so memorable in “Unzipped”) talking about the sexual revolution and how it affected fashion photography. Then there’s Phyllis Posnick, who may not be as well known, but who makes some of the most stunning images I’ve ever seen in the magazine (still lifes and single-shots for beauty stories are among her most memorable visuals), to Grace Coddington, of course. All the while, Anna Wintour, who winks at us all by actually wearing Prada for her interviews, gives a background narrative that frames both the history and the current crop of editors and photographers. I was captivated. It’s admiring without being reverential. Heck, it makes me want to work for Vogue! I’m going to watch it again, and again, and again… Oh, and BTW, stick around for the credits, and you’ll understand the title of this post!

If you get HBO on your cable service, you can watch “In Vogue, the Editor’s Eye” at HBOGo.com

In sewing news, I spent a couple of days this week on a buying trip, and MAN, did I come home with a ton of goodies! I just put up a bunch of Boiled Wools, and I have a boatload of new fabrics coming, on top of the dozens I’ve already put up over the last couple of days.

For myself, while I was there, I picked up a stunning double-faced stretch wool crepe in cobalt and black. I also got a Riri zipper to go with it, and I am going to make Marcy Tilton’s Vogue Jacket 8795 (thanks for that inspiration, Gigi!)

That’s where things stand for now. I’ll post pictures of the double faced wool (gorge!) tomorrow.

Happy sewing!