Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Thanks, Mom

One of the many, many wonderful things about my mother is that she sews. Very well. My mother made a lot of my clothing when I was growing up, and I was a very well-dressed kiddo. So Mom and I spent hours of my childhood and youth poring over pattern books and rubbing fabric between our fingers. I learned very early on the charm of tailor-made clothing: the dress you want in the fabric you like, all put together to fit you exactly. In time I learned to sew for myself. While I'm not the best seamstress you've ever met, I certainly sew well enough to wear my own creations in public, and often do. And I will say in all honesty that I usually get more compliments on garments I have sewed for myself than anything I buy in a store, which is reassuring and extremely satisfying.

All those years of looking at patterns and fabric developed in me a few important skills. One is the ability to imagine a specific shape (say, a dress) in a specific fabric and know both whether or not it is going to look good and how it is probably going to look on the body. This is invaluable, and I've always taken it for granted until pretty recently, when I realized this isn't an automatic ability all people are born with. There are an astonishing amount of people who can't picture what a dress is going to look like with a given pair of shoes, let alone in a different color or with a different style of sleeve or neckline. Which is okay -- that's what personal shoppers and stylists are for! (At which point I hand you my business card.)

Another thing I got from learning to sew is a certain amount of, "&%$# that, I'm not paying $400 for that, I'll make it myself for 30 bucks!!" Case in point:

Edison dress by Diane von Furstenberg

I've been looking hungrily at this thing for several weeks now. It's awfully cute, isn't it? It's got that trapeze shape without being too childish -- I really liked the idea of it for spring. So I tried it on this weekend and it fit really well, except for the sleeves.

Oy, my arms are a problem. I have, as I have mentioned before, fairly meaty biceps. Some of this is extra weight, but a surprising amount is actual muscle, the results of manymany years in the bar & restaurant biz. And the sleeves, while offering plenty of room for the stick-figure modeling the dress above, barely squoze over my guns. I could get it on, but it wasn't comfortable, and it certainly didn't look pretty.

This really cheesed me. I'm a decent-sized woman but it's not like I'm ENORMOUS. I think of myself, compared to folks I see in the general population, as decidedly medium-sized. (Lots of women smaller than me, lots of women bigger than me -- ergo, medium-sized.) The size 8 in this dress fit me beautifully everywhere else. I've done a little informal polling among my girlfriends and all seem to agree that for some reason sleeves seem to be getting narrower and narrower. Maybe it's just perception, as my arms are getting wider and wider, but enough women have agreed with me that I don't think it's just me. Is it just me?

So here's where my mother once again receives credit and thanks. I took off that dress (carefully, so I didn't rip the sleeves) and thought, "%$#& this! I'll make it myself!"

I hied myself over to the brand-new ENORMOUS Jo-Ann Fabrics that has opened up not far from me here in Austin and grabbed this pattern:

(Vogue pattern 8229, click for link)

which I am going to make out of this fabric:

I'm going to do the yoke around the neck of the dress in solid black, and those sweet puffy sleeves have elastic in them -- take that, DVF! I'll post photos once I get it done and you can tell me what you think.

Photos:,, Style Spy

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Lauren said...

Wow! I absolutely *love* that pattern! I'm not sure about the black collar, but then again I don't have that "see it as a dress" skill you've got going.

Ina said...

Oh, I can so relate! When I lived in my home country, I had a personal seamstress, and she did an amazing job. I always had the most interesting pieces. I so miss that! Like you, I'm obsessed with clothes matching the right body shape, the fit, accessories matching, etc. And the sleeves are indeed getting narrower! Love your dress idea!

kristine rosemary said...

hi ! DVF designs seem to be
notorious for an assumption
that anyone wearing her
clothes will be, well, tiny.

definitely re-design so that delectable frock is well,
wearable ~!~

lovely red shoes too by the way...