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The answer to that question is yes.  Apparently a LOT of people want my copy of McCall’s 4425.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not giving it away, so feel free to clench your little fists and punch your screens in frustration over the very enticing and misleading title of this post. McCall’s 4425 is one of the jewels of my hefty, enviable collection of vintage gown patterns. I stalked eBay for a long time to find this one in a small size and I had to bid-bomb many weak, inferior eBayers to win it. And it does bring me joy to gaze at its beauty and know that I have what so many others desperately covet.

What does NOT bring me joy is the sheer number of people who email me asking me if they can have it, buy it for cheap, or if I can (seriously??) make them a copy and send it to them. (This is not a knitting pattern- we’re not talking about a 3-minute photocopy job here.) Inevitably the writers of the emails justify their requests by quoting the ridiculously high prices that vintage pattern dealers want for original copies of the pattern, and by telling me that they desperately need it for a wedding/gala/cotillion but don’t want to pay that much. What am I supposed to say in response? “OMG are you serious??? They’re charging $150 for  the pattern?  Oh you POOR THING!! Take mine!” Listen, peeps, I know how much the pattern costs- I actually bought it, which is how it came to be that I have it. I’ve had it for so long that I don’t remember how much I paid for it (certainly not $150) but I know it was NOT CHEAP. So it drives me kind of insane when people “graciously” offer to reimburse me for the cost of tissue paper to make a copy and for the postage it would cost for me to send it to them when I actually paid the money for this pattern that they don’t want to pay. (Also not my favorite?  When people say, “The cheapest I’ve seen it for online is $125, and that’s ridiculous.  Would you be willing to sell yours for $50?”  That’s just bad negotiation skills in a seller’s market.)

Now, I don’t mean to come across as a let-them-eat-cake (let-them-wear-cashmere?) seamstress (even though, let’s face it, I am a freakin’ empress) I realize that not everyone can afford to splurge hugely on patterns (I certainly wouldn’t pay $150 for it), and I know what it’s like to covet that elusive vintage tissue paper masterpiece. But when something is out of my budget, I’m not about to email strangers on the internet and ask them if I can have theirs for free or if they can make me a copy for a fraction of the price, and then explain the request by saying that it’s just too expensive for me to buy my own. Lots of things are expensive- Prada boots, signed first editions of Catcher in the Rye, Warhols, Bernina 830s… I can’t afford them, can you send me yours? I’ll pay for shipping.

So I received an innovative request from Traci, who stumbled upon my blog while looking for the pattern, asking if she could “rent” the pattern for a short period of time such that she could copy it herself. I have to give a big thumbs-up to Traci for proposing a solution that would require neither hours of labor on my part, nor giving up my precious pattern at a fraction of market value, while actually offering compensation for the request.  Thank you, Traci, for being decent. If Selfish had even a tiny sliver of goodwill to bestow, she would give it to you. Of course, shipping my rare patterns across the oceans to strangers without any guarantee that they’ll come back isn’t the wisest of ideas, and I don’t feel quite right about distributing my patterns for a fee such that others can make copies.

What I proposed instead was that I would send her a good quality photo of the pattern piece drawings such that she might be able to recreate the dress herself. For all the hullaballoo over McCall’s 4425, it’s actually relatively simple- a basic double-darted strapless sheath with an asymmetrical front hemline, and an additional draped panel that gathers into a little loop at the hip. And being the magnanimous sewing empress that I am, I’m providing the images to you as well, out of the quasi-kindness of my teeny, tiny, almost nonexistent heart:

Photos of pattern envelopes seem to be pretty standard fare on the web, so I’m going to assume there’s nothing unethical about posting them here. If the good folks at McCall’s think otherwise, I’ll remove them. In the meantime, you can click on them for larger views. See?  It’s really not that complicated a pattern. (I’m guessing that what people really want is that drape, so you could easily start with any strapless sheath pattern and just modify it to accommodate the drape going off of the photos above.)

Incidentally, there are people on the web selling what I assume are unauthorized copies of this pattern if you really want it, but even the copies seem to run around the $100 mark. I’m not going to post links because I don’t want to promote those businesses, but if you Google and check Etsy, you’ll probably find some. As for making copies of my own, I’ll reiterate what I’ve got on my FAQ:

Despite lots of inquiring and searching, I have never been able to find definitive information that convinces me that copying and distributing vintage patterns from the 1950s is legal in all cases. In addition, copying patterns is time consuming and requires big paper and lots of space. If you can provide me with evidence that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that a particular pattern is no longer under copyright (and by this I mean something along the lines of a record from the US Copyright Office indicating that the copyright on a specific pattern has expired, not a quote from an ill-informed rant about pattern copyright on someone’s blog), then we can talk. My hypothetical fee for legally copying patterns is the same as my hypothetical fee for sewing: $85/hour for labor plus all materials costs.

Now. How may I help you?

The Selfish Seamstress has a disproportionately large waist. It’s nothing that can be corrected with crunches or dieting; I’m simply built like a cylinder. And before you make any diagnoses of body dysmorphic disorder, I’d like to point out that I’m basing this on (somewhat) empirical evidence. For example, according to the Big 4 size charts, I’m size 4 in the bust and hip, and between a 10 and 12 in the waist. Even as a scrawny, smallest-in-my-class kid in elementary school, and a 90-pound ballet dancer/cheerleader(!) in college, every time I had my measurements taken for a costume, the teacher or costumer would say, “Wait, that can’t be right,” and I would have to assure them that it was indeed, and that my waist really was that much larger than those of my dancer peers, and yes, that’s just my anatomy, and no, their expressions of shock at my huuuuge waist measurement were not doing wonders for my self-esteem. Smaller-than-average hips plus smaller-than-average bust plus larger-than-average waist is sort of the opposite of “curves.” Instead of of having “curves,” I have what could be referred to as “straights.” As one might phrase it nicely, “She’s not fat, she’s just big-waisted.”

And although I’m shaped like the world’s fastest hourglass, the only real inconvenience of this shape is the occasional need to alter patterns at the waist. Dresses, jackets, and tops are usually fine without alteration; wearing ease seems to accommodate me and my monstrous midriff just fine.  But skirts and pants occasionally need a little extra room, probably because the waist of skirts or pants need to be close fitting such that they actually stay up. I’m currently making slow progress (sewing time these days is very limited) on view B of Simplicity 2451, which is going fine construction-wise but is starting give off a vague air of frump:

After holding the tissue paper pieces of the yoke up to my waist, I could see that I was going to need to add a little room just to the waist edge and that the hip would be fine. No pics from the skirt, but here’s an example of how I did this on my Vogue 1051 alice + olivia pants. I first traced the original yoke pieces onto scrap paper, made some slashes through the curved parts, and spread them at the waist edge to add about 1/4″ to each piece. If you slash each piece 4 times like I did, then you only need to spread the slashes open by 1/16″ at the waist edge.  Add all these tiny slashes together and that’s an extra inch added to the total circumference of the waistband (16 slashes of 1/16″ each.) Notice that the bottom hip edge of the yoke remains the same  because I didn’t need to add any extra at the hip. The purists would then trace the new shapes onto paper and work from those, but I just used the slashed pattern pieces and some scotch tape directly on my fabric.

Here you can see the difference between the original pattern pieces and the edited ones. It doesn’t look like much, but it makes a difference. You’ll also notice that a little bit of the curvature of the yoke is lost.  If your waist is large-ish in proportion to your hip, this is what you want.  Think about a making a cuff to go around a cylinder versus a funnel – you’d need a straight strip of paper to go around the cylinder, but a curved piece to go around a funnel. And if you’re closer to a cylinder than a funnel, then you need a straighter waistband.

Now that we’ve gone through the instructional portion of this post, I’d like to get to my real point. Much in the way that it didn’t exactly feel great when my dance teachers would stare in disbelief at the tape measure wrapped around my teenage midsection, I’m never exactly overjoyed to find that a pattern fits everywhere except for in the waist, where it is woefully small. Other deviations from the standard are addressed with names that sound somewhat flattering; you might need to alter your pattern to accommodate a “full bust” or a “swayback” or “sloping shoulders.” Or perhaps you are “petite” or “tall.” Nothing sounds good about having to alter a pattern on account of having a larger than average waist.

Obviously the Selfish Seamstress is about as perfect as one can be, physically and otherwise, so she sees no need to saddle herself with unflattering terminology. I’m therfore introducing… the FWA. Yes, I’m now going to refer to my pant and skirt edits as a “Full Waist Adjustment.” Doesn’t that sound all womanly and curvy and voluptuous? I want people to sigh with envy when they read that I had to alter a pattern by doing a 2″ FWA. People should read my blog entries, look down doubtfully at their own sad, deficient middles and wonder why they weren’t blessed by the gods with the kind of midriff endowment that the Selfish Seamstress has. Pre-teen girls should look at photos of me and wonder when their waists are going to develop. Guys should meet me at parties and then have this kind of conversation on the following day:

Guy 1: Dude, did you meet that Elaine chick last night?

Guy 2: Seriously, I know.  She was like [makes crude gesture of putting his hands in the space on either side of his waist] out to here. [Two older women at the next table look over disapprovingly]

Guy 1: Daaaamn, I could not stop staring at her waist. It was driving me crazy.  And she knew it too. She knew I was into it.

Guy 2: Whoa, dude, did you hit that?

Guy 1: Pfft, I WISH! Seriously, the last girl I went out with was, like, 23″ max. And that was AFTER eating. It was pathetic. Her face was okay though.

[Ugh, and for those of you who are about to comment something stupid like, “Haha, I have the exact opposite problem! Patterns are never small enough for my 22″ waist! It’s so inconvenient- I eat whatever I want, and my waist just stays tiny! Even my doctor says I have to gain weight, and I don’t even exercise!” you should know that my eyeroll switch is always triggered well before my envy switch. First, allow me to congratulate you not only on your figure but also on your complete freedom from self-awareness; second, yes, you can use this trick to make the waist of a pattern smaller- just overlap the pieces slightly at the waist edge rather than spreading them apart; and third, I think there are some other, more interesting blogs waaaayyyyy over there that you might want to check out.]

Okay, readers, update on the overturned box full of crap that is my life. Dan and I “successfully” moved into our new apartment last week, and by this I mean we got all of our stuff into the new place. This can only be considered a success if you have very low standards for success. It pretty much looks like a moving truck threw up in an otherwise nice apartment. The good news is that my beloved Husqvarna is here. The bad news is that we toasted a transformer when trying to use an American projector and now I’m terrified of attempting to get the Husqvarna going on the European current. But I can’t deal with that anyway because anything I would need to sew is buried under the crapvalanche as it is.

Since folks have been asking, here are a couple of photos of the place. You can tell my priorities are in order because the first thing we had to do was to run out to Ikea to get the enormous PS Maskros hanging lamp that I’d coveted since I first laid eyes on it:

Seriously, this lamp is a BEAST. It is nearly a yard in diameter and it is a bucking fitch to assemble and install.  Plus as we have discovered, it is a “one time use” lamp. You put all the paper florets on, but you can’t take them off later, so there’s pretty much no way to move it unless you have Go-Go-Gadget arms. It will live in this apartment and this apartment only. But it makes such pretty shadows on the walls and ceiling and it’s such a joy to wake up to in the morning that I don’t even mind that Dan has blisters all over his fingers from assembling all the wires and plastic bits.  Also cool?  When you’re partway through attaching the paper flowers (the easy part, albeit quite time consuming) it kind of looks like a friendly version of the partially reconstructed Death Star.  Yeah, decor-related Star Wars reference!

Incidentally I’ve ordered swatches of celery green cotton velvet to do some drapes for that room and pick up the lighter green color in the bedding.

Here’s a partial view of the sewing room/guest room:

This room will get the blue and ivory striped silk dupioni curtains. It has two built in closets that I will undoubtedly stuff with fabric, and off on the far right hand side is one of the corners you can’t see where my sewing table is. I am currently plotting to replace the queen size bed with a daybed or other something that can fold up so that I can consume more of the room with sewing stuff. I want my guests to feel as though they are less important than sewing.  Because it is true. Take that, friends and family!

And if you’re standing in the sewing room looking out the door, you see through the dining room into the living room where one of the movers is. He’s gone now though.

There are a couple of other rooms as well, but for now these are the only pictures that don’t look like crazy town. More soon though. And as soon as the drapery lining I ordered for my curtains shows up, there may even be some *gasp* sewing!

During my recent multi-week blogging hiatus, several non-trivial, sewing-related things happened in Selfishland that I have not yet mentioned. So let me try to catch you up a bit. First, my cousin Evelyn, who is as sweet, warm, and fun as Selfish is solitary and curmudgeonly, introduced me to the wonder that is N.Y. Elegant Fabrics in the NYC garment district. Thus was born a new obsession. I also got to meet up with wonderful Lindsay T., that beautiful and knowledgeable celebrity of the online sewing world in an envy-inducing jacket à la Chanel. And various comments from readers seem to imply that I met up with Peter for supper, but I have to admit that I have no recollection of the encounter. Given that the Selfish Seamstress abstains from the use of any mind- or mood-altering substances that might otherwise explain such a gap in memory, I guess that either the meeting made no impression on me whatsoever, or else so much that I blocked it out entirely. Either way, I’m not too worried. And upon arriving in my new home, I discovered that I am a mere two blocks from a store devoted to vintage sewing machines. And I can’t say I haven’t flirted a bit with a tiny, adorable Elna portable that winks at me every time I walk past the window.

Oh, and I became a columnist for Vogue Patterns Magazine, with my first column appearing in the current issue.


Hello, Mother Ship! I’ve been a VPM fan ever since I read Gertie’s post about it and treated myself to a couple of issues. (Seriously, lots of useful articles and tips, and I love the way they style the garments so much more than the styling in most other American sewing mags.) And now that I contribute to it, it’s kind of like being a big fan of MYSELF. Which is one of my favorite things to do.

Now, you know the Selfish Seamstress doesn’t generally play well with others in unless she is the boss. But seriously, the chance to contribute to BMV?! They probably could have asked me to go around their headquarters sweeping up thread bits and I would have said yes if it would win me the right to say that I work for BMV. (Okay, technically I don’t “work for” them, I’m freelance. But I see no reason to be honest and accurate when lies are so much more impressive.) Sighhh, I feel like Cinderella. Even though I’ve always identified more with the wicked stepsister.

Okay, I’m going to answer some questions that will probably arise.

Q: Are you selling out?
A: Pffft, whatever. Selling out requires that you have some semblance of a sense of integrity or values to compromise in the first place.  As the Selfish Seamstress has never had either, it’s impossible for her to compromise them.

Q: What’s your column about?
A: It’s called Sewing Therapy, and if I had to sum it up in a phrase, it addresses social and psychological sewing issues. But really it’s just me making fun of stuff. Doesn’t that sound deep?

Q: Is this a one-time thing or are we going to have to sit through your crap in every issue?
A: I plan to contribute as often as they’ll let me! There are six issues a year, and until they tell me to stop wasting their time with my drivel, I hope to be there.

Q: Does VPM edit your writing?
A: Of course. The Selfish Seamstress in raw form is much too negative and profane for print media so they’ve got to clean her up at least a little bit. You know how often she feels compelled to use the word “beeyatch,” and VPM is a classy publication. But don’t worry, her nasty spirit and evil genius can withstand a little necessary copy editing to shine through. And you can still get your dose of pure, uncensored Selfish Seamstress here, beeyatch.

Q: Do they pay you? What are you going to do with your newfound riches?
A: Yes. For the time being, my plan is to use $20 to get a VPM subscription for my mom (who loves to see my name in print, but is not so keen reading my scholarly articles in scientific journals) and donate the remainder to charitable causes (currently St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.)

Q: Isn’t accepting payment for regular assignments akin to making a job from your hobby, which contradicts your earlier post in which you said you had no interest in that?  Does that just make you a fraud and a hypocrite.
A: Sure, whatever. I’m really too busy and important for this argument. I write for Vogue Patterns Magazine, you know.

Q: Does this mean your blog is going to become one big ad for BMV and Vogue Patterns Magazine?
A: What? Of course not. I am free to continue posting and whatever topics I want, and state my cranky opinions as I always have. So stay tuned and keep reading. And GO BUY VOGUE PATTERNS MAGAZINE RIGHT NOW. BUY IT. ON NEWSSTANDS NOW. BUUUUUUUUYYYYY IT.

Readers, please.  You have to understand that the Selfish Seamstress is an extremely important and busy woman.  And now that she has landed in Europe, she finds herself absolutely swamped with new responsibilities. Think about it. It’s been a long time since Europe has had to contend with the Selfish Seamstress for more than a few days at a time. She’s got a lot of ground to cover- new colleagues from whom to alienate herself, new students to frighten, new friends to avoid making, and countless waitstaff and service industry people to annoy. Gifted as Selfish may be at rubbing people the wrong way, it’s still quite a lot of work.

Now, you in comparison, dear readers, are easy. All it takes for me to frustrate and anger you is to simply stop blogging and ignore you for a few weeks. And judging from your recent comments, I can’t help but pat myself on the back and think, “Job freakin’ well done, Elaine.  Go treat yourself to another croissant.” Oh, this continent is utterly teeming with croissants.

But as you know, the Selfish Seamstress has never been one to rest on her laurels (hence her need to find new parts of the world to abuse), and she therefore thinks that there may be more effective ways to get under your skin than simply ignoring you. So allow me to introduce you to my new friend Envy.

Yep, I’m still without my beloved sewing machine as it slowly makes its way across the oceans, but knitting continues in its usual plodding and mind-numbing fashion. A couple of chilly mornings sent me in a panic to a nearby department store for two skeins of Lang Jawoll Magic sock yarn with which to make my own knockoff Missoni scarf. (I’ve been rather fixated on Missoni knits lately. More on that later though.) The traditional fan and feather pattern is easy enough, though a scarf made from fingering weight yarn isn’t exactly an overnight project.

And while I’m bragging (which is pretty much always), allow me to point out that a similar-in-flavor actual Missoni scarf retails for about $270. (My yarn cost: approximately $22. Haha!  Take that, Italy.)

Green with Envy yet?  If not, perhaps you haven’t looked closely enough.  Here’s the Missoni-licious money shot:

Mwahahaha, miss me much?

Yup. The Carlos Miele sweater is getting bigger. Nope it’s still not finished. Nope, it’s still not terribly interesting to look at.

The BurdaMag that needs to get packed soon is shown for scale, and because I was flipping through it wistfully, reminiscing about my glorious sewing days (i.e. last week.) It’s dark times like these, as the needles click stitch by stitch, when I start to wonder whether you’re sorry yet that you told me to keep blogging about “whatever,” and whether the “It looks great so far!” comments are coming from other sewers who pity me in my sad knitting state. This is what it has come to. Pity and knitting. Perhaps I will put on some sweatpants. They’re more comfortable than yesterday’s cargo pants.

In the meantime, you’re best going off and finding something more interesting to read.  Maybe there’s some great stuff about sewing from Denise on The Blue Gardenia blog today. Oh wait, no, it’s just more about lame old me and my sad little sewing space which doesn’t even exist anymore. Definitely check out her fantastic blog for her previous posts about more awesome sewing spaces from more interesting bloggers though. Sigh. I think I’ll go mope more and bake some cakes for other people now.

The Selfish Seamstress is officially unemployed. Surprisingly, this is not because she was dismissed on account of her attitude problem and inability to get along with others. No, nerdy little Selfish decided to change universities, abandon the igloo in which she currently lives, and head back to Europe where she can alienate and irritate a whole new set of academics. She is now in between the two jobs and in the stressful throes of culling and organizing, neither of which she is any good at. Selfish’s delightful mancessory Dan also has found exciting employment in their soon-to-be place of residence as well, and Sasa is blissfully unaware that she will be shoved into a bag and transported within the next few weeks.

As you can imagine, sewing time is going to slow to a drip, if not disappear altogether for a while. At the moment I’m working on what I’m referring to as “The Last Dress… for Now.” Made from the graphic print black and white ponte di roma that my parents hauled up to me last week using a very modified version of the Simplicity 9482 wrap dress (probably out of print, as I’ve had this pattern for about 7 years and it’s kind of not that great). Here it is in its half-finished state, looking a bit sad and droopy on its hanger:

I was going to use my beloved modified Vogue 8379 pattern, but after playing around with the fabric, I decided that the double pleats in the the Vogue bodice would detract from the strong, straight, diagonal elements of the print. I really wanted to minimize the details to keep the print as uninterrupted as possible. So I dug out the old Simplicity pattern, which is so minimalist it’s practically a bathrobe pattern. Although I graded it down to a 4, the dress has some largeness issues at the moment that have to be fixed. But other than that, I think it’s working out decently well and I’m pretty sure that this is the dress that this print was destined for.

After The Last Dress… for Now though, my plan is to not start any new projects until after the move. If I do have sewing time, I’ll finish up stuff that I started a while ago and never completed.  (That’s the plan at least. But you never know with the capricious Selfish Seamstress. She could at any point decide that she needs a new coat RIGHT NOW.)

Even after the move, it will take a while before my machine, patterns, stash, tools, and notions arrive in Europe. That leaves me with the small matter of what to do in the meantime with the online bucket of whining that I call a blog during the coming hectic and sewing-impoverished weeks (possibly months). What do you think?  Go on a blogging hiatus? Switch to being a knitting and crochet blog for the time being? Rant about all things sewing-related without actually sewing? All haiku all the time? Get by on hand sewing? I feel like I should keep it up in some fashion, especially since I don’t have any Real Life friends so you’re the closest thing that I’ve got. So, what do you want to read? No promises, of course ;)

Tell me again
Why you think that MY sewing
Should save YOU money?

Check out the Selfish Seamstress Store for haiku goodies- proceeds will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Things are going to get a little bit slow here in Selfish Seamstress Land (not officially a country, but it should be!) as the (future) in-laws have arrived in town for a weeklong visit. Fortunately for me, I adore my in-laws. I realize this must come as a shock since after all 1) they’re in-laws and 2) the Selfish Seamstress doesn’t really have the capacity to adore anyone but herself and her cat. So perhaps I just adore them to frustrate you with my contrariness. In fact, there may even be a chance that I’m halfway through knitting a handbag for my wonderful (future) mother-in-law just to disappoint you. Maybe.

Anyway, readers, sewing time is scarce now, and progress on the Vogue 1051 alice + olivia pants is temporarily on hold. But they are just inches from being done and looking gooooood so far. They’re lending credence to my theory that short women can indeed wear wide leg pants if they are proportioned correctly. So fellow munchkin-sized ladies, listen to ME and not your silly fashion magazines that try to tell you otherwise!

Speaking of long-held but shaky conventional fashion wisdom, I have a gripe that’s been simmering in my mind for a while now about seasonal color analysis and I want to gripe it all over you. Seasonal color analysis, for those of you who haven’t run into it yet, is based on the idea that you can determine what colors are most flattering on you based on your coloring- usually some combination of hair color, skin tone, and eye color, with hair color being the most mandatory across different ways of doing the analysis. Based on your coloring, you fall into one of four categories – Spring, Summer, Autumn, or Winter. Each category has recommended colors or color families that supposedly flatter you and, either explicitly or implicitly, colors that should be avoided.

Now, I completely buy the UNDERLYING CONCEPT. Certain skin tones and hair colors work well with certain garment colors and poorly with others (particularly when worn near the face) – I’m on board with this much. What gets me steamed, however, is the way in which most of the analyses and categorizations are done. I’ve looked at several websites for color analysis and they get detailed and subtle about some skin and hair tones- are you cool ash blonde? Honey blonde? Strawberry blonde? Is your hair light brown? Medium brown? Dark brown?  Cool or warm brown? Is your skin porcelain? Ivory? Peach? Warm beige? Olive?

Well, guess what.  If your hair is black, according to any analysis that I have seen, you are a winter. Now, let’s think about this for a second. Based on black hair alone (winter also includes some other hair colors), that winter category is going to contain the vast majority of people of Asian descent, the vast majority of people of ethnic African descent, the majority of Middle Easterners, the majority of Latinos, most Native Americans, most Australian aboriginals, a large number of European caucasians from countries such as Greece, Italy,  Russia, and Spain, and a whole slew of other people besides. Now, I’m no expert on global demographics or population statistics, but I’m going guess very conservatively that people with black hair constitute more than half the world’s population. (And yes, I know there are exceptions, but don’t go bringing up the fact that you know an Indian woman who has beautiful natural red hair or a lovely blonde Puerto Rican as some sort of counterexample intended to prove that black hair isn’t actually that common. That would be what we call “flawed logic.”) So basically we’re talking about the majority of the world’s population supposedly only looking good in one quadrant of the color season spectrum, and the remaining cool blond/honey blond/light brown/chestnut brown/redhead folks sharing the other three quarters (not to mention that some of them also fall into the winter category)? I DON’T THINK SO.

The Selfish Seamstress has been labeled a “winter” more times than she can count by ladies who caution her not to wear off-white or brown in slavish adherence to a color categorization that is clearly flawed when it comes to her more-than-half of the population. (And besides, that’s obviously a load of crap because as we all know, the Selfish Seamstress looks awesome in EVERYTHING.) To take it to a point of extreme skepticism, I even suspect that the black-haired “winters” that the originators of color season analysis had in mind were not the beautiful ebony haired women of Ethiopia, Korea, Columbia, or Pakistan, but rather the raven-tressed Snow White type, with the rest of us tossed into that bin as an afterthought.

If you haven’t already figured out the rather sensitive point that I’m trying to make, I’ll just put it out there baldly- this system fails for women of color because it fails to acknowledge that women of color themselves are a spectrum, rather than a bunch of people who can be easily lumped into a single point on the spectrum. And I’m not just being pouty and pulling some “oppressed minority” BS. Even if I look at my own cousins, all of whom, like me, are of Asian descent, I can tell you that we all have black hair and we all look good in different colors. Some of them look lovely in pastels and some can really pull off brights. Some of us look good in rich, deep colors, and *gasp* some of us DON’T look good in black. What can possibly account for this variation?  The fact that not all black-haired women have the same skin color.

And if it seems silly to suggest that any sort of system intended to offer generalizations should account for the comparatively small variations in skin tone among one Asian-American woman’s cousins, then let bump it up a notch and ask you this- what analysis method worth its salt would take women as varied in coloring and appearance as me, Reethi, Erica, Tany, Cidell, SusanMeli88a, Ariel, Angela, and Carolyn and try to tell us that we all should stick to the same colors simply because we all have black hair? And meanwhile the analysis methods very considerately acknowledge the differences between Ms. Light Chestnut and Ms. Medium Chestnut by suggesting entirely different palettes for each? Pfffffffffffffffft. Let alone the social and racial implications of a system that puts me and most of the rest of the world into a box labeled “Other,” the system simply doesn’t work.

Like I said, I think there’s merit to the underlying idea that one can systematically provide useful color guidelines based on variation in skin tone and hair color. But seasonal color analysis is seriously weak if you aren’t Ms. Strawberry Blonde & Co., and I can’t take an analysis seriously if it doesn’t take me seriously. After all, I look fabulous in brown.

So don’t call me a winter.

I’ve been short for pretty much my whole life, with the exception of a period around the 6th grade when I was smack in the middle of my class in terms of height (I know this because they lined us up according to height for our “graduation” ceremony and I was dead center for the girls.) And you always hear about things that don’t suit this body type, styles that don’t look good on that height or whatever. And then you go to your local Banana Republic or Macy’s, try stuff on, and the mirror confirms what all the magazine fashion “advice” says.

But to tell you the truth, I’ve always held some skepticism about those generalizations for petite people, because so many of them seem to be based on taking garments, shortening at them at the hem, and then declaring that they don’t work. And we all know that correct proportioning is a lot more than just hemming to the right length. I’ve long suspected that some (though not all) of the styles and garments that are deemed to be “unflattering” on short women would actually be fine if proportioned correctly. I secretly even believe that short women could pull off the dreaded cape if they made them at the right length for themselves rather than trying them on at the department store (but testing that theory is not high on my list of priorities right now.) And after discovering last week that pencil skirts don’t turn me into a stump if I make them to fit myself properly instead of relying on Armani Exchange to make a bottom that looks decent on a 5’0″ woman, I’m feeling somewhat emboldened.

And so I’ve decided to take on Vogue 1051, the alice + olivia pant that is decidedly wider in the leg than is generally deemed advisable for a woman with a 25″ inseam. (I’ve gone back and forth on this pattern for a while- I’ve seen the pants made up a lot and while they usually look nice, the made-up versions I’ve seen generally don’t have the swingy edge to them that I like so much about the pattern envelope picture and look more like a standard bootcut trouser silhouette. We’ll see how mine go.)First of all, these pants are loooooong. I did three petite alterations- one in the thigh, one at the knee, and one in the calf (because remember- it’s not just about shortening at the hem!) and probably removed a total of 6″ of length altogether. The final length should be just an inch or two above the floor when I’m wearing heels. And I muslined them up, and you know what?  They don’t turn me into a stump! My theory seems to be panning out thus far.

Ok, so now, about the muslin… I was, as usual, out of old bedsheets to cut up, so I started looking through my stash for something suitable that I didn’t mind sacrificing. (I was going to use some plaid flannel that Dan bought when he decided he was going to sew doggie jackets for all four of his family’s dogs. I told him that after he made one he might not want to make the other three, but he went ahead and bought enough fabric for four anyway, insisting that he would. Guess how many he made. In the end, the dogs just took turns wearing the jacket, and Dan discovered firsthand how stash happens. Anyway, the flannel is soft and nice and would be a great lining for something, so I decided to save it.) It’s utterly shameful to say, but what I decided to sacrifice was… Pendleton wool. Yes, for a muslin.

This is not just any Pendleton wool- this is the wool that BurdaStyle sent me to make the BurdaStyle book coat. Ultimately I ended up substituting coat fabrics due to a necessary last-minute design change, so I ended up with lots of this wool left over. And as shameful as it is to use Pendleton for a muslin, I just knew that I was never ever actually going to use the fabric for a proper garment because it’s not my color:

It’s on a hanger because it’s just far too scratchy to wear without lining. It’s a jacket or heavy bottom weight flannel. The color is darker than sky blue, but not as dark as French blue, and so I’ve been calling it “Viagra blue,” for reasons that should be obvious:

Haha, Viagra reminds me of these little guys. Anyone remember them? I should make some with some of the remaining Pendleton. This is serious.

The pants are kind of fun to put on though because every time I look in the mirror I think I should make a little matching jacket and a polyester tie neck blouse so I can look like a hip grandma from the 70’s. Or better yet, like Mr. Furley:

That guy totally rocks this color. I, however, don’t look so good in it.

For the real version, I’ve cut into one of my most treasured pieces of fabric in my stash, a heathered mocha brushed wool flannel that I picked up on a fabric bender at Mood during the holidays last year. I don’t know how they made this stuff so amazingly soft, but it feels like cashmere and I can easily wear it unlined. It would have been well worth it even at twice its $18/yard price (on the high side for me.)

So that’s where I am, trying to defy well established style advice about wide pants on short legs, using Pendleton as scrap fabric, and making somewhat obscure references to the late 70s and early 80s. I should quit here.

I’m not the biggest or most extreme stasher, but if you’ve been following along, you know that I can hold my own in fabric and pattern acquisition. But despite having plenty of both around the house, I often find myself running up against a bottleneck because I’m low on something else. For example, I’m forever running out of lining and interfacing and I never seem to have the right type, length, and color of zipper in the house. Frustrating, and yet I find it hard to stock up on these things strategically.

So this past weekend, I made a little trip to my local fabric store to take advantage of the 50% off sale, and came back with some of my favorites:

Covered button sets in different sizes (I love these things! I already broke into one pack for the plaid pants hat), denim needles, hook and bar sets for pants, and just because I figured I would eventually need it (and learn to use it,) clear elastic. Interfacing, lining, and zippers were also 50% off, and I picked up a few yards of lightweight fusible interfacing, but once again I stood in front of the linings and zippers with no idea of what I’d have a need for down the line.  (Doesn’t help that the linings at my local store are pretty weak and that 50% off still leaves them at $8/yard.)

Oh, and teeny tiny confession- although it had been my plan not to purchase any more fabric, I was seduced.  By a charmeuse of all things, and you know I generally have no love for slippery, silky things, either for sewing or wearing:

But ohhh the color, somewhere hovering between grass green, moss green, and olive, with a muted, subtle shine. I was sucked in by it and by the quality of it. It feels and looks like silk, but I’m pretty sure it’s not given the general caliber of my fabric store, so perhaps it’s rayon?  It doesn’t look, feel, or move like polyester, but perhaps they’ve really improved the technology for making poly charmeuse. All I know is that I’m rediscovering how little I enjoy sewing with slippy fabrics, as I make up yet another Burda blouse 119 from the February 2008 issue (still in progress):

Fortunately it requires no lining or zippers! How about you?  What notions or materials do you find yourself unable to keep in stock? What strategies do you have for making sure you’ve got a healthy supply of basic sewing necessities without having piles of stuff you’re never going to get around to using?

Don’t get me wrong, Readers, I love a good scandal, a bit of intrigue, and playing the victim while snickering maliciously under my breath all the while. But for the record, I should probably state this: I *don’t* think that clothing designers and RTW manufacturers are ripping me off.

I’ve received several emails from readers in the last few months (thank you!) pointing out dresses that bear a resemblance to my Coffee Date Dress design and suggesting that perhaps the dear Selfish Seamstress’s ideas are being swiped. The emails range from joking-wink-wink to seriously conspiratorial in tone. I do adore that you readers are noticing these things- it makes me feel like I have a little International Army of Selfish Spies looking out for the well being of me, the Selfish Spy Commander. But at the same time, I can’t quite bring myself to believe that major mass market retailer Ann Taylor:

famed Aussie designer Alannah Hill:

or the indomitable McCall’s:

are really trolling my blog for new designs :) Though I do love the idea of calling up an Ann Taylor branch and yelling, “Put me on the phone with Ann this instant, you inept, glorified cashier! I need to put a stop to this blatant poaching of my intellectual property right now! What do you mean, ‘Ann who?’ Ann TAYLOR, you imbecile!” to whomever picks up.

I myself did not “copy” the Coffee Date Dress design from anything I saw either. In fact, the Coffee Date Dress, which I designed in February 2009, was originally an attempt to reproduce a dress I saw on ModCloth that had a single ruffle that went all the way around the neckline. But after gathering the long strip of fabric for the ruffle, I started playing around with it on the dress, and ended up liking the zigzag ruffled jabot variation so much that I decided to veer from the original plan. I don’t recall having seen it before that, but the fact that it looked “right” to me probably means that I had seen something similar that had slipped into my subconscious, or else that the time was just right for that particular detail to look nifty. I’m guessing that’s also why it felt “right” to the folks who designed the garments pictured above. In any case, I don’t think I can take any credit for breaking new ground, nor do I believe that my little design has influenced designer or mass market fashion in any way.

But before you go pointing fingers and saying cruel words like “modesty” and “humility,” I would like to point out that I am STILL SO AWESOME. And so are you, my precious little spies!

Isn’t it funny
How you only ever call
When you need stuff fixed?

Check out the Selfish Seamstress Store for haiku goodies- proceeds will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

It’s OVER!!! I sent in the BurdaStyle book coat yesterday after too many late nights of tearful sewing, too many fun outings missed on account of grudging, miserable sewing, too many other things I could have been making and didn’t, and far, FAR too much whining about it all! Haha, you think I’m done whining? I’m not.

In the end I would have to say that the coat is neither beautiful nor well made. It is passable. But as the deadline grew tight, the quality of the workmanship on this decidedly work-intensive project became increasingly more “brute force” and with rapidly diminishing finesse. My general high-and-mighty philosophy of, “If you’re not going to sew it well, don’t bother sewing it at all” disintegrated quickly under the weight of a deadline and the drudgery of a project I did not enjoy. There are known puckers. There are corners cut. And after spending waaaaay too much time on this coat in the last two weeks and dropping quite a bit of my own money and digging into my personal stash for materials, I have taught myself my own lesson about S.W.A.G. sewing once again. BurdaStyle unfortunately did not cover the cost of linings, trims, and notions, which I imagine wasn’t much of a big deal except for the people working on the coat project, but it did end up being a little more than I wanted to put into it. Plus due to the necessity of a last-minute redesign because of a supplies miscommunication, I made an executive decision to ditch the fashion fabric that BurdaStyle picked out (sorry, BS! Thanks for sending it though! You can have it back if you want!) and sent to me because it wasn’t going to work and ended up using my own fabric instead. So suffice it to say, by the end I couldn’t bring myself to invest any more time or resources in dainty details or hand finishing. It’s okay though.  Not gorgeous, but hellz, it’s still a handmade freakin’ coat.

I can’t show you pictures of the final product, but I’ll show you something I bought from the thrift shop so I could cut it up to make part of the coat:

It’s a big ol’ fake fur coat!  And the best part of it (because the fur itself feels kind of heinous in the way that fake fur does after it’s been around the block a couple of times) is the label!

Oh yes this is a genuine Tissavel from France.  Originally purchased at Sears, which some of you may know better as “The Fashion Place” or “Place de la Mode.” I think from now on I’m going to refer to Sears as Place de la Mode (with my best French accent, bien sûr!) as in, “Darling, I think this weekend we’ll need to make a little jaunt over to Place de la Mode. I am just aching for some snow tires and a new Tissavel.”

Back on subject- I’m sort of excited for the book to come out, but if I never see the coat again, so much the better! It’s not my style anyway so I probably won’t wear it even if it does get sent back to me eventually. But I’m hoping that the good folks at BurdaStyle pull out all of their art and styling big guns for the photoshoot. They do have fantastic stylists. Under the right conditions and on the appropriately gamine-like model, I think the coat could be made to look chic. Those conditions, however are not “on the Selfish Seamstress, walking around on the street.” But whatever, done! Done, done, done! Out of sight, out of mind, which means I can stop sewing it and stop whining about it, and finally get back to sewing other things and whining about other things!

Permit me to get started right now with me me me me ME ME ME me me me ME! Me me me leopard pencil skirt me me ME TWEED SKIRT SUIT me me ME ME me me new sleeves on blouses me ME me ME me ME flowy pants me me me me me me me me me me black wool trench coat me me ME ME me finish leopard jacket me ME me ME me ME me ME me ME tux dress in plum and gray me me ME me me ME plaid wool jacket me me ME ME ME me me me ME ME ME me me me mod stewardess dress ME me ME ME me me me me me me me me houndstooth sheath dress me ME ME me clown costume just kidding ME ME me me ME me ME me ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME

Nope. BurdaStyle book coat is not done yet.  It’s close though.  I should be able to put it in the mail tomorrow.  Maybe. I couldn’t help it- it was such a nice day yesterday that Dan and I decided we needed to go wading in the river. And to the Asian supermarket to buy sweets. Don’t tell me I don’t have my priorities straight. (Plus I actually had some work work to do, like for my job.)

More importantly, let’s talk about clothes. I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with black with white accents, or white with black accents, à la my Orwell Coat or my English Tutor dress. And when I saw Gertie’s post this morning on her latest adorable dress (actually navy and white), it reminded me of this black and white dress that I discovered in of my closet some weeks ago. I purchased this stretchy little number about ten years ago:

I had a little flash of nostalgia for my early 20s after pulling it out and thought to myself that I ought to make a new version of this dress at a more age-appropriate length and with nicer fabric. But then I put it on and looked in the mirror and was all like, “Hey there, leggy 20s, where’d you come from? What are you up to tonight? Just hanging out in front of the mirror?  That’s cool.  Me too. I guess I’ll see you there then.”

So what do you think?  Can I still get away with this?  (Not for work, obviously- I may still make a version inspired by this better suited for the office.) It’s a bit dated in that sort of Friends-era Jennifer Aniston miniskirt way, and I’m really not concerned about whether it is “immodest” to show so much leg in public (Interesting discussions about that going on though), but more whether this screams 1999, or comes off as “trying too hard to be 24” (which I am so not!) So, to wear or not to wear? And if to remake instead or as well, what to do different?

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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