Monday, December 29, 2008


So I was selected pretty much at random by my ex-fashion illustration professor to participate in competition to design for the family of the President Elect. The invite came at the worst time possible- right at the the beginning of finals week (the submission deadline being right at the end of finals week), and just after a prettty bad car accident (don't worry, I wasn't hurt, but my car was moderately injured). However, Professor Ellinwood told me the 6 designs- inauguration day outfits as well as ball gowns for First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters Malia and Sasha, would not only be nationally printed in USA Today, they will be judged by Tim Gunn of Project Runway and Tim Gunn's Guide to Style fame.

Today I was notified that USA Today is planning on posting the story and the designs on USA Today's web site on December 31, and readers will be allowed to vote for their favorite designs, and that the newspaper article (also to be released on the 31) will be a full-color page. Seven other Marymount students took the time out of their finals week to create their best ideas for these dresses. There is no indication that Michelle Obama is inclined to choose from our designs, but at the very least this is an awesome resume builder, and a fun, creative way to end the fall semester, and TIM GUNN TOCUHED MY STUFF! So by all means, America, go vote!
Of course, the picture posted is not my illustration, I don't even have a copy of my presedential designs right now! They are somewhere between the desks of USA Today, Tim Gunn, and Professor Ellinwood. I will keep this blog updated!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's Reunion Time

Speaking of wanting my family around, I have decided it's time to spur some plans for a small family reunion. This all started in early autumn, when Erin came to the capital to visit her friend and we just had to make time to get together, and at the same time Meghan sent me an invitation for her wedding. What followed was in immediate friending of all my Southern-convert cousins across facebook and myspace, why hadn't we thought of this before? We've been out of contact since Grandpa Andress' funeral, in 2002. The hour or so spent with Erin wasn't nearly enough, I didn't get halfway through the story of what's happened to me over the past 6 years, she didn't even get started on hers, and there was silliness to be had, but not enough. Not only that, but I realized I was missing out on this kind of connection from all my Andress cousins! While Erin plans to make semi-frequent trips to D.C., I think all of us began to think that a reunion is long overdue. It would have been absolutely lovely to be able to visit for Meg's wedding, but it unfortunately conflicted with my finals and an unforseen car accident. So REALLY FOR REAL plans are in the works for March! I can't wait to fly down and see my extended family!
(photo from left: Matt, Lia, Erin, Meghan, Michael, Sarah, Aunt Carol, Uncle Hal)

What It Means to Me

For lots of people, Christmas is a favored holiday. Personally, I prefer the Forth of July- it’s simple, it’s warm out, there are explosions, friends, and of course, hotdogs. (Who could ask for more?) Christmas is notorious for flinging crappy weather at the Northern Hemisphere, creating disagreeable shopping situations—for the shoppers and retail employees alike, and there are so very many Scrooges and Grinches who ruin the supposed sprit of the season. People get depressed around Christmas, whether it’s because there isn’t a mate to share the season with, or because there is a mate who requires too much Christmas giving. These are all excellent reasons why it’s everyone’s favorite holiday.

I remember feeling the Christmas blues as a kid- it was always so stressful to have to accompany adults to the packed mall to finish shopping, to dress up for boring dinners for people I didn’t know and who didn’t bring any playmates over for me। Also, as a holiday I always spent with one parent and not the other, the holiday and its 12 days came to stand for a lack of family instead of a gift of family. As I’ve gotten older, that tradition has only continued as I’ve lived away from home. Of course, no to be a bah-humbug, there are good memories associated with the holidays, too. Grandpa Andress’ house was always warm, smelled good despite the dead people in the basement (ha ha) and if I was lucky, full of cousins. Not to mention his pumpkin pie is still unrivaled. I love the sad, nostalgic Vince Guaraldi music for A Charlie Brown Christmas. And there is, of course, the joy of giving—there is something wonderful about a person’s face when they love the gift you’ve given them, no matter what the occasion. But actually, my favorite thing about Christmas is the tree. It’s not in the presents underneath, or really even the fun of decorating it with loved ones. (This year, while hanging ornaments strategically with Joseph, he said, “I really wonder where the tradition of decorating trees came from,” to which I replied, “I’m pretty sure it’s Pagan.” “Don’t say that,” whispered the exasperated Catholic!) But after all the garlands and balls and trinkets are on it, and it’s dark outside and quiet inside, I have always loved the smell of the needles being heated up by the lights. It soothed me as a child, and still makes me introspective when I sit near it alone.

Joseph’s mom could make a career out of Christmas tree design. Every year she has theme, and months before I got to see her work with my own eyes, I heard stories about the wonder that is her gift of Christmas tree decorating. This year, she used a ladder to add glittery false snow flocking to the 12-foot-plus tree in the front yard. Then it was somehow smashed through a couple of door frames into the living room. The tree is too tall for the room, and the tip-top boughs bend when they reach the ceiling, like the tree indulged in the "Eat Me" candies of Alice in Wonderland. From across the hall, it looks like Narnia is in the drawing room, because the snow-covered tree is literally the only thing you can see. I’ve included pictures to prove it. So it’s nice that the tree requirement for my happy holiday is checked off, now I would just like my family, please.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Living on the Inside

My boyfriend's house is the coolest. It's centuries old, the basement and kitchen dating back to George Washington's time- he allegedly frequented the stables that were on the grounds in the late 1700's. With most of the house rebuilt in the mid 1800s, and additions built throughout the 20th century, Mt. Erin's eclectic presence holds the history of not only the evolution of the country, being one of the oldest properties in the Washington, D.C. area, but the history of being a home. Every room is different, exciting, hopelessly broken in, and creepy in its own way.

One of the first impressions I had of the house was the downstairs living room, which I have affectionately nicknamed the Jungle Room. In the winter, Joseph's mom brings in ALL the outdoor plants- there is an extensive collection- so that they flourish throughout the winter together in one room. The room is part of a 1970's addition to the house, the front wall all glass, giving its winter persona a greenhouse look. The first time I walked into the jungle room, I had a feeling I'd seen it somewhere before.

There is a Michael Franks song about a relationship that's perfectly compatible- he sings about the way the a couple does things- separately or together- and how it just seems to fit: "I play my scales, and you protect the whales..." For some reason when I hear the song Living on the Inside, listening to Michael Franks sing about staying inside with the one he loves on a rainy day has always given me a mental image of a room filled with greenery, lined with windows so that there's a feeling of being in nature, but being sheltered from it by the comfort of the indoors, a blanket, and the warmth of the companionship of someone you love. In fact, I had seen the jungle room before, in own imagination!

Designing Men

One of my final courses at Marymount is and advanced problem-solving course in pattern-making, a garment design and construction course that challenges its students to find and implement unique and personal design twists in the garment-making process. One of my assignments this semester was to create an outfit, drumroll... for a man. Strangely, when meeting new people and explaining that I'm studying toward a degree in fashion design, men seem more interested in the creative process than women. Male friends have asked me to design "new looks" for them, while I WISH my female friends would beg so much for one of my dresses. My passion for fashion really lies in creating clothes for myself. That's not as selfish as it sounds. In high school, when my interest in clothes as wearable art began, I realized there wasn't a lot of affordable stuff out there I wanted to wear. Other girls must feel the same way, so my big picture involves getting to the point where I can share my design inspiration with a market of young women like myself for not-so Dolce & Gabbana prices. That said, I must say I've never turned much of my design interest toward menswear. They only wear black, grey and blue, and how much of a twist can you put on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt? Or a suit, because these three things are all that men wear.

Because Joseph had recently been complaining of a lack of pants that fit him correctly, I made him my menswear client. He chose a fabric, and I drew up a pattern for some durable non-jeans based on a pair he already had that fit him well. I did learn some lessons in construction while making this outfit for him, but more importantly, I learned that there really is a lot to work with design-wise in meanswear. These clothes SEEM boring to those with a background limited to garments for women. The females of our species wear the feathers, so to speak, but the fact that our gender can get away with a lot more color, detail, and flamboyance aesthetically doesn't mean the clothes men wear are boring. They actually have to be meticulously designed with a different goal in mind: utility. The details of a man's garment aren't there to be pretty, they're there to make something durable, to allow movement, to hold keys or wallets. Pockets, for example, usually don't even have to be REAL on women's' clothes- how often do we actually put stuff in them?
Ultimately, I learned a lot from a design perspective while I was working on this project I was dreading. Joseph's pants fit really well, they've got reinforced stitching all over so he can wear them working on landscaping or renovations, and pockets, of course, to hold whatever odds and ends and tools he needs them to. The t-shirt is my creation as well- the fabric is cut on the bias to allow extra movement not at work, rather while he's playing... the drums. The graphic on it is my face! That felt a little vain, but hey, he looks cool.

I Like Coffee, I Like Tea (Better)

Interning in London was the experience of a lifetime! The group of students I was traveling with was afforded a little time to do some amazing sight-seeing, museum-visiting, and out-of-town "field trips," but really, our time there was so short and so packed full of work and school, there was barely a moment for anything else. We had to keep up with two weekly courses as well as a full-time unpaid internship. I had friends e-mailing me questions like "How are the clubs?" "Are British guys really as sexy as they sound?" and "What are pubs like?" Honestly, I could never answer any of these, because I didn't have any time for that kind of socialization! I didn't even have time to relax, I didn't read a single book (for pleasure) while I was there, although the ones I brought with the intention to read brought me dangerously close to the luggage weight limit on the return flight to D.C.

The one thing busy Londoners always have time for is Tea. And it's not just at "tea time" (about 4 in the afternoon, in case you're interested), noooo. Tea is an all-day thing, and as a temporary Londoner, I became an avid tea-drinker. It became the choice to get me going in the morning and once at work. It kept me going all through the early hours, and then I'd have another cup at lunch. One or two more in the afternoon made the day complete, and the funny thing is I never had to make a cup for myself! I was certain that as the intern, making tea would be a staple of my daily tasks, as the infamous task of making coffee is to interns in America. But the design firm's admin assistant, Katy, kept the tea coming all day long. She didn't even ask if anyone would like tea, she just intermittently deposited a full, hot mug every hour or so, intuitively prepared to the drinker's taste.

Once home, I had become to used to drinking tea instead of coffee that the return to Starbucks has been a slow, uncommitted one. Every week or so when I have to open the store at 6 am, the nearby coffee shop calls to me, but usually nowadays I lean more toward the tea kettle than the coffee pot. The tea I drank at Charas didn't taste like tea the way I'd prepared it in the past, and I was sure it was because the British tea, PG Tips, (stocked in boxes of 1600 satchels in the Charas kitchen) had a different taste, and beside I was practically forced to drink it with milk. I was prepared to purchase PG Tips tea online, but I found the brand at World Market and have been drinking it (with milk) ever since. But somehow, I just can't make it the way Katy did.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Whole New Meaning to Asking the Question "Where's My Darn Dress?"

As my readers may know, I was given the wonderful opportunity to intern with Charas Designer Wear in London over the summer. Not only did I get the chance to shadow the Design Director and share in all her creative responsibilities, I also got to give my design input to her on some select garments. These garments are featured in her High Winter 2008 line. If you visit, click the "Collections" link at the top of the page, the High Winter 2008 line will appear. Scrolling right, you'll see the brown "Cross Maxi" dress with a shrug, as well as the green "Cross Midi." I MADE those two dresses, literally- I cut the fabric and stitched it together for sampling (which is when the model puts on the first constructed garment for photoshoots). Exciting! I'm gonna stop bragging now.

Next, the brown shrug over the Cross Maxi is my design. It's a simple ruffle layering over a basic bolero, but that's still my idea. Share with me how cool it is to see my stuff realized! I have only one complaint. I also designed a dress for Sarah (Charas' Design Director) that should be included in this year's high winter line. She doesn't add the entire line immediately, and I'm hoping that's the reason my dress isn't up there. I'm gonna be dissappointed if she doesn't choose to include it, for sure. There's still time before the line goes up for internet sale...