Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Take Shelf

When you work in publishing, there is something called The Take Shelf. People deposit all kinds of books on said shelf and you can take them. Most of the time they are extra copies of books you worked on, but sometimes other things show up.

My friend Christine told me she once put The OC season 1 on The Take Shelf and it was gone in about 20 seconds.

I was fighting a bad cold last week. After taking a day off, I decided to drag my sniffling nose and scratchy throat into the office again. As I feverishly walked down the hall to my desk, I glanced at The Take Shelf.

I was pretty sure I was hallucinating when I spotted a copy of photographer David LaChapelle's Hotel Chapelle. Or maybe the person who put in on The Take Shelf had been hallucinating. Either way, I now have a new book by one of my favorite photographers. And something to pass the time while I focus on getting better.

I still remember seeing this image on the cover of Rolling Stone, and subsequently taped on my wall.

Leo in his Romeo & Juliet days.

(All photos from Hotel Chapelle, 1999)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Learning to sew

I've always loved the idea of knowing how to sew. As a kid, I remember being very impressed that my mom had made that "cool" dress I pointed out in an old photo album.

I also remember watching in wonder as my Grandma constructed a tiny black velvet cape, with cranberry-colored lining, for my Samantha doll.

Even further back in my family history, sewing is prevalent. My great-grandfather, Urbano (or "Papanon" as my mom called him), was trained as a tailor in Italy. When he immigrated to the United States, he got a job working at Stackpoles men's store in Hartford, Connecticut. My mom still has a tuxedo he made for my grandfather.

Although I inherited a love of working with my hands from all sides of my family— I've done everything from ceramics to beading— I never really got around to sewing. So, a few months ago, my friend and I signed up for a garment construction class at New York's Fashion Institute.

Now, once a week, I leave work at 6pm and take the train over to FIT for 3 hours of threading needles, cutting fabric, and coaxing a sewing machine into submission. I have to say, sewing is a lot harder than you might think. When I first told my Grandmother about the class, she said, "I hope you have a lot of patience!" She wasn't kidding.

The class's first assignment was a skirt. To prepare, we learned how to sew all kinds of seams. Easy.

Next, we cut our skirt patterns out of oak tag. Armed with an Exacto knife and a ruler, my pattern was beyond precise. Then we cut our fabric. So far, so good . . .

Or so I thought. Despite the fact that I measured everything diligently, when I went to attach my waistband, the circumference of my skirt did not match the length of the waistband. Hmm . . .

See how there are two lines of stitching on the dart? That's because I had to get the skirt circumference to equal 27 inches. I borrowed a 1/2 inch from the darts to make everything match up.

Don't even get me started about the zipper.

Looks like notes for a Physics class, right?

All that note-taking didn't stop my waistband from being wider at one end . . . sigh . . .

Despite all the little mistakes along the way, I'm really enjoying the learning process. It's a lot about attention to detail, and definitely patience— two things it never hurts to have more of. In fact, I've already bought fabric for the next skirt I'm going to make.

I've also gained a deep appreciation for the clothing I already own.

You start to understand what goes into making a beautiful garment— from the pattern-making to the finishing. This Zac Posen skirt is a pencil skirt not unlike the one I made for class; but look at the detailing on the front, the notched waistband, the precision . . . I might never get to the point where I can make something of this quality. But I'll still know exactly why a piece like this makes people stop me in the hall at work and proclaim, "What a great skirt!"

(Sewing class photos © Littlehouse of Style)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What I wore to Sunday brunch.

During the work week, getting dressed in the morning is fairly simple. I look through my closet of black and white, pick a few things, and I have an outfit— White blouse, black sweater, tweed skirt. Black and white dress, cardigan, tights. Easy. If I'm feeling particularly lazy, I wear a dress.

Dresses are great because they're a self-contained outfit. All you have to do is add shoes. And because you're "dressed up" people think you put in all this extra effort, when the truth is, you didn't even attempt matching a top to slacks because you were half-asleep.

When it come to the weekend though, I always have trouble getting dressed. Why is it so difficult to dress casually? There has to be a middle ground between looking like you just rolled out of bed and looking like you're headed to a meeting.

Shoes are the first problem. 90% of my shoes have at least a 3 inch heel, so aren't exactly conducive to weekend activities like laundry and grocery shopping. But if I put on sneakers, I just feel dumpy. And short.

A few years ago, I bought a pair of cowboy boots while visiting my friend in California, and they have become a staple of my weekend wardrobe. They are one of the most comfortable pair of shoes I own, but don't look ugly like most comfortable shoes tend to (ahem, Uggs and Crocs). They also have a slight heel, so I don't feel like a total shrimp.

I also wear brown a lot on the weekend. It just seems like a casual color to me. Instead of my black patent leather bag, I like to carry something brown or tan with enough space to hold a magazine or two, in case I find a sunny spot to read. I picked up this chestnut leather tote on sale about a month ago, and it's a real workhorse. It actually expands at the top to be even bigger!

The jacket is one of my most favorite pieces. It's made by an Italian company called Kiton, known for their men's suits. (I got it at Filene's basement for a fraction of its original price). Even though it's fitted, it never feels uncomfortable— a perfect weekend piece because it looks nice and feels nice, too. The cashmere tweed is so soft you would think you're snuggled in bed— which is exactly where I would spend my entire weekend, if it weren't for the lure of brunch . . .

(Weekend-wear photos © Littlehouse of Style: Kiton jacket, Polo jeans, American Apparel t-shirt, Gap belt, Justin boots, Alexander McQueen bag)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A fresh face in Paris

On Friday, one of my friends emailed me a link to a show from Paris Fashion week. I'm not one to religiously watch all the new collections online. I usually watch my favorites and skim the rest. But I have to say, I watched this show several times through. And I'd never heard of the designer before.

The details were incredible. Leather dresses that gave the impression of smocking, translucent fabric, hard graphic stripes— I couldn't get enough. It was a fully realized collection. The same elements were woven expertly throughout the show; gathered leather with metallic studs appeared first on a dress, next on a skirt, then a jacket. It seemed like the work of an old pro.

But it wasn't. Well, I guess you could say it was the work of a young pro. Pedro Lourenço is 19 years old, although Elle.com points out "he's been a professional designer in Brazil since age 12."

I think most people starting out in the fashion world would be discouraged by hearing this. Although fashion is not as ageist as some professions— say gymnastics— it's always an advantage to have started your career in the womb.

However, I've accepted that my 12th year AND my 19th year are the distant past, and have vowed never to utter the words "but I'm too old to learn ______." I prefer the glass-is-half-full mindset. Which is why, having barely sewn a stitch in my life, I recently enrolled in a garment construction class at FIT. When I read about Lourenço, I couldn't help but think of my professor, who told us on the first day (in a thick Italian accent) that he had learned to sew at age 11. I guess if 11-year-old boys can learn to sew, so can I . . .

You can find a video of the show here.

(Pedro Lourenço runway photos from Style.com)