My So Charmed Life

Zum Zum UNITE!



I am not content dear readers to only be The Girl With the Most Beads… I must also be The Girl With the Most Frocks. And, to that end, I have been thrifting for 3+ decades now… constantly scoring great vintage on what can only be described as a lifelong treasure hunt. I have also experimented with designing and making clothing, but alas I am impatient, and absolutely idiotic on a sewing machine.

In fact, many years ago (2002) I attended a Smithsonian Folk Festival called The Silk Road, which included a tent where a group of women were stitching together thriftstore garments, making the most amazing things out of trash. It was terribly hot in that tent, and Molly was a wee thing in a stroller, but we hung out for awhile, and I even went back a different day on my own to watch them sew. At that time I found out that all of the machines in use for the exhibit were on loan from a store and would be offered at half price afterwards. This is how I obtained my extremely high-end Babylock embroidery machine. Which I proceeded to timidly play with but mostly lived in dire fear of for close to 10 years.


In order to continue with this post, I must point you to the amazing world of Selene Gibbous of Gibbous Fashions. Above are three frocks from my collection, the one in the middle is a Gibbous piece. I wore this to the RimbaudMania opening in Paris and it is truly one of my most favorite and highly treasured posessions in this world.


Pictured from the back, yes, that is a ViewMaster film wheel attached to the Gibbous dress. Selene is a beautiful mad genius, a woman of incredible talent and unparalleled vision and if you read the crafts boards, you know that she is an inspiration to artists everywhere. My collection of Gibbous garments now numbers close to a dozen, including skirts, tops, a necktie, neck ruff, and two of her amazing hats. And although the photography on Selene’s site is some of the most gorgeously styled fashion shots I’ve ever seen… pictures simply do no justice to these works of art in real life. They are museum quality… each a lovely map of stitches and tears and tatters and fabrics and objects…  pure poetry.


The dress at far left was my first really successful experiment at slashing up an ugly vintage dress (this one was borderline)… and then adding simple embellishments with fabric scraps and a cut up men’s shirt. This one is very girly and sugary, a bit like pink grapefruit lemonade on a hot summer day.


The tulle peeking out from the bottom was a thrifted vintage slip, and was personally paw-shredded by my cat Iggy Pop who LOVES to chew on anything tulle. He did a great job although I had to rinse out the cat spit. Ewwwwwww….


The garment pictured at the top of this endless post, and about which the post is titled, began life per the above… IF ONLY I’d photographed it. My neighbor, Katy K, can vouch for the fact that this was indeed a thrifted bridal/prom gown, all in white polyester, and about as ugly as they come. Purchased for $9.95, minus 25% with my “I’m Unique” discount card. On Friday afternoon the entire dress hit a vat of red (top) and brown (bottom) dye, and was laid out in my sunny backyard to dry. I am always thrilled at how different fabric takes dye, it’s entirely unpredictable and scary/fun. Parts of the dress went deep red, some of it went bright orange, and the rest turned a hideous shade of peach.


I am so sorry I didn’t shoot process photos during my obsessive stitchy weekend, but sisters let me say: the BF pronouned our dining room a sweat shop, fabric was flying, and the machine didn’t stop going from first thing Saturday morning until late Sunday night. I barely stopped to eat or go to the bathroom… although I did make a run to the sewing store for needles because I kept breaking them. Free motion quilting is truly one of the MOST fun experiences in my life as an artist. It was hard, challenging, frustrating, and amazing. There were times when I was just in a zone with it, my arms aching from pushing the fabric, a certain disbelief at the flawed beautiful mess that was developing before my eyes.


The details are pretty endless, every inch of this dress provided a new sort of mapping and colorway experience. I loved looping the stitches and incorporating a few bits of crochet I had in my textile collection. The hardest part was the “tailoring,” as I’d made a couple of key mistakes involving the dress lining. These caused big headaches down the pike, and lessons learned (remove lining… you WILL sew it to the top layer, and you WILL NOT want to rip out all that quilting).


The top of the dress came with kind of trashy/kind of cool glittered embroidery which, in the end, gave this garment a sort of India feel. I’m very proud of the pleated ruffle just under the bust which I made by hand from a curtain.


On the elevator in the office building this morning, I was carrying the dress so I could photograph it when a woman got on and began staring in amazement. When I told her I’d made it, her first question was: Do you sell them? Alas, the answer is no. I couldn’t possibly part with such a thing, and I am really making these clothes for my own amusement and expression, for wearing out to parties, and well, just for the art of it.