Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Democracy in Action

 With Congresswoman Nydia Valzquez. Vote Sashes, 2016
Democracy is more than a concept: it is an action. I made a version of this sash in 2008. I redesigned it this year. Here my friend Elizabeth and I wear them. Congresswoman Nydia Valazquez is between us and on my right is a new pal. 

Throughout the world and in the country where I live, the right to vote has been hard won. Less than 100 years ago women in the United States achieved suffrage. Saudi Arabian women voted in their first election in 2015. (A monarchy, voting in that nation occurs in municipal elections.) In nations where public voting takes place, citizenship and voting rights have been denied variously to the children of immigrants, to those who do not own land, to specific ethnic or religious groups, to native inhabitants by settlers/colonists who built structures of ownership and power which excluded them. All this you know.

It is a duty and a honorable responsibility to vote. It isn't about one election. Each choice [a vote is nothing more or less than a formalized choice] we make by casting a vote in an election sets the trajectory of history in motion. It connects us to the thread of humanity's desire to realize its greatest potential.

It's a sash. Letters appliquéd onto denim. You'd never know it stands for so much conviction.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Interview on Styleposium

Styleposium Interview
Recently I was interviewed by the Styleposium blog. It was an opportunity to reflect on my Slow Style project, discuss the book I've been writing and share some teaching stories. You can read the interview here.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Howl

Now new designs are emerging. Photographs soon.

There's an urge to do something radical with garments made at the beginning of this project-to slash into, write over, add meaning to them. No delicate reworking. There's a dress I've imagined cutting into with radical growling liberation from the staid limitations of form. Like a flag wrapped around the body--a declaration.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Writing a Book

More to share here. So much focus has been going toward writing a book. I want to share more here and starting next week I will. Balance. Oh balance.

Monday, March 28, 2016


Garbo Hat. Utah, 2016
If aliens landed at the base of this ski slope and saw the goggle-wearing crowd they'd have the impression humans are creatures with grey protruding eyes almost like houseflies. When the skiers take a break to refuel, removing their skis, they clomp in bulky ski boots to the nearby bar or restaurant.

I wish you could see what I saw. (I wasn't carrying a phone/camera. Drat.)

I was approaching the path to the restaurant when I saw emerge from the slope a figure that stood out to an extreme. Against the snowy white background dotted with skiers of all ages dressed in vibrant shades of magenta, pink, orange and blue and the occasional more subdued black or white ski pant, there appeared the silhouette of a man in somber grey and black, his body wide and round. He was pulling a large white plastic rectangular box twice the bulk of a full size cooler, hauling it behind him with a rope as though it were a child’s sled with heavy passengers. On the snowy terrain he was not wearing boots, but nondescript grey rubber soled work shoes. In contrast to the skiers and snowboarders gliding past, his steps were slow and deliberate. It looked as though he was wearing a black calf-length kurta over grey pants. Here was an anomaly.

He neared the bottom of the slope where I stood. The rope with which he was dragging the cooler was in fact made of clear packing tape. It had been wrapped multiple times around the belly of the container to seal it, then extended to form a long loop to use as a tow line. (How far he had been pulling it? He couldn't have walked from the top of the mountain; the evidently heavy plastic cooler would have pulled him down any steeper incline. I wondered where he had come from.)

I had rented a ski jacket in which I felt entirely conspicuous although I probably blended into the crowd better than earlier in the day when I wore a dove grey ten gallon hat, a long floral dress and overcoat. That attire, however, is more natural to me. While I love being outdoors in winter, I find Jello colored ski clothing even in muted tones, disorienting to wear--disorienting not from my surroundings but from myself. Because of this I watched him with curiosity as he descended the slope. He looked as alien on the slope as I felt in the electric raspberry ski jacket.

Up close I saw he was wearing a kitchen apron, not a kurta. It was faded from black to charcoal grey, splotched and grimy. It wasn’t a waiter’s crisply starched apron but that of a cook or dishwasher. An acrylic yarn knitted hat with a wide stripe of blue, orange and white (a sports fan’s team colors) was practically perched on the top of his head. It reached only to the top of his ears, stretched and pulled down slightly as though it were made for a child and straining to fit an adult size head.

As our paths crossed, I smiled and inquired about the load he was hauling. He explained the container held dishes he was transporting from a restaurant in which he worked, located higher up the ski slope. His name was Euro, “like the money.” He was from Venezuela where he had worked in oil fields as a supervisor. When he came to the US he worked as a laborer on oil fields and now had a position in a kitchen.

I am engaging in conversations about dress and style while working on a book. As we spoke, Euro quoted an expression I'd heard earlier that day. The first person who used it was a fellow in his twenties who, when I asked about the clothing he liked to wear, said in French, "L'habit ne fait pas le moine." Euro recited it English then repeated the phrase in Spanish: "The froth doesn’t make the monk,” he said. (I was momentarily baffled: froth? I realized he meant “frock” or “habit”.)

When he was growing up Euro’s family went to church every week. He had to dress formally for the occasion. One day, when he was about eleven years old, he determined to go to church in comfortable clothing. His father objected when he saw what Euro was wearing.

Defending his choice, Euro proudly proclaimed,  “El hábito non hace al monje!” (The frock doesn’t make the monk.)

His father’s rejoinder? “Pero lo indentifica.” (But it identifies him.)

Euro smiled telling me this story. I wanted to know more. “So what did you end up wearing to church?” I asked.

As though seeing it in his mind’s eye he said with humor and resignation, “A black tie. A white collared shirt. Black pants and dress shoes.”

I laughed. “Your father won!”

The habit doesn't make the monk. In English the expression is, "the clothing doesn’t make the man." Yet attire matters. It is a signal to the outer world and/or a reflection of one’s sense of self. It is the eighth year of making all that I wear--of not buying clothing. At this juncture many of the clothes I have [made] belong to a former expression of myself. Seven years is the point when a sabbatical is declared. What would a sabbatical from this project, Slow Style, look like?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wear Pajamas Everywhere

Pajamas and nightcap (+ hand-me-down bathrobe) 
Photo: Robert Lucy, 2016
Early in the morning at the local café am wearing flannel pajama pants with a band of trim at the cuff, a linen nightgown cut in the style of an 18th century shift under a hand-me-down plaid bathrobe from my father. The fleece nightcap is indispensable on frozen winter nights (or in this case, mornings). Robert Lucy came along to photograph. The usually indifferent gal behind the counter was very attentive. Was it the presence of a photographer? The steam heat and the espresso machine's hissing output cause heavy condensation to form and glisten on the café's large paned windows. On a frigid morning we are like hothouse flowers. It could hardly be more inviting.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Digital and Analog: Making a Website and a Tee

Wool Fedora, Cotton Ribbed Tee,
Stretch Wool Leggings, Fleece Scarf
Photo: Robert Lucy, 2016
Have been building a website to encompass the entirety of this project. (View it here.) Working on the website took me away from sewing for awhile. Returning to the sewing machine recently to make a tee shirt brought such a harmonious, buoyant feeling.

The left brain/right brain dichotomy is a useful way to consider the pleasure of making. If the right hemisphere of the brain pertains to creativity and the left to logic, the process of making--sewing, carpentry, etc.--engages both hemispheres. No amount of writing, collecting and organizing photos to build a website activates the psyche as sewing does.

Making is nourishing.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Looking at Belts: A New Video!

What materials are used to make a belt? Consider how your hands can learn to distinguish between types of materials. Here's a new video in the Conscientious Consumer series:

Friday, November 13, 2015

We Evolve

Linen Nightgown,Handmade Bedding
 Photo: Robert Lucy, 2015
Throughout the summer I had the dreary sensation of being dressed at odds with who I am or am becoming. We evolve. It was demoralizing to wear clothing from the past. As a snake grows it sheds its skin. So do we sometimes shed the familiar as we evolve.

In late August I designed a pair of wide leg pants and a sleeveless top. Rather than draft a pattern or use a dress form, I draped the top directly upon my body. The way the back and front of the top meet at the shoulders and the pants wrap around the waist subtly break with convention. All summer long I'd thought "If you were to look at me in these clothes you'd not be seeing me." Now the reflection in the mirror was gratifying. This ensemble was authentically me and reinvigorating.

A few articles of clothing have retained their appeal. A green camouflage jacket purchased long, long ago has softened through years of wear. As beloved as a child's teddy bear it’s as right as ever. A nightgown, one of the first garments I sewed, made out of sumptuously smooth, crisp white cotton poplin, became something I loved to put on at the end of a day. Eventually it frayed at the seams perhaps more from laundering than wear. (Drat spindle washing machines.) It was ready to be retired. 

Would make another! Using a linen sheet too lovely to discard but worn thin in the center, cut the front, back, sleeves and yoke pieces. Echoing the original this one may be even better. Linen almost hovers over the skin like a cocoon. It is perfectly tranquil for bedtime. Always want to linger in this nightgown when morning comes. Wondered about throwing on a coat without changing into daytime clothing to walk to the newsstand… Let’s be honest. Have done it. Early one recent very chilly morning met a friend for tea before work. I confessed to having put a sweater on over my pajama top to meet her. She laughed. She had zipped a jacket over hers!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Made By the Light of the Sun

Multi-Tiered Dress for the 4th of July, 2015
Photo: Robert Lucy
When engaged in a project full of invention and discovery I continue to work as evening falls, until the studio darkens and neither lamplight nor overhead lighting are sufficient. (None rival daylight.) Then put the project respectfully aside eager for sunlight's return bringing with it the opportunity to recommence the process.

Have had to coax myself from the studio on many occasions like a parent reasoning with a child who is still romping about on the playground at dusk. The child wants to linger. "We can come back tomorrow," the parent reassures her. Frequently I've tidied up the studio at night with the same promise to myself: you can come back tomorrow!