Friday, May 28, 2010

Go Long

The New York Times advised this week that longer skirts were now the cutting edge of fashion - long and slender.
This is a look that is easy to copy, but you have to get the length right. Too long and you look like Morticia Addams, too short and you just have a pencil skirt. You want that sweet spot just under your calf, where the calf meets the ankle. Vogue 8601 might be a good place to start your longer skirt explorations; when I was a mere slip of a girl they were called "midis".
Vogue says that they see this skirt in men's suiting,wool crepe and crepe-back satin. For summer wear I'd try a nice weight cotton twill or sateen. Virginia is too hot to even think about wool until November, no matter how fashionable it might be. (Don't even say "tropical wool" to me, that's as big an oxymoron as "jumbo shrimp" or "Liberal Republican".)
How Ironic that just yesterday we were reading about the Clothes Police handing out long skirts to women wearing what they considered "inappropriate attire", and our fashion gurus are subtly trying to get us to abandon shorter shirts in the guise of being fashionable. Coincidence?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Clothes Police are Real

Once again, I am grateful that I live in the United States, where we are free to wear what we please (for now anyway), even if it is in bad taste.

A real life example of the Clothes Police:
MEULABOH, Indonesia – Authorities in a devoutly Islamic district of Indonesia's Aceh province have distributed 20,000 long skirts and prohibited shops from selling tight dresses as a regulation banning Muslim women from wearing revealing clothing took effect Thursday.

The long skirts are to be given to Muslim women caught violating the dress code during a two-month campaign to enforce the regulation, said Ramli Mansur, head of West Aceh district.

Islamic police will determine whether a woman's clothing violates the dress code, he said.

The Clothes Police everywhere are always very worried about how women are dressed, I have noticed. Not so much men.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tesco Implements a Dress Code

Striking a blow towards preserving Civilization As We Know It, Tesco, a British grocery chain, implements a dress code:
After receiving many customer complaints of other shoppers in their night clothes, the supermarket, Tesco, has implemented a dress code for its Cardiff, South Wales store.
Shoppers at the Tesco supermarket are now warned by the new dress code signs:
"To avoid causing offence or embarrassment to others, we ask that our customers are appropriately dressed when visiting our store (footwear must be worn at all times and no nightwear is permitted)."
A Tesco spokeswoman stated:
"We're not a nightclub with a strict dress code, and jeans and trainers are of course more than welcome. We do, however, request that customers do not shop in their PJs or nightgowns. This is in response to other customers. We would never dictate to people, but we have listened to customer feedback that it makes them uncomfortable and embarrassed

My favorite comment on this:
Sky News presenter, Colin Brazier, wrote:
If you can't be bothered to change out of your night-clothes, it's not likely you possess any of the aptitudes which make the world around us a better place; stoical parenting, selfless duty to others, or the ability to hold down a job.

Here in the Land Of The Free, we are still free to shop in our jammies.(I particularly admired the Bugs Bunny jammies I saw worn at Wegman's, last time I was there. One of the many reasons why I love America.)
I wonder if they have Clothes Police stationed at the doors at Tesco?
(Thanks to my sister, who sent me the Tesco info. My daughter has actually shopped at Tesco, but not, I am proud to state, in her pajamas.)
Have you ever shopped in your pajamas? Would you?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The New Casualness

"Can't you see that Betty Helen has no idea what goes on here?" he said. "She's either evil or lobotomized, Why did she just tell you that the Western Union messenger was your friend?"

"It's hard for a normal person to tell who's an artist and who isn't these days," Guido said. "It's the new casualness. Holly says it's making slobs of us all. Betty Helen has the right attitude. Now, for example, the other day, a guy selling office equipment came in dressed like a bank president. Then the guy from the bank came in dressed like a college professor, Then Cyril Serber came in. He's the poet and classicist but he works out with weights. He came up on his way from the gym and Betty Helen probably thought he was from the delicatessen. So you see, it's easy to be confused."

Laurie Colwin, Happy All the Time, page 77. Copyright 1971

As you can see from the excerpt above, the New Casualness has been driving us all crazy since the 1970's. Once the iron curtain of rigid dress codes began to fall, there was no turning back. Yet we are all left adrift on a sea of too much choice.
In my own experience, I began high school in a system where boys wore shirts and ties and girls were forbidden to wear pants to school, and four years later we were wearing shorts and tshirts to class (with our swim suits on underneath so we could drive directly to Salt Creek Beach after class let out in June.)
My daughter says perhaps we need to implement new rules, a modern dress code 'containment' policy, so we will all know what Not to Wear in any situation. And certainly there is no shortage of advice out there.
(If you want to make a grown woman cry, just tell her she is invited to a daytime wedding and put semi-formal on the invite and then drop the news that it's outside. Or a beach wedding - what on earth would you wear to that?)
Do we need new rules? And if we do, what would those rules be?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Can't Judge D.C. ...

A commenter noted:
You can't judge DC based on the suburbs. Especially not the suburbs that are in a different state. The suburbs of DC are totally different from DC itself. In DC proper, everyone is quite nicely dressed, as they mostly work on or near the Hill (that would be Capitol Hill, for those of you who aren't up with DC speech
But, as we say in our family, "Au contraire!"
My daughter lives on Capitol Hill, and she reports that the women of D.C. dress exactly as the women of Arlington, Alexandria, and Mt. Vernon, which is to say: sloppily. Remember - I was talking about Weekend dressing, not work dressing. (Although I worked downtown at Metro Center for many years at several high powered law firms, and I Can say with authority that Washington is the opposite of fashionable. Instead people dress to blend in.)For every nicely dressed woman out there on a Saturday, there are ten other frumpily dressed sisters. And this is not just Washington! Co-workers in San Diego, Los Angeles and Las Vegas advise that the same phenomenon occurs there.
Some cities are fashionable - some are not.
What cities would you rank as fashionable? I recall Montreal as having nicely dressed people, yet Reno most emphatically did not.
Vote in the comments!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Anti-Fashion Show

Yesterday Mr. Hunting Creek took me out to lunch at our favorite Thai restaurant, THAI in Shirlington (Big Bowl Lunch Special $6.95!) before we did our Saturday chores. The weather was nice so we sat outside and watched the street scene. One thing became increasingly clear: Washington women (at least those in Shirlington and Alexandria) have no style. NONE.
They were wearing sweats in public, they were wearing baggy cargo shorts, they were wearing track shoes with shorts and men's' ripped up T shirts. I have seen Italian trash men that were better dressed. (One complaint to The Sartorialist was that he never shows women of Washington...based on what I saw yesterday, ladies, you need to step up your game)
I have had the good fortune to eat in cafes and observe the street scenes in many cities all over the world: Kyoto,Kuala Lumpur, Florence, Novara, Rome, Singapore, Vancouver, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, name a few. And in every single one of those places the women were dressed better than the women of Washington. Why do they dress so casually? Is it that they just can't be bothered to make any effort at all? How you dress makes a big difference in your attitude and happiness. My sister never goes out without makeup and looking nicely put together; neither does my daughter. We were brought up that way.
Why are New York women fashionable on the weekends, and Washington women so very NOT?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Alien Fabric

I never used to plan my sewing. I would just make whatever I felt like making and buy whatever caught my fancy. I liked to think I was the Johnny Depp of know...a pirate!(we don't need no stinking SWAPS!).
But with age and experience comes, one hopes, wisdom. Just like with home cooking, we can't always make chocolate brownies all the time (or we should not make chocolate brownies all the time), into each life some salad must fall. A sewista must plan or be faced with a closet of delightful orphans, none of which can be worn with anything else.
At one point in my life, I decided that I would only have black, white, and tan shoes. Order in the Closet! Rules! I would no longer indulge in blue or brown shoes, because they could only be worn with a very few things. (This rule didn't last long, I have a zillion shoes in many colors). But the impulse was good. Fashion rules we make for ourselves are kind of like diets, aren't they? We decide - NO MORE BROWN! Or orange or whatever the offending item is, and we purge and sort and soon all remnants of the evil brown are gone from our lives, like what we should do with an ex-boyfriend's pictures.
Now I am sorting my fabric and patterns and really seeing and thinking about what I have already, and asking those existentialist questions that every sewista must eventually ask herself: Why did I buy so many ball gown patterns? Will I ever be size 12 again? and: Who is all of this hot pink double knit for, and why is she storing it in my sewing cave? (I don't even wear hot pink! Who bought this? Where did it come from? Are aliens adding fabric to my room at night?)
What patterns and fabrics have aliens added to your sewing room?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stripe Problem

Maybe the sewistas at Vogue had a different Home Ec teacher than I did. But couldn't they have matched the stripes on the front of this dress? I know I would have - they did on the back! (with big stripes you have to decide, where do I really want this to match? I'd think the obvious answer - at least to me and Mrs. Smithers my 7th grade sewing teacher - would be the center front...just saying'...)
I don't think I'm unduly modest, but for me, that's really low cut. To wear this I'd raise the neckline about 3 inches.(I exaggerate - maybe only 1 and a half - but again, I have to test to be sure.) I do like the idea of the low front and back, just not quite THAT low. To raise a neckline, in case you've never done it before, just draw a new line where you want it be, make a quick muslin of the bodice and test it out. Just do what my mom would call a 'quickie' front and back and see if that suits your vision. Look in the mirror - is that too low? Not low enough? (If you have a teenage daughter, they are very handy for this) Remember to allow for seam allowances and also don't forget to change any facings, if any, on your final version (I don't do facings for the test version.) Keep in mind that the skirt will pull the bodice down a little more, espcially if your fabric is heavy.I think I'd do a full lining on a dress like this. But I would match the stripes! (And you should too...Mrs. Smithers says.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Six is the New Fourteen

Every so often some reporter writes an article citing research that showing that every woman in the Western World has a poor body image (except for Heidi Klum) and these articles and reports are all followed by much teeth gnashing and wailing from normal women and duplicitous and defensive rejoinders from fashion and advertising land. Researchers point out that even very young girls are worried about dieting, and the fashion industry counters with a model over size zero. (Look, she has flesh on her bones! It must be the token normal woman!) Remember when Stanley Tucci tells Andy that Six is the new fourteen? Didn't we all laugh in recognition?
Ma'am, do you have this in the next size up?
Saleslady: Sorry, we only carry sizes 1, 3, and 5. You could try Sears.
(SEARS! Oh the horror of that comment.)
I have had co-workers tell me that they were told in fashionable New York boutiques that, "we have nothing for you here." They were size 16. I wonder, how is that really any different than being told to leave because of their race or ethnicity?
When Thurgood Marshall argued before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, one of the studies his team cited was Clark's doll studies, which showed how African American children had developed feelings of inferiority that caused life-long and lasting damage. There were no pictures of children like them in textbooks or class materials. There were no dolls or toys that looked like them. They were always made to feel invisible and second-best.
Even now there aren't enough faces from different races and backgrounds in our media. I'm sure this has an effect.
Now flash forward to 2010. When you watch television, or look at a magazine, the majority of faces are young, slender and attractive. While you occasionally see a plump man on a sitcom, he is almost always paired with a younger, much hotter spouse. Notice on 24, how everyone at CTU is more attractive than the norm, and never even slightly overweight. In the movies the fat, plump loser guy always gets the hot skinny girl. There are very few movies that feature women over size zero, and even fewer that show women over thirty. If you don't have a strong self-image yourself, you certainly aren't going to see a reflection back from TV, movies or magazine ads. If you are in your forties and over size ten, you might as well be invisible.
The fashion people pay lip service to diversity, but they don't do much to achieve even token diversity. Take a look at Burda- how many models of color do you see? Not very many - they barely even include brunettes in some issues! You know that this is a real problem by the fuss that was made when Italian Vogue did an issue with all women of color. It was so unusual.
In a perfect world, we'd see magazine issues where every single model was not size zero. And I'd be happy if I never saw the term "plus size" again. To me that means that those sizes are outside the "normal" range of sizes. They are "extra", they are "different", in some stores they aren't even there. "Oh those sizes? those are available only on the website." Why is that? Do they think they will get size 14 cooties on the size zeroes? (I don't mean to pick on my size zero sisters. They have their problems too, Everything is too big and too long on them.)( A digression -I recently lost 40 plus pounds, but no matter - size 16 is still plus size to our fashion friends! And I don't think it would be humanly possible for me to ever be a size 0-6, I'd have to have surgery to remove some bones.)
A fellow blogger commented that it bothered her when she saw the ads that said that real women have curves, because she felt like she was just as real, even though she was curve-challenged.
Since both men and women come in a variety of shapes and sizes, it would be refreshing to see that variety reflected back at us in our media.
What examples of size discrimation have you seen? Do you think we can ever get beyond it?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

You're invited...

One of my guilty pleasures of our new technological world is the evite invitation. Proof that while the world may be going to hell in a handbasket, some new things are fun. This morning Mr. Hunting Creek was looking up the details of a party we were invited to, and he confessed that he always looks to see who else is coming, who isn't coming and what their excuses are. "I do that too!" I said. Which just shows two things: we are both Nosey Parkers, and are meant for each other (who else could stand us?)
The excuses for not attending were mostly the usual: attending graduation party or visiting relatives. Some people wrote that they'd be lying on a beach somewhere, others made sure to imply high level, Very Important Business Trips (this is Washington, D.C., after all.) But my favorite excuse was: Going to Cleveland to attend the unveiling of my uncle's stone. (Tomb or kidney? was my unworthy thought)
Am I the only one (besides Mr.Hunting Creek) who reads the guest list? Tell me I'm not alone in enjoying the excuses. I won't tell your mom.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grumpy Muppets

While I was waiting at the eye Doctor today, I sat across from the two grumpiest people on the planet. They were complaining about everything. I know I'm not supposed to eavesdrop, but I couldn't help it, they had never learned about Inside Voices.
Should I have spoken up? Told them they were intolerant old geezers, and not everyone felt as they did? Or just memorized everything they said to repeat to Mr. Hunting Creek later (which is what I did.)
What would you do?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Changing Sizes

I'd like to say thank you to pattern companies for printing patterns in multiple sizes. In the last two years I have gone from size 22 to size 16, and most of my patterns have that 16 option - or 18, which is easy to size down. Before you congratulate me on my strength of character and moral superiority, please note that this weight loss was achieved with no effort on my part. Part of my disease affects my appetite - therefore I am losing weight. (Proof positive that exercise does nothing! I never exercise willingly.) If you ever want people to say to your face that they hate you, just try dropping that fact in conversation. My daughter and I have often discussed how we think that every woman in America has an eating disorder, by which we mean that not one woman of our acquaintance eats normally. Everyone is either on a diet, or just became a vegetarian, or just quit being a vegetarian, or in some way is obsessed over what they eat. When I worked in an office I was always amazed by people who literally ate all day long. There would be co-workers on Atkins, or low-carb or all carb. One co-worker was spotted eating chocolate birthday cake while drinking a Slim-Fast. (You know, they don't cancel each other out!) If you are a shy person, and need a conversation topic, just try talking about diets. You'll never have to say another word; everyone has a firmly held opinion, and all of their diets are better than your diet.
(Now that I am newly thinner, I have sworn to never give other people diet advice, since the only way I have ever lost weight was by getting an incurable disease. This is not a viable option for most people.)
Back to Simplicity 4076. I have made this one many times, but as a larger me. To make one for a smaller me, I taped my pattern pieces to my giant dining room window (AKA free light box) and traced the smaller size.When doing experiments I like to trace so I still have the original pattern to go back to. I use inexpensive gift tissue, available everywhere. Then I do an FBA which in the gathered front means doing a quick pivot slide to add to the top bust area at the side and also add a schosh more room in the front gathering at the center (that gathering is the pivoted dart). Easy as pie. Now I will make a test top in inexpensive knit and see how it looks before I cut my fancy Gorgeous Fabrics retro print jersey.
Once I get the fit right again I'll make a few tops out of the new altered pattern. I don't understand people who would only make a pattern once. Once I get it right, I'll do a theme and variations and do multiple versions. But I also like listening to my favorite songs over again too. Maybe the different pattern every time people are like Mr. Hunting Creek, who will never willingly watch a movie he has seen before, and constantly flips channels seeking new stuff.
Are you a pattern repeater? Or a one time only person? (Are you now or have you ever been on a diet?)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Menu Planning

Every week for the past thirty years or so, I make a menu plan. I look at cookbooks and cooking magazines, consult with Mr. Hunting Creek and make my menu. Then we look in the pantry and see what we need, I make my list and the week is laid out for me. We don't always stick exactly to it, but it is nice knowing that I have all of the ingredients to make those seven meals on the list. I started making a plan because I discovered that I was completely capable of buying a weeks worth of groceries and having nothing to eat for dinner after two days. Then back to the store I went. This gets expensive. Recently, while going through fabric in my cave, and making plans to have a dedicated sewing room (now that my daughter has her own place). I had one of those uncomfortable epiphanies: I had been buying fabric all wrong my whole life.
I would go through a fabric store or online store and just pick out what I liked. No list. No plan, just a sailor on leave with a month's pay going crazy. What I have ended up with is the most beautiful, impractical collection of unmatched fabric a sewista could have. Vintage kimono? Check! Silk suiting? Check! ( I no longer work in an office, either). Charmeuse, silk name it, I have it. And in all of my favorite colors. But, if I considered what I actually wore every day, I'd be challenged to find three things that matched in the whole collection. I could never do a SWAP, I realized, because I never once bought fabric with a plan!
My daughter has offered to help arrange my new sewing room (she is a demon organizer. I sometimes wonder if she is really related to me, since I come from a long line of messy hoarding women, and she is neat, organized and most emphatically NOT a collector of anything. Kids today!) She has forbidden me to buy any fabric until what I have is all folded on shelves and organized. (Of course she knows that once she is finished I'll mess it all up.)
But at least I'll be sewing with a plan. Do you suppose it's too late to learn?

P.s. to the persons who emailed me saying that they couldn't read my handwriting: don't feel bad, sometimes I can't read it either! The menu reads: Asian Chicken Noodle soup with Chile; Carnitas Burritos, rice and beans; Steak and Snowpea Stir-fry; Chicken Sausage Calzone; Baked Potato Soup, salad; Fish, quinoa pilaf, roasted vegetables. (Yes, we really do cook like this every day. It's not difficult, once you get the hang of it.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Uncovered Once More

I'd like to think that being roundly scorned on Little Hunting Creek caused Ken Cuccinelli to cave. ( I can dream, can't I?)
Virginia once again proudly flaunts the naked breast of freedom.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

American Taliban

To those who say that study of women's clothing is a trivial pursuit, I counter with the evidence that it is actually of the very first interest politically and culturally. A great many people are very interested in telling women what not to wear, and not just in places that are repressive regimes. Western governments roundly criticized the Taliban for requiring that women wear burqas and noiseless shoes, but here in the United States there are people who constantly enforce their own restrictive moral views on other people's wardrobes.
Just consider the school districts that said that they would paddle girls who wore "inappropriate" clothing to prom. Let's even review our corporate work dress codes, which mandate no sleeveless tops, no shorts and no bare legs, no "too-short" skirts. (My daughter and I knew that Dana Walsh was suspicious on 24, when she was at work wearing a sleeveless top.) Most of these strictures involve what women should wear. We are very concerned that women dress "appropriately".(Because incorrectly dressed women drive men mad with lust, so they they are not responsible for their actions. That's the historical reasoning. I was told as a girl to dress modestly, or boys would get the "wrong idea" about me. I'm sure you were too. In rape trials the defense still sometimes tries to show that the victim was dressed suggestively.) These Clothing and Morals Police will even apply their strict code to history. Just this week Virginia Attorney General covered up the Goddess on Virginia's State Seal. As Mr. Hunting Creek observed, "Ken wants to be the only boob in Richmond."

What examples have you seen lately of social control through wardrobe enforcement?