Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sew What?! Looking Our Gift Horse in the Mouth

Where do we come up with these crazy phrases, phrases like, "Never look a gift horse in the mouth?"  I have never found a single occasion to look any standard-issue horse in the mouth, let alone a benevolent gift horse.  I must admit that until very recently I hadn't given much thought to this particular barnyard idiom.  In actual fact, whenever the phrase was uttered I couldn't help but picture a nattily-dressed thoroughbred rapping at the door with a beautifully-wrapped gift box in hand hoof.  But who was this horse and on what occasion would he be obliged to give me a gift?  I kind of assumed that this was vestigial phraseology, lingering long after the demise of some ancient culture whose venerated horse figure, "Father Equus," - very much akin to our Santa Claus - once a year blessed the good, little children with a bounty of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh (if it's good enough for Him, it's good enough for me), and hay.  However, the question remained, why would I look in his mouth?!!  

Upon reflection, I suppose the real sentiment is that when given a gift (in this case a horse), it is decidedly bad form for one to appraise the quality and value of the gift (in this case inspecting the mouth of said horse).  Instead, one should simply be thankful for the generosity behind such a spectacular gift - I mean, who at some point in his life hasn't wished (in vain) for a pony?  This was a full-grown horse!  

tiki fabric 50s playsuit
Our gift fabric...or is it our fabric horse???

Not so very long ago, our pal, Charles Phoenix, gifted us with roughly two-and-a-half yards of the most brilliantly-colored, vaguely-tiki (maybe rustic, mid-century Scandinavian folk?) printed material, exhorting me to turn it into something great.  The yardage turned out to be a decent-sized, vintage tablecloth.  As a collector of vintage tablecloths, I am typically one to "let sleeping tablecloths lie," unless they have completely outlived their use as such.  This tablecloth happened to be in excellent condition; nevertheless, Charles had issued the gift with a specific challenge.  Not wanting to appear the equine equivalent of the Grinch, I figured the best way to honor our great Gift Horse was to give his tablecloth a brand new life (and avoid even a fleeting glance into his mouth).

Proof that not all of my sketches skew blonde!
Letting the fabric be my guide, I opted to make Mary a three-
piece, tiki-inspired playsuit (shorts, top, and cover-up).

put a lid on it sun hat etsy
With a matching Put A Lid On It Sun Hat, of course!!!

It was an outfit that seemed ideally suited for the scorching heat of the Viva Las Vegas car show and for her Ponyboy Magazine photo shoot.

50s tiki playsuit
I thought it was a bit cheeky to feature the large flower pattern on the
bra top which also features traditional shoulder and halter straps.
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

vintage fabric vintage sewing
After making a fully-lined top and shorts, the tablecloth fabric was running low.  To subsidize it, I used a coordinating cotton in solid yellow for the body of the cover-up, binding the center front and side vents in tablecloth remnants.  There was just enough material left to make patch pockets and a sash (finished with those signature yarn pom poms).
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

vintage sewing
I trimmed the "Put A Lid On It" sun hat with coordinating yarn (vertical stripes and the obligatory pom pom) and bound it with the fashion fabric.  Isolating a couple of flowers from the design motif, I machine-appliquèed them onto the headscarf.  The sunglasses were an acquisition made during our trip to Japan last year.
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

In the end, by examining the fabric, measuring it, and determining its worth as a garment, I suppose that I am guilty of the very behavior I was so earnestly trying to avoid - looking a gift horse in the mouth.  The thing is, I like what I saw and indeed it made me all the more grateful for the gift...or the horse.  I really think this whole thing could be cleared up with some simple rewording; "Never look a horse gift in the mouth."  "Never look in a horse's gift mouth?"  "Never gift a horse's mouth without looking in it?"  Shoot, when someone gives you a gift, just say "Thank you."  Thank you, Charles.

vintage sewing
These pictures are a bit of a bonus because they are probably my favorites from the Ponyboy style editorial by the generous and talented photographer, Alexander Thompson.  Of course, my favorite photos feature an outfit of which I only really made half.  The entire outfit is vintage, but the simple, dirndl skirt was made by me from a length of vintage material that was also a gift from Charles.  Teal and white dahlias/spider mums highlighted in gold - they just don't make exciting border prints like they used to!!!
(Photo courtesy of Alexander Thompson/Ponyboy Magazine)

Replace "Ed" with "Tiny" and it all makes so much sense...

So where do you stand on the gift/horse/mouth issue?  Have you ever looked a gift horse in the mouth,  yea or naaaaaaaay?  Did you like what you saw?


Mr. Tiny


  1. Wow - never mind the horses, Mary looks fabulous. I love the playsuit with the big flowery bosoms - what more could a girl want? Hope you're invited to some pool parties soon to show that off!

    1. Thank you, AP!!! Mary's whole life is one giant whirlwind of parties (pool and otherwise) so I think this one will get plenty of wear!

  2. You are the BEST.... what else to say!!!

    1. Hahaha...THANK YOU!!!! I don't know what else to say; you are too kind!

  3. Well done! Horse blinders and all!