Why have I made more than one petticoat this autumn?
Is it texture? Volume? Swishy-swirly goodness?
A latent Miss Kitty* crush?
An elaborate plan to avoid writing?
*Oh Lawsie, do NOT –– as you value and respect the variety of human experience and preference –– DO NOT google "Miss Kitty" + "crush" or "fetish" or "kink."
True story: I was once a 21-year-old editorial assistant in Manhattan. I worked 70 hours a week for a pittance (the word derives from people given money from pity -- which is not actually a stretch for independent book publishers at the time).
I was in the office with William Dang Golding, Susan Freakin Sontag, Roald BFG Dahl, Holy Moly Madeleine L'Engle, Czeslaw Eyechart Milsovic, Polly Amazing Horvath, Maurice Himself Sendak, and Rapmaster Seamus Heaney, to drop but a few of the lifetime's worth of literary rockstars I met.
I loved that time of my life.
My coworkers included people who were famous in literary circles in their own right, as well as actual Guggenheims, a genuine English Lady Somebody–– the kind of folks who habitually went not just to the Hamptons for the weekend, but to Morocco.
A country church-mouse, I was just that tiny bit too poor to afford the subway for trips less than 40 blocks (my rule so I'd hoof it between Penn Station and Union Square daily).
Fancy-schmancy college had exposed me to the other, very wealthy side of the tracks, but still––!
Bonus side-benefit of scholarshipping my way through school: the crippling flush of envy had pretty well burned all the way through me.
And as for blending in to the trés chic Manhattan publishing scene?
Errrm, even a minty-fresh Sears chargecard wasn't gonna godmother me to that ball.
I embraced vintage.
There was a gorgeous Pendleton plaid suit, an old Chanel number from a garage sale, a handful of thrifted cashmere sweaters. I wore my riding boots with skirts, sported stacks of fake pearls from my grandmother, and sometimes I put together outfits that swooped past the line of "costume or not?" with joyous abandon.
Today, fashion historian Morgan Donner might call my choices "history bounding." Or as the cool kiddies put it: #Historybounding
Still and all, fallible me at 21 or 22 saw a tourist descending the escalator to the tracks in Grand Central Station on sultry August day and was struck DOWN with want. She was wearing exactly the item of clothing I coveted. Of all of the many MANY desirable commodities available in the big city, I wanted what she had.
A full, pale, ankle-length skirt with an antique, Edwardian vibe.
That skirt! Lacking that kooky booty seen with late Victorian bustles, this item of mere clothing managed to be curvy but straight, with a sensible, workable air. I thought it made the wearer look interesting and self-confident. It was perfection.
I looked high and low for that skirt. For actual decades. Chasing an ideal.
And even after I had been sewing stuff for ages ——I'm on my third sewing machine, for the love of Captain Pete Obvious! —— it only came me to this year: "Yo! Self! Why not make that skirt yer own dang self?"
And so, dear Reader, I am.
After a rush of creative energy, snipping of threads and hacking my way through historical methods of pattern-drafting, I have what I have longed for: a long skirt with pockets deep enough to double for a handbag.
A few of my YouTube mentors: Bernadette Banner, Morgan Donner, Rebecca at Pocket Full of Poseys, Ora Lin, and Marika at Enchanted Rose Costumes.
I made one walking skirt from denim. I'm making another from a single thrifted yard of pretty plaid wool and the remains of –– as God is my witness –– velvet curtain panels from Ikea.
And under the skirts, a wealth of swirly, swishy petticoats in flannel and cotton lawn.
Really, Planters Peanuts? This is the new packaging.
If the internet has taught us nothing, it's that there are more random activities to generate human joy than anybody can shake a keyboard at.
It's just a hop, skip, and a jump from hand sewing a pirate shirt to creating cordage from plants, right? A mere matter of, oh, 400 or so centuries into the past.
In prehistory, plain cordage (aka twine, yarn, two-ply thread) was used for snares, nets, for lashing x to y, and, step by step, into fabric. Many plants –– nettles, willow, basswood, berry brambles, burdock, rhubarb, etc., etc. –– grow stringy fibers known as "bast."
It's a thing I missed learning as a kid, though I was fascinated by wildcrafting in general.
The Would-Be Farm has enough bast-on-the-hoof to keep a schoolbus full of crafty cordsfolk busy until the next Ice Age.
And so during this summer's regatta roadtrips, I have been spinning straw into gold. Rapunzel and that patient sister with the enchanted swan siblings? They got nothin' on me.
Wither went I, along came the bundle of dried plant, a glass of water, and piles of chaff. My technique improved with each ell.
Blank faces staring skyward.
Reflections skim the glass.
Full-grown dolls and no one loves them.
Ad Astra per Aster, that's what she thought of that particular model. Not Atticus Finch's "from the mud to the stars" and not Kansas' "through difficulty to the stars," but "to the stars, by Aster."
The spun silver hairdo was as glamorous as a movie star's, she thought, and the way those silvery eyes were always gazing into the distant heights ––! It was her favorite of the mannequin heads and her favorite wig. She could stand by the plate glass window all morning just enjoying the vision.
But someone was always coming by and telling her to leave. "Move it along, chubs!" the policeman told her. As if she was hurting anything. As if she didn't have feelings. She wasn't just a thing, after all. She was human, even if she didn't look like those dainty creatures with their perfect hair.
The "fun size" candies start coming home as early as mid-September.
I'm a sucker for a good deal, and it's appealing to load up on the cornucopian selection of kid-sized chocolate bars in the grocery store. Probably a signifier for an under-served childhood.
And without fail, the supply fails to meet the trick-or-treating demand. Somehow, we find ourselves in a darkened house with only three or four dejected-looking candies lurking at the bottom of orange plastic jack-o-lantern when the sun sets.
And with this annual candy ritual complete, we mark the halfway point of the football season. Followed rapidly by the slightly panicky realization that the Earth has nearly completed its annual circuit.
I remember carefully inking in the item number and the size on the paper order form from Miller's. I'd been wanting them for ages, but it took a while to save up the money. I toted up the column of price, tax, handling, and wrote the check.
I used them at fancy-scmancy riding lessons in New Jersey's horse country (It does so have a horse country).
They moved with me to Florida, where they once carried me fleetly away from the kicking feet of a pair of mustangs who were –– as I learned –– not even remotely green-broke, no matter what the barn owner had promised.
Alas. I recently went to put them on.
Ye gods and small fishes! –– my wardrobe migrated from "funky," skipped "vintage," to whizz directly to "antique."
When Spawn takes to the water this coming weekend, we can hope the creature does so in style.
Oh, I'm not talking about crispy new sails or all those lovely electronics that had to be re-purchased after they failed their swim test in February.
Nuh uh. I'm talking fashion.
For instance, the bedazzling of Spawn.
The nice UPS folks delivered a big fat roll of super reflective tape last week –– the kind favored by firefighters and highway road-signs –– which I have been slathering all over Spawn and her crew's gear...Ooooh, sparkly!
A strip on the transom, check. A matched pair at the bow, check. Stripes at the mast-tip, boom end, and at neatly spaced intervals on the racks. Check, check check. Dots on the dry-suits, dots on the life-jackets, ovals on the trapeze harnesses. And of course, wide bands at the end of the oars. The phrase "lit up like a Christmas tree" drifts to mind.
And because it's not really a sports team without uniforms, there are Spawn shirts aplenty. While racing, the sailors will be wearing safety-orange long-sleeve sports shirts.
Photos don't do justice to the racing shirt's DayGlo spectacularity. Think prison jumpsuits. Think highway construction workers. Think Bananarama! in 1985.
Thanks to Carol at CDM Gifts who did the sublimation printing. (Sublimation printing is the process that allows for quick and permanent printing on polyester. Kind of amazing.) And why would I want polyester? In a word, sun protection.
And thank you Leslie Fisher at Masthead Enterprises for connecting me with Carol!
The Spawnsters each have a nifty embroidered ballcap from kindly supporter Ned J., who reads the blog from Maine when he can't be sailing in warmer climes. They are even personalized with our WaterTribe names! Thank you, Ned and Anne!
Unlike so many modern fashionistas, Team Spawn has free range of the snack aisle.
They will have granola bars, breakfast shakes, hearty meat rolls, and homemade goodies like beef jerky and these cashew-dried-cherry dark chocolate bars.
...Assuming they remember to fuel the machines. All three are what dog-training professionals would call "Not food motivated."
And in the four remaining days (Ah! Ah! Ahhhh!), Captain TwoBeers will be figuring out how to stow all this stuff.
Spawn might be ripe for a closet makeover.
Is there an HGTV show with this as the topic? How first-worldy a problem is that?
Eight million stories in the humid city and this is one. Me, I'm just a gal with a badge. And a stack of citations to hand out.
Because nothing says "Sacred matrimony" like a pair of lace hot-pants and a transparent top with a cape of hand-detailed Carrickmacross lace and entredoux.
Oh, Miami. Just no.
I shudderingly wonder what the shoe choice would be.
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