An Ivey Abitz Wardrobe in the Beautiful South

By Liz in the Beautiful South

After years of perusing the Ivey Abitz website I am, at long last, an extremely happy new customer. I don’t know why it took me so long to place an order. Clothes are very important to me.

Liz shares part one of her Ivey Abitz wardrobe.
A glimpse at some of Liz’s new wardrobe from Ivey Abitz.

One of my cherished, early memories is of my grandmother making my kindergarten clothes. We went together to look at patterns and choose fabric. Then she created a one of a kind wardrobe that instantly made me the best dressed five year old in town.

Now, at age 59, I’m able to replicate that experience with Ivey Abitz. These are clothes for those of us not interested in participating in fast fashion, who pay no attention to trends, but instead build a consistent wardrobe and look over several seasons. These creations are precious and will last many years. The designs are timeless, the fabrics gorgeous, and the sewing exquisite.

Liz shares part two of her Ivey Abitz wardrobe.
A glimpse at some of Liz’s new wardrobe from Ivey Abitz.

Every time I wear one of my new garments, I notice yet another exceptional detail. And they are so comfortable I can forget I have them on, until one of my friends exclaims over a new jacket or dress and wants to know where on earth I found such a treasure. And then I direct them to the Ivey Abitz site.

I’m a convert!

-Liz in the Beautiful South

Southern Sartorial Elegance

by Anita in the South

I am Southern, born and bred. Growing up, my grandmothers made many of my outfits and by age ten, I was sewing in 4-H. I know the hours of work that go into the touches, the details, that make an ensemble not only look perfect but FEEL perfect. I have spent many an evening as a teen, taking out stitching that wasn’t just so and pinning for top stiching, lapping seams, laying a pattern so that the designs in the fabric would flow, and basting for hours.

My mother had a seamstress, Miss Barton, that made many of her outfits, bound button holes, detailing, even her own labels, and I would ride with her for her fittings. (Any of you recall Leiter fabrics??) My mother would never have been caught wearing the same dress as someone else. Growing up Southern in the late 50’s and 60’s, the fashion rules that had been laid down for generations still held and will be with me always. We NEVER wore white after Labor Day or straw before Easter. Ladies did not wear jeans. I was 21 before I even tried on a pair! (Apologies to those of you who look great in jeans…most of us DO NOT.) Fashion was an experience to be enjoyed.

I was shopping Ivey Abitz before Cynthia started her own designs, so I was one of the first in line. Like my mother, I don’t want to meet myself coming and going in mass produced clothing.

Most of my wardrobe is now Ivey Abitz. I spend hours and multiple emails with Cynthia planning and seeking her advice on what ensembles to add (she keeps up so well with what you already have!). She is endlessly patient and helps me make the perfect choices for each season. She knows my likes and dislikes and her attention to her patrons is reflected in her incredibly comfortable designs. I never feel that my clothes are wearing me. (Think serious fashion mistakes you made in college.)

Somewhere along the way, feminine became the F word. The rags that pass for fashion make me dread long airline flights or trips to the market. I wear my IA ensembles everywhere, traveling costumes, at home, parties, and I look feminine and feel feminine. Cynthia has embraced a feeling of a more refined and dignified Time in her collections. I have found a sartorial home at IA and I never have to leave my home to browse and plan. I love opening the packages–a presentation in themselves.

Thank you, Cynthia.

-Anita in the South

P.S. Invest in the fabric swatches. There is no substitute for holding the fabric and looking at it in natural light and thinking carefully about your selections.

My Precious Baedeker Shirt

“I love the Baedeker, and The Baedeker loves me”, Maeve in Minnesota.

How I love this line from Maeve’s blog entry.  And how I also love The Baedeker!  

In fact, I loved my first Baedeker dress so much, I decided to try my luck with the Baedeker shirt — this time in a Deep Ocean blue (I sure do miss Maine…) silk spun taffeta.

When Cynthia Ivey Abitz first suggested to me I try an item in the silk spun taffeta, it brought a large smile to my face.  I think the last time I had worn taffeta was as a little girl: a poofy skirted dress that always impelled me to twirl around and around pretending I was a ballerina. 

(Of course, I am sure that taffeta was polyester…need I say more?)

Not ready to try this “grown up” version of taffeta (as I had put my dancing days behind me), I quickly abandoned the idea of using it as a fabric in my new Wearable Art collection.   But then my eyes beheld a beautiful sight one day and I realized that I just HAD to have something in that incredible fabric!  (that “beautiful sight” being, of course, page 20 of the Ivey Abitz Winter 07 Look Book).   And, after a few clicks of the keyboard and a couple weeks of waiting… that beautiful Baedeker was all mine! 

This time there was no delay…no time to admire the elegant box and simple bow…just a flurry of paper as I tore into that tissue looking for my Baedeker.  And there she was.  Looking so dainty (and tiny!) with her vintage black glass buttons from Prague expertly sewn on the shimmering fabric…breathtaking!

Trying her on, I found that she fit perfectly…as if made just for me. 

As for the taffeta…let’s just say the poofy-skirted dress couldn’t hold a candle to my Baedeker.  The way the light plays on that fabric: it’s blue…it’s black…no blue…!   And it is so smooth and silky.    

And machine washable. 

Maeve did a wonderful job describing the Baedeker in her blog entry.  I agree with her whole-heartedly.  But when I look at myself in the mirror wearing my new Baedeker, I realize that Maeve missed something.  I will admit that I may be just a little blinded by the beauty of that taffeta, but I am convinced that when I am wearing my new Baedeker I have the poise of a regal ballerina.  (Minus the twirling and the pointe shoes…)

No wonder the other items in my closet are a bit jealous of my new Baedeker.

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.

The Birth of Discernment

My own group of artists, writers, and geeks was neither emaciated nor extraordinarily wealthy, so we ate with gusto, kept our food down and shopped on Melrose or Main Street to score cool vintage clothes that we’d mix up with more modern pieces and then swap among ourselves for greater variety. Even then, though there were occasional longings to have access to limitless finances, we knew deep down that budgets were more liberating than limiting; and that our resourcefulness and creativity muscles were getting exercised in ways that really opened our eyes to possibilities and unique combinations. Our templates weren’t models, which was liberating in itself. 

There was never any mention of the actual quality of the clothing, though; for the most part it was about the “look.” No one seemed to care about or notice the materials used (other than the fact that we all hated polyester and acrylic), the stitching, or anything as exotic as dressmaker details or handwork. With few exceptions, none of us was ready to recognize, appreciate or embrace the hallmarks of excellence that would later come to mean a great deal. But when the shift does take place, it’s mind-bending and extends into every other corner of your life. At that moment, discernment is born and your childhood is over. 

Fast forward a couple of decades. Something happens as you grow up. Cycles and trends become easy to predict, because we’ve finally lived through a few rounds of them and can see it all as a circle and not necessarily a linear progression. Trends are finally seen for what they are:  gimmicks to promote impulsive spending, and not benevolent offerings from exalted, over-hyped designers to enhance one’s personal style or uniqueness. But there are exceptions. 

to be continued in the next entry…

I Love the Baedeker and the Baedeker Loves Me

A friend of mine is a no-nonsense tower of strength. She is a former police officer and now the director of a university criminal justice department specializing in human trafficking. We were talking about teaching our grandchildren lessons. I asked her what she teaches her granddaughters. I readied myself for a learning experience. She said, “I’ve taught them that a woman just can’t have too many shoes.”  

Well, it was a learning experience. It validated something that I believe to be true…a woman just can’t have too many Baedeker Shirts!  

This shirt has flattering lines. The collar is rather high at the back of the neck which gives the illusion of a longer, more graceful neck. The collar then rests lightly across the shoulders and comes to a point. The neckline drops to an attractive, shallow V in the front. I personally like the V in the front that does not dip too low.  

The back of the Baedeker Shirt is as beautiful as the front. I believe the least we can do for people behind us in grocery lines or in places of worship, is have something interesting or beautiful to look at. The Baedeker features a tall collar that drops to a point in the back. Along the waistline are little shiny buttons about 4 inches apart with a tab in the center. Each woman can button the tab to her preference. She can button it so that the shirt pulls in at the waist or she can button it so that the shirt falls loosely. Either way, the fabric in the back of the shirt poufs out gracefully above and below the tab. Beautiful. Cynthia Ivey Abitz designs clothing that it is flattering from every angle. 

The sleeves are designed with versatility in mind. They fall to graceful point just at the wrist. No worry about sleeves that are too short or too long. For added interest, one sleeve has a slit with a tab across it with points on each end of the tab. As you can see, the point as a design element is reapeated throughout the garment.  

I have often referred to the versatility of the Ivey Abitz designs. The following is an example of the widely (and wildly) disparate activities the Baedeker Shirt will accommodate.  

I wore a black and white cotton voile Baedeker Shirt, with antique silk woven buttons, circa early 1900’s from Paris recently to a funeral with black flared trousers. The Baedeker held its own as I paired it with a heavy, sterling silver, roped necklace with a monogrammed pendant that my grandmother made. I have had difficulty in the past finding something to wear with this beautiful piece of jewelry. The design and fabric of the shirt did not complete with this statement jewelry but provided just the right understated but beautiful background. 

Now, contrast that with wearing that same Baedeker Shirt with my jeans when my 7-year old grandson invited me to his school for lunch. This shirt was wonderful with my jeans. It took away that dungarees look.  Don’t ask me why but I felt a little French. I was oh, so comfortable but I retained a bit of élan while eating my corndog. Now, that’s versatility!  

That lovely garment retained its dignity even as it reached from the solemn formality of a funeral service to the boisterous cacophony of a kids’ cafeteria!  

What remained constant, however, was the way I feel when I wear Ivey Abitz designs. Wearable art helps me express parts of myself I like without having to say a word. 

Cynthia Ivey Abitz’s designs are original, imaginative, gracious, sophisticated yet firmly planted in comfort and practicality. Her wearable art always has that certain…..well, that signature penache..  

Just the qualities I want to nurture and express.