It’s been a few years since I was a series regular on a TV show, which brought the responsibility of attending lots of promotional and red carpet events as part of the job. Initially they were fun and exciting, but it didn’t take long for the red carpet to feel like a chore, namely because of the unspoken “rule” that as a celebrity you shouldn’t be photographed twice in the same outfit. I think the sentiment of this “rule” is that you want the public to view you as current, busy, and omnipresent, and if every photo the paparazzi snaps of you is in a new outfit (even if it’s in the course of the same day), the idea that you are an “it” celebrity is easy to maintain. Of course this idea is super antiquated and indulgent, but it also sets up an unrealistic and unhealthy goal for regular fashion-loving folk; if the celebrities they constantly see in the media are wearing new duds in every single tv appearance and photo spread, then they too must make sure their closet is packed with as many items as possible so that they don’t have to recycle looks. I have seen major celebrities in magazines be lauded for wearing the same article of clothing at more than one function (“Wow! She paired the same jacket with a different pair of shoes to make it look new!”) as if they had made some ground breaking, unprecedented choice, and I have also seen gossip articles criticizing people in the public eye for wearing the same dress or pair of shoes more than a few times. It’s like you can’t win for trying!
At the time, I accepted the “rule” without too much complaint and I spent my free time standing in line at flash sample sales, “shopping” at gifting suites, and utilizing the coupons that many expensive brands extended to the clients of PR reps so that they could get easy advertising for their clothing. I knew it was a racket, but who was I to challenge the status quo? After all, I was still trying to figure out how to keep my lips from sticking to my teeth after 5 straight minutes of smiling on the carpet! (I know the answer is vaseline, but honestly the thought of that makes me gag).
Eventually my work took me to Canada where the red carpet events were few and far between and I had a chance to think more critically about my own shopping habits. I have always loved clothes and shopping, but I knew that I needed to forge a better relationship with these things that fell more in line with my growing conscientiousness about the effects that clothing manufacturing has on the environment and human lives. Shortly thereafter I started making some of my own clothes, which was exciting and fun, but eventually I started getting invited to red carpet events again once we were settled back in the states. The anxiety of finding something nice to wear to these last minute invitations was high because I had already developed a distaste for buying new RTW clothing. My other option was to to try making red carpet-worthy dresses for myself, but I didn’t have much experience sewing finer materials or complicated pieces. But then I realized that this, of course, was something I could remedy with practice! I started collecting patterns for long dresses and cocktail attire and experimenting with more luxurious textiles like silk. It was weird to spend so much time making clothing that didn’t get worn immediately and instead just sat in a dark closet, so I decided to motivate myself by give my undertaking a name: Operation DIY Red Carpet. It served as a reminder that there was a method to my madness and that I would thank myself later.
Sure enough, about three months after I made Vogue 8827, I was invited to a fancy dinner where I was finally able to wear it for the first time.
I wore that dress again about two years later to attend the BET Movie Awards with my friend Lance (above), and my good friend Mary looked stunning in it when we attended the Lamda Legal Awards together last weekend (below).
The navy floral maxi dress (Vogue 8827) is a Very Easy Vogue design, and, like it’s namesake, it was very easy to construct because it doesn’t require much fitting to accommodate it’s loose shape. The most complicated part of the make was working with all those yards of material. I love how well this pattern works with the silk fabric, which was purchased from The Fabric Store a few years ago- the large, bold print serves the maxi style so well!
Several months after I made Vogue 1102 over a year ago, my friend Brittani invited me to be her date to the Transparent Season 2 Premiere, and this is the same dress I wore to the event with Mary. The yellow dress (Vogue 1102) is an absolute joy, mainly because the fabric is SO superb, but the design is also really easy to wear because of the high waistline (you can eat food without worrying about your dress restricting your stomach).
It has a full, flowy skirt that you can only see well when there is a lot of twirling being done- fortunately I am BIG into twirling. Also from The Fabric Store, the fabric is a supple, soft charmeuse. I had never worked with this kind of fabric before and the learning curve was VERY steep- it shows every single pucker and nip so hand stitching the inside of the bodice was a bit of a nightmare. But I successfully created a thin smooth hem at the bottom and that was my biggest concern. I knew this pattern would probably fit poorly in the bodice so I made a muslin first and then made fitting adjustments (everything was mostly too big but some pieces needed to be totally re-drafted).
I have a few more pieces in my Operation DIY Red Carpet vault, some that I have worn and some that I haven’t, and I hope I have time to share them on the blog soon.
So far, making my own garments to wear to big events has been easy to do because I have the time to spend and the events have been so spread out. But if I find myself on a 16 hour-a-day schedule with an abundance of invites any time soon, making all my clothing probably won’t be sustainable for very long. But I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it; for now, I am happy with the pace that I am creating things, and thrilled that I have found some satisfaction in recycling some of my favorite looks. I am certainly not a big enough celebrity that anyone is very interested in how often I wear an article of clothing, but I think it’s the principle that makes a big difference. As I have written before, empowerment is the biggest gift that being a maker has given me: at the beginning of my career I was too intimidated to oppose the standards that had been set in place, but now I feel confident in using my voice- and my better judgement- to stand up to what feels important, even if I am the only one who is paying attention.