The Time Has Come

As some of you have guessed, I am not going to be re-opening Wear the Shift any time soon. I have loved making so many cute dresses for all you hot and thoughtful ladies, but I just don't have the time to do it properly. So, no more shifts for sale. At least not right now :(

BUT! If you have ordered a shift from me in the past, and you want a copy of your pattern, you can order one here. I'm only going to keep this link active for a few days, because I'd like to draw a line under Wear the Shift in the next few weeks. And I won't be drafting new patterns -- this deal is only on offer for folks who've ordered dresses before. But I want you to have all the cute custom-fit dresses you want, even if I can't sew them for you.

If you decide to order, I'll send you a copy of your shift pattern (and your slip pattern, if you bought a slip from me) as well as instructions on how to put the dress together. It's a good beginner sewing pattern, and it's also an easy thing for any experienced stitcher to sew for you.

I want to thank you, so much, for your support over the last few years. I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed meeting you lovely people and putting you in cute dresses that make you feel good about yourselves! My ultimate goal of overthrowing mass-produced ill-fitting fashions in favor of bright green, custom-made dresses has not yet been realized, but there are folks working on it. I have a few more ideas up my sleeve, too, and it's possible that I may yet get the opportunity to flesh them out.

Either way, the whole project has been amazing, and I can't really put into words how much I appreciate your faith in me. I may continue to update this blog with fashion rants and sewing projects, but you can keep up with what I'm doing and thinking a little more often over at Be Less Crazy and The Hairpin.

Peace, love, and cute dresses to us all, Madge

Katie and Me

The best thing about making shifts for ladies is that sometimes I get to meet said ladies, and sometimes we get to be friends! That is what happened with Katie and me, anyway.

This woman wears a shift like no one's business. She also made perhaps the most amazing ice cream I've ever had. And scones! And clotted cream! Seriously, home made clotted cream. Can you even imagine?

Thanks to Katie and her wife Christa for being so damn lovely and hilarious. Let's have brunch every day!

(These pics turned out slightly wonky -- hope you can deal!)

Wedding! Dresses! Sparkly!

When I started planning my wedding (less than 2 months away now!), the first thing I decided was that my bridesmaids would wear the most awesome shifts I could make. You guys know me, I am not going to buy 4 boring dresses from J. Crew and call it a day -- no, I want color and sparkliness and lots of it, please! So, I chose 4 non-matching but color-coordinated brocades/sparkly vintage fabrics to match my 4 non-matching but totally lovely bridesmaids, in my favorite blue/green colorway.

This week we'll be taking measurements and making muslins to perfect the fit ... I'm almost as excited about dressing my besties as I am about dressing myself! Eeeeep!

Reading, Wine, and Real Talk

Last Thursday night, I read a few chapters from my book to a couple dozen dazzling people at Gypsy Tattoo Parlor. Of course I had to make a new dress and wear my favorite shoes and then dance around weirdly after it was all over.

When you start talking about body image, there is always the potential for things to quickly devolve into fat talk or diet plan discussion or exercise tips, and I was a little afraid that might happen, but it totally didn't! Instead, we had a really honest and hilarious conversation that I enjoyed so much.

Seriously. If I could find a way to assemble such a lovely group of people and talk with them about deep shit every single night of my life, I would totally do it.

Yay! Thank you to everyone who came! And for those who weren't there, we did record the talk and will be putting it up on the interwebz soon.

And big thanks to Michelle and Mere for hosting, to Jolene and Matty for taking pics, and to Rich for recording! Let's take this show on the road!


Pork Among Friends

Sunday was Ramen Day at Salt of the Earth! The third Sunday of every month, Salt's chefs brew a potent broth and serve it with delicious stuff like barely-cooked eggs, pork belly, fish cakes, scallions, and noodles. My beloved's pre-occupation with ramen has rubbed off on me -- we've tried at least a dozen ramen places in New York -- and it is lovely to be able to get some in the Burgh!

I met up with three of my favorite fellas -- Skyler, Matt, and Brian -- and we chowed down.

One of the best things about moving back to Pittsburgh a few years ago is that two of my best and oldest friends moved back here around the same time! So we get to see each other lots, and it is rad. Matt and I have been making these faces at each other non-stop since college. So much fun.

What a happy surprise to end up in the same town with 3 of my 4 besties! Nora, you're next!

There's a New Gypsy In Town! And a Reading Next Week!

So, my dear friend and WTS cover girl Michelle and her partner Mere have opened up a tattoo shop! Welcome to the world, Gypsy Tattoo Parlor!

Unlike every other tattoo shop I've seen, it's so clean and fresh inside! Like a spa!

I'm so excited for them, and also for me, because it's really fun to be able to go hang out with my pals. It kind of reminds me of when Michelle and I first met almost 20 years ago. We worked at a little hippie store and basically talked non-stop for 40 hours a week. Just like we are doing here when we're supposed to be posing for the camera. Good times.

(That's a new dress I made for the 4th of July, by the way. Love!)

I gotta admit, I'm not much of a tattoo person, but if I was, Michelle and Mere would definitely be the ones inking me up. Here's where my imaginary tattoo would go:

I love how the shop is full of pictures of historical painted ladies, too. You REALLY had to be a badass to get tattooed back then!

And hey, did you see the little pink poster in the window up above!? That's me! I'm doing a reading at Gypsy Tattoo Parlor next Thursday at 7 pm (July 19th). We'll read the intro to my book and drink some wine and talk about stuff. Doesn't that sound fun?

I hope you can come!! Maybe get a tattoo?


Forecast: Kitten Showers

Yesterday was so much fun! I got to go to a Kitten Shower at Animal Friends, Pittsburgh's only no-kill animal shelter, with Jolene, who runs the joint! You know what that means: kitten pictures!

I got to hold Macie, and I reeeeally wanted to take her home! THAT PINK NOSE.

So many cute kittens! Ungh!!

Jolene and all the staff and volunteers at Animal Friends work really hard to find homes for pets -- and they save thousands every single year! Amazing!

Good job, you guys! And thanks for inviting me to my new favorite kind of shower!!


Fri-DIY-day: The 1-Hour Summertime Schmatta

The other morning when I got up, it was a bajillion degrees. In weather that feels like a hundred blow dryers aimed at my skin, I don't want waistbands or zippers or anything fussy -- just something simple and thin and not-clingy. So I whipped up this little maxi dress before heading out the door into the Venusian-ish weather.

It is perhaps the most basic dress ever, and absolutely perfect for standing inside a clothes dryer. Here's how I made it.

1. Choose your fabric. I used a thin, drapey jersey with a bit of stretch to it. I like how this floats along the contour of my body without clinging to it. You could use a drapey bamboo or rayon as well. I would probably stick to a lightweight knit for this dress unless you want a dramatic daishiki-ish tent shape around your body. Which might be nice in terms of it never touching your skin? Play around and see what you like. Pro-tip: stripes make it easy to line things up!

2. Next, sew your fabric into a tube that has holes for your head and arms. Use a serger if you have one; if not, just use a ball-point needle and zigzag stitch. The tube should be a few inches bigger than your biggest measurement.

  • My fabric was 54" wide, so I just folded it up the center fold and sewed it into a tube along the selvage, leaving 9" at the top unsewed for an armhole. Then I sewed along the top edge to create shoulder seams. Finally I cut an armhole into the folded side.
  • You could also cut out 2 rectangles of your fabric and sew them up along the sides and top edge, leaving room for your neck and armholes.
  • Or, if you have a super long piece of fabric, you can fold it along the shoulder seam edge, cut out a neckhole, and sew up the sides.

Here is what you want to end up with:

Now go put this giant tube of fabric on over your head inside out. Grab some pins and go to a mirror. Pinch and pin under the arms and along the sides where you want to remove excess and make the dress fit closer. I left quite a bit of ease because of the hot weather, but make it as body con as you want!

Also, mark where you want the dress to end. I am pretty tall, and my dress came out to be about 62" long. For me, being able to make the maxi dress actually maxi length is reason enough to make one!

Now take the dress off. Fold it up the center and check out your pinned seams along both sides. Even them out so they are approximately symmetrical. Mine ended up looking something like this:

Go and sew along your pinned seams.

With a sharp pair of scissors, trim the bottom of the dress where you marked. You can finish this properly if you want, by cutting it a little long, then double-folding the hem and sewing it with a double needle. I didn't finish mine and am OK with that.

Trim and/or finish the ends of the sleeves.

Finally, put on some big earrings and go be all comfy and goddess-y in public.

I am digging this one so much that I may make a mini-version too! Hot pink and black stripes, I'm lookin' at you ...


I Wrote A Book!!!! Also, Bribery!

And it is out TODAY!!! I hope you like it! If you do, will you tell me? And maybe leave a review on Amazon? I'm giving 20% off your next WTS order to everyone who leaves a review in the next week! What? Yes, bribery!!

Woo hoo! Let me know what you think!

(Also you should know that you don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books -- check out these apps for reading on your computer, phone, or tablet.)


On a Quest!

Ever since Áine sent me her pretty outfit picture featuring a castle print shift with a denim jacket and an orange scarf, I have been on a quest for a denim jacket of my own. Because this outfit is pretty cute, but wouldn't it be even cuter with denim instead of a cardigan?

So I had some coffee in the garden with Rich admiring his handiwork -- isn't it looking so great this year!? And then I headed out to Highland Park for their massive community yard sale day.

I'd hoped to take some more pics later in the day featuring my new jacket, but I didn't have much luck. Ah well, a pretty day spent walking around a pretty neighborhood in a new dress is enough of a good time for me. The quest continues.

What's shakin' with you?

Last Day At Gypsy Café

Eight years ago on an April afternoon, my brother Jim and his soon-to-be wife Melanie opened up a restaurant on the South Side. Gypsy Café has been a beloved part of the neighborhood ever since, serving up delicious food, warm hospitality, and the-owner-totally-remembers-your-name realness. Sunday was Gypsy's last day and we went down for one last, awesome Geek Brunch. Each Sunday, Jim would sit down and, considering the most pressing geek issues of the day, compose a hilarious and fact-filled menu that was almost as fun to read as the food was to eat!

I had my favorite dish -- Eggs Thor-entine -- while Skyler, Rich, and Brian all had the Breakfast Bowl. (Rich is making a Failure Pile in a Sadness Bowl face. We thought Jim would appreciate that.)

Here's Matt with a spicy, delicious bloody mary with more than 2 olives!

How lucky am I to get to eat brunch with so many handsome men! In a new shift to boot!

With an awesome back!

And polka dotted sunglasses!

Mostly I was just glad to send Gypsy off in a happy way on a lovely day. Jim and Mel, you guys created such a great thing with Gypsy, and I know that all of us who loved the place wish you nothing but the best times as you get started on the next chapter! It's going to be great!

Food Glorious Food

Ahh! Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day here in the Burgh, and I went to brunch with my bestie Jolene. And played with her fancy Kate Spade purse!

You know, outfit posts in hot weather are kind of tricky, cause I generally just throw on a shift and some sandals and go. I'm trying to play a bit more with accessories to liven things up -- this pearl collar belonged to my wonderful fiance's glamorous grandma.

Of course, after taking these pics, I had "Food Glorious Food" stuck in my head all day. Three banquets a DAY! Our favorite DIET!

Now I'm off to draft a bunch of patterns and drink a bunch of tea. What are you up to today?

They're Making Patterns For Clothes, But Not For Me: Another Tiny Rant

A few months ago, I got this patternmaking book that allegedly walks you through the process of drafting a sloper, or a master pattern. When I got home, I went immediately to my drafting table and started working through it -- I was so excited to walk through the process as laid out by fashion masters! For I am a pattern-making padawan with much to learn!

As I looked through the steps, though, I started to get confused. Why is the book giving me a list of measurements to use, rather than telling me which measurements I need to gather from my subject? And why does it tell me to draw the dart 2" wide and the bust point 10.5" from the shoulder seam when I know darn well my dart needs to be much wider and my bust point needs to be much lower?

Vexed, I looked for another patternmaking book, one that described how to draft a sloper using actual measurements rather than assumptions … but I couldn't find one. I asked Google, my patternmaking coach, and some sewing-oriented friends -- none of them knew of such a book either. If such a book exists, I know not where. (If you do, please speak up!)

And I saw, again, that what seems like simple common sense to me -- using actual measurements to build a pattern that will work for a particular human body -- is not what fashion processes are built for. In fact, the entire design and manufacturing process of clothing is built on a set of assumptions that apply to almost no one.

This is a subtle distinction, but kind of an important one, I think. Because, if each and every fashion-school-trained patternmaker learns to build patterns with a 2" dart and 10.5" shoulder-to-bust-point measurement, then that is what's "normal." And those of us who need 1" or 4" darts, or have 9" or 15" shoulder-to-bust point measurements, or somesuch, are anomalies, outside the standard workflow and in need of adjustments to make the clothes fit our imperfect bodies.

Training designers to design specifically for one narrow range of body types leads to an inherent bias against everything that falls outside of that range. Kind of like when you work at McDonald's and someone wants a Big Mac with no special sauce -- it's far enough outside the normal procedure that it's annoying to deal with.

This bias shows up on the hanger, where plus size women's choices are so limited, so poorly-made, and so heinously ugly that sometimes in my more paranoid moments it seems they must actually be motivated by unconscious malice on the part of fashion industry professionals.

You see the bias on TV, too, like every season on Project Runway when they have to do a "real woman" challenge and everyone loses their shit. (None of them hate fat chicks of course, it's just against their design aesthetic to create clothes for girls who don't look like models.)

Or on All On The Line when Joe Zee asks Kara Janx to use a plus size model (a size 8 "plus size" model!) to show one of her kimono dresses and she gets shirty about it.

I guess I get that designers want to communicate their artistic vision via fashion, and it's not as interesting to them to work on engineering problems like how to accommodate a DDDD bustline, or how to change the rise of a pair of pants to be comfy on a big belly and/or bodacious booty.

But maybe if they were trained to build clothes for ACTUAL bodies, instead of NON-EXISTENT PLATONIC IDEAL bodies, that would change ...

image courtesy of kennedyrox

Cute Dress Alert! Áine, Madison, WI

Here is Áine, living the dream on a sunny day in Madison, looking perfectly springy and lovely in her "Once Upon A Fairy Tale" shift.

These photos make me want a denim jacket and an orange scarf immediately! And a little dog, too -- see him hiding?

Áine, thank you so much for (1) being ridiculously cute and (2) documenting said cuteness in photos for all of us to enjoy this fine morning! Wheee! Mondays are great!

The Privilege Of Having High Standards

Many years ago now, within the span of a few days, I got my first big girl apartment and my first job that paid more than the bare minimum. The night I got my first-ever 4-digit paycheck, I cashed it, bought a bottle of wine, and got my friends together for a good old-fashioned roll around a pile of money on the living room floor. I remember feeling such awe that I could be such an adult-ish type person. Over the course of the next few years, I filled that 2 bedroom apartment almost completely up. Hilarious bowling nun figurines, hilarious platform shoes, paisley housecoats, frilly hats, record albums, home-sewn aprons, daisy-covered kitchen canisters, and a mantle display of a mylar fringe curtain framing a 3 foot tall Virgin Mary -- I could resist none of these amazing, amusing items.

And so I'd bring them home and find a spot for them nestled in amongst everything else, where they'd immediately start attracting grime.

Eventually I realized that I didn't have any more potential homes for weird things, which meant that I couldn't buy everything in the world that I wanted. I slowed down my rate of acquisition, then started getting rid of stuff. And as white space began to appear between my tchotchkes, I discovered that I liked it.

This was huge, because like a lot of people who grow up in a not-that-financially-secure environment, I'd never before experienced enough quantity to understand its relationship to quality. When you feel a persistent sense of lack, you don't stop to think too much about what you're grabbing for -- you just grab.

But as I started to outgrow the grabbiness, I started paying attention to different things. Do I need this? Is it going to add to my life or just sit around? And as my environmental consciousness grew, other questions came onto the list, too. Where did this come from? Who made it? Is it going to last?

My standards started to rise, and I got a lot pickier about what I brought into my life. My apartment still looked cute and prominently featured hilarious stuff; there was just a lot less of it.

I noticed myself going through this process in other parts of my life, too. I allowed my standards to rise for what I ate, who I hung out with, how I spent my time ... But it didn't really happen with clothes until much later -- in fact, it's still a work in progress.

Even now, as I compost and recycle and buy almost exclusively happy meat and fair trade coffee, I still find myself guiltily standing in line at Target with a tank top or a pair of tights in my hand. For some reason, the disconnect between my ideals and my behavior seems to show up in fashion more than anywhere else.

Why? I think it has to do with those feelings of lack and grabbiness I described earlier. Because, honestly, unless you are one of the few people who falls right into the narrow band of proportions that mass marketers design for, there truly is a distinct lack of clothing for you in the stores.

Here's how it breaks down. Let's say I need a pair of pants, so I go to a store, gather up a dozen or so pairs to try, and proceed to the dressing room. Of my dozen choices, one pair fits. Kind of. They don't make me look or feel particularly cute, and they're maybe a little short? But they do button up without causing a massive muffin top, which is more than I can say for any of the other ones.

At this point, I can decide to keep looking, go gather up another dozen pairs, and take my chances on another ride through the process, and often I do. But other times, knowing how my shopping experience tends to go, I just go ahead and buy the 60% okay pants, because I need them, and these work. Kind of.

The point is that, as a body proportion outlier in 2012 America, my choices are so limited that I have very little space to think about where they were made / their fabric content / whether or not they make my butt look cute. I'm expected to just be satisfied that it's covered.

And this is how a person ends up with closets full of clothes that they don't want to wear, a depressing but fairly common state of affairs. We have soooo many clothes in this world, and almost all of them suck.

Of course I think we can do better than this. I think we can have more options. Better options. Instead of tons of sucky clothes, we can have just a few absolutely perfect ones that we love and want to wear all the time. Instead of hustling to cobble together a look from a bunch of garments about which we feel decidedly "meh", we can decide how we want to dress and then dress that way, no matter our size or proportion.

I don't want to be stuck with 60% okay clothes made in a sweatshop from the world's most pesticide-laden fibers, and I don't want you to be stuck with them either. What I want is for all of us -- fat or skinny, apple or pear -- to have the privilege to dress to our most fully realized vision of cuteness AND to our highest standards and morals. No more lesser-of-two-evils compromises in the dressing room or anywhere else. Let's figure out a better way.

Magical Salvation Army Haul!

Last weekend when I was cavorting on The High Line, my friends Katie and Christa were at the Salvation Army Ladies Auxiliary Fabric Fair, throwing elbows and filling bags on Wear the Shift's behalf. Behold the glory!

The blue/green one in the middle is corduroy!!

And that burgundy one with the little pink flowers? Ugh! I die!

And the red houndstooth! And the blue Celtic design! And those tiny black and white flowers??!

This is just the tip of the new fabric iceberg. Prepare yourself, my loves!

And Christa and Katie, thank you so much! You done good!!

Up On The High Line

Last week, Rich and I went to New York! We got to eat delicious foods, see Pulp at Radio City, and visit one of my absolute favorite places, The High Line.

Old elevated rail tracks have been converted into a simply stunning pedestrian space filled with native plants, cozy places to sit, and perhaps the happiest collection of New Yorkers I have ever seen.

Something about The High Line is magical -- maybe it's the feeling of being so far above the fray of the city. But, seriously, every person you see up there is grinning like a fool, especially me!

What a gorgeous day in an amazing place!

Here's Rich, Victoria, and me demonstrating what a little Vitamin D can do for human spirits! Happy Monday!