Seam Ripped

a sewing blog without the sewing

written on the body

In typical horrifying style, I’m just going to name all of my blog posts after works of literature. Thank you, Jeannette Winterson.

I was in the hospital last year, having just been deflated like a balloon in the Macy’s parade. (Apologies, new readers, you’re going to have to wait until later for the Charlotte’s Adventures in the Jungle of Poor Health stories.) In any event, I was lying in bed at the end of the day, delirious with not nearly enough drugs, chatting with the world’s best nurse about my post-surgical woes. What were you worried about, Seam Ripped? Your ongoing health? School? Spending an entire week on a clear fluid diet like a 1990s model before a big show? Pshaw! Have we met? I was worried about my physical appearance. I think I said, “I don’t want to jiggle! I have never in life jiggled!” Bobbie (title holder for World’s Best Nurse, and this story’s hero) replied, “You’ll have a Renaissance body!” I can’t remember if I said it or just thought it, but I sobbed, “I HATE THE FUCKING RENAISSANCE!” Woe!  Nothing if not emotionally mature, over here.

Titian's Danaë with young Eros.

Titian’s Danaë with young Eros.  When was the last time Zeus rained gold on me?  What has Zeus done for me lately, is what I’m saying.  Oh God.  Literally.

Over the weekend (this is now several weekends ago), I went to see Titian’s Danaë at the National Gallery.  I wonder if Titian painted Danaë nude because he was worried about finding the right dress to deëmphasize her midsection or he didn’t have time to head to the mall to have her colors done.  Maybe Danaë spent a long time worrying about not getting enough cardio, locked up in that bronze tower.  Such a pretty face, they’d tell her.  That is, if they ever got to see her.  I hear Lady Godiva had the same problem, you know.  That’s why she rode the horse nude: she couldn’t decide what to wear.

Let’s just say that I spend a long time thinking about discourses of the body.  Is there a less obnoxious term for that?  Afraid not, reader.  Going into reading midcentury style guides, I was worried.  Concerned, really.  Have you ever tried to find a vintage pattern with a 40″ bust?  What about a 40″ hip?  Now, I read contemporary fashion magazines and so much of it seems to be about diminishing and deëmphasis, dressing so that your body can appear to conform to a long, lean, busty, hippy, firm, pretty-but-not-intimidating, sexy-but-not-whorish, smart-but-unimposing Western ideal, rather than align with your personality traits.  If contemporary discourses are so troubling, what would I think about the famously direct Edith Head?  Or Claire McCardell and Adele Margolis who, while trailblazers, were unavoidably products of their time?

Gretchen over at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing wrote of being surprised about Irene Sharaff “body-snarking” Elizabeth Taylor.  I disagree about body-snarking in that instance, and I didn’t walk into the texts expecting that, as Gretchen writes, “Hollywood [or dressmakers] had more realistic expectations of stars [people] in the 50s and 60s, when a more womanly figure was in fashion.”  Mostly because I’m always disturbed by the idealization of the past, sure, but also the implication that women were more “womanly” in the era of distressing repression after the relative liberation of the 1940s.

Suffice it to say, I went in with some baggage.  A lot of baggage.  I was really pleasantly surprised, though.  More background.  (Don’t you love how this alleged review is basically me talking about me?  Me, too.)  When I first started writing this blog, I used to go back over my posts and add in a lot of I thinks and maybes, to cushion what I was saying.  Now, I do the exact opposite, and go back through my writing to savagely cull all of that.  Of course I think it, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing it, right?  The point is, there’s a directness to these books that I just love, even if I was a bit taken aback by it, initially.  No hemming and hawing and hand-wringing about pleasing and offending.  Just the facts, ma’am.  Por ejemplo:

I suggest the following, in the order I would choose if I were you. First: look at your figure. You know if you’re too fat. Consult your doctor and find out how much you can lose safely. He will be only too glad to help you and if you are really overweight he will disapprove from the standpoint of health. Your figure is adjustable—through diet and exercise. Instead of struggling from one size to another, you will save time and frustration by banishing potatoes. But be realistic. Reducing won’t guarantee a perfect figure if your bones aren’t arranged that way. Accept the fact that some alterations will be necessary and you will certainly save money if you can either do the alterations yourself or find a little dressmaker.  (McCardell 28)

Okay.  Now imagine Nina Garcia writing exactly those words.  Specifically, “You know if you’re too fat.”  She’d be pilloried.  I read a lot of contemporary style guides through Scribd, and did a fair bit of flipping through others at the bookstore.  The advice tends to lean more towards “Buy the right size for you.”  I don’t recall a single one addressing modifying your body to fit your clothes, but all of them suggest modifying your clothes to suit your body.  “Dress for the body you have now, not the one you have in your head,” they say.  Actually, that last bit has been an enduring suggestion.

Let’s hear from Adele Margolis now:

If you’re size 16 [contemporary US size 10-12] or over, you’re out of luck.  Some stores don’t even stock anything over a 14.  Clothing buyers and store managers tell us that the best-selling sizes across the country today are the 10’s and 12’s.  The largest voices and the best buys are in these smaller sizes. . . . If twenty pounds is an out-of-the-question weight loss for one who has lived enough years to consider her evening cocktail and a gourmet meal among the finer things in life, then at least one can think thin and try for ten.  In the ensuing struggle, it’s a comfort to know that it is better to fit the clothes you would like to wear than to make the clothes fit what you are—especially if what you are is anything less than great.  (Margolis 1-2)

Especially if what you are is anything less than great.  Okay.  Take a knee, grab some water, we’re over 1000 words in, and haven’t even addressed Edith Head, yet.

Okay, so there are perhaps, maybe, I think, kind of different ways of expressing these sentiments.  The old man that lives within me—the one frustrated by grade inflation, the everybody-gets-a-trophy mentality, and a stifling dedication to hollow, superficial niceness—is refreshed by Margolis and McCardell’s shit-or-get-off-the-pot approach.  (My will to run a family-friendly blog is flagging.)  They’re basically like really nice aunts, or something, who think that what they’re telling you is for the best.  I say this as someone with a cadre of aunts (and uncles, and parents, and grandparents, and elderly neighbors, and middle-aged neighbors, and maintenance people who work at school) who are far too fixated on my weight for my taste, and from whom “You know if you’re too fat” would be a reserved and tactful observation.

I’ve developed pretty thick skin, as well as a distaste for contemporary veiled body criticism.  Would you rather flip through magazine editorials that school you in the dark arts of figure flattery, delivering alleged compliments about “your tiny waist!  Squee!” while simultaneously telling you how to conceal your hideous, grotesque, offensive-to-all saddlebags?  What is the appreciable difference between that and the two quotes I’ve given you?  (Disclosure: While I’d love to tell you that I am Captain Body Confidence and Positivity, I most certainly am not.  I gained two inches on each calf after a four-ish months of spinning upwards of 6x/week, and am horrified by both my calves and my response to their sudden increase in size.  I am now hoping that Jesus, Mary, and Tracy Anderson will give me the “tiny dancer’s body” that is apparently my birthright as a contemporary woman.  I’m not switching up my exercise regimen because of my health or personal interest.  (I sob softly into my olives every time I hear a Lana Del Rey exercise remix at the grocery store, thinking of tap backs of days past.  “Summertime Sadness,” indeed.)  I’m doing it because I want to buy cute riding boots, and to not have to peel my trousers off of my calves. Point being, I am not immune to this line of reasoning, but I understand why it’s problematic.)

All that preamble to say, after thinking about it, I’m not sure I find what McCardell and Margolis are saying too offensive, actually.  I wish I could quote the entire books for you, but it seems to boil down to, “Listen:  If you don’t fall within this portion of the size range, then you could make efforts to slim yourself down to the region.  You’ll still have to make alterations, but the retail purchasing life is easier if you are within this specified band.  If you don’t, you’ll have to work harder to find or alter things that will allow you to project the image that you want to the people that you want.”  Eh.  Fair enough.  Dressing, it seems, is not about necessarily thinking about what you like, but rather what you want to say with what you wear.  There is a bit of a performative element to it, and while we could dress to reflect our conceptions of self, to ourselves, there are other voices in the room, and those voices are products of our culture at large.  Edith Head writes in the introduction of How to Dress for Success,

The way you dress—or package yourself—is the one thing over which you have absolute control.  You can’t change the size of your feet, the shape of your legs, the color of your eyes or the texture of your hair—but you can change the way you look ads easily as an actress does each times she plays a new role.

When you know what you want out of life—the areas of success you desire—then it is easy to dress “in character” to create the most exciting, pleasing, attractive appearance for your audience. . . .

Women come in a vast variety of recognizable basic types: the cute type, the majestic type, the dainty type, the boyish type, the clinging-vine type, the outdoor-girl type, the sexy type and many others.  Decide right now which basic type you are.  Ask yourself how big a part your clothes have played in making you that type.  Would you rather be a different type?  Would you prefer being chic to cute, looking dramatic to looking majestic, appearing more feminine, less mousey more striking?  What you wear, more than any other factor, can improve the type you are or change your type completely.

It is of first importance that the look you long for be compatible with your success goal.  Does it fit into the picture of you moving rapidly toward the role you eventually want to play?  (Head ix-xi)

Why the long quote?  Well, there are several important ideas here.  The first being about packaging and projection.  While I’m not terribly keen on the implications of the notion that most women conform to easily recognizable archetypes, I freely admit to filing people under certain categories based not just on what they wear, but why they seem to be wearing it.  The best thing about McCardell and Head is that their recommendations for dress are not about you.  Well, at least, they’re not necessarily about your aesthetic preferences within a vacuum.  Both seem to understand that clothing isn’t solely about self-expression, but function.  Function in a literal sense, with McCardell’s monastic dress and down-with-girdles attitude, but also in a very figurative sense.  When you put on clothes, you are essentially advertising a version of yourself to the world.   This is a major difference between books like McCardell’s and Head’s, and exercises like Wardrobe Architect or some of the contemporary style guides I ran across.  The second Wardrobe Architect worksheet asked a lot about one’s personal feelings about not wearing the right thing, or what you feel when when wearing a good-to-you outfit.  McCardell and Head are very much about understanding what you’re wearing refracted through others’ sensibilities and lenses of experience.

I can’t find the page where McCardell says that wearing your ladybug pin for tea with your Aunt Linda, who famously detests whimsy, is misgauging your audience.  It’s not Linda’s problem, but yours.  I feel most like me when I’m wearing a full, below-the-knee skirt, a fitted top (dress bodice or blouse), and a cardigan.  You know what, though?  I really don’t like the way I’m treated a lot of the time.  I hate that people talk to me with a bit of a baby voice, and look surprised when I tell them my major and school.  What’s the answer, then?  Dress like the awesome Janet Yellen?  The fictional and fabulous Diane Lockhart?  Actually, kinda.

Function, for McCardell and Head (we’ve abandoned Margolis, as I read her sewing book), is really about goal-oriented dressing.  Who do you want to be and for whom do you have to perform?  Naturally, I also worry about what that means, for you as a person.  If you wear the mask for long enough, does your face grow to fit it?  This is where I think McCardell especially nails it.  She’s not suggesting macro changes, or looking like a lost little girl wearing her mummy’s clothes.  You’re not a paper doll wearing your doctor/wife/mother/volunteer/bohemian outfit, but rather understanding how to take the baseline you—with your interests, comforts, and capabilities considered—and reconcile it with, then adapt it to, others’ conceptions of the person you want to be.  I took this theology class that got very hippie dippie and talked about sites of meeting and encounter.  For me, the body, through what we wear but who we are, acts as a site of encounter.  It is where self and culture meet—not just for you, but for people who look at you.  There’s something to be said about that moment of silent judgement and assessment.

This is running long (you think?), and I haven’t even skimmed the surface of either book’s advice.  Must stop making navel-gazing digressions.

I really want to address Professor Przybyszewski’s book The Lost Art of Dress at some point (don’t hold your breath), as I listened to an interview with her on the Diane Rehm Show just when I was first writing this post.  (Six whole weeks ago, reader.  I know.)  Basically, she thinks that we’ve become a nation of slobs and that no one cares about dressing anymore, and working on a college campus drives that home for her.  Well, I’ll leave you with a story.  I went to CVS during finals week a few semesters ago, after midnight.  There was a guy from school walking in ahead of me, wearing the dude-bro uniform—shower shoes, too-loose plaid shorts, and a t-shirt that could have used an iron. On the way in, a man had asked us for money for food, but I don’t carry cash, and am always a big fat disappointment in those situations.  Bro bought two packs of blond Oreos and a Gatorade.  “Typical,” I thought, because I am a judgmental shrew and was going through a [school]-loathing period (and I am jealous of the average 19-year-old male metabolism, big time).  On the way out, Bro gave a pack of Oreos to the man who wanted money for food.  “They’re golden,” he said.  And that’s that.

dress your family in corduroy and denim

I bought a cardigan in March.  Merino wool, long-sleeve, paid 50-ish bucks, but it retailed for $85.  (The J. Crew Tippi cardigan, if you care.)  I’m considering setting said cardigan aflame.

It’s a nice cardigan, sure, but it has not worn well.  I’m disinclined to blame the manufacturer, and not just because of my unholy Mickey Drexler fixation.  So, what’s so different from me and the intended wearer?  Well, for starters, I wore that cardigan to deff.  Up to 3x/week, while walking over a mile to the Metro, carting around a 30+lb backpack (what?  Wool doesn’t like friction?), letting my cat climb me like a tree, wading through 90% (rainless!  Effing rainless!) humidity, being late to the draw with my umbrella when the bloody rain finally came—the list goes on.  I wonder if I should have the same expectations for my clothes and shoes as someone who wears her cardigan once a week, and walks from an air-conditioned car into an air-conditioned office, and back.  Mayhap?

We’re finally getting to the point: I’ve been reading a lot of vintage style guides lately (post forthcoming, after I bone up on my contemporary style guides so that I can make sure I’m not talking out of my—God, I regret vowing to clean up my blog), and they describe a lifestyle that does not resemble mine.  Claire McCardell is really concerned about what I wear to the country club, because that’s where I’ll face some of my harshest critics.  Edith Head seems to disapprove of active husband hunting, but is totally willing to roll up her sleeves and help me do what it takes to get a man.  (Priorities, people.)  Adele Margolis thinks I’m fat.  (More on that, later.)  None of them think I carry my groceries home on the Metro, or haul enormous stacks of books to my carrel or up hundreds of stairs (inevitably flashing something to someone).   Does this lifestyle difference contribute to the expectations that I should have of my clothes?   Were things really objectively better back then?

I’ve been working on some overlapping posts lately, and can’t seem to land on the order in which they should go.  Per usual, I think I’ve overread.  I’ll just say: When reading this, perhaps think about how it relates to the evolution of our treatment of style and its cultivation (rather than an evolution of styles themselves), the increasing commercialization of fashion (The Wall Street Journal‘s Teri Agin had written a great book on this, called The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Industry Forever), image and how our wardrobes affect the ways in which we’re treated, and [prickly prickly prickly] status, and the ever-stickifying interplay between art, money, and social class.  I may or may not have a Countess Luann GIF situation all queued up for the status portion.

Countess Luann Gif

So glad that you asked, Countess.   Some Bureau of Labor Statistics daaaaa-taaaaaa!   Don’t ever say I don’t do anything nice for you, reader.

I made you an infographic, and WordPress won’t let me embed it.  Then, I made you a Keynote presentation complete with interactive charts (it was awesome!), and even though that file extension is accepted media, it’s still a no-go.  All right, reader.  All right.  Then, I made a nifty video. . . .  You see where this is going, right?  Uphill, both ways.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes its Consumer Expenditure Survey every year, now, but until the mid-1970s, it was published whenever they sort of felt like it. At one point, cash contributions and personal insurance weren’t included, and now they are.  It’s a hot mess, but I love it.  I’m using the data from 1950 to present, because the first half of the century involved two world wars and a depression, market shocks that I don’t think help our cause.

After reading Sarai Mitnick’s Coletterie piece “The Decline of Midrange Clothing” and its very, very long comments section, I had some capital-T Thoughts.  To my mind, there hasn’t been a decline in midrange, but rather a reconception of what midrange means.  I think that consumer expectations of per-garment cost have gone way down, people now expect to own more articles of clothing, and few consumers expect to pay full price for anything.  There is a reason why Ann Taylor and J. Crew so frequently do store-wide markdowns.  It’s become less about getting a deal, or even thinking you’ve gotten a deal, than it has about feeling you’ve gotten a deal.  Let’s see how my hypotheses hold up, shall we?

I’ve done some informal surveying of my older professors, and to their memories, there was literally Sears and Penneys, high-end department stores, and couture.  Sure, Marshall Field had his basement, but it was a home for in-house knockings off of the stuff from the upper floors.  Our question then becomes, are we dealing with a rise of the bottom, or a decline of the middle?  No one considered Sears and Penneys to be on the lower end of the spectrum, though.  Most middle-class families shopped there, for one reason or the next, and if you were less fortunate, you’d buy fewer things.  Also worth noting is that there weren’t really sales that often.  One professor says that he only remembers there being a 26 December get-rid-of-all-the-crap blowout (his words!) at Field’s, and that the reset of the time sticker price was sticker price.  Teri Agin, in the Marshall Field section of her book, notes that it was really in the 1980s that Field’s started running crazy cakes sales.

Let’s look at the data.  In the charts below, you’ll notice that in 1950, apparel had an 11.5% share of consumer expenditure, but now it hovers just above 4%.  Average family sizes have also changed from 3.0 (though some sources say 3.7, I’m sticking with the BLS on this one) to 2.5, and there’s been a rise in dual-income families.

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Here’s the same story, but on a nifty, partially cut-off table.  Only the best for you, reader.

US Garment Expenditure.002

So, people expected to spend a larger share of their income on clothing.  Bee-eff-dee, Charlotte.  Get to the damn point.  Fine, reader.  What were they buying, really?  How much of it were they buying, too?  I can’t find any good data on, say, the number of trousers owned by a single household, but damn I wish I could.  I will say that it was mildly surprising to read Claire McCardell endorse a focus on quality, rather than quantity, in 1956.  I generally think of this argument as a product of the boom-boom eighties, but nope, McCardell thought it applied to America’s nascent middle-class.  In her book, McCardell advocates holding out for a $30 sweater, rather than buying some piece of lord-knows-what on sale.  $30 in 1955 is supposed to have the same purchasing power as $266.31 in today’s dollars.  For that, you could get an Eric Bompard or Brora cashmere sweater at the end-of-season sale.  You know what you (probably) couldn’t get?  A sweater from Pringle of Scotland, or a cashmere sweater from many of the marquee-name fashion houses.  Why not?  Well, I’m afraid that inflation doesn’t tell the whole story.

I’m sure you know this, but I’ll give you a refresher course.  We measure inflation, in real terms, based on the consumer price index.  Basically, inflation is the change over time in the amount of money you’d need to buy a basket of goods and services that offers a certain standard of living.  The composition of the basket has changed over the years—no iPads in the 1950s, I’m afraid—but the standard of living is supposed to smooth out.  The BLS has a nifty tool where you can isolate different segments of the CPI basket, and chart their inflation independent of the whole shebang.  I downloaded the data for apparel, then the data for the whole basket, and used my good friends Excel and Keynote to make you this fly-as-all-get-out chart.  The whole basket is in green, the apparel portion of it is in blue.  One of these things is not like the other.

US Garment Expenditure.003So, the years 1982-1984 = 100, and are our base years, and what we’re doing is looking at the relationships between apparel and general, relative to the base years.  Our answers lie in the rates of change, basically.  It doesn’t matter how much purchasing power you have, if you’re not going to spend it.  Also, relative prices change.  I remember reading that compared to Americans of 1895, contemporary consumers are 60 times richer in mirrors, but 10% poorer in fine silverware, partially because demand for the latter has gone down precipitously and prices have gone up.*  (Not necessarily in that order.)  It seems we’re richer in clothes, when looking at the graph.  You’d only need 25% more money to buy the 1982-84 apparel portion of the basket, versus needing over 120% more money to buy the whole basket.  Ruh-roh.  Here’s the evolving price of the dollar, for the curious.  Read it as one USD in [blank] would give you the same purchasing power of [blank] in contemporary dollars.

Inflation Station.001

One last piece of statistical data before I go grab some pancakes.  I was reading the Agin book last night, and she mentions that in 1994, a quilted Chanel bag was priced at $960.  Assuming she’s writing about a small, classic flap bag (the one with the interlocked-C lock and the metal-and-leather chain), that same bag retails for $4200.  $4700 after this year’s mandatory Chanel price increase.  Reader, America is not projected to have 10% inflation this year, and neither is the Eurozone.  There’s something afoot, but we’ll talk more about it when we get to the status piece of the puzzle.

Why the protracted lecture?  I just wanted to toss this stuff out there before doing my alleged “review” of the McCardell, Head, and Margolis texts, and comparing them to contemporary style guides, because, for me, the econ side of the equation was/is pretty important going in.

I’m going to come back and a) catch up on comment replies and b) insert some hyperlinks for the labyrinthine BLS website after I’ve had some breakfast.  Oh, and I might even proofread.

*Oh, I read that statistic in Charles Kenny’s Why Global Development Is Succeeding.
** 
I should probably thank David Sedaris’s Hugh for the title of this blog post.

i really can turn anything into major life question, reader.

Yes, my to-post queue is going to suffocate me in my sleep.  I’m going to do what any mature adult would do in this situation, and completely ignore my entire drafts folder.  Sue me, reader.  Ah, yes, I detect the sound of you not caring.

You’ll be pleased to know that I signed up for a sewing class, at long last.  No?  This is not a fulfillment of your hopes and dreams?  This isn’t the announcement for which you’ve been waiting?  Whatever, reader.  I don’t know about you, but I’m completely self-conscious about being self-taught.  Well, self-, Internet-, and book-taught.  Home-taught?  For instance, I think I spend three to five minutes at the ironing board for every minute I spend at the sewing machine, but I’m still not pleased with my pressing results.

The people in my life think that making fabric fit a three-dimensional body is a miracle of the water-to-wine variety, so every time I ask them for criticism, it goes a bit like “Dude, you made that?  Awesome!”  Sigh.  (Same goes for cooking.  If you ever want to impress a twenty-something, I strongly suggest making pizza.  Apparently, pizza is a thing that is supposed to come in a box?  Way to ruin everything, Domino’s.)  I’ve gotten better at a lot of things, sure, but I think a steady stream of direct critique from an expert would pay dividends.

Anyhoo, the class is at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, which just so happens to be across the street from my spin studio, and ridiculously easy walking distance from my house.*  I’m really, really, really excited.  The instructions say that we’re supposed to bring our pattern of choice, its fabric and notions, and our tools to our first day of class.  Naturally, I have worked myself into a righteous lather over what to make.  15 hours of sewing instruction!  Is it like regular school, where we’re expected to do three hours of outside work for every one hour spent in the classroom?  So, a 60-hour project?  Does all the work happen in class?  Will the sewing instructor adore me, and think I have the most brilliant project, elegant in both design and execution?  (Yes, I am Tracy Flick and I have exactly no shame about it.)

I’ve got goals, naturally.  The top three are improved fitting, seam finishing, and hand sewing.  They’re all abysmal, right now.  I think I’ve got the curse of a reader, rather than a doer.  I can give you flawless instructions on how to do things that I cannot actually do.  I make French seams, but my hems get kind of weird around them.  I hand-sew like a six-year-old with horrendous motor skills.  Oh, and lining.  I try to line just about everything I make, but I’m lost when it comes to lining shirtwaist dresses or more complicated bodices, or doing a facing-lining combination that I’ve seen and loved on higher-end ready-to-wear.  Anyway, I have no frickin’ idea what I’m going to bring in.  I want to make all of the things.  All of them.  I need your help, is what I’m saying.  Here are my top two contenders:

Carolina Herrera silk twill matched up with view A of McCall's 6696

Carolina Herrera silk twill matched up with view A of McCall’s 6696

Oh, disclosure: I used to intern for a large fabric store (if you’ve been kicking around here for more than five minutes, you probably know which one) and got just about every nice piece of fabric I own from there, during and after my internship.  I don’t work there anymore, and any time you see them mentioned around these parts, it’s with my usual unwelcome-but-totally-honest opinion.  I’m not sure how to strike the balance between transparency and discretion, and I certainly don’t want to do a What I Did on My Summer Vacation Two Years Ago post on my internship, hence the uncharacteristic opacity.  Plus, I got sick towards the end of it and had to cut it short, and I feel tons of guilt about that.  So maybe there is some sort of weird subconscious bias going on?

Who cares?

Anyway, you’ll find a Carolina Herrera silk twill above.  I can’t say enough good things about it.  The green stripes are yard-dyed, while the navy are printed.  It is wide as ever and has great drape.  I luff it.  You know which pattern ties my love for it, though?  McCall’s 6696.  When I started sewing, in the Paleolithic Era, all I wanted was the perfect shirtwaist dress pattern.  I wanted a waistband, a collar with a stand, and a full skirt.  I searched high and low, and never hit the trifecta.  I bought a half dozen not-quite-right patterns, hoping to learn to love them, to no avail.  Then, my Platonic ideal pattern materialized herself.  Bless you, McCall’s.  There are no words for how much I love this design.  I am honestly considering buying one during every McCall’s sale at Jo-Ann because I am actually afraid of changing sizes or of the pattern going out of print.

Between 6696, the Colette Hawthorn (which, despite my crowing about the collar instructions, I really adore), Grainline’s forthcoming Alder shirtwaist, and perhaps a Deer and Doe Bleuet or McCall’s 6885, I’ve got at least a dozen shirtwaist dresses set to come down the pipeline at some point in our natural-born lives.  What’s the point, you testily ask?  Well, it would be great to learn some shirtwaist skills.

But can’t you learn shirtwaist-applicable skills on other, more ambitious projects?  Would McCall’s 6696 take up my projected 60 hours of sewing time?  Would I get bored after five weeks of it?  Enter: cocktail dress.

Vogue 1048 matched up with the really nice panel of uncertain origin.

Vogue 1048 matched up with the really nice panel of uncertain origin.

So, at last year’s Lauren Comes to Town meet-up, we went to Mood.  I glanced over at the silk-lace area cutting table, and saw this fabric.  “Isn’t that pretty?  Is it navy?”  “I think it’s black,” said one of the meeter-uppers.  (Meredith?)  I asked Dennis and he said, “Actually, it’s more of a Prussian green; it’s one of the most exquisite fabrics in the store.”  Now, if you’ve never met Dennis, I suggest that you close your computer, head to the airport, and get thee to his side.  I can honestly say that the fact that he does not narrate my life is one of my greatest disappointments.  If Dennis says that something is nice, you should consider yourself fortunate to be in the presence of said thing.  Seriously.  Swayed by Dennis’s endorsement, I bought two two-and-one-eighth-yard panels of it. Which is to say, I’ve got a lot of this fabric and it scares the living shit out of me.  I don’t think I’d be able to cut into it without adult supervision and some sort of breathing aid.  I’m getting a little jumpy just talking about it.

It seemed kind of vulgar to pair this fabric with just any old pattern.  So, one day, I was poking around Etsy, and found this amazing vintage Vogue pattern from 1961.  It is 1048, from Lanvin, and is very ambitious (for me).  (There is another one floating around on Etsy, in case you want to be twinsies.)  I may or may not have decided to forgo a few exercise classes and a pedicure so that I could get my hands on this pattern.  It has a dizzying number of pieces, and its instructions fit on one demi-broadsheet.  (Nineteen pieces, with allowances for facings and linings, plus underbodice and underskirt pieces.)

Isn’t this becoming a classic frosting v. cake debate?  I generally try to make my sewing patterns come down to about $5 per garment, or one garment for every muslin made.  (Kind of arbitrary, but it makes me feel better about my life decisions.)  That would not happen here.  The pattern was worth the outlay because of all of the nifty things I’d learn from it, were I to use it for the class.  I should probably mosey around to the point: I’d make the short version, nix the ass bow (which is the technical couture name, from what I understand), in the above Prussian-green-or-is-it-black fabric and then try to wrangle a friend into a fancypants Kennedy Center evening.

Over a thousand words to say: Which one?  Frosting or cake?

My absolute favorite part about this is that I’m treating it as if this is the only sewing class I shall ever take.  From what I understand, the instructor teaches a demi-couture class, as well as this one, and will probably be teaching another five-week session in the fall.  But shouldn’t I make a jacket in the fall?  Ugh, why do I make my own decisions?

*Do you remember back when the Internet was super scary, and people took extensive precautions to both conceal their identities and whereabouts?  Are we still doing that?  Because, the thing is, between Instagram and Twitter and this space, you can pretty much pinpoint my location and suss out my schedule.  I’m not exactly keeping any secrets.  On one hand, you used to be able to look people up in the yellow pages.  On the other, I’d rather not get murdered.  So, let’s make a deal: You consider perhaps joining me at spin (Biker Barre, if you’re interested) or for the sewing class, but manage to refrain from causing me physical or emotional harm, please and thank you.  Sound fair?  We could even get a drink afterwards.

afternoon delight

Are you ever going to post a finished garment? Meh.  Probably not.  I’m just going to let them stack up like firewood.  Moving on!

This one is going to be quickie, on the subject of sewing books that are not targeted specifically to beginners.  I checked Susan Khalje’s Linen and Cotton out of the library, and have been really pleasantly surprised.  I’ve been reading sewing books and blogs for about six years now, and I’ve actually encountered new-to-me stuff in this book.  I might write something resembling a full review later, after I’ve cross-referenced other books in my sewing library.  Oh, and maybe after I’ve actually finished the book, and tried a few tips from it?  Keeping it professional, per usual.

Linen and Cotton Cover

It seems like it takes information I already know, and moves it a step further.  For instance, I learned to sew three rows of basting stitches for gathers from The Colette Sewing Handbook, but it never occurred to me to press them before attaching skirt to bodice, until I read it in Linen and Cotton.  (I patiently wait for C&D letters from the Khalje and Mitnick legal teams.)  (Am I the only one who is super paranoid/particular about sharing copyrighted information?  I guess a tip is like ingredients in a recipe, and is uncopyrightable, but I still feel the need to send both authors and publishers a check for a nickel or something, in exchange for my disclosure.)  Also, I’d never heard about sewing from wide to narrow until I’d read about it in this text.    Naturally, I popped over to the Gorgeous Fabrics website, and it appears that the ever-intrepid Ann has a video up about it.  Still!

Maybe I skipped over these bits in my other sewing books (hence, the cross-referencing before I write a full review), but I find this text nothing short of illuminating.  I went looking for other books in the Focus on Fabrics series, and only came up with the Connie Long book on knits that Nancy K had recommended.  Nothing else.  What gives, Taunton?  I, for one, would love a Khalje-written book on silk or lace, or a Kenneth King-written book on leather or novelty material (the man has made a jacket out of hair weaves, for crying out loud).

I also checked out Edith Head’s How to Dress for Success and Claire McCardell’s What Shall I Wear?, both of which will get the full Seam Ripped treatment the instant I get the chance.  (Which is to say, a half-assed-yet-two-thousand-word post that is a pale imitation of a real review.  Get excited, people.)  Look at the endpapers in the McCardell text, though:

McCardell What Shall I Wear? Endpapers

Oh, the 1950s.  Oh, evidence of how conservative some libraries are about rebinding books.  (At my school, we rebind just about everything.  This fella is on consortium loan from Marymount or Howard, I think.  At any rate, it’s a school that has its priorities in order.  Pretty endpapers must be preserved for posterity!  Put that on a bumper sticker, why don’t you?)

word from around town

Hey there!  How’s it going?  Well, it is Monday, I have made four Emery muslins (five, if you count the full-blown, not-quite-there dress), and am ready to donate my bustline and dowager’s hump to science.  How about we talk about what other people are saying?

- Mikhaela’s posts about barriers to sewing, and her recent UFO-busting streak, have had me nodding in absolute agreement.  Indeed, if you were to replace all of the husband and kid mentions with talk of school and cats, and all of the allergy-free meal references with asides about oysters and gin, I could have written them myself.  The cats have never treated me to a day at the museum, though.  Ugh.  Kids today, am I right?

Anyhoo, it is so comforting to know that someone else banishes their makes to the UFO pile after a roadblock.  I’ve drawn up thorough notes on how to line the Hawthorn, cut out everything but the skirt lining, and have the bodice shell and lining assembled.  Yet!  Yet!  That bloody collar’s poor directions make me want to set the entire thing aflame.  (You’re supposed to sew the whole thing with a 1/4″ seam allowance, not the standard 5/8″.  The instructions not only fail to mention this, but instruct you to trim down to 1/4″.  This is addressed on Flickr and in the comments on the Sewalong post, but I missed it.  Harrumph.)  I’ve been working on it for a month!  I need to just buckle down and soldier through it, and Mikhaela’s UFO ass-kickery is a total inspiration.

- This isn’t recent, but I’ve been thinking about Neemie’s New Years posts and the “Me, too!” school of pattern buying.  Mimi, at Shop the Garment District, used to work for a major pattern company, and she says that 75% of patterns purchased aren’t used.  That gives the me the sads.  I’ve been doing a thorough assessment of my pattern reserves, and I think I have something like 60% of my patterns cut out, but given the size change I’ve just experienced, I have to really go through and have a major purge.  A style cull, for someone like me who cannot picture garments on herself?  Not that easy.

The difference between buying a pattern and buying a dress in the store is, well, trying it on.  I can see someone wearing a cute dress from Anthropologie, pop in to try it on, decide it doesn’t work, and grab a couple of cookies on the way home.  It takes, at most, fifteen or twenty minutes of time, and costs me two Baked and Wired cookies.  (I go to school near DC’s main shopping drag, to be fair, and dozens of stores are literally on my route home.)  With patterns, though, I have to buy the pattern, cut it out, and make a muslin (or two, or six), before deciding whether or not it works.  Hours of time and a concrete monetary investment.  I sometimes feel obliged to make all of my patterns work, most especially the ones that required a lot of fitting time.  (Looking at you, Anna!)  Anyway, smarter pattern buying would save a lot of time, here.

-Michelle just had a not-so-great experience with BHL’s Flora pattern, and posted a detailed review of it.  She actually got some responses from the BHL ladies, and recently posted her final thoughts on Flora. The whole exchange is worth a read, but the most striking thing about the entire discussion, to me, is that people got testy around the idea of pattern testers being paid.*  Edited to add: The root of the tension is the notion that pattern testers are being paid for endorsing the patterns, not necessarily for the act of sewing up the patterns itself, but I guess things get kind of murky when someone is paid for doing something, and then writes a glowing review.  Talking about this issue is like untangling one big knot.

I made a vague comment about the “sketchy compensation issues” at play, if a blogger were asked to write a post about a make, in addition to pattern-testing.  I think it may have gotten misconstrued as insinuating that there are some secret backdoor deals happening.  Quite the contrary, actually.  Now, I’m going to give you a long preface to my response to this.  I first started reading blogs in ancient times, when I had a TA who had small children and wrote a well-received blog about motherhood.  Personal blogs published by women who weren’t Heather Armstrong were only just getting taken seriously, and corporate sponsorship in this corner of the Internet was really in its infancy.

In any event, bloggers were just starting to get approached to write reviews for companies (large MNCs, in a lot of cases).  At one point, though, someone said, “Sooo, we’re spending large swaths of time writing 2000-word “reviews” in exchange for. . .fabric softener?”  The tides changed.  There emerged a distinction between reviews (for which someone buys the product out-of-pocket, and writes about it on his or her own) and sponsored posts (when the company is involved, in whatever capacity), never the twain shall meet.  I think this raises a whole ton of interesting questions about women and money and friendship and business and skill and the general grayness of the (still!) new online frontier.

Years and years on the sidelines of that community means that I would totally think an exchange of money would legitimize a sponsored post, and professionalize a relationship, rather than call into question a blogger’s motives.  For me, the grayness comes when we’re drawing the distinction between pattern testing, reviewing, and sponsored posts.   They’re not mutually exclusive, nor are they necessarily dependent.  I do think it is telling, though, that a lot of people seem to have married the idea of pattern testing to reviewing.

- I’ve been on the fence about buying the Colette Guide to Sewing Knits.  Reading Maddie’s review side-by-side with Nancy K‘s has been pretty illuminating.  I’m leaning towards no right now, but would love to hear about your experiences.  The thing is, my Moneta fits well enough, but I’ve got a bit of armhole gape (as I do on all knits forever and ever, amen) and would love to know what the heck is going on with it.  Nancy K recommends the Taunton series, Connie Long’s Sewing Knits and Marcy Tilton’s The Easy Guide to Sewing Tops and T-Shirts.  A trip to the library might be in order, for me.

- Kristin at K-Line has a marvelous post about wardrobe culling, and the seemingly Internet-wide purging cycles.  I’m not afraid of my wardrobe, per se, but I am the sort of person to regret getting rid of something much more than holding on to it.  I feel a sort of, not quite shame or embarrassment, but bashfulness, I guess, about selfishly wanting a large wardrobe.  I am fickle, and there are days when I want to wear an obnoxious floral, and others where I want to pare everything down like Calvin Klein in the 1990s.

Also, I’m in a weird place where I have to sew, because my old wardrobe plum doesn’t fit, and I have too much fabric and too many patterns to justify a summer of J. Crew.  I love reading all of these posts about simplifying while I’m amping up and feeding my fatted wardrobe.

- I loved Mary’s comment on Maddie’s post about fast fashion and fast sewing.  I have a similar talk at school all the time, about politics and the golden ages of philosophy.  It goes a little something like, “Do you know what my favorite thing is about my life?  Not having polio.  Waking up, and not worrying about getting polio.  Seriously.  That and suffrage.  Property ownership.  Small potatoes, I guess.”  I’m working on an overwrought post about being taken seriously, and what that means for ye olde wardrobe, but I’ll spare you a preview.  You’re welcome.

Now, I’m off to finish another Moneta (armhole gape and all) and maybe head down to the World War II memorial.  Enjoy your Memorial Day, folks!  Service folks and their families, especially!

*I changed the word balked to got testy around to clarify the statement.  If only I could leave track changes on a blog post!

** I added some conjunctions and stuff, generally proofread, and questioned my grasp of the English language.  Must hire copy editor.

Am I the Same Girl?

Reader, what are you wearing?  (Lusty opener, I know.)  I am in my pajamas, but earlier today I was wearing a gauzy cotton skirt, a v-neck t-shirt, a cardigan, and brown woven granny flats.  Who cares, Seam Ripped?!  There is a point here, I promise.  I bought the skirt when I was 14, shopping for high school.  I was just making my way out of that awful Abercrombie and Fitch phase, and for once didn’t buy something because my friends were wearing it, or because I wanted to look like some topless, beach-tan, gravity-defying blonde girl.  I was buying it for me.  Truth be told, I was also buying the skirt for someone else: its designer.  Not the company, but the person.  It was as if the skirt were a coincidence of my desire and his creative leanings.  (Look who’s getting all “stars aligning” on you.)  Oh, good, here’s the point: It’s never just been me liking something, and picking it up.  Now, I like the skirt for what it is, and what the 100+ wears I’ve gotten out of it mean to me.  Yet, I still don’t wear it alone.  There looms that random, but clear, relationship between end consumer and designer.  It’s not bad, it’s not even less-than-ideal; it’s just a fact.  Plain and simple.

Now I sew.  Designer and wearer are not one, but maker and wearer are.  I’ve been following Wardrobe Architect—not quite doing, more nibbling around it and making little ‘hmm’ noises, here and there—and the only thing that has really become clear to me is that I don’t have a real grip on the whos and whats and whys of my wardrobe anymore.  I’ve been trying to sort out a lineage, and draw myself a cohesive-ish future path, but that’s complicated by a handful of things.  This summer, I’m tasked with essentially building up my wardrobe from scratch.  I think I have something like fifteen wearable dresses that fit well, and a handful of pencil skirts that’ll see me if I magically manage to shave off an inch or so of hip.

Looking at my to-sew list now, it would be nearly unrecognizable to Charlotte of 2008 (which is apparently when I started considering sewing, lord have mercy).  Not just because of all of the patterns from independent companies, but the nature of what I’m sewing.  Contemporary patterns!  Dinner plate-size watercolor flowers!  I can’t figure I start and you end, reader (writer, blogger friend).  Cue soundtrack!

In 2008, most of my sewing information came from Pattern Review and the Purl Bee.  I think I had just started following Erica Bunker, followed soon thereafter by Megan Nielsen.  My patterns from 2008-2011 are mostly Vogue designer patterns from Tracy Reese, Michael Kors, and the like.  Then something switched.  I started reading Patty the Snug Bug, and I’d randomly stumbled upon Idle Fancy’s Mary on Pattern Review.  I fell down a Gertie wormhole, and emerged wearing florals.  A lot of florals.  Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like florals before, but it is as if someone came into my closet and beat it to death with a rose-print stick.

I’ve got rather mixed feelings about this.  I like what I wear, don’t get me wrong, but I wonder why I like it.  It is useless trying to abstract the me from the it and from the yous in the y’all.  (Pronouns for everyone!)  It is also hard to reconcile my floral wardrobe with the images of the Vogue-reading, Dries van Noten-loving Charlotte of Christmases Past.

I’m not writing a book here, so we’ll continue this next week (or during a week six or seventy or a hundred months from now).  Next time, we will have special guest appearances from Elaine Showalter (bomb-ass English professor, and mother of Michael Showalter, which makes her the grandmother of the book Guys Can Be Cat Ladies, Too) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  That is, guest appearances from their work.  We’re going to agonize over what the florals mean.  After that, we might even talk about the person-to-person connection that may or may not exist between designer and customer, and compare it to what we’ve got going on here and now.  Get excited, people.  (Can you tell I kind of wish I had a paper to write?)

In any event, I totally shirked my muslining duty this weekend, and instead watched The Bletchley Circle and read The Woman Upstairs.  I haven’t had two completely free weeks in something like four or five years.  I am basically sucking the marrow out of this “break” thing.  More soon!

a question of ease

Oh, hello there!  Been a while, hasn’t it?  Let’s not dwell, but I’m going to start off with a couple of housekeeping notes:

- So, I apparently have to pretend to be one of those people who cares about looking presentable to the outside world.  I know, reader.  I never thought the day would come, either.  This means I have to clean up my posts, and perhaps stop posting photographs of myself looking borderline indecent.  I have such mixed feelings about this, to be honest.  On one hand, I think that there is a place within the sewing community for a good old-fashioned train wreck, where you get to see all of the horrible missteps of a project along the way.  On the other, it risks acting as something of a safety blanket.  As in, I never have to worry about failing at “good,” because dreadful has almost become the point.  I don’t know, reader.  I’m frowning.

Either way, we have to bid farewell to That’s Not Aretha, and her very many counterparts.

Simplicity 1873 Talking

This also means I have to get rid of the tumor posts.  Not everyone is as amused as I am by the gory details of the health problems of others.  (What has this world come to, I ask.)  In all seriousness, the reason why I was all, “And here’s Lagavulin!” is that I am self-absorbed enough to think a lot about legacy, and if I were to die, I wanted the moral of the story to be, “Charlotte had an elephantine tumor, and found it fucking hilarious.”  Secondly, I had those scary pictures, and couldn’t find any comparably scary pictures on the Internet, when I was poking about, and wanted to toss those up for any other people dealing with the CT scan of doom.  Now, I have to file applications for graduate school and jobs and the like, and perhaps the tumor-first narrative isn’t the best one.  I have a lot to say about this, the weird ability to actively cultivate and shape a persona in this our digital age, and how I worry about that causing a splintering of self, but I’ll just leave that shit alone.

- We’re moving!  Hosts, that is.  I’ve had the WordPress.org business all purchased but not put together since, er, last November.  I have to figure out what I’d like this corner of the Internet to look like, and it’s surprisingly hard.  This will never be a capital-S, capital-B Serious Sewing Blog.  I’m probably not going to monetize it at any point, and if I did, we’d have a roundtable discussion about it.  I’m a total nerd for transparency and fairness, and you shouldn’t have to pay for this tripe, even if it does “just” mean clicking on an affiliate link or some such.  Furthermore, it’s more a blog about talking about sewing than it is about the act of sewing (I run the Seinfeld of blogs, folks!), so I have to take that into account.  I just want to land on something that is clean and approachable, without being too polished or too twee.  You’ll get a heads up when that happens.

- I am essentially having a fabric garage sale on Etsy.  Well, let’s not call it that.  It’s a dual-purpose experiment.  Purpose the first is to get rid of my some five bins of fabric.  It was easier when all of my fabric lived in New York, and I had a big old bookcase to accommodate it.  In my little, old, storage-challenged apartment?  Not so much.  (I have one drawer, reader.  There is one drawer in my entire apartment.  Isn’t that wild?)  I’ve been sewing up a storm, but I have made an awkward peace with the fact that I do not look good in orange or brown, and I do not need six yards of just about anything.

Purpose the second is to gauge how this sort of thing works.  I constantly agonize over the future of the Garment District.  I also want to find  balance between going to school, doing research, working at a (more likely than not) unpaid internship, but also living a life that involves money that does not come from my family.  So, you know, there.  It’s tentatively called I Refuse to Iron This, because it is so much damn yardage, that I’ve neither the time nor the patience to iron it.  Professionalism at its best.  Anyway, this is it: Shop Seam Ripped.  Buy something.  Or don’t.  Or just think about it.  Or get disgusted and frustrated by the entire enterprise.  Really, I run a very “Free to Be You and Me” sort of dictatorship.

On to the actual post.  Jeez, this is long.  I should have broken it up, no?  Anyway, we’re going to trudge through, almost there.

In the past month, I’ve made muslins and/or finished garments of the following:
– By Hand London’s Anna dress
– McCall’s 6696 (a shirtwaist dress)
– Colette’s Hawthorn dress
– Christine Haynes’s Emery dress
– Colette’s Zinnia skirt (versions 1 and 2)
– Megan Nielsen’s Kelly skirt
– Deer and Doe’s Belladone
– Simplicity 1873

I’m just learning how to do FBAs, and I’ve noticed this weird bagginess around the bust (but not directly at the apex and points latitudinal to it (I really need to find the proper geometric/sewing terms for this stuff when I finish this post—Catja, any opinions?) when I make them.  I’m a 34DD, but I’ll make a muslin that should bring things up to my measurements, with or without adjustments.  (I measure 40-30-41.5, with a 33″ high bust.)  I’ve had oddly mixed results.  M6696 is supposed to measure 42″ around the bust for a size 14 C/D cup, but I literally could not close the muslin at the bust.  I brought the Emery and Simplicity 1873 up to a level that should accommodate a 40″ bust, and they were seriously baggy around the bust, everywhere but the point of greatest projection.  I made the very same adjustment to the Robe Belladone, and it fit me like a glove.  Ponder.

Then I started thinking about the skirts I’ve made lately.  I always just go by the waist measurement, but with each skirt I make, I could comfortably lop off an extra inch or so around the waist.  Perhaps the answer is ease.  The Emery is built with two inches of ease in mind, the 1873 has 3 (but I made a smaller FBA to bring it down to 2 around the bust).  The Belladone?  She doesn’t list finished garment measurements, but mine seems to measure 41″ across the bust, as a size 42 with a 1.25″ FBA.  So that’s about .75″ of ease.  Big difference, no?

I thought my findings were rock-solid until I moved on to skirts, though.  Zinnia is supposed to have only .5″ of waist ease, 1″ for me.  Yet, I can easily pinch out a solid 2″ from the band.  I suspect this might have to do with the infamous misalignment of the waistband and the skirt.  (The waistband is more than 2″ too short for the skirt, on the size 10, and I had to add a supplemental piece of cotton.  Thrilling, as you can imagine.)  Anyway, let’s get to some pictures.

Behold!  My Zinnia!  (I’m trying to exhibit the waist room without doing the whole Jenny Craig, clown-car trousers thing.  “Look how many people I can fit into my old jeans.”  Shut up.)  This is version 2, in a size 10, with the length of version 3’s size 18.  (Back story: I am having a bit of a midi moment, because Kiehl’s discontinued their Imperial Body Balm (as they do with everything I’ve ever loved), and my knees look like early-20th-century Fascist dictators.  True story.  I can’t decide if it looks like I’m wearing longer skirts because Christ has compelled me to, or if it seems like a conscious fashion decision.)  Anyway, if you look in the middle, there’s a weird pucker out.  If I look down through my waistband, I can see the floor.

Zinnia Wearable Muslin I

 

“Why is your head cut off in the picture, Charlotte?”  Well, this:

Zinnia Muslin Outtake

Hey, I didn’t say I was cleaning up the blog today, reader.  This is a face I made, unprompted.   To answer your question, I totally have a tripod, but look like a turtle when I use it.  Not jacked like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but like one of the slow-chewing oldsters at the zoo.  Not cute.  Not cute at all.  In any event, until I figure out how I’d like my face to look there, you have to settle for cute pictures of me in the cheapest mirror at Target, with the view of my messy-because-the-cats-went-on-a-tear closet/bedroom.  Only the best for you, reader.

Where were we?  Yes!  Ease.  Perhaps I am more comfortable with a smaller amount of ease than your average bear?  That translates easily into skirts, but what about bodices?   I’m unclear about the engineering, here.  For instance, S1873 only gives the finished garment measurement for the bust.  At a size 14, for which one is supposed to have a 36″ bust, the measurement is 39″.  It’s built for a B cup, so I figured 36″ – 2″ = 34″ but three inches of ease seemed ridiculous, so why not corral it into 2?  I made a compromise, and did a 1.5″ FBA.  Does the excess ease mean that I have to take a smaller FBA?  Should I assume that the ease is limited to the bust, or that is present throughout the garment?  Should I cut a smaller size all together, and then work up from there?  Do I decide on the smaller size and its accompanying FBA based on the formula Finished Garment Measurement = Body Measurement + 1, or do I go with the envelope back?  When there aren’t finished garment measurements available, is tissue measurement the answer?

Simplicity 1873 Botched FBA 1

Everything looks kosher at the bust, except for that weird side thing and then, bam!

SImplicity 1873 FBA II

Here we have wrinkle city, a peek at my Anna, and the my cat-ravaged closet (it is one of my intersession break goals to tackle that monster).  No, I am not sporting a baby bump, that is just a surfeit of fabric.  Oy.

Simplicity 1873 Side View

The issue is, I don’t want to look like too much sausage stuffed into too little casing, if that makes any sense.  I think I’m going to have to dive head first into Pattern Review and Artisan Square to see what everyone else does, and then cook up an answer that works for me.

The weird solution was to take out two wedges from either side of the bodice, going from 1/8″ to 3/4″, for a total of 3″ taken off of either side.  I think that might do the trick.  I’ll show you the results after I press the bodice, and give the old girl a hem.  Plus, I have to figure out how to finish the waist seam, which always kills me.  Overlock it?  Stitch in the ditch?  The options, they are endless.

Who knows, maybe I’ll see you in another six months?  

How’re things on your end, reader?   Not a rhetorical question, I’d actually like to know.

‘splain this to me

This’ll be a quick one, as I am exhausted.  (Just handed in my last two papers for this session.  Woot!  I have written forty pages since Saturday.  Go me?  Poor me?  The jury’s still out.)

In an effort to relax, I’ve decided to digitally organize my stash.  Expert enabler and generally awesome person, Meredith, mentioned using Evernote.  Never occurred to me, believe it or not.  Anyway!   I’m matching fabrics to patterns and getting all nerdily organized (before being colossally disappointed once the fall semester rolls around and I realize I’ve got everything but time).  I can’t wait to hit Jo-Ann with my fall pattern list.  Before my dreams get totally crushed, I generally like to confirm that I have enough yardage for the pattern.

Evernote!

Say hello to organizational superiority.

I have encountered a roadblock.  Behold!  The deeply confusing yardage chart for Vogue 8901.

Vogue 8901 Yardage, View A

I’m finally getting in the practice of FBAs.  My high bust measurement is about 32-33″, depending on the day, and my full bust is 40-41″, which puts me at a 10-12 starting point.  My waist measurement puts me in a different stratosphere (three cheers for my gastrointestinal system!).  I have 2.78 yards of fabric that is 56″ wide.  How screwed am I, exactly?  Is the leap between the 14 and the 16 a cutting layout thing or what?

V8901

This is the Vogue sketch, shamelessly lifted from the Vogue website.

Novita from Very Purple Person made one, and I am now emotionally attached to the idea of it.  Go look.  Hers is super cute and involves pineapples.

Oh, here is the fabric:

Carolina Herrera Pink Splatter Check

Yeah.  Do we all remember that Pee Wee Herman episode?  If you love fruit salad so much, why don’t you maaaaarry it?  This fabric and I are pretty close to that.  I’m pretending I can wear it to class with a brown belt, navy cardigan, tights, and flats.  Let me alone with this delusion!  Also, this not effing up of the silk crepe de Chine delusion, but we’ll worry about that later.

Last night, I was photographing and cataloging the fabric.  Clive climbed on my bed, did a double take, sniffed the fabric, kneaded it, then decided it’s where he’d prefer to sleep.  He rejects cotton and wool, but has a thing for silk.  Fine, cat.  Fine.  I’ve been trying to institute a cat sheet policy, so that I can spend less of my life vacuuming (you can see a peek of it in the photo).  It’s obviously been going well.

Cats, y'all.

Cats, y’all.

A quick admin note: I’m messing around with themes in an attempt to find something that is functional and attractive.  I cannot figure out how to get the font smaller.  Oy.  I will eventually take the plunge and get all designy and shit, but I have no idea what I want this space to look like.  Clean?  Not cluttered?  Less dreadful than usual?

In any event, opinions are welcome on this most eventful post!  I’m rolling my eyes, reader.

conversations with other women

A little over a year ago, a woman came up to me with a cat in her arms.  His name was Sly (Silver Sylvester, for long), and I’d be doing her a favor by taking him.  Now then, I’d known someone with a cat called Sly and have a complete inability to say no to this sort of thing, so I took him home.  Obviously, he’d have to be called Clive.  Obviously.

Spot Clive.

Spot Clive.  Also, tell me what you do with the crappy books you get as presents from family members who are all, “You like books.  Here is a book!”

I’m reading a book for class and this book references all three other books I’m reading right now, and every non-contemporary novel on my wee summer bookshelf.  (The Protagoras, Portnoy’s Complaint, and The Recognitions; for class, on the go, and for fun, respectively.)

My friend was at a used book sale and found a one of those fill-in journals.  She flipped open the book and the first name she saw was of one of her closest advisers in undergrad.

I play this game all the time.  Aren’t I lucky to have stormed out of my editorial meeting early and to have been given Clive?  Isn’t my life the perfect example of how we can’t escape intertextuality?  How funny it is, the way things work.

***

I called my mother the other day, and one of my aunts answered the phone.

F.: Hello, Bunny!  Your mummy is on the road.  Is there anything you need?

Me: Oh, well, my roommates found a gigantic waterbug, and we’re unsure of how to proceed.

F.: Get a gun and shoot it.

***

After coming in from a weird, aggressive stand-off with a chestnut-hued squirrel in my backyard.

Me: K., I think the squirrel in the yard wants to kick my ass.  Or maybe he had rabies.  Not sure.

K.: Maybe he’s had a hard life.

I put some almonds in the yard for the squirrel, contrite.

***

Oh?  Me?  Just hanging out on this fence, watching you work, not in a menacing way or anything.

Oh? Me? Just hanging out on this fence, watching you work in what’s basically a blurry, bodega security cam photo.  Not in a menacing way or anything.

Me: So, I’ve been getting followed around by these huge black birds.  I’m not sure if they’re rooks or crows.

Mummy: Maybe they like you!

Me: They blocked my path on the way to the coffeeshop, sat beside me in front of the student center, and now they’re in my backyard!  One swooped down right in front of the window when I was writing my paper!

Mummy: Did you say hello?

Me: They’re PORTENDS!  Maybe I’m dying.

Mummy: Maybe you’re not being friendly enough, love.

***

Me: My roommates were gone for the weekend and I got home super late and there was an unwrapped, unrolled condom under my bed.  It wasn’t there before, all of our doors and windows were locked, and I left the house after everyone else.

My dean: Talk to housing.

***

Me: [forwards email to housing]

[one week elapses]

Housing: Thanks for letting us know.  We’ll alert the supervisor.

***

This morning.  I wake up to a riot of crows (rooks?) squawking outside my door.  They have eaten the squirrel’s almonds.  (I live in the basement and have my own entrance.)

Anyone familiar with the famous legend of the unrolled condom, insects, arachnids, and/or glimmer murder of crows?  I’d be thrilled to know.  I hope this answers any “Why don’t you blog more often/answer emails/acknowledge my existence?” questions, friends.  Obviously, I’m here, awake, not dying of a rook attack.  Obviously.

drumroll, please. . .

The winner is Hanne!  Huzzah for Hanne!

I chose the most aesthetically pleasing generator.  You can either judge me, or the number-generating community and their hideous interfaces.

I chose the most aesthetically pleasing generator. You can either judge me, or the number-generating community and their hideous interfaces.

Hanne, I shall email you (or you can email me).  I am super tired, and will say more tomorrow.  Antwerp!  I wish I could accompany the package.

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