Dressing as Well as the Settlers

Ivey Abitz and Summer 2009

by Eleni from Florida

It has been quite awhile since I have written a column (blog) about the Ivey Abitz Design House, a Design House in the best sense of the word.

This talented couple pulled up roots last year from Michigan and went to New York City.

Now as if this isn’t enough to manage, they have done numerous collections in-between (Fall 2008, Winter 2009, Spring Prelude 2009, Men’s Spring 2009, and the creme de la creme: Summer 2009). All the collections featured new design debuts and, as always, fabulous fabrics, and Summer 2009 is almost all new designs.  Now, if it were me, I would have taken a long break or… at least bowed out a season.  But oh no, the two artists that make up this brilliant team set out to work, not missing a beat or a season.  I would like to compliment them on that.  At this point you would not know that they weren’t natives of Manhattan.

They have never let this fan down – ever.  Their work ethic amazes me.  The quality of the work is superlative.

I could speculate and say that perhaps New York City and all of its action, art, and innovation immediately inspired them to work, but I think their momentum more likely comes from their natural talent and ability.  They can’t help it – they are natural talent and ability.  In short, I don’t think they would be any different in whatever cornfield or Big Apple they happen to land on at any given moment.

It’s not a secret that I am an admirer and a fan of Ivey Abitz designs.  I try to get a piece (or an assortment of many pieces) from every collection.  The gods will certainly smile on me if I am always this lucky.  I think that Ivey Abitz in any season is more than adornment.  I find them a necessity.  Like having a sofa to sit on or a bed to sleep in, I would feel very deprived indeed if I were to have to sit out a season.

Which brings me to Summer 2009.

If I wrote about every season since I last wrote about them I would have probably too much to say, so I will stick to the time at hand – Summer 2009. At the risk of repeating myself (and I probably am):

The new designs!!  The fabrics!!!  They are simply to swoon over!

How brilliant is it to turn the Bartholdi Overlay into the new Bartholdi Jacket?  The same for the Elliot Jacket!  The new Bonheur designs – the Bonheur Jacket and the Bonheur Frock…O Ma Lawd…..(I can say that, I’m southern) I was agog, moonstruck, and in awe!  I immediately knew what I must have!  I would like them all. (omg!) Those flowy lines and raw edges.  They are so obviously handmade!

How can one not admire this pure art and creativity?  These are how clothes are meant to be.  They are refined and altogether utilitarian, in both an everyday sort of way and in a special occasion sort of way.

At the same time, it is simple.  After all is said and done, I believe that all brilliant ideas are simple, then we build from that. Like the art school saying: all great art begins with great craftsmanship.

Cynthia Ivey Abitz and I write occasionally back and forth about art and design. I want to comment on something she noticed that I have had on my mind lately.  She mentioned old photographs of folks from the 1940’s… I will go back before this time and to the 1950’s as well.

Have you ever noticed how people dressed?  Of course you have, but have you ever noticed how workmen dressed? Not necessarily professionals, but tradesmen and workers as well, even going all the way back to the time of the building of railroads in America and the rebuilding in Europe.  Going all the way back to when photography was relatively young, you will see men at work in a shirt and tie — sometimes jackets!  I don’t think that back then any working man, no matter what his work or trade at that time, would go to work in anything less than trousers, shirt, and tie.  Going even further back – looking at photos of men and women on the frontier trail making the long trek out west after the Civil War, traveling by horse and covered wagon on the well-doumented Oregon Trail. Women traveled in, cooked in, gave birth in, and raised children in what we would call today (if we had anything to compare it to) formal attire — no matter how rough the fabric. And I may be wrong, but I think the roughest fabric back then was probably quite fine.

I think about that and compare it to now. I don’t mean jeans (jeans are a staple and go with all, says the humble queen of jeans and a self-proclaimed expert on the subject). I mean dress in general.  Everyday dress.  Enough said.  Those who know will know.  Those who don’t are probably not reading this.

I don’t blame this problem with the way people dress every day on finances (It doesn’t matter what your financial situation is. Just look at many of the settlers’ financials).  I also don’t think it is a matter of formal or casual, because you don’t have to be dressed up per se to be presentable. It is the fact that everyday people should know better than to run out to anywhere in workout clothes or beach wear.

I live in Florida. I grew up here in the 1970’s. The most casual dress items I own are probably my $1 rubber flip-flops. You know, the ones with the little designs on the thong?  They remind me of my grandmother, a true beachcomber if there ever was one.  Somewhere in the Smithsonian Museum in one of millions of collections there is a shell discovered by my grandfather, a deep sea diver, in the 1930’s or 40’s which he named for her. My grandmother was a conchologist, and I don’t think you can get any more beachy than that. Anyway, I grew up running around Florida beaches in my bathing suit and $1 rubber flip-flops, but not since 10 years of age.

I am the last person to be formal, but you won’t catch me dead in workout clothes or – what do you call them? track suits? – in public. I own a shop in Florida now and I see people decades older than 10 years of age running around in beachwear. Bathing suits as well! This makes me want to scream “ahhhhhhhhhhhhghhhh” (not a shriek of excitement)!

I think this is what I find meaningful about Ivey-Abitz: You can go back to a time when dressing was special, an event in itself. Turning your very best self to the outside world reflects who you are inside. While our culture may not be as formal as those adventurers who settled frontiers, we can still make clothing special. Yes, even when times are difficult, and especially when life is full of adventure.

Hollywood Treatment

how many people can say that they have personal advice from the actual designer of their clothing!? i love the entire concept of what Ivey Abitz, the company, does, and they do it so very well. doesn’t it just make you feel so very special knowing that you can get this kind of assistance and advice? i mean….we are talking hollywood treatment here! 

Ivey Abitz devotees have this in common: we are lucky to have found Ivey Abitz, and we don’t mind spending money for quality clothing. but the consideration and individual treatment and advice that we get puts us all in the same category with people in the limelight, people who get followed around by cameras – people who walk down red carpets (and some Ivey Abitz clients are actually are in the limelight!) i get all that special treatment, except that i get the benefit of not being followed around by cameras or having my personal life splashed all over the covers of cheap tabloids. to me, that would be such an invasion in addition to a giant pain. to me, this is the only welcome difference.  

i don’t like to use the word bargain because it sounds cheap and i don’t like that word – but think about it. i think we get more than what we pay for with Ivey Abitz, so a bargain it is in this respect. it is a bargain and then some! i will say it again: think about it. 

in closing, i hope to continue participating in this blog. i have no doubt said it before, but i think Ivey Abitz patrons are an exclusive group of style-conscious people. i will follow this fabulous company with avid interest and look forward to the future of Ivey Abitz and to wearing their designs for a long, long time. i have enjoyed writing about how Ivey Abitz designs and how the designer, Cynthia, has influenced my life. i look forward to reading more from some of you. what i have read so far i have enjoyed very much. 

in an earlier entry, i wrote something like “people who wear Ivey Abitz designs are intelligent, unique women and men proud of their individuality.” i will end near the beginning and say that as time goes on, i find this to be as true as it ever was. 

joie de vivre! 

-eleni

Self Expression with Mother Superior and Ivey Abitz

i have always had an unusual (sometimes downright weird) unique style and taste. 

eclectic. that’s a good word. 

since i was a kid, i remember my clothes were important to me in defining who i was. i even went to catholic school and quit because of the uniforms they made us wear every day.  

once i made a deal with the mother superior that i would clean up the staff kitchen and another room (the art room, i think) in exchange for her letting me wear my regular clothes. it was worth it just for one day out of that horrible uniform. i simply couldn’t handle it, even though my very best friends went to school there. i missed a lot of fun with them after leaving this school, but it was that important to me. not only for my self expression, but my identity. or at least how i saw myself. or maybe how i thought i wanted the world to see me. 

i am that way to this day. everyone i know comments on the way i put my clothes together. now cynthia helps me do that through her personal design consultations, always making sure that what we choose together is still me. i love that about the process of working one-on-one with the designer herself. i really do. it is inspiring as well. i am celebrating my individual self, and Ivey Abitz helps me celebrate.

Staying Cool in the Florida Heat – in Ivey Abitz

it is getting to be that time of year in florida that i dread. 

i know this makes no sense at all except maybe to someone who has grown up and lived in this state year in and year out, because it is quite beautiful at the moment. the sun is out and the air is coolish, or at least it isn’t humid yet. the orange blossoms are blooming as are all the citrus trees. so is the jasmine. so why do i dread this time of year? 

because i know in a month it’s going to get hot.  then it will be scorching. then….right around july and august, just when you think it can’t get any hotter – and this gets me every year – it does get just that much hotter. yes, you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. you could burn one on the highway, if there wasn’t so much traffic on u.s. 19, a major highway thru this state. it’s like a highway going right down the middle of shopping centers and strip malls for hundreds of miles. 

so what does this have to do with clothes and design, you might ask? 

you will see quite an array of hot weather fashion here. from polyester with elastic waist pants to loud flower print moo moo’s. i could go on, but you get the picture. i remember the days of straw handbags with shells stuck to them, or woven wood purses with decoupage city scapes painted on them. eek. in some ways, though, i must say i do get a bit nostalgic for the kitschy 50’s and 60’s florida style. even the 40’s. i wasn’t around for most of those decades (maybe one), but it survived here for a long time. i mean, who doesn’t miss the alligator ashtrays and pink flamingo drinking glasses? now it’s just sad, in my opinion. overbuilt, cheap sadness. i even miss the neon and the dinosaurs.  i digress. 

the point about clothing? 

well, it is also the time of year that i start thinking about what i can possibly wear to stay cool enough that i don’t pass out when i walk out of my house (the heat sometimes literally takes my breath away – it’s like walking into a furnace) but stylish enough that i can still live with myself. this is where Ivey Abitz comes in. sometimes it is difficult to plan a wardrobe under these hot conditions, but not with Ivey Abitz. the process is simple. i know that i will get a fabric book and a look book (i have a special place for all of mine) and the website with all of the new ensembles and separates. 

believe it or not, i can wear (with a heat absorbing tank) the ivey abitz silk spun taffeta in floridian heat. i can wear a bartholdi overlay like a top with nothing underneath-except the tank, otherwise it may be a bit x-rated for me.  back in the day a bathing suit top would have worked….oh to be young again (ewwww i sound like my grandmother-yikes!). but even if 40’s are the new 30’s (that’s plural because i’m over 40) i still can’t bring myself to do it. i never thought it would happen to me (i don’t think anyone ever sees this coming), but it did.  i hate to admit it but there are things that i think might be too young for me. 

god forbid that my father-in-law, who is english, calls me or even thinksmutton dressed as lamb,” in regard to me. it doesn’t really matter because i can’t think of a design in the pack that would make me feel that way (minus the bartholdi overlay w/out a tank under it). Ivey Abitz designs are ageless. 

i can dress (or loan for a very short time) my 15 year old niece (in) something of mine that i would wear and we would both look good. they are neither too old or too young….ageless.  i love it. i like to think of myself that way so there you go. again, i’m off the subject.  i was writing about fabrics and the heat…..so…..let me get back to it.  i am sure everyone reading this knows that natural fabrics are best. they breathe in the heat and are warm in the cold weather.  they look…well, natural.  it doesn’t matter what synthetics are invented – and there even are some good new ones – natural fabrics have that certain quality that is classic in every way. 

in this floridian heat, i can and have worn linen hemstitch jacquard, a silk linen doubleweave, and the ribbed silk linen – all from 2007’s autum 2 collection.  at that time of year, florida is still quite warm, but i can wear them in comfort. i can wear any linen because they are light enough for summer. when it does (finally) get a little cold here, i can layer linen with any of the fabrics – i look for texture because i don’t have to really worry about “warmth fabrics,” they are perfect for our climate in winter.  i do wish i could wear the Ivey Abitz velvets and the wools here, but i can’t remember a winter in recent history where i could wear those fabrics more than once. maybe next year, if they are offered. on the other hand, there is so much in fabric to choose from that i can’t see not being able to find something to work in any climate, in any season, for myself.

Gushing About Eleanor. The Shirt, That Is.

now have i mentioned the eleanor? how many times? i love, love, love (how many times have i said that?) my eleanor shirts! they are so perfectly simple and practical, in fact i may actually have one for every day of the week. but who’s counting? there are so many fabric choices that all of the clothing pieces look completely different! 

where do you stop? how can you stop? i am so excited that cynthia came out with another shirt based on the same cut. i will no doubt be in double trouble now with the trelawny shirt (don’t you love the name?). 

you know how they say you can never have too many…what is it? shoes & bags? well, i can never have too many shirts. the eleanor i can definitely wear anytime, anywhere, and i never have to worry about anything because it hangs perfectly, in or out. tied in the back or the front or even with the ties wrapped on the sides. 

i can say that about all of the ivey abitz shirts, and i especially love the baedeker, the bartholdi & the eleanor. i am sure that soon i will have some new favorites (from the newly released designs) as well. 

i think i may even have a forerunner of eleanor — i think she was called “ella” and had a black silk trim, and i love, love (etc.) that one too! 

i am not usually a gushy type of person but i do have to admit that i can talk about these designs with extra enthusiasm because i do love & admire so many different aspects of them.

The Versatility of the Sophia Camisole

ahhh…the sophia camisole.  a BIG success for such a little piece. 

if you have read any of my previous entries, you will know i like to experiment with cynthia’s designs. i am always doing something with something and this has nothing to do with me really — it’s because the clothes are so very versatile and they are naturally made to wear in many different ways. their versatility is one of the many things that i like about the designs in addition to the “perfection of imperfection, the “art to wear, and the fact that you cannot find clothes like this anywhere but here. well, at the moment. i wouldn’t be surprised one day if this was a worldwide label — though i really don’t know what the “house of ivey abitz” has in mind for the future. but i do think that whatever the Ivey Abitz’s do with their line, it will be as big and renowned as they want it to be. 

as i was saying…..sorry i do tend to go off on tangents! 

but anyway the other day i was wearing my sophia camisole…..i had it over an eleanor shirt. i can go on & on about eleanor, too. she is just one of my favorites of all times — and i probably will go on more about her later! 

but my dilemma, and what got me thinking of how to wear the sophia different ways, was the fact that i happened to want to tuck the eleanor in and tie it in back but then i had the problem of what to do with the tie to the sophia camisole. i love the fact that the strings on this are very long (i can wrap it around twice if i want), but i didn’t want to do that this time either so i started experimenting with the wrap. what i finally did was criss-cross the tie in front. then i brought the ends of the tie and wrapped them each around the sleeveless part of the camisole at the shoulder. after that i tucked in the ends and made a tie — not a bow, but a tie — and tucked that in so it looked wrapped. very cool. it stayed that way all day, and i didn’t have to fuss with it once.

Comrades in Ivey Abitz

i would just like to comment here about some of the other writers’ points of view on ivey abitz designs. i really liked reading their input. we don’t know each other, but when it comes to this clothing, we have a lot in common.  

i loved maeve’s description of the baedeker shirt. i have several of these from a lichen (dark) striped taffeta to an irish linen, a ribbed silk and a black cotton jacuard (what a score that was!) everything that maeve said about the elegance and panache is right on. the only thing i can basically repeat — as she has really already said it all — is that this design is so versatile because it is elegant but casual all at once. 

in addition, maeve wrote about the camilla shirt. this is one i haven’t tried yet and am looking forward to this now, too. to say that ivey abitz really helped to change your identity is saying a lot — i can’t imagine what you have gone thru with such a traumatic loss that you have suffered. i send you my sincere sympathy and thanks, maeve. 

then there is karen from british columbia and her stories of growing up in beverly hills that made for great reading. i love the from beverly hills to organic farming in b.c. — in ivey abitz! some of that reminded me of myself. i am in a small florida town where the people i know shop the gamut, from big box discount stores to high end department stores, and there aren’t a lot of choices in between these extremes. this is why i started shopping on line in the first place. online is where i discovered ivey abitz.  

before that and when i was younger, we perused the thrift shops in search of the vintage treasure that used to be widely available (i am just up the way from st. petersburg, florida!) now, all of those are picked over — not even the old florida kitsch is left. at least that had its charm. i am glad i did have a chance to get the stuff when it was available. wealthy retirees from all over the country moving down to florida used to make thrift shopping an exciting — and profitable in many ways — hunt for treasure. 

i would like to thank you both – i think this blog is a great idea!

I Have Worn It Backwards

How many bartholdi overlays does one need?  

A LOT! 

i have many pieces of Ivey Abitz and as i have said before, i rarely if ever wear anything else. the designs i used to wear before discovering Ivey Abitz went to the dry cleaner and then were carefully covered – to the back of the closet went the *designer name removed*, the *designer name removed*, and even the other art to wear designers that i dearly loved and looked forward to every season (and bought way too much of). some are brand new with the tags still attached. anyway, that is another story for another time, maybe but you get the idea. there is no other designer out there that even comes close to Ivey Abitz.  

so the bartholdi overlay — first let me give you an idea of what i look like because i have “special needs”. it is because i am short. not just short. short is what?  5′ 3′?  i wish! no, i am really short. i am 5 ft. — just. i weigh between 100 and 105, so i am considered normal, but of course i am never happy (95 lbs. is perfection to me). that is still another story, but my point is that i do have short legs, so i am considered petite and i find it difficult to buy clothes.  some tall gals think that it is a drag being tall and would rather be petite but it isn’t.  no way-i think most people would agree that it is better for wearing certain clothes to be taller. the bartholdi overlay is great for everything every day and because of all the fabrics available…..well i have quite a few. the design is more than a vest but not quite a shirt or top. it is something like a tunic but more creative and with more options. it is….well, an original.  

as small as i am, i can wear it for many occasions and for many reasons. a fat day – they make you look thinner and taller. a thin day – they just make you look good. i wear platforms – i have discovered some comfy ones, so i won’t look so short. they give me a good 3 inches, and i pull jeans way down as far as possible and scrunch them, too. combined with the bartholdi overlay, i become magically….normal sized! 

i have worn the bartholdi overlay the way it is designed, and i have worn it backwards. i have worn it to formal occasions – i had the misfortune to attend 3 funerals over the summer, and in our community a funeral is a week long event, so i got a lot of use out of my overlays in the more formal fabrics and the taffetas. i went to my neice’s school play and wore my cotton yarn dyed bartholdi over a bartholdi shirt. i can and do wear them with just about anything. i love them with the eleanor shirts, which is a staple piece and i have several of those as well. 

then, in my mind is the mini me version of the bartholdi overlay, and that is the camilla vest. the day before yesterday i wore a camilla vest…somehow i managed to pull the ties under the sides of the vest, then over the cross piece in front and tied it over that piece. it is hard to explain, but it illustrates how versatile these whimsical pieces – out of the endless imagination of cynthia’s – really are.

The Perfection of Imperfection

yesterday i wore my celia shirt. i haven’t worn it in awhile and because i love it so much, i wondered why. certain pieces are so beautiful to me that i tend to treat them like treasure. this is one of those pieces. the first time i wore the celia shirt, i pulled off that beautiful tie with the three brooches attached and tied it up and wore it as a necklace with the shirt. in fact i have used the necklace with other shirts, too. yesterday i used the tie for the shirt the way it was meant to be worn. sometimes i wear a belt with it, but again it had been awhile. by mid-day i said to myself, “oh, i really do have to have another celia shirt.” 

one of the reasons that a piece of clothing will go into the treasure chest (figuratively speaking) is what i call the perfection of imperfection. in my opinion, the human hand is the true quality of a piece of art. what i mean by that is that when you see the frayed edges — or the parts of the piece of art to wear and what makes it look handmade — they are the parts that you know were not made by a machine but have the permanent embellishment or stamp of the human touch. it may not be obvious because those seams are perfect so it is a little hard to describe. but it is there. they are, for instance, the pleats and folds in the sleeves of the bartholdi shirt. the frayed edges of the duomo jacket and the celia shirt. the sleeves and neckline of the cozette jacket. and the fact that many of the pieces are washed and dyed by hand to give a more vintage quality. all of these very special touches are to me what makes ivey abitz designs art. it is the essence of all art. the human hand, the human touch.

simple everyday laundering methods for ivey abitz garments

i really do believe that these ivey abitz clothes are made to wear every day, and i do wear them every day. i wear them to work at our soap company where i am making things by hand. i am getting into all sorts of creams, essential oils, carrier oils, soaps, body products and experiments in general — things that we make, and overall to do the things i do every day. i pick up my cats wearing them, i pet my dogs and take them here and there. i don’t really worry about it because the garments wash beautifully. some pieces i wash by hand and they come out perfectly. i have never had a piece lose its color or otherwise look any different when i put them on the delicates or handwash cycle. some pieces i dry clean even though i know i don’t have to — i just do. usually because the dry cleaner presses them better than i do, or i don’t want to iron them at all. a lot of pieces don’t need it. depends on the look you want from the fabric. sometimes i prefer the crinkled look of silk taffeta, and sometimes i like it to show off the smooth, almost reflective sheen of this fabric. a lot of other fabrics fall into place without having to do a thing, right out of the wash.