Saturday, April 27, 2013

I am not the 1%

Yesterday our plucky heroine took herself off to see the Alabama Chanin trunk show which was held at a downtown boutique. This was an experience both very pleasurable and very awful...

The shop that hosted this event was not the sort of shop I would ever set foot in voluntarily, being the sort of shop intended for the small subset of folks that might actually purchase Alabama Chanin clothing retail. That known, I put on my most dressy artist clothes, left my everyday knapsack at home in favor of a leather pocketbook, and set out to see what I could see... I did ask permission from the "doorkeeper" if I was allowed to take photographs, and was assured it was permitted, but when I went upstairs to the floor with the women's garments I was immediately accosted by the saleswomen, in a way that left me wondering if I had inadvertently stepped in farmyard leavings on my way up the stairs... Not since I was a young student, and was followed closely while shopping in the suspicion that I might shoplift have I been made to feel so out of place; truly if they had been looking any further down their noses, I would have not only seen their nostrils but under their chins...

Since there were no other customers, I was able to look at the garments set out, but was forbidden to take more than a few pictures; and as I was not placing an order, I could only dream of the delights that were inside the design notebooks that hold examples of the various combinations of stenciling, stitchery, beadwork that make up the surface design vocabulary of Alabama Chanin.

I was particularly taken with the use of wide bands along the armscye  and neckline edge of some sleeveless garments, a sort of "non-facing"  facing, that added substance to those edges

The fabrics are thinner than I expected, which gives the garments quite a  bit more drape than might be expected, even double layers had a  softness to them.

One thing I learned on this expedition was that most of the hand stitchery is at the large/long end of the spectrum she suggests in her books, more 1/4" than 1/8".

There was some use of variegated floss which added a subtle richness to the embroidery, and a variety of ways to fasten garments closed, from tie cords, to crochet-covered snaps, to loops and self-covered shank buttons.

It was a real treat to be inspired, to get a sense of the hand of the fabrics used, and to be able to see the details of her garments in person.


  1. Ooooh, what a treat to see and feel her work in person!

    I have no words for the way you were treated , but I thank you for the pictures you were able to take, and the descriptions :)

  2. What good fortune to have a display of Alabama Chanin so close to home!!! Especially, thank you for the careful eye witness report, esp the info on the fabric. I've wondered how thick the cotton is.

    As for that sales woman, what a poorly educated way to behave. I have been treated like that at times, and I have never understood why a place that wants customers and wants to sell stuff would permit that treatment of people who show an interest in their merchandise. Very undeserved and very wrong.

    Thanks again for the photos and report!

  3. Ooh, I'm so envious that you got to see these fabulous pieces up close and personal! So sorry about the treatment you endured though. She should not be so rude to anyone, potential customer or not. It's just good business practice. And word does get around...

  4. In the Alabama Chanin style clothing I have been making, I have been making things a lot more "sturdy" and using a lot tinier stitching than on the originals. That is probably the biggest thing that I learned from seeing the clothes, that I can safely "loosen up" and still have a successful garment. I am glad that folks are enjoying the pictures. It was such a rare treat for me as well to be able to see the clothes, and that is why I wanted to share in whatever way I could with other folks.

    I even explained to the upstairs (obnoxious) clerk that I wanted to take pictures to post on my blog, to share. Many shopkeepers are happy to have the extra FREE publicity, but I suspect that the clerks there might not even have known what a blog was. It was like they thought that I might be there to steal the ideas! Very wierd, and not at all the way Natalie Chanin herself might have been, since I have seen various photo essays from bloggers who have attended her workshops in Alabama.

  5. How interesting to see your photos. Thanks for sharing them, they are just the sort of details I would be inspecting myself if I could get close enough! Boo Hiss to the horrid staff.

  6. I am so glad you went and got to take some photos! A trunk show one more thing to say you have done.
    Personally I would email or write a letter to the store manager.The event was public,you were their guest at the event, Ms Chanin is a very open person about her work so rudeness was uncalled for.But I am a stickler for good hospitality as you know.

    Oh and the red and white garment with the little crochet (?) things on it,those little bits remind me of Dorset buttons and I found that connection in my minds eye very inspiring.

    1. I'd not thought about contacting the shop manager after the fact, that is a good suggestion... You are my hero in so many ways, there were times I would say to myself, I want to be like Rois when I grow up. The little things with the crochet are crochet covered snaps (big snaps), and there are actually instructions for how to do them on the Alabama Chanin journal:

  7. Lovely - thanks for sharing. And two shakes of the finger (not saying which one) to that salesperson.

  8. Good thing you are plucky, my dear heroine! Sorry you had to endure such a horrible view of nostrils. I love the brown armscye and neckline treatment, as well. Think I must break down and buy the book.