Obsessed With Outerwear

I’ve been a bit obsessed with designing reflective outerwear this year. I have realized, over the last year, that many of my reflective makes spend a lot of time under coats and jackets, which sort of defeats the purpose of reflective fashion. So, I decided I need reflective outerwear.

My first attempt turned out beautifully- my reflective tweed coat makes me so happy!!! Made with reflective tweed purchased last year in London from Dashing Tweeds (the burgundy) and wool from Fabric.com, its lined with flannel backed satin from Vogue Fabrics, and interlined with ripstop nylon. The ripstop is intended for added warmth and to prevent the wind from going straight through the wool as I Bike. I have to say, it holds the body warmth pretty well – maybe too well! Oh, and it looks spectacular on!

Flush with the success of that coat, I started my brocade bomber jacket. I picked Simplicity 8418 because it has a lining, and for added warmth, I am using the same flannel-backed satin I used on my tweed coat. The brocade I purchased a year or so ago from a fabric store in New York that was going out of business. At the time I didn’t know what to do with it, but my bronze reflective fabric from Mood Fabrics coordinates so perfectly that I knew they had to go together. A brocade bomber jacket seems decadent but also, a fun alternative to a work blazer. I hope. So I got started on that this weekend.

Once I complete the bomber, I have two other jackets to make. One will be a light duster, from Simplicity 8055, with the front and back yokes out of reflective fabric. It’s not lined so I plan to flat line the yokes and sleeves; I hate unlined sleeves. My initial plan was to use the black reflective fabric I just purchased from Mood, but a coordinating dark fabric just made the whole thing too dark. Instead, i think I will use the red reflective fabric and find a denim, twill or chambray to match. Red will be a fun color, and a bit more visible than black.

That should be a fairly simple project, but my last (currently) planned coat looks quite a bit more complicated. The Closet Case Kelly Anorak is pretty much exactly what I want – big pockets, tall collar and drawstring waist. And it has a lining option, yay! I will make the outside from the reflective digital camo fabric I have from Rockywoods Fabrics, and then add a fun lining. Maybe I will splurge on a fun print from Spoonflower, to make it more interesting. But my idea is to do this in late summer, for the fall, so I have a while to decide.

Those jackets should be a cool assortment to add an extra layer over my blouses and tops – a dinosaur blouse out of luscious Liberty of London Tana Lawn, two different ruffle sleeve versions of Simplicity 8454, and a basic white blouse, version C of Vogue 9299, with the adorable cameo buttons I found in New York. Whew, that’s quite a list! I’d better get started – reflective fashion doesn’t sew itself!

Sorry, still no internet at home! I’ll link all these sources when I am not on my phone with sluggish cellular.

Fashion Show Fun at Crystal Couture

New York’s Fashion Week starts on February 11, 2015, when hordes of models, designers, hardworking assistants and stitchers, stagehands and crew, fashion reporters and bloggers, and fashion followers descend upon to revel in the Fall/Winter 2015 fashion collections. It’s the one big event (well, two, since it happens twice a year) that I really miss about no longer working in NYC – I miss the scene and early access to trends.

Here in Arlington, VA, we are not immune to the lure of the fashion show – the Crystal City BID has hosted Crystal Couture for the last several years, several days of runway shows and shopping, right in Crystal City. I’ve never gone, but finally went this year, on the first two nights. It was so much fun! Sure, it wasn’t Zang Toi or Carmen Marc Valvo, but it was here and accessible, and just as much fun. We even saw Miss District of Columbia, so it wasn’t without celebrities, either! Crystal Couture 13 Crystal Couture 15The event was set up with booths for several dozen local boutiques and designers, with a square runway that ran through all of them. DJ Neekola, fierce in her bubble gum pink hair, spun tunes the whole night, while the runway shows were almost back to back. My friends and I had a fabulous time shopping and watching the shows, as well as doing the obligatory people watching – seeing what everyone else was wearing was just as fun as seeing the models’ outfits! I didn’t catch the names of which designer was which show, I’m afraid…

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Seriously, some of the best shoes were not on the women!

I didn’t buy much, just some jewelry.

Love my new necklace from Hush Boutique!

Love my new necklace from Hush Boutique!

The jewelry by Evelyn Brooks was my favorite, and I bought a bracelet after chatting with the designer herself. I like that it is unusual but full of meaning and culture and history. The huayruro seeds are native to Central and South America, and are said to bring good luck, love and happiness. And who can’t use a little love, luck and happiness?! Plus, the vivid red colors at her booth made me think of upcoming Valentine’s Day. I strongly encourage you to read about Evelyn on her website, because she’s not only making eco-friendly jewelry which is showcased all over the world, she aspires to be a role model by teaching jewelry classes in Spanish and English. These are the kinds of artists I’m proud to support, so I look forward to wearing my bracelet (and the two little charms) as much as possible.

Now I can’t wait for next year’s Crystal Couture event! I guess I will have to console myself in the near future by watching New York Fashion Week news. Hopefully I can survive…

And I feel like I totally scored by finding this couture banner bag, created and given away by the Crystal City BID, complete with the BID's Twitter tag on it!

And I feel like I totally scored by finding this Couture banner bag, created and given away by the Crystal City BID, complete with the BID’s Twitter tag on it!






My Fashion Past, in Pictures

The Mechanic and I recently bought a new couch, just in time to decorate for the holidays, so between the two we have been moving a lot of furniture and stuff around. In the process, I have unearthed some of my fashion history. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve always been obsessed with fashion!

Starting around 1984, I cut out images from my favorite fashion magazines and newspapers, and collected them in photo albums. I’d very carefully label each page – year, album number, page number – so that if for some reason I needed to remove a page, I knew where to replace it. (yep, a bit OCD even then!)

Thirty years of fashion history, right in my own apartment! I am still doing it to this day, although I’ve graduated to sketch books and glue sticks. I’m not sure where my 1984 albums are, but I did flip through the 1990 and beyond albums. It’s funny to look back at it all, but I have to say, my taste has not changed much! There is some fun fashion history to find – a clipping from 1993 about pants suits being acceptable; J. Peterman sketches; Tweeds catalog images; supermodels when they were just becoming super.

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At some point, I started using sketch books, and started to carefully cluster like items together.

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I also occasionally used those early sketch books to sketch in, as well, moving away from having them be separate from my fashion albums. (Someday I might show you examples of those!) I’m not proud of my sketching, but well, here are some examples…

Bicycles also showed up from time to time, and more often as my interest and the trend grows.

As old-fashioned as this seems, given the popularity of social media outlets like Pinterest and Instagram, both of which I love using, there is something very relaxing to me about pulling pages out of magazines and catalogs, then carefully cutting out the prized image, and arranging it on a page with thematic others. I am actually a bit behind, and might spend some time over the holidays cutting and pasting in front of movies. I always enjoy looking over the previous pages, and wondering why I still don’t dress like the things I aspire to – price can’t be the only deterrent! But I guess it’s good to have things to dream about, right? Even while we enjoy what we have. New Couch and Tree

Busy Bike Fashion Week

It’s been a busy week, but bike fashion hasn’t been far from my mind. I continued my reflective wear-to-work challenge, reviewed some bike accessories for The Discerning Cyclist, tested my new Iladora bike top, and got up today at 6am to order the Altuzarra for Target blouse I wanted. Oh, and pre-ordered the new iPhone 6!

I was only able to get in three days of my reflective wear-to-work bike fashion challenge. One day I had to wear the work polo, and I was off the last day of the week, so that meant only three days. On the plus side, it means I can probably do all this coming week! The weather has cooled off enough that I’m not sure about my sleeveless tops, but I’ll risk it!

I got some fun bike accessories from Bike Belle, to review for The Discerning Cyclist. I am very fussy particular about what I put on my bike, but I ended up loving these! Now my bike has a front basket from Denmark, skirt guards from Sweden, and a bike bell from Poland. What next?! I’ll share the review when it’s on the website, but I’ll give you a sneak peek.

Notice anything different about my bike? Think small accessories....

Notice anything different about my bike? Think small accessories….

I broke down and ordered The Lisa Top from Iladora, in pink. I was so excited that they came out with some colors, and it was a dilemma to decide between the blue and the pink, but pink won out. It’s a bit more mauve-y than I was expecting, but I am very happy with it. If you aren’t familiar with Iladora, it is a San Francisco company that also makes pants and a skirt. The top is bamboo jersey, cut with dolman sleeves for comfort, and that all important dropped hem for coverage. It’s super-comfy; the cut of the sleeves means that nothing binds or constricts the arms while biking. (I will say, however, that it is snug over the part of my waist that I’m currently most self-conscious about, and I’m not happy about that – but I know it is my fault, and not the top’s problem.) But overall, I’m happy with it!

For those of you who don’t know, Target teams up with haute couture designers occasionally, and these collaborations turn into big shopping frenzies on the day of the launch. So far I’ve gotten stuff from Liberty of London, Missoni, Jason Wu, and Proenza Schouler, all high-end designers I couldn’t normally afford. The launch of the Missoni collection crashed Target’s system; luckily I’d gotten up super early to order what I wanted online. I did go stand in line at the store for the Jason Wu collection, but also ordered online while standing there! Today was the launch of Altuzarra for Target, and I had planned on getting up at 6am to bike to Target to get in line, but when I checked the website on my phone at 6:12am, and the blouse I wanted was available, I opted to order online and go back to bed. I was tempted to go to the store later in the day, but considering I just pre-ordered the iPhone 6, well, I couldn’t risk being lured into buying something else.

The Altuzarra for Target blouse I ordered

The Altuzarra for Target blouse I ordered. No idea what to wear them with – now I need new pants!

So this week I need to buckle down and alter the pants pattern and get them cut out. I started making the reflective bias, but I think I need more! I’ve created a monster.



The Reflective Wear-to-Work Challenge

I was so excited by mountain biking that I forgot all about my most recent two sewing projects! And since they prompted me to challenge myself, I think I need to share all this with you.

First of all, I finished both the satiny pajama pants and the #@$%^% gray silky top I was struggling with. As it turned out, I am very happy with both of them.

Silkie PJ pants with reflective piping down each leg.

Silky PJ pants with reflective piping down each leg.

Blouse reflecting, and in it's Clark Kent state (that is, not reflecting)

Blouse reflecting, and in it’s Clark Kent state (that is, not reflecting)

Wearing the blouse to work!

Wearing the blouse to work!

Now that The Mechanic works a “normal” schedule, it’s easier to get him out the door to take a picture of me in my sewing projects in the morning. This means I can have everything photographed! Although our limited time means you’ll get really tired of the same spot in front of our apartment….

Actually, what prompted my Reflective Work Wear Challenge was the realization that I have actually made quite a few things in the last few years. So I decided to see how many days in a row I could wear something I’ve made. Week One was all four days, and I think I can get through another 2 weeks! It’s of course weather dependent, and although I have other reflective clothing, it’s not stuff I have made, so that doesn’t count either. And much of it will depend on my work schedule – I’m not sure it’s exactly client meeting-friendly. But I’ll see – that’s the point of a challenge, right?!

So this is the outcome of Week One:

You can also see everything else on me and my bike that are reflective!

You can also see everything else on me and my bike that are reflective!

I’ll sum up, in case you can’t tell in the photos. From Top Left: the shoulders on the dress are reflective purple material and are lit up in the photo; the stripes on the edge of the skirt are iron-on reflective grosgrain (available at JoAnn Fabrics); the gray tux stripe is edged with the reflective piping (the red Cole Haan oxfords show up white with the flash on); and the waist and neckline of the blue peplum top are reflective (as are the silver Cole Haan loafers).

I counted two skirts, three dresses, four tops, one blazer (trimmed, not sewn), and two pairs of pants, total, not including the pants I’m starting and the sweatshirt that is the next project. So I can stretch out a while still! One of the tops is a cooler weather sweatshirt, so I hope to get a few cool days in soon to wear it.

I also made myself a reflective sash yesterday, to replace the wonderful reversible obi sash I lost in Sacramento last November. So with that additional accessory, I have at least one more outfit – I have the cutest dress with which it looks great. So I have eight or nine days to go! Stay tuned to see what comes this week. I’ll be interested in feedback, favorite pieces or looks, etc., so take notes!

My new reflective sash. Not reversible and not very wide, but I love the color and the print it's lined with.

My new reflective sash. Not reversible and not very wide, but I love the color and the print it’s lined with.

Product Review: Novara Whittier Bike Dress

Despite my attempts to be on an “anything but wedding-related” shopping freeze, I used the excuse of my birthday, and a cash gift, to buy myself the REI Novara Whittier Bike Dress, in the bright blue option.

Novara Whittier Bike Dress

Novara Whittier Bike Dress

I’ve written before about the REI Novara line, and how the garments I saw were close but not quite, and I have to say, I think this dress is pretty spot on. Unlike the reflective fabric mountain biking shorts (again, who is going to see that?!), this dress is designed to be a cute comfy dress, with some bike-friendly detailing. I wore it yesterday to run some errands, and then last night to a DC party The Mechanic and I went to, and was very pleased with it.

Picking out chalkboard paint at Home Depot for a little wedding DIY, and looking quite normal.

Picking out chalkboard paint at Home Depot for a little wedding DIY, and looking quite normal.

The dress has a comfy elastic waist that was surprisingly flattering (my stomach looked so flat in this!), and the skin-cancer-phobic part of me really appreciated having my shoulders covered. One less body part to worry about reapplying sunscreen onto! You can’t see it unless you are up close, but there are some also flattering vertical tucks in the front bodice, which I like. There are two side seam pockets, which zip shut, and hide a drawstring that allows you to pull up the sides of the skirt, to make it shorter for biking.

Pulling up the dress from the pocket drawstring.

Pulling up the dress from the pocket drawstring.

I ultimately decided to bike un-ruched.

I ultimately decided to bike un-ruched.

I thought the dress was extremely comfy to bike in, even without the sides pulled up. Maybe on my bike I would gather it up, since I have a top tube that tends to interfere with skirts more than the CaBi step-thru frame. Or maybe not.

In action!

In action!

My favorite part of the dress, of course, is the reflective detailing. Reflective piping is stitched into the back yoke seam, exactly where it should be! I guess someone has been reading my blog and taking tips! ; )

Docking the bike at home, with the reflective trim on the back of the dress doing its job.

Docking the bike at home, with the reflective trim on the back of the dress doing its job.

I am quite pleased with this dress, and plan on taking it on the honeymoon to bike in. I do wish the color options had been a bit better – I sort of get making a solid black version, to have a bikey LBD (Little Black Dress, for those of you who don’t know, considered a sartorial staple by many women), but I disagree with anything all black for biking. Even with reflective trim, biking (or walking) in the dark in solid dark clothing is not the best idea. On the other hand, although I love the blue version, the print is not my first or second or even third go-to. A classic stripe with a solid yoke would be so perfectly nautical and summery, and be even more “normal.” But that’s really just being super picky about a dress I really love! Way to go REI!


Bird Brained

While I should be thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, or trying to get in a new year’s bike ride, as many of my neighboring bike friends are,  I am obsessing over shopping.

It’s been a bird-themed fashion holiday season – for some reason, everything I’ve acquired lately has had at least one bird on it. There’s the Boden sweater I’d wanted for ages, that I purchased with a gift card; the Macy’s sweater I got for Christmas (which is very similar, yet different); the Alex & Ani bracelet I bought myself after buying so many bracelets as Christmas gifts for others; and the Macy’s blouse I just bought yesterday while shopping with an out-of-town guest. Four items in about three weeks, all with birds.

Boden Heritage Hummingbird Sweater

Boden Heritage Hummingbird Sweater

Macy's Maison Jules Birds Sweater (they remind me of one of my favorite artists, Charley Harper)

Macy’s Maison Jules Birds Sweater (they remind me of one of my favorite artists, Charley Harper)

Alex & Ani swan bracelet

Alex & Ani swan bracelet (it signifies Grace-Partnership-Love and seemed like a good engagement present to myself)

Macy's Bird Print shirt (I don't like the silly knot in front and will most likely be modifying the hem soon)

Macy’s Bird Print shirt (I don’t like the silly knot in front and will most likely be modifying the hem soon)

This fine feathered haul will have to last me for a while, since I have to pay for a wedding and honeymoon in the next few months. But I realized I will be in Europe this summer,  and I will be able to do some great shopping there. I think I can restrain myself for the next six months, knowing I will have different opportunity to find some fun stuff. Yippee! (I can do this… I can not shop for six months…)





Boots and Colorblocking

I’ve been hopping around this evening out of excitement, because Merrell has at last created bike-friendly boots! I want both pairs!

Merrell Evera Fade - this color is my favorite fall/winter neutral, so I love them even more!

Merrell Evera Fade – this color is my favorite fall/winter neutral, so I love them even more!

Merrell Evera Amp - a very work appropriate dressy black boot.

Merrell Evera Amp – a very work appropriate dressy black boot.

I love boots, and I love my Merrell Evera bike shoes, so I’m especially excited to see these two. And I love that wine color – it really is one of my favorite winter neutral colors. My beautiful big wool overcoat is that same color, and I just love it. Merrell has also come out with a cute Mary Jane style heel, which makes me a bit crabby, because I just this spring bought a pair of the basic black pumps, but the size is too small. A shoe that is not strapped around my ankle just doesn’t stay on, so I hoped that a smaller size would help. Not really – anyone want to buy a barely used pair of black Merrell bike heels?

The Merrell Evera Draft - I would much rather have these than the ones I have. I even love the color.

The Merrell Evera Draft – I would much rather have these than the ones I have. They have just enough of a strap to keep them on my foot. I even love the color.

These shoes are a reminder that I’ve started to see fall clothes pop up here and there, and now I’m getting my mental list ready for what I want to sew for the fall. I already have one very clear project, although it is a bit too hot these days to get excited about sweatshirts.

I’ve shared this pattern already, but I’m posting it again.

McCalls 6792

McCalls 6792

I’ve got two ways of altering it so the block is on the back as well as the front, and then I can put reflective piping on both sides. But what got me more excited about this pattern is my latest Lucky magazine, which had several color block tops here and there.

Colorblocked sweater - like these colors.

Colorblocked sweater – like these colors.

This is neoprene, but I LOVE the color combination! This is my biggest inspiration.

This is neoprene, but I LOVE the color combination! This is my biggest inspiration.

A few black and blue options. Like the one with the white shoulders.

A few black and blue options. Like the one with the white shoulders.

Then a friend posted this picture on some social media site, can’t remember which one. It’s a gown in the Bergdorf window in Manhattan.

Colorblocked gown in the Bergdorf window.

Colorblocked gown in the Bergdorf window.

It reminds me of this other pattern I have that I’d kill to make, but have nowhere to wear it.

McCalls 6755 - colorblocked skirt, which I love and is completely impractical for my life.

McCalls 6755 – colorblocked skirt, which I love and is completely impractical for my life. Too long to bike in, too dressy for the office, and I have no social life, so…

That, in turn, reminded me of an old Vogue pattern I recently rediscovered, this Issey Miyake pattern I bought in 1995 (I started writing the dates of purchase on my patterns for this very reason!).

Vogue 1563 Issey Miyake colorblock dress in two lengths.

Vogue 1563 Issey Miyake colorblock dress in two lengths.

I’m so tempted to make this dress right now, but I would have a hard time deciding which length. The short one is obviously very bike-friendly, but I love the longer one, and maxi dresses are very in right now. Besides, the shorter one just looks a bit awkward, and sort of like a maternity dress. No matter, I probably won’t get it done soon enough for summer anyway.

So I’m back to sewing the colorblock top for the fall, with some alterations needed to make it reflective fashion-perfect. Now I just have to pick out colors! I am so tempted to do the burgundy-aqua of the neoprene top, but I’m a bit worried that I won’t have anything to wear with it. I need it to be office-friendly, and what pants do I own that would be appropriate? Maybe I need to make new pants, too? I have noticed that the fall pants are a slightly different, more relaxed skinny leg (that almost scream the 1980s, which I’m trying to ignore…). It’s hard to balance fashion with office wear with sewing projects with what one already owns! And my closet isn’t that big. What do you do – shop for mostly work clothes, or mostly play clothes?

Yeah, I really want to make this dress...

Yeah, I really want to make this dress…









Latest Sewing Projects Catch-Up

I realized today that I haven’t actually blogged about my latest sewing projects (other than the reflective sashes for Team in Training fundraising)! I’m surprised, I thought I had. I guess my social media platforms are beginning to blend together, oops.

The first one is actually a project I finished a while ago, but had yet to wear, my peplum top.

Reflective bow detail on the peplum top.

Reflective bow detail on the peplum top.

I wore it with my lovely Cole Haan reflective loafers and Vespertine blossom bracelet . I begged one of my coworkers to take a few pictures of me, so I could show off the outfit. The top isn’t covered in reflectivity, but I like the bit of detail it has.

Without and with flash

Without and with flash – yep, those shoes are bright!

What I like most about this top is how small it makes my waist look! (Is that vain?) This was a very easy pattern, and I think I might make another out of one of the cotton prints I’ve been moving around for years.

My next project was my Bike to Work Day dress. I made it on Bike to Work Day, after coming home from working at the Ballston pit stop.

Bike to Work Day dress without flash...

Bike to Work Day dress without flash…

...Bike to Work Day dress with flash.

…Bike to Work Day dress with flash.

I really like this because it’s so comfortable. It was very easy to make, although I’m not 100% happy with it. It’s been years since I worked with knit fabric, and I stupidly stretched it when I put the reflective piping in, and I shouldn’t have. I think the bust darts are too low as well.

Back view, with flash. Which also shows the other reflective gear I have...

Back view, with flash. Which also shows the other reflective gear I have…

Admittedly, this dress is not an ideal bike dress because although it’s short and stretchy, it’s too narrow to be really comfortable on the saddle. I wear it with my Spanx or Jockey Skimmies SlipShorts underneath, so there’s no threat of flashing anyone, but it does show a lot of leg. There isn’t much reflectivity on it either, but I’m okay with that. I don’t want to overdo it. Not every dress can be the Tron dress!

My current project is very exciting. I’m making the dress I’ve been wanting to make for a while now, with a reflective shoulder yoke, that will be worn with my reflective obi sash.

Vogue Dress Pattern with Sash

Vogue Dress Pattern with Sash

I cut out the fabric at work last week, on the craft table that is THE perfect cutting table. (Apparently it will be replaced with far more useful cubicles, and I will be very sad when that happens).

Cutting out fabric at work. The Capital Bikeshare sign is completely unintentional, I swear!

Cutting out fabric at work. (The Capital Bikeshare sign is completely unintentional, I swear!)

Half-finished dress with the sash folded over the hanger.

Half-finished dress with the sash folded over the hanger.

With the flash.

With the flash.

Back view - better shot of the yoke.

Back view – better shot of the yoke.

Back with the flash.

Back with the flash.

Detail of the print.

Detail of the print.

I need to cut out the lining fabric so I can finish this. I’m really looking forward to wearing this. I’m a bit paranoid about it, since I seem to make some stupid mistake on every sewing project. I’ve looked into Craftsy, to see what their online classes are like – has anyone ever tried them? I wish now that I’d paid closer attention in my sewing classes…

This dress isn’t even done yet and I’m madly searching for THE perfect blouse pattern for this fabric I bought recently.



It’s hard to get a good picture of the reflective material with or without the flash, but this cotton print looks amazing with the super light pink reflective fabric. I want to try making bias with the pink, so that it’s flat instead of corded piping in the seams. I’m inspired by Tulle & Tweed, and her bias tutorial looks like something I might be able to figure out. I need to buy a cutting mat first, however. I have no idea where mine went to, and I’m not going to try to cut this out with my scissors. I think it needs the rotary cutter.


I need a bigger sewing space! I’m sure I didn’t lose the cutting mat here.

So that is where I am with sewing projects. I’m sure I’ll be inspired for the next project before too long. I am running low on my reflective fabric but not sure when I’ll be able to make it back to New York for more fabric shopping. I can’t wait to go, however – I want to begrime the city with a Citibike like everyone else! All of bikepeacenyc‘s blog photo shoots are making me jealous. But I’ll have to be there for a long time – I have so many reflective fashions now that I’ll need to wear them all!







The “Sewing is Frugal” Myth

Today I bought a dress, and fabric (and notions) to make two other dresses. Want to guess which was the cheapest?

I recently ordered a stack of patterns, since the Vogue/McCalls/Butterick website  was having a big sale – patterns normally $15-20 for $1.88-$3.88! I ordered five for the price of one, yippee! Five Patterns

I decided to focus on the top three. The middle one I’ve been planning on for a while – the reflective sash I made a while back is intended to go with this dress pattern, and the shoulder piece will also be reflective.  Three Patterns

I had planned on biking out to Seven Corners, in Fairfax, this afternoon to go to the JoAnn Fabrics, but when I saw yesterday’s Living Social deal for G Street Fabrics, I immediately jumped on it. I hadn’t yet been to that fabric store, but a New York friend recommended it, so why not? $25 for $50 worth of fabric and notions? Yes please!

Before I headed into the fabric stores, I stopped in the Ross Dress for Less store, and ended up walking out with a super cute, flattering Calvin Klein maxi dress – originally $128, I paid $41.99 including tax. Calvin Klein Maxi Dress

Then I went into JoAnn’s, and ended up with this print silky polyester. Silky Dress 1

It’s different than I had envisioned initially for this dress, but I really like it, and the plummy background will make it stretch through the fall as well. I didn’t have enough purple reflective fabric left, so yesterday I called B&J Fabrics and bought the last yard! It is on it’s way!  I didn’t buy lining material yet, however, just thread.

Then I spent a long time roaming the bolts of fabric in G Street Fabrics. The place was nothing like I expected – it’s in a basement, and huge! Tons of specialty fabrics, the one thing JoAnn’s lacks – silks, linens, suiting wools, leather, sequined fabrics, and I never even made it into the Home Decorating section.

The color block dress pattern suggested double knit as a fabric option, so I decided to try it. I’ve never really worked with that, so we’ll see what happens. The color choices are pretty limited, so although I didn’t really want to copy the style on the pattern cover, I pretty much did. Mine will be cream on top, teal in the middle, and gray on the hem. Color Block Dress 1

I think this will be a comfy business dress that I can still bike in. I’m not sure if I want to add reflective piping to it, however. It’s got the perfect seams, but I don’t know… Thoughts?

Anyway, neither of these dresses are starting off cheap. Here’s a price rundown so far:

Reflective Shoulder Dress:

  • The yard of reflective fabric from New York is $49, and I have no idea what the FedEx Ground will cost.
  • The 4.5 yards of silky fabric was 40% off, thank goodness, making it only $5.99 a yard. Plus thread, and Iron-Off, and another coupon, the JoAnn’s bill was $34.18.
  • I still need to buy 4 yards of lining fabric. G Street has a great selection, so I’ll go there, but it is still $7.99 a yard, so that will be about $32. I’ll probably get another of those Living Social deals.
  • Including the lining fabric I haven’t bought yet, this is already costing me $114.96.

Color Block Dress:

  • The double knit was $19.98 a yard. I had to buy a total of 4.5 yards, so that’s $69.93 right there.
  • I also bought a bunch of notions and supplies. The total bill, before the Living Social $50, was $97.84.
  • I paid $25 for the Living Social deal, so I actually spent $72.84 at G Street Fabrics.

I haven’t calculated in my time yet:

  • I need to wash, dry, and iron the fabric. With so many yards, the ironing will take a while.
  • I have to cut out and adjust as needed the paper pattern.
  • I have to cut out the fabric.
  • Then I get to sew! No idea how long that will take, although the color block dress should only take a day.
  • If my union rate in New York was about $28 an hour, well, you can do the math…

So basically, its cheaper to NOT sew your own clothes!

This makes me think of the recent tragedy in Bangladesh, where a fire in a garment factory has killed over 1,000 workers (although a woman was just discovered alive after 16 days trapped in the rubble. Amazing will to live.) Events like these always make me reevaluate my relationship with the clothes I buy – is this outfit on sale at Macy’s worth the cost of human lives?Macy's Outfit

I am not going to pontificate on the rights and wrongs of where our clothing comes from; there are so many pieces to that puzzle. I am on a budget, and as much as I wish I could shop companies who make socially responsible garments, or buy handmade products from local designers, the fact is, sometimes I can only afford that $10-on-clearance top from Ann Taylor Loft. I like to think that I will only buy what I really need,  or only shop in consignment stores, thus helping to reduce demand, but I’m not that disciplined. In fact, if I really wanted to stick to my budget, I wouldn’t sew at all! Then there is the simple fact that whatever I make at home still doesn’t look as formal or “done” as store-bought clothing.

I can’t wait to start my new projects, while I wear my new bargain maxi dress, and remind myself that “slow fashion” is acceptable, that fewer, better quality pieces are better than many cheap ones. And try to stay out of the stores, because I just blew my budget on handmade dresses-to-be!

I am still obsessed with the collar of this sleeveless top in Macy's...

I am still obsessed with the collar of this sleeveless top in Macy’s…