Story N˚ 22: Autumn’s Summer’s Day

As I write, this warm day ends beautifully in shell-pink light.  But it’s one week into October in New York City.  Since summer seems to be outstaying its welcome, I took the liberty of wearing a pair of white pants and sandals out on a date last night.  The beauty of it is not that it’s warm enough to wear such clothes.  In fact, I’m craving the crisp air that makes me want to cozy up to a hot bowl of soup.  (I cooked three such soups today, but the cat and I just sweat through it uncomfortably.  I will squirrel them away for cooler days.) 

No, the joy of these pants is that they fit me!  I have held on to them for at least 6 years, have worn them a total of once in that time.  I confess to hoarding more than a few items in my closet for that future day when I can wear them.  Happily, those future days are becoming today for all the right reasons- exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep, and giving up (gulp) sugar.  There is no secret formula, no magic ingredient.  Me doing the work is the magic, the key, the secret. And a half marathon challenge around the corner is really helping out.

Back to these pants:  I used to work at Sea World in the Costume Shop.  We provided wardrobe for the various performers, except Shamu.  One of the venues was the pearl diver area where you could see sexy male and female swimmers dive gracefully into the water to collect oysters from the sandy bottom.  We outfitted all of them in black speedos, and had a cast of hostesses waterside to guide people from the viewing area to the gift shop, because, of course, beautiful women help sell merchandise, such as pearls in the setting of your choice.  The hostesses had a summer outfit and a different winter outfit, but both were in cream and white to fit the idea of dressing for a Grecian coastal landscape.  We prepped and maintained all the costumes for these lovely and talented women.  As I remember, at one point there was a huge change in costuming or in cast sizing (I’m not sure if the pearl diving is still a feature) and we still had lots of used and new inventory:  sweaters, pants, etc.  As too often happens, good quality clothing was going to get thrown out, or boxed away in storage to be thrown out eventually.  So in the changes, I scored a pair of almost-new creamy white trousers.  All I had to do was take in the waist and take up the hem, the usual alterations for my physique. 

I think I try these pants on each year and then pack them away again.  This year, even though the season is supposed to be over, and there’s that breakable rule: no white after Labor Day; I’m happy to rock these, even if my date didn’t feel the need to dress up (another story altogether…)

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Story N˚ 21: The End of an Era

My first “puffy” coat-

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Not fashionable, but functional!
  • was purchased for $35 at Monk’s in Williamsburg around the time it was getting too cold to put off buying my first ever winter coat.
  • was in no way a fashion statement, but allowed me to experience Northern winters in a civilized, rational way.
  • was my shield on long, lonely and very necessary walks through the gloom of Winter 2013.
  • allowed me to enjoy my first snowshoe outing at Mohonk Mountain House (a sparkling day).
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On top of the world at Mohonk
  • cushioned me at the ice skating rink.
  • paired well with woolen sweaters and a down vest for extra cold days (not cause it looked great, but it did the warmth trick).
  • became a sort of blanket for my Christmas Day beach visits (yes, this Floridian goes to the beach every Christmas Day possible, and a coat like this makes it possible).
  • also made it possible to bike through a few winters (not sure what I was trying to prove).
  • five NYC winters later, will be fondly and appreciatively remembered.
  • the next winter coat, TBD
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The final resting place for my puffy coat

Story N˚20: Use It Up, Wear It Out

…Make it do or do without.  This saying, popular during the struggles of the Great Depression, is one I learned growing up in a large family.  Along with “waste not, want not,” I associate these expressions with my maternal grandparents.  They both lived through the Depression and knew how to live off the land and to prepare and preserve their own food.  From farming and gardening, to baking and canning, carpentry and sewing, they were self-sufficient, hard workers.  My grandfather always set up a compost wherever he went, my grandma taught us to sew and crochet when she visited, and her great grandmother made a certain quilt out of any scrap of fabric she could put together in pioneer times.

In my sustainable living and as an active environmentalist, I challenge myself to use and care for things in a conscientious way.  I scrape every last bit of peanut butter out of the jar before recycling it, for example.  The same with shampoos, etc.  I am aware of how much waste I generate all by myself- it’s a lot.

Applying this to my clothesmaking, I found a fabric a few years ago that hits all the marks for me:  a chambray of hemp blended with recycled polyester.  I ordered a few yards to test out and love the drape, texture and color ( a blue-grey denim wash).  The first thing I made was a pair of pants from a Marcy Tildon pattern that I altered to suit me.  The wide legs balloon out on either side and then taper smartly above the ankle.  I created a waistband and pockets for wearability.  These pants have gotten so many compliments, and I get as many from men as I do women; they may need to go to market…

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The perfect baggy pant

The fabric has held up well, except for the crotch, because of my bicycle seat and all the biking I do.  I had extra fabric to patch it, because I want them to last forever!  And then even more to make a skirt with…

For the skirt, I took the full width of the fabric (about 50″/127 cm), and pleated and gathered it until it fit my waist.  At the center back the two selvedge edges meet.  This time I added beesom pockets (cut right into the fabric and finished with jetting, incorrectly known as welt pockets).  The pocket linings were cut from a sari my sister brought from South Africa.  The turquoise silk peeks through the pocket slit.  Again a waistband, and this time a facing around the hem line.  The silhouette is a puffy column that inspired the name- the Suffragette skirt.  Maybe a matching-era sportscoat will appear…

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The Suffragette skirt

Even after a pant and skirt, there is still fabric left.  I put a panel of it in a skirt that I cut from a man’s dress shirt.  A bright polyester herringbone knit, circa 1970?  The story behind that find:  an old friend of mine was searching Craigslist for deals while he was out of work. He would often find giveaways, especially the belongings of deceased persons.  The daughter of an elderly man who had passed was giving away all of his old clothes, which I now have an ample stash of.  What can I say, there were many inspirational pieces in the pile…

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hemp + herringbone
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Details: crotch patch, beesom pocket, inset panel

For the chambray, I have almost used it up, I’m definitely wearing it out, am making it do and do, and haven’t had to buy anything in a while.  I love this.