She’s working at the pyramid tonight
I was avoiding this entry for a while, because of all the pictures it would take to upload, but here it is. Listening to Frank Ocean’s “Pyramids” while doing this certainly helps. My last Halloween costume as Cleopatra:
I was originally inspired by Annie Modesitt’s “Cleopatra” dress pattern in her book, Romantic Hand Knits, which I ended up knitting (in a different color palette):
It looks more Missoni-esue with its chevron stripes, if anything, so I never quite got my Cleopatra fix. It was romantic, definitely. I was intrigued to figure her out. I’d also had enough of looking at Elizabeth Taylor. I wanted a remix!
I’d made a head dress out of silver and brass “leaves” I’d bought from Paris that stoked my fire (oh, those poor sales ladies at LeBon Marche in the jewelry craft department… they gawked and frowned at me as I kept measuring the leaves around my head to calculate how many I should buy. With conventional jewelry examples on display that were pointedly for earrings, necklaces, or bracelets, I don’t blame them for wondering what the hell I was doing. It didn’t help that my French was near non-existent). I love the French. They are all about attention to detail, which I respect and admire.
I thought this goddess-y head dress could work into my vision somehow. I was excited by the fantasy. More and more, as Halloween approached, I wanted to be Cleopatra.
I’m so blessed to have a behind-the-scenes mentor, Margi Kent (www.margikent.com), who’s a celebrity image consultant and fashion/costume designer. Also known as the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor,” she’s the force behind Stevie Nicks’ gauzy image (http://www.districtmtv.co.uk/article/topic/archive/yz30fb/752c5df7-5666-4705-aec9-924efe971c56/0pwg6s?docView=%2Fdocuments%2Fnews%2Fdetail&navContainer=newsHub). I think Stevie even dedicated “Landslide” to Margi at one show. Any way, I re-connected with her when I was in LA for a wedding and we went shopping together in the garment district, where she advised me on different types of fabric I could use for my costume. When I’d worked on the Black Swan costume the year prior, I’d at least had a rubric of how the costume should be because of the movie, but this project was free-form, so I was intimidated. Margi told me I could gather and cinch some fabric on the waist with slinky gold jersey to create a “ripple” effect. It wouldn’t be towww.margikent.com), who’s a celebrity image consultant and fashion/costume designer. Also known as the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor,” she’s the force behind Stevie Nicks’ gauzy image (http://www.districtmtv.co.uk/article/topic/archive/yz30fb/752c5df7-5666-4705-aec9-924efe971c56/0pwg6s?docView=%2Fdocuments%2Fnews%2Fdetail&navContainer=newsHub). I think Stevie even dedicated “Landslide” to Margi at one show. Any way, I re-connected with her when I was in LA for a wedding and we went shopping together in the garment district, where she advised me on different types of fabric I could use for my costume. When I’d worked on the Black Swan costume the year prior, I’d at least had a rubric of how the costume should be because of the movie, but this project was free-form, so I was intimidated. Margi told me I could gather and cinch some fabric on the waist with slinky gold jersey to create a “ripple” effect. It wouldn’t be too difficult for someone like myself with basic sewing skills. She generously gave a white bustier to the cause, which I didn’t end up using (not for this project, anyhow). She also let me take some scraps and castaways from her gorgeous studio, beaded appliques that she didn’t want and a variety of gold trim. Margi Kent is the best!
I was at home with a bag of fabric, materials, etc. but it overwhelmed me on how to begin. It must’ve been several days of hemming and hawing before I noticed the white satin nightgown hanging from a rack. It was from Victoria’s Secret. Blech. I’d gotten it (for free) from a clothing swap, but I’d never worn it. It had a lot of lacy, see-through trim and looked too much like a night dress, but I thought it could work…
I laid it out in front of me. It became a process of elimination. Once you pick a path, you have less choices, or more obvious choices, to make. I decided to cover up the lacy netting first.
I re-arranged the beaded appliques multiple ways on it before I finally cut out identical sections and glued them on to the lacy sides:
You can still see the lacy embroidery but the applique covers most of it now.
So, I’d covered both sides symmetrically but now there was the matter with the front:
Not so great. I now had to color in the center or else the emphasis would be on the sides, and make the waist look big. Fair enough.
I had two types of jersey fabric, so I carefully cut out the puzzle pieces to the appliques. This is something I should’ve done before gluing on the appliques. It’s good to draw out a plan, really. It would’ve saved me a lot of time. I thought a bit of asymmetry in fabric would be nice for the two cups. One in plain gold (right), the other in stripes (left). I then added gold trim to the right. It looked like a flame. Pretty!
The front still needed something to really visually hold it together, so I continued placing the trim from the right diagonally across to the left, to create the illusion of a belt, sort of.
Much better. Now, a center piece applique to smooth the front:
I didn’t like how the petals—or whatever you call them—of the center piece were drooping downward, so I gave it a little lift with full “arcs” on top:
It made it look like a butterfly. Either way, I liked it.
I thought the straps needed more dimension and fullness, so I covered them up with the striped jersey.
I sewed on faux knots at the end of each to create a rope-y effect and puckered them out as much as possible by gathering them tightly:
It gave it that artisanal look it needed, even though the whole experiment was spontaneous.
I cinched the back with this gold nylon string (that was probably used as the wrapping string for chocolate boxes. I’m that thrifty sometimes…), because the waist still too wide, in my opinion:
The dress was one flat piece, horizontally, on the bottom, so I gave it an asymmetrical cut to add some edge. Just like cutting a girl’s hair:
I attached some jersey fabric on the slit side to soften the edge, but it still looked too severe and drew the attention to the sides again, so I softened the cut with more gold. I wanted it to go from white to gold to dark gold. A necessary gradation throughout the whole piece:
The attention went to the sides again so I had to “connect the dots,” once more. I created another belt, from left to right:
Then there was a lot of remaining gold trim I wanted to use. I played around with ways that they could fall along the dress. Should they swirl? At what point should they fall from? (I briefly thought about ee cummings’ “a leaf falls,” no doubt).
It looked too noisy in the front, so I settled for the leaves starting from the side and then crossing the front, gracefully, to give the dress a nice drape and flow:
Then there was more embellishing: different leaf trims cascading down the side to create a sense of whimsy. I deliberately didn’t let the leaves go all the way to the bottom, or else it would’ve looked too contrived. Cleopatra just walked out of a gold forest, tousled and radiant!:
I really wanted the dress to have a snug fit so I pulled the back as taut as I could and then covered it up with a gold train. I also added more gold along the remaining white lace to cover up the fact that this used to be a night gown. Of course, I stacked more gold on gold. Gold festival, I swear. I added gold petals on the train for a billowy feel:
For the other side, i increased the slit to make it look more natural, and then edged it with gold. I added more jersey patching (I think most prints/embellishments, if in the front, should extend to the back or else it looks too “cut off”), beaded jewels, and then gold for more gradation—ethereal quality:
The head piece I ended up wearing involved two bird-like appliques that I glued onto a regular headband, making sure that they covered my ears. I don’t know if this was too much and diving into the flapper category, but the effect was still superb.
For more Cleopatra pictures, go to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/janejyu/sets/72157631969511709/
*Addendum: I just found out that the Egyptians influenced the 1920s “flapper” look! It’s great when you trust your intuition and it’s validated. I guess my costume is more accurate than I thought. Yay!
11:14 pm • 25 March 2013
I’m happy about the Chanel-inspired cardigan jacket I knitted, but it has a few chronic “illnesses” that I’m trying to cure. Knitting a project and knowing its slightest imperfections must be how mothers know their own kids, from the staccato kicks in the womb to their double-jointed thumbs and asymmetrical ears. The details that nobody else would know, not even an intimate lover. “Yo mama knows it all, cuz she’s yo mama.” Only your mom, son.
My roommate finds it slightly disturbing that I anthropomorphize my knitted creations to explain the torture I go through to make every detail as tailored as possible. As a co-habitant, she’s usually the first to imbibe what I’ve finished. She coos and gushes while I continue to stare, silently. I don’t even cradle it. I look immediately for imperfections. I scale the proportions. If I’m satisfied, I usually give a nod. Very rarely do I scream out of delight (a home run).
As I flop back on the couch and breathe a heavy sigh, I turn to her and say, “I… I feel like I’ve given birth.”
She sighs back. “I knew you would say that.” She picks up her magazine and resumes reading.
It’s not cool to be that repetitive. I’ll watch it.
My roommate has actually seen, up close and personal (her sister’s), that amazing and horrendous physical miracle of the universe that I’d rather not witness, thank you very much. Given that she survived such a memorable experience and still wants a baby (another miracle) of her own, she has every right to be annoyed when I compare my hand labor to pregnancy labor. I knit something that has an end variable. Giving birth is another Life on this planet—Hello. Yet each time I’m in the middle of a project and frightened that I have to take it apart and start from the beginning, I still indulge in this analogy. I cry that I don’t want to get an abortion, which might eventually earn me some frowns or slaps from pregnant women who refuse to cede me this validation.
That is why when I finish a piece, I expect it to be perfect, considering the high cost of labor and probable abortion(s) that went into its construction. If it’s not healthy and functioning perfectly, I want to know why.
Enough with the crazy talk. I still have a lot of love.
My hemming way from the original pattern:
1. Like most upper pieces I’ve knitted, I increased the body length (from the armpit down to the waist) and shortened the circumferential width of the sleeve to give my jacket a more fitted look. It looks cheap when your whole jacket goes up when you lift your arm.
2. It appeared that the pattern asked for the sleeves to be 3/4 in length, but I wanted to keep the jacket classy, so I made the sleeves go all the way down to my wrist, even a little past the wrist (which I prefer).
3. The final edging called for a crocheted black-and-white crab stitch but when I did so, I noticed that it was a bit counterintuitive because the edging was like a continuation of the entire honey comb tweed pattern, so I didn’t think that made sense. I decided to keep the framing all black.
4. I sewed on snap buttons on the pockets to keep the edges from curling (thanks to the behest of my knitting companion, Annie), since blocking didn’t work. My material was 100% extrafine merino wool from Italy (Karabella Aurora 8 yarn). I’m still trying to figure out if merino wool is supposed to curl like this, even after blocking.
Continuing the hemming way:
My biggest concern right now is the destabilized edging. I bought a non-woven interface and fused it into the wrong side of the jacket, which worked (as you can see on top), but this white interface is still conspicuous at certain angles, even when I wear it. I cannot figure out an invisible way to stabilize the edges, which makes my Chanel-inspired cardigan jacket less crisp and polished. It’s otherwise beautiful. Coco Chanel would shake her head, too, I’m sure.
This is how the jacket curls when I don’t use the interface. It’s awful:
My baby is so close to being healthy and perfect. I just need to find the right medicine or doctor.
2:53 am • 3 September 2012
Disclaimer: Dork alert!
Chapeau!, the upscale French restaurant in San Francisco is divine, and Chef Philippe remains my dear friend. I was lucky to get to stage (“intern” in French for cooking) with him in the back kitchen, host the front-of-the-house, handle his social media accounts, and interview him for my entirely self-initiated project that had no specific agenda (but ended up getting selected for Graze Magazine’s upcoming third issue, so the chef and I were happy about that).
Being a hostess is like playing Tetris, except it’s a very stressful game IRL. You have to learn the art of squeezing in as many people as you can without killing the whole crew and maintain the customer’s classy dining experience.
One of my incessant frustrations was with the hangers in the coat check room. The system was inefficient because the hangers were of multiple brands—some wooden, others, a red thinned-out velveteen, and a few wired (probably from the dry cleaners). Needless to say, most of them were flimsy. They were stickered with masking tape and hastily numbered. Sometimes there were no numbers on them, which lead to confusion and a possible bickering among the FOH staff. Being short and having to decipher the table number in the dim light was the worst part.
I noticed this inefficiency immediately and told the restaurant manager, his wife, how I felt. I also pointed it out to the servers. They said it was “in the works.” I volunteered to go get the hangers myself, if they said I could. They told me no. Even the chef told me not to worry about it.
It happened one typical night. We were slammed. I briskly walked to the back room to retrieve one of the coats for a customer. As I pulled it off, its hanger fell directly on my face. It hurt more than I expected (it was the wooden one, no doubt) and there was some blood on my right cheek. There was no time to go to the bathroom, and I’m no baby. But I was definitely annoyed.
My friend recently moved and decided to drop off a bunch of hangers for me that she didn’t need. I told her I needed some, but not a hundred. She gave me a hundred. After using what I needed and left with a surplus, I wasn’t sure if I should just throw these extraneous hangers away when I thought of Chapeau! and how Philippe’s birthday was coming up.
I put my former hostess knowledge to good use. I still remembered how they numbered their tables according to the invisibly partitioned dining room. I color-coded each hanger for its section and neatly numbered each one with a Post-it note taped to the middle. And I also surmised that plastic hangers don’t hurt as much if they fall on your face.
I know it’s simple, but the uniformity of hangers does wonders for your space, especially when the hangers are color-coded correctly. I never felt so satisfied looking at a color palette of hangers before.
Philippe left me a voicemail and told me he loves the hangers! I must make a visit to Chapeau! soon and check out the coat room to give myself a pat on the back. Hats off!
4:33 pm • 15 August 2012
If you trace the evolution of my wardrobe, you’d find that the foundation was very hodge-podge. My parents rarely took me shopping since we couldn’t afford it (and our tiny apartment furnishings were beyond hodge-podge—clutter everywhere that grated upon my sanity), so when I did earn bread from various odd jobs, I wasn’t too invested in buying the next great outfit because I had a bunch of cast-offs I’d adopted. Granted, I’d spend some savings on attire here and there, but my closet space was mostly comprised of other people’s “scraps,” a motley collection of the outworn or unwanted. I got hand-me-downs from older sister figures (“unni” in Korean), distant relatives from Korea who’d send me clothes I’d furrow my eyebrows over, only because I’d never seen anything like them (e.g. a neon spandex cardigan which I later decided was indeed hideous and not “ahead of its time”), church ladies who dropped off boxes of clothing for me to scope before the final dump at Goodwill. Even my popular, well-dressed best friend who had a gigantic wardrobe for a high schooler (and surely the best of the lot) generously donated brand-name clothing to me on occasions, so I was luckily granted with some treasures. It’s funny when I look back on it; I call myself a cynic, but my bearing as a youth was so… optimistic. I saw the potential in discarded things, and I wanted to refine them, somehow. This is why I’m always challenged as a purported “minimalist.” What if I can do something with “it”? I can’t just toss it.
This conceptual approach spilled over into the way I tested outfits at school or wherever I went. I certainly wasn’t the most fashionable and I literally had no idea of sewing machines, but I liked tinkering with clothing as another recreation. When I wore something, I wasn’t subconsciously wondering, “How does this outfit represent me?” My “I” as a high-schooler was tenuous and constantly impressionable. And although there was the usual pressure to conform, I wasn’t trying to mimic anyone, either. In a practical sense, I was thinking, “How will this outfit work on its own?”, with no concern for how I’d be perceived as the one donning it. To me, that subtle equation of clothing and output as personality (or vice versa) went unquestioned.
Wanting to belong is a universal impulse, but I saw the perks of being invisible. Maybe this accounts for how I was curiously removed from the outfits I put together. I treated them as costumes. I even wore my older brother’s baggy clothes that are so reminiscent of adolescent irreverence—the whole deal with the hems torn up and almost dragging on the ground, as if I were hustling or really tough. I wasn’t, and I wasn’t a tomboy, either. I was really just a nerd. It was the ’90s, I loved hip-hop, and although I was fully grown into my 5’1 and a half” body, I had no qualms about sporting such a “look”, if I felt that it was time for its rotation. I was already “one of the guys” with my homeboys, and given my dismal surroundings, my huge pullovers and windbreakers were about as earthy as I got.
My costume-playing philosophy carried over into college, where I often dressed for the outfit, with a complete disregard for the occasion or context. Otherwise, I wore my gray sweatpants and a printed shirt that screamed UCLA ‘007 in mustard yellow, sponsored handouts from In N’ Out Burger for my campus. My work-study boss stopped me one day and said, “Each time I see you, you have a different ‘look.’ You have, like, twenty different styles!”
Is it that I have a hard time choosing? That could be the case. I like to change my mind.
Now that I’m an adult, I agree that in most circumstances, outfits are or should be an extension of your personality. I’m now fully conscious of curating my modest wardrobe to translate my perspective, whatever it is. Yet I still haven’t whittled into that one “style,” so I guess this means that I still remain ambivalent.
The same best friend, Sophia, invited me over a while ago when she was cleaning her room, and in the same tradition, I inherited some clothing from her that was otherwise going to be thrown away. I saw this Bebe dress and almost dismissed it because I didn’t like the bottom fabric (it looked loud but cheap), and I felt strongly about it. I had to try it on to make sure it was wrong for me, but the black crocheted top fit so perfectly! The perfect fit is everything. So I thought about it. I examined the stitches inside and got the idea that I should take the fabric off and attach a knitted piece instead.
The vision was beautiful enough.
I’m so glad I did.
When I’m done with my second knitting photoshoot, I’ll post the pictures up. But let me say, this dress is a killer! It looks so different. The color scheme is just so delicious.
I originally saw a lion in the dress, but now I see a tiger. Meow.
(Source: Flickr / janejyu)
2:33 am • 14 August 2012 • 1 note