Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sew What?! Life's Too Short to Match Plaids

It's the easy ones that always give me trouble.  It's also the hard ones that always give me trouble.  Come to think of it, sewing always gives me trouble.  I guess I'm not very good at sewing.

My perennial complaint is that sewing is a necessary evil, its utility lying solely in transforming the ideas in my brain and the scribbles in my sketchbook into fabric-based realities.  I wish I could be one of those people who claims to find the act of sewing therapeutic but I get a pain from cutting and pinning...and from correcting my mistakes.

Exhibit A

The basic silhouette of this dress really couldn't be more simple; the margin for error was slim.  Feeling rushed to get it completed in Mary's absence, I hastily draped a skirt on a dress form and attached it to the bodice in a way that made it nearly impossible to remove when, upon her return, the fit was something awful.  The time I had spent matching the plaids, hand-picking the zipper, and hand-sewing the lining was all for naught, leaving me to wonder if it was even worth salvaging the dress.  As I ripped out all of my crude, uneven dainty, perfectly-spaced stitches, and hacked away the offending bits of skirt, I just knew that I would never get the plaids to line up the way they had before.  And then I had a sewing epiphany - life is just too dang short to match plaids!  After all, the first chapter in Mr. Tiny's wacky tacky Sewing Primer is dedicated to smoke and mirrors, the title being, "Distract 'Em with Oversize Flowers."

Having already cut the side sections of the bodice on the bias, I figured that as long as the vertical lines matched
from the bodice to the skirt, I could get away with my reckless placement of plaid.  I thought I'd try and confound you even further by making a garden's worth of self-fabric flowers so your eye would have no place to rest.  And in a final attempt at trickery I decided that the location for this shoot would place Mary in front of a mosaic wall in tonal blues that mimicked the blue check-pattern of the material.  Well, Did it work?

Because Mary's personal style has become so consistently inconsistent, I have decided to dedicate my design time to sewing things that are really portfolio builders for me as opposed to wardrobe builders for her.  Made from discount-bin, blue-checked cotton, this dress really has no practical place in a wardrobe anyhow.  The gown was born of thrift (using what I had in the stash) and a desire to try new techniques (a heaping headpiece, a one-shoulder dress, and bowers of fabric flowers).  Because the gown itself is a little unorthodox, I also wanted to stray, if ever so slightly, from such literal vintage-styling by encouraging Mary to create a more stark look with her hair and make-up. Thankfully, our collaborator and friend, Fabian, was available to work his photographic magic on our most recent fashion experiment.

Mary is always hounding me for dresses with pockets but she is NOT the boss of me!  I compromised 
by making a single pocket that is a large, lined, fabric flower disguised as part of the hip corsage.

For the headpiece, I cut approximately 457,879 bias strips of varying widths, starching them heavily
before turning them into flowers and attaching them to a chunky headband covered in self fabric.

Even with my fumble-fingered fixes, the dress is far from perfect.  But, as I said, my sewing is merely a means to an end.  An end if wherein I didn't find some sense of therapeutic relief, I might need actual therapy for my PTSD (Post-Traumatic Sewing Disorder).  The thing that haunts me most about sewing this look is that, even though the color and silhouette are completely different, the final product is so reminiscent of John Singer Sargent's most celebrated painting, Portrait of Madame X.

Madame M???
She's "Just That Type of Girl."

A big thanks to my favorite team, Mary and Fabian, for once again breathing energy and vitality into my humble, homemade creations.  I can't wait for the next time I get to be scolded by the pair of you for holding the reflector incorrectly!!!

Even though Fabian's car (a '55 Buick Super) is more famous than the three of us combined, I am honored to feature this photograph as a "THANK YOU" to Fabian.  In fact, it is my great pleasure to state, completely free from duress, that this first-class automobile is much prettier than Mary and emits far less noxious fumes...(Did I get that right, Fabian?).

"Just That Type of Girl" - Madame X
(If only the car in the video was a '55 Buick)


Mr. Tiny


  1. Chris, this is fabulous! I love hearing the backstory about the creating and ripping and re-doing, but, if we had never been told the problems, there stands perfect plaid perfection. Mary looks pretty darn good, too! I really like the stark hair and make-up with the dress and headpiece.

  2. This outfit was worth all of your pains and the 457 odd thousand bias strips. Wow!