Thursday, November 29, 2007
It only comes once a year. No, not Christmas, the couture auction at Freeman’s Auctions in Philadelphia. Freeman's Auctions bills itself as America's oldest auction house. They cater to the art-and-antiques crowd, a crowd I can’t afford to join - though I'm a fabulous browser.
I like their general estate sales, which occur four times a year, but the couture auction is the highlight of the year as far as I'm concerned. Today was the first day of the exhibition – the sale isn’t until next Tuesday, so I can visit a few more times before all these wonderful clothes disappear into their new closets.
How often do we get to look at stuff like this up close, much less take it off the hanger and try to figure out the construction? I'm intimidated by the stores that sell high-end clothing, and they certainly wouldn't appreciate my investigative techniques. As far as the vintage pieces, they're almost impossible to find anywhere outside of a museum exhibit. This is my opportunity to handle garments that I would normally only see behind glass. I can even try things on! Alas, no cameras allowed, but I snagged some photos from the auction catalog to share.
My personal highlights include Lot #85, a 1980s jacket by Oscar de Laurenta in aubergine velvet with embroidery and pewter buttons. For some reason, they’re calling it "Austrian." If it wasn’t for the slightly big shoulders, I would be whispering sweet nothings to this jacket. I could maybe get over the shoulders for that embroidery.
In the "what were they thinking?" category is Lot #119, the Chanel "scarecrow" suit (my word, not theirs). It photographs really well, that’s all I'll say. The catalog says "Yellow 'confetti' tweed light-weight double-breasted suit with raw fringed edging, shaped padded 'epaulettes' at the shoulders, four patch pockets, matching side-zip pants. Spring 98." If a stiff wind blew up, you might be naked.
They always have one ridiculous red showstopper in the window. Last year it was a full-length red-dyed ostrich feather coat from Christian Lacroix. This year, it's Lot #146, Valentino's fur stole checker-dyed in red and black. With rhinestone eyes. But of course.
In the vintage category, Lot #1, a dolman sleeve jacket in silk velvet with embroidered "florets," trimmed in dark green and gold chenille fringe and lined in immaculate quilted gold silk. Absolutely delicious.
Something that would push all PETA's buttons (and more than a few of mine) is Lot #146, a leopard fur capelet with, what else, buttons! "Boat-neck with side-buttoning closure, shaped shoulders and tailored arm openings. 1957." It's a serious old movie piece – picture it on Lauren Bacall in the fashion show from How to Marry a Millionaire.
In the "nothing succeeds like excess" category, Lot #83, a skirt suit from Koos van den Akker, black wool twill with appliqués of gold metallic lace and a gold mesh blouse. It's even more decadent in person. On the auction floor, they had it on a mannequin who was carrying a bag made of long black fur tails.
Last but not least, my personal favorite (in the realm of reality, anyway), the item I'm going to bid on even though it's technically one size too small, is Lot #93, a DKNY olive velvet frock coat (they called it a blazer in the auction catalog). It's only estimated at $40 - $60, so how can I not bid on it? It's much prettier in person, and it's silk velvet, so it drapes like a dream. And while it was a little snug over my sweater, it would be fine with a dressy tank. Almost.
Okay, so I just want it. Is that so wrong?
There were loads of goodies I didn't even get to at lunch today - vintage shoes, all kinds of bags including a batch of interlocking C's that were visible across the room, lots of Hermes scarves. More amazing vintage, including a Victorian wedding gown complete with train that was mounted on the wall.
Hmmm, maybe I can figure out how to use my camera phone after all. I mean, how hard can it be?
Don't answer that question.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
We were out doing some holiday shopping for Mario's mom and sister, and we went to Loehmann's. I'd never ventured downstairs to shoe world before, and when we came down the stairs, I spotted these:
There are no words to describe how these shoes made me feel. There aren't even words to describe why I like them. But I do, I do!!
And someone was watching. He couldn't buy them without my noticing, so he asked if I really, really wamted them. I really, really did, so he bought them for me. And I can't have them until Christmas, but that gives me a month to dream up the perfect outfit to match.
Is this the end of the Grinch? Probably not, but the Grinch will be fashionably shod this Christmas.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Well, if you can't hide 'em, drape them in large prints and point 'em at your nearest target!
This shirt is based on my favorite TNT blouse pattern, Simplicity 5204. It's a really basic shirt, but it fits well, and the collar goes together like a breeze every single time. You can't beat that. This time around I changed the shape a little - made it longer, tapered up at the hip, and changed the sleeve to a 3/4 with a faux cuff so I could show off some more of the fabulous buttons I picked up at PR Weekend.
I've had the fabric since spring of 2006 - my very first trip to Kashi - and all this time it hasn' t struck me what it wanted to be. I went into Pacific Trims on PR Weekend, saw these buttons, and the whole shirt just appeared in my head, finished.
It should be so easy. But this is a quick sew, almost instant gratification pattern, and now I have something new to wear to work this week, and something to feel good about while I continue to wrestle with the next big project, BWOF 10/07's 105 dress with all the pleats. It's moving along, but it's moving at its own pace.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
First, this jacket. Which I thought was really cute, but not worth its $129 price tags. The satin was cheapish, and the skirt, which was supposed to be an 8, didn’t even zip all the way up. I know, I know, I’ve been reading Tim Gunn and I know size is a number that doesn’t mean anything, but generally it’s at least in the ballpark of zipping. These people cut TINY! On the other hand, what a cute outfit! I love the sleeves, love the piecing at the top of the skirt (very Burda!) and I absolutely adore the flowers around the neck of the jacket.
I do have a weakness for jackets. This one is made from a halfway-decent brocade and has velvet ruffles down the front and around the hem and the sleeves. I love ruffles!
I noticed with both these jackets that they’re lined all the way to the hem, which is how I do it when I foul up my linings. I like the more classic-looking lining, with some of the hem of the garment fabric showing at the hem, but they may be swaying me here into doing it the way that seems to happen for me anyway.
What I discovered is that I’m really attracted to garments that I shouldn’t be wearing, at least not in RTW where I can’t make adjustments. I love full ¾ sleeves, but their fullness added to the recent fullness of my hips (when did that happen? I wore boys’ jeans until I was 30!) is at just the wrong point. I love fussy details like the applied flowers and the ruffles, but I’m too short and solid to really carry them off well. This isn’t me saying that I’m fat, though there’s a certain 10 lbs I wouldn’t miss if they disappeared tomorrow, but being short, I look better in cleaner lines. I know I’ll never cut down on the patterned fabrics, so I have to say no to at least some of the trimmings that make my heart go pitter-pat. So, in the end, 9 out of 11 garments go back on the rack.
Coming home with me: 2 sweaters, a cranberry and black cashmere blend with a mock turtleneck and a brown scoop-neck with a faux white blouse sewn inside the collar. The sweater with the faux blouse is really cute; the blouse, while not a bad idea, is made out of cheap-n-cheesy white cotton and will probably either be removed or replaced in fairly short order. The sweater was only $19, which I would have paid for it without the blouse, so I didn’t mind that, but why do they use such crappy fabrics? Do they think people don’t notice? Most of them just can’t do anything about it.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
We met up with the rest of the ladies and headed out. First stop was Mood, where I wasn’t going to buy any fabric. They’re too expensive, and it was only the first store. So I only bought two cuts of shirting fabric, both for Mario, because he requested “non-traditional shirting.” Be careful what you wish for. (On the other hand, “non-traditional shirting” is a pretty articulate request from a guy who didn’t know the difference between one fabric and another before he met me.)
We made a brief stop at Pacific Trims, which blew M&J and Daytona completely out of the water as far as I was concerned. That place is a candy store! I bought trim, buttons, buckles, fasteners, and more trim. And I went back again later for a 12” separating zipper.Then it was off to Leather, Suede, Skins. I really liked Global Leathers last year, and got a very nice deal on some leather I was afraid to sew with for months. This year I decided I was ready to make myself a leather jacket. LSS supplied 40 square feet of buttery black lambskin (price started at $180, then went to $155, finally purchased at $128), plus some remnants of a wonderfully awful (or awfully wonderful, depending on your taste) snakeskin printed leather. That’s definitely a bag in the making.
After that, we went to see wonderful Kashi at Metro Textiles. This wasn’t my most productive trip, though you can’t tell from the amount of fabric I bought. I was going to let him ship it (and my previous purchases), but since Monday was a holiday, I knew I probably wouldn’t get my fabric until Wednesday, and I could have it all washed and ironed by then. Kashi supplied me with a wonderful silk scarf square to line my leather jacket, some striped linen (looks like vintage dishtowels!), a pink and cream lightweight coating for a Christmas present jacket, a brown with pink embroidery that wants to be a skirt, a great turquoise/green/gold and brown stretch knit, and the most amazing trim I’ve ever seen. I bought 6 yards of it without a purpose, but it was only $3 per yard.
We broke for lunch at 1:00 p.m. at the Times Deli. Trena and Cidell caught up to us there and Trena and I got to do our BWOF swap and I gave her some too-small vintage patterns that have been taking up space in my drawer. It felt good to be surrounded by fellow fabric mavens and to know that they understood why I had so many bags that they filled up their own chair!
Beginning to drag a little, but never too tired for Paron. I love the Annex – I hardly ever buy anything in the full price section. I found a wonderful semi-sheer floral in shades of orange in the $2 bin, then I got stretch twill in both black and a wonderful dark chocolate brown, and finally I bought a bottom-weight in gray with tiny broken stripes of black, brown and tan. One of those three fabrics is going to be the jumper from BWOF 10/2007.
I made it through Spandex House without a purchase, though I did have a nice rest on the 2nd floor, sitting and leaning against a few bolts of stretch velvet. I’ve still got a lot of stretch at home and I’m trying to get back into working with wovens because it requires more focus and the kind of detail work that I’ve been trying to avoid. Deepika seems to be on the same kick. She asked, “Does this mean I’m growing up?” Maybe we are, at least a little.
Last stop, Rosen & Chadick. I wasn’t buying anything. I was exhausted, thirsty, and shopped out, and I could barely lift my bags anymore. But they had such a fabulous selection, and Preston was so sweet and helpful that I bought one cut of shirting, this time for me – olive and gold with tiny stripes of red. Just my colors. And then I went in the back and sat on the floor again.
We re-fueled at Starbuck’s – peppermint mocha, yummm. But my 3½ hours of sleep had finally caught up to me. After coffee and some show & tell, and Deepika trying on my woolly mammoth coat, I headed off to Penn Station and caught the train home.
If this had been any other event, I would have probably blown it off, but no way was I missing PR Weekend. I had such a fabulous time, shopping and comparing fabrics and talking to so many great like-minded women. A day like that lasts a long time.
Monday, November 12, 2007
There was no plan to make this coat. I bought the fabric in August when I visited Kashi at Metro Textiles. It was the end of the roll, a fact that influences many of my purchases. I love roll-ends; somehow I always end up with more fabric for less money. Kashi was also very enthusiastic, although I don’t always understand his enthusiasm. But I agreed at the store, though Mario raised his eyebrows. (That also probably had something to do with why I bought it). When I got the fabric home and spread it out, I was mystified. The orange was more orange; the shiny aqua thread was even shinier. Of the two sides, I still liked the one Kashi said was the wrong side – he said that the darker side was the right side – but I didn’t have a clue what it would be. Kashi said obviously it should be a jacket, and I think he meant something Chanel-ish, but all I can say is that a Chanel jacket in this fabric would make me look like one of those knitted toilet paper cozies that my Aunt Betty handed out for Christmas in the 1970s.
A few weeks ago I was sitting and going through all my old BWOF magazines because I couldn’t get the most recent issue, and this coat jumped out at me. It wandered into my head in conjunction with the boucle, and a small voice said, “It would look like a sweater coat.” I can’t say that I’ve ever yearned for a sweater coat, but hey, you shouldn’t ignore the voices on the chance they might be right.
Best of all, since I’ve just finished fighting two linings for the outfit for my friend Adam’s wedding (otherwise known as the Dress from Hell and its accompanying Jacket from Hell), I was pleased as punch to find out that this has only a partial lining. I had some tan moleskin around that I was planning to donate, since I got over my liking for it shortly after it arrived in the mail from Fabric.com, and decided that the glossy (wrong) side of that would make a perfect lining, and the moleskin side would cling nicely to the underside of the boucle. Voila, coat.
The least fun part was the tie belt. The hard part was realizing that my dinky 12” long tube turner was more or less incapable of turning a 5' long tube. I inserted the turner from the top, snagged a piece of yarn and just kept pushing/pulling gently from the wrong side until I could finally reach the loop. Then I pressed the crap out of it to flatten it. That would be the technical term for leaving the iron on the fabric until you can smell singeing wool (or cooking mutton), but it wouldn’t behave any other way. Of course all that gentle pushing/pulling stretched the belt, so it ended up a nice bit longer than its original too-long length.
I had problems with the collar, partly because the fabric is so chunky. I didn’t use interfacing on any of this coat because it already had enough body and I was actually afraid of losing what flexibility there was. The directions say to interface the collar, facings and the hems, which I can definitely see if you used a normal woven fabric. I didn’t understand what they were talking about re the darts in the front where the collar and the facing meet up, but eventually I did something that worked. I’m not actually sure it’s right, but I couldn’t pick it out and try again because it was starting to fray. And anyway, that’s the bright side of fabric like this – busy, busy patterns hide flaws. I had a suspicion that I was going to have a hard time with the collar, so just to make it more confusing to the eye, I flipped the fabric and did the collar and facing in the wrong side fabric. Which of course means I should have done the belt in the wrong side, but I’m not remaking that tie belt!
The two-part sleeves are possibly the best fitting BWOF sleeves I’ve ever run across. They needed minimal easing, and between my wonderfully malleable fabric (notice I’ve changed my tune) and the joy of using my new pressing ham, I got a shaped sleeve in no time at all. Minimal shoulder pads, just to ad a little more shape, and then I sewed in the partial lining.
Turns out I would have preferred a full lining. By leaving it only partly lined I had to put seam binding on all the visible seams, of which there are many. I didn’t remember until I put binding on the pocket bags just how much I hate seam binding, and at that point I had several miles of the stuff left to go to cover all the raggedy edges below the lining. But of course there wasn’t enough fabric left to make a full lining, and I decided to just to suck it up and bind the seams. It took 7yards, and I cheated and didn't do the seams that were hidden by the lining.
I topstitched the collar and the entire front length of the coat. It’s not visible because of the colors of the fabric, which is fine, but I wanted it to cooperate, and it wasn’t, and because I hadn’t interfaced the facing, it was a little soft and the line between front and facing kept blurring. This way it’ll stay put but won’t look like I sewed it there.
I managed to finish this in time to wear it to NYC on Saturday for PR Weekend. Several of the lovely ladies complimented it, a few petted it, and Deepika hauled her tired bones upright in a Starbucks to try it on. Seeing it on her made me realize I had to cut about a foot off the belt. The best PR Weekend addition to this coat came from Pacific Trims, which is a store I could spend days and weeks in without a repeat buy. Mimi pointed out this amazing brown velvet ribbon trim with pink and orange beading. How perfect (and perfectly ridiculous?) is that? I knew I had to put it around the sleeves, and it became one more reason to ditch the belt – I only need so much going on near my middle at the same time.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I got home from the wedding by 12:30 a.m., took off my dress, laid out clothes for Saturday a.m., packed my bag to take with me, and fell into bed by a little after 1:00 a.m. The clock went off at 6:00, and I was on the 7:20 train. NY by 8:40, meetup by 9:15, shop until 1:00, break for lunch, shop some more until we retired to a Starbuck's at 4:00, and I realized that I couldn't do any more. There was a pizza party/gift swap/show & tell planned for 6:00 - 9:00, and I just couldn't do it. I had reached that point of exhaustion where if I had to do more, I would have either cried or just sat in a corner and rocked. (That probably also had something to do with the 30 lbs of fabric I was carrying at that point - more on that later).
So I bailed and took the 5:17 train home and collapsed on my bed for a while, feeling like a wuss, but knowing that if I had stayed, I wouldn't have had a good time and that would have ruined it for me. Sometimes you have to leave the party while you're still having a good time . . .
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I will not be my mother. I will not be my aunt, grandmom, great-aunt. I may be a packrat, but I'm going to wear some of my clutter, dammit. One of these days I'll post that blouse, and every time I wear it I'll think of all those women, and the pleasure they missed out on, thinking that their things were better than they were.
Monday, November 5, 2007
I knew there wasn't anything left of the brown silk but scraps, but I went diving into the trash and came up with a few decent sized chunks and turned out this take on Amy Butler's Frenchy Bag. It's a little shorter, a little wider, and I skipped the interior pockets because this is just going to be for wallet, camera, and fixer-upper makeup for when I cry all over myself at the wedding. And tissues. A big fat wad of tissues.
The bag turned out pretty good, I think, and my favorite part of it is that I got to use a big piece of my very expensive French beaded trim. Since I only used about 3" of it on the dress, it's been bothering me that I wasted 20E for 3" of trim. I feel better now, and the best part is, since the bag was pieced together from scraps, the trim covers all 3 seams on the front of the bag. There was only a center seam on the back, so I decided to let that go and just decorate the front.
Now, can I relax?
Probably not. The dining room still needs painting.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
I don't usually use that many exclamation points, but that's just how glad I am that THE DRESS FROM HELL is finished.
Here's the story behind this project: My friend Adam is not a normal guy. He was raised by his mom, his grandmom and his aunt, and he is the man every woman wants - cute, well-mannered, responsible, employed, clothing-conscious and animal-loving. When he finally found the girl of his dreams (who is almost worthy of him), he decided that if they couldn't run away to Europe to get married, they had to have a formal wedding. The invitation said "black tie strongly encouraged." Adam says that too many of his friends go around dressed like homeless people, and he wanted to see them looking nice for once. Not surprisingly, almost everyone was into the idea. I started planning as soon as I found out what color the bridesmaids were wearing - I didn't want to inadvertently look like one of the bridal party.
Adam is getting married next Friday, therefore, I've known about this occasion for some time. I've even had the fabric for some time. (Okay, more than some time - I bought it in February). I waffled several times about what pattern to use and finally decided on McCall 4444, which is technically a sundress pattern, but when I made it back in July, it seemed like it had great potential as a dressier dress. And it did, thank all the sewing gods, who occasionally conspired against me and demanded more than their normal measure of blood, sweat and swearing.
For some reason, I decided that this outfit had to be perfect. That meant no short cuts and no ignoring mistakes just because non-sewers wouldn't notice them. Perfect, or at least done correctly, so I had to face a long-standing sewing fear and learn how to put in an invisible zipper. Once I got the hang of it, it wasn't difficult at all and now I want to put them in everything and I'm smacking myself for all the times I cheated and put in a regular zipper, and tried to ignore that it didn't look right.
The dress started out in a different color - I got a really pretty copper taffeta from fabric.com, but it turned out to be crackly taffeta, as in cheap prom dress crackly taffeta. When I went looking for replacement fabric, they had this cocoa silk shantung for not much more $$. Not only is it gorgeous but I don't sound like I'm wearing plastic grocery bags in this dress. It doesn't crackle, it rustles. Much better.
The jacket (Burda 7987) was an afterthought, actually - I bought 2 yards of this embroidered home dec fabric to match the original copper; then I decided I didn't like it; then I decided to use it as a jacket because it's a November wedding and I was wearing a backless dress. To me there's something very Elizabethan about it. Maybe it's the stand-up collar, or the richness of the fabric. The collar is great - it's got 10 small pleats from the side to the back of the neck to give it shape, and even though it was a bear to put together and iron into submission, the end result was worth it.
The dress took more patience than the jacket, somehow. This is supposed to be an unlined sundress. It's not, obviously. I ended up lining it, because I didn't think silk shantung would make it through a wedding mass without creasing. To give the bodice a bit more body, I ironed a light-weight interfacing to the lining. I was afraid to iron it to the fabric, just in case it showed. But once I'm in the dress, the fabric and the lining become one, and the interfacing adds just enough structure. The lining had to be sewn in by hand, because the silk shows every single stinking pin and needle mark, and if I'd managed to keep the exterior clean up to that point, I wasn't marring it because of a lining. So it's stitched along the zipper and along the top of the bodice, very carefully, on the seam allowance just below the seam so there was no possibility of stitches showing.
You know what? Doing everything right is freaking exhausting! I went to the pre-wedding serenade last night and told the bride and groom that they could, indeed, be married next Friday because I would not be attending the ceremony in my underwear. Instead, I'll be wearing this, complete with dyed-to-match shoes.
The shoes are beautiful, but somewhat of a sore point. When I picked them up, a customer complimented me on them and asked, "Are you the mother of the bride?" I almost choked. "No," I say. "Oh, mother of the groom. That's lovely."
Can't I just be an overdressed guest? Do I have to suddenly have a 20-something child? It took all my strength not to snap at the woman who, after all, didn't mean anything by her remark. I just generally choose to believe I don't look my age, and I don't look kindly on those who assume that I have children old enough to be married.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Look what my $25 gift certificate to Lanetz Living got me! I'm excited. I've never tried Advance patterns before, and this seemed like a good time. Janet has a fabulous selection, and I would have probably found more/better, except that I'm still on dial-up and going from page to page was taking forever. Still, I had a happy couple of hours browsing around, and fed the blouse beast quite nicely. I like the odd little double pockets on 8413, and just the ever-so-vintageness of 6686. 8723 is because I'm trying to be a grownup and wear a robe, instead of slogging around the house all the time in a men's XL tshirt. (The XL tshirt may still be under the robe, but at least I can attempt to look nice.)