Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30, 2010

Nothing profound. Sewed for two and a half hours today on Evangeline, getting her ready for New Year's Eve. Beads. Sequins. Ribbons. Trim. The works. Pictures soon to follow.

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010

I have spent the last ten days brooding about Evangeline and what she is doing to me.  First off I should mention that I have read and reread Longfellow's poem about Evangeline and her search for her true love.  The poem is a slow read, partly due to the way it was written and partly because Longfellow is such a great wordsmith.  There are these beautiful descriptive panoramas of the pastoral.  For example:
 "Sea-fogs pitched their tents, and mists from the mighty Atlantic
Looked on the happy valley, but ne'er from their station descended.
There, in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village."

Then the poem goes into this lengthy description about Evangeline's beauty and promise and potential as the fairest, prettiest, and most capable of girls in her village.  

Fair was she to behold, that maiden of seventeen summers.
Black were her eyes as the berry that grows on the thorn by the way-side,
Black, yet how softly they gleamed beneath the brown shade of her tresses!
Sweet was her breath as the breath of kine that feed in the meadows.
When in the harvest heat she bore to the reapers at noontide
Flagons of home-brewed ale, ah! fair in sooth was the maiden.
Fairer was she when, on Sunday morn, while the bell from its turret
Sprinkled with holy sounds the air, as the priest with his hysop
Sprinkles the congregation, and scatters blessings upon them,
Down the long street she passed, with her chaplet of beads and her missal,
Wearing her Norman cap, and her kirtle of blue, and the ear-rings,
Brought in the olden time from France, and since, as an heirloom,
Handed down from mother to child, through long generations.
But a celestial brightness -- a more ethereal beauty --
Shone on her face and encircled her form, when, after confession,
Homeward serenely she walked with God's benediction upon her.
When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music.
Oh how funny, with her "kirtle of blue" and how after she confessed how her passing stuns people and the world into silence.  Oh the cheesy innocence and yet how divine!

So beautiful was she that she was so sought after by all the townsmen that "happy was he who might touch her hand or the hem of her garment.".  Oh the frivolity of simpler times and how it all comes to ruin at the hand of war.  


So now what does this mean to me? What does it mean for Evangeline and the significance of December's dress being named after her.  Well I have been trying to break it down.  What does the search for true love mean?  What kind of metaphor does it present?  Is the story of Evangeline truly a search for love or the discovery of Evangeline herself? Perhaps it is more of a metaphor for the personal narrative?

The myth of Evangeline is more about the history of the Acadie... How does this tie into my project, after all my personal history if we go back, at least as far as in know extends into Mexican, Swedish, perhaps a little German and even maybe MiddleEastern?  The way in which Evangeline allows me to identify with other cultures and historical narratives is perhaps the most interesting lesson I have learned so far.  You see, as I have been fumbling over the question of what is my own personal narrative, I have realized that due to the medium of blogging and sewing and design and even fashion it can be disguised as an number of things.  The possibilities of influence and personal choice within the creation or even myth of the personal narrative is endless, allowing me to create, invent and fictionalize within the truth or limits of my historical truth, my real background that is.   

I think what Evangeline is teaching me is how my personal narrative or even myth becomes empowered by the details or embellishments that create each garment.  This is blowing the whole project wide open and yet again challenging the question is it the dress that makes the woman or the woman that makes the dress? Today I am feeling more of the latter because every time she gets washed, evangeline falls apart.  It is infuriating to me! I want to add more bits to her, but instead I am getting caught up in mending all of her little tears only to face the same consequences the next day and the next.   Perhaps I should just stop mending and her fall apart?  What would happen if i just let her break down? I am reminded of the movie Black Swan, which i saw a day ago and still think of as amazing....perhaps it takes completely breaking down to truly play the part you believe you were meant to play?

Maybe I should use Evangeline as an avatar of sorts and stop mending her imperfections, allowing them to happen and see how far she will take me?   

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20, 2010

Five days, five days since I last blogged. Nearly 3 days since I last sewed. We have been on the road, heading North bound, perhaps this is no excuse, since I sewed in the car on the way down, but I feel like these three days have been rather reflective.

First I must address the myth of Evangeline.

Evangeline was a character in an epic poem by H.W.Longfellow written in 1847. In the poem, Evangeline Bellefontaine and her true love, Gabriel Lajeunesse, were separated during The Great Upheaval when the British expelled the Acadians out of Acadie. The story is about Evangeline's search across America looking for Gabriel, and eventually reuniting at his deathbed in a Sisters of Mercy hospital where Evangeline was a nurse..... More to continue

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12, 2010


About 1/3 of the way on interstate 10 between Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Houston, Texas is a town called Evangeline. My mother's name is Eva and my husband's paternal grandmother's name was Angelina. The name Evangeline is very southern. It is beautiful and Cajun and laden with history, mythology and deep personal meaning and it is also the name of this months dress.

Evangeline, although will full and still shredding at the seams and edges, is starting to reveal a sophisticated side by holding herself together at all the right places. These days she is becoming a wearable metaphor for the way I feel. Perhaps I should be honest here and admit to several things about myself.
1. I am Southern
2. I think of myself as not being from here.
3. I am completely torn about returning here whether to live or to visit. This alone causes me much anxiety and stress.

To add complication to this list, I also come from a rather complicated family. I realize that this segues into the perfect opportunity to describe my family, but I regret to admit that I will have to save the details for another time. Suffice to say, part of my family is well known by Houston standards, and the other half, well, they were immigrants. Oh and did I mention that after 35 years, my parents divorced? So the reality when I am down here has become less fun happy crazy and more obligatory with a lot of crazy on the side. As I try to keep it all together, I realize how intense and hyper crazy togetherness makes me, So I am allowing, inviting and honoring the fray. Everything is bound to unravel ( another pun for you language folks), but it's how we handle it that counts. When I think about my work as a conservation technician handling 100 year old painted theater backdrops, I remember our textile conservator, Michelle Pagan saying " when moving something bio-deteriorated and fragile you always want to hold it at the seams." As the big picture unravels and falls apart, if the seams are intact you can make it go and do what ever you need it to.

Tonight, Evangeline is teaching me that I have to reinforce the seams.

Wylie Sofia Garcia

December 12, 2010, image

December 11, 2010, image

December 10, 2010 image

December 10, 2010 detail of fraying

December 9, 2010, detail

December 9,2010 detail

December 9,2010 detail

December 9,2010 image back

December 9, 2010, image

December 8, 2010, image

Day two, December dress image getting the chop

December 7, 2010 image of new dress

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 11, 2010

Windy. Wind, blowing. Whirling, twirling and making me change my mind about this dress. She floats and billows in the wind and her skirt dances, fills with air and floats. I love it. She made me change my mind. I also washed her this morning and she softened up. We are experiencing a mutual admiration, she softened up and started to hug parts of my body in a flattering way and I started to really enjoy her company. I still feel naked wearing her, but we are starting to work on finding a balance. Still, no name for the dress for this month, but we ARE still getting to know each other.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Punacillin shot

Exercising a loophole.

This means I am still in my work out clothes.

December 9, 2010

Frustration! It is noon and I am still in my workout clothes and in denial over having to eventually put on my dress. This dress is fraying and getting all bulges and puckers and is not cooperating. I have added a beautiful blue silk scarf that was donated to me by a friend, but the material is showing it's age. Where I stitch it breaks and unravels. Such is the way when using vintage silks, the fibers become weakest at the edge of the embroidery. My only hope is that by stitching like crazy over the silk it will fray and look interesting, otherwise I may have to cut it off and try not to freak out over the "blemishes."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 8, 2010

Leave it up to freewill astrology from the Seven Days Vermont News Paper to sum up the sentiment for today...

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Butterflies recall at least some of what they've learned during their time as caterpillars. The metamorphosis they go through is dramatic, turning their bodies into a soupy goo before remaking them into winged gliders. And yet they retain the gist of the lessons they mastered while in their earlier form. I see something comparable ahead for you in 2011, Taurus. It's as if you will undergo a kind of reincarnation without having to endure the inconvenience of actually dying. Like a butterfly, the wisdom you've earned in your old self will accompany you into your new life. Are you ready? The process begins begins soon.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7, 2010

Naked! I feel so naked today! This dress is sooo slinky, so light weight, and short and low! For this month I have chosen a silver acetate Banana Republic dress. I chose this dress in part knowing that I would be down in Louisiana and Texas where it is supposed to be warmer than Vermont, but it is cold, cold, cold here. I spent all day in black tights, a scarf, and a red plaid wool coat. On one hand "covering" up was a practical choice, but on the other hand, I think I was hiding the flimsiness of this latest dress.

Tonight I have an enormous amount of work to do to make this dress a little more modest.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Miss November, Alice in Wonderland style?

Farewell November...

December 6, 2010 back detail

December 6,2010 hip right hip detail

December 6,2010 shoulder detail

December 6, 2010 front detail

December 6, 2010 back image flair

December 6, 2010 flair image

December 6, 2010' right side image

December 6, 2010, back image

December 6,2010, image left side

December 6, 2010 image

Miss November, Edie Beal Style

The end of Miss November

Sadness is sinking in. I am not ready to take Miss November off. In fact, I have been feeling anxious for the past hour knowing that going to bed is inevitable. I keep telling myself that change is good, but what I am learning about myself is that I would prefer to resist change.

On the upside, I am happy to know that I stuck it out a month wearing the same dress. I thought it would be hard, but I think as long as I continue to take this project one day at a time and moment to moment I will get through it.

I took the final pictures of us...Us, yes, us, two personalities. I leave in this dress part of my personality. What part? I am not feels so disconnected and yet connected, pulled together by thread. I wonder if I will feel this way at the end of every dress cycle? Just as it was getting good and comfortable it is time to switch.

Photography has been on my mind. I received my B.A. From The University of Chicago in visual arts withal concentration in photography. As a result you would think i would have nailed down my documentation strategy by now. However, I have not and I am beginning to think that this might be ok. As I have reorganized my images and really spent time looking at myself and the dress and the juxtaposition of the dress against my environments, I have been going back to look at photographic portraits. Specifically, I have been looking at Cindy Sherman, Anna Mendiata, Francesca Woodman, Dawaud Bey, Mark Seliger, and Roni Horn. I have really gone back to look at the composition, lighting, and "snapshot" quality of some of these photographer's work. I am drawn to the immediacy of the point and shoot digital camera. Impulse impulse impulse. It is easy,and instantly gratifying. I know that each of these dresses will eventually be professionally photographed for my portfolio, but i feel the images I have been posting are adequate for documentation, and blog documentation. I am thinking of the format of documenting objects in a persons life via social media like Facebook or Twitter or Blog spots etc. They are usually snapshots, snippets into a life, a point of view of how the person who hosts the site sees themselves, or really how they want people to see them. I guess it is all about self promotion and self perception. So I am utilizing these methods form my own documentation. Does that mean certain things get censored or edited? Maybe, and maybe more so unconsciously.

Following this post will be a whole bunch of images. Some of them are starting to mimic the styles of other documentary style images. I find it interesting as in hope the readers of this blog will too.

So for now, I will say goodnight and thank Miss November for a fantastic and wild first month. I wasn't expecting to feel the difficulty of moving on to the next dress, but it's here, like a lump in my throat. Nancy Reddin Keinholz once told me that when a work of art is finished, it must be able to live in the world without me. It kind of reminds me of child rearing; you have to let out the apron strings further and further until it's time to cut them loose. Miss
November, I may not be ready, but you are.

Last day with Miss November, the real December 6, 2010

Here I am in Baton Rouge sitting with Miss November. She is so beautiful. I have been admiring her accouterments and lacy bits. Tracking her change has been a little weird for me because I too have been changing right along with her. Although she started as a long little black dress, she is ending with a burst of color.

I used a lot of red and pink thread. I created these islands of fabric that kind of became somewhat integrated with red and pink stitches. There are little remnants of fabric from people I know, specifically a white patch from a friends wedding dress and a letter 'T' from a recent visit with friends in Asheville, NC. There are loops of a gold trim that came out of a moment of frustration and anger. There is beige lace that I thought would make the dress look weird, but actually pulled it together more. Under the first layer is what is left of "Penumbra", my first work of trapunto that is the reason I became an artist who works with fabric. The sweater attached to the top came from my mother. The green embroidered humming bird was made to honor the memory of Deborah Veselka, my middle school biology teacher, bird watcher and friend. On the back is the most expensive vintage yellow lace I have ever owned. I couldn't bear for it to go into the scrap bin so it made it's way into this project. There is a scale like wool layer over the left side of the skirt of the dress that in added on an especially cold and wet Vermont winter day.

The front of Miss November is heavy. Her top has become tight from all the stitching and after a wash, she takes an extra jiggle or so to pull her over my head. This last week she has been so tight around my chest that she has been uncomfortable. With all the layers, Miss November's skirts are full. They sway when I move and make me feel really voluptuous in an amazing girly yet sexy kind of way. Sexy may not be the right word, womanly is a better choice.

Even though I have changed certain accessories in my own personal wardrobe, like coats, jackets, tights, shoes, jewelry and glasses, I still feel like the dress is the focus. The accessories have become second tier to the enormity of attention Miss November demands.

Attention, oh my!

The attention she garners is amazing. People look, but don't always ask. When they do, I now have a card that says "The dress I am wearing is a work of art, to find out more visit:". Miss November is her own marketing tool. Perhaps this is why I am apprehensive about tomorrow. The next dress is so plain, dull, lifeless. It will take a month to make her breathe. I think Miss November has set a bar, and now I am asking myself how can I out do myself?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wrong date, one more day yea!

So while traveling on the road, I realized I have one more day... Yippee!

December 6, 2010

It's miss November's last day. I am feeling all kinds of things, sadness, readiness, nostalgia, apprehension. How will the next dress possibly live up to the standard that Miss November has set?

This morning I stitched her name on the outside of her collar. When I got the the final stitches, I got kind of sad. I almost felt like I was going to cry. She has become apart of me in such a way that knowing I am not going to wear her again makes me feel like I am parting ways with a part of myself.

I am afraid of feeling naked tomorrow in the new dress. She is silver, from j.crew and is special because she was the first "nice dress" I bought after having given birth to my son. The significance comes in the form of having my own form back, something most postpartum moms wonder about.

I am a little disappointed to be spending my last day in Miss November in the car driving from Birmingham to Baton Rouge, but I guess such is life. I have oh so much more to write about for today and will continue to add to this post as the day unfolds and the final pictures are taken, but for now I must keep my eyes on the road.

December 4, 2010 detail of stitching in the car.

December 4, 2010, image

December 3, 2010, image

December 2, 2010

November 29, 2010 image

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Seven Days Article by Pamela Polston

December 2, 2010

Four days left with Miss November and I can honestly say I am getting ready to part ways. In the last washing, some of the wool sweater felted and she is fitting quite snug around the chest. I have spent 10 hours today in the car on a road trip down South and Miss November has not been the most comfortable traveling companion. She did however, attract her fair share of attention this morning at an IHOP in upstate New York.

I have been feeling a little blocked when it comes to what to add to her. I think she has become a bit precious, maybe because she is my first. I definitely have been failing in the department of pushing the stitch work on her surface this last week. I can't afford to be too conservative with this project, the whole point of it is to push me further and make the boundaries of my wearable art expand. On the other hand it does reflect my daily life; some times it is scary to push myself out of my comfort zone. Tonight, I must be brave.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 30,2010

Tired, oh so tired. Miss November is almost done. The big switch dresses date is December 6, 2010. I have had several people ask me why not make it the first of every month? My answer, because that's not when I started it, but the real answer is this: I intentionally started The Dress That Makes The Woman the day after I came up with the concept. I didn't want any reason not to follow through with it and if I waited a day or two I was afraid that I might come to my senses and just allow the project to be a "good idea" with no commitment or follow through. So the last day for every month of this project is the 6th and the first day for the new dress is the 7th. When I think about it, the fact that the dresses don't fit neatly alighned with the calendar acts as a kind of metaphor for life. It also suits my personality and own sensibilities for not liking to pidgin hole my life into too much structure.

So I have a week left. I am kind of fretting with how to resolve Miss November visually. Right now she has these fabric islands kind of floating on her back side and I would love to see them get tied together better. I have to be honest, I have not sewn on her for the last three days. I have been busy with life, motherhood, and the preparation for a big family trip down south. Miss november has shared in my recent panics, anxieties and bouts of over planning and she has been great, but also kind of annoying. There have been moments when I am trying to clean house or get stuffed packed and she has been too much girl for the practicality of simple household chores. I am referring to the fact that she has gotten rather full with the addition of an under layer and although she makes me feel beautiful, full and voluptuous, there are times when I just want to wear black yoga pants and a black t-shirt and get down to the nitty gritty. Maybe I am still to careful with Miss
November? Am I making things harder for myself by not immersing her directly into the daily chores or am I changing the way I hold myself while in a dress?

It has been 24 days since I really last wore jeans. I have been wearing tights almost every day and wow, what an adjustment. I used to Hate tights, now they are tolerable. However, the tight situation is looking up. My great friend Chris, just donated a bonanza of tights, leggings and stockings. ( what are the differences between all of those?) I have some amazing new leg wear and I must say that she may have single handedly made this project way more interesting and exciting. Pictures of the loot are soon to follow.

So now as I have been packing I have of course chosen what dress 2 will start off as. I wish I had more time to write about this, but quite frankly I am exhausted. I will go into more detail about the december dress next post.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

November 27, 2010

Last night a woman came up to me and said that she has never spent so much time checking out another woman's breasts. That's Miss November for you. Lately she's been getting a lot of attention and in return so have I. Spent yesterday interviewing for an article to come out on Wednesday in the Seven Days. ( Today, I was jumping off my bottom step with the hopes of capturing an action shot to accompany the article, there is something about movement that makes my wearable art come alive. The movement some how compliments the stitch work. This is something I need to think about more before I go on writing about it.

Anyways, back to attention. I think I have had the view of myself as a very private person. My art says what I usually do not, which makes this specific project interesting. As more people take notice, I am being forced to own my identity. What I mean by this is that I find myself gaining a confidene that is usually stored in the reserves of my being. A kind of confidence reserved for art openings and public speaking, but now it is coming out every time some one says "what a nice dress you are wearing.". It is the kind of confidence that is making me introduce myself and jump into a spiel about The Dress That Makes The Woman. I even have a business card that directs people to this blog and my website. I find a simple kind of irony in the fact that I am making a person to person connection about something so tactile, ie. the dress, and then offering a very detached way to follow it's / my progress.

Up next : a list of concepts, ideas and philosophical perspectives that this project has started to develop.

November 26, 2010, image back

November 26, 2010 image

November 26, 2010 continued

So now the question becomes, why did I shave? Or more to the point, why did I change this aspect of my winter life. The answer: tights. I have this great pair of tights that I have been wanting to wear with Miss November, but I just could not pull it off with matted leg hair showing underneath. For some this may seem heroic, to others a little shallow and vain, and to some they may be scratching their heads wondering who cares? Apparently, I do and I do just enough to write about it. So what? Well as I am learning, Miss November has very specific needs for example, she looks best in a pair of Born leather- mid calf- heeled boots. She also looks best with tights that are patterned. When I deny her those accouterments, she feels frumpy. I feel frumpy. I am beginning to understand how this dress is making me.

November 26, 2010

Huge day today. The winter legs get shaved. I do not shave my legs from November to April. It is cold where I live and I get razor burn and I usually wear warm pants all winter long, so I figured who would ever care or know. Well, now you know, and here are pictures to prove it. As you can see on my left leg, the right one in the photo, I had already started to shave, but I immediately realized that since this was such a big deal for me I had to take a picture to immortalize it blog style. If I have shared too much, my apologies.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sewing at home in pajamas...

Front view in studio 11-22-2010

Backside in studio

Detail of wedding dress bit.

Just hanging to dry

Detail of lace and wool

Detail of wools

November 24, 2010

I was wearing my dress last night in my dream. Oh yes, I have arrived. When I see myself wearing the dress in my dreams it means that it is apart of who I am. I wouldn't go as far as saying that it is who I am, but we still have a year to go so we will have to wait and see how I feel then.

I got a new pair of glasses to compliment my chameleon-esque state; they are clear with silver horn rims from 1960s era. For just a moment let's talk glasses. Of all the different types of glasses why do I choose to wear 1960s horn rims? Well, my therapist thought that it had something to do with hiding my face, but I beg to differ. First, I hate contacts so they are not an option. Second, glasses are like the best kind of accessory. I feel like you have to choose a pair that is going to be defining. If people are going to see you day in and day out in the same pair of glasses, then they should say something about you and your personal style. I am thinking back to this fabulous photograph taken by Mark Selliger in the '90's of Kennedy, the Mtv VJay. (I know there of those of you out there who are getting all embarrassed by this reference, but you know who you are, Mtv generation folks) so the photograph doesn't show her face it only shows her glasses, because everyone knew how iconic her glasses made her. Another good example is Peggy Guggenheim and her fabulously quirky sunshades, google some images of her if you don't know what I am talking about.

Do I want to be known as the horn rim glasses girl, no not really, but they just happen to go really well with my "look.". When I use that term "look" what I really mean is when the image of the person who I think I look like matches up with the real Wylie. I think we all experience this kind of disconnect from time to time, otherwise we wouldn't strive for self improvement, right?

So back to the dress.

She has a lot more work on the back now and around the hips. I have added another layer of fabric for some top layer insulation as the weather gets colder. She is feeling flowy and full. I like where she is going because it feels more womanly less girly cute. I don't know if this could possibly translate in a photograph but I will try to capture what I mean.

Miss november is also getting harder to take off. No, I mean this literally. She is so full with so many layers that she is getting stuck around my armpits. Pretty soon, I may need an extra person to help lift her over my head.

I am also starting to play around with wool and the wash. I have added some wool bits to see if they will felt and shrink and distort in hot water. I like that my artist pallet mostly consists of string and thread and bits of old fabrics/ clothes, all things found at home or in the studio. I am starting to see the GREEN environmental possibilities with this whole project, only using what I have and what already exists in my wardrobe. It makes all the things that get added significant. I have little stories about a lot of pieces and garments. For example I just added the cut off part of a strap from a friends wedding gown. I altered it for her days before her wedding. I added this because with the alteration came a sweet thank you note that had little to do with the dress. The letter was about a phrase we were able to exchange. The phrase is "way to be." There is a long winded personal story about this phrase that I will save for another time, but it is significant. Finding that little scrap of fabric was a beautiful reminder of "way to be." Cheesy? Definitly, but the reminder came at a time when I was having some personal doubts about life, art, love etc. So I added it to the dress. I suppose I could have stitched the words on the dress, but now I have something way better- a little visual reminder that says exactly what It needs to say with out saying it.