Friday, July 29, 2011

PR: Come As You Are

Despite my disappointment and annoyance during the last several years, I have to admit I was interested about the opening episode of Project Runway last night. I wasn't stuck to the couch for most of it, instead working on packing until the runway show. That might be the best way for me to watch now. I can breeze in and out of the room and catch the most important stuff, the essence, and then enjoy the fashion part unimpeded by disgust at the flaws.
The judging process was a little bit different this year, but it's something I think they should have done for a few years prior, and at a larger scale: The early panels of past finalists sent people through with yes or maybe. Then, the main judges looked at the contestants' work and portfolios in New York. They sent 4 of 20 back home, which seemed like a weird number to me. In any case, as I said, I've often thought they should do this, as it gives a layer of professionalism to the proceedings and allows the judges and Tim to have some ability to fight for an intriguing contestant (although, admittedly, they had a few whims that were less defensible).
The challenge for the remaining 16 was typical PR fare, requiring the contestants to use their jammies and a sheet. I thought the ladies might have an advantage here, since typically they have better or at least more interesting textiles available for their night garments. Most of the designers, however, seemed to have unexciting pajamas. Seriously, people--pajamas are important. You need to sleep not just in things that are comfortable, but things that bring you pleasure. It doesn't have to be a fancy nighty, but I really think people should wear things that are pleasing to their eye somehow; even if it's lounge pants and a shirt, it should have some character...especially if you're going to be on TV with strangers.

In the final results, I noticed two things--First, the Kors effect: SO many separates. Second, there was a fine edge between mess and yes.

Anthony--I liked the top, and really thought it was wearable for a lot of women. The skirt? Yuck. Too short is too short, even if the textile is eye-catching. I was surprised he made the top 3 for this reason.
Anya--Did anyone notice that she basically has Andy's-from-last-season hair? Anyway, I was disappointed to see, already, that tiny top thing I hate. I did like the use of print and the architecture of the top, but it was so small! The pants were fine, but why a tab closure and zip in the back? Very odd.
Becky--This was actually my favorite look. I liked the button trim on top and the use of the color. I enjoyed the tucks in the skirt. There were certainly a few puckering issues here and there, mainly in back, but I thought this a nice, wearable but stylish garment.
Bert--I didn't know what to think of this. I wasn't surprised, I guess, that the judges picked it out and gave it the win; it had their aesthetic blended together, and I was glad for Bert. However, something about it troubled me. I liked the humor of the check print, and I think the top of the garment worked, but the The sewing seemed off and the skirt on the whole too slouchy and baglike. I will say that I am interested to see more of Bert's work and I'm glad to see an older contestant doing well.
Bryce--I felt like I should like this more than I did, because I like drapey sleeves. The top was too big, though, like a child in a paint smock.
Cecilia--Great color on the skirt, but Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Thanks, Jill) on the length. This outfit had an appropriate concept, I think--not my style, but kind of urban clubby. The back, however (as one can see in the still photo on is a mess.
Danielle--Good color in the shorts, and I liked the pleating in the pockets. The fit of the shorts, however, was bizarre, and I could not get into them paired with a copper and black top. The outfit made no sense.
Fallene--There was a touch of humor here, which I like. The dress was simple, but pretty. It was safe, but had a bit of personality all the same. There was an indie vibe (not entirely because of the clown), which made me want to see more of Fallene's work.
Josh C.--This earned the second look award, which means that my first look and second look reactions were completely different. When I saw the top with the hoodie, I was intrigued. The shorts were poorly fit, but seeing the outfit, from the front, from the bust upwards, I thought Josh was onto something. Then I saw it during the questionning, and I realized my eyes (blinded by my love of red) missed a lot of wrong. Even so, I still like the hoodie.
Josh M.--I wrote "clean but flat." The look was very casual and dull, and I have to say the vest thing still looked like a sheet.
Julie--I thought Cecilia had the WTF all sewn up, but then Julie's top came out. It was a yellow and pink mess, and the fit of the pants at the waist was confusing. It was not the worst thing on the runway. Barely.
Kimberly--She claimed her top looked great, which was a head-scratcher. The top, like Josh M's, looked like a sheet still, and while I could see the sort of papillon thing she was aiming for, ultimately it looked like the model just didn't finish putting a top on.
Laura--This outfit had good movement, and I think Laura had the most interesting textiles to draw from. I actually quite like this outfit, and I would wear it, I think. I respond to fluidity and a hint of dark sexiness, a bit of smoulder, which is what this outfit had. That being said, I still like Becky's slightly more because it's a bit more unusual.
Olivier--Safe. That's all I got. This was another flat look with nothing that stood out or made it memorable.
Rafael--Didn't we all know this was a doomed contestant from the editing of the show? And then, when the outfit hit the runway, I just shook my head and curled my lip a little. The pants and shirt were both unflattering and made the model actually look bad. I couldn't believe the judges even had to discuss who would go home, especially because Rafael seemed uncertain about what was wrong. Fishscale design in the back of the shirt cannot save it this horror.
Viktor--The look, a white and black shirt dress, struck me as being a little 1999 department store, which was disappointing. In fact, I was trying to think of a catalog in which I have seen something similar, but I couldn't place it, because it's been so long since I've seen a copy of that catalog. Can anyone help me out here?

In all, I was okay with the judging this week, and I'm looking forward to more interesting challenges this season. Hope springs eternal, I guess, right?

In other news, I am moving. This has been my official break for the day!

In other other news, I wish Emily West Lowry the best of luck as she celebrates her Grand Opening tomorrow of her Waterville shop! I made curtains for the shop and had the pleasure of seeing some of Emily's work as she was getting the furniture set up. I can't wait to get in there when it's open for business and get me something feathery and pretty for my hair!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Move It!

I'm moving soon. Not very far away, just a few blocks. But moving is moving, and requires the packing up of all the stuff I want to keep and the pitching of things I don't.

Today, for instance, I said goodbye to my college computer, which I built in '97. It served me well at the time, but it is ancient and takes up a lot of room for something that is unused.

I've also been using up half-empty bottles of lotion and bath wash, and will be tossing old bottles of nail polish that isn't really liquid anymore. And cosmetics I used to wear for dance recitals, or in the 90s.

I've been seeing to organization I should have done ages ago; I put addresses and phone numbers from little post-it notes into a wee address book. I put correspondence into one storage box and bills into another, and pitched a bunch of mutual fund prospectuses. I have a whole set of chores (mainly mail related) on my dining table that I will be attending to in the next week, or whenver it is cool enough in the apartment to do so.

I haven't always behaved. I also brought home some more shirts and bought a few pieces of furniture. Today, I will pick up my glorious aqua and gold chair from Pier 1. Gaze upon the Annie Wing Back Chair, you mortals! I also bought an outdoor papasan for my new porch, and some smaller items.

But as I pack box after box, I am finally starting to see progress. And I'm amazed at the sudden cavalier attitude I have toward letting some things go. This weekend I pitched the rug from my front door. It could be washed, but I've had it for ages, and got "enough" use out of it. I threw away a few half-used rolls of old contact paper. I even suspect that I will pitch the curtains that originally came with my second apartment, which have been on a shelf in the closet, and which frankly were in sorry shape when I moved in. I'm leaving the bathroom curtains and towels for the next tenant, since they match that particular bathroom.

So, I've learned that I'm not a hoarder. I have a lot of stuff, no question. I sometimes keep things for sentimental value, even when they are essentially useless. But this moving experience--my first in ten years, and certainly the most complex--is showing me that I am actually pretty sensible.

It helps to know that where I'm going there is a lot of storage space, far more than I have now. It helps to know the dimensions of the rooms, to have photographed them, drawn up graph paper floor plans, and drawn in furniture. It helps to have thought about the general color scheme for each room--green, light brown, cream, and white, with accents of lavender, for the bedroom. White and blue, with dark wood and accents of green for the living room. And so on.

Basically, I'm pretty excited about moving. It's going to be arduous, and the cleaning of my apartments is going to be atrocious (layers of dust and residue in some areas that aren't easily reached). I am also leaving a nest of sorts, a place I've gotten myself dug into, and a place that has treated me well for 10 years. It was my first (and second) apartment, after all, after growing up in one house for 18 years, and splitting time between that and two dorm rooms for the next four. But this new place is a "grown up" place, a place that will allow me to mature my lifestyle a little and feel more like I'm making progress.

I'm ready to make a new home.

P.S. Does anyone have any ideas for cleaning Venetian blinds, some metal, and some plastic? In a tiny apartment?

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Size Is the Limit

Yesterday, after lunch with a friend, I headed out to Fallen Timbers, an outdoor mall of shops in Maumee. I didn't particularly need anything, but I wanted a little looksee through the "end of season" selection. I say end of season because stores like The Gap were already selling off their summer stuff, clearance style, in preparation to get new things in. I also discovered a new store, Charming Charlie, which is a large accessories store organized by color. I bought two large purses there, which is unlike me. I also bought two large hats at Dillard's and etc., elsewhere, so it really was quite a brazen, delightful spree.

It's the etc. I want to talk about, though: the clothes. Women have been moaning about the sizes in clothes for years, and not just about their own body size and shape. No, it's more and more about the frustration women feel when they are unable to identify their size from store to store. I experienced this frustration firsthand, in the most extreme way, on my Fallen Timbers adventure.

Theoretically, you should be able to fit into a size 6 dress in one store, go to another store, and fit equally well into their size 6. Of course, bodies have different characteristics and components of different sizes. Everyone's body is different, and it is indeed difficult to be one size from head to toe. A woman with large hips may have a small chest, and vice versa. A woman with well developed calves may have poorly developed arms. A woman with a long torso may have short legs. You get the picture. Thus, there will be some garments near one's size that just won't fit.

It is also true that, from store to store, a slight variation would be natural, depending on makers of clothing. This is particularly true for a Misses' store versus one that caters more to juniors and young women (Forever 21, for example). Women of all ages shop there, but the sizes are juniors. As Wikipedia delicately phrases it, juniors' clothes have "higher bust, shorter back." Yes, juniors' sizes are odd and misses' are evens, but they do not actually align exactly. (I'm linking to Wikipedia's chart here for easy reference.)

Then, there are the components of ease and "vanity sizing." Ease, for those of you unfamiliar with pattern language, is the amount of give in a garment's design. A nonstretch wool dress that is made to be tight to the body will have very little ease. Likewise, today's jeans have very little ease. If it fits, it fits. If it doesn't, you know immediately. A white dress shirt, on the other hand, generally has quite a bit of ease. So does a wrap dress. Clothes in a store do not have ease marked, so that can account for some size variation.

Vanity sizing is another matter entirely. This is the garment industry's response to women complaining about how big they feel. Sizes have shrunk in some stores and not in others as a result.

But, all these things considered, I am still not convinced that they account for the egregious differences I encountered in my most recent shopping missions.

Generally, I am safe with a S in Juniors' and XS in Misses', but not always--the Misses' size is sometimes too big, and I can often get away with an XS in Juniors, and other times a M. This is handy knowledge when I get a T-shirt from Delia's (S is safer these days) or a sweater from Victoria's Secret (XS or S for a garment with little ease).

Any time numbers are involved, though, the picture changes. I should note that I am well aware that I am cobbled together from many different sizes. One foot is longer, the other wider. I have a small bust and a long torso. My size has also fluctuated lately. I know all this. Well.

Including my haul from yesterday, in the last three weeks or so I have bought:
Speedo one-piece swimsuit: Misses' size 10
White House Black Market skirt: Misses' size 00 (that's right--00)
Charlotte Russe tops: size S (? or XS...these are drapey tops, and therefore a great deal of ease).
Victoria's Secret shorts: size S
Jessica Howard dress: 4P (And it was a little short under the arms and a trifle big in the bust)

I tried on but did not buy:
Cargo Capris: Misses' size 8 (a little loose, but they stayed on)
Cargo shorts: Juniors' size 3 (came down a mite too low, too short in the crotch area)

Finally, in sewing patterns, I consistently make a size 6.

Do you, as I do, notice a problem? My favorite is the swimsuit to skirt ratio. Yes, again, I have a long torso, but really. As a result of this type of problem, I hardly ever buy numbered clothing from a catalog. I simply can't. I can't imagine ordering pants and having them fit. The three times I've ordered dresses for weddings, I was anxious--and the sizes of those were a 4, a tight 2, and a loose 2, which isn't perhaps unreasonable but is still worrying.

The garment industry is in for a rude awakening if this keeps up. Women are busier and busier as the years go by. They do not have time to put up with changing room nonsense, and I have known women who have quit shopping because they never know their size and thus feel defective or overworked in a store. It isn't about vanity any more (if it ever was). It's about time, and the practicality of the event combined with the delight shopping is meant to bring. Who can enjoy themselves if they have to pick three sizes of every item to try on, and then figure out none of them is the right size? No one is going to breeze into a store because they've seen something in a window if they know it will take several tries to get the size right. People always need clothes, it's true, but the industry as a whole needs to reconsider its position and collectively work on a more agreeable sizing system.

I have hopes--scant ones, but they're there--that our gradually growing appreciation of many body sizes and shapes will have a positive effect on the garment and fashion industry. Some stores, Land's End and Victoria's Secret included, have become better about describing the fit of their garments, and making different versions or "fits" for different shapes. But if the sizes don't correlate, that isn't much help to someone who has not bought from a store before (especially if the store has changed its provider, as Charlotte Russe changed its denim brand several years ago).

The industry is ever-morphing. But if it wants to keep customers and avoid the tense frustration and even anger of unhappy shoppers, garment manufacturers need to get it together not on what a size 10 means, but what it actually is.