The dress that it is

This is not the dress I’d intended to make. But it is, to state the obvious, the dress that I made.

I taped the pattern together. There was a skirt front. There was a skirt back. I cut out a skirt front. I cut out a skirt back.

Reading the instructions much later I learned that if making view C you were to cut two rectangles so-big by such-big.

I had cut out the skirt for view B.

Good thing this pattern included instructions in English, unlike Evol which I totally winged, guessing at the construction based on experience and pictures. Now that I can cross-reference French words like “interface” I realize Evol would have benefited from some. Google translate has a long way to go, folks.

View B it was, then.

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Pattern: Artesane by Atelier Scämmit, view B
Size: 38 (I think? Sorry, I do this all the time, I never remember to check)
Fabric: Moonstone Blue fabric by Atelier Brunette

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I mostly work with cottons and linens and did not not enjoy any part of dealing with this shifty, slippery fabric. I found it so difficult I was sure everything about this dress was going to be a disaster. I went on and on complaining about it, so much so that when I donned it to show my husband he said, “What’s so awful about it?” And I was like… well, nothing. It’s great. It feels great. It fits great. I can’t even explain how this can be. It’s objectively more flattering than my usual sack-dress shapeless makes. Drape must make up for all manner of ills.

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Other random notes: I added a bit to the bodice length. by cutting it at the waistline for the next larger size; the way the elastic casing is made is neat-o; this fabric feels dreamy against the skin; I didn’t bother with button holes, the neck hole is big enough that I was able to sew the plackets together when sewing the buttons on. I wore it out on the town  not quite finished and I still haven’t serged the seam allowances on the armhole because I have to change the thread out. Lazy me!

Sacked

It was a mistake to preface the debut of this dress to my husband by announcing that it was “a little weird.” The style wasn’t exactly flattering, but then I wasn’t sure it was exactly supposed to be, and I was self conscious about how the pleat fell right on the apex of my belly, making me regret all the more the Mexican food and ice cream I’d gorged myself on the prior weekend.

“It doesn’t look weird,” Hubs said. I felt relief, but he hadn’t finished. “It looks like a sack dress,” he continued, shrug implied. He meant it as statement of fact, not criticism, and really, this dress is the very definition of a sack dress (I looked it up), but the word “sack” destroyed all hope that I had achieved the subtly quirky yet sophisticated garment I had wanted.

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Pattern: The Shirt Dress by Merchant & Mills
Size: 10
Fabric: Flannel chambray from Stonemountain & Daughter

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I slept on it. I wore it work. I realized it needs a pair of heels, not my usual flats. I noticed it was comfy as all get out. The soft brushed chambray feels like wearing giant flannel shirt. Soft + comfortable + professional without being stuffy. Isn’t this combination exactly what I wanted? Why be disappointed that it’s not as flattering as a fit and flare which, cute as they are, I can’t stand wearing for more than a couple hours? I’ve worn this work quite a lot. It’s become a go-to, part of my regular biweekly rotation. I would wear it weekly if I didn’t think people women would notice.

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If success is measured in comfort and use, this one turned out to be a dark horse winner.

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Excuse the wrinkles. The only drawback to sewing my own clothes is that by favoring cotton and linen I have added to my ironing chore.

All Mixed Up

Spring is here, finally, and with it all attendant busyness that, I remind myself, is all good things and so WHY AM I SO STRESSED OUT ABOUT IT and having that nightmare where I’m in grad school and it’s the end of the semester but I haven’t done any of the work?

I never had that dream while I was actually in grad school.

Mom told me she wasn’t seeing any Easter dresses she liked in stores. So I made one from “leftovers.” Do they qualify as leftovers when you bought enough for 3 garments? Dubious.

I did make a special trip to Joann for the contrasting fabric.

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Pattern: Tic Tac Toe Dress by Sewpony
Specs: View B, sleeveless, size 5
Fabric: Cotton from Joann
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Piping! Lovely.

It’s the same fabric I used to make MJ”s birthday dress. I thought that birthday dress would be a good backup if this one turned out way too big until I realized I hadn’t seen the birthday dress since, well, perhaps as far back as MJ’s birthday 7 months ago. It’s not in her closet or dresser, that’s for sure. I am losing my mind, and all of the things I am in charge of. Which is everything. I’m a mess, folks.

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Did I sew this neckline twice to get it perfect? YES, I DID.

It’s big, but not too big, and kids this age you can justify making clothes a little larger than necessary, the caveat here being that you need to actually keep track of the thing if you want your kid to wear it more than once.

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When I showed it to MJ she said it was “all mixed up!”. Did she like it? “YES!” Mom says she’s going to be a quilter.

Disciplined

I went on a job interview this one time and my interviewer asked me what drove me. What got me out of bed in the morning?

“Habit?” I responded, nailing the lid on the coffin of that job opportunity.

I spent that afternoon obsessing over analyzing my response. It was an honest answer. I’m not filled with passion for accounting standards when my alarm goes off. If I hadn’t been flummoxed by my waaaay too literal brain’s complete inability to come up with a more appropriate response I may have been able to save myself by explaining that I’m really very philosophical about habits. I think about them. I actively try to make them good ones. I ask myself if my habits are helping. I use use them as a tool to try to make life’s necessary tasks as pleasant and brainless as possible.

As someone who bangs on about making clothes you might might be surprised that I  hate deciding what wear each morning. I do like sewing . I do not like dressing.

Enter the work uniform. Or: the habitual wardrobe.

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So professional!
Pattern: Farrow Dress by Grainline Studios
Fabric: Chambray? I’m a terrible sewing enthusiast who forgets to make notes.

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I’ll blather on some other time about how a vision for my ideal work wardrobe coalesced. Suffice for now to say that I have a vision and one of my goals for 2019 is to create it. If successful, instead of feeling vexed or vaguely annoyed by having to decide again what to wear to work I’ll open my closet and mindlessly pick from a variety of similar-but-different dresses that strike the right balance between comfort and business casual.

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Later, as I continued to let my idea of habit marinate over a few weeks, I realized that I had developed a habit of thinking of myself as “habitual” and it really bringing me down. Boring. Uncreative. It lacked agency. I decided to re-frame how I talk and think about myself. I am not habitual. I am disciplined.

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Bitten

I had a friend in high school who told me he didn’t like my name. It was “too biting”. My “biting” name suits me, or maybe I’ve grown to suit it since I never gave it any thought until this person offered his rude, insulting, irrelevant, unsolicited opinion.

My name is biting, my nose is sharp, my chin is pointy. As I age I see my aunts’ angular features emerge. I would be pretty if I wore makeup. Or smiled. I used to be cute before I cut my hair. If you’re a woman you know the drill.

My name, my features, my bare face, my expression all subvert traditional notions of femininity, or so I’ve been told explicitly and subliminally all my life. I’m an invisible middle-aged woman, now, and the drop off in scrutiny emboldens me to try clothing styles I never would have when I was younger.

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Pattern: Tacara by Seamwork
Size: 4? 3? Does it matter?
Fabric: Plain black knit remnant I bought at a fabric scraps store
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The idea of a cocoon comforts me.

This dress is unmistakably femme, but subversively so. The unusual shape and loose drape are the opposite of feminine. I had expected those features to hide my figure, but it emphasizes my curves more than closer-fitting styles. Surprising!

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Motion makes this dress beautiful.
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I weeded the crab grass out of our front lawn and seeded it a few years ago. No grass has grown since, not even weeds. Oops. 

And it is Oh. So. COMFORTABLE. It’s a dress I think I’ll like and possibly grow to love, but it’s also a dress that will take some practice wearing just because it’s so different from anything I’ve worn in the past. I forget that I like wearing this dress until after I already have it on – I just have to remember to take it out of the closet.

Impressionable

If I had any perspective on my own life or personality I could have seen this one coming a mile away.

The pattern of behavior:

  1. Notice that pinafores are a thing
  2. Scoff at pinafores
  3. Declare that I will never make a pinafore
  4. Repeat steps 3 and 4 – until –
  5. I see an example so awesome I drop everything immediately to make one

My distaste for a thing makes it interesting to me and that interest turns at some point into appeal.

That’s such an unflattering introduction to this style and project that I hesitate to link to the specific maker who tipped the scales, but I will list the confluence of circumstances that led to this make because it takes more than hate-turned-to-love to make a thing. The stars must align. In order:

  1. I was absolutely taken with the strap details on the Pippi Pinafore.
  2. I already had some fabric that would work well enough sitting in my stash that was not earmarked for a more practical make.
  3. The Pippi Pinafore pattern happens to be drafted to different cup sizes. I was unwilling to take a lot of time fitting a trendy garment I was’t sure I would like or wear, but with this pattern I could live dangerously and not make a muslin.

So I gave it a go.

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Preying mantis hands

Pattern: Pippi PInafore by Jennifer Luaren Handmade
Fabric: Robert Kaufman linen
Size: 10
Mods: Lengthened the bust 1.25″

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Did you see that mod up there? Where I lengthened the bust 1.25 inches? That’s because when I was sewing the bib it was to teeny I thought, “Oh, hell no” and cut out a new longer one. Good call, me, I’m pretty sure that as drafted the bib would only have come to … I’ll let you figure it out. Long torso is long.

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Not bad! I’m pleased. Now that I have made one I worry that I will fall into a different, equally predictable, pattern of behavior:

  1. Worry that wearing this makes me look like I’m trying too hard to be more on-trend than I am
  2. Worry that only home sewists wear pinafores and anybody who is not a home sewist will think it’s strange
  3. Worry that wearing this makes me look like I’m trying too hard to appear younger than I am
  4. Not wear the thing

In spite of my worries I did wear it and nobody laughed or pointed or mistook me for a 12-year-old or told me the style is too young or I’m too old. So think I’ll try to establish a new pattern of behavior:

  1. Stop caring what other people think
  2. Dress myself in things I like to wear

Three

MJ turns three today.

Here is the dress I made her:

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Pattern: Lotta Dress by Companie M
Size: 3T
Fabric: Cloud 9 cotton I grabbed off the clearance rack at Joann

I’m always learning new things when I sew. This time I learned how far ahead of the needle my serger’s knife cuts and why you don’t serge seam allowance after sewing inseam pockets.

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Pro-tip: serge those edges THEN sew.

After a long time out it turned out to be an easy fix. I removed the pocket, cut an inch off the width of the skirt, and started fresh.

It’s the same pattern as the dress I made MJ last year. I used the same button loop placket and cap sleeves, but added the i-cord and used inseam pockets because I thought I ought to mix it up a little bit.

I’ve sworn off Joann Fabrics. Again. Joann, why can’t I quit you? Oh yeah, because you are the only place anywhere close-ish that I can reliably buy notions which is something I re-remember every time I need buttons. I got super lucky, though, and hit a timely and unexpected jackpot at Urban Mining: vintage buttons!

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I stocked up.

Unbelievably I found buttons that were a perfect match in the quantities and sizes I needed. And I needed 4 smaller and 3 bigger, so let’s take a moment to acknowledge the improbability of finding these buttons in a space mostly dedicated to furniture and knick-knacks mere blocks from my house, no long, trying to trips to Joann necessary!

MJ, of course, would have been happiest with Minnie Mouse buttons. Here is the godawful dress I made at her behest also out of clearance Joann fabric that MJ spotted, adored, would not let go of, and insisted be made into a dress immediately upon arrival home. She will surely wear this dress instead. Ah, well, more power to her. The girl knows what she likes.

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