London Calling


[Photo of Liberty of London by ]

So I’ll be in London the weekend of May 24-25, and wondered: would anyone like to get together to do sewing-ish type things? Like, perhaps, a fabric crawl or a trip to the V&A, or both? I will 100% absolutely be going to Liberty, , and to the V&A, and should probably this time make it into more than one shop before closing time on Goldhawk Road …

Is there anything else I should do/see while I’m there? Usually I just wander around and marvel that EVERY SINGLE CORNER is right out of a book. I keep expecting to run into the , Crêpe Suzette, or Gabriel Syme …

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Book Review: Liberty: British Colour Pattern

Finally,  is available in the US! (Although not *immediately* available; Amazon is showing out-of-stock.)

picture via Liberty blog

I begged for a copy for Christmas and was duly gratified, but I held off blogging it until it was easier to get. (Of course if you’re in the UK/ROW, you can order it .)

It’s truly a gorgeous book and includes plenty of pictures of similarly-gorgeous Liberty fabrics:

picture via the Liberty blog

In my fevered Liberty dreams, they put out a book such as the “” that Swatch reseller does — every fabric Liberty ever made, listed in all colorways. I don’t care if it cost $300, I would buy it.* And I would certainly buy a “Liberty Annual” … a magalog that listed all the fabrics produced in a year, in all colorways. Liberty fabrics marketing department, are you listening?

This book doesn’t really need a review. If you love Liberty fabrics, you will love this book. If you don’t love Liberty fabrics yet, this book will probably tip you over into loving Liberty fabrics. Either way, you should probably wishlist it now.

*especially if it were arranged by year, with an index by name, and indexes by designer, fiber, weave, and pattern type (small florals, large florals, novelty, geometrics …). Hey, a girl can dream!

Today's Pattern Story: Butterick 5657

 

As Reginald swept her into the turn, face contorted in a rictus of merriment, he hissed a warning in her ear. “Keep dancing! For God’s sake, keep dancing! If they realize we’re released from their bizarre mind control, they’ll rend us limb from limb!”

Thanks to who suggested this pattern!

Thinking About Underwear: Thinx

There are a lot of products out there that operate on the buy-one-give-one () model — probably the best known are TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker — but none of them have really sparked my interest, mostly because the “buy one” of the BOGO model hasn’t been something I needed or wanted. After all, it’s not efficient to buy something you don’t want just to give someone else something they need; easier just to contribute directly.

However, I was recently contacted by , which makes women’s underwear and sells it on a BOGO model. Their schtick is that the underwear has built in “protection” (of the anti-leak sort, it’s not electrified or anything) and by buying a pair, you send reusable washable cloth menstrual pads to a girl in the developing world. (Not sure why this is a big deal? Read . Check out some of Rose George’s on this issue, too.) And I figured, hey, everyone needs underwear …

They sent me a couple of (free) pairs to try out, and they were very nice, as underwear goes. I tend to wear either super-cheap Target brand or Hanky Panky, and quality-wise, the Thinx pairs were closer to the higher end of the scale.  They sent me a couple of pairs in size large (42 hip; their sizes go up to a 47 inch hip). They were comfy, and although I didn’t get much of a chance to put the leak-protection to the test, Thinx seemed like an excellent option for women who have irregular cycles and hate having to wear liners every day (or for women who have mild stress incontinence and a bad case of the sneezes). They’re supposed to be antimicrobial as well, but I haven’t yet found my microscope since we moved and wasn’t all that excited about checking that particular claim personally …

The most-absorbent pair (the hiphuggers) are very expensive (>$40); the rest are about the same as a pair of top-of-the-line undies. If you amortize the cost of liners over the life of a pair of THINX … you’re probably better at this kind of math than I am. They do feel very sturdy (not in the “sturdy as a euphemism for ugly” way, honest) and I imagine they would hold up pretty well. They look … exactly like normal underwear. (I wore them to the gym and no one pointed/laughed in the locker room.)  And they only come in black, which makes sense given their purpose. The lining material makes you think they wouldn’t breathe well, but I didn’t notice any problems at all. I think they’d make great travel underwear — they wash and dry fast, and they seem like they wouldn’t feel horrible after a fourteen-hour  plane ride.

My verdict: if you need this particular underwear functionality, Thinx are for you. If you just want to have nice-looking underwear, Thinx may also be for you, and either way, you help girls go to school, so bonus!

PS: In addition to sending me two free pairs, Thinx also offered me an affiliate ad, which you’ll see in the sidebar. If you’d like to buy them directly, the link is .

Book Review: The Lost Art of Dress, by Linda Przybyszewski

 

So Basic Books sent me  months ago, and I read it immediately and thought it was awesome. And now it’s actually out in the world where you can read it, so I figured: review time!

The Lost Art of Dress is a history of (and paean to) the women who invented the field of home economics, and who taught hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of women how to dress beautifully, healthfully, economically, and practically during most of the twentieth century, only falling out of favor during the youthquake movement of the 1960s. Przybyszewski calls them the “Dress Doctors” and outlines how they used principles from art to guide women’s dress choices.

It’s a fascinating read, and whether or not you agree with the premise of the book (that women today are largely not stylish because they have abandoned these classic principles of color harmony, symmetry, and graceful line) it’s certain that you’ll enjoy the vast amount of largely forgotten and entirely charming advice the Dress Doctors gave their “patients.” For instance, women were advised that, when traveling, they should remain efficient and anonymous by choosing “no emotional colors, no revelatory designs, or fabrics, no temperamental hats or shoes.”

The most satisfying theme threaded through The Lost Art of Dress has got to be its debunking of the modern cult of youth fashion. Given that designers were , it can be astonishing to remember that, pre-1960, all the good clothes were intended for mature audiences only. “The French say that all perfectly dressed women are over forty,” reported Women’s Home Companion in 1937. “That is because they know that a smart appearance is the result of study and experience.” Przybyszewski may hammer this point a little too hard for anyone under 30, but those of us past that don’t-trust-anyone-over age will nod and grimace by turns as we read advice on how to wear crepey textures in order to flatter crepey skin.

Przybyszewski does not shy away from strong statements, whether quotes from the Dress Doctors (who pointed out that if you wear fancy clothes for mundane errands, it’s likely those who see you will assume you have “no other place to wear fine clothes”) or her own observations that “the only creature that should be wearing bright yellow-green is a small poisonous tree frog living in the Amazon” and that “if you cannot walk more than a block in your shoes, they are not shoes; they are pretty sculptures that you happen to have attached to your feet.”

If you love the styles of the first half of the last century and wonder why they were so lovely (and why so many modern clothes are not), you should read this book. If you are interested in the history of popular fashion as worn by ordinary people, you should read this book. And if you’re interested in some practical dress advice from the good Doctors, you’ll find that here, too.

Highly recommended!