Irritation and Inspiration

I’ve been held up by technical glitches lately. First, I was planning to upload some photos of actual items completed by me – shocking, I know, since I haven’t managed to put any up yet and I’ve finished a few things off lately – only to find the batteries on my camera were dead and I couldn’t find the lead for the charger (yes, it was a few months ago that I moved, but I’m still familiarising myself with where I’ve stashed everything). Next, camera fully charged and all ready for photography, and my trusty, well travelled brick of a laptop decided to do what it has been threatening to do for about a year now, and died. Not in a dramatic rain of sparks, or even a blue-screen-of-death way, which I could understand, but rather in a failure-to-launch way, which doesn’t allow it to get much past the windows screen. I have tried re-booting, re-loading, and everything my inner nerd suggests, but nothing has worked.

So I’ve been forced to splash out on a new toy. Forced. I had no choice. Well, alright, I did have a choice. It didn’t have to be an excessively pretty Apple, but that’s what I went with. I figured it would be quicker and easier to order it online. You know, go onto the website (not so mch – turns out my work runs the oldest version of Explorer known to computer-kind, and Apple refuse to deal with it anymore), place your order (on the phone), and it comes out to you within a couple of days. Or it should, if you’re not me. Because I’ve just gotten off the phone and found out that my shiny new laptop will not actually be MY shiny new laptop until, as the helper-man put it, “early or late next week.” So about the only thing I can be sure of out of that is that it shouldn’t come on Wednesday.

But in the meantime, here are some pretty pictures of things I would like to have made, but didn’t. Excellent tools for distraction from irritation, until I remember that I am unlikely to ever attain the skill level of the people who made these. But enough of my irriation, what do you think of this tiny sample of the works from the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York?



Beautiful, yes, but not so practical with this early 20th century evening dress. Love the beading and the layering.


The work of Madeleine Vionnet, revolutionising the world of fashion by creating the bias cut, the halter neck, and any number of other innovations in the 1920s and 30s. A woman so influential that it was almost impossible for me to narrow it down to just one dress.


Lady About Town

I was out and about in Melbourne Town on Saturday night, catching up with a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in what turned out to be a couple of months. We know, we sat down to work it out. Horrified at the thought, we decided to cram a few nights out into one so, from our Gin Palace beginnings – Singapore Slings and Pink Ladies all round – we headed to dinner at Alexanders (turns out the Sensational Steak Sandwich is, in fact, sensational. Even if only half of the sandwich is steak and the other half is pork. But I digress) before finishing up at a venue I’ve been meaning to try for an eternity but never seem to get to. Seamstress.

You can see why I’m bringing it up here. A former textile warehouse, it shows its history in at least a superficial way that I found both intriguing and depressing. It is essentially just another one of Melbourne’s many bars, hidden upstairs for cocktails or downstairs for Sweatshop – the place of beers and DJs – or food in between. The twist is that they have festooned the roof of the upstairs area with child-size cheong sams, and a couple of the tables are in fact old industrial sewing machines. As much as I loved the art on the walls (excellent use of industrial sized reels of many-coloured sewing thread), I was appalled to find that the machines appeared to be in working order.

Or they would have been if needles and belts hadn’t been removed to make them safe for drunk people to be around. Turning the wheels by hand, however, the feed dogs still moved, much to the delight of one girl seated at a mid-twentieth century Singer. I couldn’t get close to the Jones machine to check it out as well, but if it also worked, I couldn’t help but think what a waste it was. These machines have done the hard yards. They are the work horses of the clothing industry, and they are often still cited as machines used by current professionals. They don’t die. Ever. And as someone with a yen for machines, I feel that they deserve better than to be put through the indignities of drunken people sprawling on them. In short, I believe that they deserve to be taken home by a loving wanna-be seamstress and put to the use that they were intended for. Architect Louis Kahn may have advocated a design approach of “Ask a brick what it wants to be”, but I prefer “ask a machine what it wants to sew”. To be blunt, these machines deserve to be owned by someone who can appreciate them for what they do, not for tenuous links to a history open for exploitation.

That said, the moderately over-priced cocktails at the bar were tasty (silver fizz, anyone?). The ambiance was cosy, the early-mid twentieth century jazz soundtrack just right. The bartenders were aloof rather than friendly, but the – not sure what to call him really, maitre’d? concierge? seating arranger? anyhoo – boy buzzing around like a blue-arsed fly was exceedingly friendly and almost made up for them. I will probably be back to this bar. But I refuse to be as enthralled by it as others have been. It’s the principle of the thing. Wasting good sewing machines on a bar. Hmph.