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."

Monday, May 22, 2017

What? Is a Magic Mirror

What is a magic mirror? A lot of us instantly think of something similar to the image above, most everyone knows the story of Snow White. The magic mirror is something that is now referenced in the world of fashion quite often. It varies immensely but the main idea behind all of them remains the same, to enhance the shopper's experience. They have been making appearances for at least 10 years now at different levels of technology but they still haven't really hit mainstream as first predicted when introduced.

I have been coming across them quite regularly in my research on garment sizing. Nothing that is available thus far deals with sizing issues well and they are mostly used in stores as a novelty due to their cost. Normally they are seen in the main retail store area as a giant touchscreen where a customer can scan through available stock. 
Some take a picture of you and then you can tweak images of garments and fit them on your image. You get a rough idea of whether the garment is some thing you may like without actually having to try it on, and you get to play with technology. They don't give you an accurate idea of how the garment will fit.
Others remind me of dressing a paperdoll, the cool thing is that the paperdoll is you. The person is you on the screen and you scroll through different outfits playing dressup. I have seen this method used at fashion related exhibits at museums as a way to make the exhibit more interactive and a chance to see yourself on the red carpet. Both often give you the option of sharing the image through social media or via email.

Another magic mirror type includes RFID(Radio Frequency Identification) technology. The RFID's are being embedded in the mirrors and when you enter the changing room with garments the tags are automatically scanned. The mirror can then suggest other possible garments and accessories to complete the outfit. Some may even suggest options that suit your silhouette better or makeup options. Ones that have a tablet in the change room can allow you to request other sizes or colours from a sales clerk or even the option of purchasing garments without even leaving the change room. 

The question is Do Magic Mirrors enhance the shopping experience? Is technology simplifying or confusing matters more?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Where? Kinokuniya Bookstore

My daughter has discovered Anime in the last while so I decided we would take a visit to Kinokuniya Bookstore here in the International District, Seattle. Of course they have a membership card like most bookstores of today, and surprise I got one. Anyone who knows me at all knows I am a sucker for bookstores and getting a membership card like this to help support my habit, how could I resist.

Until now I hadn't made it to Kinokuniya, though it had been on my radar for a while. Since my daughter has been watching back to back episodes of Black Butler and I finally got her to watch Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle I decided it was time to check it out. I think she has fallen in love ;) I envision more Anime movies in the near future.

Here she is checking out the Funko POP selection (she is now the proud owner of Sebastion from Black Butler). She's wearing her newly altered suit jacket and pants as I picked her up right from school and it had been recital day. Of course she is also wearing her Sans hat as it seldomly leaves her head.

I was impressed with the wall of ENFU Stickers and bought myself a new one to put on my laptop. I have boughten a few of these stickers since moving to Seattle. Both of us found many things we wanted and I didn't even check out the stationary area. I was kinda of afraid to as I knew I would find an assortment of writing implements that I need. Another bookstore has been officially added to my list of places to frequent.

A little WEAR? blurb

My daughter wearing her new Sans hat as her old one is looking a little worse for wear. The old one is made of fleece and more of a dingy grey then white. I made her new one out of a nice cotton knit which will be much more comfortable this time of year.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Who? Mary Phelps Jacob or Caresse Crosby

Mary Phelps Jacob aka Polly to her friends was a woman who believed in living her life to the fullest. She had a very eventful and exciting life which also included not the best taste in men. Her first husband after returning from WWI, an alcoholic and was obsessed with watching buildings burn. She had two children with him, a son and daughter. While still married to Richard R. Peabody she began a relationship and scandelous affair with Harry Crosby many years her junior. After this went on for two years Richard granted her a divorce and Mary married Harry and moved to Paris to begin a new life. In Paris Harry Crosby and Mary joined The Lost Generation of American expatriates. They immersed themselves in the bohemian decadent lifestyle which also involved frequent drug use and numerous wild trips abroad. They had an open marriage as Harry had many affairs and after a while so did Mary. 

Caresse and Clytoris

In 1924 Mary took the name of Caresse after deciding against Clytoris, though they did decide to name their second whippet Clytoris. Harry thrived on trying to shock society and became more and more obsessed with death over the years. In 1925 they started publishing their poetry as Edition Narcisse and by 1928 they had renamed their press company Black Sun Press. They were patrons of the arts, had befriended Dali, Max Ernst and published early works of Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Bukowski and more. The couple continued their decadent lifestyle until Harry's death in 1929, in New York. Harry was found dead in the intimate embrace of his current lover, they were both dead from gunshot wounds to the head. This created another scandal as it was unsure if it was a murder suicide or the results of a suicide pact. After Harry's death Caresse added Mary back to her name.

Mary and Caresse

Mary Caresse returned to Paris and continued to run Black Sun Press until leaving because of unrest due to the upcoming war. Soon after returning to the United States she met and married Selbert Young, an unemployed, alcoholic actor many years younger then herself. Mary Caresse bought a Virginia plantation outside Washington, DC as Selbert had dreams of living on a farm. Mary Caresse finally divorced Selbert after one of his many drinking binges where he would disappear for days, months and even once a year. After the divorce Mary Caresse moved to Washington DC and started a long-term love affair in 1934 with the black actor-boxer Canada Lee. Canada and Mary Caresse had a difficult relationship due to the miscegnation laws of the times and were normally only seen in public together as a couple in Harlem. Their relationship continued into the 40's and during this time she became more and more of an activist. 

Mary Caresse had friendships with many outspoken activists over the years including Ezra Pound and Tiffany Thayer(publisher of Doubt/Fortrean Society Magazine). In 1952 she was arrested by the Greek police as a threat to the economy and politics of the country when trying to visit her house in Delphi, Greece. Mary Caresse was put under house arrest and then expelled from the country. She was a strong supporter of the World Citizen movement and in 1955 at a meeting of the "Commonwealth of World Citizens" she was appointed Counselor to the United States. She then proceeded to open a World Citizens Information Centre in Washington DC the same year. In the summer of 1956 she was elected the 1st President of the Council.

During the 1950's she also rented and later bought Castello di Rocca Sinibalda north of Rome, Italy. She used the castle to support various artists and had many poets seminars over the years. It became an Artists Colony was referred to as "Free World" and many artists visited for a weekend or an entire season.

Caresse's favourite mode of transportation while at castle
Mary Caresse put Rocca Sinibalda up for sale in 1970 shortly before her death in 1970 in Rome of pneumonia related to heart disease. The castle after many years of neglect has been restored and opened to the public in 2014 as a National Monument. They often have exhibits and theatre continuing with Mary Caresse's work and support of the arts.

Anais Nin said Caresse Crosby was "a pollen carrier, who mixed, stirred, brewed, and concocted freindships." Mary Phelps Jacob/Caresse Crosby/Mary Caresse Crosby is an important part of history and is often overlooked except for her claim to fame of "inventing the first bra."

Monday, May 15, 2017

What? Is Vanity Sizing

Vanity sizing is mainly a marketing tool created by retailers when they started making bigger clothes and marking them with smaller sizes. This trend starting occuring as early as the 50's and in todays retail market it is a common occurence. Truthfully this has made sizing labels practically useless. A woman's and yes even a man's sizing can easily vary 2 or 3 sizes brand to brand. It is even possible to take in three pair of pants labeled the exact same size by the same fashion brand and they will each fit completely different. Something that makes it very difficult in the changing room let alone ordering something online. Approximately 40% of online clothing purchases are returned because of sizing issues.

As you can see from the above chart, sizing has greatly changed over the decades. A good example is in the Sears catalog a 32" bust was a Size 14 in 1937, in 1967 it was a size 8 and in 2011 it was a Size 0. Twiggy was considered to be a Size 8 in 1967 now she would be a Size 0 or even 00. Marilyn Monroe was a Size 14 at the height of her fame now she would be a Size 6 or 8. Neither woman is the standard shape of most women of today. 

The reason Vanity Sizing works is because deep down everyone is a little vain. If a customer has taken multiple pairs of pants in a change room to try and they have found two pairs that fit well, one is marked size 10 the other size 8, they will 9 times out of 10 buy the ones marked size 8. They will often even be willing to pay more for the size 8's. The smaller size number on the label makes them feel better about themselves.

In an ideal situation we wouldn't care what size the label said, instead we would only care about the fit and appearance of a garment. Self Esteem should not include a number on a label but sadly it often does, thus Vanity Sizing exists and prospers. Before the Great Depression and WWII Ready-to-wear(RTW) was not readily available so no sizing labels. Instead of RTW if women were wealthy they had their clothing made for them or if they weren't wealthy they made their own garments. This meant clothing was made to their individual measurements and personal preferences. Ideally size labels should not be a concern and Vanity Sizing has only added more confusion in the dressing room but both are here to stay.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Where? Goodwill Capital Hill

My daughter has a ukulele recital for her school coming up and she was told to dress up. She isn't one for dresses or even skirts. So her idea was to get a pair of dress pants and a suit jacket "You know a tux or something". Then she suggested we go thrift shopping :). I think I may be raising her right if her first suggestion was thrift shopping for a "tux or something." So after school yesterday we caught the bus and went to the Capital Hill Goodwill.

Her posing with our oversize bag after our expedition. She found everything she needed for the recital plus I found some things for myself also.

I scored the TV Series "Pushing Daisies" that I have been keeping my eyes open for. The first season was still sealed and the second season was pristine also, so the trip was just worthwhile for that. We also ended up with a suit jacket for her - $24.97, two pairs of black dress pants - $7.99 each, a purple dress shirt - $7.99, and to complete her outfit a pair of Steve Madden blue suede boots - $19.99. I found a pair of black IBEX pants that had never been worn - $12.99, a Calvin Klein black skirt - $12.99, and two black shirts - $4.99 & $7.99. It seems I always find something worth buying at this location and it's clean and the staff is friendly.

Of course all of her stuff needs alterations of some sort, that is except her boots. The men's suit jacket needs the shoulders narrowed and maybe the sleeves need to be shortened, though I suspect the sleeves may be fine after the shoulder alteration. The dress shirt was a mans also so I am shortening the length of it and taking the sleeves back the cuff length. Both pairs of pants need to be shortened also but I am ecstatic that she decided on two pairs, maybe this means she will wear something beyond her standard leisure wear occasionally. She also found a vintage bow tie amongst my stash which needs some TLC to complete her outfit.

Thrift shopping is always an adventure and sometimes it can be challenging when looking for something specific. This outing was fruitful and my daughter actually enjoyed the experience, something which doesn't happen often when it come to shopping for clothes. I have found she is always more cooperative at a thrift shop then she is at a normal clothing retail store though.

Well back to the sewing machine for me :)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Who? Mary Phelps Jacob Part 1

Mary Phelps Jacob born April 20, 1891 died January 24, 1970

Mary Phelps Jacob was a young New York socialite who at the age of 19 designed what she later called the "Backless Brassiere". The story is that in 1910 she had purchased a sheer evening gown for an debuntante's ball. Mary was dissatisfied with the way her corset looked under the dress, the whalebone was noticable due to the sheerness of the fabric and the plunging neckline. She asked her maid to fetch two silk handkerchiefs, some ribbon and cording, they stitched these together and the "Backless Brassiere" was created. At the ball she had many compliments for her creation and even requests for it. It was a light, soft and comfortable alternative to the corset and after receiving a request for one from a complete stranger Mary realized this could be a viable business venture.

On November 3,1914 Mary was issued the first patent for a bra in the United States. From there she started the Fashion Form Brassiere Company in Boston and employed women to manufacture her wireless bra the "Caresse Crosby". Her brassiere suited the new fashions at the time which was entering the era of the Flapper. It did not provide much support and actually flattened the breasts but it was lightweight, soft and seperated the breasts naturally. Soon afterwards she sold the patent to the Warner Brothers Corset Company for $1,500 who proceeded to use it to make millions over the next 30 years. It was a crucial alternative to the corset during WWI as it did not need ribbing and thus no metal. Warner manufactured the Crosby bra for awhile but it did not sell particularily well and eventually they discontinued it. They did however manage to build a huge business based on the ownership of the bra patent.
Mary said her brassiere was "well adapted to women of different sizes" and "so efficient that it may be worn by persons engaged in violent exercise like tennis."

Mary Phelps Jacob was an American patron of the arts, publisher and peace activist along with being an inventor which I will discuss in Part 2.

Monday, May 8, 2017

What? To Look for when Thrift Shopping

Thrift shopping can be daunting the first few times a person does it for a lot of reasons. I always do a quick assessment of the establishment as soon as I walk in the door. A shop that is clean and tidy and well organized is always a better experience. This normally means that the clothing has been checked better before it hits the floor. 

Basic rules to follow when Thrift Shopping:
- look for flaws - stains in underarms, collars and inseams - always check for any signs of discolouration 
                          - holes - Hold the item up to the light if possible this should make any small holes more noticable. This may sometimes be a problem as many shops do not have much natural light. But do your best.
                          - check all seams to see if they are intact
                          - make sure zippers and snaps still function
                          - see if garment is missing any buttons
- read the labels - fabric content
                          - washing instructions
Other things to check for - Touch and even caress the fabric to judge feel of the garment. Ask yourself is it something you personally like the feel of. Do a scrunch taste to check the wrinkle factor.                          
                                         - Pilling of fabric - Closely examine any area where friction occurs. Think about the human body and what areas have a tendency to rub against each other. This is important to remember with activewear. Some cheaper knits also pill easily.
                                         - In activewear it is also important to check the underarms and crotch area for sweat damage. If fabric is relaxed but looks wavy anywhere there has been damage to the integrity of the fabric, so you should pass on the garment.

If you have basic handstitching skills many simple fixes can be accomplished. Knowing how to sew a blind hem can be quite beneficial. Often someone has gotten rid of a skirt, dress or pair of pants just because they don't want to deal with the loose hem.

Other simple fixes are if there is wear on the hem of a pair of pants, maybe they could just be shortened into capris or perhaps you have shorter legs then the previous owner. If there is a stain or wear on the cuff of a top, you could add some trim to hide the fact or shorten the sleeves. Loose or lost buttons can often be reattached or replaced. 
Zippers and snaps are not always a simple fix. Unless you have experience replacing a zipper maybe pass on the garment. As for snaps check what type of snap needs replacing as they vary greatly.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Wear? - Favourite Jeans MMMAY17

These are my favourite pair of jeans, a friend gave them to me about 4 years ago. Her sister had given them to her and lucky for me they didn't fit her :). They are from a US company called Royal Unknighted and are made from a 4 way stretch denim. I loved the flare width, the contrast stitching and the fit.

The yoke is as added bonus as it sits so much nicer on my physique then the traditional jean waistband. The top stitching is all done with a high contrast thick yellow thread in three rows. The top stitching up the inseam is also a nice feature.

But my favourite jeans are finally calling it quits, I suspected thay they were getting to the stage of showing wear. And after their last washing.... 

They aren't the type of jeans that really suit a patch and I definitely can't make a hole this size just disappear. So the reason for this blog posting, I am going to clone myself a pair. I have been thinking about doing it for a while as I haven't been able to find another pair of these jeans and I really like them if you haven't realized that yet. The end results won't look exactly like this pair as I am starting with a slightly different fabric but the main goal is the fit.

So making a new pair of jeans from my old favourites is probably my MAIN goal for MMMAY17.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Who? - Edna Woolman Chase

This is a quote from Edna Woolman Chase and something she strongly believed. Another thing she used to say was "If we must err let us err on the side of understatement". She was a women of strong convictions and would often come across as old-fashioned and a bit stuffy.

Edna Woolman Chase was born in 1877 in Asbury Park, NJ and moved to New York as a young woman. She started in the Vogue mailroom in 1895 at the age of 18 and then proceeded to make a lasting impression on Vogue.

Edna as a young lady
In 1914 Edna was made the assistant editor of Vogue by Nast. Nast in later years in a memo wrote "Edna, we have been a great team. I believe I have been a wide-awake intelligent publisher, but I am the first to admit to myself and to acknowledge to the world that without you I could never have built Vogue. We have built this property together." Chase, Nast and Vogue during the onset of WWI decided to keep fashion alive in the US by creating the first ever New York Fashion Show - "Fashion Fete". The war had disrupted communication between Paris and the US and Chase saw an opportunity for Vogue. It was agreed that any proceeds from the show be donated to the Committee of Mercy To Aid Women And Orphans of the Allied Nations.  This gained the support of the ladies of New York society and the success of the show which resulted in the continued success of Vogue. It was partially due to this fashion show that Vogue survived two world wars and the Great Depression.

Chase is often given credit for why Vogue went from a small weekly newspaper to the haute coutre magazine of today. She was pivotal in 1916 for sewing patterns becoming available in department stores so that every US woman could look as chic as American socialites. Edna was a perfectionist and her goal was to be the high-society authority on matters of style and elegance. In 1929 she became the editor-in-chief of all Vogue editions and she kept her position on the top of the ladder at Vogue magazine until 1952 when she retired at the age of 75.

At work in the later years

Edna Woolman Chase was one of the original founders of the Fashion Group International in the 1930's, their main goal was to promote fashion trends, fashion education and business. During WWII she helped to redesign uniforms for women in the miltary. She had a long and influential career in the world of fashion which she documented in her autobiography "Always in Vogue" at the age of 77 which she coauthored with her actress daughter Ilka. Edna died of a heart attack in Florida at the age of 80 in 1957.

"Fashion is general; style is individual and has little to do with class." Edna Woolman Chase

Monday, May 1, 2017

What? - Rayon Fabric

Rayon was the first manufactured(regenerated) fiber. In 1855, George Audemars, a swiss chemist, discovered how to make cellulose nitrate. In 1884, Count Hilaire de Chardonnet made the first man made fibers from nitrocellulose. He is referred to as the "father of rayon". Chardonnet got the original French patent, and established the world's first rayon factory. From here other scientists developed more cost effective ways of making other types of rayon.

In 1892 C.F. Cross, E.J. Bevan and Clayton Beadle took out a patent for Viscose which became the basis for the viscose, rayon and cellophane industries. The first patent for "art silk" occurred in 1894 tho it took until 1910 for the first US commercial rayon production to begin. The textile industry switched from calling it "art silk" to rayon in 1924.
The basics of its production are cellulose (often from trees) which is converted into a soluble compound.

An example of a spinneret
A solution of this compound is passed through a spinneret to form soft filaments that are then converted into almost pure cellulose in the final product. Rayon fabrics have different strength and stretch characteristics created by adjusting the drawing process applied in spinning.
Close up of a Rayon fabric

Basic rayon has low wet strength. Thus it can become unstable and may stretch or shrink when wet. Dry cleaning or hand washing was normally recommended to preserve the appearance of regular basic rayon. If machine washed the garment could shrink as much as 10%. Companies over the years have tried to correct this low wet strength and there has been many advancements in rayon development. These advancements have resulted in Modal, lyocell and Tencel to just name a few.

Most rayon in the present day can be machine washed and tumble dried. It wrinkles easily but a light steam can remedy this. It is more absorbant then cotton, soft, comfortable to wear, drapes well and is easily dyed in a multitude of colours.

If you want to learn a bit more about early Rayon production the following movie is approx. 30 minutes.