Saturday, March 30, 2013

Party Food: Marcia Cookies

Since we've been talking about parties all week, I thought I'd share what I actually brought to a birthday party last weekend. This cookie recipe is from my aunt, Marcia, and we all fondly refer to them as "Marcia cookies." I added a few of my own touches to this recipe, which I will note at the end. They're super easy to make, and I think they were all gone within thirty minutes of my arrival. Unfortunately, I left my beloved cookie tin at the party. When I asked my friend Eric if he had seen it, he said "what cookie tin? You mean that gross hollow cake we ate?" That was on monday, and I'm still laughing about it.

But, here's the recipe. I hope you enjoy these cookies:

Marcia Cookies:

What you'll need:
1 pkg Duncan Hines white cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 Tbs water
1 (6 oz.) pkg chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts (chopped)

What to do:

Mix cake mix, oil, water, and eggs; stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.


-This recipe makes abut three dozen cookies.
- I used Chopped walnuts for this as I don't have a pecan tree in my front yard here like I do in South Carolina.
- I used milk chocolate chips this time instead of semi-sweet. Just because I like milk chocolate more than dark.
- I threw in a few shakes of cinnamon to the batter. I liked the result.
- I also added a little pinch of salt. I dunno. I just thought it was a good idea.

I hope you enjoy the marcia cookies! I copied the original recipe right out of the First Baptist Church of Sumter, SC Bicentennial cookbook. What a classic.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Spinster Party Questions: Mornings

One of the things I like to ask people about is how things around their house were in the morning growing up. I can barely function as a human being with the whole apartment to myself in the morning, so I love to hear about other people's routines. Some people didn't eat breakfast at all, and some people had an actual meal all together at the table. At my house, it was a little bit of a free-for-all.

One of the coolest things about my mom is that she let us eat anything we wanted for breakfast. Though I was allowed to eat pizza or lasagna or ice cream for breakfast, I have always been a little bit of a creature of habit. I think I ate S'mores Pop Tarts every single morning for two years, and then I switched to Cinnamon Toast Crunch for another two. 

But food isn't what I mean when I'm asking about mornings at people's childhood homes. Breakfast at our house looked like this: My dad is a super morning person, and was all a-chatter singing and walking heavily around the kitchen, probably just having come home from work for breakfast and to take us kids to school. My sister would sit at the bar in the kitchen, her hair in curlers, waiting for her onion bagel with grated cheese to toast. My brother was a cheerios man for a long time before he graduated to egg sandwiches in middle and high school. My mom stood behind the counter in either her pajamas and thick glasses or a long tee shirt with mid-calf length leggings (ready for a serious power walk), making sandwiches or scrambling eggs. 

Once we were all ready to go, we filed out to Dad's navy blue 1976 Cadillac and looked to our right to see if the Coffmans were getting in their grey Olds. Every morning we raced the Coffmans to school The entire seven minute drive was a flurry of excitement on the velour seats. Sometimes Dad would even cut through the parking lot accross the street from Wilson Hall, and Joel Coffman, the younger of the brothers who was in my class at school, would insist in his Indiana accent, "that's illeeeeegal!" One morning, the Coffmans even blocked the end of our driveway so they could get a head start. 

Now the Coffman boys are a pilot and a professor, if I'm correct, and my brother, sister, and I were scattered across the east coast until Rachel moved to Louisiana, nearer the Gulf. I am sure, though, we all practice our morning rituals wishing that our day was starting with something as exciting as cutting through the parking lot of a Methodist church in a Cadillac that could have been mistaken for a hurst.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spinster Party Questions: Food

It's no secret that I like to eat the food. There isn't much food I don't like to eat. I'm pretty sure I have a hollow leg. And I'm pretty sure it's hereditary. My dad loves to eat, too. That's why it blew my mind when he told me he had never eaten pizza before he went to college. How could this be? Is this true? It is. So, one of my favorite party questions is "what was the thing you ate that made you say 'where has this been all my life?'"

There was a lot of food I hadn't tried before I moved to New York. I'd never eaten a samosa, bibimbap,  or a chicken foot, but even I am shocked by the fact that I'd never tried guacamole until I lived here. It had been around me all along, but I'd never tried it. And then one day I was a guest of a guest at a party, and there was some guacamole sitting on a coffee table, and I went for it. Well, now I can never go back. I like it on my salad, on some nice tostones, and of course, on the tacos.

As much as I like the guac, though, the thing that really blew my mind was falafel. How had I never eaten falafel before I moved to the city? Now I live in a neighborhood where I can get as much falafel as I want. Sometimes I even eat a falafel burger. That's basically just a giant flat falafel. On Sunday afternoon, at my spot here in Astoria, I had a delicious falafel wrap with tomatos, cucumber, hummus, tzatziki sauce, and feta cheese. And while I was eating it, I thought, "this is amazing." And that was an understatement.

So what blew your mind the first time you ate it?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spinster Party Questions: Music

Sometimes you can tell a lot about a person by the music they like. And then sometimes you can't. Either way, it's a fun thing to ask people at a party.

Every now and then when I ask someone what was the first album they ever heard that just really did it for them, I've never heard of the album or even the band that lit up their life. But most of the time, when I ask about the first album that ever blew someone's mind, the answer I hear makes me want to go straight home and make a new playlist. That is, if I'm not already in possession of their most favorite album.

I sang a whole lot of Raffi on road trips with my family. The first CD I owned was Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill. In high school, when I wasn't listening to Fiona Apple's Tidal,  I listened to Weezer's The Blue Album pretty much on repeat in my boxy white Jeep. All of these albums were awesome. But the first time I listened to Beyonce's B'Day, I felt something I'd never felt before.

I downloaded B'Day the day it came out. It was my last semester at the University of South Carolina, and I plugged my ipod into my Dell laptop, watched the bars creep across the download status bar, and headed off to class. With the first slap of bass, I was hooked. By the time I was halfway up the hill on Pickens, I was fighting the urge to dance. And when I clicked my ipod back on after Film Studies, I was ready for more. I wasn't just enjoying B'Day, I was excited to be listening to it.  Every track made me want to move. I had a hard time not participating with the step teams performing in front of the GMP on Hip Hop Hump Day. It was so. stinking. good.

I don't know many girls who don't like Beyonce, but I have to say any ambivalence I had for her ended the day B'Day dropped. Of course, who can be ambivalent about the woman who sang lead vocals on "Bootylicious?" Even now when I listen to B'Day, it just makes me happy. The album is excellent, but because of when I bought it, it reminds me of an excellent final semester of college and how much I loved USC. The real USC, ok? I don't want to hear any of your lip about Southern California. The University of South Carolina was founded first.

School pride aside, though, the story behind everyone's favorite album always has to do with more than just the music. And that's what makes this an excellent party question!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spinster Party Questions: Teachers

Not everyone liked school, but I'm willing to bet everyone had a favorite teacher. My next door neighbor, Hannah's was her fifth grade teacher, Mr. Temte. Mr. Temte shopped at some sort of surplus store of misfit toys and objects, keeping a stock of items in his room. During the week, he would hand out what he called "Temte Tidbits," as rewards for good behavior, etc. At the end of the week, Hannah tells me, Mr Temte would hold an auction for all the little misshapen, unshipable goodies, and Hannah was so excited to get what she described to me as a "warty sponge." I'm not sure what that was, but I am sure it was magnificent.

The party question here is, "who was your favorite teacher and why?" The names are always fun to hear, but the why is always better. I had a lot of great teachers, like Mrs. Ardis in fifth grade who took a look at my glow in the dark braces in the girls bathroom; Mrs. Gulden, who made up cheers for every letter of the alphabet for the first-graders; and Coach O'Hare who regaled us with stories of his mischievous childhood in Baltimore with a scoundrel named Kenny "Reds" Kessler. However, since Macky is already part of this series, I'm going to talk about our favorite fourth grade teacher: Mrs. Shaw.

Firstly, Mrs. Shaw's maiden name was Outlaw. That, in and of itself, was excellent. We all giggled with glee when she told us this morsel of information about herself. Mrs. Shaw was petite, and she was just...well, she was fun. I remember one day coming in the classroom after school and finding Elizabeth, digger of under-the-fence holes, hanging a very long banner fresh from a dot-matrix printer. Elizabeth was one of the first people I knew to have a computer or the internet. She introduced me to AOL Instant Messenger, and I must say I can attribute my expedient typing skills to her.

The banner Elizabeth was hanging had a big clip art image of a "sexy" woman in a red dress and heels on one end and a round, black, lit bomb on the other. Between the clip art, giant letters spelled out "Mrs. Shaw Is The Bomb." This is actually a true story, and it should, literally, spell out to you how we all felt about Mrs. Shaw.

But now to the part about Macky. Macky was small, wiry, and spritely all through elementary school. She's quite the comely lady these days, but back then she was just a skinny, cute ball of energy. On more than one occasion, while Mrs. Shaw was out of the room, Macky climbed under her desk, and perched on the support bar that ran across the bottom so that her feet wouldn't show underneath. When Mrs. Shaw Returned, she had quite a fright, or at least she pretended to. I'd like to think it was real. But she never got angry with us. She must've just loved kids. Macky inscribed her initials into the underside of Mrs. Shaw's Desk, and I hope they're still there.

Most people have at least a little bit of awesome to tell about their favorite teacher. But with Macky in a lot of my classes, I think my teachers were spurred to greatness and/or hilarity.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spinster Party Questions: Halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I like candy, and I like costumes, so obviously it's a perfect storm where I'm concerned. Of course, now I can't trick or treat, but this way I just buy the candy I really want. And no one will give me pennies or a toothbrush. Who ever heard of such? Who brushes their teeth? Ok, maybe I got carried away. I brush my teeth.

Anyway, I love to ask people what their best halloween costume was as a child. I have yet to meet anyone who's dressed as Scout Finch in the ham costume, but I have heard some pretty good ones. One of the best ones was a girl whose mom made her a home made sloth costume complete with long fingers. Pretty impressive.

My cousin Katie was a giant gift box, and my sister was a pumpkin. My favorite childhood Halloween costume, to no one's surprise, was a black cat. I wore a short sleeve black leotard, black tights, and my mom let me wear my tap shoes. And I loved it. And I love kittens.

So, the next time you're at a party, ask what everyone's favorite Halloween costume was. I'm willing to bet there will be some pretty cute and/or awesome answers.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spinster Party Questions: Birthdays

One of the least appealing things about getting older is the lack of awesome birthday parties. Even if you ask everyone to wear a costume, you're probably only going to get something like a 25% participation rate, which is sad. I will say, though, that when asked to wear the hand-made unicorn horns I brought to my twenty-sixth birthday party, my friends were nice enough to oblige. And, let's be honest; that's why we're friends. Not everyone's friends would be so game. If it had been my sixth birthday, though, everyone would have been all for unicorn horns and tails, too. Childhood birthday parties were the best.

When asking about everyone's favorite birthday party, I've found that you'll get a lot of hilarious answers. Some people loved a McDonald's birthday party, some got fired up about sports parties, and some liked a party with a special guest the very best. I have to admit, though, that my birthday parties though, were by far the most creative, thanks to my mom.

We'll start with the invitation. My mom always made up a poem to print and send to my guests instead of just a "who, what, when, and where" card. I wish I could call any of them to mind now. However, this set the tone.

Next, there was always a theme. A favorite was the '50s theme,but there was also the teddy bear tea party at which all the girls came dressed like their teddy bears. I've always been a breakfast fan, so one year I had a pancake party, and I think I'd like to have that one again. My mom arranged to have a real ballerina come for my ballet party. And how could I be a real fashion designer today had I not had a catwalk party with all my great aunts' old clothes from the '40s and 50s? 

Last year, my mom threw me yet another awesome party complete with a home made photo booth and miniature food. Amazing. 

So, I guess I'm the rude one when I ask this question because I know I'm going to win. #sorryimnotsorry

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spinster Party Questions: Outfits

On a giant bulletin board in my house in South Carolina, there's a photo of my dad on his twenty-first birthday wearing a very special outfit he had, no doubt, chosen for this special occasion. It's a matching ensemble which was clearly bought together comprised of snug mauve double knit flare leg pants and a matching plaid double knit shirt with solid mauve exaggerated cuffs and a fly collar. As my dad would say, he was "lookin' good." My mom, on the other hand will just laugh and shake her head.

"When I met your dad, he was washing his hair with a bar of soap. His Hair looked like a Brillo pad, and his pants were too tight." She always says she loved him so much it didn't matter.

We've all had those outfits, though. Whether they actually looked as good as we thought they did or if everyone was laughing at us behind our backs, we've all stepped out thinking "man, I look good." And that outfit, my friends, is a thing I like to ask about as one of my spinster party questions.

I asked the outfit question on a work trip to New Jersey one time, and I got some pretty good answers. In a car full of fashion designers, we could have spent the entire ride discussing great and not-so-great outfits we'd owned that, at the time, seemed really brilliant. My friend Kathryn's favorite was a dress with a good twirl factor. But my friend deb's outfit was a real cake-taker.

Deb is one of my favorite people. She's hilarious yet measured, and I think that for a long time after she met me I don't think she remembered my name. So, in lieu of my name, she referred to me as "wolf buddy," because of the three-wolf-moon that is currently one of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe.

These days, Deb's style is simple, sophisticated, and understated. (Re: Mostly black. We're fashion designers). But, when I asked deb on that road trip, the outfit she described sounded pretty darn magnificent. Deb's favorite outfit was a two-piece cut and sew knit affair consisting of biker shorts and a tee shirt that both sported the same all over fruit print. So, she was just one big fruit print. Amazing. I liked the idea of this so much, I had to make a drawing. Also, I made it because I like to imagine Deb as a fruit-covered child.

Like Kathryn, my favorite outfit was in possession of excellent twirlability. A fuchsia twill dress with brightly colored teapots printed all over, my go-to was a very full a-line from neck to knee, topped off with a large, white, circular collar. My mom and I had found something upon which we could agree an that fateful day in Talbot's Kids, and I wore that teapot dress like I was getting paid for advertisement.

In recent years, I have purchased a dress of similar body shape but without the collar in a nice chambray from the Gap. I have to admit that it is one of my absolute favorites. Somehow, though, I now have less opportunity to twirl when I'm wearing it. But there's probably a group for that here in New York.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spinster Party Questions: Recess

As a spinster, it's important to be able to talk to people about interesting things. You want people to know that you're not alone because you're boring or socially inept. You're alone because...well, there's really no reason other than you're supposed to be alone right now. Sometimes, though, you meet someone with which none of your interests coincide. And for this, I have devised party questions. It's not ground breaking, but it usually works. As you'll find over the next few days, most of my go-to party questions have to do with childhood. So today's question is: What was your favorite thing to play at recess?
My friend Phoebe had the best answer to this question thus far with a game she and her friend used to play in her childhood home-village. Phoebe and her friends used to make a game of seeing who can sit the most still for the longest. This sounds like an authority figure's dream. Phoebe was a real champion at this game, too. She said that once she was so still for so long that she let a bug crawl across her face and didn't even move. Amazing.

I don't remember a specific game I used to play in childhood, but I do have two specific recess Memories. The first is that my friend Elizabeth and I, for what seems like it was weeks, tried to dig under the fence of the playground in efforts to escape school and run away. I am really surprised we were never successful what with all that time spent digging. 

The second is that my friend Macky and I one day found an ant in our fourth grade classroom. Before recess, the ant met its untimely demise, and we decided to have a funeral for it at recess. Macky stipulated that everyone had to wear at least one black thing in order to attend the services. She, of course, had worn her black raincoat that day and would be leading the procession. The ant's final resting place was through the gate and to the left, and Macky Glued the ant to an index card in lieu of a coffin. And there was a very somber eulogy. Now, nearly twenty years later, I wonder if the ant's family still visits it's grave, leaving crumbs on the burial site. 

Try this at your next awesome party when you're not discussing old episodes of Frasier. Because I know you do that, too.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Some Cat Photos

Today at work I had to take a little moment and look at some cats. I looked at photos scottish fold kittens. But today I just thought I'd share some of the cat photos I found on my phone. Because, of course, I am a cat person, and I take photos of cats on my phone. Just in case I need to see some at any point.

The Photo you'll find to the right is  photo of Kate, one of the cats that now owns my childhood home in South Carolina. Kate remembers me every time I come home, and she runs for the hills as soon as I set foot in the door. All I want to do is love, you Kate. I can't help it that you inspire cuteness aggression in my heart. She does look so regal in this photo, though. And her coat is really soft. How could I not squeeze her?

The next photo here is of Kate's sister, Coco. Coco is a fatness, and she hates me as well. My mom says it's because I call her fat, but she is fat. She's so fat she has hip problems. But does that make me want to squeeze here less? Obviously the answer is no. On the Left she's lying on an oriental rug in our house, but to the right, she's participating in one of her favorite winter activities: spreading her whole body out in front of the fire. I think the heat causes her to expand. Coco will bite you if you don't watch out.

Upon reviewing these photos of Coco once again, I'm wondering if she doesn't have some kind of morbid hobby like in Harold and Maude. Either that, or she's attempting to pretend she's dead every time I'm around as a means of deterring me from trying to play with, pet, or cuddle her. That sly devil.

Next we have this beautiful specimen of a cat named Sylvia. At least, that's how I think her name is spelled. She's never corrected me. Sylvia lives in a beautiful house out toward Dalzell, SC with her pets, Cindy and William James. I'm sure you can tell by looking at her expression and her fine white coat that she is, indeed, the queen of her domain. Sylvia is a friendly cat, but I'm not going to lie to you. Even she doesn't like me much. Last time I saw her, she let me pet her for a while, and then she threatened to bite me if I didn't leave her alone.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed some spinsterly cat time today. I know that just looking at these fatnesses has made me feel a little better.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spinster Workout

About a year and a half ago, I was running seven miles three to four times a week. Then, I got my wisdom teeth out, threw up on the train, and just got plain lazy. But, with the help of my friend Monica, I've gone to Yoga a whopping two times in the past two months. I know. You're impressed. I'm really trying, though. And I like the yoga. More than that, though, I like the brunch that comes afterward.

This sunday, the ladies and I went to yoga at Yoga To the People on St. Marks place downtown. Behind us was a man in what I can only describe as denim briefs. They weren't even cutoffs. When I got there, he was doing a handstand, and then doing pushups in the handstand. Before class, he told Monica that she should be quiet, and I don't want to call any names, but something smelled of...sulfur...during the class. I think you know what I mean by that.

All in all, the class was really nice and a good workout. I'm still sore right now, but hopefully the more I go, the more I'll be able to take. My favorite part, of course, is the part at the end. The part where you're supposed to relax and lay on your back. This time, I was peacefully enjoying having found my breath when I felt a bit of pressure on my forehead. "What's this?" I thought. And then I realized. The girl behind me, the girl for whom Mr. Brief Jorts had saved a place,  was sitting on my forehead while she rolled up her mat. Her legging-wearing, post-yoga behind was on my forehead. I wanted to say something, but I was too afraid of what someone who can do handstand-pushups might do to me. So I let it go. I just hope she wasn't the source of the...smells.

And...that's the end of that story.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday: Tales from this weekend.

Necklaces at Bendel's

Generally you make a weekend recap post on a sunday night or a monday morning. But nope. Now that you're over the Monday hump, we're going to talk about my spinsterly weekend, complete with a pictorial. (I'll be honest. You just need to look at the photos. They're kind of the whole point)

Friday Night: Left work, went to Lord and Taylor to buy some Bobbi Brown, and the girl asked if she could do my eye makeup. I mean, come on. Did she even have to ask? She could call me at home, and I'd show up to let her paint my whole face with eyeshadow. So, that was amazing.
Next stop: Bendel's. I walked from Lord and Taylor to Henri Bendel and allowed myself to be stopped by another makeup counter lady. And I let her do my makeup again. So what? It was awesome. And then someone else stopped me, and I let them do my makeup, too. That's right. Three coats, and I loved them all in their own special way.
     Then I went upstairs and checked out all the fabulousness and, of course, I snuck some photos of the jewelry. AND, I had the pleasure of meeting Maxwell and Anthony of Pin Ups who design fascinators, turbans, hats, and hair accessories. And one of them was from Savannah! I love to meet a fellow southerner.

After that: I checked out (and photographed) the windows at Bergdorf's, and they were awesome. Then, of course, I came home and was lazy for the rest of the night.

Key from Saturday's package
Brownies and sweet tea for breakfast
Saturday: Really spinstered out. I picked up a beautiful package from the wonderful proprietress of which included a beautiful painting by her cherub of a son, as well as a hand made button-cross and a custom key to my house in South Carolina. Very exciting.

Then I made Brownies, and I ate one. And I also watched Young AdultLars and the Real Girl, and Hick, all worth watching on Netflix. And also there was some sweet tea involved.

Pat writes out her chicken recipe
And then I ate Brazillian food and saw The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. And that was hilarious.

Sunday: Yoga with the ladies, followed by some delicious Ramen and then peanut butter gelato. Aaaand...that's actually all the photos I have for you. 
Post Yoga Ramen


Want more photos? Check follow my instagram: @jonezee85

Monday, March 18, 2013

And, We're Married

Though I probably should, I don't read a lot of relationship self-help books. I do, however, engage in quite a bit of discourse with my other spinster friends regarding male-to-female relations. Most of the time, I come away thinking the outlook is pretty bleak. But, like a lot of single ladies, that doesn't ever stop me from having a prolonged, imaginary relationship with anyone who so much as looks at me sideways and is at least marginally attractive. Oh yeah, I just admitted that.

The funny, thing, though, is that apparently a lot of people do this. In fact, in the one relationship advice book I have actually read, Greg Behrendt's He's Just Not That Into You, Behrendt devotes a significant amount of writing to telling women to stop being so excited about men they've just met. I'm not going to lie. I'm guilty of this, like, 99% of the time I meet anyone at all.

I thought only women were guilty of this bizarre (as "normal" guys would have us think) practice and preoccupation, but apparently David Foster Wallace was also familiar with this concept. I've been reading Infinite Jest for what seems like a million years, but last week I happened upon a bit of text that proves at least one man (David Foster Wallace) was aware of this phenomenon. Though, in DFW's account, this is a special practice of male drug addicts, the telling here made me laugh with recognition: "If a halfway-attractive female so much as smiles at Don Gately as they pass on the crowded street, Don Gately, like pretty much all heterosexual drug addicts, has within a couple of blocks mentally wooed, shacked up with, married, and had kids by that female, all in the future, all in his head, mentally dandling a young Gately on his mutton-jointed knee..."

This is a refreshing passage, though, as Don Gately seems to actually believe in marriage, unlike roughly 105% of single men in New York who live with the "romantic" notion that a relationship is actually stronger "without a piece of paper." I had hoped Beyonce's "Single Ladies" had done more to explain this concept.

But I digress. While Don Gately's character makes me feel a little better, I'd hate to think that single women are the only un-narcotized beings who receive a google calendar invite or a gchat and automatically start practicing their new monogram, planning their wedding, and naming their children. But unfortunately, I think this may be true. And, of course, this is why I write The Spinsterhood Diaries. So, the next time you receive a Facebook party invite, stalk that person's photos and immediately text your BFF, "And...we're married," just know, I do the same thing, girl. I really do. And I'm definitely not actually married in real life. But you know what? Sometimes I think there just might be a guy out there who will like that about me and will maybe even text his BFF to tell him we're married before we've even gone on our first date. You never know. It could happen, right?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spinster Drink: Sweet Tea

You don't have to be as spinster to love some sweet tea. You don't have to be from the south, either. But since I'm up north, I have to brew my own. So, today we're taking a break from all this fashion talk to have some recipe time. This is so easy, you'll start bringing it as your party drink. I bring it to parties all the time since I'm a nondrinker, but apparently it's a great mixer, too.

I know the photo here is of a glass pitcher, but most people in the south use a (most of the time blue) plastic pitcher with a lid that fits easily on the refrigerator door. If you're taking it to a party, though, You should brew it in the pitcher and then pour it into an empty water jug you get from the store. This way you can just leave the tea there. Because, let's be honest. It's pretty heavy.

What you'll need:
1 Gallon Sized Pitcher
1 Pot or tea kettle
1 1/2 Cup Sugar
4 regular Lipton Tea Bags or 2 Family sized Lipton Tea Bags

What to do:
1. Boil about 1/3 gallon of water on the stove. Just make sure there's enough water so the sugar will dissolve easily.
2. While you're waiting for the water to boil, pour the 1 1/2 cups sugar into your plastic gallon pitcher.
3. Once the water boils, pour it over the sugar and then stir it until all the sugar is dissolved.
4. Put the tea bags in the sugar water and make sure they're submerged. Put the lid on the pitcher and wait for five to ten minutes or until the mixture is about the color of weak coffee. You want it to look like it'd be a bitter cup of tea.
5. Once the tea is dark enough, remove the teabags, throw them away, and fill the rest of the pitcher with water and stir.
6. Leave the tea out until it's cooled a little and then refridgerate.
7. Serve Iced with or without lemon.
8. Enjoy!

Now, don't go overboard with this once you realize you love it. I'm petty sure this is how Paula Dean got diabetes. But sometimes I like to drink it in the morning. And of course at lunch and/or dinner. And all the time. Heaven help me.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Real Fashion Designer: Dirty Little Secrets

When Fashion is portrayed in movies and on TV, inspiration comes from all kinds of places: art, music, history, architecture, and so many other things. In real life, it usually just comes from other clothes. Today, we're going to discuss this one of fashion's dirty little secrets in all its many forms.

1. Internet research.
          A. Blogs:
                    Almost every single fashion designer I know follows a list of her favorite design-, style-, and fashion related blogs every single day. I like to get to work early to catch up on my top blogs. What are my top choices, you ask? Well, here's a list of my top 12: Miss Moss, Design Sponge, RookieMag, Oh Joy!, Design Is Mine, Honestly...WTF, Tomboy Style, The Selby, The Sartorialist (of course), Print and Pattern, and Who What Wear. I spend a little bit each morning just scanning these to see if there's anything new or interesting. Then, if I feel it's necessary, I save it to my desktop or pin it to a pinboard on Pinterest. A lot of designers get their inspiration images from blogs.
          B. Runway Shows:
                    Despite what many of you may think, just because you're a fashion designer, doesn't mean you can always get tickets to a fashion show. In fact, the show I saw this season (Milly), I was only able to attend because my cousin Katie gave me her tickets. What Luck! So, since we designers don't actually go to the shows, during Fashion week, and the weeks after (also London Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, and Milan Fashion Week), we stay abreast of what's being posted on, taking whatever images we think are appropriate for what we might be doing. At one company where I worked, we even printed out every single look from every single runway show so that an intern could cut them all out and mount them according to trend on what seemed like hundreds of large foam core boards. And we wonder why global warming is happening. I might wager it has a lot to do with the fashion industry.

          C. Online shopping:
                    Now, it may come a s surprise to some of you that this is actually where Fashion designers get their "inspiration." Each company has a list of designers they regularly follow and research, and sometimes they even buy their samples. This gives an idea of what's "out there" in the market. Generally, in the concepting stage, a designer will print out images of what's available that may fit into their particular brand, and pin them all to a board as "inspiration" and "concept."

2. In-Person reserach:
          A. Local Shopping:
                    The design process usually begins around a year in advance of when the actual goods would ship. As such, if a designer is designing for, say, Spring 2014, they will go into stores to do research during sprint 2013. Unfortunately, though, at some companies the time-and-action calendar is so far ahead, there is nothing to reference in stores when the time comes. However, local shopping always happens.
                    Local shopping can happen either just with the design team or with the design and merchandising teams. These people will go out together to a select group of local stores that they see as either "competitive" or "aspirational," and look at what each store has to offer. Most of the time they buy any samples they deem relevant to that season's theme, concept, or the brand at large. These are termed "inspiration samples."

          B. Travel:
                    Sometimes when a company's development calendar is too far in advance of a season, teams will travel to other parts of the world who are currently experiencing that season. For example, if your calendar dictates you design swimwear in the middle of winter, you may travel to a South American country to research swimwear as there is none available stateside.
                    Often, though, travel has nothing to do with seasonality. For most american fashion companies, it is still very important to know what is happening in the european market: namely London, Paris, and Milan. Other cities, though, such as Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Seoul are also frequently shopped for inspiration. From these trips, the travelers return with suitcases and suitcases of inspiration from around the world. But don't get too excited. Most of the time, only the highest level of employee is allowed to travel.

          C. Presentation:
                    Once all the shopping is done, there is a huge presentation (or several different presentations) of all the samples and their important details. From here and all the internet research, not a photo of beautiful architecture or a painting or an ethereal photo of a garden of flowers, the line is designed.

So, there you have it. Fashion's dirty little secrets. Sometimes they even send a while "inspiration sample" overseas to be copied, sent back, and returned to the store. However, I've only seen that happen at one company, and I suppose I won't mention names. At least not today, I won't.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Real Fashion Designer: Interviews

Thumbnails from an old portfolio
Now, what I'm going to talk about today is only from my own personal experience. It's certainly not the only way to go about things, and I'm sure there's at least one person out there for whom this method wouldn't work. However, it's a starting point. I just wish there'd been a practical guide to fashion interviews when I left school. I'm pretty sure I've bombed my fair share. But, hopefully this helps someone.

Part I: How to Get an Interview

1. Go to Fashion School. Sorry, you have to. It's the best way to ensure you'll at least have a fighting chance.

2. Have as many internships as you can (but not all at once.)
          Now, if you're a person who's gone to college and then gone to fashion school afterward, I understand the appeal of the accelerated program. That is, in fact, what I did. However, there is something to be said for the amount of opportunity for internship a longer program can offer. The best way to get internships is through your school. Through the internships, you'll meet people, and it's possible they'll want you back again. On the flip side, if you hate it at one of the companies where you intern, you'll just know you don't want to work there. The key here is to try and get at least one year's worth of internships in before you have to apply for jobs. In my experience, the more recognizable the name, the better.

3. Make contacts at your internship and keep them.
          The bigger the company at which you intern, the better this works. What you want to do here is firstly, work hard and be good at your internship. Managers like to have a willing intern who's there to learn and help. The better you're able to do this, the more they'll like you and want to keep in touch. Also, if you're really nice and likeable, that's always helpful, too. Managers know how hard it is to be an intern, so the better you are at dealing with the stresses involved, the more they'll probably notice.
          On most teams, there's usually a person who likes to talk to the interns or give them advice. Though you might find it condescending, pump this person for as much advice and information as you can. They have a job, and they're giving out this information for free, so take it. Chances are, this person will be the one who's most willing to help you find a job when the time comes.

4. Have a LinkedIn.
          The longer I'm in the fashion industry, the more effective my LinkedIn account is. Recruiters will just contact you whenever they have an opening if your profile fits the bill. I will say, though, that this may be less helpful for you in the beginning than it is later on when you have more years on your Resume. Again, though, I think the more big names you have on your list here, the more likely you are to get contacted.

5. Put the word out.
          Remember that person you asked all those questions in #3? Make sure you have a legitimate relationship with this person and as many other fashion industry people as you can. In the beginning this won't be so easy, but the longer you're in, the more people you'll know. But, when you're looking for a job, just put the word out there to some key people that you're looking, and see if they know any HR people or recruiters. You never know. They might...and they also might not. So, be prepared for that.

Part II: What to Bring

Once you've got an interview, your next focus should be what you bring. In fact, in one of the emails you exchange with the Human Resources person, you should ask them if there's anything particular they would like to see. Sometimes they will have a list or a project, and sometimes they won't. If they don't, then you can use the below for a little checklist.

1. Five copies of your resumé.
          Almost invariably, they haven't brought a copy to the meeting, and you may meet with more than one person at any given interview. Make sure you have enough copies to hand out. Also, in case they didn't tell you this in school, your resumé should absolutely not exceed 1 page. Edit it, or use smaller font. They won't read past the first page.

2. Your Portfolio.
          A designer from J. Crew once told me that my portfolio should represent the kind of work I want to do. When you're looking for your first job, sometimes you can't be that choosey, but it is a good thing to keep in mind. Your Portfolio should have three main elements: a special project, flat sketches, examples of work you've done at an internship or previous job.

     - The Special Project.
            No one will tell you that bringing a special project to a first interview is mandatory, but I have found it's quite effective. Essentially, before you find out whether or not you've definitely got an interview at a specific company, start doing your research. You'll want to look at their website in great detail, check out their runway show if they have one of those, and visit a store. Next, you'll want to do a little research on the people with whom you'll be interviewing. You should be able to find the names of the design staff via LinkedIn if HR hasn't already told you. See if you can find their Pinterest. If you can, you're golden.
          After you've done this research and think you've got a feel for what kinds of things the people who already work at the brand like, you'll want to start conceptualizing your project. Put together a mood board for the coming season. This will be much easier for you if you've been making a habit of daily checking design blogs.
          The next part will be the color story. Since you probably won't have access to Pantone chips, you  can do what I do: use embroidery floss and make little bundles of yarn to indicate the colors you'd like to use. Additionally, you might want to include some fabrics, but don't be too crazy with the novelty fabrications. You can probably only wear one really "special" fabric in an outfit, so keep that in mind.
          Now comes the fun part: the sketching. I find it's really effective to have a bunch of thumbnail sketches - like, maybe ten to 20 - followed by five more finished illustrations of your favorite looks. At the end, you'll want to also add a few flat sketches made in Illustrator, just to show a completed project.

     - Flat Sketches.
          Your special project is really only to show that you have a design sensability. What they really need to know, is can you make flat sketches in Adobe Illustrator, and have you mastered this program. So, make sure you've got some really good flat sketches in there that were not made by hand. This is really important.

     - Examples of work you've done at a previous internship or job.
          This is a really cool thing to include, and it shows them you have a handle on the design process. Ideally, this will include but not be limited to the following: A flat sketch, a tech pack and a line sheet, all of which you should have made at your internship or job. Bonus points if your tech pack is from a PLM or PDM program. They like to see this.

Part III: What to wear.

Don't get too crazy. Your portfolio should speak for itself, not your crazy outfit. When in doubt wear black. When in more doubt, make it a dress. Unless you're a guy. Then don't. Look clean, and comb your hair. They know you're young, you don't have to rub it in their face by being slovenly.

Ok. Well, if your eyes aren't hurting from all this text, I hope I've helped you with something today. And if you're not trying to get a fashion interview, I'm sorry you've gotten this far. But maybe it was a little interesting?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Real Fashion Designer: Things to hide in a fashion office

Today's post is something, I think that is not unique to fashion offices. I'm fairly sure that there's at least one employee in every office with sticky fingers from whom you should hide things. In a fashion office, there are certain things you should just always hide, because some potentially innocent person may just come by and "borrow" them. So, below you'll find a list of things you should hide if you're working with a bunch of fashion designers.

1. Fabric scissors.
          Before I went to fashion school, I had no idea there was any difference between scissors you use for fabric and scissors you use for paper or anything else. But, let me tell you, there's a big difference. Your fabric scissors must always and only cut fabric, and they will stay very, very sharp. In a fashion office, this is well known but sometimes ignored. You must always label your scissors with your name and whether they are fabic or paper scissors because some standing near your desk who is in great need of some paper scissors will "innocently" swipe the first pair of scissors they see and just cut all the paper in the whole office. And then the next time you try to make some tassels or cut some ribbon, you might as well be gnawing at the fabric, yarn, or ribbon.

2. Double Sided Tape.
          Every fashion designer keeps two tape dispensers at their desk: one for regular tape, and one for double sided tape. The double sided tape always goes so much faster than the regular tape, and everyone is always trying to "borrow" (re: keep) some. I'm pretty sure they all secretly wear wigs and toupees and are just trying to keep them on. And can you blame them? A toupee that's gone askew is really embarrassing.

3. Your Good Pens.
          Everyone has a favorite kind of pens that  make them relish a meeting note or a well-timed phone conversation doodle. My favorite are Pilot Precise V5 Premium Rolling Ball Pen. I'll admit I am often an accidental pen-stealer, but when I buy my own special multicolored pens, I hide them in my desk drawer and only take out one at a time. They are my pens. I want to use them.

4. Your Pencil Sharpener.
          For some inexplicable reason, pencil sharpeners are extremely scarce in fashion offices. I guess they assume you'll use mechanical pencils or pens, but I like a good old-fashioned wood pencil sometimes. Apparently, so do a lot of other people, and they want to use your pencil sharpener. And they will accidentally keep it every time. And then what are you supposed to do with all your dull pencils?

5. Your Snacks.
          I am an admitted snack-hoarder, but in my mind I have good reason. Sometimes I need a little pick me up in the form of a sweet treat in the afternoon or any time, really. Knowing this about myself, I make sure to have some emergency supplies on hand in the inevitable event that I will need a a little something sweet. I go to the store, thoughtfully pick out what I'd like to have, purchase it, and carry it to the office for slow and measured consumption. Ok, well, maybe sometimes it's not so slow or measured, but that's the idea. The point, though, is that I bought those treats because I need treats. I bought them because I wanted and needed them. I did not buy them for you. I need them. So don't be eating my candy. And that's why I have to hide my candy.

So, now that you know that, I'm sure you're either thinking "wow, you're insane," or, more likely, you're thinking, "obviously! How could anyone even think about eating someone else's candy?" And if you're thinking that, that's why we are friends.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Real Fashion Designer: The Design Hierarchy

When I was in my last semester of school, like everyone else, I started applying for jobs. The country was in the middle of a recession, and the job postings were scarce. Not only were postings hard to find, but I had no idea what I was doing. I'm pretty sure some I gave some HR departments a good laugh by submitting my resumé for Senior Designer Positions. To this day, I cringe at the thought. So, today, I want to give a little guide to the design team hierarchy, starting with the lowly intern.

1. The Intern (Entry Level)
          What you think you'll be doing: Learning about design teams, giving your input as a hip, young team member, and impressing your manager with your creativity, making a quick transition to a full-time, paid employee.
          What you'll actually be doing: Making copies, making binders, organizing samples, reorganizing samples, steaming samples, burning yourself with the steamer, filing a mountain of papers your manager has been saving for whatever intern her or she gets, running errands, working incredibly hard in hopes of being noticed and getting hired full time, fighting with the printer, and potentially getting coffee.

2. The Design Assistant (Entry Level plus a previous internship or ten - some people skip this step)
          What you think you'll be doing: Designing things, sketching flats, giving valid input on designs, returning triumphantly to your hometown as a "fashion designer."
          What you'll actually be doing: Preparing color cards, making line sheets, making binders, printing, reprinting, making photocopies, steaming, organizing samples, cutting swatches, preparing boxes to send to vendors, tagging samples, crying in the street.

3. The Assistant Designer (1-2 years of experience)
          What you think you'll be doing: Designing things, sketching flats, CADing prints, giving valid input on designs, getting lots of contacts via LinkedIn for Associate Designer positions.
          What you'll actually be doing: Making line sheets, making sketches that you'll then re-sketch and re-sketch again, printing, photocopying, organizing samples, tagging samples, recoloring prints (depending on where you work), updating and re-updating tech packs and BOMs, mocking up samples,  running around like crazy, being guilted into working 12 hour days, getting familiar with the takeout options around your office, plotting revenge on the malfunctioning printer, calling your mom to complain and cry about work.

4. The Associate Designer (2-4 years experience)
          What you think you'll be doing: Designing things, getting your way, having more input than you had as an assistant designer, fooling your non-fashion friends into thinking your actually very high up and important.
          What you'll actually be doing: Sketching your own ideas, changing your sketches to someone else's ideas, CADding prints (depending on where you work), mocking up samples, creating tech packs, creating BOMs, updating BOMs, being the Designer or Senior Designer's right hand, wondering when you'll get to really design something that stays that way at least until the proto stage, getting really good and really fast at Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, realizing you would much rather have pad thai for 9 PM office dinner than a stupid salad, posting photos of kittens in your cubicle to boost positive feelings, crying less often, becoming passive-aggressive with the printer.

5. The Designer: (4-6 years experience)
          What you think you'll be doing: Getting your way (finally), designing everything, impressing everyone you know with how important you now are, having an easier time dealing with all your cross-functional partners.
          What you'll actually be doing: Trying to figure out what someone actually wants you to design so you can preempt the re-sketching process, guessing wrongly and still having to re-sketch, trying the just-knock-off-the-sample strategy and discovering that doesn't work either, start drinking more caffein, keeping a secret stash of chocolate in your desk (if you haven't already started at this point), forging actual friendships with your desk neighbors because you spend more time together than with anyone else, keeping a pharmacopia of different kinds of headache medication in your desk drawer, wondering if the security guard is single because you don't know any single straight men anymore, wishing and hoping for your first assistant or intern, starting to mutter "baby kittens" to yourself under your breath as a calming mechanism, staying late so you can have the printer all to yourself.

6. The Senior Designer (6-9 years (estimate))
          What you think you'll be doing: Being in charge!
          What you'll actually be doing: managing an intern, an assistant, and/or an associate designer in addition to going to a million meetings, making your own design sketches and then fighting with your merchants to get your designs at least sampled. And then more meetings. The good news, though, is that at this point, you have effectively severed ties with the printer and now only communicate with it via one of your assistants.

7. The Design Director (unclear)
          What you think you'll be doing: Being really in charge!
          What you'll actually be doing: Probably being in charge? I don't know. I can't even imagine making it this long in the fashion industry.

8. The VP of Design (unclear)
          What you think you'll be doing: Really being really in charge.
          What you'll actually be doing: Being sort of in charge of design, but mostly going to meetings and being told what to do by the Presidents and things. At most design companies, as a designer, the highest position you can achieve is Vice President. The presidential roles are saved for the likes of those with an MBA, and understandably so. Hopefully, though, by the point anyone reaches "VP of Design" status, they've since stopped crying in the street but are potentially still keeping a secret stash of chocolate in their drawer. I like to imagine that, at least.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Real Fashion Designer: Vocabulary

Today I'd like to review a few fashion vocabulary terms with you. Some of these are things I learned in school, and some of them I had to sheepishly ask to have explained in a meeting. This list is by no means comprehensive, but I will give you ten of the words I think I use the most.

1. Tech Pack: This word means different things at different companies. Overall, though, it refers to the computer file with information about the specifications to which you'd like the factory to make your garment or item. This file usually contains several different vector-based drawings and diagrams of the item you're having made, displayed at different angles with callouts to different details.

2. Callouts: This refers to the textual information added to the sketches in the tech (or TP, as it's often called). Sometimes this is a measurement, and sometimes it's instructions on how to attach a trim or construct a seam. 

3. Bill of Materials: Most commonly referred to as the "B.O.M.," filling out this form is, by no means, the bomb. The bill of materials is basically a data entry form a designer has to complete with information regarding the fabric, trims, thread, tags, labels, and packaging for each garment. For each item you have to enter a reference code, a color, and in the case of buttons, the number of items to be included. The B.O.M. can be incredibly frustrating as every time a change is made to a garment, the designer has to go back into the data entry system, update the information, note that a change has been made, save the file, and send an email to their production partner to notify them that the change has, in fact, been made.

4. PLM or PDM: This stands for Product Lifecycle management or Product Data Management. These are essentially data entry systems that connect all segments of the design process via online files. The designer has to create the original files and enter all the information such as fabric, trims, construction, sketches, other images, and sometimes specs. If Design does not enter specs, the next step in the process is to "hand off" the file to the tech designer via an email saying the file is available.

5. Tech Designer: These people are experts in fit, measurements, and construction. Every time a designer receives a sample, they have a fit meeting with their tech design partner in which they either fit the garment on a dress form or a fit model to evaluate whether the garment fits properly or is correct to spec.

6. Fit Model: A person who is considered a "perfect" example of whatever the standard fit size is for a fashion company. This means their key points of measurement (or POMs) are the same as a dress form of their same size. Fit models are also often asked how garments feel and whether or not they are comfortble.

7. Sample: When a designer designs a garment, creates a BOM, and all other information is entered by the tech designer and production partner, the BOM is then released to a vendor. The vendor, who may be in India or China or Taiwan or California or anywhere else, then receives and interprets the information. They will ask any questions they need to ask, and then they will make an send a sample of the actual garment the designer has requested. The factory's first try is always called the "proto sample." Each additional sample is labelled according to what the factory would like to be approved for that particular item. For example, the next sample will be a "fit sample," to try on the model, and then there may be a "Pre Production" sample once the fit is aproved. The last sample is called a TOP, or "top of production," and it indicates what has actually been manufactured and is being shipped.

8. Production: There is a production department in the New York office, and then there is the actual process of producing bulk garments for shipment. The production department in the New York Office (most often referred to as the "NYO) acts as a liaison between design, tech, and the vendors who are making the garments. Production is responsible for knowing whether or not something is affordable at the price point at which it will be sold. If it is not affordable, then design and production meet to work out what can be changed or removed from the garment in order to make it more affordable for the customer while still maintaining the overall aesthetic everyone is trying to achieve.

9. Bulk: This refers to the final mass-produced item and all its "units," or the number of items produced.

10. Lab Dips and Strikeoffs: Lab dips refer to sample yarns or fabrics a factory sends to the NYO for color approval. Strikeoffs refers to the a sample execution of a print or graphic for NYO approval.

Well, that's ten! I hope you have learned something about fashion today! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Real Fashion Designer: Fashion Tools

The Fashion Student's Supplies
As we've discussed before, I'm a fashion designer, and that's how I spend the vast majority of my time. As such, it contributes to - and potentially exacerbates - my spinsterhood. So, as fashion is intrinsically connected to  my spinsterhood, this week, I'd like to talk about the fashion industry and what it's really like. So, hold on to your hats!

When I was at FIT, I carried around a giant tote with assorted rulers, hip curves, french curves, rolls of pattern paper and oaktag that were taller than I am, T-pins, thread, and all manner of other things I needed to actually make a pattern, drape a garment, or stitch a seam. The schlepping was just part of my day. But, when I got my first job in an actual fashion company, I was delighted to find out there was little-to-no hefting involved. Well, not, at least, from home to work.

In the real fashion industry, I have never had to make a pattern or drape a dress. I'v never needed a hip curve, but I have definitely used plenty of T-pins. Below you'll find a list of the necessities for this real fashion designer.

1. A Mac with a giant screen: At home I work on a laptop computer so I can sit anywhere in my apartment (re: the bed or the couch) and watch Hulu or stalk people's online profiles. In the office, though, I like a nice, big desktop Mac. The bigger the screen is, the happier I am. As a fashion designer, I do a lot of computer drawing, so it is really important for me to be able to see things in great detail. As for the Mac platform, that's just my personal preference. I have worked at a couple of companies who only use the PC platform as their IT guys are much better versed in those systems. Additionally, the entire office is on a network server, and all other jobs besides design require PC computers. IT is always saying how the Mac's mess everything up, but I think they're just so much nicer.

2. A Wacom Tablet: I don't know what I would do without my Wacom tablet. For those of you who have never used a tablet to interface with your computer, I highly recommend it. It has a much more intuitive feeling and motion that works with movements you already use daily to actually write or draw. Once you work on one for a day or so, your hand-eye coordination will adjust so that you would so much rather use a tablet than a mouse any day.

My tablet is important because I draw so much on my computer, and in drawing, say, a ruffle, sometimes I need a freer movement than a mouse will readily allow. I find that the pen-to-tablet combo allows my drawings to look more natural and less stiff.

3. Adobe Creative Suite: Currently at work I have to work on CS3, and it's really upsetting. CS3 doesn't allow for multiple artboards in the same illustrator file, which makes formatting a little annoying. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The parts of Creative Suite you will need and use on a daily basis as a fashion designer are the following:

      - Adobe Illustrator: This is, by far, my favorite part of Creative Suite, and it's the one I use the most. Fashion designers use this program to make flat sketches and technical diagrams to send to the factories. It's also useful in rendering graphic prints, and pretty much anything else you can think of that should be graphic or vector-based. I think this program is pretty amazing, and I love when I get to sit down and do a bunch of sketches for a couple of days in a row. It's calming.

     - Adobe Photoshop: In truth, fashion designers probably don't really use this program that much any more. There are some people who are really into using photoshop to recolor things or render them, but this practice is seen as a little old-fashioned as with a Photoshop file, your dimensions can only be as large as you originally defined them upon first saving the file. With the need for extra-large printouts in fashion, this can be a bit of an obstacle.

     - Adobe Bridge: I love Bridge. It's a great way to look at files without opening them. In CS4 and above, you can select a thumbnail of the file you'd like to see, press the spacebar, and it will become full-screen without your even having to open it. I really miss that function now that I'm back down to CS3.

     - Adobe InDesign: I try to use this as little as possible. I know it's probably really useful, but I never learned it in school, and it doesn't really bear a direct relationship to the functionality of Photoshop and Illustrator. However, it's good for making documents, I'm told, though I'd just rather make mine in Illustrator and export them as a multi-page pdf.

4. T-Pins: You weren't expecting that one, were you? For some reason, in all the fashion design offices in which I've worked, the pin of choice is a #16 T-pin. This is the smallest size of pin, and to see a large, fat one is cause for a freak-out from our boss. All your pins must be uniform in size and shape. Fashion designers use them to pin pictures to boards.

5. Foam Core Boards: There never seem to be enough of the largest foam core boards. I think they're 48" x 36". Whatever they are, they're just shy of being as tall as I am, and they're wide enough to be awkward to carry. Most fashion companies like to use these for presentations and cover them in some sort of fabric for whatever reason. I always wonder why they don't just buy black boards and be done with it. But this is what you use the T-pins for.

4. A Clear Plastic Grid Ruler: This is much more important than I ever would have thought. I had never seen these rulers until I went to FIT, but once I got one, I was hooked. My personal preference here is the C-Thru Grid ruler with red lines in the 2" x 18" size. These are perfect for measuring just about anything you need to measure. I highly recommend them.

Well, friends, those are the essential tools to be a fashion designer. Check back tomorrow for another peek into the real world of fashion!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Clean Sheets: A Thing of Wonder

I don't even want to admit to you what time I'm writing this post. Suffice it to say, though, that I just got in, and I am 100% sure I will not be awake for Daylight Saving's time at 7am tomorrow morning.

Today was laundry day, and I finally got around to washing my duvet cover, sheets, and pillow cases. It's always a pain to strip and then re-make the bed, but when I get to this point in the night, I know slipping into those fresh sheets is going to be so nice.

The rest of my day was quite eventful, with an improv show at the Upright Citizens Brigade and a birthday party. To the left you'll find a cool paper head I saw at my friend Eric's apartment. He would be quick to tell you it was paper craft, but still, I'm pretty impressed. Don't worry; he has a girlfriend. I am still a spinster.

In any case, after quite an eventful day, this spinster is ready to climb into those fresh, clean sheets that smell of Downy dryer sheets and detergent. I only wish I had had the energy to wash my hair.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

This Spinster's Uniform

In the "Spinsters I Know and Love," series, one of my questions was "What's your uniform?" Today, I thought I'd share mine via a quick sketch I made while watching Law and Order: SVU last night. I mean, what else did you think I was going to do on a Friday night?

My uniform is pretty much what I wear seven days a week for all of fall and winter. It's versatile, it's comfortable, and you can dress it up or down...or at least you can try.

1. A Bun: One of the good things about getting older is figuring out your hair. After much experimentation, I have got my technique down to a science. My hair works best on a two day cycle: the first day is wet in a bun, and the second day is pretty waves that are a product of the bun. The best way is to wash  my hair at night, and sleep with it in a bun, but sometimes when I do this I forget to reset the bun and go to work with spinster sleep hair. Not so good.

2. Glasses: I'm fairly blind without my glasses. I need them for everything from eating to driving to going to the movies. I used to wear contacts, but glasses are more comfortable for the old 12-hour work day, so glasses it is! I prefer plastic frames to metal ones, but I'll thank you not to hold me to that when fashions chane.

3. A Cardigan: Layering is of the utmost importance to me. My favorite cardigan is an oatmeal-colored one I got from H&M maybe three years ago that my mom monogrammed with my initials. Aside from the cuteness, though, temperature regulation is key.The worst feeling in the world is when you feel that heat creeping from behind your ears down your back and up through your feet, and you can't do anything about it. At least when you layer, you can peel or wrap yourself as many times as you like throughout the day.

4. Knitwear: I like to wear some form of tee shirt just about every day. Usually, they're black and from Urban Outfitters. Mostly, though, my store choice there is just because UO offers a 2-for-1 deal.

5. Jade Bangle: This is my second Jade Bangle as I broke the first one falling down the steps in my apartment. That was quite a shock. The one I wear now I bought in Chinatown, inspired by a former manager who wore one she couldn't take off. I never take mine off if I can help it, and this way I'm always wearing jewelry. It makes me a little fancier than I would be otherwise.

6. Straight Leg Joe's Jeans. These are so comfortable, so I wear them all the time. My sister had a pair when she was pregnant and told me all about how great they were, and then my cousin Katie sold me my first pair. Now I'm hooked.

7. Fun Socks: At one time I was a pretty prolific boys' and girls' sock designer. I designed really crazy, colorful, patterned socks in coordinating 3 packs, and I loved it. As a result, I have a lot of socks I love that are maybe jut a tiny bit too small. But I love to wear them anyway.

8. Low top Laceup Vans: I used to wear Vans slip ons, but last summer I really just had to have a pair of dark blue laceup vans with the thick white sole, white topstitching, and white laces. These are just good basic sneakers, and I never worry about getting caught in the rain in them. Always a plus.

So, my friends, that's my uniform. It may be unremarkable, but it's mine! What are your favorite everyday pieces?

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Real Fashion Office.

A feral pack of mannequins in my office's basement
Today we're going to talk about fashion again. It's what I do for a living, so of course I think about it a lot. But first let me start properly.

My dad is one of the only people I know who doesn't like to watch Law and Order. While I can't understand someone being able to resist the show in any of its forms, I suspect his lack of interest has to do with his being a lawyer himself. Basically, to him, it's not believable. I feel the same way about any fictional representation of fashion design. Ever.

There are more misconceptions and misrepresentations of fashion design out there than I can cover in one readable article, but today I'll just tell you about one. In fact, I'll confine it to one: The office.

Whenever fashion offices are depicted on television or in movies, designers always sit at sleek glass-top desks or at drafting tables, draping and sketching by hand all day as they look out their floor-to-ceiling windows in a sun-drenched loft space full of bolds of fabric. The bolts of fabric are true of only one place I've ever worked, but the office space depiction is just wholly untrue. In reality, fashion offices are more likely to be a giant room, potentially with low ceilings and carpeted floors, packed to the hilt with cubicles, computers, and malfunctioning printers. In short, it's just a regular office. And we do our sketching on the computer if we want to be efficient and not waste any time. It has to go in the computer at some point, so you might  as well just make it in Illustrator from the start.

Storage is also ridiculously scarce in a fashion office. It's as if no one is willing to admit we are having things made and sent to us at a much faster rate than we are allowed to dispose of them. The minute you rid yourself of a two-year-old sample is the exact minute someone will ask where it is, making you look disorganized and unthinking. As a result, there's just stuff everywhere. There are rolling racks in the aisles full of unremarkable and mutilated clothing bought for some minute detail or entire concept kept only in the mind of the buyer and the sketcher. Sometimes it's literally just about a seam or a stitch. There are stacks and stacks of 24" x 36" foam core boards leaning against any and all surfaces perpendicular to the floor with little bits of paper pinned to them showing a "feeling," an "attitude," or potentially just a style someone's straight-up knocking off.

And then you have the printers. I have worked in five different fashion offices, and not a one of them has had a properly functioning printer. There is an incredible amount of paper-wastage in the fashion industry as everyone needs a hard copy of everything or to pin a printout to a board, but I don't think anything wastes more paper than those stupid printers with their constant paper jams. And the printers are forever beeping at you about some thing or another. But mostly they're just eating your printouts or putting stripes all over your sketches or rubbing ink everywhere.

But then you have the showrooms. The showrooms have different names at every company, it would seem. No one can just call them showrooms, but that's what they are. The showrooms are pristine, embalmed rooms full of dressed mannequins and interior decoration to evoke the total "feel" of the brand or customer or "girl." People get cray when it comes to the showroom. Just today a team of people whose job it is just to decorate the showrooms at my company came in and pretty much renovated one of the rooms in our office, leaving it sparkling, new, and fairly unrecognizable. These people are magicians in my book, but sometimes it's really hard not to see it all as very wasteful.

And that, my friends, is all I can say about the fashion office today. I hope you have enjoyed this little peek inside. There is plenty more where this came from!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Garment Center

Wigged Mannequin with mask in the window of Fabric House
I know, I know. I should have posted an illustration, but I have a big meeting today, and I thought I'd better get some sleep. So, instead I'm sharing with you some photos I took today while I was working.

From time to time at my job now I have to make what they call a mockup. Sometimes they're made out of paper, but more often, I need to make at least some part of the meeting sample real and tangible. When I have to make a real mockup, I need to leave the office and go out into the world. Most of the time I only go as far west as M&J Trimming (6th avenue), but today I knew I'd have to venture to - gasp! - the block of 38th street that looms between 7th and 8th avenues. That's right. The block of trim stores.

Dresses made only of trims in 38th street window
Of course, there are more trim stores in New York than just on that block, but when I was in school and at my first job, I found that if there's a trim you need, you can usually find it on 38th street. More often than not, you'll find it at Pacific Trimmings, the one with the big YKK sign.

In any case, today I needed to make some DTM (fashion speak for "dyed to match") tassels for a paper scarf. (It had to be paper so we could show our own print in our own colors.) There were other things on my list, but I have to admit I was only successful in finding the yarns for the tassels. However, in my travels I did take a few photos I wanted to share. So, enjoy!

The first photo is typical of any fabric store in the garment center on the blocks between 7th and 8th. I love to see how creatively the window dressers fashion "dresses" out of large pieces of uncut fabric and trims. This one had a particularly spectacular mask/wig combo.

Colorful zippers at Pacific Trimmings
Second, you'll see a couple of mannequins in the window of one of my favorite trim shops on 38th street. They make entire outfits for these ladies entirely out of the trims they offer in their store. This particular store, though, does offer complete belly-dancing costumes as well, in case you ever find yourself in need.

Lastly, you'll see a photo of a grouping of brightly-colored zippers at Pacific Trimming. This store is one of my all-time favorites in all of New York. It's not well-displayed, and you have to try pretty hard to flag someone down to help you, but if you need it, they've usually got it. Their button section alone is pretty overwhelming with its comprehensive holdings of non-novelty buttons. You never think you'd need that until you're just trying to put together a sample with some normal-looking buttons. Everywhere else has plenty of novelty, but this place has both, and plenty of sizes to boot.

Anyway, I know this wasn't a particularly spinster-themed post, but I hope you'll forgive me. It is,  however, indicative of a large part of this spinster's day.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Total Madness: Spinster Dinner

Yesterday I awoke with the same throbbing headache I'd had for three days. After I ate some protein, drank some Gatorade, and took some Advil, the throbbing still hadn't subsided. Every time I stood, I thought my brain was trying to escape my skull. Before my protein-and-gatorade breakfast that morning, I hadn't eaten anything besides toast or plain rice for days.

I went to the doctor, and it turns out I jut had (/have) a massive migraine for which I'll have to see a neurologist today. But, before that was decided, the doctor told me I needed to eat something. I thought I heard a choir of angels singing.

I left the Doctor's office looking for something to eat, but I was in SoHo, so there were only sit-down restaurants around. I didn't have time for that. I needed to eat everything and fast. So, I went all the way back to work and then back out to get lunch. I know that doesn't make sense, but I tried to stop at Pret, and the line was so long I felt panicked.

In the end, I had a bit of a lunch fail. I got a small portion of mashed potatoes and grilled chicken at the Lucky Deli next to my office and didn't even eat it all. I did, however, sit on a piece of chocolate that fell in my chair. I can't tell you how many times that's happened to me since I've worked in fashion. Hint: a lot.

By the time I got off the train in Astoria, though, I knew just what would make me happy as my second "real" meal since food poisoning: Easy Mac. That's right, college food. So above you see the illustration of the total madness I felt as I devoured the Easy Mac. It was delicious, but I'm thankful I didn't eat more than one. I'm not ready for all that goodness quite yet.

So, that's off the neurologist with me. I'm just hoping the causes of my migraines aren't food-related. But if they are, I'm sure you know you'll be able to read my lamentations right here.