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Fabricista Guest Post: "Julie's Picks" Goes to the Opera

Hello, fellow fabric enthusiasts and sewers alike ! My name is Mary Martha and I am thrilled to be presenting a guest post for Fabric Mart's Fabricista blog. As a bit of background, I fell madly in love with opera in 2015 when I attended my first performance in a movie theater as part of the Metropolitan Opera's "Live in HD" simulcasts, which projects live staged operas in New York City into cinemas worldwide via satellite. (They're fantastic !) Since the start, I have dressed the part of the characters when attending these performances, beginning with outfits fashioned from scarves and skirts in my mother's closet to more ornate costumes. It was during this time that I taught myself to sew using a sewing machine and I haven't looked back ─ my life was changed forever !

In December 2018, I subscribed to Julie's Picks swatch club as an educational experience: I wanted to expand my knowledge of different fabrics besides the typical polyester satins I had been using and thought it would be fun to feel each swatch as if dreaming of what it could become. Rapidly thereafter, my favorite day of the month became the one in which I found the latest edition of the swatch club tucked away in my mailbox. There are so many unique fabrics of all textures, patterns, and colors and it's with sheer curiosity and delight that I open the pages of the mailer each month.

In early February 2020, I attended Porgy and Bess and made a 1930's inspired picnic dress using the Floral "Liberty Look" Stretch Cotton Sateen that was featured in the November issue of Julie's Picks. Hitherto, I had scoured the web in search of the perfect material that would match my intended shoes for the opera: strappy sandals with a block heel and front buckle accent. The fabric HAD to match the shoes ! I also wanted the fabric to mimic the cheery feedsack prints so ubiquitous of the Depression-era clothing as well as the dress worn by the character of Bess in the opera.

(Angel Blue as Bess in Porgy and Bess)
When I saw the coral and buttercup colored dainty floral fabric, I knew I had found my match ! The shoes and corresponding pocket lining material are pictured below. 

See ? It's perfect !

 

The dress was received to rave reviews and I marveled at my luck in finding such an apropos fabric.

Later in the month, I attended my next performance: Handel's Agrippina ─ a modern dress production of a Baroque opera where the titular character was styled as a cutthroat businesswoman willing to work her malicious machinations on any man or woman in order to further her political means. I knew I would need to make a blazer and knockout Little Black Dress to portray the woman standing on the stairs below:

(Photo from Liceu Opera in Barcelona)
The May 2019 issue of Julie's Picks was one of my favorites and the red pepper Damask Weave Crepe Challis wool imported from Italy was tempting me greatly, but I was a little apprehensive... I had never worked with wool before and living in Florida is not the greatest environment for it (i.e. hot, humid weather and ever-present moths waiting to devour its meticulously woven fibers). However, the pattern, color, and texture was so sumptuous and ideal for the blazer that I decided to give it a try, even at almost $20/yard (I make most of my outfits on a budget since I don't get paid to dress up for operas ─ yet !). Goodness, the sweet smell of the wool was divine ! Its Italian heritage beckoned to me like a hypnotic siren luring a storm-wracked sailor to his death. My fate was sealed.

From there, I waited for the perfect black material to come along for my LBD. My mother has a favorite black ribbed tank top that consists mainly of rayon and spandex and that was my standard for choosing fabric: luxurious, durable, and simple ─ I wanted my Chanel length cocktail dress to be made of something just like that tank top ! Fortunately, November's issue not only gave me my Porgy and Bess material, but also the hot seller Black Ponte Knit from Italy... I bought almost 3 yards before it sold out for a second time. It was exactly what I was looking for, just like the wool for the blazer.


 

The outfit was a smash hit and gave me just the right mix of "business meets pleasure". And even better, I was able to wear both of these garments to other functions as well. 

With each month of Julie's Picks, I never know what's in store, but it's always exciting and offers a terrific value at only $50 for an entire year. If you're interested in finding inspiration for your next sewing project, I highly recommend signing up for Julie's Picks when membership becomes available in December. Who knows ─ maybe I'll see you at the opera wearing a fabulous creation !

Mary Martha

Comments

  1. WOW! You really go all out with both your loves, opera and sewing. Guess you are destined to be a costumer for the stage. Wouldn’t that be something wonderful? Fabric seems to speak to you. What a language to have. Thanks so much for sharing. I definitely will be looking at Julie’s Picks in a different way from now on.

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    1. Thank you for your comment ! I'm glad that you enjoyed seeing Julie's Picks in a whole new light !

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  2. I love the way this post is written. I love how she tells us her story and how she not only watches the opera shows but becomes a piece of them/a character from them for others to see. This woman is truly a remarkable lady and is an example to all how to have etiquette and how we should throw ourselves into anything we love. How amazing is it that she creates all these outfits herself? I cannot even begin to say how neat that is. With the way our world is it is remarkable to see young people like her who can write a proper and intriguing blog who not only keeps her readers interested but gives the reader visuals to see what her writings are about. How neat that you find some good deals for your yards of material and how you get it to resemble the ones in the opera. I hope to see more posts from Mary Martha on here. I am glad to read her published work and I am looking forward to reading about her other opera endeavors. :)

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  3. This is my good friend who is like a sister to me!!! I am so excited to see that this is published. I am so proud of you Mary Martha! I hope that this is just the beginning of many more blogs/posts!! I have been reading e-mails by this girl for the last 10 years and many of those e-mails pertain to fashion and opera. I believe she is a great designer, an eager learner and a very beautiful young woman!! I am so glad to know her and that I can call her my friend. I have always enjoyed reading her adventures to go get herself the materials she needs so she can make the outfit for an upcoming opera and also hearing the interactions from the folks at the theater that adore her outfits. This is a very well written blog and I hope to see many more like it. Great writing and great photos!! GOOD JOB MARY MARTHA!!

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  4. Having once taught Mary Martha, I can affirm that she is one of the most creative, authentic, and intelligent people with whom God has blessed our planet. She is multi-talented, as her costumes and accompanying literary comments reveal, and she is also kind and genuine. The costumes shown on this blog are only a small part of her artistic inventory. I hope she is able to reveal more of her creations to the world.

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  5. A fabric swatch service is a great way to expose yourself to different fibers and fabrics. And if you have mastered poly satin, you can sew any fabric IMHO. You have made some beautiful garments. I find that having an inspiration look and a deadline is a real motivator. If you ever get a chance to attend an opera at the Santa Fe, NM opera house, don't miss it. It is an open-air venue and the view of the mountains beyond the stage is beautiful. I saw Don Giovanni there, and during the graveyard scene the lightning occurring naturally in the mountains contributed to a memorable experience.

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    1. Hi, Audrey ! You are dead-on about having an inspiration as well as a motivating event in which to wear an outfit (or costume). Without the opera to spurn on my sewing, I'm afraid I wouldn't be half as enthusiastic about the needle and the thread. How much fun is it to feel like one of the characters from an opera ? As I always tell people when asked about attending opera performances, "Dressing up is half the fun !" The annual Santa Fe Opera Festival is a trip I'd love to take someday...
      I'm planning to see the Met's new Don Giovanni next January in cinemas and just bought some of the soft and sumptuous chambray linen to make my dress for Pamina. I hope you'll be in theaters to see it too !

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    2. Whoops ! Pamina is from Die Zauberflöte, not Don Giovanni...

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