Last summer I bought some delicious seersucker fabric from Discount Fabrics, my wonderful local independent fabric store. It was a gauzy gingham, with the distinctive ridged structure of a seersucker weave.
I had a vintage pattern, that I'd bought from my friend Bethany at her garage sale. I was really interested in how this dress used striped fabric, on the diagonal bias for the bodice. This seemed like a fun challenge, in my ongoing campaign to teach myself to make clothes using vintage sewing patterns.
I may have gotten a little bit carried away with matching the pattern of the plaid in this fabric.
But really, who wouldn't want to get this just right? I can't be the only person who finds this kind of pattern-matching deeply satisfying.
This dress has dolman sleeves, which were a popular design feature in the 1950s. The sleeves are part of the bodice, rather than being structured as separate tubes, sewn into armholes.
The bodice looks an awful lot like a squished starfish. I have so much respect for people who can turn two dimensional fabric into three dimensional forms. This part of garment creation always hurts my brain.
At the suggestion of my friend Bruce, who's a tailor at the Metropolitan Opera, and who I've known since my high school Rocky Horror days, I flat-lined the seersucker bodice. This provided opacity and structure to my rather flimsy fashion fabric.
Robb and I go to a lot of estate sales. He heads for the hand-tools, and I go looking for the sewing kits. I'm a wee bit obsessed with vintage seam binding ribbon. And why not? It gives a beautiful neat finish to the insides of a garment.
I got this far last summer, and then just stopped.
I had an especially busy season at work. I had tedious health issues. Most of my sewing projects languished.
It took a deadline to get this project back on track. The Chico Seersucker Ride was fast approaching, which was the whole reason I'd started this dress in the first place.
We always look forward to the vintage cycling events in Chico. The people are delightful, the ride is well organized, and we take the opportunity to see friends who live in the area. There's a Tweed Ride around Thanksgiving and a Seersucker Ride in the spring.
However, last year's Tweed ride was not to be. Disaster struck, in the form of raging wildfires. The neighboring town of Paradise was destroyed by fires. Tens of thousands of people lost their homes. The air was unsafe to breathe. Nobody had time for a frivolous bike ride.
It was unspeakably strange to go back to Chico. We had dinner with our friend Greg, and at the end of the meal he invited us to see the site of his house. I'm still trying to think about what we saw, and what it means for everyone who lived in this once-beautiful town. You can look on my Instagram page for some of the photos. An entire town of homes, burnt to their concrete foundations. A forest of trees, burnt to charcoal. Hundreds of cars, with their plastic outer shells and rubber tires melted away, now bright orange with rust. A poisoned water supply.
To say this visit was an emotional experience would be putting it mildly.
And in the midst of this, life prevailed. The tall skeletal trees were surrounded by vigorous growth. Murals were painted on some of the remaining structures. School classes were held in teachers' living rooms.
The Seersucker Ride was a surreal diversion.