In a Breeze

Western Hat, Prairie Dress, 2014
Photograph: Robert Lucy

Along came a breeze...

The hat began with a western shape, however, I chose to give it an ultra-wide brim. The only downside to such a generous brim is its tendency to lift in a breeze. It also is impossible to wear on a crowded subway train! That may be why cowboy hats traditionally have radically upturned brims; they are aerodynamic. (Referring to the wind dilemma rather than the crowded subway scenario. Rare is the western hat on the R train.)

The dress is aerodynamic! Have made it in a variety of lightweight fabrics including silk and cotton, varying the sleeve length and its fullness. This dress forms part of what has essentially become a summer uniform.

Fell in love with western hats on a family visit to a working ranch in Wyoming when I was 9 yrs old. Found equally appealing: wide belts with prominent buckles, shirts fastened with metal rimmed opal snaps in lieu of buttons, riding horseback on an open plain to round up cattle and square dancing.

Urban Prairie

Fedora, Prairie Dress, 2014. 
Photo: Robert Lucy

To find a style of one's own... 

Made the fedora a few years ago. I'm also wearing it in the profile on the right. Though it looks faintly blue here it is decidedly dove grey. It has been a canopy in light rain and collected snowflakes on its brim in winter. A well made hat lasts! There is a wonderful story about a man's affection for his hat in I Thought My Father Was God And Other True Tales from NPR's National Story Project, titled "A Felt Fedora".

The dress' fabric is printed with a quaint butterfly motif. The material is so light it sways with every footstep and floats in a gentle breeze like a curtain billowing across a windowsill.

The photograph above was taken by Robert Lucy, an artist who is both an exquisite photographer and a painter.
Fabric detail: butterfly pattern.
Washed, lined dried...
yet to be ironed

Scenic Route

Flounces at the cuffs & neckline, Dress, 2013
Photograph by Robert Lucy
The scenic route to the studio doesn't pass by a babbling brook or offer mountain views but there is a corrugated metal wall with fantastic dark persimmon streaks of rust. 

It was a windy and cooler day last month when this photograph was taken. Underneath the dress is a slip. A student in a sewing class bemoaned the lack of good slips available for purchase. Although a slip can be made in a more complicated manner, here is a simple strapless slip in cotton jersey.
Strapless Slip: cotton, 2013

Toledo Tea Dress

Tea Dress: 
rayon, silk chiffon, charmeuse
Three tiers, the bottom tier silk chiffon lined with charmeuse.

In other words there are four hems! Most of the design was draped then a flat pattern was made. From there a rough sample was sewn to  test and make necessary modifications. The bodice pattern evolved over the course of three drafts, the sleeve pattern was finalized in two drafts. The tiers came next. 

Was determined to complete the dress for an event on October 7th. The entire process took about three weeks using every available moment and working into the (late) night.

The dominant material is hazy grey/mauve with a tiny abstract bud pattern. There was enough fabric for two tiers. Wanted to add a third layer to make the dress full length. Experimented with the color for the lowest tier. The main fabric was vibrant paired with purple, however, the only similar weight fabric in the purple family on hand was a pale tinted lavender silk crepe. Tried it, leaving it overnight at the bottom of the dress. Walked home in the dark, looking at people on the street observing whether they paired a light top with dark bottoms or vice versa and considered the effect of each of these. In the morning the lighter layer beneath the upper tiers seemed like a dangling participle, an unfinished sentence. The bottom tier had to end the sentence. It required a darker shade. (This also avoided the hazzard of wearing light fabric at curb level in New York City).
Detail: back, sash

Had a piece of mauve charmeuse. Sewed it in but there was too little material for a gathered tier. That is where the chiffon came in. With little time, went to one fabric shop in the garment district. There was plenty of charmeuse yet none was a match or a good substitute. The closest to mauve was a beautiful piece of silk chiffon. There were benefits to using chiffon. Although the photograph makes it less apparent (and doesn't do justice to its color), the chiffon tier is hyper-gathered! It sways and floats slowly back into place. The charmeuse lining behind it protects the delicate material and makes a wonderful sash.

Hemming was an adventure. More on that to come.

Looks Like a Dress. It's Actually Math!

Detail: Lace neckline. Cotton, linen.
Sewing by hand is rhythmic. It's almost musical. Hand sewed a lace border around the neckline of a breezy, loose weave linen dress.

Been making garments (including this dress and the pirate pants) based upon geometric forms, measuring and cutting fabric without a pattern. The pages of notes for these garments are extensive and hilarious. (Must add a photograph to illustrate!) 

...and a Sash!

Vintage Remake: cotton seersucker, 2011
Hardly a fabric more evocative of summer: Seersucker. The nubbly rutted road texture brings summer scenes to mind.

May this dress have kernels from corn on the cob fall into its lap. And if that be during a dinner on a porch...all the better.

Made a belt with length enough to wrap twice around then tie = a sash.

How Long to Make a Dress?

(Dress: cotton/lycra, elastic, 2011) 
Dropped waist dress with butterfly sleeves and soft gathers at the neckline. Experimented with a sleeveless version. Then added a sample sleeve. Refined the sleeve pattern. The second iteration became the final version. 

Beneath the hem a border--the extended underskirt. In lieu of a belt a length of cloth wrapped at the hip, and a draped handmade necklace with rose and green ersatz pearls.

Making dish towels. Simple and wonderful. These are linen and when wet smell like grass.
(Necklace, butterfly sleeves, gathered neckline)

Copper Dress

Dress with Ruffle Hem
This copper dress is the fourth made in the same style. The pattern has been modified a bit by adding in-seam pockets and here, a gentle chiffon ruffle floating underneath. From flannel to shimmering fabric the dress has evolved.

Detail: Chiffon Ruffle

Have ordered a sample of light reflective fabric made by 3M. I am eager to make reflective clothing. (The fabric is really more industrial. Waiting for the sample to test its possibilities!)

Irresistible Flannel

How can one resist flannel clothing? It feels like wearing pajamas during the day [appropriate as it turns dark by 4.30 p.m]!
A dress-form is overdue both for making clothing and photographing it. It is difficult to photograph clothing on a hanger and I am shy about taking self-portraits.
A flannel dress. Pockets added to keep hands warm. Am attracted to winter clothing in warm fabrics, made sleeveless, layered with a sweater. Here, with the orchid sweater (Sept. 2009).

(Pinafore dress. Cotton flannel, Dec. 2009)

Dress for a Windy Day

Until a dress form is mine, the only way to show this is to photograph it on the body. (For a shy person that's scary.) There are gathers at the shoulder and at the base of the bodice. The skirt wraps, with a generous overlap. The day was mighty windy--potentially embarrassing weather for a wrapped dress-- Fortunately, the dress is designed with gusts considered.

(Wrap-around dress, cotton/lycra , 2009)