Tag: pockets

Self-Improvement Through My Wardrobe

Or… Is it weird that a piece of clothing changed my life?

By Kitty

I don’t mean “changed my life” like getting a degree or moving continents changed my life.  More like “made my daily life a heck of a lot easier than I imagined a mere item of clothing ever could.”

If you read my last entry, you might remember I was trying to come up with an apron/dress/carry-all-type-thing I could wear both for mess protection and to look halfway decent if I should be seen in public.

So Practical

Since then, I’ve made myself a few more of them (four in one week!), because I love, LOVE,  LOOOOOVE these things.  I have been wearing them every every hour of every day, except to sleep.  I really do pull them on the moment I roll out of bed in the morning, and I don’t know how I ever got by without them.

If that seems like a somewhat excessive reaction to a piece of glorified workwear, it probably is. 

But for some context: with the pandemic keeping me home (even more than normally for a recluse like me, I mean), we at the Felix and Kitty homestead have been doing a lot of what can only be described as “puttering.”  On any given day, I’m hauling produce, reorganizing literal tons of fabric rolls, fermenting assorted drinkies, sewing face masks for the homeless shelter, weeding, pruning, planting, making jerky and freeze-drying everything from the garden against the day civilization comes to a screeching halt. 

All this has taught me something important about myself which I have always suspected:  I have the attention span of a kitten with ADHD.  I need some outside assistance to keep me on track to make sure that half of the eighteen or so things I’m juggling do not come crashing down around my ears.  Weirdly, it turns out that my new design was exactly what I needed.

Introducing Hana

To be more specific, the Hana cross-back apron dress.  I have no idea what else to call it, because it doesn’t fall neatly into any category of clothing.

This thing is just too good to keep to myself!  I fast-tracked it through pattern-making, size-grading and all that jazz so everybody else could try it as soon as possible,

In addition to being very, very practical, with super-deep, wide pockets that will absorb everything you can throw at them, the Hana is pretty darn cute.  Throwing one over a simple T-shirt and leggings or jeans makes it look like I actually made some kind of effort, and even an actual fashion statement when I pair it with a matching face mask (which I’m now doing every time I go out in public, for reasons I explained here).

In actuality, I’ll probably have been using it as a kitchen cover-up, then dashed straight out for groceries without bothering to change.  I don’t even need to lug a purse, since I can keep all my essentials in those capacious pockets.

The Hana apron dress has an open, lapped back that makes it both super-comfortable and a breeze to fit.  The overlap is generous enough to give you the coverage of a dress.  The crossed straps never slide off the shoulders, even very narrow or sloping shoulders.  The weight of your pocket contents are distributed nicely, so there’s no dig-in anywhere!

This is what it looked like on my trusty mannequin Amelia with a cotton peasant top underneath, and the pockets filled with “only” keys, wallet, phone, an extra face mask, some sunscreen, a couple of tea towels, some sunglasses, a packet of tissues, and a few other small sundries.  This would be a lovely hostess outfit for a summer barbecue, maybe with a casual skirt or skinny jeans.

A note: we actually had to add extra stuff in the pockets so some items would show up in the photo, because everything kept being swallowed up in their depths.  Hence the tea towels, which were used to fill up some of the volume.

Pockets Have Superpowers

Yes, they do.  Bigger pockets have more superpowers, within reason. 

For example, pockets can magically make more time exist, at least if you’re a scatter-brained flibbertigibbet like me, because you are not running back and forth (and back and forth and back and forth) between the edge of a quarter-acre garden and the house at the top of the hill.  I swear I’ve had at least two extra hours a day by loading up everything I could possibly need in one go before I set foot outside.

I’ve stuffed those pockets with ALL of the following at once: pens and plant labels, a trowel, six packets of seeds, a wad of tissues, a roll of paper towel, scissors, a knife, a pair of gloves, a roll of garden wire, wire cutters, my sunglasses case, keys, a notebook, and (I kid thee not) a full-size wine bottle, just to see if I could.

I did not get a photo of all that because Felix was in his shop building giant wood compost bins, and one doesn’t lightly interrupt a man who is tearing into a hunk of wood with power tools.  But here’s Amelia with that bottle and a dozen or so other things in-pocket, most of which you can’t actually see:

The Pockets Hold More Than You Think

Pockets Fix Brainlessness

I also found a cure for my distractability (is that a word?) in the giant pockets of my Hana apron dress. 

For example, I no longer burn our weekly bread, because I can take my trusty (but bulky) kitchen timer with me into the garden, where I usually get lost somewhere between the pea picking and the squash pruning.  I no longer burn myself because my pocket beeps an alarm at me to reapply my sunscreen every two hours. 

I don’t stare blankly into space because I forgot what was next on the to-do list, because I now keep a notebook and pencil in my pocket at all times.  If I think of something that needs to get added to the shopping list, I can do it on the spot.

On the subject of brain maintenance, I’m returning myself to semi-fluency in Spanish and Korean by listening to lectures on my iPad while weeding the lawn (yes, the iPad fits into my Hana’s pockets).  Who knew pockets could lead to multilingualism?

Aprons Are a Safety Feature (in the kitchen, and in the pandemic)

I really do use my Hana as a kitchen apron.  I never realized before just how much safer this makes me when I’m cooking, since I’ve never been able to tolerate the usual halter-style aprons that hang from behind your neck; I’d rather risk hot spatters than the tension headaches they gave me.

Now that I’m living in my apron dress, I don’t end up with mini burn spots on my cleavage.  Or glue or chemical solvents, for that matter, when I’m in the workshop. 

It’s also led to a strange safety feature that’s unique to the time of COVID-19.  After being out in public, the contents of your purse, if you carry one, are inevitably contaminated, mainly by your own hands after you touch the world.  Your wallet, your keys, the plastic packet that encloses your tissues, your used face mask — all of these things are potentially carrying pathogens. 

Luckily, they’re fairly easy to sanitize, but how many of us launder our purses after each outing?  In theory, don’t the outside AND inside of our bags constitute contaminated surfaces too?

I never liked carrying a purse anyway, so now I just deal with it by carrying everything in my pockets and throwing the whole apron dress in the laundry when I come in from the outside.  It can’t hurt, and I don’t have to worry about it.

In Conclusion….

The Hana apron dress is now available.   Try one, and you may (like me) end up living in them forever. 

In the spirit of these strange times, we’re including a free matching face mask in the style of your choice for every Hana you order (and donating another mask to a shelter) until the last day of summer.  That’s September 22, I believe; someone correct me if I’m mistaken.

Until next time, stay safe, sane, and saucy, and wear your masks!

What to Wear to Work in the Time of Plague

It’s a dress!  Tunic!  Apron!  Whatever.  It has huge pockets.

Some of us go to work in a suit and tie, others in a nice shirt and pressed pants.  Or we did before COVID-19.  Now, quite a few folks are going pants-optional while working from home.

Before the onset of the apocalypse, I’d actually dress up in full pseudo-Victorian glory for work, like this fun number:


For those who don’t know me from a potato, this isn’t even a joke.  This really is the sort of thing you wear at work when your job is making and selling Steampunk-inspired fashion at conventions (yes, I made a matching face mask because it’s 2020 and I can’t be arsed to put on make-up). Now, of course, conventions are just a distant memory. 

Now, of course, conventions are just a distant memory.  True, we still have a website for all the fancy clothes, and I do sew the occasional corset or waistcoat for the discerning lady or gentleman (I like to imagine that they hold Plague-time masquerades in their basement, a la “The Masque of the Red Death”). 

But on the whole, the world isn’t exactly clamouring for shiny party wear right now.  Like lots of other people, I needed to find something else to do with my time.

What do people do when the world goes pear-shaped?

Me, I turned to gardening.  Or rather, farming, given how enormous the whole thing has become.  You may have gone with baking, or woodworking, or crochet.  Maybe juggling baby geese, for all I know.  Possibly you’re just being run off your feet chasing several children who are suddenly underfoot ALL THE TIME.

Musing on all this made me want to make something radically different from the beautiful, but fundamentally frivolous, confections which are my normal fare.  Something that everyone needs, whether their new hobby or life conditions involve toddlers, vegetables, or waterfowl.  Something utilitarian, yet not totally divorced from my usual design aesthetic. 

Yes, I know I’ve been making face masks both for sale and donation, but I wanted to indulge in something not quite so ruthlessly pragmatic as that.  A touch of whimsy, not just practicality, is what I was after.

So what is something everyone needs?

Pockets.  Capacious, voluminous pockets. 

No one ever said “You know, these pockets really needs to be a bit more cramped.”  But good luck trying to jam all your daily needs (your child’s spare shirt, favourite stuffy, baggy of snacks, your keys, wallet, tissues, phone, and — times being what they are — a couple of spare face masks and a few wet wipes) into your jeans pocket. 

Maybe you don’t mind lugging a giant purse around; then you’re a better woman than I.  My neck and shoulders ache enough due to my bountiful bosom without adding the weight of a loaded purse.  Plus I’d leave my head in a bus stop if it weren’t sewn on, never mind a purse.  Also, it’s kind of hard to throw a purse into your washer and dryer once it’s become contaminated by, say, a used face mask.

For my part, I need pruning shears, pens and plant labels, gloves, seed packets, garden stakes, weed knives, and about forty-two other things every time I set foot into my backyard food forest.  And now summer’s finally started here in BC, I need to haul in armfuls of zucchini.  But I’d also like to have my hands free to swat that cabbage moth off my broccoli.

So yeah, I need great honkin’ cavernous pockets.

The dress/pinafore/tunic/apron thingie (Attempt #1)

This was my first attempt at the new design:

First Attempt

It has a crossover back with a generous overlap which gives you about as much coverage as a normal dress, but you can just slide it on or off like an apron, no closure or ties required:

Back View – No Closures Required

The pockets are very, very roomy; I can fit almost anything I need into them, including a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread.  I really can wear this to shield myself from garden dirt, or while I’m flinging around flour in the kitchen.  The full wrap-around protection is fabulous against pets’ and children’s messes as well as hot stove spatters.  Importantly, unlike traditional halter-neck aprons, this dress doesn’t put ANY pressure on the back of my neck and give me tension headaches, even when the pockets are fully loaded.

Very Roomy Pockets

I could also just throw it over a T-shirt and jeans or leggings, and stroll out for some groceries while looking deceptively on-trend and put-together, as if I’d actually made an effort.  I could take along my wallet, phone, keys, water bottle, lip balm — no purse needed! — and still have my hands free to haul that watermelon into my shopping cart (or recapture a 3-year-old, if I had one of those).

The crossed back means the straps never slide off the shoulders (it drives me NUTS when purse straps do that!).  And I love not needing to tie any waist ties behind me, since I’m made up entirely of thumbs.

The back overlap makes the fit unbelievably forgiving.  I wouldn’t say one size fits all, but I’d be willing to say that three sizes might.  See how much it can expand if needed?

Tweaking the design

My rather flamboyant red flocking version did, admittedly, have some issues. 

Firstly, I think the pockets sit way too low.  I wanted them to be situated well below the point where they would add too much bulk over my tummy, but I ended up going too far down.  I can only get my hands into my pockets by extending my arms all the way, and even then, I can’t touch bottom:

Pockets Sitting Too Low

Secondly, while the fit is supposed to be loose and easy, I think it’s a bit TOO loose around my lower body, which only highlights my sad lack of hips. 

Thirdly, I decided I’m not keen on the contrast pockets and edge binding.  I intend this to be an everyday garment, and I don’t need these details to call so much attention to themselves.

Finally, while I love this fabric, it’s not exactly what I’d wear to go spread fertilizer around my tomatoes.  This isn’t a problem per se, just me already deciding that I want more than one version.

The next version (Attempt #2)

For my garden cover-up tunic/apron, I used a nice sturdy machine-washable cotton-linen blend. 

Garden Ready

Yes, the pale colour will show all of the dirt I intend to be rolling in, but I actually quite like the idea — an earth-stained, dirt-digging Kitty is a fun novelty compared to corset-wearing, fashion-designer Kitty.  Plus this fabric can bleach beautifully, and I love its breathability in the summer heat.

I moved the pockets up in the front.  It was just an inch or two, but the proportions look a lot better.  I also took in the sides a fair bit.  It still looks like a relaxed fit (it always will, since the back is technically open), but now, I don’t feel like I need a hoop-skirt to support the extra material.

Here’s what it looks like with the pockets nicely loaded up:

These pockets are seriously deep and wide; you actually can’t see most of what’s in there.  Under the lettuce and assorted garden tools are pounds of peas, bunches of radishes, a hand towel, and a few other things  which I couldn’t get to show up in the photos.  I swear, they’re bigger on the inside.

And a unisex version (but this one’s just an apron)

I even made Felix (aka Mr. Kitty) a unisex/men’s version.  This one is definitely more of a work apron and not a tunic dress, and he probably won’t wear it out of the house, partly because I made it out of neon-green giraffe print.  But he does use it all the time to hold assorted screws, hammers, nails, rulers, and bits of wood or leather during his shoemaking and carpentry adventures, and also to keep the rubber cement off his clothes (BTW, the matching mask isn’t just for viruses; it’s also quite useful for sawdust and glue fumes): 

I don’t know what it is about this apron-dress I like so much.  It just makes me weirdly happy to wander about in the garden in it, filling my pockets with lettuces and munching peas — happier than being all coiffed and laced into my full Victorian regalia.  I do know I can stuff more veg in these pockets than I can fit down my cleavage, even in my most uplifting corset.  And during this turbulent moment in time, perhaps that’s the really important thing.

P.S.: If you’re wondering about the masks, yes, I made them as well.  You can find them here and here. All the elements in the Victorian outfit are also available somewhere on our web store (except for the hat). The pinafore/apron/dress may be made available on the website as well, so look out for that in the future if you like the idea. (update 2020-07-15: yes it’s here)

The Pocket Problem

Where Kitty tackles a long-standing fashion nuisance

Not enough women’s clothes have pockets. 

I used to have no idea why this was the case, and sometimes, I still don’t (what is the point of a fake pocket?  Also, why are women’s jeans pockets half the size of men’s?).  But now that I’m designing clothes, I sort of understand that you can’t just slap a pocket on everything and call it a day.

To make a long story short, pockets add bumps to the lines of a sleek fitted garment, and they spoil the drape of a soft, loose one.  When design lines permit, I sneak the odd pocket in there, hidden where they’re least likely to interfere with the serious business of looking fabulous.  But what I wanted next was a proper flowing skirt with proper deep pockets that could fit a proper busy woman’s basic kit (phone, wallet, keys, maybe a good-sized sandwich).

I’ve made one skirt with a hidden side seam pocket before.  The Maru Skirt does a decent job of holding a small purse’s worth of stuff in its pockets, mainly because it’s a genuine full circle.  The opulent swathes of fabric flares out and hide many sins. 

However, I’m more of a long skirt girl these days, what with the onset of winter and varicose veins and all.  And you really, really can’t stroll about my small town in a maxi-length full-circle skirt without looking like a lost Disney princess.  But a less extravagant amount of skirt inevitably means that pockets and their contents bump through, which is normally fine, but occasionally offends my designer sensibilities. 

Ergo, here’s a totally different approach.  Like marketing always says, if you can’t fix it, feature it.  After a few bashes, this is what I came up with:

Full View

The skirt is full enough to feel rich and not restrict even a wide walking pace, but restrained enough so I can go buy some milk without my horse and carriage.  The gathers are at just the right height to camouflage the contents of the (quite generously deep and wide) pockets and also, if you’re so inclined, any extra tummy or hip fluff.   But the pockets themselves are definitely the focal point.

Pocket Close-Up

The pocket opening is big enough for your hand to easily slip through (I’ve found this to be a problem in a lot of ready-to-wear clothes and commercial patterns.  Is this common, or do I just have giant gorilla paws?).  The pocket bag is deep enough securely to hold a water bottle or a smallish cat, if it’s not too wriggly. 

Non-Wriggly Cat in Pocket

Also, the pockets sit low enough so you don’t have to hike up your elbows to get your hands into them, and so they don’t fight with whatever you’re wearing on your upper body.  A lot of the many designs I studied for inspiration had the pockets situated too high on the hips, just where you DON’T want extra bulk.  And if you’re planning on wearing your corset with the skirt, you still want access to your pocket openings.  Imagine if these pockets were just an inch or two too high: 

Pockets Still Accessible

Finally, though I prefer the wide fabric selection of wovens (which are generally not stretchy), I still want the freedom to retain water and eat an entire turkey if I feel like it!  So there’s the waist yoke made from four-way stretch material, which makes for a smooth sleek fit around the waist but also loads of comfort.  It’s so comfy you could wear this to a ball in style, then come home and wear it as jammies. 

I love this skirt, and I’m actually planning on making one from polar fleece for the winter.  Now I just have to spend about sixty hours grading the pattern to all the sizes before making prototypes for people to test.  If anyone wonders what Kitties do during the long winter days, now you know….