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

My Introduction to the Baedeker Dress

The first piece of wearable art I purchased was the Baedeker dress in a beautiful Deep Ocean blue hemstitch jacquard linen. I just love the color — it brings back fond memories of walking on the beach when I lived on the coast of Maine — and the fabric has an incredible drape with an oh-so-subtle sheen. Beautiful. 

Being the practical woman that I am, I was a bit hesitant at purchasing something that could only be worn by itself and couldn’t really be combined with other items (as a blouse or Sophia Frock could). But something about the design really clicked with me…so, after doing some creative things with the budget (and nudging into the next month’s “allowance”)  I took the plunge and bought it. 

Then, I immediately panicked! 

I had never purchased a dress that cost that much money before. But, after doing some quick calculations, I realized that all of my “great deals” that I had purchased over the past two years totaled up to an amount that could have purchased several Baedeker dresses…ouch! I also realized that instead of purchasing 4 cheap generic outfits (that were made of inferior fabrics and poorly sewn) I could have purchased one beautiful outfit of wearable art that I would treasure for YEARS. 

The waiting was the hardest part. I hate waiting. 

But it was worth it.

The Baedeker arrived on Christmas Eve in an elegant white box with a simple black bow. A perfect gift to start the New Year with a “new” me!

Afraid to wear the dress, it hung in my closet for about a month! But every so often I would pull it out and try it on — just to make sure it was real. Playing around with it, I figured out about 7 different ways to wear the dress – and each way gave the dress an entirely new look. (Not a bad investment piece if you ask me!)

And, when I finally did manage to get the courage to wear the dress for “real”… I got my first compliment within a minute of getting out of my car in a parking lot. (By my calculations, it took about 3 seconds for that person to surmise what a confident, elegant, silly, attractive, and intelligent woman I was, about 20 seconds to get up the nerve to tell me so, and another 30 seconds for them to catch up to me in the parking lot — I walk fast) Not bad for a first showing!

The First 3 Seconds

It is a well known fact that you will be judged within the first three seconds of meeting someone.  Clothing, posture, grooming, mannerisms…all will make an impact before you even get the chance to say “hello”.   

Being a bit of a chatterbox (and a fast talker), I always hoped my “hello” reached others about 1.3 seconds prior to any visual impact and judgements.  I like to think that I have been successful in my attempts.  But I need to face the reality that I am getting older and my vocal agility is slowing down — not to mention the fact that I am always distracted by my 2 year old twin boys!   

So what is a weary mother of  toddlers to do but to fall back on the old standard of looking presentable.  At all times. Just in case. 

Presentable.  This word is so subjective.  For example, it has become the norm in society to look ‘presentable’ while wearing fuzzy blue slippers, haggard pajama bottoms, and a grubby sweatshirt.  I will admit that while this ensemble would be quite comfortable, I just don’t think it would give an accurate impression of my persona.   

If I want to accurately portray who I am to others, then I must begin by asking myself the question: “Who am I?”   

A wife, a mother of rambunctious toddlers, a physician… these answers are easy enough.  But I also enjoy classical music, fine dining, nature, laughter, reading, antiques, traveling… and so many other things.   If I could tell others about myself, what would I want them to know?  Could I say it in three seconds?  Would it involve fuzzy blue slippers?  

Taking a good look at myself in the mirror, I realized that the person I saw staring back at me was a complete stranger. Instead of seeing the confident, elegant, silly, attractive, and intelligent woman that I know I am, I saw a frumpy, ill-kempt woman with a smear of grape jelly on her left sleeve and who was in serious need of a haircut.  And that was only after the first second. 

When did a woman who was once considered “fashionable” by all of her friends/relatives change into this unrecognizable, dowdy creature?  Did it happen overnight or did it evolve over the past 2 years?  I understand that the catalyst was a serious life-style change — but I was amazed to see I had succumbed this far.    

I will admit that chasing kids around in stiletto-heeled shoes and a pencil skirt is not only impracticable, but downright dangerous.  But who says that motherhood must be unglamorous?  Why must one equate “comfort” with sweatpants, easy-to-care-for synthetic separates, and “sensible” shoes?  Why must we all don generic clothing that stifles any sense of personality and creativity?  Why had I spent so much money on “bargains” that made me look (and feel) so bad? 

If I could create a perfect wardrobe, it would have to have the following conditions:

  • beautiful
  • coordinating
  • comfortable
  • easy to care for
  • natural fibers
  • fun/whimsical
  • practical
  • versatile
  • modest
  • elegant, simple lines
  • well constructed
  • flattering to my body shape
  • colors that I like
  • made in the USA

(Shamefully, the majority of the clothing in my closet did not meet this criteria.)  

Armed with this list, I began to scour the internet.  I knew that what I was looking for existed — it had to!  (I could not be the only confident, elegant, silly, attractive, and intelligent woman in the world.)   And, after months of searching, I finally found what I had been looking for:

IveyAbitz

Elegant. Fun. Beautiful. Who could ask for more?

Ivey Abitz from the Inside Out

I’ve discovered that I’m coming to prefer just about everything on a smaller, more intimate scale. Our own food supply is one thing. A small community and personal service is another. Handmade, timeless clothing from limited runs of speechlessly beautiful fabric and with loving, well-placed details is yet another. Prior to every ivey abitz order I placed, there was an event coming up for which I’d purchased each piece. (That’s the official story, anyway. It was a convenient excuse to buy the pieces I loved.) Each time, comically, the event was either indefinitely postponed or cancelled entirely. Sometimes it was weather-related, sometimes not. 

In the meantime, they instantly became the most stunning members of my closet, eclipsing even my formerly most prized and flattering pieces. The day I wore my black sueded silk Bartholdi skirt into town (not exactly the ceremony for which it had been purchased, but she had a good sense of humour about it), my husband kept gushing about how much he liked it and how well it suited me, and even the postmaster raced out from behind the counter to stroke the silk (she’s a woman, it was OK) and admire the wild, elegant design that I like to call controlled chaos. More than any of the compliments, though, it felt so good to wear, and instantly elevated my mood and reminded me of the transformative power of a well-conceived, beautifully handcrafted article of clothing that was literally made just for me. I was reminded of my powerful desire to both create and be surrounded by beauty, and what it does for me from the inside out.

More Everyday Experiences in the Camilla Shirt

I have now worn the Camilla Shirt on many, many occasions. I wore it to the local Opera House for an evening fundraiser. I wore it to a huge brunch for 80 people. I wore it to a large cocktail party of 50 people. I’ve worn it to town, to church, and to dinner. I have catalogued many different comments and responses. I can usually count on the shirt getting noticed, so retiring, wallflower, introvert types should be forewarned. Although I have some social anxiety, I am an extrovert, so I like it. 

I wore the Camilla Shirt to a fundraiser at the Opera House. A friend’s sister exclaimed over and over how “gorgeous” the shirt was. I thanked her over and over and, as usual, shared with her the story of Ivey Abitz, the design elements, the antique buttons, etc. Then she asked how much the shirt was. Her face froze. She exclaimed, “Then it’s even more gorgeous.”

Everyday Chores in Ivey Abitz

(you’ll notice Maeve mentions a lawn sprinkler – this was written in September. She is not watering her Minnesota lawn in February!)

Today I put on my favorite, a white hemstitch jacquard linen Eleanor Shirt. I paired it with a Baedeker Skirt in denim linen (from autumn 1). Then I put on a Camilla Vest and voila. It transformed the ensemble. I tied the vest in the back which pulled the waist in a bit. It gave a little more shape to the outfit and it looked a little more slimming. What I liked was the way Eleanor Shirt fell below the vest so there was a soft line of white that flowed with the line of the vest. The lines of the grey vest gave color contrast and shape to the top half of me. 

The Baedeker Trousers are another story. They fall to just the right lenth for me…..above the ankles. I love the tabs that cross over the 10 inch slits on the sides…just a little open. Best of all, of course, is the low rise in the trouser leg (waist sits at the natural waistline). It is a skirt and trouser in one. It falls like a skirt, feels like a skirt, but has the wearability of a trouser. I am finding them very versatile. It’s like having 2 items of clothing for the price of 1. I am currently sitting in a coffee shop at a round table typing this and I can sit any way I like because of the trouser feature. 

Before I left home, I stepped outside to turn on the sprinkler and met my neighbor, who has lovely taste in clothing. She raved about what I was wearing. Over and over, actually. Now this is a casual ensemble I’m wearing today, but it just has added interest beause even though each piece is designed separately, they work together so well. Then she said, “I’m going to have to order some things.”