Oct 25, 2011

Le Skirt du Jour!

I've been admiring all the high-waisted, button-up skirts posted by Burdastyle.com members lately (Collette Patterns' version is called the "Beignet," alluding to its French appeal).

Mine's not exactly the same. The Beignet is a straight skirt, with a whole lot more buttons, and a tie around the waist. But this only took an hour or so to sew, so I win. (I'm pretty sure that's how it works).

I made mine from a man's dark denim dress shirt. It was too large for my husband (a hand-me-down from a friend who likes to see Ryan model his clothes. Don't ask). So I chopped it off at the armpits, gathered it all around (though not right at center front; I don't want to look poochy), and then sewed on a simple straight waistband, cut to fit my true waist. It's tres adorable, non? (Overkill with the stripes and beret, you say? Je ne garde pas. Je l'aime!)

Second-hand store shopping in New York City

There are a lot of reasons to love New York City, but thrift-store shopping is not one of them. My guess is store rents are too damn high for true second-hand stores to stay in business (though there are a few Salvation Armies and, of course, high-end vintage stores — but not anywhere near my neighbourhood).

That's not to say you won't find great items. But you will pay through the nose here because even employees of Unique Thrift Store in the Bronx know the value of a Stella McCartney blazer (I saw one there, on display up high behind the counter. The price tag was $299.99. Which seems fair considering eBay's "Buy it now" price on similar blazers is around $250. But still: $299 for anything at a second-hand store is a little outrageous). We went there to find a dress shirt and tie for Lucy for a video we were making. We found a little shirt, vest and tie set for $7, which seems overpriced to me. You can probably buy the same set for $9 down the street. I miss Value Village.

Other shocking finds on our trip that day: a vintage Ralph Lauren one-piece ski suit for $69.99 (I believe a similar piece was on display at the Fashion Institute of Technology's "Sporting Life" exhibit. I'm not surprised by the price tag — but by the fact that an employee of Unique Thrift Store would put this much value in a old polyester onesie).

And the Fresh Prince of Bel Air's favourite dress shirt, for $24.99 (!!):
Seriously, we saw Old Navy shirts that probably cost more than they did originally. But this place was packed. People were buying. Maybe how much I value other people's castoffs is directly correlated to the size of my bank account, but I just can't stomach the prices of second-hand clothing in NYC. I used to love shopping second-hand, garage sales, flea markets and the like. But here, everything is priced for the expert or collector. There's no thrill in finding an overpriced vintage Ralph Lauren ski suit. The thrill comes from saying to yourself, "Don't they know what it's worth?" as you pay $6.99 for a museum artifact-worthy item.

I'd love to be proven wrong though. Know of any great second-hand stores in NYC? Tell me!

Oct 12, 2011

Finished Project: Perfect Bombshell Dress in Peacock

See me on the lower left corner there above? That would be Burdastyle.com giving me a little love for my Peacock Print Perfect Fit Bombshell Dress, which I finished and finally wore last weekend, yet still haven't posted pics of yet here. We are still so overwhelmed with moving/work/life, that I have had too little time to write here. My daughter is at her new preschool this morning, and I wrote two (paid) blog entries for BestofNewYork.com, did a little research for some law stories that are going to overwhelm me completely because I know NOTHING about law, hung a shelf and some pictures...and now am drinking an iced coffee before running to pick Lucy up in 12 minutes. Ack!

Anyway, I loved Gertie's online class at Craftsy.com. I think everyone deserves to have a dress that fits so well and garners so many compliments (my husband's aunt said I was a "sexpot," and an elderly man at the wedding told me, "That dress looks good on you and YOU look good on it." Everyone was surprised that I had made it myself. I've been sewing for many years, but I think even a new sewer could handle making this dress. The videos are as detailed as could be. Plus Gretchen is a delight to watch. It makes you feel better when you see her sew her skirt to her bodice (or something to that effect; I can't remember, but I know it's something I have done before too).

Standing by the getaway mobile
 I wasn't sure how flattering the skirt would be on me, so I made this flared skirt instead. I drafted it myself, but it was easy.

The bodice ended up being slightly too big because I lost a few pounds over the past month due to stress. I wore a padded strapless bra with it, and it looked great. When I can eat proper meals again, I think it will fit without a bra. 

And that's ALL I have time for. Time to go get my kid!

Oct 10, 2011

Back With Scars to Show

It has been weeks since I posted here. For one, we moved apartments and didn't have Internet access for a full week. But more importantly, every time I sat down to write anything, all I could think to say was, "I'm so overwhelmed, I don't know what to do." My stress level was at a solid nine because finding an apartment in New York City is like this really fun roller coaster. Because roller coasters are fun, right? That's what I hear. I've never been on one because I don't need more fear and uncertainty in my life. BECAUSE I LIVE IN NEW YORK, where you can't be certain about anything, especially where you are going to live in a month. 

Anyway, we found a great rent-controlled "Junior 4" apartment in Riverdale, a lovely quiet neighborhood in the Bronx near the Hudson River. The demographic skews about 60 years older than our old 'hood, which means it's quiet at night. No drag racing. And no crackheads. Because we live at the top of a really big hill, and crackheads, if anything, are lazy. They will choose to punch a lady in the face at the bottom of the hill every time. We don't even have a gate on our fire escape (please don't come kill me).

But it came down to the night before we had movers booked, and we still didn't know whether we had our new place for sure. We'd signed a lease after much delay. But still no keys. Our guarantor had to work out his concerns with the forms (in New York unless you make a million dollars a year, you need someone to sign in blood on your behalf). We kept packing though because the movers were coming, and new tenants were moving into our old place within days. I had Manhattan Mini Storage bookmarked on the computer in case we had to call them at the last minute to see about moving all our stuff into a giant locker and staying with friends. See what I mean about the roller coaster?

Our broker (yes, in New York, RENTERS need brokers. You have to pay a full month's rent for the opportunity to see three apartments and get an application. Our broker was great, and we don't regret working with her, or paying her fee, which she discounted — probably because we were so pathetic. But I still resent a system whereby renters have to pay to see available apartments. The only other choice is being scammed on Craigslist) reassured us. Then finally, at 6 p.m. Wednesday night, we were told it was ours. The broker would pick up the keys in the morning for us, no problem. 
The movers were on time, and worked quickly. But we had more boxes than my husband had estimated, so not all our stuff fit in the truck. And then a monsoon hit. We waited it out, and the movers left to head to our new place. My husband and I had borrowed a neighbor's car for a few days, so we crossed the street to pack in our computer and a few belongings we didn't want in the hands of the movers. But when Ryan leaned over to open the back hatch of the Volvo, his backpack split open and his laptop plus two file folders fell into a foot-deep flash flood that was racing down Riverside Drive. The computer and the file folders were gone in a heartbeat, under the car and then down the street. Ryan ran through the water and caught the file folders, but the laptop was nowhere to be seen. He took off down the length of the street, which was lined with submerged cars, all the way to the giant pool that formed at the low point near Broadway. I looked under the Volvo, thinking about how heavy this old laptop was and how it couldn't have gone far. Halfway up to my knees in dirty street water, I got a long stick and started poking at the piles of leaves trapped behind the tires, thinking maybe the laptop was also trapped. I came around the car and there it was, behind the right front tire. I pulled it out and let the water drain. The battery was gone. (Elsewhere in the city, all the sewing bloggers I read and love were having a great time at a meet-up I missed. I'm still sad about that).

The following day when we were cleaning out the old place, the police detectives who were on my case called to see whether they could come over and swab me for DNA. The guy who punched me had blood on him when he was arrested. I guess it wasn't his own. It would be great if he had my blood on him. That's unequivocal evidence. So they came to our empty apartment. It seemed so fitting that on our last minutes in the old place I would give evidence to help prosecute the guy who had effectively run us out of the neighborhood. They were so nice, it made me cry for the 10th time that day.

We've been in the old place now for a week and a half, and are still unpacking. We haven't hung a single shelf or picture. We still have to rummage through boxes whenever we need something. And everything with a pipe has busted in the first week we lived here: the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, the tub, the shower. No one has lived in this place for six years, apparently, so everything needs to be fixed. Our new super has spent so much time in our place that my daughter renamed all her baby dolls "Juan."

This past weekend we flew to Kansas City for a family wedding. Of course our flight was cancelled, because that is the kind of luck we've had this past month, and the only flight we could get was out of Newark NJ, which meant a $110 cab ride. Someday soon my stress level will return to normal, I hope.

On a more positive note, the dresses I made for the wedding (including my Perfect Fit Bombshell Dress) turned out absolutely amazing. Here's a preview (I'll be blogging them more in the days to come):


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