Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Story of the Crazy Person Sitting Next to Me in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class.

I just got back to LA from London, and was lucky enough to fly Virgin Upper Class, which is a pretty fantastic.  You get your own little bed, in your own teeny seat/cabin (jaded flyers call it “Coffin Class”) and all the food and wine and booze they can convince you to consume.  The flight attendants are lovely, and the departure lounge at Heathrow is a little slice of super-model and minor celebrity heaven.  This is not my usual mode of transportation, so I was determined to milk it for all I could.
My seat was 9A, and in 8A (next to me, since the seats run down the length of the plane, rather than across) was one of the craziest people I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit next to.  She was probably mid-50s, with long blonde curls, cargo pants, a crop top and the waning beauty of a car-crash California beauty queen.  She was traveling with her brother, Georgie, who was one of those people who make no lasting impression, though I remember he was wearing black jeans with a waxy finish. 
They were like characters out of a Jim Thompson novel.  One in which a pair of middle-aged siblings who inherited a lot of money but no love from their father spend their lives acting out in an unconscious attempt to get Daddies’ attention long after he’s in the grave.  Both more comfortable and experienced in spending than earning. Brother attends to Sister’s manic and willful helplessness, in a way that sometimes feels disturbing to on-lookers.
Before we were even off the ground she had every flight attendant jumping.  What time the flight was arriving, would it be late, what was the weather life in LA, why didn’t the plane have wi-fi, were there any pajamas even though it’s a day flight, is the food organic, why is the movie quality so low-res, she needs some Kleenex now.  And yes, she was the one still texting on her Blackberry as we took of.  
But underneath that was some pretty genuine and very sad crazy, that kind of narcissistic self-delusion where being the center of attention is the only kind of satisfaction the world has ever offered.  Some kind of manic, loud emptiness that could only be staved off by being catered to, having people alter their paths to attend to you.  Being noticed and being loud because otherwise there is nothing.
It seemed appropriate that they were flying to LA.
About three minutes after the plane took off I found the purser and begged to be moved, and she got me a quiet little seat next to a nice man who said nothing and just watched movies the whole flight. 
And that is the Story of the Crazy Person Sitting Next to Me in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Marilyn Monroe-esque or -ish...

Isn't it funny how, after sewing for almost twenty years, you can still have "slap your hand to your head, no duh" moments.  It had never occurred to me that I could pin patterns to a dress body and check and refine the fit that way.


This is my Mum's dress form, which she is kindly giving to me, and which will be schlepped back to the US on Virgin Atlantic tomorrow.  It more or less mirrors my shape, but I intend to do some padding to perfect it as much as possible.  I have no clue whether this is "quality" or not.  Maybe just "good enough?"

The dress is the Marilyn Monroe-ish sheath dress from Burda June '06.

Not that they call it "the Marilyn Monroe dress."  It reminds me of a great black sheath dress that Michelle Williams wears in "My Weekend with Marilyn."  Very simple, form fitting, elegant, with a plunging V at the back to sex it up a little.

Of course, once I had covered my little doppelganger with coral lace I realized that it could get dangerously close to frump, very fast.  So I'm going to ditch the matching lining (which took it straight to Princess Margaret: The G and T Years, and not in a good way).  I don't want to look like a fading lush on a bad day.

And gratuitous cute dog shot.  Meggie is tiny, but she has an outsized sense of self that required a shift in perspective to convey.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Daisy Buchanan, at a certain age.

Excuse the b**bs and undergarments

Will writing b**bs stop 12 year old boys from finding this on google?  I hope so.  This is the finished Daisy top from June Burda.  I love it.  Obviously it is a layering piece, and since I'm currently in the depths of the British countryside there are no layers to be had.  Use your imagination, and ignore the ratty br*

This is when being a home seamstress really pays off. I never would have bought this top, mostly because a handmade top out of good (Oscar de La Renta according to Mr. Mood) lace would have been far to expensive for my taste.  I would have told myself that it was frippery and "not my thing" and not looked at it twice.   But actually it is super cute, and once I've got an appropriate camisole and / or made the accompanying dress, I'll wear it all the time.  

Jeesh I hope that my former workmates, current clients and frenemies don't know about this blog.  If you fall into any of those categories, please, stop reading! Stop looking at pictures of me in my skivvies. How humiliating that could be.

Thank you for the kind words about Oscar.  Like I said in the comments, we only met a few times, and it is not "my" tragedy.  But he was one of those people that inspired you to think the world could change and be a better place, and for him to be randomly murdered at 23 was beyond words.  It's been incredibly distressing for a lot of people, me included.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sometimes the world is too fucked up to bare.

My boyfriend is very involved in the Boys and Girls club of Venice.  I go to all their fundraisers and events and they're always inspiring to be part of. Oscar had joined the club when he was six, and at twenty-three was fully committed to working there full-time with the next generation of kids.  He was one of those good people who seem like they were made out of liquid sunshine.   He was the music director, and everyone loved him.  And he was shot on the street by strangers for no apparent reason, except that he was standing there when they felt like picking a fight.
At 23.
Too fucked up to bare.

Great Gatsby Lace

I utterly fell in love with the loose translation of a flapper dress in June's Burda.  Maybe because it is obviously vintage, but so unlike what I normally wear. No binding seams, constricting construction or firmly shaping wool. No (possibly too obvious) references to "Mad Men." So youthful and giddy. Oh too feel as free as a flapper! Clearly we are all going to be dressing like Daisy in Baz Luhrmann's Great Gatsby from about mid-August on.

Oona talked me into buying was there when I bought this gorgeous lace fragment from Mood, too small to make any attempt at pattern matching, but I managed to get a more or less symmetrical front. It's Oscar de La Renta, and wonderfully off-white.  It looks old, in a good way.  The dress is on the cover of the English Language Burda and looked huge, so I did a quick measure and cut a 36 instead of my usual 38  40.

This is actually an overlay, you sew a separate piece to wear under this.  It dips very very low, so this is a piece that you have to layer to make wearable.

The front of the lace overlay

The back, you can see the piecing both in the back seam and the upper right shoulder. there was no more fabric, so no point in worrying about matching the back pieces.

I can do Vintage.  My grandmother's Frister Rossmann, Cub 4. Love this machine.  It's pretty slow, super heavy, and has that satisfying electrical oily smell of any old machine.

I'm still in the UK, mostly because it finally stopped bloody raining.  I'm going to stay till the rain starts again and gives me an excuse to go home!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

What was sexy then?

 Peter from MPB had an interesting post about the evolution of our self-imposed (or society-imposed, depending on how you look at it) obsession with fitness and body-shape. I've been similarly thinking about the evolution of expectations about sexiness and personal style. When did style become almost synonymous with "sexy?" 

From a mid-80s issue of I-D.  Note the ripped stocking.  Glossy (or glossed-over) perfection was not interesting. Looking "sexy" was way too easy, too boring and too obvious.
The two concepts are distinctly different, in fact traditionally you can't really be both; in the forties, fifties and even sixties sexiness was closer to tawdriness and style equated a certain frosty chic. 

Image saved on hard drive from unknown blog, I'll link if it is yours.

I grew up in the UK in the 80s. I read, obsessively, magazines like I-D, The Face and Blitz. To a lesser extent I loved Vogue and Elle, sometimes Harper and Queen and Tatler. I was so obsessed with magazines that I was still reading teeny bopper rags like Sky and Just Seventeen years after I'd graduated that particular demographic. (Actually, my fascination with magazines almost feels shameful sometimes, but societies' ability to make us feel bad about the things we love is a whole different post).

Since I'm currently back in England visiting my Mum I pulled out my magazine collection (drives my Mum mad. Why exactly is her garage filled with twenty-year-old fashion magazines? Why not fill my garage with them?) and flicked through to see exactly what "style" looked like when I was an impressionable teen.

A small, small part of my I-D collection.  I loved the Surreal cover so much that I sliced it off and taped it to my wall for a bit, then taped it back to the magazine.  I was OBSESSED.

"Sexy" was never about bland, smoothed-over perfection.  You always had a rip in your stocking or  a missing glove.
 Turns out 80s style, at least in London, was all about a kind of over-the-top retro glamor, heavily twisted up with textures and colors and clothing that reflected immigration from the Caribbean and India, and a tongue-in-cheek appropriation of American and Italian matinee idols. Never perfect though, stockings are torn, proportions are pointedly absurd (huge jackets, tiny skirts), lipstick just a tiny bit smeared. if you weren't going glam you were going for an innocently school boyish appearance, which was closer to how I looked at that point in my life. Often the two approaches were mixed; a very glam girl might have short hair, or assertively masculine biker boots.

Being "sexy" wasn't really the point.  We wanted to be attractive, but we really, really wanted to be interesting.  The interesting people had a sharpness to their glamour that was a world away from the obviousness of the Kardashians and Hiltons.  I remember seeing Yoghi Yamamoto model Susie Bick in a low-rent bar, perfectly dressed in a silk chiffon dress that occasionally revealed thigh-high stockings and jet black hair, that was pulled back in a ponytail, but had two sections cut short at the front to fake a perfect Louise Brooks bob.

Being interesting was so much more important than being obvious.

Classic Simon Foxton styling, mixing up two particularly British looks.  

I don't know how teenagers today, or twenty-somethings for that matter, negotiate the messages they get about their appearance and their behavior. Teenagers aren't meant to be sexy.  Their meant to be shout-y and lout-y and dressed in horrible rags that look crazy to the rest of us.  Their meant to be dyeing their hair bad colors against their parents wishes, camping out for tickets to a show, and writing in their journals with Sharpies.  They are not supposed to reduce themselves to tits, ass and availabilty. For all the bad behavior in London in the 80s you never saw an established, 'society' mother whoring out her teenage children a la Kris Kardashian.

I suppose this model could be in her teens, but her knickers are positively Victorian by today's standards.

Brit supermodel Jeny Howorth. Note the massive boots  the Body Map lyrca.  I STILL want a pair of those.

Brogues were big. I stole a pair from a very disliked boyfriend of my mothers.

Italian movie stars of the 50s and 60s were a big influence.

British Jolie-Laide.

Nothing was ever perfect, and that was all right.

Blogger probs?

Is anyone else having massive problems with blogger? I'm so frustrated with trying to format post that I've pretty much given up trying.  I don't understand why I am getting massive blocks of text that resist any attempt to form paragraphs.  The photos are a nightmare too.