Holle time day 10: being a Rebel Dresser

Yesterday I spend my Golden Hour buying a dress. I conceded to the fact that although I have fabric for 14 dresses here at home I will probably not sew one before x-mas. Next year. So I was daring: I set out to buy a dress I could easily have made myself.
(Only not that easily.)

I hadn’t set foot in a fashion shop for years. The first few shops were a terrible experience. There’s so much crap for sale! Flooded with so much bad music!
Bad fabrics, bad shapes, badly made dresses. How am I supposed to keep warm in skimpy little nothings made of plastic?

Anyway, there’s one shop in town where the pleasure of wearing a comfortable dress comes before anything else: Art Fashion at the Colperstraat 26.

I even remembered to favour breathing ease over the perfect fit. And try to sit down with it to check ease and creeping up of hems.
So here it is, my new dress, in a comfortable one-size-bigger-than-necessary:


It’s 15% wool (which is considerable in this town). It has enough ease to wear a longsleeve or more under it. And this shop showed nuemerous examples of combining layers of clothing and of combining colours and textures. They share the fun of wearing a dress! They enable play.

So I have a green and a silver petticoat to go with this and lots of cardigans (which I will knit in the near future, hopefully before x-mas 2014).

It’s well made (in China) and it is lined with friendly looking fabric.

A nice patterned lining is like a little extra gift for the dress wearer. An inside giggle, meant to make you feel pampered.

Personally I love all my dresses to be lined, preferably with quirky patterns:
DJ-ing hermit crabs; insulting cats in Pippi-wigs; prints of Dutch masterpieces such as Van Gogh or silkprints of weird knitted fabric. A little funny on the inside.

This morning I woke up with a mind to return this dress. You see, the colour is wrong.
It’s all right for the colour analysis I had done:

but I need to think of contrast too.

I need to wear lighter colours near my face and a darker colour contrasting that further away. This matches the contrasts my skin/eyes/hair have and I will look beeeeeautiiifullll. A nice trick.

This new dress forces me to wear light ice pastels near my face (or white) and nothing else. I better exchange it for the dark grey one they have, that one will allow for much more coloured fun to be worn around my face.

Being a knitter I have heaps of coloured-fun-to-be-worn-around-the-face: lace shawls, scarves, cowls, hats, bonnets, wimples, knitted crowns.
I don’t have much of them in ice pastels though…

Here’s the trick in action: this cloche has about the same darkness as my hair, thusly accentuating my fair skin and dark eyebrows (and blue eyes).

This cloche would look could on a likewise dark or darker coloured garment. Not on the new, light dress. I have heaps of knitwear in this midrange of darkness.

Yes, the dark grey dress would be a much better stage for all the knitted goodness and my contrasty face to sparkle on. Resolved I took the dress to put it into the bag again.
That’s when the rebel dresser in me put her foot down.

I want to wear this dress. This will make me smile whenever I look down. A dark grey dress may look smashing to whomever is looking me in the face but the person looking out of this face, me, will only see a dark grey blob when looking down. Nothing to smile about.

So that’s it. I’m keeping the dress. I’ll wear it with whatever I want. In whatever contrast I want. My visible wearing glee will make up for the not-quite-smashing-look. I’m a rebel dresser!

(knitted crown)


Holle Time day 9: stand up straight.

Atlas Profilax results, before and after picture:
atlasprofilax result atlas profilax before after

First picture is from six months ago. Second picture from night before last.
In both I am standing up straight, straight legs, weight equally distributed on both feet and relaxed. My stance feels the same. But it looks so different.

What the pictures do not show is the rotation my upper body used to have. My left shoulder was in front of my shoulderseam. This is also why the bodice of the dress is askew in the before-picture.

In the before-picture you see I have the tendency to wear my head tilted to the right (left in picture). This invited every part below my head to compensate: shoulders not level, a fold in my side, hips uneven and the rotation.
The after-picture shows what is happening now that my head is no longer tilting: it sits more in the middle (Center Front to you sewists), shoulders level out, the fold in my side is decreasing and my hips are leveling out more too.
It’s not all there yet, my body still has to adjust, but you see the first changes.

I had my first massage ever and the lady taught me about my muscles. They release their tension fairly easy. And it’s where they connect to bones that’s sensitive. (Could this be why I want to eat gelatinous fish stock ever since I had the AtlasProfilax treatment? I have a fresh batch in the fridge right now.)

The yoga class I had on Sunday…. is not my thing. I particularly dislike other people breathing it seems.
Also I prefer flowing movements and more freedom in postures, I don’t like to tangle up in a particular prediscribed way. However, I plan to go a few more times because so many people rave about it, I could be easily missing the point.

Sewing as a woman.

Preparing to sew my first garment I find I’m getting ready to join in a long queue of skilled artisans. I’m researching fabrics, techniques and tutorials while I wait for my patterns to arrive. There is so much knowledge! So much eye for details. So many skilled hands. From this place all over the world. From my time all the way back in time to the first time someone covered themselves up.

There is so much more to discover than the clothes I know from my life thus far. I’ve never looked beyond cheap clothes form the stores (that never fit perfect) or ridiculous clothes on the fashion runways. Now I find there is a world of women who know how to fit a piece of cloth to the human form.

My personal line is going from my mother in the ’70s who made expressive garments to my grandmother in the ’30s who sewed spiritual dresses for her dance performances in colonial clubs in the East Indies, accompanied on the piano by the love of her life whom she met on the voyage getting there.

To the centuries of farm women before her who knew their measurements and made everything from scratch while abiding and expressing social messages in their Dutch traditional clothes. They knew how to make cloth from a sheep, from a plant or from leather. It was as common and great a skill as was making fire from a tinder box. Just because modern people haven’t been exposed to it doesn’t mean we don’t have a knack for it.

Dutch traditional dress from various regions, all different, all hand made:

Each region had their own silhouette, their own colours, their own customs. Their own head attire. This is just a very small selection.

There’s remarkable thing about the traditional clothes you see above. There are clothes from about 8 different towns and there’s a lot of black to be seen. The reason there is so much black is that black was added to a costume to indicate sorrow or grief. There are various rules for this: how long you had to wear black, how subdued the overall colours had to be. All depending on who died and how close related you were to them.

As these traditional ways of dressing were dying out only the elder people were still wearing it, with lots of reasons to wear black. Their spouse might have died. Or an adult child. That’s why the memory that still remains in our culture of these dresses is that they are often black or dark coloured. But they are not.

In truth they were brightly coloured and very elaborate. Colour indicated richness. (although dark coloured woolen skirts are very practical in use)

Young girls in Marken dress from around 1910, via wikipedia. The girl in the back is grieving for a distant relative, her sleeves have more dark in them and her hat and bodice darker/more subdued too.

Traditional dress from Spakenburg, photograph by Guus Herbschleb. The flowery fabric occurs in a lot of traditional dress, it echoos the rich fabrics that were brought in from the East Indies back in the 17th century. That was called ‘the Golden century’. Rembrandt, tulips and trading spices and slavery…

dress from Hindeloopen, by dagjeuit.nl

I’m looking forward to have non-black dresses. Black may be safe for a lot of people, it is bit too hard for me. It makes me look stern. Cold. Besides, I don’t need the safety.

lets end with a print by Paul Berthon, 1872-1909 (artist); L. Prang & Co. (publisher)

you know tulips aren’t original from Holland, yeah?

the Sewing Bug

starting a new project: sewing a dress. There’s a sewing bug going around. It’s buzzing on Ravelry. It’s busy on the BBC in the competition The Sewing Bee. And face it, modern women have been stung by it for years now.

pic by Bartek Ambrozik

It is so very satisfactory to make something with your own hands, using your wit. Loving materials and skills. If you can make it fit your own body than you’re feeling like a hero! Taking victory over all the clothes in stores that only flatter store models, not real people. Blowing a raspberry to all advertisements and childhood insecurities they sparked. This is real people, people!

Anyway, for me it’s a distraction from having to lay down more than usual and wanting a puzzle to solve. I’ve got enzyme pathways to study, knitting to do. And I like to sew a dress. Now I need a place to gather some info since I’m scribbling away on snippets and keep losing them. Also: my cat eats snippets for fun.

So I need a safe place. A place my fogged up brain can find again. This is it. Here we go:

Patterns purchased: Butterick 6582 and Butterick 5603:

pics by Butterick

now don’t get distracted by the colour, the models or their bridal tendencies. The trick to patterns is to look for the lines they are sewn with. The long lines. The short lines. Where and how they decrease fabric to suggest a waist or hip. How the neckline falls. Where the lines are to make the flat fabric round a curve.

Me, I am a short, curvy person. Fairly petite were it not for a set of big boobs and broad shoulders to support them. I have no waist, no hips, no buttocks. I would look ridiculous in any poofy ball gown you can imagine. Or in ruffles. Or in Grease-type Rock and Roll skirts.

pic by Sarah Lewis

I will look good in slender long lines that elongate me. I’m “a goblet”. I need ‘prinsess lines’. They run from the top into the skirt. A V-shaped neck will elongate. A skirt that flares below (like a mermaids tail) looks fab on me.

So I did not purchase the patterns for the dresses above. I purchased the line in their patterns:

pattern and pics by Butterick.com

Now you see the lines: long ones. No poofy skirts. No ruffles. Each dress has three variants.

My size: a mystery.

Size converters on the internet throw me off because in the Netherlands I’m a 36, a Small (providing I get a bit of extra room for ‘the ladies’). The converter says that a (German) 36 is a US 8, Medium. A US Small is a German 34 which is way too small for me. Than there’s vanity sizing where clothes companies suddenly called an M an S or the other way around. Has to do with making the customer feel they are smaller than they are? Or guilting them into buying more? I don’t know, I’m a hermit in a sheep’s fleece.

pic by Markus Biehal

Size is all about the frame. Your garment has to fit the back of your shoulders and the waist should be about the height of your waist. But you can amend the position of the waist easily (I think). You cannot amend shoulder width easily. Your shoulders is where the garment hangs from, get that size right.

So: I based my ‘size’ for sewing patterns on my frame and plan to adjust the rest. I measured my upperbust and I think for Butterick I’m a 16 with hips going to 14.

(Converter says a US16 is an Xtra Large and a German 44. They are mad. I’d swim in a 44!) Yay, Butterick and Vogue don’t do vanity sizing, they are consistent in their measurements. I’m a 16 in sewing patterns and an 8 when buying of the rack. Mystery solved.

my measurements:

upperbust: 92 cm/ 36″

bust: 97 cm/ 38″

waist: 76 cm/30″

hip: 96 cm/ nearly 38″

neck to waist: 40 cm/ 15,75″

bra: 70FF (don’t get me started on bra size converters!)

at 1.61cm/ 5′ 4″ I’m a Miss Petite to Vogue and Butterick patterns. Waist to hip is standard 18 cm/ 7″ in their patterns.

pic by Ariel da Silva Parreira

Things I do not know yet:

Lining. It is important. I believe this is a separate dress you make from the same pattern. You ‘hang’ it in the dress and you attach it to it. It is there to give the outer dress some stability and prevent seeing through and make the outer dress swirl around your body and not cling to it. I think.

O no! I have to learn about ease all over again! knitting stretches and I’ve got a basic of understanding knitting ease now. But sewing!

And seams! There will be seams!

and fabric…. which has bias. And grain. I can’t have grain, I don’t like gluten.

so much more to learn.

A few things to remember:

– make a dummy dress first. This is called a twirl or a voile I believe. Or a toile?

– my sewing machine is a vintage foot treadle. It goes to and fro. No fancy stitches. No fraying fabric. Just keep it simple.

– there’s a lot of hand sewing involved in sewing a garment. That machine is a workhorse. The fine print is done by hand.

– this is a multiple day project (think weeks). Make sure to put your stuff away in an orderly fashion (with notes would be splendid) so you know where to pick it up again. No need to invent the wheel every time you get out the project. A box of its own would be perfect.

– I plan to perfect one pattern, fit it perfectly to my body measurements. Than use that for future dresses.

It will be fun. And for once I showed up on time to participate in a trend!

pic by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Now for fun: go google some pictures of the patterns (try one and try two, not sure these links work), it’s amazing what different dresses these patterns yield. Dresses on real people! I’m already learning so much! Burdastyle.com and PatternReview.com and many more sewing platforms have a lot to offer. So many women generously share their knowledge and experience. I love it and feel part of it, while reposing and reclusing.




btw, I have started a new blog to keep track of this sewing project. Have a look over at BumbleSews.wordpress.com. The first post is a virtual copy of this one so there won’t be much interesting to see in April 2013.