Sunday, April 26, 2009

Smithson 2009: The Venue and the Menu

One thing that is consistent for any event held at the Smithsonian: the food is always fabulous and the setting is gorgeous. This year Bob remembered to take pictures not only of the clothes but of the food and surroundings.

The event took us to all three levels of the newly-remodeled National Museum of American History. The opening reception was on the lower level; the dinner was in the main hall on the second level, and dessert was on the upper level. Seen above are just some of the tables set for dinner. With more than 350 attendees, there were a LOT of tables. Each one had a unique flower arrangement.

This was our table (number 4). The appetizer was already in place when we got there, and there was a ribbon-wrapped program on the chair.

Before we got to eat, we were welcomed with remarks by Brent Glass, director of the NMAH, and by G. Wayne Clough (above), the new Secretary of the Smithsonian.

The appetizer: Crab and Avocado Tower with Lemon-Pepper Pletzel. I had no idea what a pletzel was; turns out it is similar to flatbread or a thin cracker. Very tasty. (And note the place card: again, it's the little details that make an event special)

I wasn't fast enough with my own camera to capture the amusing image of both Bob and the lady next to him photographing their plates.

The main course: Grass-fed Virginia Beef Tenderloin (which was amazingly delicious), Country Braised Short Rib Pot Pie (the little round thing at the top under the peas), Buttermilk and White Cheddar Whipped Potato (yum), Yellow Tomatoes, Spring Peas, and Spring Mushrooms.

The dessert: Lavender-Lemon Parfait with Blueberry Soup. Take a close look at the clear container holding the soup: it's not glass. It's ice. Can you imagine the logistics of having to prepare 350 desserts in ice cups and have them all look so perfect? The dish was accented with fresh lavender blossoms -- a lovely touch. I adore lavender anyway.

Bob said it was a good thing he chose to wear suspenders rather than a belt.

Cinderella's Home from the Ball

What a wonderful evening Bob and I had last night! This year's gala was a lot of fun, mostly because the Museum of American History afforded a lot of space for the attendees (350 of them!!), and several of the exhibits were open for perusal. There's really something glamorous about wandering through a museum exhibit while sipping wine and nibbling on canapes.

What I Wore
The opinions were overwhelmingly in favor of shortening the red dress and removing the sleeves. So that's what I did. I took a total of 12" off the bottom, serged the edge, turned it up and ran it through the blind hemmer. The sleeves were just sliced off right at the armscye with a sharp blade.
Originally, the dress had a full underskirt made of napped sateen drapery lining (remember, this whole dress was made out of drapery materials). I was worried this would be too hot (yesterday's temps topped the 80-degree mark), but I didn't want to sacrifice all the body provided by the underskirt. So I just lopped it off just below the hip. Didn't even bother hemming it. This gave me the best of both worlds: the skirt looked like it had a lot of body to it, but it still felt cool and comfy.

What Other Folks Wore
Lots of two-piece outfits. Lots of monochromatics. Not a lot of glitz and flash. Few long dresses. Nothing really outstanding this time around. As always, my husband Bob was my "spy", taking pictures throughout the evening.

(That's my friend Margaret on the right, in a beautiful embroidered duster she bought in Dubai.)

I really liked this dress; when the wearer stood still, it looked like a very straight sheath. But when she twirled! The effect was marvelous.

There was a fair amount of black and white to be seen.

Not a lot of drama in the clothing this year; one or two strapless dresses, a smattering of beading and sequins. Some cute handbags. But nonetheless, it was a grand evening; we finally left at 10:45 pm and that was only because my feet were starting to hurt (even though I was wearing ballroom dancing shoes, which are incredibly comfortable).

In my next post, a look at the venue and the menu!

Friday, April 24, 2009

What to wear now?

Well, I tried to come up with another design for a "cocktail dress" for tomorrow's Smithson dinner, and haven't had any luck. I tried one design, but the fit was really off and I just don't have the energy or enthusiasm to figure out how to fix it.
So, the next solution is to shop in my own closet. Gowns from the past years are all going to be too formal, I think, unless I take the drastic step of shortening one of them. Which isn't out of the question, of course.
One possibility is this dress, which I made two years ago and jokingly call my "cocktail dress":
Here's a closeup of the fabric:
(Hmm... no idea why it's showing up sideways) It's a quilting cotton, so my concern would be that it's just too casual for a real cocktail party.

Another option is to take the Smithson gown from two years ago:
Shorten it to mid-calf level and maybe remove the sleeves. The funny thing is, this is the same pattern I used to make the "cocktail dress".


A Non-Round Bolster Pillow

A local workroom asked me to make a pillow for one of their customers; they had seen a sample of the type of pillow at a drapery industry conference a few years ago.

The filler for the pillow is a standard 8" x 20" cylindrical bolster, but it finishes out as a square-ended bolster! It's not difficult to make; just a bit fiddly.

There are size pieces: four rectangles for the sides, and two squares for the ends. The sides are sewn together with contrast cording to form a tube. Then the same cording is sewn to the end squares.
For this particular pillow, the ends were hand-sewn onto the body of the pillow (with the form in place). This allowed for precise pattern matching.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Here Comes the Sun (dress)!

I finally finished Diana's sundress last night. When she saw the weather report for today, she asked me very sweetly if it was possible to have the dress ready to wear. As of 8pm Thursday, I hadn't gotten very far on it: I had cut the pieces out and marked the darts. That was it. Could I get it done?

Well, by 11pm it was finished. I had to take a few shortcuts, but they really aren't noticeable. Diana wore the dress today and said she got many compliments on it.

The fabric was from my stash; I think the floral print is a rayon and the black is a sandwashed silk.

The front view:
The only changes I made from the muslin version were to take about 1" out of the top circumference, lower the neck a little, and add about 5" to the skirt.

The side view:
It's hard to see, but there's a zipper in that side seam. It extends through the waist and down into the skirt about 5". It's a regular zipper, not an invisible (the busy floral really helps to hide it), and it was just topstitched in place. Like I said, I used some shortcuts!

The back view:
To determine the proper position and length of the straps, I had Diana try the shell of the dress on, and I pinned the straps into place.

At this point, the bodice of the dress didn't have the black triangle on it. When she tried the shell on, we agreed that the dress would look a lot better with the same triangular accent as the original dress we saw at Anthropologie (see the previous post about the muslin). Luckily, I was able to add a contrast triangle to the bodice front at this point. Then I added the lining (in the same sandwashed black silk as the black waist band) and finished it up.

Here's the bodice closer up:
She really likes the dress, and has said it's a "do-again". She's really fun to sew for!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Oh no... Changes for the Smithson Gown!

Oh boy, am I in trouble! I just found out that this year's Smithson Gala will not be a black tie affair!! The strapless gown I was planning will be much too formal now. What to do?!? Can I just make it cocktail length instead of floor length? Do I need to completely re-think the style??
I'm just glad I didn't get much further with it than the first muslin... I was too busy with the costumes and this week is Spring Break so I've been on a cleaning jag. I was hoping to get a good start on it over the holiday weekend. Now what?!?