Seven Dollars


Check it out — this dress is listed for $6.99. That's right, seven dollars can get you a very nice (if a little small, and if in need of a teeny repair, the kind that even people who don't sew on buttons can make) holiday dress. I love eBay. I also love the balletic lines of this dress — the round neck, the elegant sleeves, and the belled skirt. Nothing's better than a dress that makes you feel like a ballerina, all neck and grace.

Anyway, eBay is JAMMED now with people selling things that have only the most tangential relationship to Christmas. (Seriously. I don't care how emo your Christmas is, an early-80s Le Tigre lime green striped polo dress is NOT a "holiday dress.") And eBay is also jammed with people selling things that maybe, almost, could have been something that Sienna Miller almost once looked at. (Looked at and said "nah …", I hope.) Seriously, in five pages of listings I saw eight Sienna mentions. What is it with "Sienna Miller: Fashion Icon"? I just don't get it. As they like to say in my homeland, "All her taste is in her mouth." And who searches clothes on eBay with the keyword "Sienna Miller"? They're probably not as scary as the people who search clothes with the keyword "Paris Hilton," but they're still pretty scary.

A lot of the vintage fashion books I have are big on developing your own style; you need to figure out what suits YOU, and then work to make it coherent. Every fashion magazine I see now is hell-bent on propping up four or five overly-styled quasi-celebrities and asking you to choose which one you would most like to emulate. ("None of the Above" never seems to be an option.) I believe the next step will be Sienna Miller *kits*, that you can buy in a department store, like those old "Multiples" sets from the 1980s. (Which she seems to be singlehandedly trying to revive, but never mind.) They will include bad pants, a ridiculous and incongruous hat, expensive and ugly shoes, and a random tunic/shirt/dress to top it all off, plus miscellaneous bling. Kind of like Ooh, I can hardly wait.

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a workhorse

Simplicity 5142

I bought this one from and I think it's going to turn out to be a workhorse. It's got four pattern pieces, not including the facings — the pockets are cut in one with the skirt. It needs barely 2 1/2 yards of fabric — a smidgen, compared to what I usually sew. I can usually piece together 2 1/2 yards out of scraps! (Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean.) If I can get the fit right I could probably run up three or four of these in a couple of days, and if I pick some SOLID COLORS for a change, I could probably wear them for years. I have some nice old-gold wool crepe that should make up beautifully into this, and if I wanted to get fancy, I also have some bubblegum.jpgnk satin that would be really cute. (Although that last really isn't something you can wear over and over again …) A dress like this under a nice cardigan or little jacket (of which I have, again with the exaggeration, hundreds) can go anywhere and do anything.

It's even supposedly one of those "proportioned" patterns, with different bodice pieces for petite, medium, and tall sizes. I might measure the petite bodice and cut that one instead, as I'm so short-waisted.

I'm not sure, though, if I'll do the neck facings. I hate neck facings, they're so lumpy and bulky and need so much trimming and fussing. I might cut bias binding in the same fabric, or maybe line the whole bodice (I have ten yards of lining silk around here somewhere, might as well use it) instead. If I am careful about the zipper placement at the neck edge, I think bias binding is probably the way to go … it looks so much neater.

Old gold, dove gray (I have some nice heavy Italian cotton with a bit of stretch that I tried to make a Vogue DKNY pattern out of, a great pattern I'd made half-a-dozen times before and that for some reason I can't find online and am too lazy to scan (but let me just say it has a midriff band) but the combination of the pale gray and the very severe pattern lines made me look like the warden at a women's prison), and maybe even black — I have some nice black Italian cotton, too. I always buy black fabric and think "oh, I'll make a black skirt!" and then I either never do, or I never wear them when I do. (A plain black skirt is something you can always buy for $30 at Loehmann's.) And red. I have some red sitting around just begging to be made, like a puppy wanting a walk. Guess I better get cracking.

promised (threatened) fabric scans

gray plaid fabric
squiggle fabric
Well, of course the colors are all wrong (on the plaid at the top the grays are lighter, and the bottom is olive, black, and teal squiggles) but here they are, the fun fabrics I bought last week. After I had scanned them I realized that maybe the store had already done the work for me and put them on but no such luck. Either that or what I call "plaid" is not what they call "plaid."

But hey, aren't these cute? The top fabric is a mid-weight summer fabric with a slight slub to it — perfect dress weight. The bottom is a light corduroy, very shallow wale, almost babywale. I'm pretty sure I'm making a skirt out of it, as I just have never warmed much to corduroy dresses. I think my mother was frightened by a corduroy jumper when she was pregnant with me.

Sometimes I think finding great fabric is both the best and the worst part of sewing for yourself. Spending hours in the fabric store rummaging around can turn up amazing treasures, or it can be an exercise in deep frustration. If you want something highly specific — like one fabric I've been looking for now for many a long year, a midweight cotton in sky blue with a white fluffy cloud print, like a Magritte background with no SILVER GILT on it (my clouds don't need silver linings!), or the deep chocolate brown silk with dark yellow and green gingko leaves that I fantasize about on a monthly basis — well, god help you, my child. If you need a specific color to match something else, if you have a tremendous need for polka dots of a particular size (and if you want to see someone squirt coffee out their nose, walk into a Manhattan fabric store while heavily pregnant and say you're looking for fabric with fist-sized polka dots), if you need fabric in an exact weight, there will be a gaping void where the objects of your desire should be. If you walk in not needing anything specific, the fabric gods will open their arms to you and rain down endless possibilities. It makes it hard to plan, but it makes it easy to be surprised. And as I get older I find I enjoy a good surprise more than I love it when a plan comes together.

Big Damn Dresses, Sir

I know it's a fuzzy picture but hey, fuzzy or not, it's still a big damn dress from Firefly, and it's being auctioned now on eBay. You can also get some from it, and a few other dresses and outfits, but not, sadly, (scroll down) from the same episode. Which I believe was the also the episode that gave us the immortal monicker "Captain Tightpants." Mmmmm, Mal. Anyway. Where were we? Dresses?

Do you want to know how much devotion Joss Whedon inspires? The costume designer remade HER OWN WEDDING DRESS to create this dress for this episode. I'm hoping she's still married, because if not, it's not as good of a story.

Of course, the only real reason to buy this dress (although it's very pretty) is if you are obsessed with Firefly (which I'm not any longer; the movie gave me closure, dammit). I'm not sure if the proceeds go to charity or not; there was no mention I could find in the listings.

Thanks to Rio for the linky goodness …

An excuse for "purchased trim"

Butterick 5967
I was in on Saturday and barely made it out of there alive. I managed to restrain myself ONLY because I hadn't brought any yardage requirements with me, making buying trim for specific dresses an exercise in pure guesstimation. I ended up buying some green leaf trim (what I went in there for), a Superman patch for my little boy, and a string of yellow beads (they were 99).

If I were to make a list of everything at M&J that seriously tempted me, we'd be here for days, so the highlights: some polka-dotted stretchy foldover trim (especially as a co-worker stopped me on Friday in dismay. "You're not wearing polka dots!" he said, looking stricken. "You *always* wear some kind of polka dot!" I talked him down but it was a close thing.) Some heavy beaded ribbon in tones of teal and turquoise. Some faux-folklorica embroidery edging. And the killer, tulle covered with tiny square sequins. Square! So Courrges! I wanted to buy the whole bolt and use it to make a skirt. I wanted to buy all the bolts (they had multiple colors) and just hoard it.

Then I thought of this pattern, recently purchased as part of the Great Midriff Band Obsession of 2005 (look, this one is SHAPED) and thought how nice the sequins would be as the "purchased trim" for this dress. Now I just have to decide the color. I think tone-on-tone would be the best … not that I really have any place to wear a sequin-embellished ANYTHING, but that's never stopped me before.

Just one note: the floral dress looks as if it has a tiny collar, but it's just the miter line of the trim. Sorry. Fooled me too.

Another reason why librarians are awesome

Vogue 6374

So I was invited to speak last week (about my Real Job™) at a lovely library in Connecticut. It was gratifyingly well-attended and the audience questions were great. What does this have to do with why librarians are awesome and why this pattern is here? Well, as an honorarium for coming to speak, they gave me this pattern! And another one that was equally lovely! And they're my size!

"How did you know?" I asked, because this site isn't in my Official Bio™ … but it does say that I like to sew with vintage patterns. So they had not only READ it (you'd be surprised how many people that want me to come speak DON'T) but actually took the information and used it. So thoughtful!

Anyway, that's reason #15,988 why librarians rock. And I hope you can see in the scan (it's a little fuzzy, sorry) how the collar splits at the shoulder seam. That also rocks.

Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Dress

I am pretty sure that this dress has nothing to do with Updike, but if anyone googles anything different, let me know. Msbelle sent this one to me, last week sometime, and it's been growing on me ever since. It's at Nordstrom, $88, and the only thing I don't like about it is that it's polyester. (I'm a fiber snob, although I know polyester is getting nicer and nicer, it's still not as nice as silk. I'd rather have a nice rayon than polyester, even.)

I wish this dress was sold with two or three midriff bands. Velvet would be a nice alternative to the satin, and a color or a print would help make this dress a real workhorse.

Sorry no post yesterday; I was out buying some kickass fabric — seriously, some of the best fabric I've seen in ages. I'll try to scan it towards the end of the week and post it. Warning: more mock plaid on the way. And it totally makes up for me losing the auction for this fabric …

popsicle fabric