Empress of Everything


Many thanks to Jennifer for sending me this link from . (Click on the image to visit the store; it's B33 and $17.50.)

Now, is it just me, or is this dress just pining to be made in silver Lurex and worn by some interstellar empress? Preferably one played by Cate Blanchett?

I mean, if I were the costume designer for the as-yet-untitled Cate Blanchett SF epic that would best set off this dress, I'd make four or five of these, in different Christmas-ornament colors: silver, gold, bright shiny white, garnet red, and that peculiar electric blue that only shows up in SF movies and for three weeks before December 25. I'd make the skirt longer, almost ankle-length, and they'd all be worn with matching scrunchy spandex-topped cap-toed boots, with an odd-shaped low heel. (You can't have The Future, much less The Future in Space, without funky boots.)

Cate could sweep through the bright-white sterile corridors of the spaceship, trailed by flunkies with no eyebrows (no eyebrows also = future), barking commands and dispensing expressionless justice on miscreants & shoving them out airlocks.

I see the plot as being an update of the Christopher Columbus story, with Cate Blanchett in the Queen Isabella role. You see, Future Columbus (played, if I had my druthers, by Dominic West) is a troublemaker on the ship (which, by the way, is a generation ship, taking hundreds of years to reach a new planet for colonization). He believes he can find a better planet than the one they're headed for, and thus have landfall in their lifetimes. Mostly to get rid of him, Isabella agrees. It's either this or shove him out the airlock. This is all complicated by the fact that they are (of course!) lovers, and she knows that she will either never see him again, or, because of the vagaries of near-FTL travel, be an old, old woman when he returns. He goes and finds the planet … but it's inhabited. Columbus thinks that not only can they all just get along, but that it will be super-wonderful-great to have such neato neighbors. (Kiera Knightley plays the otherworldly-beautiful alien woman on Planet X, of course.) He returns to tell everyone the news about the new planet, and incidentally, to say I TOLD YOU SO. Bittersweet scene with now very aged Cate Blanchett. Lots of arguing back and forth — do they stay the course or break for new planet? Cate Blanchett decides to go for new planet. Cate Blanchett (in dress above, made in black) dies of old age before landfall. Dominic looks very, very sad.

Everyone lands on the new planet, to find it deserted! Pretty aliens all dead, from microbes brought by Columbus & Co. Dominic now EXTREMELY sad.

The only thing I'm stuck on is: how does it end? Is it a horror thing, where the ghosts of the original inhabitants haunt them? Or is it more drama-y, where Columbus realizes maybe being Mr. Hothead Right About Everything wasn't worth it in the end? Or something else?

If you have ideas, let me know, because this whole thing needs to be made JUST so that this dress can be in it. Some people build their mental movies around actors; I build them around costumes …

Oh, and sorry for the double post yesterday; Blogger got the hiccups. I made it drink water from the far rim of the glass and eat a spoonful of dry sugar and then try breathing in a paper bag, but nothing worked. (Also, it's impossible to startle Blogger out of the hiccups. I've tried.)

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Gorgeous. I just started making the McCalls versi…

Gorgeous. I just started making the McCalls version of the Duro dress and discovered it has a giant sash in the back to make the waist fitted. I grew out of looking cute in sashes about 40 years ago, and so decided to sew in an elastic band across the bottom instead. Short of constructing my very own back midriff piece, what else could I have done? Is this one sashless?

Monsoon season

sent me the link to this lovely dress from the British high street chain weeks and weeks ago, and I'm finally getting around to posting it. Thank goodness it still seems to be in stock.

As Clare instinctively understood, from her months of reading MilitaryHumveeAuction, this one pushes every single button, like a four-year-old in an elevator. Orange and gr[a|e]y? Check. Midriff band? Check. Piping? Check. Surplice bodice? Check. Short kimono sleeves? Check. Large-scale print? Check. In fact, this dress is so "directional" (if MilitaryHumveeAuction is the direction you're heading) that I'm wondering if someone at their design studio made a bet that they could get it featured here. (That would be egotistical of me, but really, really funny. Hey guys! You won!)

Of course, what was the ONE high street shop that I *didn't* have a chance to wander into when I was in the UK back in July? Yep, that's right, Monsoon. (I would have also liked . It has tucks!)

The Phoebe dress is £55, and comes in UK sizes 08-18. But Monsoon ships to the UK and the Republic of Ireland only …

Don't you want to go to Elgin, IL this weekend?

I know this will be tremendously irritating for those of you in Hackney and Singapore and San Francisco and whatnot, but if you're in Illinois (and I know *some* of you are), there's a vintage show in Elgin this weekend. Where's Elgin, you ask? Somewhere west of here. If you click on the image above you'll go to the organizer's web site and there are directions — and you can even take the Metra there! (Non-Americans, you can feel free to comment about how pitiful it is that the existence of commuter rail between two places is so rare that it must be remarked upon.)

I would be there, and probably dressed up, too (dress up in vintage and get $2 off? Sure, throw me in that briar patch!) if I weren't already committed to packing the vintage I already own this weekend, in prep for The Move of the Century. (I haven't moved since pre-2000, so I believe I am justified in calling this The Move of the Century.)

If you go, take pictures! Look for ! Don't buy anything I wouldn't buy (okay, you're pretty safe there). Have fun storming the castle!

God Bless the Internet

God Bless the Internet. (With a special shout-out to the U of Chicago.)

Here's how it goes:

I post about some I bought in Beijing, one of a series of posts where I talk about fabric shopping in China.

(this is where the U of C comes in, she's a current student, I'm an alumna, that link there is to her blog) emails me to ask where I bought fabric in Beijing, as the search isn't working, and she's heading to China for the summer. I send her , where (incidentally) I whine about not having bought a longer length of the Darth Vader silk. I ask that if she goes, and they have it, would she mind picking it up for me? I'd Paypal her, and pay for shipping.

"No problem," says the wonderful .

So Nancy bought me four yards, and it should be here any minute now! I'm thinking (aren't I always thinking) maybe a Duro dress. Or maybe, since I'll now have nearly six yards, a Duro *and* another dress.

So, in short: Darth Vader fabric is inherently funny. The Internet is wonderful.
is awesome. Yay!

"make cheese"

A mini-entry, as I've been having trouble with Blogger today. No big spat, nothing to break up over; just a little difference of opinion and some ill-considered words. I'm sure it will blow over by tomorrow.

No picture today, because I couldn't find one, and I really did want one, to illustrate this great English idiom I found. To "make cheese" is to "spread skirt and petticoat round you on the floor by swirling them before sinking down". If I were the kind of person to speculate without foundation about the origin of idioms (in other words, if I felt competent to folk-etymologize with abandon) I would say that perhaps it comes from the notion that a big full skirt and big round cheese might have some topological symmetry. Or something.

But I *did* want a picture (preferably of someone like Doris Day) sitting on the ground with her skirts pleasingly spread out. But my organ of Googling seems to be taking the day off, or is anesthetized, or under the influence of solar flares, or something, so I don't have one. If *YOU* have one, and send me it, and I post it, I will send you something fun & word-related in the mail. So find me a great picture that illustrates this idiom, please. Contest ends Friday at 9 a.m. Central, so you have a little more than 36 hours. Taking a picture of yourself in this (with a really great dress) is of course fine.

Sew U

My favorite kind of cookbook is the kind that gives you general instructions on how to make something, like angel food cake, or cornbread, or chili, and then provides variations on a theme. Add jalapeños. Replace the oil with mayonnaise. Try with almond extract instead of lemon, or add cinnamon.

I've always been looking for a sewing how-to book that worked like my favorite cookbooks–a book that would give good, wearable general projects with real variations, and, more importantly, wouldn't be either overwhelming in the amount of detail given or hand-wavingly vague about exactly HOW you are supposed to follow an instruction like "insert zipper." (And it would be nice, too, if all the projects weren't made of coral-colored cotton-poly broadcloth.)

Finally (thanks to Caroline!) I think I've found it — 's .

Sew U fulfills all my requirements for a "how-to-sew" book. It doesn't assume you have a couple of grand to drop on equipment, right off the bat — or that you have more space than can be found on top of your mattress (in fact, Wendy did a lot of her early sewing in a New York City apartment, and if you can make things there, you can make them anywhere, as the song goes). There's enough information given about tools and fabrics and techniques that you can get started, but not so much that your brain fries from information overload.

However, the best part of Sew U, (and one that will get it to #1 on my "recommended sewing books" list is that) not only does it include three patterns (skirt, shirt, pants), Wendy spends a great deal of the book explaining how to alter those three patterns to end up with any number of different effects. In other words, instead of "add jalapeños," it's "make a pointed collar round" and "change skinny-leg pants to boot-cut". It's a sewing cookbook!

Even though I've been sewing now for more than twenty years, I certainly don't feel as if I know everything there is to know, and I took away several great hints from Sew U: probably the best one is to do a "project ticket" for each garment. I'm always trying to figure out what I did the last time I made a particular pattern, and even when I make little pencilled notes on the envelope or the pattern pieces, they're not always intelligible (especially months or years later). So the idea of having a standard form (for you to fill out, attach a swatch & spare button to, and file) appeals to me greatly–and makes me wonder why I never thought of it! Wendy helpfully provides a few you can photocopy, but I'll probably design my own to allow for notes on where I got the fabric and pattern, as well as what I did with them.

In addition, Wendy understands that your reach might exceed your grasp–that you might be able to design something your sewing skills can't stretch to. So she has a short chapter on how to work with a tailor to get exactly what you want.

The book itself is very handsome, with a lay-flat spiral binding and lovely clear illustrations. The patterns are in a pocket in the back that is bound into the book.

In short, I recommend Sew U highly to anyone who ever thought they'd like to start sewing but felt intimidated by the learning curve. It would be perfect, in fact, except for one thing: the patterns included only go up to a 38 1/2 inch bust. Nearly all of the suggestions can be applied to any simple commercial pattern; it's just disappointing that fashion-industry sizing was applied to something that is otherwise so DIY-friendly.