Thursday, January 13, 2011

"If you are out to describe truth, leave elegance to the tailor"

I love this Einstein quote for two reasons. First, he acknowledges that the grand work of physics is a messy business. No clean, universal theory of everything for him! Despite being a mathematical and scientific genius, Einstein had great perspective on his own place and the place of his field.

Secondly though, the elegance of the tailor is assumed. I must agree that nothing more elegant exists than a well-tailored garment. In the vintage world, there are no items I love and appreciate more than vintage suits--the fit, the details! ::swoon::

The suit pictured above is my latest ebay acquisition--obtained for a mere $10. Of course it wreaks of cigarettes and needs a trip to the cleaner, but no matter--just look at that collar! It's these little details that make vintage suits so special.

Beyond admiring fine tailoring from afar, the Lady Grey sew along (see my coat here) on Gertie's blog has gotten me hooked on the power and satisfaction of the tailoring process itself. I don't think I've ever felt so accomplished. I finally broke down and bought the tailoring book that she and so many others have recommended: Tailoring: the Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket

Thus far, I am quite pleased with the layout and approach of the book. It's a great compliment to the excellent tutorials Gertie posted through her sew along. The instructions are clear, offering custom, machine and fusible options for each tailoring step. There are so many useful tips and tricks, it just makes me salivate!

I have to say, I've been generally in a sewing rut recently. I haven't been able to get excited about any project...until now. With the addition of this tailoring book to my arsenal, I'm all jazzed up again. I've had a couple suit patterns in my pattern backstock that I've wanted to break out for ages, but didn't feel quite competent enough to try. So now it's time. The first is a Butterick reprint of a 50s pattern from a few years ago:

Isn't it class? It's no longer in print, but easy enough to find around the internet. Interestingly, there are no reviews on Pattern Review or elsewhere, so I'll be jumping in alone! In this case, I think I'm going to go the quick and easy route and use fusible tailoring method. I'm using a tropical weight worsted wool, which means any small basting ticks will be visible. Plus, without a collar, I see less need for custom techniques. I'm not quite sure how to manage interfacing around the neckline with the neck drape the way it is. Any seamstresses out there have any advice? I'm going to make self covered buttons in the method Casey lays out here.

Should be a fun start to the suit making process! I'm going to start on my fitting muslin this weekend.

(note: I found a second copy of this pattern in my stash in sizes 14-18-20. Let me know if you'd like it! I'd love to share!)

Of course, the other side of this is I'm now obsessively scouring the internet for more interesting and complex suit patterns. Here's a few I've been drooling over:
From Etsy
I just go crazy for scallops!

From Etsy
Love the sporting and casual silhouette this elongated collar creates

From Etsy
Seriously, is there anything more charming than asymmetrical buttons?

From Ebay
I love the high standing collar here and the interesting layered peplum.

What are your thoughts on vintage suits? Do you have a favorite style, era or detail? Has anyone experimented with tailoring themselves?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Holidays!

This is a bit belated, as I sent all day yesterday in transit to California, but I just wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday season. I hope everyone gets to spend these days with their loved ones, doing the things they love.

I'll leave you with my favorite holiday song, Robert Earl Keen's Merry Christmas from the Family

"Hallelujah! Everybody say cheese! Merry Christmas from the family!"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"what lasts through time is like an island on a ship in the sea, perishable surrounded by dangerous fragility by merciless waters and threats. "

The year is winding down, and there's nothing but endless celebrations in my weeks ahead. Well, and work. I'm currently packing and prepping for my holiday kick off trip to quaint little Bethlehem, PA this weekend. A good friend of mine from my time in Ireland is working for a small theater company there, so a bunch of us will be reuniting and supporting her dramatic work. It's been a long time since this crew was together in its entirety for a full weekend, so it will most definitely be memorable.

Looking forward to this event, I've been taking stock of my recent history. I've had a rough 6 months or so that at times has left me feeling disjointed and desperate, broken. Lately, I've been finding solace in all the wonderful people I am lucky enough to have in my life, like these characters I'm about to see. It's put all my recent failures in perspective. I believe there is much to be gained from broken moments, failed connections and missteps. This is how we grow and change. Happiness can only take you so far. One needs the dialectic interchange with the chaotic and painful.

So, I'm happy for all the chaos in my life, the "what ifs?", the false starts and failed promises. Pablo Neruda, in the below poem, does such an excellent job of characterizing this arbitrary chaos. There is beauty, and more importantly, possibility in those broken bits and things that just fall by the wayside. Almost on a transcendental level, he suggests the transformative power of time: the silly things that perish, the things we leave behind and what remains. I'm looking forward to seeing all my broken bits metamorphising into something new and beautiful.


Ode to Broken Things

Things get broken
at home
like they were pushed
by an invisible, deliberate smasher.
It's not my hands
or yours
It wasn't the girls
with their hard fingernails
or the motion of the planet.
It wasn't anything or anybody
It wasn't the wind
It wasn't the orange-colored noontime
Or night over the earth
It wasn't even the nose or the elbow
Or the hips getting bigger
or the ankle
or the air.
The plate broke, the lamp fell
All the flower pots tumbled over
one by one. That pot
which overflowed with scarlet
in the middle of October,
it got tired from all the violets
and another empty one
rolled round and round and round
all through winter
until it was only the powder
of a flowerpot,
a broken memory, shining dust.

And that clock
whose sound
the voice of our lives,
the secret
thread of our weeks,
which released
one by one, so many hours
for honey and silence
for so many births and jobs,
that clock also
and its delicate blue guts
among the broken glass
its wide heart

Life goes on grinding up
glass, wearing out clothes
making fragments
breaking down
and what lasts through time
is like an island on a ship in the sea,
surrounded by dangerous fragility
by merciless waters and threats.

Let's put all our treasures together
-- the clocks, plates, cups cracked by the cold --
into a sack and carry them
to the sea
and let our possessions sink
into one alarming breaker
that sounds like a river.
May whatever breaks
be reconstructed by the sea
with the long labor of its tides.
So many useless things
which nobody broke
but which got broken anyway.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside...

The wind is blowing in DC, and the air has turned icy. I'm diggin' it! Our summer was so relentless and draining that I'm taking advantage of every icy blast, and making sure to indulge in every wintertime treat I can.

One of my favorite things in cold weather is coming home to a belly warming hot beverage. My tea corner is becoming, well, overwhelming. That's just the beginning though. I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite seasonally appropriate beverage recipes.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa
(once you see how easy it is to make our own hot cocoa, you'll never turn back)

1 tbsp. cocoa powder (Ghirardelli is my personal favorite)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar (I tend to go slightly under this)
6-8 oz. milk, preferably whole
dash vanilla extract
2-3 drops peppermint oil

This can be made on the stovetop in a saucepan or in a mug in the microwave. First mix the cocoa powder and sugar. Add just a touch of milk and combine to form a paste. Continue to gradually add the remaining milk, stirring constantly. If making on stovetop, warm on medium heat until just scalded. If using the microwave, heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and peppermint. So easy and delicious!

Homemade Indian Spiced Chai
This recipe I adapted from the fascinating cultural history book, Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham. Below are my spice proportions, but you can augment to suit your own palate. I love doubling this recipe and making a big batch, so I can keep extra in a pitcher in the fridge, ready for a quick reheat when the mood strikes!

4 cups water
16 whole cardamom pods, slightly crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. whole cloves
few slices fresh ginger
3 oz. assam or other black tea
milk and sugar to taste

Bring water to a boil. Add spices and simmer 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tea and let steep 3-5 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh sieve. Add milk and sugar to taste.

And just for good measure, here's one of my favorite seasonal songs because really, there's no better season for seduction than winter...right, Dean Martin?

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Statistics show that there are more women in the world than anything else

...except insects"

I'm free! As of Saturday evening at 18:00 hours, I have submitted all my graduate school applications! This means I am free to return to the world..real and virtual.

Throughout the madness of the last few months, I had very few days of fun or interest. The most memorable had to have been film noir photoshoot night involving my friend Katie as photographer, my roommate, Jamie, as the hardboiled P.I., Katie's little sister Hope as the ingenue, and me as the femme fatale.

I've always loved the femme fatale. In the code era, her wiles were obvious and er devious deeds only hinted toward. She served as a warning to men and women alike of the danger of female cleverness and power. Despite this, they remain the most memorable and glamorous characters, perhaps even vague role models of independence and rebellion, and reminders of the historical sequestering of the fairer sex. Who hasn't want to emulate Gilda? Or Kittie Collins?

Anyway, here's our story. We had such a great time hamming it up and making up silly plots and motivations. The final product we called, "As the Cat Meows."

(apologies in advance for the long photo post, but the story deserves its full arc)

Meet my roommate the P.I. Why he owns a prop pistol, I do not know, but I love it.

Danger! Danger! Enter the dame...

Classic emulation of Bacall/Bogart: "Got a match?"

"Who's that at the door?"

"Who cares...look at those pins!"

Enter the young contender

Trouble ahead

Interrupting the cat fight

The tables turn...

Trying to escape

The P.I. won't let them get away this time

Where did they go?

Perhaps the boiler room?

She's after me! Down this sketchy shaft

Done away with the girl. Now to sneak free...

Curses! The jewels and/or secrets are locked away and unobtainable

Caught! The shakedown

...and back to normality

Of course, we did come up with an alternate ending, in which the ingenue and the femme fatale kill the P.I. and run away to slay the world with feminine wiles. The femme fatale teaches her young protege the tricks of the trade...

Monday, November 22, 2010

"The absence of flaw in beauty is itself a flaw."

Here's a preview of the noir shoot I did with a few of my friends. One of these days when I have mental energy and time again, I'll post a fuller set.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Update of sorts

Ok, so I just started this blog and I'm feeling my momentum slowly. The truth is I'm in the process of applying to graduate school, which has been consuming my life. I've got a backlog of posts I'd like to do, but I don't have the time or mental energy to properly flush them out at the moment. In a couple of weeks, I'll be back in full force!