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...