Month: February 2017

Patriotic Protest Pantsuit

Ever since I got into sewing with vintage patterns I’ve been fascinated with the tunic pantsuits that seemed to be a part of every casual wear pattern in the 70s. I was born in 1973 and while I don’t exactly remember these garments from my childhood, they can be found all over my family photos and media from my toddler years. img_6576I’ve had a plan to sew my own version just for kicks for at least a year and a half. I decided to use Simplicity 5556, also from 1973, after making two versions of the dress from that pattern. Somewhere along the line I acquired a huge and cheap piece of blue and white double knit perfect for this project. I just needed to get around to sewing it.

In the run up to the election I was tentatively swept up in “pantsuit fever”. Despited my dearest hopes, I had my misgivings on how the election would really go. I considered trying to sew the pantsuit in time for Election Day. It would have been a crush but I could have done it. A friend suggested that I could wait and have it ready for The Inauguration. Since I was worried how I would feel if I burned the oil and it all went pear shaped, I took her suggestion.

And, as we know all now, it most certainly went pear shaped.

As soon as the Women’s March was announced, I considered going to Washington DC. In the end, I stayed and marched in Atlanta with old and dear friends who happened to be in town for the American Library Association convention. This was the time to make my pantsuit.

Since I had used part of the pattern before I felt like I had a decent chance of success without a mockup. I was a little concerned about the fit of the pants though. I measured my rise versus that of the pattern. It seemed like it would work and the tunic would come to the tops of my thighs anyway.img_2159It went together pretty quickly but it was looking pretty blah. I decided it needed a little jazz so I used my newly learned double needle trick to topstitch the neckline, all the hems and the tie belt with red thread. img_2160The pattern suggested that you could add a crease to the pants. I thought this would help tailor my look. To really accentuate the crease, and make life easier after washing, I sewed the pleat in, also in red. The only real problem was that somehow I managed to get one leg an inch shorter than the other! I’m not really sure how that happened. Maybe I am out of alignment these days? I’ve never noticed this on any other garments though. How odd. I had to make do since I didn’t quite have the extra inch to spare on the shorter leg. See if you can guess which one it was!img_2163In the end I wore my pantsuit with my 1976 bicentennial liberty bell pimp chain and a button I received with an Etsy purchase the day before the march. It was tucked in with a vintage pattern purchase. The button had clearly seen better days and its original pinback had been replaced with a safety pin. It reads “I Support America”. When I found it in my package, I really did not know what spirit the button was sent in but I took at as an omen and wore it.img_2208The day of the march it poured. We had scary storms and thunder so intense it knocked pictures off my neighbors’ walls. The start of the march was pushed back by 30 minutes. I debated on wearing my pantsuit in the pouring rain. I certainly gave up on any effort with my hair. I pushed the meetup time with my friends back and somehow, we managed to avoid the worst of the rain. Then the rain stopped. It was gray but we were ready. The estimate was 60,000 people marching, many of whom had come in the worst of the weather to get there. I certainly don’t blame people for not being sure. The storms that morning were downright frightening. I can only image how many people we might have had on a bright sunny day.img_2162I think in some ways my bling, button and pantsuit kind of confused my fellow marchers. I didn’t have a pink pussy hat or a protest sign. I could see how my oddly aggressive groovy patriotic garb might not “read”. Even if it didn’t resonate for others, it reminded me of everything that was a new step forward in 1973, everyone who had fought before and how we have to keep fighting. It was also really comfortable. Never hurts to have a comfy outfit for a protest!

As great as the Women’s March was, it was only one event. The hard work of fighting for and keeping rights was and is on going and is done generally without regard to glamour. But if you can make it a little glamorous by marching with friends in a handmade double knit pantsuit, it’s just that much better.

Setsubun Festival in Kyoto

On our current trip to Japan (we are in Tokyo for a few more days) we were in Kyoto for Setsubun, the day before the beginning of Spring in Japan. This holiday is always celebrated on February 3rd and is related to the Lunar New Year although Japan generally celebrates the New Year on the western calendar.

Setsubun is all about getting rid of the evils of the previous year and loading up on new luck for the coming year. Events are held at Shinto shrines all over Japan. The spot to be in Kyoto seemed to be at Yasaka Shrine (also a big tourist spot) so we headed there.

The throwing and eating of roasted soybeans is a central feature of Setsubun. At appointed times, priests, local maiko from Gion and probably some special civic guests get on the shrine’s stage and throw envelopes of beans into the assembled crowd. You eat one bean for each year of your age plus one in order to assure good luck for the year. img_2340

img_2334When we got to the shrine were was a good crowd. People were buying good luck amulets and other offerings. We thought you could only get beans buy catching them but it also turns out you could make a donation and buy yourself some luck for 300 yen ($3ish). In addition to the beans you got a kind of raffle ticket. img_2333You took the raffle ticket to another station and pulled out a number that corresponded to prizes that were being given out at yet another tent. Everyone won something.

img_2335Brownlee and I each bought two envelopes of beans so we got two prizes. I was the big winner with my small bottle of Cap Ace sake and insulated lunch bag. Brownlee won a can of Cocktail Friend (some of juice mixer) and a small box of plastic wrap! They even put your prizes in cute carrier bags featuring an illustration of a maiko tossing the beans.img_2338After receiving our prizes we queued up for the bean throwing. Three maiko did a lovely set of dances while accompanied by three geisha on shamisen before the tossing began. Once the beans were in the air, things got pretty rough (for Japan). I almost had my glasses knocked off. Older Japanese are pretty serious about grabbing their luck! We both managed to catch an envelope of beans. Mine literally hit me in the face.img_2347After all beans were thrown, we found a spot to sit down. We made ourselves little cocktails from our prizes and consumed our luck. Hoping for the best in the Year of the Rooster.