Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Scent of Music: Christmas Time is Here (Vince Guaraldi Trio)

The scent of what, you ask? Well, perfume lovers associate a lot of things with perfume. What perfume would James Bond wear, and does it depend on whether he's being played by Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan? What does the color chartreuse smell like? What perfume goes best with prime rib?

For Christmas, some of us are blogging about the link between a piece of Christmas music and a perfume. The choice of music is up to the blogger. And I'm a weird blogger, with a taste for the dark.  The chorus of Christmas in Prison, as performed by The Boxmasters, keeps running through my head. The same album (Christmas Cheer)  includes I Won't Be Home For Christmas, also about Christmas in prison. And My Dreams of Christmas, about a child's disappointed Christmas dreams. And Slower Than Christmas, about a dysfunctional family. And Blue Christmas. And...

I love that album. And I'm slightly disappointed that August: Osage County (the movie based on the play about a dysfunctional family, by Tracy Letts) isn't actually opening on Christmas day. And I'm feeling the urge to watch Christopher Titus's Norman Rockwell is Bleeding again. It's been one of those years. Or two of those years. I'm supposed to be happy and sparkly, and I'm failing to fulfill that expectation. There's no particularly good reason why, but all the same, without an excuse, I'm failing to sparkle.

Like Charlie Brown.

We watched A Charlie Brown Christmas last night, right before watching It's A Wonderful Life. They both gave me just what I wanted, and, more surprising, they seem to fill the same need that's filled by the Boxmasters album, the Titus special, the Letts play, and similar dark work. I suppose that the common element is that they all address disappointment, address it not so much as an incident in life, but as a part of its fabric. The best comedy comes from darkness and disappointment, and I suspect that the best music does as well. I don't say that that makes it all worthwhile, but that's not really the point. You start with what you have, and you make something of it.

This is really not the kind of Christmas post that you were expecting, is it? Then again, Christmas is about darkness, too, in its way. I'm not religious, but that doesn't mean that the story of a dark world being presented with hope, hope coming from a humble and poor place, doesn't have power for me. A manger and a baby. A tiny Christmas tree facing scorn and growing when it's loved. I can't really make a tidy analogy there, but all the same, it works for me.

Christmas Time is Here, the music that opens A Charlie Brown Christmas, is sweet and sad and happy. It glimmers and ripples, like candlelight on glass. It communicates childhood, but without the frantic heartless pace of so many children's songs.

How do I translate that to a perfume? My first thought is that it's a perfume with some dark notes, not just simple pleasing sweetness. But there must be brightness, glimmering and comforting, and a touch of childhood, or at least innocence. My usual Christmas perfume is Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale, and my loyalty to that scent hasn't weakened. But Sushi Imperiale isn't Christmas Time is Here, it's the jazz number, with Snoopy dancing and Schroeder playing at the pageant.

I considered Sutra Ylang, Sushi's shy little sister, but there's not enough darkness there. After a good long sniff, I decided on Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose. No, it's not a "Christmasy" perfume--no cinnamon, no ginger, no woodsmoke. But the trail of this post led me looking for dark and light, complexity, glimmering sweetness and sorrow and joy. Cepes & Tuberose fits the description, with its forest-floor darkness mingling with luminous sweetness with that vibe of innocence, and the edge of browned butter. So there we are.

Please see the other Scent of Music posts at these fine blogs!

Australian Perfume Junkies
Chemist in the Bottle
All I am - a redhead
Riktig Parfym
Olfactoria's Travels
Undina's Looking Glass
Another Perfume Blog
the unseen censer

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fashion: What I Wore Friday, or, Transcending The Ball O' Wool

There's been snow and ice on the ground for a week, and temperatures in the single digits (Fahrenheit) at night. That's big winter stuff, for this town. The car giggled at the very idea of driving on the roads, so we trudged (carefully) into town to buy snow boots. I now own five, count 'em, five! pairs of little short boots, but only this most recent pair is suitable for snow and slush.

This was an exercise in attempting style against counter-style influences. Most days I've been a booted ball o' wool, my greatest fashion ambition being avoidance of the garden grubbies jeans, and my greatest ambition in general being Not Falling Down. I did wear silk scarves every day, but not for the look of it--a doubled-up silk scarf clings nicely to my neck and is startlingly warm. Silk is no good at all for shielding my face from the wind, though, so for a day or two I was wearing a plum-colored silk scarf and a plum-colored woollyesque scarf, making me a waterfall of fabric swatches from neck to waist.

I digress. Friday I was only mostly wool--an unlined medium-length fawn-colored coat, brown-and-fawn houndstooth skirt, and a woven-patterny black and white scarf that haunted me into buying it. The non-wool that crept in was the drapey white knit shirt and textured cotton overshirt from this post. And the amber necklace that Himself gave me long ago. And the snow boots.

Texturepalooza. By my standards, anyway. I enjoyed it. Given my somewhat high girth-to-height ratio, a ratio increased by woolly clothes, I tend to have a Paddington Bear or Boarding School Child look when I bundle up, and I find that I rather enjoy that, too. Even if I lose all the weight I want, I'm never going to be willowy--depending on what I wear, I'll either be curvy or tailored-and-sturdy. So I may as well embrace those vibes now.

It appears that that is all.

Edited to append: Actually, it's not all. I find my thoughts returning to the coat. The fawn-colored coat, advertised as a "car coat". In the past, I never understood the idea of coats being fashion. I remember Mary, in the old Mary Tyler Moore show, trying to figure out how to afford a coat that she loved, and I remember thinking that, well, she already has a coat, so...? I suppose that this is in part about being a child in a middle-class frugal home; I think that most kids at school had one winter coat that they wore every day. They might have had something sportier and and something dressier, but all I saw was what they wore to school.

I own several coats now, but they were all purchased for specific functions: The raincoat. The one-step-warmer-than-a-sweater jacket. The long lined black wool coat for when it's really cold. I did buy the black wool poncholike thing because it was fun, but there were no style'esque thoughts of what it would go well with, or what mood or vibe it might contribute to. I just bought it. I also bought it years and years ago; the fact that it feels a little steampunky when worn with the right shoes is pure coincidence. Most of my coats stick around for decades.

I bought the fawn car coat, on the other hand, with thoughts of how the color and texture and general hang of it would look with clothes and with my figure. I cared that it would work as an outdoor coat but also not be too bulky as an indoor jacket, for occasions when I'm bouncing indoors and outdoors. The soft-shouldered cut was a compromise between the fact that I want a  jacket that fits at both shoulders and hips, but I'm not going to get one that fits precisely until I commission one from that seamstress/tailor that I'm planning to contact in January.

I bought a coat for fashion reasons.

I'm scared.

Now that really is all.

Images: Mine

Friday, December 6, 2013

What I Wore Friday: 21st Century Jeans (And a Note on Aftelier Cuir de Gardenia)

The world must be ending. I wore non-Mom jeans.

I don't mean that I wore those scarey low hipster jeans. But the "hug" of today's jeans ends two or three inches lower than I'm used to. It's giving me the sensation that my pants are falling down, and I keep checking to make sure that my top is long enough to hide my underwear. Because I'm still wearing Mom underwear. (I'm providing too much information here, aren't I?)

I didn't buy the jeans for the non-Momness, but instead for the (compared to my other jeans) narrower legs and heavier fabric, and a much nicer solid black "wash". (Why is it "wash" and not color? I'm sure there's a good reason.) My other jeans are a weird streaky light blue that signals gardening grubbies no matter what I wear them with.

The Momness or otherwise of the jeans is largely irrelevant, because today's top, a drapey cowlneck sweatery thing, hangs to somewhere around mid-hip. But it feels weird all the same, both rebellious (against my determinedly fashion-blind stance) and compliant (for exactly the same reason.)

Purely for entertainment, I took off the drapey sweatery thing and considered how the jeans looked with just the dark-pumpkiny tee underneath, and to my surprise, there was some good there. While I wouldn't wear that combination without (shudder) "shapewear", I was surprised to see that my overall bulk has a half-decent curve in to the waist and out to the hips. I'm not a column. Who knew? Then I put the sweatery thing back on and there's a subtler version of the curve even then. So I'm rather pleased. This is by far the most close-to-current-fashion jeans look I've worn since--I was going to say "since forever", but there was a moment in my teens, in snug jeans and a gauze top...

Momentary "have I told you this before?" divergence: You know how sometimes on What Not To Wear, they'll ask the subject of the show when they last felt beautiful? If I were the subject, that would have been my answer--that moment when I was fourteen, more or less, looking in a full-length motel mirror while on a driving trip to meet one of the parents' relatives. I thought that I looked beautiful--and I thought that, therefore, the mirror must somehow be defective.

All right, moving on. I didn't feel beautiful in today's jeans, but I felt good.

Did I mention that after I bought boots, and more boots, I remembered that I already owned boots, and more boots, purchased several years ago? I now have four (four, count 'em, four!) pairs of little short boots. Aparently I've been having a little-short-boot craving for quite some time, one that I didn't know how to actually deploy.

Today's boots waited a very long time (five years? ten?) to get to work. I wore them for the very first time a couple of weeks ago as part of an undocumented skirt outfit, with brown tights, to avoid the effect of, "Oh, my God, someone cut off her foot and glued on a boot!" that I got when I tried them with plum-colored tights. I wore them again a few days later with the gardening grubbies jeans. They didn't seem all that happy about that; I think that they crept in while I was sleeping and instilled a post-hypnotic suggestion to buy the non-Mom jeans. Except, I'm told that brown boots with black jeans are not ideal, so perhaps they got the message a little muddled.

It snowed today and I needed a hat when we went to lunch. I quite forgot that I owned this one, a sort of plaid newsboy cap, so I didn't wear it. However, that may be just as well--I'm beginning to conclude that a newsboy cap with long hair is "cute", and I definitely don't want to be cute. It's better if I put my hair up, but my hair generally declines to stay up.

The perfume? Aftelier Cuir de Gardenia extrait; I've started buying samples again. I didn't give it a proper review-esque monitoring, even by my rather slack review standards, but I like it very much. It started out both feminine-ladylike and delightfully animalic-dirty, two separate aspects that managed to mesh perfectly. It was fairly emphatic, though it still wasn't a projection bomb--a good thing, in my book, though I realize that many people wish that naturals would speak a little louder.

Over a few hours the ladylike aspect grew stronger, and I got a whiff of New Barbie Doll Note. I always assumed that this scent came from something synthetic; now that I've experienced it in a natural perfume, I'm determined to figure out exactly what produces it, similar to the way that I figured out that Pencil Eraser Note is iris.

New Barbie Doll Note was accompanied by Smelly-Doll Note--that is, sweet peas. That tiny doll in the photo, one of my favorites as a child, came pre-scented in a perfume-bottle-shaped plastic clamshell. Officially, she was a Liddle Kiddle, but we called her Smelly-Doll. I always assumed that she just smelled of "perfume", until I encountered my first real life sweet pea at a relatively advanced age and immediately flashed on "Smelly-Doll!" Did Mattel really spring for a photorealistic sweet pea scent? I can't evaluate her scent any longer to try to answer that question; it's long faded.

So Cuir de Gardenia shifts, for me, from a delightful animalic-ladylike melding to equally delightful childhood nostalgia--dolls, flowers, and candied notes. I love it, but I doubt that anyone else will share exactly my experience of the drydown.

And that is all.

Images: Mine.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fashion: Versus Sewing. And Murphy's arrived!

It shouldn't be "versus", right? The sewing should support the fashion. The fashion should encourage the sewing. The ability to create a garment in whatever color and fabric I want, fitted to exactly my size and shape, should be a dream come true for the fashion.

But I've been less interested in sewing since the fashion thing. Now, I would have spent less time sewing lately anyway, due to being snowed under at work. But usually no amount of snowed-under stops me from being dragged in, tractor-beam style, whenever I'm within six blocks of the fabric store. And lately, I haven't been there so much.

I think that's largely about trying-on. A few weeks ago, I tried on a good two or three dozen garments at a local store, trying and rejecting style after style before finding a couple of things to actually buy. That's years' worth of sewing, at my turtlesque rate. Sewn, each different style would have involved choosing a pattern, fitting it, and making at least one muslin before I could have any real confidence that the style worked or failed on my body. And this new sense of discovery and rebellion just isn't prepared to wait for that. I want to try on things, and own things, right now.

And there's the "homemade" issue. While I would argue that the workmanship of many home-sewn garments is superior to that of many manufactured garments in terms of fit and durability and fabric quality and whether the buttons are going to merrily leap to the floor as soon as you're not looking, that doesn't change the fact that many of those home-sewn garments look home-sewn. And in my case, they don't have that magnificently hand-made designer "Oh, my God, this has real padstitching by hand!" look, or even that joy-of-creation look, but instead the "well, I'm sure that your skills will improve with time" look.

It's going to take a while for my skill to reach a point where I can confidently feel that my creations are as good as or better than store-bought. So I'm going for the joy-of-creation angle. For example, I finally almost finished the green Sewing Workshop Liberty Shirt that I cut out who-knows-how-many months ago (it still wants buttonholes and buttons), and I added (gasp) trim. Bright trim. Trim that I bought for the circus pajamas. Look look look--trim!

What circus pajamas, you may ask? Well, once again I've been looking at the discussion of the SWAP, or Sewing With A Plan, contest at Stitcher's Guild. And this time I thought that I'd go with an area that involves minimum stagefright: Pajamas. Gaudy, festive, circus-colored pajamas.

I won't finish the SWAP. Probably. I never have before. Though this time, I may well not finish because I make too many garments early--the SWAP doesn't officially start until December 26. I've already finished one pair of sleep shorts, in a fabric with multicolored swirls on a green background, with a "tuxedo stripe" down the side seams in orange ribbon with yellow swirls.

But that wasn't quite festive enough for me, so I went shopping for ribbon. The fact that it was Small Business Saturday and Fabric of Vision was having a Black Friday weekend sale on ribbons and trim made this step mandatory. Right? By the way, I found Cthulhu ribbon. OK, its designers no doubt think its octopus ribbon, but it's Cthulhu. Really.

And then I got that green shirt nearly finished and found myself eyeing the ribbon. And the shirt. And the shirt. And the ribbon. And the result is what you see in the photo. Joy of creation. Not gaudy enough for circus pajamas, but the gaudiness is limited because I plan to wear it outside the house. Preferably tomorrow, before I lose my nerve. If I don't get around to the buttons by then, I'll declare it a jacket and wear it over a tee. A bright plum-colored tee.

I've veered off subject, haven't I? Sewing, that is. And how it will mesh with the new fashion thing. Oh, and I failed to mention the Wildly Exciting Event that got me rushing back into sewing this weekend: I got my Murphy table!

See that table that the shirt is on? It's five feet long by three feet deep and it's hovering over the chaise shown in the second photo in the Chasing Color post. When I'm not using it, it folds up against the wall and I can flop down on the chaise again. I can now sew in my den and leave projects up just as long as I darn well please. Bwahaha!

The Murphy table was a joke when I first mentioned it. Then I kept coming back to it. Then Himself discussed it with Ben the Builder. Then the two of them designed it and Ben installed it. And now it's here, sprouting from my wall. This is ever so exciting.

Um. I'm not so much veering off subject as ambling around randomly. I suppose that my vague conclusion here is that I want my sewing to serve my new fashion interest, and that goal will require a plan. The closest thing that I have to a plan right now is:
  • Indulge in lots of Joy of Creation sewing, with a heavy focus on garments that I'll wear even with flaws in workmanship. Like pajamas. Aprons. Cooking coats. Petticoats and pettipants.
  • Use those garments to learn new skills that will apply to eventual streetwear garments. The tuxedo stripe on those pajama shorts was seriously flawed in workmanship, so I asked for advice while buying the ribbon, and brought home a tool for marking nice straight lines, a spool of invisible thread, and instructions to attach the trim by catching it in the edge of a zigzag stitch. I used those instructions on the shirt, and I'm rather pleased with the results. Pajama learning to street clothes learning in less than twenty-four hours. That's pretty good.
  • Keep working on reusable patterns that will support the fashion goal. The Liberty Shirt is one; now I need to pick the next one. Pencil skirt? A nice fitted raglan sleeve jacket? A dress?
Anyway, it's all fun, and that was the plan, right? Joy.

That is all.

Images: Mine.