Monday, September 24, 2007

More alterations

I've spent over 3 hours, including try-ons, on the alterations for this dress. I bought it in June from the wonderful Kingi Carpenter at her shop, Peach Berserk Cocktail in Toronto. Kingi is my hero. She went to art school, and, as she tells it, searched in vain for a dress with an Eiffel Tower print on it while on a student trip to Paris. Upon her return, she silk screened her own Eiffel Tower fabric and made her own dress, and that was the beginning of her business.

Kingi's clothes are unapologetically made for a girly, womanly, female, feminine dame (to borrow from South Pacific). Fashion trends? Whatever. If she doesn't think it looks good on a gal, then it's not in her collection. I really love this about her, that she has a point of view in her work, and it's totally her vision. Whoever doesn't like doesn't have to buy it, but she's not going to follow any voice but her own.

What is in her collection? Pretty girl dresses made of silk charmeuse, dupioni, organza. Jackets and coats. Knits get sewn into hoodies, t-shirt tops, slip dresses, even underwear. Every item is made of fabric that is silkscreened with one of her funky, witty prints. She has developed over 120 designs, from a Ziggy Stardust theme, to kitchen implements, to zippers. Recently, she has expanded her business to include teaching others to silk screen their own fabrics.

In her store/studio on Queen St. West, she has some of her garments on the rack. They are available for sale, but what she really wants to do is create a custom garment just for you, using your choices of colors, prints, and fabric. Such a service does not come at a bargain price, of course, and it's even more expensive for Americans now, since the US dollar is almost 1:1 with the Canadian dollar. But since I am always interested in unique garments, I ordered a knit top with the "Sex & the Single Girl" print, and this silk charmeuse, empire waist, surplice bodice dress with "Tango Roses" on it. (I also snagged 4 yards of black silk dupioni with her "Eiffel for You" print, not knowing what I would do with it.)

Despite Kingi's seamstress's measurements of my body, my dress did not quite fit when it arrived at home 5 weeks or so after my visit to Toronto. The bodice was too long for me. I could have mailed it back to Peach Berserk for a new one, but I decided not to. I'll fix it myself, I thought.

When I put on this dress for Sandra to get her alteration advice, she reacted with obvious pleasure at the "out there" womanliness of this garment and inquired why I do not use this power more often in my life. This is a very good question. I don't think I can quite be like Kingi Carpenter, who, with her fishnets and nail polish and platform shoes and silk skirts with a hem flounce, is channeling a new Betsy Johnson (without the skanky drug culture vibe). But I want some of whatever thang that woman has, at least some days. Kingi would wear this dress anywhere, whether she was going to a fancy restaurant or to eat pizza. I would not, but until I got it to fit me, I wasn't going to wear it at all.

I had to first carefully pick out the understitching holding down the bodice facing, then take apart the shoulder seams of both the lining and fashion fabric. This job was made far simpler by the fact that the lining is attached only by tacks at the side seams, a short line of stitching at the front under the bust, and at the back center seams by the zipper. The rest of the facing is free. I could almost turn the top inside out to get to what I needed to alter, without completely taking the garment apart. I sewed new shoulder seams, taking in about 1.5" there. But I never did get both restitched armhole seams exactly the same. That's always the way it goes with alterations. One side may not perfectly match the other. Why? Because you are working with tiny, trimmed and clipped seam allowances. No wiggle room. There is also no way I can get this into my machine again to replace the understitching. That will have to be done by hand.

I'm glad to salvage this dress, but next time I will order custom yardage from Kingi and sew it myself. George Bush's economic policy be damned.

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