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.

difficult women

Quick notes: a) I got a job for after graduation!  And an internship for next semester!  Let’s hope I don’t mess it up.  Thanks for the advice and well wishes.  b) It is usually company policy for me to reply to all comments on the previous post before posting something new.  This is a conversation, after all.  Well, fall semester stress has led me to majorly drop the ball on that one.  Apologies!  With any luck, all responses will be logged by this evening.  c) I have, like, a dozen drafts that I need to polish up and get going.  So, if you want to know how my sewing class went (ha!) or whether or not to press gathers, or if you’ve been puzzling over the statistical correlation between imports and clothing expenditure, I’m your gal.  However, it’s really interesting to juggle writing a handful of posts over a handful of months.  It doesn’t feel nearly as seamless as I’d like it to.  So, I guess I’m saying the next month or two of posts might sort of suck.  Completely.  Apologies in advance.

Last year, I was chatting with a friend and I’d mentioned that when I was a kid, my mother taught me the difference between silk and cotton, designer x and designer y.  My friend responded—and I will never forget this, so this is an exact, honest-to-goodness quote—“That’s disgusting.”

I’ve thought about that exchange a lot in the months that have followed, and realize that, in that context, it wasn’t about caring about visual ways in which we present ourselves to others, but rather about fashion.  Fashion being less about self-reflection and contemplation, and more about placing yourself within a cultural moment, and using what you wear as a way of communicating something to others.  I’m tempted to make the admittedly unfair argument that the relationship between clothing, designers, and status makes difficult an designer-as-artist approach.

So what are we really talking about, when we talk about fashion?  Every time someone says “I don’t care about clothes,” I always want to respond, You’re sooooo smart.  I’m sooooo impressed.  Just about everybody wears clothes, which implies that there is a certain extent to which everybody cares about them.  When someone tells me that they don’t care about clothes, what they mean is that they don’t care about a certain type of clothing.  Well, next question: What type of clothing is that?  You can’t look as if you care too much, because that makes you shallow.  Likewise, you can’t look as if you care too little, because that would make you a slob.  Apparently, we’re all supposed to wake up that way (this way?  Bey?  Anybody?).  As if yours is fine taste so well-cultivated, that you no longer need effort, because style is reflexive and your adaptation to context is seamless.  No pressure.

There are two lines of argument when thinking about this.  The first is that we have a finite amount of time, so why spend it thinking about what you wear as opposed to virtue or the plight of the unfortunate or something less superficial.  The second, which underpins the first, is that we should aspire to more refined taste, which transcends designers or trends, and manages to effortless reflect your self-knowledge and knowledge of the world.  Both are bullshit.

When I was in the thick of the job search, I wound up getting invited to all of these pre-interview things, and always found myself Googling “What is business casual NO REALLY,” to no avail.  (I followed the instructions on my first try: a pre-interview reception for an investment bank.  One of the recruiters mistook me for restaurant staff, in my navy ankle-length trousers, silk blouse, and cardigan.  Lesson = learned.)  I may as well have Googled “What do smart/competent/together/employed people wear?”

The answer?  Not this, apparently:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (shot by Ian Williams for The National Post, via Brittle Paper)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (shot by Ian Williams for The National Post, via Brittle Paper), who is smarter, more competent, more together, and more employed than I probably ever will be.

I’m sure by now we’ve all read or at least heard of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Elle piece on expectations of feminine and/or feminist dress, yes?  Well, have you by any chance seen this photo from the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction (or, as it’s known at my house, The Artist Formerly Known as Orange)?

2014 Baileys Shortlist
Donna Tartt’s missing, but just picture a woman in with a raven bob and a slim-cut suit, will you?

These women are leaders in their field, and are writing cutting-edge fiction that not only reflects the state of the contemporary woman, but that of the contemporary world.  Why on earth are you asking us to reduce them to five (and a half) sets of outfits?  Well, reader, is it a reduction or a lateral move?  Is refusing to discuss the clothing choices of these people, on those grounds, not just a reinforcement of the broads-and-clothes stereotype that we’re trying to dismantle?  But they’re not just the clothes they wear!  I hate to break it to you, imaginary not-as-sharp-as-my-actual-readers reader, but neither are models or actors or plumbers or whomever.  There are entire industries built around divorcing the individual from his/her physical self, thus rendering the physical person an object and the internal self irrelevant—which is probably so many people place appearance and substance at odds with one another, and cannot afford each them the same sort of consideration.

Fine.  Let’s step away from that image for just a second, and talk about Elaine Showalter.  Elaine Jesus Christ Showalter.  Retired Princeton English professor and literary critic, and dyed-in-the-wool badass.  Feminist of feminists, king of kings, subject to a snide feminist graduate-student newspaper editorial about her gold briefcase.  Yeah.  That’s a thing that happened.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make, which I didn’t hammer to death in my last two posts in this series, is sometimes I don’t want to wear the Pink Jumpsuit of Larger Responsibility.  Sometimes, it rather sucks to be the sacrificial lamb with the gold briefcase who tosses How to Dress for Success to the wind.  Maybe I’m overthinking it?  I did an informational interview with an alumnus about a month ago, and we were talking about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  He said something along the lines of, “She’s a badass woman who doesn’t give a shit.”  Basically, this is the thing to which we should aspire.  The actual not caring about what people think, rather than the performative effortlessness that is undergirded by sleepless nights and thousand-word blogposts.

The Notorious RBG in a Banana Republic bib necklace she got in  the swag bag from Glamour's Women of the Year party.
The Notorious RBG in a Banana Republic bib necklace she got in the swag bag from Glamour’s Women of the Year party.

The key here seems to be understanding clothing and presentation as a part of identity, not a separate entity that eclipses it, nor the single element that defines it, but a piece of the mechanism worth analyzing.  Even Ally McBeal knows it, after being held in contempt of court for wearing short skirts.

I am offended by the fact that what is considered unprofessional is traditionally considered feminine.  And, truth be told, equally offended by the fact that the traditionally feminine is either infantilizing or overtly sexual.  (I have a draft called Meditations on Twee as Fuck, which we’ll get into when I’m spoiling for fight.)  Now, I’m sewing with an office environment in mind, rather than my usual put-a-cardigan-on-it approach to crafting, so it’s disorienting.  Yes, I am going to bring this back to sewing, eventually.

I’m going to uncharacteristically end here, because I have a dozen more drafts to finish up and post, and we’re not getting any younger.  However!  I’ve some homework for you for next time:

Have you read Stephanie‘s post on clothing and identity?  Morgan‘s on dressing like a feminist?  Sarai Mitnick from Colette linked to a really interesting New York Times review of a museum exhibit on women’s use of fashion to assert power.  Also!  Do watch this clip from Mena Trott’s (the dearly, dearly missed Mena Trott) talk at Big Omaha, on art, craft, and gender.

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.

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!

‘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.

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?

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.

a palette emerges

Hey, y’all. Long time no. . .forget about it. If you’ve had the grave misfortune of following me on Twitter, being my barista at Bouchon, or standing next to me on a subway platform, you know I’ve been neck-deep in tests for the past decade six weeks.  It’s been real, as they say.  Anyway, I go back to Washington on Wednesday/Thursday and start another batch of classes the Monday after that, so I’ll hold off on the grand declarations of being back, etc.  It is nice to see you, puppyface.

I finished my last final last night (crossing fingers and toes), and, naturally, celebrated by buying fabric this morning.  The sainted Kashi has a cat (well, his neighbors do), and if you, like me, go anywhere where there’s an animal, you should stop by and say hello.  (I swear, Eric at Mood is really on to something with that fluff bucket Swatch.)

Drunk on my newfound free-ish time, I decided to lay out my summer projects.  I sense a theme, you guys.

Fabric Stack
I’ll totally tell you where all this is from. And, no, I did not buy them in one swoop; I only bought three this morning. That last sentence was for my mother.

One of these things looks exactly like every other thing in the stack.  Do you remember the movie 500 Days of Summer?  Zooey Deschanel looks fantastic in it, and I remember reading the costume designer saying that they made a conscious decision to dress Zooey’s character in blue throughout the film.  The pieces were a mix of mall stores and vintage, and I think the restrained color palette made her wardrobe seem a lot more put-together and chic than it otherwise would have.  Then again, this wasn’t really a conscious decision for me.  Maybe I’m just in a blue mood?

I owe you my Meringue, my hemmed Hazel, my trouser-fitting stories (the horror!), some fabric ogling and whole bunch of other stuff.  Also, we’re going to try our hand at democracy here at Seam Ripped Central.

Oh!  Before I jet off (to buy buttons for my seventy shirtwaist dresses), would you like to meet Clementine Bug Witherspoon?


I know that everyone says this about their adopted street pigeons, but I think she’s the very best.  Also, look at how clever her parents were, making that nest.  Who knew pigeons could operate document shredders?

Onward, with purpose.

life choices

Ain’t no lining here in Washington.  Well, that’s a lie.  Let’s start from the beginning.  In my first few weeks in Washington, I realized that I have neither the room nor the energy to sew, so I packed up my in-progress makes and hauled them up to New York for Labor Day weekend.  Then I discovered that Bits of Thread allows workroom rentals and now I’ve just got some completely inappropriate fabric to work with. (Hey, did you know that you don’t have to cut things on the coffee table?  What?  More on BoT in a later post.)

My long-suffering mother has had to send me almost-weekly packages of random things that I’ve forgotten, so I feel beyond guilty asking her to post fabric and lining, most especially since I’m going home for Columbus Day weekend.  But, I have an appointment at Bits of Thread that I had to reschedule and should probably use sooner rather than later.  So, here’s what we’re working with: I’ve got Gertie’s book and all of those (fabulous) patterns, Simplicity 1873, 2444 , 2215, and 2180 (no BMV stuff, oddly).  I also have the following:

There’s also a completely seasonally inappropriate coral border print (which you can see blown up to elephantine proportions on the inaugural Seam Ripped post), a solid navy stretch sateen, and two African prints that my mum very randomly got (“Hey, they were only like $3 a yard, love!”), but I have to go to office hours in like ten minutes and if this doesn’t get written now it will die in the drafts folder.

Anyway.  I’m trying to figure out what to make.  I also don’t have any muslin and G Street Fabrics charges a heart-stopping, gut-wrenching $30/yd for silk crepe-de-chine for lining, so I’m trying to figure out how to work within these constraints.  It’s like a super fun logic puzzle, reader!  Okay, maybe it’s not.  In any event, I have a few options: I could high-tail it out to the ‘burbs to visit Jo-Ann’s or the mysterious Hancock’s (I’ve heard so much about it, I’m kind of thrilled by the prospect of Hancock’s—or maybe I just like saying Hancock’s) or I could go to the Bits of Threads $3 wall and pick up something random and whip it into a muslin.  Then, I could order lining online from Mood or one of the $1.95 blowout sale fabric people (fabricmartbarntopia, et alia).  I quite like all of the above fabrics and for the most part don’t know where to get them again, so I’m reticent to hack on into them without some sort of plan or direction.  I could always just wait the two weeks until I go home, but what fun would that be?

Also, there is the question of matching fabrics to patterns.  The floral brocade will hopefully be a pair of trousers (I have but 1.5 yards of it, though, so we’ll see how that goes), and everything else will be some sort of wear-with-tights dress.  Will I look too much like Mrs. Roper if I make a full-on dress with the paisley fabric?  Is the double gauze cotton a recipe for freezing my ass off in the meat locker that is my government lecture hall?  Will everyone accidentally see my kibbles and bits in the cobalt and gold number if I leave it unlined?  Major life questions, I’m sure.

It’s just fabric.  There will always be more of it.  Every project is the opportunity for improvement.  This is all stuff I say to myself until it’s time to take scissor to thread and I catch a case of the vapors.

put a bird on what?

I’m still trying desperately to go back and plug in photographs and resize the bloated mood-boardy things.  I haven’t the time to do all of it at once, so in the interim how about a quick post?

Do we have thoughts about this as a pencil skirt?


It’s home dec fabric.  On one hand, awesome and sturdy.  On the other, there will be woodland creatures decorating my ladies’ equipment.  Hey, we’re just putting a bird on it.  Um, right?  Even if the fauna placement were good, there’s still the business of frames.  Yet!  It’s so cute I could squeeze it.


Maybe it’s just slightly less, “I work in a marvelous and charming library where elves stock books and hummingbirds conduct story-telling hour” in a neutral.  Though, I would rather like to work in a marvelous and charming library.  Build it and they will come?  (The elves, that is.)

(Upper fabric lifted from the good people at Purl.  Lower from Fabric Worm.  Buy stuff from them, for they have the cute.  The end.)

(Okay, not the end, because there’s also a hipster deer print.  I mean, I want my deer to wear skinny jeans and ironic glasses whilst staring pityingly at the uncool underclasses.  I especially want them to do all of that in skirt form.)

we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming

​Usually I have to talk myself out of buying RTW things, but this week, I’m tackling Project Runway.

Did you by any chance catch Road to the Runway?  That’s the special where we get to see the contestants’ audition bits and get to know each of them a bit more.  It might be my favorite part of the whole season.  For the first time ever, I don’t quite have a pick to win.  I like Ven.  I like Gunnar much better when he doesn’t talk.  I find Sonjia to be delightful.  I want to hang out with Fabio.  I think Melissa might be surprising when she steps away from the black. I want Dmitry to follow me around and say bitchy things about my life.  However, if pressed to make one thing from the audition tapes, it would be Sonjia’s fabulous trellis trousers.

I haven’t the gumption to make a pair of wide-legged trellis-print trousers.  But a pair of crops?  Yes, please!​


It looks like she used this Dwell Studio trellis print for the bottom.  As I’m not going to go all Katharine Hepburn with the silhouette, I reckon I’ll just go with a Burda crop pattern. ​


These are nice, if a bit short for my taste.


If I were slim enough of waist, these high-waisted crops would be on my sewing table this instant.​

This is just the beginning.  I’m still loving Gunnar’s floral skirt with that mustard-and-black top and white jacket.  I sense watching PR is not fantastic for my already bloated to-sew list.

well, this is eventful

I am not feeling well ​today.  I am quite a firm believer in staying the eff home when you’re under the weather.  Viral illness is the pits; no need to take everyone else down with you.  However!  I’m basically a border collie, and am unfulfilled unless I actually have something! to! do!

So as I sit here with my audible wheeze and sick-person snacks (nothing quite like seeing a One-Touch ad when you’re scarfing down chocolate-covered pomegranate bits), ​trying to keep busy since I can’t pop into work (boo! hiss!), and writing the longest most parenthesized sentence ever, I’ve been thinking about sewing.  Particularly, how we approach sewing.  Some people use seasonal palettes, others find the fabric and let the patterns come later, others use designer inspiration as a launching-off point.  I don’t know.  I’m sort of a whiny lightweight when it comes to this type of thing.   I just want an organizing principle that works for me, so I’m throwing a whole bunch of stuff to the wall to see what sticks.

There are a lot of issues at play here.  (Can you tell I miss talking about political conflict?)  I have to reconcile my body type with my style.  (I spend most of my life convincing people that I am not pregnant, just sickly, so I’ve got fit issues galore.)  Then, my skill level​ with the quality that I expect and my lifestyle with the things I like best.  As a student, I’m not bound to an actual dress code.  I figure, if some people show up to class in pajamas, who says I can’t just toss a cardigan over a brocade dress and call it casual?  Right?  Stop with the head-shaking, reader.

I’ve chosen to tackle skill.  As in, getting some.  I’ve got a list of things to make, most of which require hand-sewing and consultations with my spirit guide (a.k.a. Claire Shaeffer).  So as not to bore you too much, I’ll focus on one area: the non-ugly, non-poufy, non-low-rent-prom cocktail dress.  The deal is, I only like cocktail dresses that are lacy and sparkly.  I know.  Pressing, pressing First World problem.


This dress makes me very many types of happy.  Naturally, it took 252 hours to bead.  Oh, Oscar.  I suppose it could be a super fun project, getting some bugle beads and sequins and trying to not muck up or develop early-onset arthritis.

Source: via Charlotte on Pinterest


Without sounding too much like an insufferable dork, I have to say that seeing the Michael Kors Fall 2008 RTW collection was really a watershed moment for me.  Actually, a lot of Fall 2008 RTW ​had a big impact.  It was then that I first realized that I cared about fashion beyond pretty High Street dresses.  This collection was the first that made me think, “So that’s how I want to look.”  (I do wish this model had the kick-ass hair and glasses that the others did, though.)  It was a Charlotte love letter with tons of tweed and camel and tortoiseshell, but this dress really stuck out.

Source: via Charlotte on Pinterest

I still can’t figure out if I love this dress, or if I just love Emily Mortimer so much that I’ve let that spill over.  I don’t know.  (She just strikes me as a complete spaz*, but in the adorable way.  I, on the other hand, am a complete spaz in the annoyingly clumsy and babbly way.  I think maybe I need some sort of accent, yes?)

A sparkly dress and a full-skirted dress with lace overlay have been added to the list.  What list?  The List of Things I Intend to Sew This Lifetime, So Help Me Yves.

I’m off to not die with my now-cold tea and my really good book (Swamplandia!)​.  Hopefully, I’ll be better tomorrow.

*Using spaz like an American, by the way.​  Which is to say, inoffensively and with no reference to actual physical disability.  God, that was likely unnecessary.

Note: I actually got my boss’s permission to blog!  This thing had been private since its inception, because I really wanted to a) have a space to organize my sewing thoughts and b) essentially talk to myself.  She gave me permission last week, but I think I’ve finally gathered the gumption to actually hit the button.  Being lightheaded has somehow made me brave.  Now, instead of my mother saying things to me like, “God, that paragraph about lace was so boring,” the Internet can do it for her.  Somebody wins in this equation, y’all.

Also!  I’m going to follow my workplace on social media platforms like one of those people who is not afraid of saying or doing something absolutely mortifying.  If that ain’t improvement, I don’t know what is.