Fabric Heaven and Minneapolis

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Wearing Vogue 1224 an unblogged Tracy Reese knit dress.

We had a great time in Minneapolis over the long Memorial Day holiday. I was going to bore you twice with two posts about our trip. But, I will just compress it into one. I’m also burying the lede here and telling you that SR Harris Fabric Outlet in Minnesota is the greatest fabric store on earth. Bar. None.

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But, let’s start with the trip. First, I’m embarrassed to admit that All I knew about Minneapolis is that Prince was from there. We went because J.’s law school roommate lives there with his wife and daughter. My only condition when asked if we could go was to not go in winter. For serious.

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Knowing my trepidation, J. pretty much planned the entire trip from the Mall of America visit and Guthrie Theater production to our road trip into Wisconsin and attending a Twins game.

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Above: Vogue 1086 blogged here.  Minneapolis is beautiful!!! It’s incredibly diverse. The food scene is amazing. The biking infrastructure is PHENOMENAL. There really are 10,000 lakes!

 

There are a dozen museums. Public art is everywhere. The streets are so clean. Midwesterners are so very friendly. The antiques are plentiful. And, best of all, I found the fabric shop of dreams.

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Listen folks. I have been to a lot of fabric stores. I have never been gobsmacked over the size and volume. I planned about one hour at SR Harris fabrics and ONLY went because of emails and comments here that I should stop by. I figured I had seen a lot of fabric and I didn’t need more. I mean, how great could this place be? We got there at 8:30 when they opened and I barely emerged two hours later. I ONLY left because J. was sitting in the car waiting and I thought if I spent any more time it would be a bridge too far.

This place is 30,000 square feet. I barely left the knits aisle. Why? I had a list of things to look for (pique for polo shirts, nylon wovens for men’s swim shorts, brocade for neck ties). But, it was so totally overwhelming I decided to just focus on the gobs of Nike dri fit fabric for honeymoon wardrobe sewing (we’re making a bike trip).

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The fabric selection was extensive as were things like trims, elastic, zippers, etc. And, all the fabric was 50 percent off the marked price. The Dri Fit was about $5 a yard. Five. Dollars. A. Yard.

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I’m already plotting how we can go back so I can buy ALL THE LEATHER. Crap. I think that woman is pointing at the piece I want.

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Here’s one more thing that I did find kind of funny. I hate the way Joanns cuts my fabric. Well, can’t complain about that because you cut all your own fabric at SR Harris.

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Here’s a pic of some of the pieces I got. I hope to sew what I got up very very soon. I bought about 10 cuts.  Jordan will get about five new basic tee shirts in technical fabric. I’ll make some wicking dresses for the bike trip and some pajamas too.

To sum up. If you can get anywhere near the SR Harris Fabric Warehouse in Minnesota, run. Don’t walk. And, plan for several hours. Bring water and trail mix. And maybe bread to leave yourself a trail. I got lost twice. Sadly, not kidding.

China Lace Dresses

I had a stack of China related posts ready to write while I was there. But, then things got c-r-a-z-y.  One thing I wanted to talk about were the custom clothes I had made in China. I had two suits, four shirts made, but I was really excited about these lace dresses.

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As you may recall, I spotted these laces while in China at the Silk Bund Spinning Market. I paid about$15 usd a yard for them and was feeling a little taken to the cleaners. But, I felt better after spotting the same lace in white in Xiamen and they were asking double the price before negotiating. I felt especially good after coming back from China and finding these laces at A Fabric Place for $85 to $110 a yard.

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Anywhoo, I decided I wanted to have dresses made rather than sew them myself when I got home. I went online and picked these two styles for inspiration.

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Valentino

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Dolce and Gabbana ($3,500)

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Second view of DG dress

I’ve never really sewn with lace before and wasn’t all that amped to try anytime soon. So, going to a tailor to have them made in China would also be part of the experience. I also decided to wait until Xiamen instead of Shanghai because of the prices. I knew the labor costs would be half since Xiamen isn’t saturated with Westerners having clothes made.

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In Xiamen one of our guides, found a brother, sister and mom  who worked out of their home. I showed them the dresses on my iPad and from the September editions of Vogue magazine. They took my measurements and got to work.

Essentially, there is no pattern. They marked my hip, waist and bust measurements right on the fabric.

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From there, they draft, again, on the fabric.

If you can imagine, they had appliqued the neckline lace. Something, I just would not have the patience to do.

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I went in for about two fittings on the three dresses and here are the results. I had the cream and purple made into the Valentino cap sleeve style. I asked for a side zipper because I didn’t want to ruin the lines of the lace.

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I always knew I wanted to wear the cream dress for our rehearsal / welcome dinner. And, Liz looked so cute in the purple version, that she wore it that night too.

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Now, on me the cream lace dress is about four inches too long. It would be better just above my knee. The purple proportions are fine.

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I’m not tall (or thin) enough to get away with this middy look.

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I thought about hacking some off the bottom and reapplying the lace. But, I’m not going to do that.

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And, I think it looks prettier with the lace detail (unlike above where it’s turned under). I’m also not going to cut it at the waist, shorten from there, and sew it back. It’s just not in me.

Anywho, Liz wore the purple version that night and looked smashing.

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I haven’t gotten to wear the red one yet. Man, red takes terrible pictures.  We just finalized details for a post-wedding party his parents are hosting. I thought about wearing it then, but it seems a little fancy for a Sunday afternoon gig.

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Overall, I am thrilled with the dresses. They are really beautifully made and I wouldn’t have gotten around to sewing them any time soon. Plus, it was an experience having someone else interpret your idea of a dress. I think being a sewist myself made me super patient with the process. I also knew I needed to give them photos of what I wanted and NOT deviate. Between the language barrier and time, not having a photo is the way to get what you don’t want.

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My interpreter this year, Ashley (below)  was fascinated by the whole process. But, she too could not understand why I would want to get dresses made when there are H&M and other stores all over China. I also got to bore her pants of with wedding details. Weddings are BIG business in China. Since I was always online ordering stuff for the wedding, she was my one woman focus group.

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What is different this year, is she didn’t think I paid too much. Three years ago, my interpreters thought my custom clothes were expensive. But, the economy in China has changed since then and this didn’t seem too high to her.

I’ll post about the suits and shirts another time, I think this post is long enough!

Back From China

Hello Everyone!

First, thank you for all the congratulations on my recent engagement!!! We ended up taking a las minute trip over the Labor Day holiday weekend to see my parents in Florida.

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Pass A Grille Beach in St. Pete, FL

Sitting on the lanai, (thank you Debbie Cooke, I had no idea what that thing was called) by the pool, we read every single comment out loud. There was a lot of squealing of delight on my part :-) It was so fun to hear from long time internet friends, real life friends and from those of you who delurked.  I am sincerely overwhelmed and touched by your outpouring of congratulations. Jordan, for sure, knows there is a whole community rooting for us!

Two weeks week ago (the Tuesday after Labor Day), I left for a two-week business trip to Shanghai and Xiamen in China. My colleagues and I were incredibly busy with work meetings and work meals.

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But, I had to get back to the South Bund Spinning Market while in Shanghai.

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Long time readers may remember that the market is mostly for buying custom made clothing.

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For instance, this dress is a knock off of a dress worn by Kate Middleton. Their price, pre-bargining, custom fit, $100.

This Burberry copy was $80

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But, I was focused on buying laces. My plan was to buy fabric in Shanghai and have it sewn in Xiamen. Prior experience told me construction prices would be half.

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These guipere laces are stunning at stall no 398. They are similar to Prada and Versace. And, after bargaining, $15 a yard. I may have overpaid. But, you lose perspective!

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They’ve been turned into three lace dresses (cream, red, and purple), one of which I will wear for my rehearsal dinner.

Here is the cream lace mid construction

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If I lived in China, I would have everything custom made. Period.

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I also bought several meters of each of these laces to make my wedding veil. For 20 yards I spent about $20. I want a finger tip, one layer veil edged in lace. I saw them going for $300 US. That, is bananas. I’ll use the savings for my shoes. The first and last are my top contenders. I will use the second and third to practice.

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I am now back home after 40 hours of travel from Xiamen to Shanghai, Shanghai to Detroit and Detroit to Baltimore and, incredibly jet lagged (hence my 4:00 a.m. posting)

I’ll get the four shirts, two suits and three dresses I had made on the dressform and post some about that process and the food I ate. Oh, China has changed since I went three years ago and I’ll bore you with my thoughts on that too!

Lots of Little Things

The last time I wrote, I promised I’d have photos of my latest project on me. Well, little did I know it would be a incredibly windy and biting 36 degrees (2.2 celsius) on Sunday when I wore the dress in Michigan. In case you’re wondering, that’s 35 degrees cooler than it was when I left Baltimore. It was just too cold to take pictures outside. I was hopeful that I’d get some pictures inside but, things were so rushed that it just didn’t happen. My occasional photographer didn’t seem all that interested in having a photo shoot for my sewing blog on the day he graduated from law school. The nerve.

I did get one photo in my dress. But….

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The lighting wasn’t good. My flash didn’t go off. I look sort of goofy. My waist (and fabric) were grabbed so tight that I look about three months pregnant in all the pictures!  The darts! They hurt my eyes. Blergh.

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I’ve not attended anyone’s graduation since my own. So, I was feeling super old school at this ceremony. I love this version (my third) of this Burda pattern.  I am obsessed with this seersucker. Karen gave me the remnants of her pieces of it. At this point this seersucker is… five years old? I’ve used it for several projects in the past. If I could get more, I’d buy a bolt and make a whole summer wardrobe just from this seersucker.

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Because it was so fricking cold, I did get to wear this awesome vintage leather coat that was gifted to me by a co-worker. Listen, people. There is something to be said for being known for loving vintage fashion.

This colleague kept telling me she was moving and cleaning out her closets and had some coats to give me and I kept rolling my eyes. I have been the sorry recipent of terrible 80s patterns and ratchet clothing from other people. She dropped them off in a garment bag and it sat in my office for weeks before I took them home or even bothered looking. I finally opened the bag and this and another GORGEOUS  black wool  with a fur collar coat were inside. I rocked the hell outta this jacket over the weekend. This makes me want to save ALL THE VINTAGE in the world. Like, all of it. I want to own it ALL, wear it ALL and be fabulous in ALL OF IT. ME ME ME.

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It only took my third trip to Michigan to have time to sightsee. I’m always here for a few days and running in and out of town on other people’s schedules. But, this time, I finally got to go to Detroit! I’ve always wanted to see Detroit since it’s compared so much to Baltimore as a urban city with a blue collar background (and massive population declines). We were super short on time but I made sure we went to the Motown Museum.

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Oh. Em. Gee. We couldn’t take photos inside.  Let me tell you. I grew up listening to the sounds of Motown and was completely stoked to walk the same halls and be in the recording studio where the likes of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, and the Temptations walked and sang.  Especially exciting was their exhibit on girl groups. People, I need you all to be prepared for my style the next few months to be heavily influenced by the 1960 girl groups of Detroit and the Motown sound. I am not playing. Talk about serious black glamour. I’m going to be doing plenty of sheath dresses and empire waists.

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Finally, before I headed out of town, I did get to go to the Original Sewing and Quilting Expo with Robin, which was in Baltimore. I’ve never been to an expo before and my MAIN motivation for going was to check out the Babylock serger with Jet Air Threading and a Juki semi-professional straight stitch only machine. My modern Kenmore’s tension is so wonky that I sewed the above dress on my green vintage Kenmore. I’m in the market for a new machine in a few months.

Well, Brother, Pfaff and Babylock (all sponsors) were there. But, Juki (also a sponsor) wasn’t! I did test out the Babylock Imagine serger and purchased a pre-owned version. I’m picking it up tomorrow (Thursday)!

The fashion piece of the Expo wasn’t nearly where I’d like it to be. I heard Vogue Fabrics attended expos in the past. I like quilting quite a bit and enjoyed that aspect of the show. But, all the bitching and moaning from the vendors about the lack of attendees annoyed me. I mean seriously. I heard at least three stalls complaining about it to either me or to other vendors. I thought it was kind of tacky and a downer on something I’d been looking forward to for months. They thought parking was the reason people didn’t come. They thought crime was the reason people weren’t there. They thought no one likes coming in to a city. Whatever. I’ve never set foot in Chantilly, Va. But, I came downtown to see this. Make of it what you will.

Whew. So, yeah. Lots of little things going on. Just thought I’d get a lot of it said :)

A Two Picture Post

I’ve been using CollageIt lately for creating collages on my blog. It’s a fun little program that works on an Apple computer. 

My first project was this collage of mailboxes from countries I’ve visited.  Oh, wait. I see Grenada is missing. Darn. I need to do this again, LOL. For a while I was also taking pictures of public pay phones too. But, they started disappearing on me with the rise of the mobile phone. I was able to take most of these photos on my trip. Some I had to take from Flickr though after my backup hard drive crashed. Never thought I want a back up to my back up….

I’m thinking it’s not populated enough to work as the large poster I was thinking of for my bedroom. Should I try to do one of every country I can get a photo of?

Second, the Ravens play the Patriots this weekend. This game decides if we go to the Superbowl. Last year was a heartbreaking game (for Raven’s fans) against the Patriots in the playoffs. Here’s a photo of City Hall (my office) lit in purple for the playoffs. My fingers are crossed!! Just so you know, if we lose, we will not speak of it here.

White House Holiday Tour

Taking a cue from Trena’s trip last year, I had an opportunity to visit the White House to see the holiday decorations set up for the Holidays. I’m saying ‘holidays’. But, really. As a friend pointed out — 45 Christmas trees and one menorah :)


I’ve been to the White House a few times over the years for work and school. But, haven’t really taken a tour for fun. So, this was a much more relaxing experience! Except, out scheduled time was 8 a.m. on a Saturday! For those who don’t know, I’m about an hour north of DC. So, I was up at 5:30 a.m. to make sure we got there on time. But, in retrospect, it’s a GREAT time to go. Plenty of parking and as the first group to go through, the crowd isn’t that bad and the three security check points go faster.

We were told before the day that cameras and photos were not allowed. I was *salty* as I had plans on making this the cover of my Christmas card this year. But, when we arrived, they said photos were allowed for the holidays! So, I snapped a few (so-so pics) with my phone.

First, we saw Bo (the Obama dog). Folks, you would have thought the President was walking on the lawn. Like, people went running to the windows and the gate to get a picture of this animal. A friend with me who won’t even pet Linus yelled like the Beatles just landed.

There is a Bo in the White House decor too. I couldn’t tell what it was made from. Maybe yarn?

I loved the White House Gingerbread House. Look at the bottom left of the white house lawn, there is a gingerbread Bo. And, can you see Santa on top of the White House? So stinking cute.

Can I tell you how in awe I was in seeing the Presidential seal?

Here is the State Dining room. They are gearing up for several holiday parties of the next few weeks.

All of the hallway arches are decked out with garland

I went with someone who has a serious admiration for the Kennedys. More so for RFK… but his photo isn’t hanging in the White House. The photo was my idea :-)

I planned to wear my finished cape. I’d been calling it the White House cape! But, we were SO LATE getting to DC that I just bolted out of the car with my wallet, keys and mobile phone (no bags allowed). I didn’t make anything I’m wearing. The top was purchased from my boss :) I think it’s Alice & Olivia with lace insets. Plaid socks to be festive :)

And, on this first day of Hanukkah, here is the menorah (and me taking the photos. heh)

I might make this an annual tradition. My mom wants to come next next year. So, it’ll be Christmas in Baltimore!

Boston – NYC Leg


Man, I hate traffic. A four hour drive from Boston to New York took 6.5 hours on Monday. There was a bad accident somewhere in Connecticut and we sat on the highway for almost two hours. It did make for some fun photos though.

But, it was worth it! I dropped my friends off at the subway and they went on to Harlem to see friends and I drove to Brooklyn to have dinner with the couple I’m marrying. I can’t believe how much Brooklyn has changed from my visits as a kid. I knew I was in a gentrified neighborhood because the restaurant didn’t have a name on it. You know, one of those places that you’re just supposed to know about and is too cool for a SIGN. No name on the door. No banner. No awning. No STREET NUMBER. Ask me how many times I drove around the block incredibly confused. In fact, I called the restaurant and asked what they were near. He said, ‘A block down from the museum on Eastern’. I was looking for ‘next to the Lucky Liquors’. For real. I have apparently become too old (and square) for Prospect Heights.

Tuesday morning I spent some time visiting with my grandmother and made it into Manhattan to see off Elizabeth on her last day of work in corporate America.

But, the highlight, HIGHLIGHT of my trip was my stop by Mood!

You know, I’ve never been to the garment district solo? I always have someone to show me around (Karen, Trena, Elizabeth, Carolyn). My time was SO stinking tight on Tuesday and I had serious shopping to do and I needed to be alone. I’ve come to realize I don’t like shopping in general and I’m not great making decisions when I have too many options. I kind of feel like I’m getting hives.

That, and I’m not a communal shopper for either clothing or fabric (show me what you got? What are you making? How does this look on me? What do you think of this?). Fabric doesn’t speak to me. It doesn’t tell me what it wants to be.

I understand part of the fun for some is working through the selection process. But, again, for me, too many opinions and too many options = a horrible time.

Silk Taffetas

Meg was at Mood and of *course* I had to say ‘hi’! I’d have a photo of her, but no camera. We had a wicked storm on Friday night in Baltimore and I lost power while charging my camera battery. When I was leaving for Boston on Saturday morning at 5 I did so in the dark and totally forgot (didn’t see because it was dark) my camera battery. And, my cell phone(s) batteries were conking out by the time I got to Mood.

It was nice to shop with a specific garment in mind. I’m trying to stop with the mindless shopping and buying of material. Plus, I want to make better and higher quality items. I’m fine with and focused on having a core wardrobe.

With Meg and fabric consultant / sales associate Ann’s guidance, I picked out something amazing for my Celebrant duties in September. But, that’s another post. I will tell you it’s BEAUTIFUL. And, not at all what I thought I would get. It’s not lace and it’s multiple colors.

I love the NYC Garment District. Like, seriously, love. Every time I leave I wonder why I don’t go more often or for longer jaunts.

After my time at Mood, I went to a trim store or two and got back on the subway for the hour ride back to my family’s. My friends and I were back in Baltimore around midnight and I plan on spending the Fourth working on my July project.

Great mini-break with Las Bostonians. 

Mini Break in Boston

Hello there. My friends and I took a last minute trip to Boston. That’s Catalina above driving Nigel.

We wanted a weekend away and something fun to do. I hadn’t been to Boston since my sophomore year of college and remembered liking it then. I couldn’t indulge in the lobster or clam chowder, but I ate my way through the South End.

We stayed in Back Bay and spent our time in the North End, the Fish Pier, and the South End.

Boston was hosting the tall ships this weekend too which was nice to see how differently we did our events.

We also took a bike tour of Boston on Sunday evening. I swear this is the best way to see a City. I’ve done them now in Montreal and Shanghai. Maybe I should start one for weekends in Baltimore, huh?

We’re heading to New York today. I’m going to visit with family and see off Elizabeth before she heads to the west coat. I’m also meeting with the couple I’ll be marrying in September. Oh, and pizza. I’m going to eat A LOT of pizza. Multiple times in 24 hours I’ll be eating pizza.

Miss Celie
Award Winning Blogger and Officiant (I’m testing this out)

Happy Christmas!

Yeah… a week later, LOL. 

I spent Christmas 2011 in Ohio visiting my best friend from middle school and her three daughters. You may remember when we reconnected after 20 years or when I visited them in 2010. Steph and I met in Germany when our families were stationed there. I remember bawling my eyes out on my last night in town I was so upset to be leaving her.

This year when I visited the family in Youngstown, we did the touristy thing in Cleveland.

There, I froze my pajamas off by Lake Erie.For real. FREEZING. I now know what ‘Lake Effects’ mean.

We hit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Loved every single minute of it. I love history and music and this was a perfect meld.

After four hours at the Hall of Fame, we had lunch at the West Side Market. By far my favorite public market is Pike Place in Seattle. But, this is a close second.

I couldn’t get enough of the pasta shop. Mmmm. Pasta.

I don’t have children and I’m the youngest in my family. So, I’ve never experienced the Christmas Morning Wake Up. But, with a 6, 11 and 15 year old around, my presence was requested far earlier than I would have gotten up on my own.

Christmas is seriously magical for kids. I didn’t realize that until now. All that double talk about Santa. I didn’t want to be the one to spoil the ‘secret’.

And, now I’m back home.  I’ll be doing my 2011 recap as soon as I get a new keyboard. What’s that? New keyboard? Yeah. I spilled wine on my iMac keyboard just before leaving town. It is kaput for real. A new one is coming soon and I’ll be able to update on other projects.

Atlanta Wedding

I’m back from my 36 hour Atlanta adventure. I was there for a traditional Indian / Hindu wedding of a dear friend. I was SO EXCITED to go to this wedding because I’ve never been to an Indian wedding. And, it lived up to all my expectations!

We should probably discuss the fact that I am going to be wearing a sari whenever feasible for the forseeable future. I just wanted to grab fabric and start running! They are stunning.

The ceremony started at 7:30 on Friday morning and took place at a Hindu temple in Atlanta.

We had to take our shoes off. I planned ahead and got a pedicure :) But, I did scramble to scratch off my Payless Shoe Source price tag from the sole…

During the trip, I was able to stay with Bhoomhika of Wearable Toile, who first introduced the bride and I last fall (what was I thinking with that red hair??).

She was kind of enough to loan me a traditional garment (I know it’s not a sari, but I don’t recall the name).

Do you look Bhoomhika’s sari? It was such a pleasure watching her mom help her dress.



The ceremony was beautiful, spiritual and I was absolutely engrossed.

And the bride… the bride took my breath away


Can we talk about how cool her entrance was? She was carried in a basket by her uncles.

Later that night was the reception

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good photo of me in the yellow vintage ensemble which I wore to the reception.

But, it was a fun wear and I can’t wait to break it out again. Oh, and you can be sure I will be wearing a bindi whenever and wherever I can.

So, I’m back home and it’s C-O-L-D. Brrrrrr. I’m starting to think my red trench is not as bad as I thought. And, I may sew up the already cut warmer to get a bit more wear out of it. Thanks for all the feedback :) It’s definitely growing on me.