Real Bowtie: Made it. Tied It. High Fived Myself.

IMG_0845This is the real deal, people.I’ve been seeing some nice bow tie wearing around, and thought it seems time to hit that note in the way that I do: polyester style.

I tried making one with a free pattern online, but it was impossible to turn back right side out because: polyester. So I gave it another shot and made the thing a little bigger, and: yes.

And right when I thought I couldn’t get happier in one 32-minute period of time, I gave it a shot to tie it myself.

First I went here and found this:

how-to-tie-a-bow-tie-instructions-01

And then that was completely useless. I got to step # 6 and then more or less passed out from confusion. So, I went here and found this:

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And that french guy’s little comment (“It’s sort of like tying a shoe” did the trick for me.)  I successfully did the wrap/ fold/ squish method required to get the thing tied. And then I tugged on it in 42 ways and got it to look (what I consider) just right.

Here, of course, is the small detail: I’m nervous to take it off because I’m not entirely sure that I will be able to do it again. So currently I am leaving for the grocery store with the world’s best 8 year old wearing sweatpants, a flannel shirt, and a bowtie.

Feel free to think I make these things up. But nope.

“UNACCEPTABLE.”

“What did you do to your pants?!” This from my 91-year old mentor.

She doesn’t really use the sound “tsk tsk,” but I have to say that she has a way of saying it with her eyeballs.

The hem wasn’t finished and I wore them anyway: partly because I was so proud of the taper job, partly because they fit comfortably (but, well, more on that later), and also because they were clean and at hand.

“I haven’t finished them. I need you to show me how to hem.”

A hmph and then a twinkle smile. Actually an awesome combo–somehow mixing them makes them both more real.

Then later from my other teacher (91’s daughter), the patient, generous, time-giving, secret-sharing, encouraging-but-not-coddling one who is showing me the ropes: “UNACCEPTABLE!”

This was after I hiked up my shirt to show off that I’d moved the buttons on my pants so that they fit better.

“You can’t do that.” Head shaking.

Me: “you can’t?”

Her: “You can’t do that. Go look in the mirror. Go look.”

And, well, sure, she had a point. The zipper was all visible and waving to America. It’s not supposed to be at the party. It’s supposed to be hiding.

Still. They were more comfortable, everyone.

And I value this in a piece of clothing: I remember wearing A Smile jeans in the 70’s–the ones with the elastic in the back and the upside down triangle logo. I wore these amidst a sea of dittos (signature butt seam) and Chimen de Fers (choo choo train logo). I would look at the girls wearing those tight jeans and literally sort of tighten the muscles in my brain to try to squeeze out a reason that they would wear those when they were clearly not as comfortable as my A Smiles.

Sadly, I didn’t have the 13-year old chutzpah to tell my mom to take me to Beno’s for Levis. But I do remember thinking that the fact you could have a Beno’s logo spray painted onto the side of your car and get a FREE PAIR OF LEVIS for it was the best idea I’d ever heard of, and something I definitely planned to do when I go my first car.

I’m still all about comfort. And now the alchemy is going to be comfort + style. I’m on my way, fools. Watch me. I’m gonna get both. I feel sure of it.

“You Got To Lose Da Tummy”

I visited my 91-yr old mentor today.

 I am trying on the suit pants I have tailored so far–in the tailor shop for my TEST. (“We got to see how you did!”) She is sitting at the sewing machine–she sort of peeks over the top of it when she talks to you.

I come out of the dressing room with the pants on.  She is looking at me up and down, well actually she is staring at my, um, zipper. The inseam is still low. I’ve got crotch bag basically. She is sort of squishing her face and shaking her head. 

“Too low still,” she says.

“I like it that way.”She looks at me completely flat-faced, hands still on the fabric she’s sewing, peers over the machine: “You want to look like a man.” It’s a question, but barely. 

“I don’t want to look like a man exactly, but I like men’s clothes.”

She keeps staring. Then she goes back to her seam. 

Her daughter and I are messing with the fit of the pants and she looks back up: “You gotta lose da tummy.”

“Mom! Don’t be so honest,” says the daughter.  (Aside to me she says: “she means that with your tummy you’ve got to wear the pants either high or low, but it’s okay because you want to wear them low.”)

“I’m kidding,” she says to me from behind the machine, still straight faced but completely twinkly. “She knows I’m kidding.” She says to the daughter. 

I am in the weirdest best heaven ever. 

And this All Body Shapes Get To Play is a big piece of what I love so far about menswear as I follow and read and generally sort of stand in the doorway of the community having fun with it (because, unbelievably, there is an actual community of people who love menswear…I never found a community of people when I just wore stuff from the gap, so this is a huge bonus.)

There is no “right” body. Just bodies having fun wearing slick clothes. 

Happy happy tailored trouser times. 

I Ruined Another Jacket. 

That makes three.

It happens. I mean–at least it happens to me. 

I tend to learn things by deconstruction. And so after disassembling, cutting in special ways, and then trying to reconstruct but having a brain bleed and too many weird tiny scraps left over instead, I am INCREMENTALLY  nearer to understanding how to mess w (and by mess with I mean Tailor in an Extreme Way) men’s suit jackets. 

Yes, Thank you. 

The saddest loss to me–beyond those bits of unbelievable fabrics that don’t even exist anymore:

The inside pockets. 

I hate to waste beautifully constructed inside pockets. I have always been bothered that women’s clothes don’t include those secret pockets. 


I am now an Inside Pocket Hoarder. 

And I think my next attempt might be on an ugly jacket.

But we all know that will be the one I nail. Geez. 

I’m Going to Have to Get Back Together with Pins.

imageI broke up with using pins some time shortly after teaching myself to sew, in like the early 90’s.

And after writing and writing about loving wonk–I have said in hard print that I think people’s fear of making mistakes is the thing that keeps them from trying. And I still believe that. I spent lots of time explaining to myself (and trying to help others see) why our creative lives are at one and the same time so crucial and so difficult to make important. I even wrote a book about it.

But now I have a new goal, and it’s not really about explaining anything to anybody. I’m going to try to make some things that require actual precision. This isn’t something I’ve attempted before.

I have tossed two vintage men’s suit jackets trying to convert them to vests–and I’m in the middle of trying to get the third to work. I have another waiting for me to tackle.

And this next time, the fourth, I’m going to try to actually do what the tailor told me to do: pin before you sew; sew before you cut. This is roughly exactly the opposite of the way I’ve ever made anything. I deconstruct, reconstruct, then pin and mess with the ugly corners for ages until I finish.

This undertaking will take patience. And I can’t believe I just actually had to fucking type that. Damn.

Church Girl Finally Knows What to Wear

You can only imagine how many scratchy dresses I’ve had to put on: Nazarene from 3-17 = 32 bazillion dresses. And I never felt quite right in any of them. I still remember dressing up as an old man for halloween one year–suit, vest, plastic cigar, bowler hat—and feeling more comfortable my skin than I had yet. If only I could dress like an old man every day, I thought. So, let’s just fast forward 36 years: and yeah–now I dress like an old man–I mean, a really good-looking old man, but still.

The trick for me has been to marry my cheap, thrift-shop-loving soul with my desire to pull of a look that I can finally swing: sharp-dressed man.

So, yeah, I thrift for ties. And for shirts. I’m having a decent amount of luck with women’s-cut dress shirts (LL Bean, Land’s End, Ralph Lauren, Gap). I have unsuccessfully attempted  to tailor men’s shirts to fit me (something my tailor friends tell me is a physical impossibility). And vests just need a little bust tuck to fall just right.

But pants? Tricky. I have Cathy the Tailor to thank for my new-found skill of the waist-alter and crotch-lift. (tailoring moves, people). Now, because I can fiddle around with thrifted men’s suit jackets and pants, I can capture the quality and drape of suiting.

We all know this but I will go ahead and say it here: women’s clothes are made from a myriad of inane fabrics that I officially, break up with. (It’s you, not me, various lightweight polyesters wit no extra seams allowances to work with.)

Now I walk out into the world feeling like I am finally wearing the clothes I’ve always been meant to wear: shirt, tie, wing tips. Sometimes a vest. One of these days–when my tailoring skills catch up with my vision–I’ll wear a jacket, one off of a rack that I will have tracked down at a thrift store for next to nothing, poured my thread and my time and my back into and then given myself as a gift.

I wouldn’t say I’m trying to look like a man. I’m not trying to claim masculinity.  I’m just trying to wear clothes that make me feel like myself. I don’t want to look like anybody but me. Really. It’s not really dressing like a man.  I like to call it dressing mannishly.