Seam Ripped

a sewing blog without the sewing

it’s handled

In the comments for “goodbye to all that,” Blogless Terry made an excellent observation.  Business casual is Olivia Pope.  There’s a difference between the way characters are portrayed in film and the way that real-life women of power dress, sure, but I think that media stands in conversation with the world of real life, and that it simultaneously reflects and molds the ways in which we consider powerful women.

I figured it would be an interesting experiment to look through photographs of professional women in film through the decades, and try to abstract generalizable rules from the images.  Fun times, guys!

[Note: Things are cited when I could, but it’s really tedious to figure out who we’d consider the source.  I look forward to some cease and desist letters.]

His Girl Friday (1940)
Columbia Pictures

His Girl Friday Rosalind Russell

Adam’s Rib (1949)

Hepburn Adam's Rib

The Best of Everything (1959)
20th Century Fox

The Best of Everything

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1979)
CBS, MTM Productions


Network (1976)

Faye Dunaway Network

9 to 5 (1980)
20th Century Fox

NINE TO FIVE, (aka 9 TO 5), Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, 1980. TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved..

NINE TO FIVE, (aka 9 TO 5), Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, 1980. TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved..

Bear in mind that the ladies of Nine to Five are former secretaries who took over.  So their looks are something of a middle ground.

Baby Boom (1987)
United Artists

Diane Keaton Baby Boom

Working Girl (1988)
20th Century Fox

Working Girl Still

Sex and the City (1998-2006)

Cynthia Nixon S&TC Cynthia Nixon S&TC II

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
20th Century Fox

Miranda Priestly via HelloGiggles

Up in the Air (2009)
Paramount Pictures

Up in the Air

Performance by an actress in a supporting role, Vera Farmiga in "Up in the Air" (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios) This image is made available here as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 82nd Annual Academy Awards¨ Nominations Announcement Press Kit. This image may only be used by legitimate members of the press.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role, Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
This image is made available here as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 82nd Annual Academy Awards¨ Nominations Announcement Press Kit. This image may only be used by legitimate members of the press.

The Good Wife (2008-present)

Diane Lockhart Still

Scandal (2012-present)

Olivia Pope via Marie Claire

Getty Images.

What do we take away from this?  First off, holy pinstripes, right?!  Secondly, there’s a clear lineage here, especially reflected in the colors—grays, browns, blacks, and pops of red—and in the shapes.  If you want to be more elegant, you wear silk; if you’re lower on the totem pole, you wear cotton button-fronts.  Somewhere in the middle?  Do both.

Speaking of totem poles, let’s talk about hierarchy.  I wonder if people just starting out dress the way that they do because they don’t know better, because they can’t do better, or because you have to earn the right to the Diane Lockhart blouse.  Let’s compare Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air to Anna Kendrick.  Different companies, different ranks, way different outfits.  Late 1990s Miranda Hobbes is quite different from mid-aughts Miranda Hobbes.  It could be time, it could be a difference in savoir faire gained over time, or it could be the fact that as one rises in the ranks it’s okay to stop matching the wallpaper and start getting noticed.  Personally, if I were ever CEO of a company, I’d wear ball skirts and cashmere t-shirts every day.

Constrast that change—evolving into a more feminine style of dress as one rises in the ranks—to the image from The Best of Everything.  Joan Crawford’s senior status is projected through the fact that she is wearing a feminine silhouette in suiting fabric.  You can tell that she’s that the junior staff member is junior because she’s wearing something softer, more feminine, and more on-trend.

Shifting gears, am I the only person surprised by the enormous Internet literature on feminism, and with it clothes, in Working Girl?  Goll-ee.   There is stuff here, here, here, here, and here.  Probably more, who knows?  (Oh!  Read this one.  It goes from Working Girl to The Good Wife, and Teri Agins comments on the evolution.)  Here’s that famous quote everyone likes: Harrison Ford says, “Dress like a woman, not like a man would dress if he were a woman.”

But in 2013, when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer reclines in Michael Kors in Vogue, a little feminine flare is more than tolerated, it’s an asset. “There is nothing more mind-numbingly boring than a matching jacket and skirt,” says Kate White, former Cosmo editor-in-chief and author of I Shouldn’t be Telling You This. By all means dress like a woman, and unlike Tess, there’s no need to tone it down and blend in: “If you look fantastic and fashion forward, you’ll feel more confident and people will notice and remember you.” Using the gender spectrum to your advantage is perfectly acceptable, but you still need serious hair. “You should have a cut that says you mean business,” says White.  (Rosemary Counter for Jezebel)

I’m not sure that that’s true, but we’ll talk about that in our next installment.  (Oh, yes, this is a three-parter.)

goodbye to all that

Today I decided that I’m not going to wear any florals to work.  Or fruit.  Or animals.  (Well, the occasional bird might sneak in, because I am a human of a certain sort.)  BFD, Charlotte.  HUGE EFF-DEE, reader.  This eliminates a solid 80% of my wardrobe. Forget about my homemade clothes, they’re just dead in the water.  Thankfully, I’ve developed a taste for stripes, checks, and dots which might just save me from the navy tidal wave that’s about to hit my house.

The question is—and I’ve asked this before, and ask it constantly—what does it take to be taken seriously?  I have to be comfortable, obviously, but what else?  Because this is my first year at my job, and my first time having a job, I’m loath to try to change people’s minds, one floral fit-and-flare at a time.  Naturally, I came to this realization after having made quite a few crazy floral dresses to tame with cardigans.

What is business casual, anyway?  I ask because I went to an investment banking mixer (I’m on the back end in economic consulting, so the environment is more relaxed) which was supposed to be business casual.  I wore cropped navy trousers, a silk blouse, a cardigan, and nice flats.  One of the recruiters thought I was a member of the waitstaff (who were dressed completely differently than I was).  I’m obviously one to trust about this. So, I’ve been doing some digging, trying to come up with Charlotte’s Business Casual, That’ll Last Her for At Least the First Three Months of Employment.  I aspire to this on my first day of work: Peggy Which would require me to tone down and/or eliminate all of my Mindy Lahiri tendencies.

Mindy Project Uniform

Exactly, Mindy. Exactly.

So hearts, flora, and fauna are all getting the boot.  Instead, I’m channeling my more appropriate style icons:

Faye Dunaway Network

So, she was a little scary. But scary good, right?

Faye Dunaway and I totally have completely different but let’s say the same body type/s.  But, her camel, taupes, and grays from network are a thing to behold.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 28:  Yahoo! President and CEO Marissa Mayer arrives at the White House for a meeting with President Barack Obama and other business leaders November 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. According to the White House, the American business executives met with Obama to discuss economic growth and deficit reduction.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 28: Yahoo! President and CEO Marissa Mayer arrives at the White House for a meeting with President Barack Obama and other business leaders November 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. According to the White House, the American business executives met with Obama to discuss economic growth and deficit reduction. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

So, if I’m meeting with the president, that’s totally what I’d wear.  See?  Room for fun.

I can wear tweed!  But probably shouldn't show my undergarments.

I can wear tweed! But probably shouldn’t show my undergarments.

I can wear tweed and a sweater but without the bouncy haircut and the visible underthings. Do you know who Bonnie Morrison is?  Neither do I, really.  (Fashion PR person and/or consultant, I think.)  Yet, I am ob-sessed with her style.  I follow the fashion editor of Details on Instagram (@matthew_marden), and he constantly posts photos of Morrison (@fiercegrandma) and her street style.  The first time I saw a photo of her, I thought “Yup.  That’s what I want to look like.”  This was the first image, but totally not representative.

Bonnie Morrison via @matthew_marden's Instagram account, which is totally not stalkery.

Bonnie Morrison via @matthew_marden’s Instagram account, which is totally not stalkery.

This is my favorite:

My personal favorite.  Same source.

My personal favorite. Same source.

She wears a lot of neutrals, flats, and loafers, which might be just my speed for the first few weeks of work.  Then I’ll branch out a bit, I think. So, from what I understand, one can show one’s midriff at work.  False?  Only if you’re OscarPRGirl?

OscarPRGirl Bow Skirt

via the ODLR tumblr account

In all seriousness, I am contemplating a bottle green leather pencil skirt for fall.  It seems obligatory.  But is it pushing the line?

OscarPRGirl Leather Skirt

via the ODLR tumblr account

What about stripes on stripes, like Marissa Webb?  Too creative?

Marissa Webb at J. Crew via J. Crew Aficionada

Marissa Webb at J. Crew via J. Crew Aficionada

I think that I have to leave my Vlisco in my wardrobe, because can you imagine this dress with a cardigan?  Yes you can.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie via Vogue UK

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie via Vogue UK

Cidell of Miss Celie’s Pants did an excellent post about the Halston exhibit at FIT, and mentioned how much she wanted to make some silk knit shirt dresses.  I think this might something I think about going forward.  Then again, I am making crazy M6696s that might put Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Mondrian-lite look to shame.

via Vogue UK

via Vogue UK.  God, I love this dress.

What does any of this have to do with sewing?  Well, I’ve edited myself back down to ten patterns, based on the above images: (the pencil skirt, the shell blouse, the fit and flare (old habits die hard), the full skirt, the woven wrap dress, the shirtwaist, the jacket, and three wild cards that get to rotate—right now they’re Hawthorn, the new Butterick prairie dress, and a to-be-determined coat pattern), and am trying to pare my fabrics down to things that I can comfortably wear at work, like wool and silk crepes with muted tones.  I like buying button-front shirts and trousers, so they don’t make the cut.  I figure I can make an A-line skirt out of the pencil, and add a sheath dress into the rotation, should I find the confidence to tackle the fitting. Let’s see how well this plays out, team.

In which I publish our bimonthly half-hour-long video.

Because I was dragging my feet in answering the comments from “Shibboleth” and as my bottomless well of laziness bubbled its way to the surface, I’ve made our video.  I answer the comments, in helter-skelter order, as well as Craftastrophies‘ comment on “for those who think young.”  I forgot to answer Laura’s comment on “shibboleth,” because I’ve been so dreadful at keeping up with responses and am basically just going to write her an email.

Per usual, the rules sit thusly: This video is long. as. all get out.  I ramble.  The three of you who make it to the end get cookies.  Or undying gratitude.  To-may-to, etc.  Shall we?


just beginners

Announcement: Anyone interested in drinking with me?  If any of you DC-area sewers (or readers) are interested in commandeering the back of a bar after work or sitting on a porch somewhere on a weekend afternoon, then shout me a holler here or at  I am only sort of using you for companionship.  I’m not calling it a meet-up, but a “let’s kick it over sazeracs and see where the evening takes us.”  That sounds like I’m hitting on you.  Let’s keep it that way.

Per usual, I’m answering old comments late, but you should find responses (t)here shortly.  End of announcements.

I’m trying out a new sewing philosophy—you may have heard of it.  Giving no fucks?  No?  Unfamiliar?  I’m going for the proverbial quantity over quality, in hopes of technical improvement over time.  So, I’m taking a lot of deep breaths and just sighing through the suckage.  Usually, I rip seams and throw tantrums and agonize over the topstitching.  Now, I’m just sewing through it.  Waistband didn’t catch with topstitching?  Just slipstitch it down.  Topstitching uneven?  You’re the only one who cares about that.  Collar stand a little lumpy?  Character is what that’s called.  Naturally, it’s healthier than my old hair-pulling ways.  Obviously, it’s killing me.

All of this preamble to say: This dress sucks.  I know it does.  You probably won’t, just looking at it from afar, but deep in my soul, I understand that this is not my best.  It’s all made up in a Japanese salt-shrunk cotton gingham (read: those ain’t wrinkles, but are intentional).  It is the second of three M6696s I’d made within a seven-day span, and for some strange reason, the calamity kept coming.  (The other two are bangin’, if I may say so myself.)  Skirt pieces were attached the wrong way, the hem grew unevenly, my perfectly matched skirt rebelled against me.  That waistband comment was not a joke, this em-effer would. not. catch. because I ran out of fabric glue.  (Let’s bow our heads and thank the universe for glue basting.)  But, you know what?  I’m going to wear the shit out of it this summer, I just know it.

It all used to line up, I promise!

It all used to line up, I promise!  The buttons screwed everything up.

Before the buttons of horror and woe.

Before the buttons of horror and woe.  Collarbands, button of waistband, and hem lined up.  GAH.

Plus, after I put the buttons on, the pattern in the front just stopped matching up.  Don’t get me started on how every single thread I snip seems to have a dozen more rise up to come to its funeral.

Waistband of doom

Waistband of doom.  The placket is not smushed, it just doesn’t overlap all the way.

And the waistband!  It actually, believe or not, lines up when I line it, the collarband, and the hem up, but because one side is 1/8″ larger than the other (for serious).  But!  The buttonholes ruined everything.

And speaking of good old Bernina buttonholes:

That old Bernina buttonhole.

Perfection.  (And, yes, the collarband is symmetric in real life.  Miracle of miracles.)

My machine went ape on the last one, which happened to be the uppermost buttonhole.  APE.

This gets me to thinking about the Coletterie post on being a beginner.  Now, there is a part of me that thinks this is a gender thing, but the more I think about it, the more I think that it is a U-shaped curve.  True, rank beginners, in my experience, tend to be really confident.  As in, “I’m going to make an evening gown on a Saturday” confident.  Some people can do that, sure, but it takes a while to know your strengths, and to actually sew rather than simply put together a wearable-enough garment.  Then, after a while, you start realizing that it’s not that easy.

Then, you see really good sewing.  I mean, really good home sewing.  Then, you realize that your stuff just isn’t that.  At the same time, you’ve got the cacophony of sewing noise, the Susan Khaljes (who is still mean in my head, I don’t care what you all say), the Threads features.  You start really looking at your department store finds, and not just comparing your stuff to the goods at Forever 21.  This, friends, is the nadir.  The quitting point, even.  Some people get so discouraged here that they either stick themselves in a playpen, never to expand their skills outside of pinking and a whole bunch of the same garment, or they just flat-out quit.  Others see this as a challenge.

All of a sudden, after a really long time pounding at it, you lift up your head and see.  Hey, your topstitching isn’t that bad.  Same goes for your hand-stitched hems.  What’s that over there?  Is that a welt pocket?  You did that without a second thought?  Yeah you did.  And up that little ladder you climb.

I think that a lot of people end up in the doldrums, and either keep that doldrums mindset as their skills develop, or corral themselves into a certain sort of sewing that does not leave room for a lot of development.  I think I’m in the doldrums right now, and I’m trying to power through with sheer volume and force of will.  But, truth be told, I wonder if that welt pocket moment is going to come.  We can’t all be Ann of the Sewing Bee, can we?  But, should we try?


[I started writing this last year, and, in the spirit of cleaning out my drafts folder, refuse to change any of the anachronisms.  You’re welcome.  Also, still in the middle of answering comments, but thought I’d get this out while it’s on my mind.]

I’m taking you to Sunday School today, reader: we’re going to talk about shibboleths.  Now, the contemporary dime-store definition of a shibboleth is that it is a password, or a means of distinguishing one group from another.  The contemporary dime-store definition sucks.  Here’s how the story goes: We’ve got Ephraimites and Gileadites, who, much in the style of the Jets and the Sharks, do not get along very well and live separately (there was a war, a ford was captured, bing bang boom: we’re got a rift).  The Gileadites have possession the neighborhood’s Jordan River crossing/s, so whenever an Ephraimite escapes Ephraim and wants to get out of Dodge, s/he has to pass through Gileadite territory.  Ruh roh.  The Gileadites, when faced with someone trying to make a crossing, say, “Cool.  Just one thing: Say shibboleth.”  Sad story, though: Ephraimites can’t pronounce it.  Sadder story: the Ephraimites would then get killed.  This is the Old Testament, after all.

What’s the moral of that story?  The hell if I know, reader.  I’m not a theologian.  My point is, it isn’t that the Ephraimites didn’t know the password, but rather that they couldn’t say the word.  This is not a  matter of knowledge or skill, but one of basic, constitutive identity.  Here, the individual was inextricable from his/her nationality.  An Ephraimite couldn’t change into his/her Gileadite costume and call it a day.  A shibboleth isn’t a way of saying, “I understand you,” but rather, “I am one of you.”

Bee eff dee, Charlotte!  Actually, reader, HUGE eff dee.  Let’s talk about clothes now.  It’s on-campus recruiting sea-soooooonnnnnn!  (That was my Oprah voice.  The more I use my Oprah voice, the more like Oprah I will become.  It is science.)  I was in the waiting room this morning, waiting to be interviewed, and I couldn’t help but look around at my fellow applicants.  Black poly-blend suits (no wrinkles, y’all), button-front shirts, black shoes, vinyl portfolios.  I wore a navy wool skirt suit, a bronzed olive silk blouse, and kept my papers in a recycled paper folder that cost a nickel.  That’s just how I roll, reader.

The first time I went to buy an Hermès scarf (which I mention specifically because I hate it when people are coy about this sort of thing.  I bought a fancy scarf.  I can’t decide if it is more obnoxious to mention it, or to avoid mention for fear of. . .seeming as if you bought a fancy scarf?  I’m socially tone deaf, so forgive me, either way), I wore track pants and a heathered gray t-shirt.  I was seventeen, and was so excited to buy myself something that nice.  But, the people at the store were less excited about me.  Well, not excited at all, quite frankly.  Then after quite a bit of throat-clearing and my best attempt at eye contact and a level tone, a sales associate summoned this gem of a woman (truly), who was the regional expert in scarves or somesuch.  She spent an hour with me, poring over the book, telling all of the scarves’ stories, and helping me pick just the right one.  At the end, she handed me my bag and said to me, “Next time you come in, wear your scarf.”  Shibboleth.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it is really difficult not only know that you don’t know a language, but knowing that you, being you, can’t speak the language.  I cannot walk into a store wearing that store’s wares just because it will make the sales staff like me, or wear a poly-blend black suit (mostly because I’d sweat my makeup off) so that I can arrive wrinkle-free and banker-like to an interview.

This post originally contained parts of what would become “Difficult Women” and “Written on the Body,” and I suppose the issues overlap.  Do we sew to transcend the shibboleths, the Gordon Gartrells, or do we sew in order to gain a whole new set of codes with which to operate?  Am I the only person plagued by this question when I’m on Instagram?  The difficulty is, for me, that the non-sewer world isn’t fluent in makerese (makance languages?), and this is where the problems start.  (All that preface for this?  Yup.)

where i’m calling from

[Thank you, Joan Didion.  In your spirit (or, as an affront to it), I did not proofread this.]

I remember exactly when my shirtwaist dress obsession started.  It wasn’t with Betty Draper.  Indeed, it was with a three-year-old.

OLS Jumprope

A really flipping creepy-looking three-year-old, at that.  The Purl Bee did a now-missing post and used Liberty Fairy Clock to make a shirtwaist dress, maybe seven years ago, and I thought, “I could get on board with that.”  Then I went on a mad search for a similar dress for adults and found. . .nil.  I found 30″-bust vintage patterns and Big-Four patterns sans collar stands.  When I caught wind of Colette releasing the Hawthorn I got super excited, but was a little (okay, more than a little) disappointed by how non-traditional it was.  Then, my ship came sailing in.  M6696.  The Platonic ideal.  My east and my west.  The alpha and omega.  Since then, I think we’ve been living in the golden age of the shirtwaist dress.  Mary hosted the Autumn/Spring of 1000 Shirtdresses, and every time I turn around, there’s a pattern release with MOAR SHIRTDRESSES.  Hallelujah.

So, when Wendy from Coser Cosas asked for recommendations, I had no choice put to shamelessly parlay it into a blogpost.  You’re welcome, everyone.

I’ve arbitrarily divided things up into three categories, because I have to get up at the crack of dawn, and this is just the way I roll. Deal with it.  The first is waist definition.  Since I am currently doing the whole “post-surgical schmatta” thing, waist-defining dresses actually have become an independent category for me.  The horror and shame, I know.  Let’s talk starting from top left and moving counter-clockwise, shall we?

Waist-Defining Shirtwaists

McCall 6891 – Everything I used to hate about shirtwaist dresses.  Circle skirt and no placket and no collar band.  No thanks!  But, now that I have that beautiful little blue number on the bottom left, I can see the appeal of the 6891, and have bumped it up in the old queue.

Colette Hawthorn – SEW THE COLLAR WITH A 1/4″ SEAM ALLOWANCE.  I don’t know if the instructions have been corrected yet, but sweet baby james, I almost pitched mine into the nearest ravine when I realized that error.  Ahem.  Other than that, I am rather smitten with this dress.  I have PTSD from it, and  have yet to sew another one, but I am jonesing for a navy iteration with brass buttons.  We shall see.

Butterick 6090 Is this a shirtwaist dress?  Is it not a shirtwaist dress?  You know what this is?  My rodeo, and it is what I say it is.  I’m saying it’s a shawl-collared shirtwaist dress.  So there.  I think this is one of the more interesting offerings I’ve seen on deck, but I need a good sacrificial lamb to make it up before I take the plunge.*  Anyone?  You, madam, in the back?

Pauline Alice Camí – So, if this dress were out four years ago, I would have lost. my. wits.  It is pretty fabulous, though I haven’t seen many of them floating around.  Waddup, shirtwaist lovers?  Why y’all not making these up?  While we’re on the subject, I’m thinking about just lengthening a Carme blouse into a dress, as if I’m the sort of person who can get away with that sort of look.  Let’s just call it youth, for now.

Vogue 9077 – First off, I am endlessly amused by the fact that BMV use real fabrics for their stylized technical drawings.  This guy?  Was available on Fabric Mart, but snatched up right from underneath me before the sale.  Curses!  Anyhoodle, isn’t this a more adult version of a shirtwaist dress?  I can’t decide whether or not I’ll look as if I pocketed this from my mother, though.

McCall 6696 – I almost don’t even want to link to this one.  How many have I made thus far?  Three or four real deals, seven muslins through two sizes, one full version in voile lining.  I love this dress.

The second category is a bit misleading.  It’s non-traditional.  Which is to say, stuff that I couldn’t shoehorn in elsewhere.

Nontraditional Shirtwaist

Simplicity 2215 – My school has a truly daft song that we sing for special occasions called “How Long’s It Been?”  But, really, S2215, how long’s it been?  I’ve loved and used this pattern for at least five years, I’d wager.  Those asymmetric pleats ruined me for others.  I’ve never made up the full dress version, though.  Pity.  I should.

Merchant and Mills Dress Shirt – I just bought this!  Shall report back to HQ on how it goes as soon as I muslin it.  We need to have an M&M discussion, though.  I just muslined the Dea dress, it is one of the most stunning and body-complimenting things I’ve ever sewn, and yet almost no one ever makes them.  I am an official fan girl convert.  Plus, no zippers!  One size!  Cardstock!  Exclamation point!

Grainline Alder Show of hands, who among you has not made an Alder?  Yes, my count is hovering around a dozen.  Dozen and a half.  It is a popular pattern for a reason.  I thought I’d look dreadful in it, but I actually like the way I look.  Gina from Feminist Stitch loves the second view, I can vouch for the first.  I realized too late I messed up the interfacing on my really lovely silk, but I’m sure I’ll figure out a way around that.  Optimism, etc.  Where were we, before we started talking about me?  Yes.  The pattern.  If you don’t mess up royally, I’m sure you’ll love it in any view.

Simplicity 1755 This isn’t a shirtwaist dress!  It’s not the messiah, it’s just a very naughty boy!  Fine.  This one barely makes it in under the wire, but I quite like Leannimal, so I had to include it.  Plus, I’ve been looking for any excuse at all to make it up, and have come up with nil.  Nada.  Nunca.  This is one of the few, “That’s just not my life, bro” patterns that exist.  Even the Brooklyn art teacher patterns from Marcy Tilton can squeeze it in, should they choose.  But, I maintain hope.  If you live a more fabulous life than I, then this is the shirtwaist for you.

Princess seams are the last categories.  First, we should review my method for doing an FBA on a princess seam.  First, I use Mary or Alana’s FBA tutorial, which I am too lazy to find and link.  Then, I invariably end up smashing down the 3D piece with my flat palm.  Having an eff bee is not a pleasant life experience, it seems.  But, these dresses make up for it.  Sometimes.

Princess Seamed Shirtwaists

Butterick 6091 – Collar stand, covered placket, seams that release themselves out into pleats in a way that I cannot explain.  Can you say skill builder?  I sound like I’m advertising for it.  Now we know I’m getting sleepy.  These are going to get shorter.  No one on PR has made this one, though.  Really, Pattern Review community.  How am I supposed to free ride if none of you offer a ride?!

McCall 7084 This fabric again.  Princess seam dress with a v-neck and an A-line skirt.  Seems legit.

Deer and Doe I-Passed-French-Proficiency-But-Misspelled-Bleuet-Dress I’m going to sleep.  What Anna said.

*There’s a really good Ezra Pound poem called “The Plunge.”  I mention this because it might inspire you to take the plunge and make up this stupid bloody dress for me.

for those who think young

Behold!  Your bimonthly video. God, I’m worried that my face is going to stay frozen like that in real life.


First off, totally fine.  Had surgery this (yesterday, now—er, three days ago in the. . .) morning, and am hobbling about relatively well.  Answers to all manner of communication forthcoming, including finishing up answering comments to the last post.  I am just breaking the rules all the time, reader.

On to the post: I like doing experiments.  Nooooooo.  Yeeeeessssss.  At the end of last year, I decided that I would keep ten patterns (plus patterns for UFOs) around the house, and then edit down my selection of fabrics to suit those ten patterns.  Everything else was sent to live in New York with Mummy Seam Ripped, because there obviously isn’t enough fabric up there, anyway.  The one mistake I made was making a really internship-centric list of fabrics and patterns, because, due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to give up my really fancy and hard-won internship, I didn’t need all of my envisioned tweed skirts and silk blouses.  So, a lot of the patterns and fabrics languished because I am a frock girl through and through, but I made some pretty interesting (or interesting-to-me) decisions that I think might be worth sharing in a more in-depth post.  Usually, I marry fabric to pattern and absolutely, positively refuse to compromise on the original vision.  Recently?  Not so much.  It’s been illuminating.  Did you know that you could diverge from your original plans?  That’s a thing you can do, reader.  I know.

To start with, in addition to the eight staid separates and sheaths for work, I kept S1609 and a McCall woven wrap dress I can’t be bothered to look up, and patterns for which I had UFOs: Colette’s Beignet, Hawthorne, and Zinnia, M6696, plus a Belladone.  Instead of requesting that my mother just send me down patterns, I ended up buying just a couple off of Amazon and from Finch.  Namely, McCall 6931, Simplicity 1689, and the Grainline Alder and Linden patterns.

Phew.  After writing that all out, it doesn’t seem as if I was all that limited.  Truth be told, I wasn’t.  And yet.  I got used to having upwards of fifty (tiny compared to other pattern stashes, I know) patterns hanging around at any given time.  I’d wake up and think, “I really should make an S2215, shouldn’t I?”  And then not have the pattern.  Or the fabric.  Or any way to just hop in the car to go to Jo-Ann to get the two of them, mostly because I neither have a car nor know how to drive nor live within ten miles of a Jo-Ann.  (Though, there is a Hancock’s in Alexandria.  I repeat, there is a Hancock’s in Alexandria.  Field trip leaves from my house at 08h00.  Get it together, ladies.  This is not a drill!)  The patterns I did buy, I cut open and made immediately.

I’ve had an otherwise stressful semester, so productivity has gone down; however, I no longer feel damned (damned, I tell you!) by my two-to-three-yard cuts of fabric.  With 2 yards of fabric, you can make a dress, reader!  That never occurred to me.  1.5 could very well be a skirt, if you cut it the right way.  I think my penchant for full skirts blinded me to the possibility of an economical use of fabric, besides blouses (which I’ve decided give me no joy).

In any event, that experiment is done, and now I’m itching to start a new one.  I did just panic-purchase a trillion yards of cotton, because I had one piece left under my bed (don’t judge me), so my spring-summer plan might be to simply settle all of my UFOs (all of which need one or more of the following: armhole binding, buttonholes, buttons, hems, waistband stitch-in-the-ditch.  Fancy that, my least favorite sewing tasks!) and to sew through my new cotton boon.  To boot, I’m trying to make no more than five shirtwaist dresses.  I know, right?  This is madness!  Here is my UFO tentative plan and my learning outcome goals:

1. Finish the Alder and fix and/or finish all shirtwaist dresses.  Learning outcome: Conquer the collars and waistbands.

For some strange reason, those fold-under-and-sew tricks never, ever, ever work for me.  Not with pinning, not with basting, not with my walking foot, not with modified presser foot pressure, or even with modified patience.  Never.  Surely, there is a reason behind this, and this summer I’m going to get to the bottom of it.  To that end, I have to finish the Alder whose collar I’ve unpicked seven times, and also finish up my three unfinished 6696s (hems, buttonholes, armhole facing, buttons), and my Hawthorne.  You will probably never see them modeled photo-shoot style, so I figured I’d show them to you on Trixie.  You’re welcome.

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2. Gussy up the Belladone.  Decision-making!  I’m a fairly decisive person when it comes to school and work, but with hobbies I just waffle myself into incompletion.

It that my wonky stay-stitching?  Yowza.  Well, that’s gonna get fixed.  Also, I have to decide where to put the remaining piping.  I’ve got piping all over the back and on the pockets (which I rather regret), so I’m debating the neckline and armholes.

The skirt is not attached, because I didn't love the way it was lining up.  Piping around the neck?  Armholes?

The skirt is not attached, because I didn’t love the way it was lining up. Piping around the neck? Armholes?

3. General laziness and/or disgust.

BHL Anna Nanette Lepore fabric

I am the only person in Bloglandia who hates her Anna.  My waist is higher than Trixie’s, and I’ve had to lengthen the waist by an inch.  Though my thickish linen-blend did cause some waistline unevenness, this photo not level, and I think a good press would solve a lot of problems.  The floral placement might be what got me.

Christine Haynes Emery


I love this dress.  It fits better on me than it does on Trixie.  It literally just needs a hem and to have its lining attached to the zipper.  Why the delay?  I thought it was a little too 1950s when I tried it on.

charlotte’s miscellany

So, my machine decided to have an. . .emotional incident while we were muslining what is essentially a prom dress (Simplicity 1689, without that weird flouncy thing; I’ve since proceeded to find, via GOMI, a Lekala pattern that is exactly what I wanted in the first place).  Where were we?  Yes.  The whole sewing-through-recovery thing is out the window, as Demeter has to take a trip northward to spend quality time with her Uncle Harvey, which doesn’t sound at all creepy.  I’ve had a few half-post ideas floating around in my head for a bit, and I couldn’t quite figure out how to round them out into full posts, so, since spring break is waning, and my posts are likely to taper significantly with my avalanche of deadlines, I figured I’d treat you to a half-baked Seam Ripped post.  You’re welcome.

Isn't it wild?

Isn’t it wild?

Screw it, I’ll show you the pattern that ruined my machine first.  Why not?  I’ve been a little afraid to try a Lekala pattern, but the Simplicity sans flounce has traumatized me sufficiently that I might venture into Lekalaland.

Thing the first:

Are there really small, borderline-insignificant things that have improved your sewing markedly?  Here are mine:

– Pin perpendicularly, stupid.  (Susan Khalje is apparently up for beatification in real life, but is super duper mean in my head.  Though, I think the first time I saw this was in a Claire Shaeffer video, or in a Singer book?  I have no recollection; I just do it.)
-I used to be a pinimalist, now I pin and Wonder Clip as if my life depends on it.  Notches not lining up?  Pins.  Mismatched stripes?  Pins.  Pleats getting caught in your seams?  Pins.  (Also basting and improper pinning, but you see where I’m going with this.)  Just don’t sew through them, if you enjoy having a complete set of eyes, yes?
–  Stay stitch, stay stitch, stay stitch.  I forgot to stay stitch my Alder’s neckline, it grew 2mm, which was just enough to ruin (ruin!) the collar.  Stay stitch.  Trust the woman who is making a new and improved collar stand and is doing 11th-hour stay stitching.  It takes two minutes.
– Collar and collar stand on the cross-grain, and interface top and bottom of both of them.
– You know that interfacing with the glue dots?  Go burn that right now.  Even-spray for life.  I get mine from Steinlauf and Stoller, but I hear that you can get it from your local fabric store, too.
– Sandwich.  Here’s how it goes: carbon paper face-up, fabric, pattern.  Trace.  Then, you take the pattern off, flip the fabric, and trace the existing carbon paper lines.  I did not know this.  This was not a thing in my life.  How?  Why?
– Buy some carbon paper.  Susan Khalje sells it.  I get mine from Pacific Trimming in New York.  I have fewer wrinkles (on my face, on my fabric, as a metaphor for my life and time) because of it.
– A clapper is a heavy piece of wood.  Get a piece of wood and put it on top of your seam when you’re done pressing it.  Textbooks work in a pinch, but some are non-porous and get steamy.
– While we’re talking about seams, when pressing, wait until they cool before moving on to the next one.  Doesn’t that make sense?  I do it with my hair, why did it take me so long to do it with my seams?
– Press your darts inside out, then inside in. This has made a huge, huge difference for my bust point smoothness, but it might just be my shite pressing skills.
– “I don’t need a press cloth.”  Oh yes you do.
– “I can use tin cans as pattern weights.”  Now you’re just being daft.  Ask me how I know.
– Everyone has a golden ratio.  Mine is 30-30-40.  Oh, what did you think I meant?  30% prep, 30% sewing, 40% pressing.  Yes, I spend a lot of my time pressing.  This is why I spend most of my other time with my chiropractor.
– Snip and rip makes you feel like a badass, but really helps keep your fabric on-grain.  I snip and rip on grain, do loads of smoothing, and then pin the selvedge evenly to make my life easier.  It really does make a difference.
– “It really does make a difference,” is this piece’s refrain.

How about you?

Thing the second:

I want one of you to start a blog series called “In Too Deep,” where a novice tackles famously hard projects.  Runner’s World has a great feature called “The Newbie Chronicles,” which, you guessed it, chronicles a newbie’s entrée into running, which is meant to get more people running.  I love it, and it is what got me running, and running is what got me spinning and yogaing and doing a whole bunch of other stuff.  I think it would even be interesting to see a beginner-to-intermediate sewer do a project from a Japanese sewing book, the couture jacket, Burda magazine or Marfy patterns, Alabama Chanin, or vintage Vogue plus difficile patterns.  I do wish one of the sewing magazines would do this, and have the beginner do it under the tutelage of, say, Natalie Chanin or Susan Khalje.  This occurred to me after reading the Coletterie piece on DIY Anxiety.

I think the reason why a lot of us get stuck in ruts is because a lot of us get stuck in ruts.  But that’s a tautology!  (A professor’s kids play a game called “That’s a tautology!”)  Everyone finds sewers with whom they identify.  I love reading Julie from Jet Set Sewing or Amanda from Amanda’s Adventures in Sewing, but I don’t identify with their sewing, because they are much better than I am.  Full stop.  I think that most sewers need someone whom they think is on their level to test the waters for them, which should dissipate the dreaded DIY anxiety, and ultimately attract more people to sewing.  If everyone else is sewing “safe” dresses, then why do you have to go on an adventure, anyway?

Thing the third

How many of you people are in the DC area, really?  I’ve been chatting with my (awesome) hairdresser about this, and we need to have some sort of sip-and-sew situation that does not involve me going to Leesburg, because I do not know how to drive, and it takes something ridiculous like three hours via bus.  Not happening.  I’ve thought of a good Metro-accessible space, and though we’d probably all need to pay something to rent it out and haul over our sewing machines, it would be nice to meet y’all and socialize.

I was at Joann a few months ago, and found the coupon book of someone who lives on my street, five blocks away.  FIVE BLOCKS.  Outrageous.  I almost wrote her a note.  She left the coupon book on the pattern cabinet, so you know she sews.  This is ridiculous, people.  Let’s get it together.  Western Virginia is beating us.  Western.  Virginia.

Thing the fourth:

On Adwoa’s advice, I got the Vlisco fabric in green!  So, look forward to perhaps never seeing a dress made out of it.

Okay, I have to go do homework, but maybe we’ll see each other soon, yes?  Maybe we won’t.  Who knows?

how bad do you want to be good?

I was on the subway, in high school, with my best friend.  Above her was an ad for a for-profit college.  “How bad do you want to be good,” it asked.  I snickered.  “How badly do you want to do well (Steve Jobs)/good (Gandhi)?”  Who the hell wants to be good, anyway?  I’m sure that Katherine Gibbs or whatever it was had soon tanked—on those very grounds, no less.

A few years ago, I was watching The L Word, that old bastion of realism and truth, and heard Max tell a story about crabs.  Apparently, you put a whole bunch of male crabs in a barrel and they build a ladder to get themselves out, but the female crabs are the reason why everyone holds one another down.  I don’t buy it, neither does Google, but I was reminded a bit of this when my favorite Tidbits sent me this Man Repeller piece on women in fashion.  Why is fashion so male-dominated?  Well, is fashion male-dominated?  How are we defining male-dominated?  Are we talking about the male-female ratio of designers, creative directors, stylists, assistants, models, editors, CEOs, the people who sweep up afterwards, WHO?  Oh, we’re talking about designers.  Good.  Why does the Man Repeller writer zero in on designers?*  Would you believe that a favorite professor has accused me of always answering questions with questions?

Dries van Noten FW15 (Vogue)

Dries van Noten FW15 (Vogue)

I find her line of reasoning problematic for a few reasons.

1. Head designers are just that.  Heads.  There are necks and loads of other moving parts that make a design house what it is, and while a creative director and/or head designer is a centrally important component he or she is most certainly not the only thing that is keeping the house running.  Zeroing in on the head designer, an area where we happen to have a preponderance of males, reminds me of the art v. craft debates.  Is being a designer the art where there happen to be a lot of males, or is designing an art because there are a lot of male designers?  There are seamstresses and beadworkers and stylists and magazine editors who are wiling away at their crafts, never to ascend to the much-vaunted level of artist, of maleness.

2. There are several layers to look at here, and I think that LS scrapes the surface.  Are female names being “discarded” during boardroom talks about who helms a label, or are men producing better work?  If so, why?  This, for me, is the central question.  For years, I thought I was a literary misogynist because I didn’t like any of the work I was reading from female authors.  The answer to my concerns was pretty simple.  I was reading female-authored work that sucked.  Plain and simple.  I read better male work.  Nowadays, it’s actually the reverse.  We’ll talk about that another day, though.  If the work is bad, why is it bad?  By which rule is it being measured?  Who sets the standards, and are there problems inherent in them?  Let’s say it’s not about the work: Are men socialized to view ambition differently, and to assign themselves a different (say, more active) role within their self-constructed view of their careers, and thus navigate the workplace differently?  Is that what this is?  I read ski books all the time, and Ski Woman’s Way critiqued Skiing from the Head Down for dismissing as absurd the influence of your mother telling you that doing something was improper.  Nice girls are not the ugly sort of ambitious.  They are good friends, good daughters, good people, good girls.  Good girls don’t ski hard.  There are also probably a lot of other, useful-in-the-workplace things that they don’t do, either.  It’s unbecoming, after all.

Banana Republic FW15

Banana Republic FW15 (

3. She’s looking at high-fashion, high-concept houses.  I’m not saying that they are beyond the intellectual grasp of the everyday woman, but they certainly are beyond the means of your average person.  Marissa Webb helms Banana Republic’s creative team, Jenna Lyons is at J. Crew, Lisa Axelson is at Ann Taylor.  Zara was cofounded by a woman.  Why focus on luxury?  While they do, to a certain extent, set the tone, the Internet means that we’re moving beyond the age of Miranda Priestly’s cerulean speech.  

Furthermore, the people who own the conglomerates that control luxury houses are frequently not self-made.  Luxury is often the product of the snowball effect of antiquated European succession laws, (some of) which only recently shook off their gender bias.  So, yes, males like Pinault and Arnault were able to head PPR (which I think is now called something else, isn’t it?) and LVMH, and now Delphine Arnault gets to benefit from selective placement the way that generations of men did before her.  Let’s not even get into the influence of male perspective on the selection of which houses got bought and thus preserved, or which designers got hired.  I’m not saying it’s fair, I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying it is.

Here’s the thing: I love fashion.  I’ve gotten the, “You?! love fah-shun?!” googly eyes before, and the answer is yes.  I look forward to the shows every season, even the weird liminal resort and pre-fall ones, and follow fashion news with great attention.  Naturally, I have strong opinions about this.  When I think about the way that I break up every season, there are two camps: Shows where I think, “Damn, I want to sew those things,” and shows where I want to be that woman.  The latter are usually Dries van Noten, Wes Gordon, Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Ghesquiere when he was at Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs when he was at Louis Vuitton, and the less-celebrated Italian houses like Max Mara, Kiton, and Piazza Sempione.  Also, Akris.  Always Akris.  I want to sew things from Lela Rose, Oscar de la Renta, Dior, Stella McCartney, Carolina Herrera, Céline, Chloé, Tibi, Milly, J. Crew, and the like.  There are a lot more women on the latter list than on the former.  I have no idea why that is.

Lela Rose FW15

Lela Rose FW15

Self-interrogation time.  Is my aspiration to be the sort of woman presented in male-produced shows the product of my desire to reflect our culture’s phallogocentric (fancypants crit theory word drop for the privileging of the male perspective) view of women? Do I then “settle” for the feminine?  Do you?  I’m not sure.  I need more time with it.

*The piece itself kind of hops about.  Its URL shortens to female CEOs, it talks about designers, but the title umbrellas out to fashion generally.  I’m not sure where the author stands, quite frankly.