Custom Fabric

Remember my July sketches? I modified the art slightly and had custom fabric printed!

CustomFabricA

It was a total experiment—I had no idea what to expect. I uploaded my art to Green Park Studios, paid $40, and less than one week later, I was holding two yards of midweight cotton printed with my very own design . It couldn’t have been simpler.

CustomFabricB

My initial plan was to use this fabric as a lining. But now that I see how well it turned out (if I do say so myself), I want it to be more visible. A skirt maybe?

CustomFabricC

I think if I printed this on a lighter, gauzier fabric, it would make a great summer scarf. Or picture rows and rows of coats for winter. This whole print-your-own thing could be a very addictive discovery…

 

Vintage Finds at the Kane County Flea Market

FleaMarketTitle

Along with a couple of friends, I made it out to the Kane County Flea Market for the very first time this past Sunday. Despite the heavy heat and humidity, we had a fantastic time browsing and mocking and admiring and coveting our way through the interminable stalls. From mounted insects to bedazzled baseball caps to handpainted signs to souvenir china, anything you could possibly want to buy—and much more besides—was up for sale.

I was the big spender of the day, and came home with quite a haul:

FleaMarketFinds

My big splurge was this 1960s knitting basket covered in crocheted flowers. I may use it to store sewing supplies, but I’m also tempted to carry it as a gloriously tacky purse. Picture using it to tote a small blanket to a park for a picnic. It’s rather lovely, no?

60s-Knitting-Basket

I also picked up a smattering of vintage sewing notions. The bias tape and elastic may seem random, but I think they’ll come in handy for a few projects coming up in my queue. I already have at least one sewing gauge (possibly more?)—but I never seem to be able to find it. The white and blue table runner was cheap and in good condition, perfect for another project like this one. And I couldn’t resist the violet firework print cotton (two yards).

SewingNotions

Then there’s this teeny tiny matchbook sewing kit.

MiniSewingKit

Adorbs.

MiniSewingKitInside

I also picked up this cocktail book in a box—mostly because I like the deco feel of the design.

HollywoodCocktails

CocktailVendomeSpread

I also enjoy that the hangover cures at the very end are printed upside down:

Cocktail_MorningAfter

I have this thing about notepads that have a built-in pen or pencil—it’s a lingering—and yes, weird—obsession from my childhood. So I was immediately drawn to this travel notebook.

TripJournal

It contains such essential points of reference as railroad distances between US cities.

RailroadDistances

And how to use a watch as a compass.

GeneralInformation

People used to have to write their itineraries down. On paper. Crazy.

PlacesVisited

And finally, when I saw this locket pin for $3, I had to have it in honor of everyone’s favorite Bright, Victorian Beauty, Samantha Parkington. Yep, I’m basically 9 years old.

Locket

All totaled, I spent about $35. Not too shabby!

FleaMarketOutside

A Month of Outfits, or Time to Clean Out My Closet

I’ve always—in theory—loved the idea of keeping a regular journal or sketchbook. How satisfying it must be to synthesize one’s day into some kind of record or output. I also admire style bloggers who post daily photos of their outfits. In an experiment that severely tested my capacity for follow-through, I tried to combine both ideas by making a quick sketch of each day’s outfit for the month of July.

Click on the image below to view at full size:

JulyOutfits

Yikes. As a visual compilation, it’s interesting—but it also feels excessive and self-indulgent in a way I hadn’t necessarily anticipated. Like a sick, backwards The Hundred Dresses, it represents the exact opposite of the growing movement to live with less, to pare one’s wardrobe down to the basics.

The good news is that, despite having such an obscenely large repository of clothing to choose from, I apparently rotate through the selection quite aggressively. Things get worn, and they DO, in fact, bring me joy. Still, I see a serious closet purge in my future.

The data:
Number of days I wore something vintage or secondhand: 17 (At least I’m recycling!)
Number of days I wore something I made: 3
Key takeaway: Bright vintage dresses are pretty much my go-to on hot summer days—and I really don’t shy away from colors or patterns.

Originally I had thought that when the month was up, there was a chance that I would want to continue to do this daily. This could be My Thing. HELLZ NO. It was WAY too much work. Especially since I will be spending much of my foreseeable free time cleaning out that closet.

Vintage Finds at the Newberry Library Book Fair

A major highlight of summer for me is the Newberry Library Book Fair. I went a leeeeeetle crazy this year (well, every year) and ended up with a couple of armloads of books. I can’t help it—I’m an addict.

With a background in graphic design and English, I love visual communication from pretty much every angle. And I’m completely fascinated by first editions and primary sources; the content AND the design (deliberate choices of size, format, font, photography or illustration style, printing method, color palette, paper stock, etc)—combine to tell a larger story about a very specific moment in time. And if there are notes in the margins or train tickets stuck between the pages… well, be still my heart.

I thought I’d share a few of my finds that are the most interesting—at least visually and sociologically.

Vintage Paperbacks, including a couple of Penguin books—icons in the book design world.Vintage_Novels

A collection of Today’s Secretary magazines from the 1960s, a blank shorthand notepad, and a file box.Secretary_Montage

The magazines are weirdly fascinating—some sections are printed entirely in shorthand—and the cover art would leave one to believe that all secretaries of the time were young, pretty brunettes with flippy hairstyles. Basically Megan Draper.

Note the encouragement to vote in the Nixon/Kennedy election on the cover of the November 1960 issue.Secretary_Montage_2

A selection of 1940s–60s ballet programs for the Bolshoi Ballet, Ballet Theatre, Sadler’s Wells Ballet and Ballet Russe feature vastly different styles of cover art.Ballet_Program_Covers

Inside, caricatures for Margot Fonteyn and Frederick Ashton:Cinderella

Arresting black-and-white photography:Ballet_Photos

And beautiful and/or amusing ads that act as individual time capsules themselves:Perfume_Ads

I might end up framing the Dior ad below.
Dior

My one complaint about this sale is that there always seems to be an inexplicable lack of sewing books. I did find the below magazine: Lady’s Circle: Instant Skirts. Which is pretty awesome.Instant_Skirts

Inside: Inspiration photos and instructions for drafting and making all types of skirts…MakeanA

…including this gem. Oktoberfest at the convent was never so much fun.Skirts

I could maybe get in to a maxi skirt though.SkirtsB

Anyway, if this is kind of thing is your jam too, check out the Book Fair’s hashtag on Instagram, #nlbf15, to see other book lovers’ finds. Now I have to wait a whole nother year… sigh.

Fabulous Find: Jean Louis 1960s Chevron Day Dress

The Mad Men series finale was Sunday night—I loved it, but I’m also in mourning for the show’s passing. My brilliant plan (as of about two weeks ago) was to create a 60s or 70s-style garment from scratch, using a vintage pattern and vintage fabric, by the time the finale aired. Not only did I not finish, I did not even begin. Not only did I not even begin, I picked out neither pattern nor fabric. I will get it done! Later this summer I will get it done. I hope.

I did, however, hit up the Vintage Garage flea market here in Chicago on Sunday, where the theme of the day was Midcentury Modern. Very fitting!

My sister snagged this amazing dress from the 60s:

JeanLouisDress

Even pulled on over her clothes, it looks both chic and cheery.

Can’t you picture sassy 1970s Peggy Olson wearing this?

PeggyOlsonFashion

We did a little bit of research once we got home and discovered that the name on the label—Jean Louis—is that of a renowned and prolific twentieth-century costume designer. A thirteen-time Academy Award nominee, Jean Louis Berthault dressed dozens of starlets, from Katharine Hepburn to Judy Garland. Perhaps his most famous (or infamous) designs are the barely-there gowns of Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe, including Monroe’s slinky “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” number. The Naked-Except-For-Strategically-Placed-Sparkes Look continues to be relevant today. Unfortunately. Looking at you, Beyonce, Kardashian and Lopez.

MarleneDietrichAndMarilynMonroeInJeanLouisGowns

Sources—left to right: Pretty Clever Films | alwaysmarilynmonroe.co.uk

On a less dramatic note, Jean Louis started his own ready-to-wear label in 1961. We are guessing that my sister’s dress is from one of those collections. Most of what we could find online was evening and cocktail wear, so this day dress seems like kind of an anomaly. Read more about Jean Louis here.

Dresses from Jean Louis’s Label
JeanLouisCocktailDresses

Also worth noting—the geometric color-blocking of this dress is in line with recent trends too.

RunwayChevronTrends

Well done, sis!! What a find!!

JeanLouisDress2

Sketches of Costumes and Sets for The Royal Ballet

AThe Invitation
1960, Costume design by Nicholas Georgiadis

 I grew up in a homogenous suburban bubble on the edge of a mid-sized, historically industrial city, and then I went to school in a homogenous collegiate bubble on the edge of a mid-sized, historically industrial city. So when I spent the spring semester of my junior year studying in London, my field of view widened drastically—particularly artistically.

In addition to visiting countless museums and seeing plays of all scales and scopes, I saw the Royal Ballet twice: Frederick Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardée, and Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet.

I loved both.

Cover

Last weekend, I went to a magical Barnes and Noble that has a cheap used book section (yes, really!), and I found this 1981 compendium: The Royal Ballet: The First Fifty Years by Alexander Bland. I had to have it. Yes, it has a lot of dense copy about company/production history which I will never read, and comprehensive indices with lists of dancers and repertory, as well as moderately interesting production photos. But the best part? It includes beautiful full-color sketches and illustrations of costumes and set design.

Fascinating and inspiring, no? Such diverse ideas and illustration styles.

GTop Left: Giselle (Bathilde) 1968, costume design by Peter Farmer.
Top Right: The Sleeping Beauty (a courtier) 1973, costume design by Peter Farmer.
Bottom Row: Mayerling 1978, Costume designs by Nicholas Georgiadis.

BLes Patineurs
Set and costumes designed by William Chappell, 1937

ERomeo and Juliet
1965 decor by Nicholas Georgiagis

FAnastasia
1971, Designed by Barry Kay

CThe Rake’s Progress
Costume sketches by Rex Whistler for the 1942 revival, annotated by Whistler and Valois

IElite Syncopations
1974, Costume designs by Ian Spurling