The House of Tatterdemalion


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Clippings of Miscellany

February 3rd, 2008 by tatterdemalion

Today I made some attempt at cleaning up, my constant struggle, and found a lot of clippings I had meant to comment on. It seems only fitting to start with the review I ripped out of The Economist (January 6th, 2007). The book under the microscope is called A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder–How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place. No, I am not making this up.

One of the things this review taught me was the varying difference on what constitutes organzied. It says:

. . .A rough storage system (important papers close to the keyboard, the rest distributed in loosely related piles on every flat surface) takes very little time to manage. Filing every bit of paper in a precise category, with colour-coded index tabs and a neat system of cross-refrencing, will certainly take longer. And by the end, it may not save any time.

Indeed. I thought that what they refer to as “a rough storage system” counted as being organized. Color-coded index tabs and neat systems of cross-refrencing border on a mental obsession. (Not that I don’t know people who have such systems; I posit that mental obsessions are a lot more “normal” than most people are willing to accept.) “Disorganized” is when there is no system of storage; “organized chaos” is a perfectly acceptable storage system.

On the whole, it seemed like the book made a half-way decent case for not being a control freak and not worrying about or planning every stupid little thing, of which I whole-heartedly agree. One cited example was how America’s Marine Corps never make detailed plans in advance, because leaving the details to the last minute reduces the risk of wasting time on things that may ultimately prove not important at all. They also note, as I have, that disorder and creativity are closely linked. The book argues that all the hype and fuss about being organzied and neat does more to spread guilt, not boost productivity.

In the end, though, the reviewer gets the final word. For one thing, it was noted by the reviewer that the case for tidiness in some environments is overwhelming—surgery, for example. Yes, indeedy, I would like anyone doing surgery on me to be to be very exact, and to have all my files neatly filed with color-coded index tabs. While it might be very creative to do a hernia repair on someone needing their appedix removed, it would hardly be humorous or helpful.

And also,

The other thing is that the book is a bit repetitive and disorganised. Even readers who leve mess in their own lives don’t necessarily like it in others.

Ha. Isn’t that the truth.

The subject as a whole reminds me of a qoute I saw once—People who are organized are just too lazy to look for things.

I think one must be careful to avoid being extreme in either direction. It is not pleasant to live somewhere where everything must be just so, cleaned and organized to the point that one is afraid to breath for fear of messing up the intricate order of the air. It’s also not pleasant to live in some place that is so cluttered and disorganized nothing can be found or accomplished. I would never go so far as to say it is morally repugnant to not be roughly organized, but being roughly organized certainly makes for more pleasant living, and yes, greater productivity. I’ve yet to see, though, much benefit to highly detailed filing systems. The person I know who is most detailed in their organization has to spend about as much time trying to remember which file she filed something in than I would fishing it out of my loosely organized pile.

There is a need for moderation in all things—disorder and order both. They ought to balance each other out, not stifle everything else around it.


Moving on, I discovered a clipping I took from the WSJ (September 27, 2007) on anorexia and the fashion industry. It was disturbing on many levels—those suffering from anorexia, those who seem to need to be told that anorexia is disturbing, and the layers of hypocrisy from so many in the fashion industry.

A fashion label had decided to run an ad campaign, using “images of an emaciated 27-year-old woman, nude, with the line, ‘No. Anorexia.’

Already I am disturbed. How is this an ad campaign? How is this supposed to make people want to buy their cloths, to show a naked, starving woman? And what does it mean by “No. Anorexia.” What on earth are assumed to be thinking when we see that? “Gee, I wish I was that skinny”?

The article goes on to say that the managing director who O.K.’ed the ad campaign was shocked when she first saw the photos. Why? What is more shocking about seeing a nekkid anorexic, instead of a scantly clad anorexic walking down the runway? Personally, I’m more appalled by by the scantly clad anorexic on the runway—what kind of sicko wants to have their work “complimented” by starving woman? Clinically, it’s the same body whether it has designer rags on it or not cloths at all on it, and practically speaking, it’s not that much more covered when it’s wearing those things called high fashion. So what exactly is the distinction that makes it shocking when it’s not on the runway?

Someone protested that “This girl needs to bein a hospital, not at the forefront of an advertising campaign” I don’t quite understand how it is presumed this must be mutually exclusive. In my understanding of the article, the woman was fully aware of her anorexia problem, understood what the photos would be used for, and gave her full consent. Two pictures are all that are being used of her; for all I know she was laying in a hospital bed while the ad campaign stirred up fire and brimestone. Again, the thing I find troubling is that someone would find anorexia a desireable way to sell something.

The same person also complained that the campaign “glorifes a woman who is sick and could lead others to be sickly thin because of all the attention.” I am still trying to figure out how a nude, 5 foot 5, 68 lb woman with words ‘No. Anorexia’ counts as “glorifying” anorexia. I understand that anorexia is on display, but there is a big difference between displaying something and glorifying it. One can display something in a glorifying manner, or in a mocking manner, or in a disgusted manner, or in a shocking manner, or in a factual manner, or in a million other different manners. I do feel a good deal of pity who is in such desperate need for attention they would be tempted to starve themselves for it, because they are very miserable people regardless of wether or not they actually get tempted into such things. You don’t need to be anorexic to be starved for unconditional love.

Someone else stated they were bothered because it was being used for commercial purposes. I agree, but so are all the anorexic models, so where, again, is the difference?

Ms. Bertoncello dismissed comments that her company is seeking to profit from a deadly disease. “The campaign sets off an alarm, and it’s a loud one,” she said. “I am happy the ad is being talked about. whether it’s positive or negative, at least the issue is getting some real attention.” Nonetheless, she doesn’t deny that he main purpose of the campaign is to market the Nolita brand and acknowledges that all her models are thin.

Not to bad for a lady who claimed earlier in the same article that the ad “laid bare a hypocrisy that she says still lurks in the fashion wolrd. ‘If you don’t think there is a problem with some of the models working in our industry, then you have blinders on,’ she said in a telephone interview. ‘The fashion industry glorifies sickly thin models and it has to stop.’

It is pretty sick, but I’m not referring to how thin the models are. I’m referring to the people who want models that thin. It’s sick that there has to be organizations trying to restrict hiring anorexics and models—it’s sick that there is a market for people who are or appear to be anorexic.

A designer was qouted,

“I don’t agree with it,” she said. “It’s not something that we need to see—to show that body like that, that’s really sad. That kind of thing is so personal we don’t need to show it—we all know what [anorexia] is, we all know what it looks like. There are so many ways to get the message across without such shock value.”

That’s a mixed bag. I understand what she is saying; I’ve seen gratitious pictures of grief that make me feel the same way. You feel sick someone would intrudes on such personal pain for the sake of a bit of shock value. And I’m sure the guy who developed this campaign was far more interested in shock value than in compassion on those suffering from anorexia.

But on the other hand, it seems to me like she is simply uncomfortable with the hard truth of the matter. That body in that way. Is the only distrubing thing the way “that body” was shown? Would you be happier to see it on a runway in designer rags? Do we know what anorexia looks like? How come? Maybe because we see it walking down the runways all the time? Yes, it is awful to see. Does that automatically make it wrong? Does it mean we shouldn’t ever look at things that show suffering? Should we just pretend that nothing is wrong, that it’s not that big of a deal? Should we whitewash the problem, sanatize, make it all nice and neat and oh-so-much more palatable? Form committes to talk about the problem?

I have a hard time figuring out where all the “shock” is coming from, except maybe that someone just called a spade a spade, pointed out that the emperor has no clothes, so to speak. I understand that maybe lot of designers don’t like the implication that they are doing this to people. Since this anorexic has not been shown as “glamorous” but as the wasted-away human she is, it makes the designers look cruel and heartless and rather sick, instead of edgy, arty, sophisticated. That’s bad for the image of the designers; why would they want to face it up? And I understand how those campaigning against anorexia are upset that this is, after all, meant to be an advertising campaign to generate sales for a clothing company that itself is encouraging anorexia by the very models they choose to hire. That’s sick, too. And I understand being upset that some guy wanted to take picture of a naked anorexic, just to see how much he could stir up the pot.

But I don’t understand why a picture of a naked anorexic is more appalling, upsetting or shocking than those that want people to look like anorexics, than the “designs” that people put on anorexics, or the fact that people in the fashion need to be told that it is upsetting to see starving people being paraded around as clothes hangers for “high fashion”.


And finally, I found a page from the September 27, 2007 WSJ entitled When Bloomers Don’t Cut It. I’m not quite sure why I saved it, except to mock the designer (Graeme Black) who complained “Being too practical is limiting from a design point.” I would like to tell the whiner that any knuckle-head can imgaine alternate universes where perpetual motion devices really can exist; it’s the people with skill who are willing to engage the real world with all of it’s practical restrictions and make something that really works. Practicallity can indeed be a designing challange or difficulty, but I hardly think it needs to be a restriction except for those who only want to play, not work.

Or maybe I wanted to applaud the designer (Tomas Maier) who said “I like a woman who doesn’t actually like overpowering clothes. I want to see her face.” Though the cynic in me can’t help but wonder if maybe he just knows which side his bread is buttered on, and knows how to say the things people want to hear.

To be fair, the article named both designers as some of the rare few who actually designed clothes women might actually want to wear.

And also that 6267 made a big splash for a lot of people; it was also mentioned as designers who made clothes someone might want to wear, and even as being able to get a crowd weary from 12 hours of runway shows to burst into cheers. Actually, probably the biggest sign of how noteworthy 6267 is would be the fact that they even caught my fashion-hating eye. Trust me, no one was more shocked than myself.

Not to overstate the case. I just went and looked through a slideshow of 6267’s September showing, and while there were several long, full skirts that caught my eye, I was largly distracted from paying much attention to the clothes for all of the starving women.

Posted in Contemplations, Design, Fashion | 1 Comment »

Sometime you feel like writing, and sometimes you don't

December 30th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

Actually, lately, it hasn’t been so much a lack of wanting to write as a lack of wanting to write about sewing. This surprised me, though it should not have. I always have mulitiple projects started, because after a time I get sick of working on one, and work on something else instead. Why would it be any different with my writing? It’s not a lack of sewing (tangentally) related things to write about, it’s just that I don’t feel like it, for some reason. I expect it will come back, shortly, or at least shortly in the grand scheme of things. It’s beginning already, a bit, I suppose, or I wouldn’t be here tonight.

I don’t have any grand thoughts, but when I was reading the selection for the Essay of the Week, thoughts flited through my head. Here are a few qoutes from the essay, with my emphasis added:

And yet the celebrity architects of the past cannot be equated with those of today. None of them, not even Wright, deliberately cultivated a signature style based on a trademark mannerism, such as Gehry’s fluttering metal membranes or Richard Meier’s palette of bathroom white. Stanford White’s work was superb, remarkably so, but he designed in the common style of his day. The classicism of his Brooklyn Museum cannot easily be distinguished, even by an expert, from that of Carrère & Hastings’s New York Public Library, Whitney Warren’s Grand Central Terminal, or Cass Gilbert’s New York Customs House. The idiosyncrasies of White stamp his personal life, not his buildings, which one would never mistake for a vehicle of personal expression.

The works of a starchitect, by contrast, are poached in the personality of their makers. How this all came to pass is deserving of some careful consideration, for much more is at play here than the mere vulgarizing effects of today’s celebrity culture, where publicity begets more publicity, and no distinction is drawn between accomplishment and notoriety. For until we have an understanding of the nature of the architectural celebrity culture, we cannot know if we should shrug or mourn.

The archetype of the celebrity architect, of course, is Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959). As prodigious as his architectural achievement was, he also permanently changed the American conception of an architect. With him begins the modern image of the architect as free-spirited genius, a part Wright played with relish: decked out in a long cape and cane, and topped by a magnificent mane of flowing white hair, he made his own physical appearance a declaration of imperious authority. Here was the model for a long line of architects who learned that a signature style began in the dressing room, and that one should handle a hairbrush as deftly as an I-beam. (It is notable that this image has far more in common with that of the tempestuous orchestra director than, say, a painter or sculptor.)

His designs did not even seem to be the product of conscious thought, but spontaneous eruptions of life spirit, much like the curses that he continually fired off. “Furness held Louis captivated,” Sullivan wrote, “especially when he drew and swore at the same time.”

To judge from the autobiography, what Furness taught Sullivan was not so much architectural but personal style. From him he learned that a building is “in its nature, essence and physical being an emotional expression,” and that its designer must be in a state of “high and sustained emotional tension.”

The Fountainhead, whatever its literary or philosophical merits, impressed itself deeply on the public mind. It was taken for granted that an architect was not a carpenter-builder who had read some books and learned to draw, as he had been in the nineteenth century; nor was he a scholar who had been to Europe and made measured drawings of the great cathedrals. He was now an autonomous creator, who made “buildings out of his head,” as Sullivan put it, and a growing number of aspiring young architects took this to be essential to the nature of architecture practice.

The central task of architecture has always been what Louis Kahn called “the thoughtful making of space.” The great architects of the past—from Borromini to John Soane to Wright—were makers of distinctive spaces, which were often achieved by ingenious exploitation of structural systems. The melancholy spaces of the Bank of England, for example, were unthinkable without Soane’s use of hollow terra cotta pipes to make vaults and domes of extraordinary lightness, which he deployed as freely as if they were tents.

To the extent that an architect devises a vivid and arresting signature, he is engaged in the business of image-making, which is but one lobe of architecture. The essence of the architectural art is to reconcile plan and construction in a resolved whole, from which both the interior spaces and exterior expression derive with a kind of logical inevitability. But the business of image-making is akin to that of making a theatrical backdrop, which is judged by its graphic qualities, not by the makeshift scaffold of boards that holds it aloft. This is not to say that today’s starchitects are ignorant of technology and its possibilities: Gehry’s brilliant exploitation of computer modeling to create irregular three-dimensional forms is a startling development, creating sculptural possibilities that Borromini would have envied. And a theatrical backdrop, however ingenious the technology that created it, remains a theatrical backdrop.

It is striking how many major American buildings are now being built by Japanese architects, such as Ando, Taniguchi, SANAA, and others, whose work is consistently deft and sober, and often achieve a certain delicate poetry.

Comparing architects to clothing designers is nothing new; many designers themselves draw the same lines, some of them claiming to be “frustrated architects”, whose lives somehow conspired against their achieving their true desire. Reading the essay, it was hard not to see a lot of similarities between modern architects and modern designers.

I was going to try to tie the whole thing together, but I’m a little bit leary of repeating myself. But I have personal pet peeves against people who make a whole new post just to say “look what at what I wrote earlier”, so I shall attempt to make a little new content out of this, even if it is on themes I have discussed before.

To me, this is what I see as being very much a huge problem in the “couture” world—that the creations are not “thoughtful creations of space” working together in a “kind of logical inevitability”, but are rather those ubiquitous signs of notoriety rather than accomplishment. Something becomes valuable not because of any intrinsic use or desireability, but simply because of declarations of imperious authority from those who seem to know about such things because people are too nervous or unsure of themselves.

The design of clothing (as clothing is as an echo of a house; both shelter and cloth the lives of people) has become not so much about skill as about drama. A designer for clothing is not expected to need to know anything about sewing, or the human body or it’s needs. He is merely making clothes out of his head—and it is someone else’s worry how to make the thing exist or work.

The modern architect, of both clothes and houses, can know enough about his materials to torment them in ways in which they were never meant to be—whether it be the clothing that denies it is made of a supple fabric or that it houses a human body within it, or if it be a building that likewise makes humans unwelcomed within it. They seem to be willfully turning their backs on any thought of these structures as being anything more than gratuitous expressions of self.

It may be one thing, I suppose, if they we’re simply designing only the building that they would be living in, and the clothes that only they would be wearing. But it seems rather indecent to sell such things to the general public.

I think it is very sad that it is being reduced to rather garish and over-done backdrops, instead of deft and delicate poetry. The glorification of the few for the unrelenting torment of the many.

Or would you like to buy a pair of Chanel sunglasses, for an absurd price, that are guaranteed to be stylish and fashionable—seeing as they bear the name Chanel?

Posted in Articles, Contemplations | 2 Comments »

Guess who bought Denver Fabrics?

December 16th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

The FAQ at Denver Fabrics has been updated to reflect it’s new owners. Does it look familiar? No? Maybe you’ve never checked the FAQ for this company.

My first clue was that the new promotionals that Denver Fabrics was sending out had a decidedly familiar ring to them. And then I noticed that the layout for the merchandise descriptions seemed really familiar, too. It took very little poking around to make it very obvious. A friend of mine even went so far as to realize that “Denver Fabrics” and “Fashion Fabrics Club” are carrying the exact same stock. It’s nothing more but a different door to the same store.

This is disappointing on several levels. If Denver Fabrics had to sell out, it would have been nice if they could have sold out to someone new to the business. Then at least there would have been a variety of choices. As it is now, it’s just as though they’ve gone out of business—one less choice.

Then there is the sadness of it having to be FFC that bought it. Denver Fabrics had the most wonderful, warm, encouraging, there’s-no-such-thing-as-a-stupid-question customer service. Although I’ve never experienced being treated poorly by the FFC customer service, it has always struck me as cold and uncaring. I have always been loathe to contact them, and always felt like it would just be a bother because I wouldn’t get any help from them anyway.

There is also the sadness that Denver Fabrics used to highly recommend swatches, and tried very hard to get people to use them. FFC refuses any kind of sampling except buying 1/8th of yard and charges so much for shipping that 1/8th of yard—$4.95, to be exact—that one is strongly discouraged from buying swatches. This leads to many dissappointing purchases.

There is also the problem that FFC is very inconsistent in it’s quality. I could feel confident in buying anything from Denver Fabrics, knowing that they only sold quality stuff I’d be glad to have. Even just seeing the swatch sets that FFC sends out to it’s club members (they choose the fabric that gets swatched, not you) has taught me there is a lot of ugly polyester in the world. I recently bought two pieces of wool from FFC. The both had similar decriptions—they were wool flannel, though one piece was “brushed” and the other was “denim weave” on the back.

The first piece was so “brushed” it’s nap was so pronounced as to almost appear as a “fake fur” (but it felt a lot better!) It was supple and soft. It prewashed up beautifully (I used tepid water and dishsoap).

The other piece was coarse, and stiffer than polyester felt. It leaked dye all over the place as soon as water touched it. And after sending about 6 bathtubs full of emerald green water down the drain, it continued to leak dye. It is now pretty much worthless to me, because I don’t care how many times they “recommend” dry cleaning wool, I’m not going to sew up anything I can’t clean myself.

That made smoke pour out of my ears, I can tell you. If they had sold me plain white wool, I could have dyed it much more color fast myself, and gotten the same (or better) color to boot. I have done enough dying of wool to consider it “not dyed” when as soon as you plunge it into water it releases all of it’s dye. They have utterly no excuse. It was a cruddy, cheap piece of work.

Now how will I be able to tell the difference? Some wool that FFC sells is good. Some is not. Both pieces I bought were the exact same price. It turns into a blind guessing game. Unless you’re willling to pay $5 for the privilidge of finding out it’s a worthless fabric.

I’d really rather just shop some place that sold quality fabric, and had a consistent stock. Let me know if you know of such a place.

Posted in Contemplations, Dyeing, Merchants, Websites | No Comments »

Tower of Bureaucracy

December 2nd, 2007 by tatterdemalion

Someone recently asked my help in figuring out what tariffs applied to the fabric they wanted to import. I balked, because that’s not really a fabric question—that’s a red-tape question, and bureaucracy is not my specialty. He insisted, and so—after making it quite clear I was no expert and not in the least bit interested in defending my choices in court—I gave my best guesses.

The fabrics in question are these:

1) 300 Denier Polyester Greige Goods

Width – 69″ Off-loom
Weight – 4.5 ounces per square yard
Construction – 2 ply 150 Denier x 2 ply 150 Denier Plain Weave Texturized Polyester
Count – 58 x 44
Other – No residual oils or sizings

2) 600 Denier Polyester Greige Goods

Width – 68′ Off-loom
Weight – 8.4 ounces per square yard
Construction -4 ply 150 Denier x 4 ply 150 Denier Plain Weave Texturized Polyester
Count – 54 x 36
Other – No residual oils or sizings

3) 600 Denier Finished Solution-Dyed Polyester

Width – Trimmed 60″
Weight – 8.69 ounces per square yard
Count – 45 x 35
Finish – DWR face and urethane backcoat with DM-50 fungicide
Put Up – 50 yard rolls
Color Availability – 9 – 10 standard colors plus the availability of custom colors

And the United States International Trade Commissions Tariff Information Center is here.

My best guess was that #1 would be listed under Section XI, Chapter 54, Man-made Filiments, 5407.51.20, which is described as: Woven fabrics of synthetic filament yarn, including woven fabrics obtained from materials of heading 5404 (con.): Other woven fabrics, containing 85 percent or more by weight of textured polyester filaments: Unbleached or bleached Weighing not more than 170 g/m2: Flat fabrics

My best guess at #2 was the same thing, except 5407.51.60, that is, the same type of fabric, but Weighing more than 170 g/m2.

And my best guess at #3 was that it would be listed on Section XI, Chapter 59, Impregnated, coated, covered or laminated textile fabrics; textile articles of a kind suitable for industrial use, 5903.20, which is: Textile fabrics impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastics, other than those of heading 5902 (con.): With polyurethane.

Luckily, I didn’t have to figure out the actual tariffs, which was a horrible awful mess. We’ll use fabrics one and two for our example. The running list has two columns for the tariffs. Column one has two sub-headings, ‘general’ and ‘special’. The ‘general’ tariff for these two fabrics is 14.9%, which seems pretty straight forward. Kind of. Sort of. I’m not sure what we’re taking 14.9% of or who is paying it (Is it the person from the foriegn country bringing it in, or is the person from the U.S. trying to buy it? And so then is the percentage a fraction of the raw cost, or is it 14.9% of whatever they can sell it for?), not that I really care to do the research to find out.

The ‘special’ sub-heading can be a little trickier. I get the part where it says “Free (BH,CA,CL,IL,JO, MX,P,SG)”. I think. I’m pretty sure it means there is no tariff if it is being imported from certain countries, and if you look up the abbreviations (or are smart enough to know what they mean to begin with), it’ll will all make sense. But when it lists “6% (MA) 8% (AU)”, I don’t know if that means instead of the 14.9% or in addition to. I think instead of. But don’t qoute me on that.

However, Column 2 is what really confuses me. It just says “81%” (for this listing), and when I try to look up what the Column 2 is referring to, all I find out is “Rate of Duty Column 2. 1/ Notwithstanding any of the foregoing provisions of this note, the rates of duty shown in column 2 shall apply to products, whether imported directly or indirectly, of the following countries and areas pursuant to section 401 of the Tariff Classification Act of 1962, to section 231 or 257(e)(2) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, to section 404(a) of the Trade Act of 1974 or to any other applicable section of law, or to action taken by the President thereunder: Cuba North Korea

At about when it got to the point it said “pursuant to section 401 of. . .” it got too complicated and scary for me, and I ran away. Upon further reflection and peeking around the corner, I kind of guess it’s saying “We have economic sancitons against Cuba and North Korea, so there are mega-high tariffs if you try to import from there.” I think. Maybe. I have no interest in defending my opinion of what it’s trying to say in a court of law, thank you very much.

But really, it’s absurd. Say we had the above fabric #1, but it was dyed. Then we would have to pay 18.9c/kg + 17.6%. Assuming it wasn’t under the “special” sub-heading, or under Column 2. All because the fabric was dyed. If you have a synthetic filiament yarn “of nylon or other polyamides: Colored multifilament, untwisted or with a twist of less than 5 turns per meter, measuring not less than 22 decitex per filament, certified by the importer to be used in the manufacture of wigs for dolls” than there are no tariffs. But if it isn’t certifed to be for wigs for dolls, than there is a 8% tariff. Racket strings have a 2.7% rate of duty. “Other woven fabrics, containing 85 percent or more by weight of filaments of nylon or other polyamides: Suitable for making typewriter and machine ribbon, containing yarns the average decitex of which exceeds 28 but not 83, the total thread count (treating multiple (folded) or cabled yarns as single threads), of which per centimeter is not less than 59 warp and 39 filling and not more than 83 warp and 55 filling and in which the thread count of the warp does not exceed 60 percent of the total thread count of the warp and filling: With both selvages woven” has a 13.6% rate of duty. If you have, say, fabric that is “coated with gum or amylaceous substances,
of a kind used for the outer covers of books or the like; tracing cloth; prepared painting canvas; buckram and
similar stiffened textile fabrics of a kind used for hat foundations
“, and the fabric which is coated is of man-made fibers, it is 7%, but if it is made of “other” fibers, it is only 4.1%.

Why? Why, why, why? What difference does it make? Who cares?!

I’m sure there are plenty of long winded, complicated reasons why it is all so. About protecting this, and encouraging this, and blah, and blah, and blah.

Personally, I think it’s all absurd. You’re supposed be able to teach children the difference between right and wrong. When “right” and “wrong” get so complicated you need a lawyer (or twelve) to figure out which is which, something has got to be wrong with your laws.

For example, it could be simplified as thus: “All governements need money to run. One of the ways our government gets money is by demanding a percentage of all transactions that take place. For example, when you buy something from the mall, you have to pay 8.5% of whatever your new shoes cost to the state governement. It’s called sales tax. If you buy something from another country, you have to pay 8.5% to the federal government. And you can’t buy anything from these certain countries, because we’re at enmity with them. The end.”

I mean, honestly, can you imagine trying to decide which section, chapter, category and sub-heading your shoes fell into before buying them at the mall? Of course not! Yet if we import anything from another country, it makes a BIG difference whether the fabric is dyed or undyed, and if it is dyed, than it is important HOW it has been dyed, and on and on and on. It is utterly, utterly absurd.

Actually, it reminds me of the story of the Tower of Babel:

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

It seems as though the “language barrier” has been broken—it’s a global economy now, right? But God doesn’t have to come down and mix-up the languages all over again, because even though we’re communicating, all we’re saying is “5407.42.30: Woven fabrics of synthetic filament yarn, including woven fabrics obtained from materials of heading 5404 (con.): Other woven fabrics, containing 85 percent or more by weight of filaments of nylon or other polyamides (con.):Dyed:Weighing not more than 170 g/m2—14.9%. . .5407.43.10:Of yarns of different colors: The thread count of which per cm (treating multiple (folded) or cabled yarns as single threads) is over 69 but not over 142 in the warp and over 31 but not over 71 in the filling (620)—12.2¢/kg + 11.3%. . .

Posted in Contemplations | 2 Comments »

In the news. . .

November 17th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

First off, I’d like to draw your attention to an article in Thursday’s (November 15, 2007) WSJ, entitled Inside a Salon That Serves the Logo-Phobic. As usual, it has been written by Christina Binkley, and as you might have guessed I am highly amused by the traditional couture houses putting themselves out of business while small places like this cater to the people who really are interested in couture.

The article opens by profiling Ms. Markbreiter, who says that “To me, logos speak more of mass merchandising.” When she recently bought an Oscar de la Renta handbag, she removed the logo tag! Horrors! It’s a full-fledged back-lash against pushing of “couture” on the mass market. As the article says, These women want exquisitely made but subtle clothing and accessories that don’t shout “fashion.” What?! People who are interested in quality clothes that don’t want to be gaudy trend-followers and name droppers?! Perish the thought!

It seem so amusing to me because the description of this boutique sounds nearly identical to descriptions I have heard of the couture world in its “glory years”. Intent on chasing larger audiences and making statements and being artistic, the couture world largely alienated its original clientel. So those costumers who are actually interested in some of the properties of what I call “the original couture”—namely, things like quality of workmanship and materials, longevity of design and fabric, personalization in fit, and custom design for individuals—are going elsewhere with their business.

Ms. Powell scours Paris, London and New York for designers–mainly independent of the big luxury chains–whose attention to detail, fine fabrics and workmanship set them apart, in her opinion. She then demands that they work with her by altering their designs or supplying extra fabric for alterations.

Ms. Powell is no stranger to the couture world.

Ms. Powell, a Sweedish woman who speaks seven languages, is a veteran of the Paris-London-New York fashion scene. As a student in Paris, she was hand-plucked by Hubert de Givenchy to work in his atelier, and she later ran the Givenchy franchise on Madison Avenue for 13 years, until Mr. Givenchy retired.

Not only do Ms. Powell and her assistant fit everything to the individual costumer, they are not at all adverse to not sticking with the original designers sacred inspiration—two examples given were taking apart a dress and turning it into a camisole and skirt, and turning a coat into a dress. In some ways, it almost sounds like a second-hand atelier—not that the clothes have been previously worn, but that instead of starting with yardage, they start with garments.

This type of costumer shuns brand names and superfluous amounts of clothing (which is usually a result of trend-following), but instead seeks quality and, perhaps even more rare in today’s clothing world, dignity.


In other news, I recently read the latest HotPatterns newsletter. Although this company produces patterns of which I am most definitely not the target audience (can anyone say “trendy”?), I was interested in seeing how this small, independent pattern company would grow. Or not, depending on the way things went. People did seem to be quite taken by the designs, which were originally quite different than what was offered elsewhere. And they were certainly taken in with the advertising, the whole attitude that the pattern company was selling.

Personally, however, I have been less and less impressed, as each new collection only seems like a tiny variation on the one before it, and often times what designs are not stylistic repeats are very, very simple and basic pieces. If you’re going to buy from HotPatterns, you had better like straight skirts, neck-ties and gathers. And the words “super-stylish,” “totally gorgeous,” “funky,” “fabulous,” and the like, because you will be getting a lot of them.

However, I continue to keep half an eye on HotPatterns, and now I am also (thanks to the newsletter brining it to my attention) keeping half an eye on a new eMagazine, SEWN. Freshly, newly, just barely launched, there isn’t really much on the site yet (which is why one needs to watch to see what this will develop into). This is from their about page:

Why should knitters and quilters have all the fun? Garment sewists demand a magazine of our own. We want something less crunchy than the DIY stuff on the Web, but we don’t want Art to Wear either. We want designer inspiration, designer resources, and ideas for using patterns that are available commercially. We want great fabric even if we live in the middle of nowhere. We love vintage but still need to get dressed to go to work in the real world, not some costume drama. We want to learn great techniques without the schoolmarm tone. If we can get some style and makeup stuff too, that’s fabulous.

This is SEWN Magazine!

This is the fashion magazine for people who make their own fashion. We are big fans of what works. Because of that, you may see things done a little differently here than the way you were taught, if you were ever taught at all. Most of us are trying to squeeze sewing time in between the laundry and a nervous breakdown. So while we can appreciate the artistry of a Gallianno gown, we are not sewing one and don’t get us started on trying to drive to dinner in one. Fashion as an industry is a little catty and very opinionated. And so are we. We’re blunt but we’re more like the battle-axe with a heart of gold than truly mean. You’re going to get the unvarnished truth.
The writers who have been kind enough to allow us to use their work are given credit, even if at this point they aren’t getting paid. What that means is that we are fiercely protective of their work. Everything here is published under a Creative Commons license that does not allow publishing to commercial sites. If you would like to use something on your blog, contact us and we’ll ask them.

Fasten your seat belts, because we are going to be moving fast. This mini-issue is just the start of something big!

Um, how can I not be interested in keeping an eye on a magazine that describes themselves as “a battle-axe with a heart of gold”? Also, it is always a good sign to see someone using a Creative Commons license.

And also, I wonder if I’m going to get in trouble because I didn’t ask before I cut and pasted from their about page? And also, is it common now for people to actually schedule their nervous breakdowns? I always did them rather spontaneously, myself, but I suppose anything is possible in this day and age. I hear some women schedule c-sections because they’re too busy to risk going into labor at a time that doesn’t fit into their schedule.

Kind of curiously, the part of that whole about section that made me stop and consider was the line “still need to get dressed to go to work in the real world.” In that phrase, I heard lash-back against the super-expensive couture and the super-trendy couture. It was rather akin to saying “Hello?! We live in a real world! We want to make real clothes, not trashy novelties or in-your-dreams designs!”

While I very much understand this sentiment, it does lead to the question of what counts as living a real life, and what are real clothes?

I recently had a very similar discussion while knitting with Bub, as we discussed knitting patterns. Although the meaning was mostly the same, the thought in question was “What is Classical?” Because she says she likes clothes with a “classic” style, and I say I like clothes of a “classic” style, and yet I know perfectly well that we are drawn to totally different styles. “Classic” all by itself, does not really communicate much. For instance, you can say you like Classical Music. Naturally, most people would take this to rather evident what it means, but at the same time, people are not at all adverse to using terms like “Classical Rock” or “Classical Country” or any other type of music.

While I was willing to grant that there were several elements that tied us together—for example, simple lines, being understated and subtle, not gaudy or trendy but maybe with a bit of a sense of humor—but fundamentally, our ideas of what constituted “classic” had different roots. Although we both claimed classic taste, we disagreed on everything from shape, neck-lines, texture and formality. Our basic disagreements came from our attitudes toward clothing.

Her idea of “classical” is based on her early life, a life that involved cocktail parties. She would be what I would describe as “Chanel Classic”, of which, as I have mentioned before, has very little appeal to me at all. I, far more comfortable being sweaty and dirty and working hard than I am in any sort of semi-formal or formal atmosphere, much prefer what I would refer to as “rustic” or “country” classic—clothes that would be utterly out of place in cocktail party, even though they would maintain the same “classic-ness” of simple lines, understatement, etc. I would call something like this classic, while her mind is still stuck on a little black dress and a strand of pearls.

So in other words, while everyone might be cheering to hear of something based toward real people with real lives, it is at the same time utterly undescriptive.

Still, we might guess.

But we might be quite wrong.

So we will just have to wait and watch.

Posted in Articles, Contemplations, Couture, Fashion, Magazines, Websites | No Comments »

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