I was lucky enough to come across a fantastic blog the other day in which a girl who is really into flea markets has given herself a budget of 365 American pounds to dress herself for a year by scouring flea markets and re-working dresses she finds there. I saw a brilliant post where she took a faded lavender nightgown, dyed it and reworked it into a stunning dress worthy of London Fashion Week. This is a worthy example of how re-working a dress to make something far cooler and most importantly more suited to yourself; the dress I am wearing today is an example of why one should be careful of assuming DIY dress design is not for everyone.
When I was head bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding her incredibly talented mother made my bridesmaid dress from a vintage Vogue pattern from the 1950s. Being involved in the process of creating a dress is a brilliant experience. You might get the occasional pin in an unexpected place but I got to watch as what started as a pair of old cotton curtains got turned into a fantastic fitted silk dress with a tiered petticoat which was carefully stitched and crafted by my friend’s mother. It was an absolute honour being maid of honor and having a dress which wasn’t being worn by every other bridesmaid around the country added to this privilege. Dress making is tragically a dying art in the majority of households. Back in the day mothers used to make the majority of their children’s clothing; my grandmother would knit us cardigans for school and indeed one of my friends received matching booties, hats and cardigans for her baby from a wonderful elderly friend of hers.
The difficulty with dress making and indeed clothes making is that with clothes available now so cheaply there is no incentive to spend considerable amounts of money or what is more important for most of us these days, our time, in creating something from nothing but material, needle and a love of design. In our time then it makes far more sense to take the clothes we have, particularly those which have gotten a little frayed, loose, tight or faded and create something new. Stitch and Bitch classes are at large all around the country and for my Manchester followers I know of one taking place at Fuel Cafe on a Sunday. What you have to be aware of though is that re-working a dress is not as easy as taking a pair of scissors to a demure hemlines and turning it into something suitable only for showing one’s smalls.
This danger is I am sorry to say illustrated by the dress I am wearing today which was purchased from a girl on eBay. Though I thought it looked quite cute when I brought it I failed to look carefully enough at the hem of the dress. Bare in mind, a bad hemlines and stitching will ruin an outfit and can make one look crumpled and cheap. Whether you buy your clothing from Primark or Prada make sure you check the quality of the stitching on the hemlines, cost is not necessarily a guarantee of quality.
When this little frock arrived I was a tad worried for two reasons; first it was not as I had originally thought a hand-made frock, it was brought by its previous owner from Bay Trading and re-mastered into a foxy little bustier dress/ boob tube. It is undeniably sweet looking and reminds me of Manga but has unfortunately been cut so short it would only be suitable for someone who is around the 5ft mark. At 5ft 5″ I am hardly tall but on me, as the boy takes great pain in pointing out it looks as though it is designed for a 13-year-old girl.
As I packed in a hurry last night and had not previously tried it on I only realised the unsuitability of the outfit this morning. As with the T-Shirt dress of last Sunday I felt as though once chosen I have no choice but to wear a dress till the day’s end and ignoring the boy and struggling into a pair of form-fitting 60 denier black tights and my life saving M & S T-Shirt I bit the bullet and went in search of a full length mirror. To be fair it has been a reasonably nice choice and once I got used to having to keep my back to the wall when in company I started to warm to it.
It is so brilliantly cheerful even though I was woken four hours after i got to sleep by the enthusiastic alarm clock that is the best friend’s son, I felt rather chirpy. After I had gotten up and persuaded him to wake the boy as well we spent the day pleasantly telling stories, taking it in turns to snooze and fighting off the hoards at M & S to get the dine in deal. In spite of my disheveled experience me and the boy had a lovely dinner date together and got to relish in a rare opportunity for it to be jut the two of us to dine. When you are in a long distance relationship and both have a dream you want to pursue the time you do get to see each other can I find at times be rather stressful as you are so concerned about fitting a weeks worth of dates into one weekend; we try to see our friends; go out to gigs and restaurants and movies all the while trying to make sure we look our best and don’t end up having a tiff and ending the weekend on a bad note. Perhaps because of this then it is when we get to just chill out on our own together, catching up on the week behind us lazy eyed and unkempt with my panda eyes and his weekend stubble that we often have the most fun together. When you get a night to relax in it can sometimes be the nicest thing in the world, even if you are disheveled and sleepy it can be really great slowing down with someone especially with someone with whom the clock is always ticking on your time together.
In spite of having only arrived home ten minutes ago, well over two hours after my anticipated arrival time I will resist the urge to wax lyrical on the many joys of the rail system and save my fury till tomorrow. Sunday, particularly for one brought up in the catholic faith or even those who are familiar with the Sunday terrors of completing a weeks worth of homework will remember childhood Sundays as a day characterised more by resistance than of rest. These days I am a major fan of Sundays as no matter how fuzzy I feel as I emerge from the duvet I know I have a whole day of completely free time where I can indulge every lazy bone in my body guilt free. Usually I feel dreadful if I lie in past but come Sunday I can sleep past eleven quite happily.
The boy is a major fan of the day too as he does not have to fear sneak attack by surprise hug (not as welcome as one might think) or as the minutes turn to hours stubby fingers (ice-cold works best) to lull him out of bed.
When we first got together and we both smoked we used to spend our time hanging out in Withington reading the papers, drinking coffee and getting to know one another at Fuel or Solomon and Grundys. Both bars have a great laid back – we are happy if you stay in here all day but do not mind if you leave now – vibe which we both revel in. Now we have left lectures and essays behind we do not have as much time to do nothing and although this is a healthy part of growing up it does mean when we visit our old haunts now we appreciate them all the more.
Part of the problem with visiting these places these days is we are often recognised. The boy is in a band and though I like to pretend people come over to say hi because they are just being friendly, it is usually because they have met him in some musical capacity or another. Usually I do not mind as the people he knows are generally lovely but being as today I had nothing to wear but a t T-shirt which was falsely advertised as a dress by a naughty ebayer, I was feeling a little self-conscious and getting up to hug people could well have resulted in me causing a stir.
Yesterday I mentioned how wonderful eBay can be when you are able to see the potential of a dress or item of clothing as it could be off the mannequin or a model. Todays “dress” is a perfect example of what can happen when this is not the case. When I bought this dress from eBay back in December I was extremely excited about it. It was only about £5 and even when I had forgotten all the purchases during my online post christmas spree this remained in my memory till the day it arrived in early January. In the photo on eBay the girl wearing it looked very cute in the dress teamed as it was with a brown belt, but not so cute you thought she was wearing a nightie. Images as my own photos from today show can be misleading.
I saw the dress and thought it rather pop-art inspired, more casual than I would usually wear but was sold I admit on the pink. I like to resist the pink pull when possible and only began to like it after my 16th birthday but the socially engineered girl within wanted a bright pink dress and it was she who pressed the bid button faster than I could type bimbo.
When you buy clothes on ebay, in-spite of the bargains you can score, at one time another you will be subject to a shocker of your own and the worst thing is that when this happens you will usually have little grounds for complaining to the seller. Take this dress ; in all fairness I should have looked more carefully at the measurements of the girl I bought it from. Clearly she was a midget of the hobbit variety with an unusually small torso and tiny legs, either that or much more upsetting perhaps I am the one who has an unusually large torso and am a giant by proportional analysis.
With this in mind, and trying to take comfort in the comfortable material of the dress I decided if I was going to wear it I might as well do so as I went about my normal routine. Admittedly I think my arrival upstairs in Fuel did give the Sunday stitch and bitch club a sight to bitch about but by hiding at the table and getting up with my back to the wall I managed to keep up as much dignity as one can expect when wearing one’s nightdress in public.
Once we had met up with one of our bestest friends, a musical theatre legend who understands the need to end a good night out with a good old sing-song, we headed home for our new rock and roll activity, Scrabble Sundays. Having had a couple of glasses of krupnik and feeling a little giddy we decided all swear words would receive an extra point, childish, yes, funny, very. We managed to wrap up the game in time for my train, on which I hasten to say I kept my coat firmly belted, but even with my travel complications and wardrobe malfunctions it was the perfect lazy Sunday and I wont even need to change for bed.