Tag Archive | time travel

French Friday #50: Wistful

Once upon a time, I used to live in France. And just like Charles Dickens said, It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. But, despite the “worst of times,” not a day has gone by in the 6 years and 6 weeks since we left that I don’t think about being back there. For someone like me, who lived and breathed all things French since her sophomore year of high school, getting to actually live in France was a dream come true. Apparently my enthusiasm was contagious enough to infect my non-francophone husband. When the opportunity to move there came up one and a half years into our marriage, we were both excited about it and ready to go!

And for the past 6 years and 6 weeks, we’ve been trying to figure out how to get back. We haven’t even been able to go back for a visit. And the farther removed you are from something, the foggier the memories become, the more things change without you being able to witness the change firsthand. Thanks to Google Earth, we’ve found that our bakery, our favorite creperie, and the little craft shop I used to go to have all changed hands and all become something different. Maybe the neighborhood needed something different, but it’s hard not to feel a little pang of wistfulness knowing that it’s not the same. I guess, you always hope that people or places left behind will somehow freeze in time, ready to pick back up when you return. Kind of like when the Pevensie kids return to England from Narnia in the Chronicles of Narnia books. I suppose that creates its own set of problems.

I hate that international travel is so far out of our reach right now. Heck, we haven’t even been able to travel a few hours south to visit my grandparents. Our passports have expired and we can’t justify the money to renew them right now. Guess there won’t be any spur-of-the-moment trips overseas should we be the recipients of some fabulous windfall.

Since the likelihood of us getting back seems to diminish with each passing year, we do our best to bring little bits of France into our lives here. Even here in the cabin which is decidedly un-French. Sometimes I make French meals, especially if we can share it with friends. During the school year I tutored some junior high/high school students in French and I hope that will pick up again this year. Even if they can’t answer me, at least it gives me a reason to speak French. The screen saver on my computer is a slideshow of all the photos we took while we lived there; sometimes it’s the best reason to have the computer on — just to sit and watch all of those beautiful places go by. The kids like to ask about the pictures, too, which gives us a chance to tell stories, to help them understand.

Mr. Gren and I watched “Midnight in Paris” a couple of weeks ago and were pleasantly surprised. It captures that same wistful longing that we feel. The main character, Gil wants to remain in Paris and wishes to go back in time. Paris kind of does that to you. What was it like when _______? As far as I’m concerned, the answer is always the same: magical. Oh sure, time has smoothed over some of the bumps in the road from our time there, but we still remember the severely painful personal events, the frustrations of being a foreigner, the terror of the Prefecture (expats will know what I’m talking about on that one)… And yet… some of those things could have happened anywhere, and some of those things made our experience uniquely French. All of those things made us wiser.

And none of those things dulled the beauty of our time there.

Tissue paper time machines

I grew up in the 80s and, while I did partake of poofy bangs, pegged jeans, and neon colors, I’m not your typical “child of the 80s.” Musically, I grew up in a time warp — from the time I got my first radio, I always listened to the Oldies station. My dad and I used to play a game in the car to see who could name the band first: Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Three Dog Night, CCR. And those are the easy ones! In high school, I even discovered an AM station that played 30s and 40s music and I loved it! I lived blissfully ignorant of the crime that is 80s music until I married Mr. Gren, who has made it his mission to educate me; I would still lose on the “name the band” game.

Like my musical tastes, my sartorial aesthetic definitely veers towards older styles, specifically the 40s and 50s (well, and pretty much everything between 1200 and 1830, too, but it’s harder to get away with that in modern life). I like a lot of the tailored looks and hairstyles from the early 40s and I drool over the full skirts of the late 40s/early 50s, but, up until just a few years ago, it never occurred to me that I could actually make these styles. Somehow, I stumbled upon the great blog A Dress a Day. Not only is it about dresses, it’s about vintage dresses and vintage sewing patterns. I didn’t even know these existed! This was an epiphany, an awakening, the beginning of an addiction (don’t worry; I can stop any time). There are sellers of vintage sewing patterns all over the Innermet! Another revelation! I don’t often buy, but I do love scrolling through listings of all these great patterns. To date, I’ve made 8 dresses from vintage patterns from the 40s and 50s. A lot of times, they make more sense than the modern patterns.

I’ve got two to show you today. The first is the Very First Ever dress I made from a vintage pattern. There was some minor panic when I first opened the envelope to discover that, Hey! The really old ones aren’t printed! Probably other people knew that, but remember, this was all new to me. Well, it turned out that this pattern went together like a dream. Never before nor since have I had a dress come together without a hitch like this one. I had no way of knowing it would work so nicely, so I made my first dress out of a king-size sheet. One day, I will make this one again in a fabric I’m actually excited about, but for now, this does alright.

What the heck am I doing? Hugging an invisible child? Preparing to salute?

Look at those humongous pockets! I need more dresses like that, then I wouldn’t have to carry a purse. This dress has princess seams and a flared skirt. The side pieces of the dress form the cap sleeves, so no setting in sleeves, gathering, easing and all that rigmarole.

My most recent vintage project was actually started last summer. But then our weather turned icky and I had no occasion to wear a sleeveless dress, so I abandoned it, just a zipper and hem shy of completion. This spring, I finally got tired of it laying around my sewing room, so I buckled down one day and finished it. Hurray! Here is the pattern I used:

I liked View 2 with the collar, pleats and narrow keyhole (which is hard to see in the picture). I thought the other style made her shoulders look wide. I used a great black cotton with a big cherry print to make this one. Cherries belong on a 1950s dress. The one thing that disappointed me when I was done is that the collar is too small to fasten at my neck without choking me. I don’t get that cute keyhole effect, but oh well. It looks pretty good and no one’s the wiser. Except you, because now you read this. But you’re going to agree with me that it looks fine. Right? Of course, right.

A friend of mine took some lovely photos of me wearing my awesome black cherry dress this past weekend. See what you think!

I am wearing a crinoline (that I made) under this; it makes a huge difference in the look.

If I can ever satisfy Rana’s appetite for new dresses, I will make something for myself again. I’ve already got lots of fabric paired with some more of my vintage patterns. I’ve got 5 yds of white cotton with big navy polka dots that would make a fantastic dress for summertime. I’d better get on it soon, though, otherwise you’ll be reading about it this time next year.