For as long as I can remember, my mother crocheted. Well, yes. She had made her own wedding dress a whole two years before I was born. Thing is, having handcrafted frills of dresses since baby in arm, I never really thought about the rarity of the skill of the producer or rarity of product/s as such. That I had access to these time-consuming handcrafted clothing made by my working mother from the time of my Christening till when I graduated with a doctoral degree was something I had quite taken for granted.
I read in Richard Feynman’s 1985 self-biography  that whilst at MIT, he had to take mandatory humanities courses, of which one of them was philosophy. He got deathly bored during philosophy classes that having happened to be in possession of a small drill, about one-sixteenth-inch, he made holes in the soles of his shoes by twisting this tool into the sole of his shoes, week after week.
– You know there’s nothing much in Munich if you’re not into beer guzzling or wurst eating.
– I could do pork knuckles.
– Schweinshaxe. No, you don’t.
– No, you’re right, I don’t. And stop swearing at me.
I thought Munich one of the prettiest most liveable cities I’ve thus far visited. From the chimes of the clock tower in the city centre that advise the time of day and task to accomplish before sundown to the historic cathedrals built around the old market square, Munich is anything but nothing much.
I didn’t need to look for it. I knew I would come across it just like so, an old friend along the street. And I did. The Louis Vuitton boutique located along Residenzstraße.
“The international labor movement is not against globalisation; indeed we would agree that globalisation can be a big part of the answer to the problems of the world’s poor. But it is also a big part of the problem. In other words, globalisation is neither entirely beneficial nor entirely harmful. It is not an unstoppable force of nature, but is shaped by those who set the rules. And while it has the potential to help life more than 2 billion people out of poverty, it is not doing so now.” 
 Ericson, Y. W. Interview with Yngve Werner Ericson, GALLERIROND våren 2006 Zenit, kulturtidningen i väst. Internet resource at http://www.zenitkultur.com/artist.php?id=396. Retrieved 30 Jan. 2016.
 Jordan, B. (2000). Yes to globalization, but protect the poor. New York Times. Internet resource at http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/21/opinion/21iht-edjordan.t.html. Retrieved 30 Jan. 2016. Cited in Peter Van Den Bossche, 2008,The Law and Policy of the World Trade Organization. Text, Cases and Materials. 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, p 11.
In April 1750 Olof Thorén, disciple of Carl von Linneaus and Ship’s Priest on board the Swedish East Indiaman Götha Lejon, wrote in his diary while enjoying a short stopover in Cadiz:
“Portugueze ladies are not common birds in the streets. But as far as it could be discerned when they spectature and spectande pulled up their window grills, they appeared to display a fine fair complexion and merry eyes. Those, who are seen in Cadiz do not appear to be able to count to five, are tall and brunette. I noticed there, that the Virgin Mary had correspondent air, complexion, and shape in their pictures; and judged from thence, that this was the taste of the nation with regard to beauty.”
On my mind, the Metonic cycle or Enneadecaeteris, from the Greek astronomer Meton of Athens (5C BC), who observed that a period of 19 years is almost exactly equal to 235 synodic months and, rounded to full days, counts 6,940 days. His calculations are used in most arithmetical lunisolar calendars to calculate the year, and to track the movable feast of Easter of the Julian calendar.
The first thing you’d notice about this bag is how weighty the canvas and sturdy the construct of the bag is for its satchel size, where even in GM, it was clearly meant as something more fashionable heritage narrative than a luggage carry-on.
The Trianon Sac De Nuit was created and produced in limited edition in conjunction with the celebration of Louis Vuitton’s 150th anniversary, paying tribute to Vuitton’s early days of 1854 – 1892, when Vuitton began selling light weight flat-topped trunks covered with their signature grey Trianon canvas. Prior to Vuitton’s flat-topped trunks, most trunks for travelling had rounded tops so that water would run off, the disadvantage being that they could not be stacked. It was Vuitton’s Trianon canvas, airtight flat trunks that allowed stacking with ease, for voyages.
I wonder what it is with sons of carpenters. One launches an entire institution of religion and the other, saves us from bad travel experiences and gives us the gift of luxurious, resilient travel bags.
The name Louis Vuitton evokes in me, not the large conglomerate fashion house with Nicholas Ghesquière (from 2013/4, who succeeded Marc Jacobs, from 1997) as artistic director of the empire, but rather the humble beginnings of the son of a carpenter who at age 14, in 1835, packed his bags in Anchay, Jura where he was born in France, and headed for Paris – on foot. He took odd jobs along the way to pay for food and lodging, all this while, perfecting his carpentry skills and expanding his knowledge on various types of wood.
400 km further away and one year later, Louis arrived in Paris to find a flourishing haute couture culture, where lavish and elaborate dressing was all the rage. It was here that he learnt to pack such elaborate outfits to perfection. And it was his dress packing skills and not foremost his carpentry skills that attracted the attention of Empress Eugénie. He became her favourite packer.
It was not long before he combined his dress packing skills with his carpentry skills to produce the first flat, stackable trunk for transportation. These stable and solid trunks were covered with grey Trianon canvas.
It was in 2010 that Marc Jacobs brought nostalgia with hints of the 70s back into fashion, hot on the runways. Today in 2012, the the flavour of the 70s are still in on the runways from Diesel to Halston, whilst Louis Vuitton Fall 2012 makes romantic the long train voyages of the 1920s in reminiscence of a time that was in reality, filled with great uncertainty – such is the magic of fashion, to take viewers into a completely different world, even if briefly.
I love old cut diamonds. There’s a depth of warmth about them that comes through even in dimly lit rooms compared to their flashier modern counterparts. It’s the way the cutting interacts with the light. A softer, calmer sparkle and glow rather than the hard busy flashes of the modern cuts.
Distinctive of old cut diamonds are the larger culet as you can see in the picture, where modern brilliants will have a very small or no culet at all. Most of them are also cut cushion shaped and not perfectly round, as they were not computer assisted cuts but rather, fashioned from the cutter’s understanding of the nature and shape of the stone. Original cutters of diamonds and jewels needed to a large extent have the eye of an artist who envisioned the polished stone in its finished state in all its dazzling glory. A skill that perhaps not many cutters of today possess since computers and mathematical formulae now distinguish the ideal cuts for a rough, rending stones that while may be full of sparkle, lacks in my view, a certain individual spirit and personality.
If you own an old cut stone, chances are, you will recognize it in any light as your own just by looking at it – the colour, the cutting, even by its inclusions. Luxury comes these days not in terms of how much you spend but also in terms of exclusivity that includes peculiarities and imperfections that in old cut diamonds, make them striking to behold. And diamonds with natural inclusions that mark them, giving them their own ID instead of a laser printed number are certainly unique by nature. So if you have an old cut diamond for example, a family heirloom of sorts, and have it resent into a new design, chances are even without loop in hand you won’t be fooled by any replacements, you’ll know it’s yours by eye.
Old cut diamonds also tend not to be as white as the modern brilliants, most of them having I, J, K, L colours or Top Cape, Cape colours. A feature that I have today, come to love.
This old cut diamond, acquired from Sotheby’s in Paris, has decades of narratives to tell, embodying romances across several lifetimes, reflected in its open cut and open flanked face.
Jewellery has always had special significance in meaning as gifts in the Asian and Southeast-Asian cultures. From the early 1900s leading up to the First World War and subsequently the Depression years and then the period after the Second World War were difficult times in which food was strictly rationed and for those who could afford, jewellery was used to trade for other basic necessities. Even after the 1960s, the average family even in Singapore, where you could consider one of the more affluent countries in Southeast-Asia post World War II was certainly not cash rich. And it is during these years that I’ve heard the most number of family told stories of how gold jewellery and precious jade were pawned to keep food on the table for the family.
While I and many others in politics and business management alike have been preoccupied in getting adjusted to China’s recent rise to wealth and importance in the world, a full-page newspaper advertisement this Saturday (01012011) signed by the founder of Tod’s luxury leather goods, brought me back to the realization that it is not “poor China” that needs to be saved. They are doing just fine with a 10 percent annual growth in their economy. It is good old Europe that needs to be saved, if something.
Tropical storms, the kind with flashes of lightning and deep rolls of thunder is common in the equatorial region from where I come from, but not all that common in Scandinavia, in particular along the Swedish west coast.
But today was one such day here in Sweden, with dramatic dark clouds, the low rumble of thunder that comforts and discomforts at the same time, and warm fat drops of rain that drench through clothes, thoroughly wetting the skin.
I managed barely to escape the rain stepping in through the door just when the first large drops of water fell.
Luckily in Sweden, together with the long winter’s nights comes the equally long summer’s nights.
The Midnight Sun and the Nordic Light are recognized concepts that both refer to the long evenings that seamlessly transforms into almost sunlit nights, that after allowing for quick skinny-dips in the sea eventually develops into equally magical mornings where the birds contest each other in all manners of the word, telling their females that specifically his nest will be the one best suited for a family. You ponder at the meaning of life and the beauty of it all and you think these evenings are so ideally suited to be spent in the garden, talking to friends and philosophizing on things that are, that you can almost, but just barely, forgive the climate gods that created the winters of this place.
With a caffè latte in hand, I couldn’t help but sit back, enjoy the weather today and observe with delight, plenty of Swedish children decked in their cutest Easter gear, as little Easter Witches. Several were daring enough to come trick or treating at the door with basket in hand, to which they were rewarded with some Italian made Easter chocolate eggs!
I first visited Sweden during some winter months about a decade ago – imagine how time passes – and my first observation was that walking on water was not by far as difficult as that of my Catholic upbringing had led me to believe. You just needed to wait until it was frozen. Today work and travel make it difficult to find much time to spend in the nature during daytime. A few moments of crystal clear sky and crisp winter air just a few degrees below zero centigrade, was some of the more enjoyable moments of this weekend.
Sweden’s position near the arctic polar circle makes the days short during winter and the sun just barely makes it above the horizon, before it apparently a bit sleepy, drops back down again and leaves us with a long arctic night. No wonder the Vikings felt a mid-winter sacrifice – and a party – were needed to cheer things up.
Even in Asia, at the end of January, the East celebrates the Chinese Lunar New Year. This year some shops in Singapore will even go the length of closing their doors a few days to welcome the festive echoes of Lion Dances rippling across the country in celebration of the Year of the Rabbit. Also a ‘sacrifice’ of some sort.
Colours of the cultures of Asia never fail to bring a smile on my face and put me in a festive mood, from the colourful saris of India, to the brightly hand painted silks of the Chinese qipao and the intricately patterned, waxed drawn batiks of Indonesia and Malaysia. Even the colours and texture of raw silk from Thailand draw my attention when I see them.
When it comes to packing for my travels nowadays the ideal for me is to go very light. If I could get away with a pair of pants and a skirt for three weeks abroad on business with some alternative tops, I would certainly go for that.
But this isn’t all that easy if the countries that you’re going to range widely in terms of temperatures as in winter in Sweden, autumn in China, and humid tropical weather, in Singapore.
These pictures were taken a few days ago, after which the Swedish west coast turned grey, stormy and with winds so strong the trees needed effort to stay rooted and keep their last red-gold leaves of the season, if not only for decorating themselves.
The green fabric belt with gold buckles in the outfit is a find from a vintage store here in Sweden.
From the pictures, you’ll also see the characteristic colours of autumn displayed in yellows, browns, reds and gold. The low rays of the sun at this time of year helps cast an over glow of gold on everything it touches. There are however, other complementary colours of autumn that we see here in Scandinavia, particularly in Swedish design houses such as Filippa K that favour shades of beige, grey, blue and black for autumn as shown in their Autumn 2010 Lookbook, with some exceptions, the sheer gathered dress I’m wearing can be found in lilac.
I’ve always loved Milan fashion showings with its cutting edge technology in fabrics, colour, cuts and shapes! And while winter hasn’t even hit Europe, looking at various fashion magazines and style columns in the Swedish news, I think we’re all pretty much excited about the up and coming fashion trends for Spring 2011.
Part of what contributes to this excitement for Spring 2011 in Sweden is that Milan, known for their more flamboyant colours styles with the likes of Pucci, Just Cavalli and Gucci, have this time around come up with surprisingly neutral shades with minimalist shapes – a very Swedish, very Scandinavian take when it comes to design. A number of daringly solid black for spring outfits are also showcased in the collections of Bottega Veneta and No. 21.
For anyone looking for a convenient grab bag, one that is roomy and can take the wear and tear of everyday use, I would like to recommend the Fendi Zucca Chef. This nifty bag is one of the few hobo bags that has caught my attention lately with its softer, more rounded shape than my regular choice of LV’s.
Despite what I thought it looking rather small when it sat on the shelves, the good point with its soft and flexible walls is that it can indeed accommodate quite a few irregular shaped objects such as an SLR camera, wallet, notepad, the latest Stieg Larsson, a foldable umbrella and more, we might find indispensable any certain day.
Dress codes for the office varies from culture to culture and even from organization to organization. Just about forty years ago in Singapore, women were not allowed to wear pants or slacks to the office, the garments being deemed as too masculine and too unladylike. But the strict rule for ‘skirts only’ to the office for women in Singapore was relaxed around the 1970s and women were allowed to wear pants to work, on Fridays. It was from here that the concept of ‘dress-down Friday’ came about in Singapore, where for women at least, they could skip the skirts and opt for slacks that gave them greater freedom of movement.
In Sweden too dress codes vary between organizations. In some academic circles the codes are almost comically lax, where the higher echelons are so entirely focused on the minds of individuals that one can almost expect that the more bizarre a person dresses, the more unique and valuable their expertise. In the corporate world, values are fairly measured compared to academic circles, and people tend to dress in reflection of their position and work demands, steering towards what fits the occasion.
The myth that a Swedish CEO would arrive to a business meeting in t-shirt, clogs and jeans, is generally an exaggeration. For most of the time, it’s pretty much ‘do as you like’, as long as it is ‘lagom’. However any ‘dress-down Friday’, I have yet to see and my Friday last was anything but.
Before stepping out the door with Cat.
One of my current favourite outfits is a Vivienne Westwood asymmetrical dress, gathered at the side seams and falling to the knees, a Dolce & Gabanna tulip skirt (over the bottom of the Westwood dress) and Roberto Cavalli black patent stiletto heels. A large Tod’s shoulder bag in cream calf grained leather is useful for files and laptop alike. A simple pair of pearl and diamond earrings to complement this outfit.
One of our favourite things to do, is to go out taking pictures when the weather turns really dramatic. There was no real storm today as there can sometimes be along the Swedish west coast, but it was certainly WINDY! Us picking the highest available viewpoint of course brought out some extra shows of temperament among the local pagan weather gods.
I was greeted by a tepid tropical rainstorm when I landed, the weather being unusually warm and playful even as Swedish summers go. It felt surreal that I didn’t need to put on any cardigan on my way home.
After the hectic weeks spent in Singapore at the heart of Asia, where everything seemed to move at double speed, being back in Sweden offered an instant breather. For one thing, you can sit and watch the sail boats go by without having a need to know where they’re off to or when they’ll return.
It’s just about approaching summer here in Sweden, where garden parties and the hearty aroma of barbeque grilled meat will soon fill the air. As is, the southern archipelago of the Swedish west coast is experiencing its fair share of tourists these days, with the ferries filled with people speaking different languages, all wearing their summer gear of shorts, sleeveless t-shirts and sandals.
Here, I’m all casual in a nautical striped dress from Zara. The nautical theme is somewhat of a summer staple in Sweden, with Swedish designers such as Filippa K having their take on it. Even the mid-range H&M have their annual summer nautical range to choose from.
The dress I’m wearing features nautical stripes in white and navy, with a drape neck to the front and an exposed zip to the back of the dress. The bottom of the dress is cut like a pencil skirt, ending just above the knee. I’ve paired the dress with a pair of blue strappy wooden heels from Chloé and a goldtone bangle from Dyrberg Kern of Denmark. The blue suede belt is vintage.
The neighbourhood is currently in full bloom, these are white plum blossoms that promise a great harvest come autumn.
A girlfriend of mine excitedly told that she had been asked to be bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding, which of course immediately raised the question of “What to wear?”. And to answer that isn’t all quite that easy.
Personally I think it is ultimately up to the bride to tell what kind of wedding she has in mind. So as a bridesmaid, I think one should just listen carefully and then try to help make the big day everything that the happy couple had hoped it to be.
Brides come in an array of personalities and a most perfectly sane woman might turn completely unrecognizable when it comes to her wedding. So there are some real bridezilla’s out there and then there are some who just want the whole thing to be a big happy family get-together and plan the whole event with the guests in focus rather than themselves. I definitely can’t say there is a right or wrong here, but I think a little bit of both is probably ideal. And when it comes to the bridesmaids dresses, I think it is really is up to the bridal couple to decide how they want the entire event to look and feel.
Personally I think the overall colour scheme is the most important consideration, since the bride will pretty much be flanked by her maid of honour and the bridesmaids throughout the whole event and it is good if they look like a nice group together. I like to think of the key women in the wedding as a flower bouquet, where the bride is the central flower and the surrounding group should be as complimentary as possible. In this way they and their dresses are the focal point of the whole event. The rest is just setting the stage so to speak, so that you give the guests a “good show”.
A bundle of ribbon tied Lilacs for the bridesmaids.
This way of looking at it gave me a lot of options when I planned my own wedding in 2006. Basically, the early summer date with its fresh leafy greens and light blue sky set the tone, and I went looking for something graceful, elegant and as feminine as the early buds of May and most important, the bridesmaids should look “approachable”, since they would be the ones who would be there to deal with any tasks or requests of fixing or fetching anything that the guests might need.
My final choice fell on a strapless light blue chiffon dress that had a side rosette detail. The choice of low heeled white shoes to go with that dress was the bridesmaids’ own and a very wise one too, considering all the walking they would do through the day.
Chiffon dresses with rosette details, by Jessica McClintock.
Again looking only at my own setting, which happened to be on an island in the western Swedish archipelago, everything in our plans needed to be founded on that fact. With a different place setting, you would naturally need to base decisions on that location and its surrounding context. Where we were, we didn’t even have cars since they are strictly banned by the private community that owns everything here right down to the roads and beaches.
For the flower bouquets to the bridesmaids, we went for fresh lavender and cream coloured Lilacs from our own garden, snipped, bundled and tied together with a ribbon. It was all part of the fun to get together, sit down and tie them up and I had let the girls decide what kind of bouquets they were going to carry and how large they wanted the bouquets to turn out.
With flowers and blue silk ribbons in their hair.
In line with that my bridesmaids should look splendidly pretty, our hair dresser styled their hair with flowers and blue silk ribbons. The small white flowers, like the lilacs in their homemade bouquets were snugly interwoven with the blue ribbons into half buns into the girls’ hair in a hairstyle that was intended to be as functional as it was beautiful, the purpose of the half bun was to get the hair out of their face for the day, yet keep the length of their hair draped down their napes.
No cars allowed here as all roads are privately owned. The mode of transportation for the day was a three wheeled transportation moped.
Maid of Honour in lilac.
My maid of honour chose her outfit herself, which turned out to be a perfect fit with our theme and surrounding. I feel flattered and happy when guests go out of their way to dress up as gloriously as they can. In my view, nobody can outdress a bride at her own wedding anyway, so I would say just dress up and enjoy yourself! The more people in colourful and glamorous wear, the more festive the atmosphere!
Maid of Honour, holding the bride’s flower bouquet during the wedding ceremony.
Champagne session, prior to dinner.
Basically, your own wedding should be the best and most memorable party you are likely to ever host, so if I would have a say in anyone’s plans, that would be for the bride and groom to plan it themselves, together, and look as little as possible to what anyone else wants. Make it your own, and just have fun every step of the way. Bridesmaids and maids of honour are to help in realizing that dream event.
So, for anyone’s bridesmaids dresses? Well, just figure out what makes the bride’s eyes sparkle, and go for that.
In 2003, Louis Vuitton launched their Suhali range of bags, made with natural grained goatskins. Louis Vuitton bags are generally extremely structured, designed to keep their shape no matter the content (something I appreciate), and it’s no different with this range of bags, despite the suppleness of the material.
Golden brass lock.
The style of each of the bags in the Suhali range is designed to reflect the Traveller Trunk history that is iconic of Louis Vuitton. Most bags in this range have silver or gold hardware with s-locks, reminiscent of the tough trunks and suitcases that Vuitton began with making just before 1900s.
Paisley is not a common motif in my wardrobe, where it’s difficult to find a paisley print that doesn’t for example, overwhelm my frame. This casual weekend dress or sundress, from Marks & Spencer Limited Collection has a different sort of paisley print, more an over-sized print of it, a sprawling design that seems too large for even the dress to capture in full. It is also brightly coloured, something that contrasts to the pastels of paisley or the earthern tones of it on a lot more textiles. The deep magenta of the dress with contrasting blue-green of the paisley print is a nod to the Persian and Indian roots of this ancient design and the colourful textiles of the region.
Louis Vuitton Minna Street in framboise monogram vernis.
I am not one for small bags and neither are most of my girlfriends, most of whom were schoolmates from more than a decade ago. The preference for larger bags probably came about through functionality and the practically of having a bag big enough to accommodate our daily items. When in school for example, it was all about carrying textbooks, exercise books, gym wear and whatever else you needed for the day. So big bags the likes of weekend carryalls were always the talking point for us girls back then. Once school days were over, shopping (a Singaporean hobby) took over and big bags continued to be popular for us, where I’ve often found myself sitting and chatting with my girlfriends over the latest carryall that could most fashionably hold our daily essentials and bought items.
This Louis Vuitton vernis monogram Minna Street in raspberry pink or framboise, is not a big bag. In fact, it’s so compact, you can hardly fit its matching vernis Koala wallet into it and think to find room to put your keys in too. It does however, contain a roomier main compartment than the slimmer, more rectangular vernis Mott that has a flap closure outer pocket (see ref. 1. Mott review, 2. Mott outfit, 3. Mott in background).
Gold in long silhouette. All photos are from Style.com
I’ve been following the New York Fashion Week for Fall 2010 and by far, my favourite designs for Fall this year have emerged from Michael Kors.
It isn’t the extravagance and the use of furs that catches my attention, but rather the confidence to use those furs and not being apologetic about it is what floors me! It is this daring that is carried through in his designs that I find makes the collection coherent and desirable.
Launched in 2003 with cooperative efforts between Marc Jacobs and Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami, the Murakami canvas comes in a white or black background. The multicolore canvas took on several different forms amongst which was the classic Keepall 45.
I’m definitely feeling the Lunar New Year vibes all the way from Singapore, where stores are already keeping open for longer hours during the days leading up to Chinese New Year’s Eve that is this Saturday!
The Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays lasting for 15 days that ends with the Lantern Festival and with a large Chinese population in Singapore, one could expect the festivities of this weekend in the city to be vivacious with more than just the Chinese enjoying the celebrations.
Despite its possible colour transfers, Louis Vuitton’s Monogram Vernis range continues to be one of my favourite for materials used in wallets and bags because of the rotating range of colours and soft embossed logos on patent leather. Patent leathers are also generally versatile, being able to take you from casual to formal with a switch in clothes.
A large golden ametrine and diamond pendant. All pictures are from W.A. Bolin, Stockholm, who are having their Autumn/Winter quality auction on Sunday 15 November 2009. Visit their website for more details on the auction, or to place a bid.
Adding to the festive end of year feeling, the Autumn/Winter quality auctions are about to take place in Sweden. Viewing for W.A. Bolin in Stockholm began already today, with a show of some of the most beautiful pieces of jewellery to brighten the short lived days. Most surprising this season was that I fell in love with jewellery that were mostly French made!
The above is no. 1132 from their auction catalogue. A large golden purple ametrine (ca. 30 carats) and diamond pendant with diamonds weighing ca. 1.2 carats.
The local shops in Sweden are already decking out in Christmas gear, much to the delight of the early Christmas shoppers! And all these festive shop window displays, whether it’s interior design shops suggesting a state-of-art Christmas tree, a traditional Swedish julbock made of straw and wrapped in red ribbons, or a clothing store suggesting an outfit to a fantastic New Year’s Eve party, heightens the season’s anticipation.
When it comes to what to wear, I think decorative shoes have certainly made their mark this season, with consumers becoming acquainted with eccentric designs from Marc Jacobs to bold chunky heels from Prada and bejewelled heels from Prada’s sister Miu Miu.
Bows affixed to shoes, thanks for designers such as Dolce & Gabbana, Lanvin and Vivien Westwood (hearts on shoes actually), whether front, sides or back, have also made it to the runways, adding to the revelry of dressing for this upcoming Christmas and New Year’s, that are just about 6 to 8 weeks away.
So in this season of parties, I’m already looking forward to a display of exotic looking shoes, casually tossed at entrances, with designs that are as individual as the wearers themselves!
It was just about two to three generations ago in Singapore, when my grandmother was in her twenties, that women tended to sew their own clothes. How beautiful your outfit eventually became, depended much upon your sewing skills.
Many of my grandmother’s friends would not only sew their own traditional outfits such as cheongsams and kebayas, but made their own accessories too, from floral hair pins to beaded shoes. Those who did not acquire tailoring skills of their own usually had their dresses or outfits made by relatives and friends who could. As things were at the time of pre-WWII, it was much more economical to know how to make your own clothes than to purchase them in the shops.
Eventually social values shifted in Singapore as in the rest of the world and women no longer needed to sew for themselves. Still, I grew up with my mother making a lot of my day dresses, both sewn and crocheted, and come an important event such as wedding dinners for example, we often visited a seamstress with a dress idea roughly sketched on paper.
Today tailored dresses, a once inexpensive and natural phenomena, is becoming a luxury. Still, when the opportunity arises, I find absolute delight in choosing textiles for a new skirt or dress, and drawing a design of an outfit that I miss in my wardrobe.
This pencil dress is one of two new arrivals from the seamstress. It makes for good, basic officewear for the cooler autumn and winter months that is just ahead of us. The material is wool and the dress, whose long and lean cutting is vintage inspired, has been designed so that it would keep the core of the body warm, with three quarter sleeves (so I can accessorize with bracelets / bangles), skirt to the calves, kick pleat to the back instead of an open slit and fully lined on the inside. Added to the outfit is a fabric buckle belt, made in the same material as the dress.
Here’s the second tailored wool pencil dress, but in herringbone dark grey. Same features as the wool dress in stone grey, with three-quarter sleeves, calf-length pencil skirt and lined on the inside. This dress however, features a simple boatneck and a tie waist belt made in the same fabric as the dress.
As mentioned above, I do love tailoring outfits when given the chance because a lot of what I get out of it is the process of creation, to see a rough sketch of an outfit turn not only real, but into something you can wear! I admit my fair share of disasters when it comes to tailored clothing, mostly because of the wrong choice of material. A lack of understanding of the properties of a fabric for example can cost the brilliancy of its design. But when everything goes right and the result is as you desired, then the feeling in this process is nothing short of a small success.
On the other hand, I could tell about one of my greatest tailoring disasters…
When visiting China you are often pounced upon by persistent tailors, wanting to create whole new outfits for you or at least shirts for your husband. A few years ago we actually gave in to one of these offers. I fell in love with some very dazzling silk fabrics and chose to have a traditional Shanghai style cheongsam made. The measurements were taken and on the very last day of our stay, a last fitting was made with me standing up and the tailor nipping, tucking, pinching and putting in needles all along the sides, from top to bottom. I must say I can’t complain about the attention or quality of workmanship, but that I should have tried to move some in the dress too, didn’t occur to me at the time.
Back home and after unpacking, I tried on the dress again and realized that the fitting was indeed “perfect”. It sat as if painted on me and I know now what shrink wrapping not only looks like, but feels like when wearing. I swear, if I had eaten an egg, that would have made me look pregnant. After a few years of the dress sitting in the wardrobe, I silently sold it off to one of those two-dimensional Asian model friends of mine who could actually wear it.
It is more yellows and reds these days on the ground and in the air, than the bright greens of a few months ago, and the guitar instrumentals of Michael Mucklow’s Joy and Govi’s Carioca Cat brings home a certain longing to be in Europe’s south, where the warmth lingers on just a little while longer than in its north.
I unwrapped the gift in the mail that had made it all the way from Singapore, purchased from Indonesia. A gossamer shawl, one I wondered how to put to good use when living in this part of the northern hemisphere. Too delicate for autumn and winters and too warm in the sometimes scorching summers of Sweden.
A beach by the Swedish west coast on a cloudless summer’s day.
But as some things go, the ocassion for its use presented itself nicely when we had a beach day by the Swedish west coast. The gossamer white of the shawl, which reminds me so much of a more delicate version of a cheesecloth that my mother once used to squeeze soya milk from grounded soya beans when I was young, made the perfect beachside pareo to the white one piece swimsuit.
The swimsuit is from Next in the UK, and the wooden crafted necklace, I purchased from a thirftstore in Sweden.