Thursday, August 3, 2017

Who? Nelly Don Part 2

The Nelly Don Handy Dandy Apron was a genius of manufacturing. The seamstress never had to remove the garment from the machine to sew seams and this cut down greatly on production time. These aprons are the main reason Nelly Don managed to stay afloat during the Great Depression and keep most of her employees working year around.

By 1930 Nelly and her husband Paul were only married by name alone and Nelly was keeping company with her married neighbour James Reed. Reed was a three time Senator of Missouri and fought strongly for what he believed- "Rather Be Right Than President"- which prevented him being supported by his party as their presidential candidate. He retired from politics in 1929 and returned to his private law practice. 

In the summer of 1931 Nelly supposedly went to Europe to adopt a baby. Her husband Paul had always been opposed to the idea of children and was known for threatening to kill himself if she ever became pregnant. When she returned she had a baby boy named David Quinlan Donnelly born Sept 1931. It was accepted in most circles that he was the biological son of James Reed. 
During this period Paul seldom left the house due to illness and on Dec 16, 1931 Nelly and her chauffeur were kidnapped at the front gate of the house. It was thought that Paul was to be the intended abductee. When Reed heard of the kidnapping he was in trial in Jefferson City Missouri and he rushed to the Donnelly home from the courtroom. He forced Johnny Lazia a political gangster to find Nelly with a 24 hour time limit. Lazia is rumoured to have sent 25 carloads of hoodlums to find Nell, they found Nell and her chauffeur within 34 hours of the initial abduction.
Nell divorced Paul in 1932 after 26 years of marriage, in Oct of 1932 Reed's wife died of pneumonia at the age of 88(she was Reed's senior by 14 years). December 1933 at a dinner party Reed and Nell were married by a federal judge, Nell and Reed had a happy marriage and Reed officially adopted David. After 11 years of marriage Reed died of bronchitis September 1944 just a few days before David's 13th birthday. Nell never remarried but had a successful business for many years until selling her interest in the Donnelly Garment Company in 1956 at the age of 67.

Throughout her career in the world of fashion Nell was known for treating her employees well. She always said that anyone who worked at the company was part of her family. She established a pension plan for employees, provided morning and afternoon snacks, subsidized a cafeteria so staff could eat well but inexpensively. She also encouraged education by paying for any employee who wanted to do night courses for college and establishing a scholarship fund for employees children. She had a full medical clinic on site, paid for group hospitalization benefits and life insurance. Nell installed air conditioning as soon as it was provided to make working conditions more pleasant. Donnelly Garment Company also had a farm and mansion which were made available to employees for picnics, hiking and a rec centre. In 1947 Nelly Don was posting $14 million in annual sales and was the largest company of its kind in the world.
In the 50's Nelly Don's were famous for fit and how well they were made considering they were mass produced, employees were paid some of the highest wages in the industry. The Donnelly Garment Company was an example of what ready-to-wear manufacturing could and should be, high quality garments made by skilled workers in a supportive environment. After selling the business in 57' Nelly continued her involvement in business and civic affairs in Kansas City. She served on the school board, Kansas City Art Institute and many other social and cultural institutions. 
Nelly Don died Sept 8, 1991 at the age of 102, 47 years after her beloved Reed.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August Reading List

So July has come and gone and the blog was neglected during this time ;). My daughter and I were in Ontario, Canada for a month and our available internet was lacking during this time. It was good for both of us to not have constant access to high speed but we are both enjoying having it again now that we are back in Seattle.

The Coat Route - Craft, Luxury & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat by Meg Lukens Noonan is actually a book I picked up at Chapters from the sales racks while away, I then managed to misplace it when I was half way through it. I have a tendency to carry a book with me most of the time and occasionally one gets left behind, I always hope whomever finds my misplaced book enjoys it. This was a book I was enjoying so I ordered a new one as soon as arriving home. The Coat Route is written from the viewpoint of a reporter who was inspired to research how one particular coat was created and the many artisans involved in the process. This book was relevant presently because I was taking a MOOC called Who Made My Clothes on Futurelearn, the course was about discovering what and who is involved in all the clothing we wear. This is a topic near and dear to me and something more people should care about, I am looking forward to finishing the book.

Alligators, Old Mink & New Money by Alison Houtte & Melissa Houtte is something I picked up used in West Seattle at Merryweather Books. Alison Houtte is a former model turned vintage store owner and this is a book about her love for vintage clothing, their stories and adventures. It looks like a light read and it will be my transit book this week. Keep your fingers crossed that I don't misplace it.

Fixing Fashion - Rethinking the Way We Make, Market and Buy Our Clothes by Michael Lavergne is another book I picked up used in West Seattle, it was a good book buying day. This book looks like a drier read but I have come across the author's name before in reference. Michael Lavergne is known as an expert on global fashion and an ethical supply chain professional. It was published in 2015 in Canada so I am looking forward to his viewpoints as many books on similar topics are British based and not published as recently. It will be refreshing to read a Canadian perspective instead of the standard British viewpoint.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Review: Girling Up & Girl Code

Girling Up by Mayim Bialik was a quick read, it is written for tweens and young women but I enjoyed her humour and anecdotes even though I belong in neither category. She does a wonderful job of emphasizing that everyone feels the odd man out at times. Mayim references many different points of her life, personal and professional(actress and neuroscientist) throughout the book She stresses that she was a late bloomer and jokes that her first kiss was on screen during a Blossom episode and we can now see her portrayal of an socially awkward adult on Big Bang Theory. The book is broken down into six chapters starting with How Our Bodies Work and concluding with How We Matter. She discusses hormones, sexuality, education, respect, self worth and how to deal with life. Mayim does all this in a down to earth manner and it was an enjoyable read.

Girl Code by Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser is a book I would strongly recommend to any girl who is considering coding as a career. Both Andrea and Sophie talk about what their perceptions of coding were before and after their experiences within this world. They discuss many preconceptions they started with and how they were altered. Their summer together at Girls Who Code totally changed their lives, the final project resulted in Tampon Run which then went viral and they both learnt a lot about themselves during this time. It will be interesting to see if either girl persues coding or computer science careers later in life. Andrea and Sophie are very different girls and come from very different backgrounds but they found a similar love in coding and striving for social change. Coding provided them both with a voice and a strong sense of accomplishment. 

Both books are very positive and would be a great read for any young women who is struggling to find herself or just needs that little extra support in knowing they are not alone in their struggle. They are being put in the pile of books for my daughter to read which lives beside her bed. I hope she discovers and reads these when the time is right.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Who? Nelly Don the Company and the Woman Part 1

Nelly Don born Ellen Quinlan(1889) in Parsons, Kansas the 12th child of Irish-Americans. After finishing high school at the age of 16 she moved to Kansas City and got a job as a stenographer where she met Paul Donnelly a fellow stenographer whom she married at the age of 17. Nelly wanted to continue her education so when she was 19 Paul helped pay for her to attend Lindenwood College in Missouri, she was the only married student. After graduation in 1909 she returned to being a housewife. Nelly hated the standard fashions available for a housewife at the time so she started to design and create her own housedresses. After being continually asked by neighbours and friends about her clothing she decided to go into business.

At the time housedresses sold for .69 cents and Nelly dresses sold for $1.00 each.  She had a hard time convincing any retailers to sell her dresses until Peck's Dry Goods agreed to take 18 dozen dresses on consignment in 1916. Paul managed to scrape enough money together to buy fabric and some foot pedal sewing machines.It took Nell and two friends sewing for two months to get the order finished. Her pink gingham empire-style housedress which was fitted and trimmed with ruffles sold out in a few days. 

From the very beginning Nelly believed that dresses should look stylish and flattering on women of a wide range of sizing. 

Each design was prototyped in every size to ensure that it fit correctly and little alteration would be needed beyond what Nelly worked into the design of the garment. The dresses often had slide fasteners and adjustable waistlines and belts. Another feature was "Double stitching at the waistline tape in one piece dresses. Rip out the top row of stitching for added shoulder-to-waist length". Most of the dresses could be washed and drip dried with minimum ironing and had at leat one pocket.

Nelly made her first million dollars by 27 by reinventing the housedress. She pioneered clothing piecing production by taking inspiration from aviation and car manufacturing industries on production. By 1923 she employed 250 people(mainly women) and her dresses were sold in most department stores across the U.S. She was always a great publicist as she understood the benefits of cross promotion. She provided all stores with extensive marketing support through pamphlets, radio and newspaper ads but also insisted they agree to exclusivity and sell no other dresses. Many department stores had a whole area which was labeled the Nelly Don Shop.

Friday, June 9, 2017

What? is Conscious Consumerism

What is conscious consumerism and why is it important? Also How can we make our children aware of the concept? A basic definition is using our dollars to vote for what we believe. This mainly means only buying items or services that match our own ethical and moral beliefs. This brings up my mantra of "Knowledge is Power"

When discussing the topic with my daughter it usually starts with the "Gimmies, WantEms & NeedEms". Which heading does the item fall under? I feel this is very important base when discussing consumerism, we should always be aware of which heading every item we buy falls under. I think we are all guilty of the Gimmies & WantEms and we often try to convince ourselves and others that they are really NeedEms. Often the terms can blur as we may need something but do we need that particular one. 

Conscious consumerism can be very abstract at times as it does come down to each individual. There is no defined demographic, though much effort has been given trying to determine one. Transparency in the supply chain has become a big part of many companies over the last decade and it has become much easier for the average consumer to find this information. An easy way is to look for companies mission statements or at least see if they have one or look for the About Page. See if they have similar beliefs to your own, do they care about their workers as individuals.

We should as consumers always think about where something comes from, how was it made, who made it, does the company support similar beliefs to our own? This is all very important but it is a lot to think about when we need to buy something as simple as socks or decide where we should buy our next coffee. Which is why total conscious consumerism can be a difficult thing to follow through on. I strongly believe in trying to walk the walk not just talk the talk but sometimes it can be difficult to only buy things we truly need or to care about every little step of how the the product has made its way into our hands. 

Conscious Consumerism is a topic very important to me and I have been thinking about it quite a bit lately. Part of the reason for it being forefront in my mind is because I have been asked to make an 1.5 hr presentation on the topic. Luckily I have a while to prepare and sort out how best to approach the subject beforehand. My daughter is very interested in contributing her viewpoint on the topic as a middle school student and I plan on including this. The presentation is geared towards how to make Conscious Consumerism part of teaching your child about money management and ethical decision making so having her viewpoint will be an added bonus. I am sure my research will take me down many side paths so the trick will be not to stray too much from my outline for the presentation ;).

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

June's Reading List

I have to admit that I haven't quite finished last months reading list. "The Design Of Everyday Things" by Don Norman has slowed me down a bit. It is very interesting but it is not a book that has absorbed me for large periods of time. I will probably finish it this week and I have been absolutely intrigued by parts of it but it has been a slower read then my norm. "Nelly Don: A Stitch in Time" by Terence Michael O'Malley has opened a slippery slope for me. I have now ordered the true crime novel about Nelly Don's kidnapping and I am presently working on some posts about her. "Magnifeco" by Kate Black is a wonderful book to be introduced to conscious consumerism, she does a good job discussing options. I did not discover much new myself but I still enjoyed the book.

For June I have picked four books partially due to the fact that I have a longer airflight plannd for later in the month which always make for good reading time. It was also because I have boughten new books so my pile isn't really decreasing ;).

"Making Ideas Happen - Overcoming The Obstacles Between Vision & Reality" by Scott Belsky caught my eye one day at a bookstore. This is one of those business books I read ocassionally as a way to focus myself on actual business, will have to wait and see how it reads. "Girl Code - Gaming, Going Viral and Getting It Done" by Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser was another book that caught my attention from the shelf. Each girl is writing their perspective of what they learnt while learning to code and how their game "Tampon Run" going viral effected them.

"Girling Up - How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular" by Mayim Bialik, PhD. What can I say part of the reason I bought this is because "Hey She was Blossom" or nowadays Sheldon's girlfriend aka Amy Farrah Fowler. I also love the fact that she decided to leave acting for a while to get a degree in Neuroscience and become a mother. As she states on the back of the book it is about "The Science of Being a Girl". I am hoping that my tween daughter will also decide to read this book along with "Girl Code".

As for "Fashion Is Spinach - How to Beat the Fashion Racket" by Elizabeth Hawes, well it is partly due to the title it made it to my personal reading list. There is a personal joke between my husband and I that I like green things, food, enviromental choices, eco-fashion. Elizabeth Hawes is also known for her strong opinions on the fashion industry and never seemed to have problems voicing them during her career in the fashion world. I have read mixed reviews on this book and am looking forward to reading it.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Where? My Studio

This past week I have actually been spending some time in my studio and sewing. The last while I have been trying to introduce a new routine which is more well rounded. I always have a tendency to go on sewing binges and immerse myself in production work for days in a row. Surprise, surprise my body doesn't like this treatment. So I have been trying to sew for an 1-1.5 hours then taking a break, this is against my nature, it always seems to be feast or famine situation with me. I will sew 8-12 hrs a day when I am in a sewing mood with few breaks. My new routine involves trying to break up my jobs more throughout the day, this has not been an easy task for me. 

I made space for my new adjustable desk which I can use standing or sitting and it is actually in my studio. This took a bit of work and reorganizing to accomplish, it also forced me to finish going through the numerous boxes that had been moved from Canada. Those mystery mixed boxes that I kept looking in and then closely quickly have finally been sorted. Mystery boxes were in abundance after having a moving company pack my old studio. I had also condensed two studios, my home and business into one just previous to the move. Anyways it is great to have my desk and computer in my upstairs studio, partially due to the fact that my studio gets natural light. Though I do admit to still using my laptop while sitting on the living room couch a lot.

My sewing machines are on an kitchen island I purchased at Ikea, it is nice and sturdy and the surface doesn't vibrate when I am sewing, which is a definite plus to me. I use my sergers and coverstich machine while standing and sit to use my sewing machine. By not sitting for long stretches of time my shoulders and back don't get as sore. I like to have two sergers threaded and ready to go, one of them normally threaded with a neutral like black, cream or white.

I still haven't managed to clear everything out from under my cutting table, maybe some day, we all need goals ;). The other thing I didn't manage to get organized was a place to leave my ironing board up. I am thinking to solve this issue I may make myself a board that can be used on my cutting table. I also need a place to leave a dress mannequin and my steamer accessible, but as I said we all need goals. Or perhaps someday I will find that magical room which is "bigger on the inside."