In a tailored wool pencil dress with a broad open collar, reminescent of Dior of the mid-1900s. Accessories are a fur hat from Canada, a Chanel 2.55 flap bag, a gold and diamond bear brooch, a gold bracelet, Karen Millen stilettos and Chanel No. 19.
Photo for CMC © Jan-Erik Nilsson 2009
It was just about two to three generations ago in Singapore, when my grandmother was in her twenties, that women tended to sew their own clothes. How beautiful your outfit eventually became, depended much upon your sewing skills.
Many of my grandmother’s friends would not only sew their own traditional outfits such as cheongsams and kebayas, but made their own accessories too, from floral hair pins to beaded shoes. Those who did not acquire tailoring skills of their own usually had their dresses or outfits made by relatives and friends who could. As things were at the time of pre-WWII, it was much more economical to know how to make your own clothes than to purchase them in the shops.
Eventually social values shifted in Singapore as in the rest of the world and women no longer needed to sew for themselves. Still, I grew up with my mother making a lot of my day dresses, both sewn and crocheted, and come an important event such as wedding dinners for example, we often visited a seamstress with a dress idea roughly sketched on paper.
Today tailored dresses, a once inexpensive and natural phenomena, is becoming a luxury. Still, when the opportunity arises, I find absolute delight in choosing textiles for a new skirt or dress, and drawing a design of an outfit that I miss in my wardrobe.
This pencil dress is one of two new arrivals from the seamstress. It makes for good, basic officewear for the cooler autumn and winter months that is just ahead of us. The material is wool and the dress, whose long and lean cutting is vintage inspired, has been designed so that it would keep the core of the body warm, with three quarter sleeves (so I can accessorize with bracelets / bangles), skirt to the calves, kick pleat to the back instead of an open slit and fully lined on the inside. Added to the outfit is a fabric buckle belt, made in the same material as the dress.