Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Speaking of lovely things

My best friend forever* is seven months pregnant.  I made her a maternity outfit that should last her for a month or so... I couldn't resist this beautiful butterfly fabric. 

She is SO lovely, inside and out. 

Just thought y'all needed to see something really beautiful today.  :)

*When I say  BFF, I mean it - we have been friends since we were 13. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Colors that are speaking to me

I was tossing and turning last night, so to entertain myself, I brought up some colors that are speaking to me right now.

It's always a good idea to put those colors on paper - or in some visual media - so you can take a good look at what's going on.  Fashion designers, seamstresses, artists - they all have their palettes.  It's permissible to look at your own, and a good way to see what works together and what just doesn't.

(photo credits, if not my own, will be at the bottom)

Midnight blue.  I am feeling the midnight blue at the edge of this bowl.  Actually, I'm feeling a lot of the colors in this bowl.

Fawn/honey/light caramel... I bought a bit of linenlike fabric to make a skirt with, and I'm looking forward to this foray into the brown family (yeah, this is what that looks like in my world).  This is totally not photographing well.... must find something more clearly this color.This is better.  :)
Cream.  I am always about the cream, but I'm feeling a richer cream right now.
Green!  I am feeling a light clear vivid green right now.  As well as my usual pine green. 

The pine green is in the background here, but I am in love with pink satin ribbons, which is the point here.  :)  Baby pink... girly much?

  1. Another unexpected vivid - and one I don't wear very well.  But something is saying "tangerine!" to me right now.  Who knew?
 This is a good start, I need to look at these and try to find the common thread - other than the bowl, which is clearly making me much happier, visually, than I thought it would!!

*Fabric pictures other than my own are from Vogue Fabrics (  The green is apparently the "green" screensaver for Windows Vista.  The pink ribbons are for sale at Statuary place.  The carpet is from coverdale UK.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Little things

I'm sorry for being absent... I should write color posts for orange and purple and start on my fabric series.  But today is about other, little things. 

I am *so* in love with vintage lingerie right now.  I saw this picture on Casey's Elegant Musings - it's one of her sponsors.  (And it's been sold, if it wasn't substantially too small for me anyway).  Eeek.  This is soo beautiful. Doesn't it make your teeth hurt?

I wanted to point you to a tutorial for hair, I believe I found it off of Casey's Musings but have lost it... it was great.  I took a picture of my hair up, but it was over exposed (I sat too close to the window) and you can't see any detail.  I'll post it so you get a vague idea.  I felt very brave, being pretty in public (ROFL) but I got several compliments from strangers, which is always a good feeling. 

Something important to hold on to... just because you're not perfectly thin or rich ... you can still have beauty.   What you are beautiful while wearing will change with time, the embracing of beauty need not.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Pink is the only pastel that will get its own color discussion, and that's because pink is, alone among pastels, very much not "light red".  Red connotates danger and lust - pink leaves you thinking of rosebuds and soft fuzzy sweaters.  Pink just doesn't read "red plus white" at all - and thus, it gets its own color discussion.

Not only does pink, the most touchable of all colors, have its very own personality, it has its very own colors, from dark to light.  Fushia is pink, not red, and not purple.  So is coral.  Coral and fushia are distinctly *not* red or purple - they're PINK.  Very, very pink. 

Pink is "girl".  Far more so than blue will ever be "boy", pink is girl.  Pink can be, in its bubblegum shades, quite frighteningly girly.  And we read so much softness, sweetness and feminity to pink that some women just won't wear it, feeling that pink is only for little girls.  (These are usually the same women who insist that they should wear rather a lot of black.  Let's face it, pink and black is a somewhat perverse, albeit attractive, combination of colors.  Vive la punkette!).

When you want to be touched, wear pink.  It's approachable, touchable, and soft.  Even the hottest of pinks is less aggressive than red.  Have you ever heard the advice to a soon-to-be divorcee to wear a pink suit to court?  Pink reads defenseless. 

Pink is a fun color to pair with other colors, as people just don't expect to see it alongside brown, red, or even most greens.  And that's a pity, because you can really amp up the softness (or romance) of those colors by adding pink. 

Summers (cool/soft) and Springs (bright/clear) have the most pinks to choose from.  Summer gets the cool pinks, from pastel through fushia.  Springs get the warm pinks, from seashell through coral.  Autumn has a difficult time wearing true pink, although there is a dusty mauve that is quite wearable, as well as some of the softer peaches.  (Peach tends to read more pink than orange, at least emotionally).   Winter has only two pinks - hot, dark, pink and ice pink.  ("Ice" is a color that is purest white with one small drop of whatever pigment - it's very cold, and not at all pastel).  Winter and Autumn will have the easiest time wearing pink in prints rather than in whole garments, or by using fabric to emphasize the coolness or dustiness of the tone (aka satin for Winters and wool for Autumns).  As usual, individual skin tones affect wearability a great deal.

Just because your daughter wears a color, doesn't mean it's not for you.  If your deepest heart craves a little softness... try some pink.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Yellow.  Yellow is the color that you wear when you want people to look but not touch.  Come see me, come talk to me, don't put your arm around me.  Casting a play?  The gleeclub chair, perky and cute and everyone's friend... she needs a yellow dress.  Yellow is absolutely the consumate wallflower color - but the wallflower that organized the party and that everyone talks to.

Yellow, like red, is an attention getter.  It's a youthful color in all of its incarnations, and it looks best on young complexions.  (This is particularly true of caucasians - I haven't been able to wear "my" yellow in a whole garment since my teens.  Darker skinned people can enjoy yellow for decades more).  Yellow is a competent color.  You expect good things from a person wearing yellow.  It's a cheerful color - something of the polar opposite of grey.

Yellow is best in fabrics that reflect the tone.  A light yellow should be worn in a satin or crisp fabric, a deep yellow in a wool or fuzzy sweater.  Yellow is best paired with other, cooler colors.  Imagine interviewing a young lady for an accounting position, attired in a grey suit with a lemon-yellow blouse.  Clean, awake, classic.

As someone past the first flower of youth, when I want to wear yellow I make sure it's part of a pattern or a trim.  Imagine buttercup yellow embroidery on a cornflower blue dress - so simple, so European, so clean and cheerful.  Or a snow-white dress flocked with yellow polka dots?  A butter yellow loose-knit sweater over chocolate suede?  Don't get me started.  :D  I can pair colors all night long... and then where would we be?

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Red is fire, red is romance, red is sex. Paint your restaurant red, and people eat more.  Red is heat.  Red is drive, red is go-getting, red is perhaps *the* most consummate "power color".  Even a tiny drop of red in an outfit is what people will look at.   Roses and valentines and blood and passion...

People either love to wear red or are somewhat nervous about it.  Everyone has a red that they can wear, even something fairly close to "true red".  It's a matter of getting the undertone just right.  Brick is an autumn tone, geranium or poppy are spring tones, true ruby is winter, and summer wears wine.  If you get confused, pair the color in question with colors that you know you can wear.  If it clashes, throw it out.  Your colors should harmonize, even if they don't "go". 

Red is a real eye-draw.  You WILL look at red.

Wearing red says "I want attention".  Even putting on red lipstick can be a huge thing for a woman, much less wearing a red dress.  When you walk into a room wearing red, you are taking control of that room.  Red demands it.  How many politicians own a wardrobe full of red ties?  How many countries' flags incorporate red - red representing the blood of their fallen in battle?

I think that wearing red is something that every woman should try once in a while, and it's possible to wear the more muted reds to get your feet wet.  However, no one should force themselves into a bright red dress if that's not where they are - it's a big step.  It says, "I'm brave".

I really really want to get that across to my readers (all five of you).  Anyone can wear any color that they want to wear, produce any connotation with their outfit.  It's a matter of choosing tone, combination, fabric, line... it all goes into the final product.  Color is tremendously important, because color makes-or-breaks the outfit at the most basic level.  A kindergartener knows if your dress is pretty or not based on its color - and knows whether the dress is wearing you or the other way 'round.  Color brings out the best in your skin and your eyes, it makes people respond to you instinctively. 

An autumn who can't wear the ruby red that she dreams of can instead wear an equally intense green.  Or she can wear a brick red and indulge in red leather accessories.  Autumns have an easy time wearing an entire outfit of their red, perhaps because the red is a quieter tone.  Springs have a dreadful time finding the bright clear reds that they can wear, but because of their high-contrast blues and turquoises, what red they do find will -pop-.  Summers can manage most cold/blue reds - and winter, though she has only a few reds, has the true ruby. 

Everyone gets something good, we just don't all get the same good thing.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mistakes were made...

Because I do my own sewing, and because I have such a dreadful time in the stores finding things that suit me, sometimes I end up with some rather alarming outfits comprised of things that almost work.  I'm embarking on this visual notebook not just to tell on myself but to take my knowledge and apply it to future acquisitions.  This is the first installment, comprised of what I'm wearing today.   You can't learn - *I* can't learn - without making mistakes and analyzing what went wrong and how to change things.

You can do this too!  I used the paint program that came with my windows software and made *boxes* to change things around.  Not compex, we're not looking for photoshopping wonder, we're looking for basic line.

mistakes1 mistakes2
I like the color combination - wearing pink and blue together for me is about like a free makeover.   You can't see my face and both colors simultaneously or I'd show you what it does.

First mistake:  The fabric choice for the skirt.  Denim?  Good.  Denim with wee embroidered flowers in a rainbow of colors?  Fabulous on the bolt, not so fabulous as a working item in my closet.  I should have saved it for my 7yo daughter!  (Much of the last two years of sewing has involved learning lessons about "oh that's so CUTE" and why that's never a good item to make into clothing for an adult).

Second mistake:  The length. Finding your best skirt length is a trial and error process... this would be an error!  The process considers not only the leg flattery aspect but your overall proportions.  I'm not un-fond of my calves, although they're curvy... but this cuts me off.

Third "mistake":  This gets quotes because it's not as much as mistake as a total change in direction.  The waistline needs to go up!  I have a long torso and short legs - moving the cut-point up makes my legs look longer.  (Or, since you can't see my legs at all, let's just call it more balanced). 

Fourth mistake:  The small circle neckline isn't good for me.  It needs to be wider - either much wider to the sides or deeper.  This looked "okay" in the dressing room, and I spent $10 for this blouse, but.. meh.  It IS a nice blouse on a hot day.  (Indian cotton). 

Fifth mistake:  I could really use two more inches on those sleeves - or two less.  Not a great place to hit my arm.

Conclusion:  Skirts with high waists and long hems are on my "to sew" list.  Sticking with basic colors for my basic items.  Steering towards higher quality and less-cute fabric.  Interesting necklines good - round and small not good.

I hope you guys enjoyed this post.  Anyone wishing to contribute pictures for similar workup should contact me.  :)  I will be doing these again, and occasionally some good outfit pictures as well.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Does anyone remember the home seamstress?

Do you remember the home seamstress?  I don't mean ladies, like myself, who sew for themselves (although we're a rare lot these days)j, I mean ladies who professionally sew out of their homes for other people.

I am old enough to remember when everyone's mom had some clue about sewing, and old enough to remember the occasional matchy-matchy outfit for holidays (Laura Ashley Mother and Daughter dresses, anyone?).  My peers all remember the torture of sitting around for hours in the fabric shops, while our moms browsed. 

I remember sitting on the floor of someone's spare bedroom while my mom got fitted for a dress or a suit.  Even though my mom's figure is close to the standard RTW proportions, personally made clothing always fits better.  Mom loved to go to the fabric store and pick out special things to create her work wardrobe, and she'd brought quite a bit of silk home from our year in China.  Mom's new garments seldom cost her more than they'd have cost if she bought them at a nicer department store, and they were one of a kind.  That was the whole point of making your own - or having it made - it looked better and cost about the same.  (This was true of most women up until cheap, perhaps even disposable, fashion came into being.  I think there is a wave of push-back on disposable fashion, and I'm thrilled about it).

My wedding dress was made by a home seamstress.  I got her name and number by the simple expedient of asking the fabric store.  She'd gone through the courses at our local junior college, and she was quite talented.  More's the pity that it was her post-retirement hobby/pin money... I'm sure she's passed away by now.  Since Mom had brought the silk from China, my lovely dress cost me $300.  Yes, that's right.  A perfectly fitted heavy silk brocade dress, $300. 

A similarly poofy dress was running about $2000 back in the day...

But are those seamstresses still around, and if so, have they their hands in on sewing adult clothing?  Both seamstresses that I know sew children's clothing (for boutiques) or home decorating things.  The only commercial place that I know of that does anything like it is the local dry cleaner, who is happy to do minor adjustments to your pants or the prom dress/wedding dress stores, all of whom have alterations staff.   

If I weren't a housewife with few outside occasions, I might well investigate a seamstress of my own.  Instead, I slowly, slowly sew my own wardrobe.  There are mistakes, there are learning curves, but there is something approaching fit - and as someone who has a multitude of fitting issues, that's huge.

And that's something that's been overlooked in these  years of disposable fashion - the fact that clothing that does not fit, does not look good.  A post for another day...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Green is life, it is living things.  Green usually evokes nurturing, growing things, but can occasionally be quite poisonous.  (Green and grey are an almost invariably poisonous mixture, unless one or both colors are very dark, and it still feels a bit deadly.  Not necessarily unattractive, but not a bouncy combination for certain). 

Green has a few neutralish colors - pine and khaki - but is, essentially, going to be a "look-at-me" color most of the time.  Green is not a safe color.  It's a color that people find reassuring when you wear - but wearing it always seems a bit edgy.  Green isn't expected. 

Green is seldom worn on its own, and so it's imperative to pair green mentally with the color with which you wear it with.  It's an emphasizer.  Green + Blue = soothing, watery, calm.  Green + Yellow = Bright, spring, eye-attacking.  Green + Red = holidayesque.  Green + Grey, poisonous.  Green + Black = edgy/dangerous.  Green + White = super clean and springy and young.  Green + Pink = Gardeny, a walk with the roses.  Green is also an emphasizer of styles - and it's *never* forgotten.  Don't forget the nurturing powers of green - can't you just see a mother, in a soft dress in a floral with a green background, or a dark green sweater or skirt, sitting by the playground and watching her children?  Wouldn't that be a wonderfully trustworthy person?

Green is a very powerful color to wear, emotionally speaking.  Speaking in color flattery, green is primarily about Springs and Autumns, but really greens vary so much, it's just best to hold the fabric up to your skin to see how it blends.  Warm/clear? Warm/muted? Cool/bright?  Cool/muted?  Pine works for most women, regardless of skin tone. 

Green dyes beautifully most of the time, but it bleaches out unfortunately. I have a lovely silk jacket in my wardrobe that's been bleached out on the shoulders... probably ought to cut it up for use as a purse.  It's a splendid color in virtually any fabric. 

I like green.  :)  I think more people could wear more green - it's a fun color, and it's a happy color.  So... go out on a limb!  Try some green today.  :D

Monday, June 6, 2011


The color blue always evokes water.  Blue is the most expected color, at least in the West. 

Some shades of blue, such as navy and denim, function as neutrals in the wardrobe.  Denim blue looks good on almost everyone, so does navy.  Yet blue itself is not a true neutral - nothing differentiates cornflower or cobalt except for saturation, and no one would call those colors neutral!

Blue is a tricky color to match.  Have you ever heard the words, "Everything matches navy... except navy"?  True words.  Turquoise is just the same, to my sadness (and yours, if you could only see the number of turquoise things in my wardrobe).  It's all in the amount of secondary colors in the blue - whether yellow, in the case of turquoise, or grey, in the case of navy.   And this is the reason that we don't wear denim with denim - it just doesn't quite work most of the time.  The slight mottling that the denim washes produce only bring this attribute to the forefront.

It's generally a better idea to wear blues together that are far apart on the spectrum.  A light blue with a dark is a classic combination.  Bright blues usually look best with other colors rather than more blue.  Blue and red is the color combination of politicians.  Want to be someone comfortable for men to talk to?  Take Edith Head's advice and wear a quiet shade of blue with white accessories. 

Like grey, when you hear all this quiet advice about blue, it's tempting to put it to the side.  The modern psyche wants excitement, daring, not safe.  Yet blue is one of the most useful tools in your utility box.  It makes a great platform for the edgier colors - imagine a nice blue skirt and a yellow blouse, for example - or wear something really extreme, such as magenta, with navy.  Navy blue makes a great black substitute, and wearing blue when people are expecting black is always fun.  When you have a "safe" color like blue, or a "safe" color combination, you can reach further out on the stylistic tree branch without falling off.   Blue is not always safe!  Consider sapphire or cobalt or turquoise - none of which can be called quiet.

Blue wears well in most fabrics.  It, again, can really shine with a quality fabric - and is one of the shades where you have to consider fabric content when matching, as well as saturation and hue.  When in doubt, it's better to move your to-be-matched farther apart rather than closer together - satin and wool rather than linen and cotton, for instance.   (I am aching to do my fabric posts, can you tell?)

Blue is water, blue is safe and comfortable... it is not a neutral, but it plays like one.  BLUE!  :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011


What do you think of when you think of the color grey?  Or gray?  We can't even agree how to spell the word!  I think that nebulousity, to form my own word, is the essence of grey's nature.  It is the in between.  It is the spirit world, the mist, the mystery.  It softens, it cools, it brings mellowness... it is a remote color.  Not a particularly approachable shade, grey - although it's highly touchable.  (The opposite of yellow, which is highly approachable and highly untouchable). 

Grey lives for wool.  There is no better fabric to convey "grey" better than a wool.  Whether we're talking about a soft grey suited to a foggy spring morning or a charcoal grey suit straight from Wall St., grey is all about the wool.  Grey in cotton almost invariably means workout clothing.  Grey in satin or silk?  The ice maiden lives. 

To me, grey is far more gothic and supernaturally scary than is black.  It's the in between that leaves much to the imagination.  Ghosts are grey. 

If I am going to use the CMB seasons (which I sort of want to move away from, especially if I ever do copyright this stuff), grey is all about the "Summer" season.  Certainly other seasons can wear grey.. but summers *own* it.    Summers are cool and muted - and what is grey, but both of those together?   Warmer seasons can generally manage to deal with charcoal grey, and sometimes a grey-brown.  Winters can wear the clearest and coldest greys.  Grey is the color that I recommend to summers who want that edge of mystery.  Pair grey and purple, and you are *all* about the spooky.   Grey and yellow?  All business, a sharp edge.  Not expected, but intense & reliable.  Grey is *fun* to pair with other colors, you can really get some good mental dichotomies going.  It's a "ol' reliable" but it's been out of the mainstream for long enough to not be expected. 

Grey is of course a neutral color... there are many many shades of it, and all of them look best in good fabrics.  Grey does very poorly in poor fabrics, think of an old grey cotton tank top, even without stains... it looks stained just from wear.  A grey wool skirt is going to look grand for the next century, to contrast.   Grey is ill-advised to be in the highest of fashion.  Its natural mystery has to be forced into the lines of fashion, and that forcedness shows by going out of fashion quickly. 

Grey is not for children.  This makes me antsy, as my daughter looks amazing in grey.  But little girls (and she is seven) do not wear colors that can be associated with death and mourning.  Elders *do* wear grey, and rock it.  The softness of grey suits most as the skin softens with time and the hair takes on a cooler hue.   This does not mean that grey is about age, although it can be a color that conveys a certain conservativeness and authority.   It can also simply be used to soften another color in the outfit, bringing it into balance.

Grey - the color of mystery and the color of the conservative.  Ambivalent, indeed.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blog mutterings

Where am I taking this blog?  The last week of posting was written in one fell swoop... and it felt good to write it.  I was happy to start working on my thoughts about colors.  It's a bit like writing a book, and I'm starting the subheadings.  Yay for that, right?  Except now I feel like I have to put out a bunch of stuff on color, and not skip 'round to fabric or philosophy or... what have you.  Also, I was hoping for a somewhat interactive blog.... which it doesn't seem to be.  I haven't written anything since "White" because it just felt so forced, and it didn't flow, and half of what I know about white didn't get put down, and ... I wasn't pleased.  But how am I going to write about Grey, the next of the neutral colors, or start down the road to Blue or Green, if I don't have the passion?

I have been the unlikely "Fashion Dictator" to many of my friends. Much like Dr. Ruth giving advice on intimate matters, I seem like an unlikely person to give fashion advice.  I am short, stout, and far too frugal with my own clothing.  In my defense, it's virtually impossible to dress myself well unless I'm making my own clothing, and I'm on the beginning of that journey - I'm still figuring out how to fit my figure, for heaven's sake.  (My poor efforts are much better than storebought, regardless).   I could use a few handmaidens if anyone is passing them out - not to mention a dedicated sewing space and a lot more time!

Yet I've been studying fashion - or, should I say figure and coloring flattery - since I was a teenager.  I not only know what colors and styles look well on a person, I can tell you why.  Those friends who have gone shopping with me have returned surprised... they didn't know how beautiful they really were.   And most of them are permanent converts to the colors I've introduced them to.

We dress ourselves down so often, we fear the gorgeousness... that we forget how wonderfully made we are.  Our comfy clothes aren't the sexiest things on the block, but they're comfy.  The cheap tshirt stains quickly, but we just bought it so why replace it?  I am the **last** person to talk!   Of course if ideas were realised instantaneously, I'd have a wardrobe to die for... but since I have to sew most of it, it's a pain.  I can barely keep up with the major needs in my wardrobe, and I end up looking a bit down at the heels.  -sigh-

Adding devotion to the mix only serves to increase the dichotomy in our minds.  On the one hand, we have the Proverbs 31 woman and all the women in the Bible who were lovely in body as well as soul.  On the other, we have the instruction to not go emphasize our outward grooming to the exclusion of our inward heart.  And some of us (-points to self-) just feel guilty spending money on clothing that could be put towards other, more worthy, ends.  Please the husband by looking nice, please the self-identity by being plain. 

I add hair-covering to the mix, and I do it poorly.  I'd dearly love to cover my hair the way the Jewish ladies do it - they have so much flair and do it so well.  But at the same time, my hair is pretty and it's hot most of the year, so I don't want to go that far.  Plus I have this random horror of ever imitating anyone, for any reason.  I don't want to look like what I am not.  And have you ever covered ALL of your hair in a public venue, in these days after 9/11?  Ugh.  Then, my smaller coverings slide out constantly.  I'm forever putting them back in, my kids are trained to pick them up for me... and the ones that stick are barely covering *anything*.  Yet, I'm committed to covering. 

Anyone ever read the Dr. Doolittle books when they were children?  Do you remember the PushMe-PullYou animal?  I feel like that, a lot. 

But maybe this was helpful.  I've been in a quiet zone for the last week and ... well, maybe that's over.  No promises, but I do hope to get back to posting regularly, and soon!

On a more personal note, school is out for my kids this week, and after all is said and done, the week after *that* is going to start some sewing time in the afternoons, which should hopefully break my backlog of sewing projects and my silence as well.