Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to Measure Up

How many articles of clothing do you keep trying to wear, thinking “this time I will like it”? You take it off as soon as you get home, either push it to the back of your closet or throw it in the charity pile. So many women shop without  knowing what will truly work for their figure and end up frustrated and discouraged with themselves.

Determining your 3 basic measurements and your body shape are the first steps in learning how to dress to feel your best. Every woman has positive features she would like to accentuate as well as a few she would rather not draw attention to.

Knowing your measurements helps you avoid even trying on clothing that will not work for you. Shop with a purse size measuring tape. Measure the garment’s 3 basic measurements prior to the trip to the dressing room. You may want to take a few measurements of your favorite pieces at home like the length of a well-loved skirt or the inseam of your best ‘go to’ pants.

Examining your shape allows you the to gain a better understanding of what these positive and not so favorite areas are, helping you to dress in the most flattering way for your figure. Measure your body with little or close fitting clothing on – you may have someone help you or do this looking in the mirror in profile. Write these 3 measurements down:

tape measurements
Bust: Stand up straight and wrap the measuring tape around your back and across the fullest part of your breasts, keeping the tape parallel to the ground. Pull the measuring tape as taut as you can without changing the shape of your breasts. Don’t squish.
Waist: Wrap the measuring tape around your middle, at the smallest part of your natural waist. Wrap it flat around your back, close to you but not pulling tight, again keeping tape parallel to the ground, and meet just above your belly button.

Hips: Hold the measuring tape below your hipbone, at the fullest part of your hip. Then keeping it parallel to the ground, wrap it around the largest part of your butt (no cheating!), and bring it back to the meeting point.

Now that you've measured yourself, use those numbers to help determine your silhouette shape. These ideas have been around for awhile but can get kind of confusing. Here are the concepts pared down to 4 basic shapes and a formula of sorts that can help most women identify their silhouette. Using the 3 basic measurements above calculate the difference between your bust, waist, and hips. Use the guide below to determine your basic shape.

             B 43”, W 36”, H 42”      B 36”, W 34”, H 38”     B 34”, W 26”, H 42”       B 38”, W 27”, H 38

OK, now some basic guidelines to trick the eye:

It is all about proportion and balance - The two keys to visual harmony.

Use fullness, color and contrast in areas that you want to appear increased.
examples: If you are ‘pear’ shaped, balance a larger hip by adding a gather at the top cap of the sleeve, wear a lace embellished collar, use a horizontal stripe across the top of a T-shirt, wear a wide boat neck. ‘Ruler’ type?, try an A-line skirt that adds shape at the hip and hem or a surplice wrap that creates a little gather as it ties at the waist. A V-neckline is good on almost everyone. As is a wrap style.
Avoid fullness (puffs, gathers, pleats, etc.), style lines, and contrasting colors in areas you want to diminish.
examples: If you are ‘apple’ shaped, accentuate your legs (probably one of your best assets) by wearing slim pencil skirts, pants that are slim legged. Avoid a gathered waist skirt or one that is pleated from the waist. Keep the silhouette of your tops clean-lined and avoid ‘baby doll’ or yokes with falling gathers over the bust. 
‘Hourglass’ figures have a natural balance between bust and hips but over accentuation of the waist by cinching too tightly can create too much contrast. Also, avoid wearing clothing that is too tight. (all shapes)This will actually make you look heavier. A little ‘ease’ is flattering.
Lastly, a couple of suggestions:
  1. The best investment you can make to your wardrobe is a full-length mirror. Get one, use one, and look at the back of yourself as well before you leave the house.
  2. If you are tugging at something, it isn’t working for you.
  3. Remember, you’re worth dressing with style just the way you are. Don’t wait for that day in the future when you lose weight, get the tummy tuck, or whatever it is you think you need.
 Enjoy your next Shopping Trip !

Monday, September 16, 2013

How to store a Wedding gown


Now that the Summer Bridal season is over, I’m getting a lot of people asking me how to store their gowns. First, let me say do not use the commercial boxing/sealing services by dry cleaners. As a former historic fashion curator, I have seen many pieces ruined by being sealed up with cleaning chemicals. Sealing up textiles airtight is never a good idea. Textiles like to breath just like you. A good rule for clothing and textiles is store them in climates where you’d feel comfortable. Would you want to be sealed up in an airtight box and never let out again?  And, why store an heirloom if you can never look at it again?  - so here are a couple of good options:

You can hang it on a prepared hanger and store in a cotton bag, or box it in an acid free box with acid free tissue and store it somewhere flat, cool, and dry. A few important rules for Historic Costume/Fashion Storage – Never store anything in the hot attic, or damp basement, Don’t seal it air tight, and never ever store in plastics, and remember, further wearing of  it will diminish the preservation (but it would be awfully fun if your daughter wore it someday!) 
I’m using my Mother’s 1946 gown and veil today as the example. My sister and I used it when we got married. There’s a great WWII bride story behind that beautiful veil. I’ll tell you about it another day.


PREPARING IT TO HANG – This method is best for gowns that are lighter weight and have a sturdy shoulder. Not recommended for sheer or delicate shoulders. A strapless gown can be hung on loops sewn securely to the bodice, but I recommend boxing for most bustier styles as the skirts are frequently heavy and can pull the bodice too much.
Have your dress professionally cleaned (get a reference for a good dry cleaner from the bridal store) and hang it in an open area for a week to let the chemical products air. Button and zip all closures and remove any pins or excess items from the gown. Lightly Stuff the sleeves, bodice and anywhere that can hold it with a few sheets of lightly crumpled acid free tissue. See the discussion on tissues in the Boxing It section below.
Start with a sturdy hanger as your base. I like to use the satin covered ones. Remove the covering and stuffing and set aside. Measure the shoulder width of your dress.

                  P1010015                     P1010020

Cut the hanger to the same length. Sand the edges. Cover with original covering and stuffing. Using a pair of clean, white 100%cotton socks, create a second covering. Stuff tight with polyfil, creating a circumference of about 4”. You are creating a support to distribute the weight and mimic a shoulder. Stitch socks together at center. Place your gown on the hanger.


If available, you may put your dress in a pre-made 100% cotton garment bag. K-Mart used to sell these under the Martha Stewart line but I haven’t seen them in awhile. If not, you can create your own. Measure the shoulder width of the gown +4” , the width of the gown at the widest part of the skirt (usually the at the hem) + 4”, and the length of the gown + 4”. Using pre-washed, dried with no products, 100% cotton muslin, cut 2 pieces using gown measurements. Stitch the shoulder seam and hem seams first, then one side seam all the way up and leave the second side seam open from the shoulder to 3/4 of the way down. You can slip the gown into the bag and tie it up with ties made from cotton shoe laces or cotton ribbon, sewn every 4-6” down the side of the bag. Store uncrushed in a cool, dry closet. Check it periodically for signs of moisture.



BOXING IT – This method is definitely the safest for insuring that the gown doesn't get ‘stressed’ from the weight of hanging but it does require a professional acid free box. I use the Gaylord Archival company. They sell a kit that includes the box, acid free tissue, and gloves. I think it sells for about $75. I think this is a great option. You can also purchase the box and tissue separately or have a box made to a custom size. Use buffered tissue for gowns made from cellulose fibers like cotton, linen. Use unbuffered tissue for protein fibers like silk, wool. If you’re not sure, use unbuffered. The buffering is a alkaline substance added to counteract acids that may form on these cellulose fibers in the future.
Have your dress professionally cleaned (get a reference for a good dry cleaner from the bridal store) and hang it in an open area for a week to let the chemical products air. Button and zip all closures and remove any pins or excess items from the gown. Lightly Stuff the sleeves, bodice and anywhere that can hold it with a few sheets of lightly crumpled acid free tissue.


Place a few sheets of your acid free tissue in the bottom of the box. Lay the gown in the box. If the gown is too large and needs to double up, put the skirt in first, lightly stuff with tissue and place gown bodice on top. You are creating soft, stuffed folds, avoiding any creases.


Lay a few pieces of tissue on top, put the lid on and place in a cool, dry place. Wool will attract moths so on the rare occasion where wool has been used for bridal, I suggest placing a few cedar blocks wrapped in cotton and never touching the gown in the side of the box and checking it often for signs of moths. The wood has oils however and must not come in contact with the fabric. Check it periodically for signs of pests or moisture. 

Happy Storage to you!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tasha Tudor

My maternal grandmother raised 16 children. I think I was about the 80th grandchild (and far from the last). As you can imagine, she didn't have the means or the time to give us many gifts.

 I have two treasures that came from her. One is a hand-quilted dolly blanket she made for me when I was 8 or so and the other is this collection of stories and poems, My Brimful Book, when I was about 6.

This is where my love for the children's book illustrator, Tasha Tudor, began. 
Her beautiful work transported me to a different place and time 

Tasha's drawings depict an ideal childhood. Her enchanting, soft palette watercolors show children's innocence and bring to life an earlier time. Both as a writer and illustrator, Tasha produced over 100 books including two that won Caldecott honors, Mother Goose, 1944 and 1 Is One, 1956.

As a single mother, Tasha raised most of her four children without running water or electricity. She gathered eggs, milked her goats, wove her own linen from homespun flax  and most often went barefoot; living purposefully as if in the1800's. 

She was certainly eccentric but her stories and illustrations have been admired for over 70 years.

Framed illustrations from Mother Goose are available in our shop.