Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This is the ghost dress.

English net, silk cotton, embroidered lace, vintage mother of pearl buttons. Many girls have been circling 'round this dress over the past few days, and I have a feeling she will have a new home by the weekend. I wanted to be sure to snap her photo while she's still mine--should old acquaintance be forgot.
Just as pretty from the back--a true lady. Happy new year, little ghost.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


We're busy little bees here getting ready for our upcoming fashion show...more info soon, but here are the basics!
When: Sunday, February 1st at 2 pm
Where: The Cleaners at the Ace Hotel, 1022 SW Stark Street
What: Lots of lovely dresses by The English Dept., lingerie by Lille Boutique, flowers by Ink & Peat, accessories by Twigs & Honey, gift registry by Canoe.

rsvp to The English Dept.

It's our 4th annual show, and we're excited to show you what we've been working on! Hope to see you there.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Boxing Day!

Since our English Dept. holiday party was snowed out this week, I'll deliver this gift to my trusty assistant Clara, today. Christmas is yesterday's's Boxing Day!
Hooded plaid shrug, made from vintage Pendleton wool, lined in sky blue silk satin.

Boxing Day dates back to past centuries when it was the custom for the wealthy to give gifts to employees or to people in a lower social class, most especially to household servants and other service personnel. [wikipedia]

Now let's all have a laugh about "wealthy," "lower social class," and "household servants." Ah, there'll always be an England.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I think I love you.

We're buried under the Solstice Snowstorm here, but before cabin fever drove me into the streets, I made this -- my new favorite thing in the world. Antique ivory cashmere embellished with vintage lace and glass beads. Lined in shantung. And yes, it is lying in a snowbank -- the one right outside my front door.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Can rick-rack be high fashion?

Yes, these are the things I ruminate about. I love rick-rack's Frenchy, jaunty zigzags, but it does have a little bit of that homespun, cutie-pie thing. As a designer who is probably guilty of putting one ruffle or bow too many on her dresses, I have to ration my adorable details. But this Chanel dress from spring '08 has me rethinking the whole thing (via I'm always wowed by Tsumori Chisato. Is it a dress? A poncho? A magic flying tunic? Who cares! It's perfect.

How about a clutch of rick-rack roses? Thanks to Vintage Vogue for demystifying this lovely embellishment. Watch this space for my experiment in rick-rack revival...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Arctic Blast!

Folks who come from places with *real* winter scoff at our funny Portland freakouts whenever it snows. It's really coming down, though! I love that, here at least, weather has the power to make a mockery of the modern hustle. Stay home, people! I'm at the shop today, but not for long. Home to my snug studio, some hand sewing, and holiday movies. I do love Miracle on 34th Street. There, I said it out loud.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Double Happiness.

Some wonderful pictures of Chris's wedding from the fall. Dress is satin-faced shantung, empire waist, pleated to accommodate baby belly. I just got word that Chris had her baby boy on Monday!
Loads of lovely ladies in white. It reminds me of a nineteenth century family portrait. Only smile-ier.
I really like this one, for some reason. The ruffle bolero was a last minute inspiration, but I think it made the ensemble, don't you? Congratulations, Chris--all the best to you and your new family. Thanks to Heather Hawksford for generously sharing these images.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nina, Pretty Ballerina.

Another dress from the new issue of Portland Bride & Groom...ivory lace embroidered bodice, silk gazar ballerina skirt. The photo features a little cameo appearance by the antique key brooch from this post.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Going platinum.

Some photos from Portland Bride & Groom of Stephanie and Lee's August wedding.While I always am excited to have a dress of mine featured in a magazine, the "real weddings" are the best--the dress just lights up with the happiness and glow of the real day, the real love, the real bride.
My thoughts were with Stephanie on the weekend of her wedding because it poured rain (I mean buckets). Pretty rare for late August, even in Portland. Looks like these lovebirds rallied, though--what happy scenes.
Dress is platinum satin-faced taffeta. Bridesmaid dresses by Vera Wang from The English Dept. Another lovely handmade headpiece by Twigs & Honey.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Silk taffeta ruffle shrug in the etsy shop!

This little number joins the handknit shrug and the organza ruffle jacket in our new English Dept. etsy boutique. Made from 100% silk taffeta, possibly the most luxurious fabric of all time, this is the latest installment in my never-ending quest for proper wraps for weddings.
Click here to see more photos, purchase, or place a custom order.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Something to go over something.

Just wanted to show off this sweet handknit wool shrug by English Dept. lieutenant Clara (I'm the sewer, she's the knitter). Here at the shop, we're surrounded on all sides by wispy, sleeveless dresses. But on a day like today--38ºF and raining--we're craving cozy. This is going into the etsy shop later today. Clara embellished it very sweetly with handsewn seed beads and vintage pearls from our studio stash. Ta da!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Some pretty images from Liz's wedding (courtesy of Erin Grace Photography). Designing the dress was a cross-country affair. Liz was working in New York but planning her Portland wedding for the fall. We met during a visit to Portland to discuss the dress. She chose lace at a New York fabric store and shipped it out to me, and we continued designing at a distance (photos, email, etcetera) until poof--surprise--her fiancé received a job offer in Singapore. Home she came to Portland for the remainder of the summer, so we got to have in-person fittings after all. Planning a wedding and an international move all at once--whew. Silk charmeuse gown with lace bodice, satin sash, and blush satin-covered buttons.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I can only take credit for making the little bolero jacket in this shot, but I had to share this photo from Carrie's wedding with you. Wow! This otherworldly scene was shot in Portland's own Classical Chinese Garden.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

This is the cupcake dress.

I resisted calling it that--"cupcake" can have negative connotations where wedding dresses are concerned. But like all nicknames that stick, it has a ring of truth. This frock is fluffy, frothy, sweet--like a cupcake. Coconut, if you please.
It is--or was--a one of a kind dress. But spring bride Carrie wants one for her wedding up at Mount Hood, and Jordan bought the original for her rehearsal dinner dress. And so the repeat performance.Luckily, I still had all the fabrics. That tassel organza just knocks me out.
Long lost twins!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I was wide awake at 5:30 this morning. Trying to take deep, cleansing breaths...

Mini-mission accomplished...

Finally! With rain pelting the windows, it may not be the best day to wear this sweet dress, but I can't wait to take it out for a spin (layered over sleeves and stockings, + boots + scarf + etc., to be sure). I was inspired by this dress (alas! sold out) and decided to make my own version. Thanks, Jenny!

Fall fabrics...

I've been so busy with brides 'round the English Dept. that I haven't yet had a chance to plunge into my fall fabrics. I'm snapping this photo to inspire and remind me to get cracking! I'm feeling a wistful, Edwardian thing this fall...shades of sepia and old rose, monochrome prints, classic plaids. From top: vintage Pendleton plaid wool, black and gold silk gazar, and two New York finds: rose scallop print cotton, gold dot gauze.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Silk shantung tea length wedding dress with ruffle hem--so dashing and fresh for a sweet, sweet girl. I always jump at the chance to design a short(er) wedding dress, and Holly not only had a vision, she was a dream to work with. These great photos (I love the one below) really capture what a lovely, radiant person she is. Photos by Canlas Photography.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I love this dress!

This one is a favorite of mine. For Heather's dress, I redesigned her mom's (lovingly handmade) wedding gown, which originally had a high necked lace bodice, long lace sleeves, and a straight, fitted skirt made from silk pebble crepe. The neckline became a scoop front and back. I found some matching ivory silk crepe to remake the bodice underlayer. I dismantled the lace sleeves and cut apart the lace flowers to scatter across a new sheer skirt layer (organza, gathered and full). The finishing touch--an ivory silk charmeuse sash informally knotted in the front. Heather was a good sport and did a little mini photo shoot with me in front of the beautiful doors of the First Presbyterian Church. It's steps from the shop--I walk by it every single day!--but I only recently noticed how lovely it is. At the last minute a stiff autumn breeze kicked up, so I also snapped a shot of the dress caught up in the gale. Love, love, love.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Me + NYC

I'm boarding a plane tonight for the New York Bridal Market. Three days of dresses, dresses, dresses! In my off hours I'll be scouring the town for lovely new fabrics and supplies (Mood Fabrics, here I come--with my epic, annotated and heavily underlined shopping list). Whee!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Suzy-Steven wedding

Last weekend I drove out to Sauvie Island, to visit Cistus Nursery. Cistus specializes in drought-tolerant plants that are hardy in our soggy Northwest--eucalyptus from Australia, hebes from New Zealand. While on their website looking for directions, I discovered that one of my brides did her wedding registry through Cistus. What a great idea for a couple starting a new home or building a garden together. It reminded me to email Suzy for wedding photos, and here they are:
Truly some of the sweetest, most joyful wedding photos I've seen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A cloud of flowers.

I'm working on a new dress for Oregon Bride magazine...the theme is "Summer of Love" and I had a vision of blossoms strewn across the top of a very simple, sweeping gown. Here's a glance of the work in progress...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What's Mine is Yours.

We just got our fall delivery from Mine, the work of London designer Katherine Pont. We love to have UK designers in our shop--we are The English Dept., after all. Katherine's collection of bookish, darkly feminine dresses and tops suits the autumn mood so beautifully. I am swooning. See her whole collection here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

October wedding...

Woodsmoke, cider, tucking in the garden for winter...sweet, melancholy October. Thanks to Kathryn over at Snippet & Ink for including my gold dress in this wistfully beautiful wedding inspiration board. I am feeling the seasonal shift, too, and was inspired to make this dress corsage based on the October mood:Satin-wrapped berries and petals, velvet leaves, pearls, gold tulle, antique key.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Short and sweet (but not too sweet).

Ivory silk taffeta tea length wedding dress for Terri. She obligingly struck a pose so I could photograph the buttons down the back. Although this was just a quick snapshot in the shop, I kind of like the dress paired with black stockings...a touch Edwardian...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I've been working for weeks on a do-it-yourself design project for an upcoming fashion craft book. This project's an old favorite of mine--turning an outdated, overdone wedding dress into a cocktail frock with just enough fancy.
The original gown came courtesy of ebay, and dutifully submitted to the shears. I pared away a lot of the froth (neckline, sleeves), turned the sleeves into a waistband, shortened the skirt, and added a chiffon overlayer for some fun and float. I'm in love with this honey-caramel-ochre color right now, and the dress took a few dips in the dye bath to get it just right. Now the dress travels to Texas for its inclusion in the book. Safe travels, Honey.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Made in Portland.

Gorgeous bride Aerin in her Thread "Tori" dress from The English Dept. I customized the dress by replacing the skinny straps with wide bands of gathered pewter silk chiffon. Local designer Holly Stalder made a custom bolero.and our beloved Twigs & Honey made her veil. I was happy to be part of this hometown talent collaboration. Isn't she a knockout? Photos by Jessica Hill.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On the wings of love.

Beautiful Dove in her white silk crepe gown for her September wedding in Chicago. I can't get over those ruffles! Custom headpiece by Twigs & Honey.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Two If By Sea.

Some recent pictures of Kate's wedding at a family home in Gloucester, Mass. This time of year I always feel a little wistful about New England--nobody does fall better than the colonies. We finished Kate's dress back in the spring and it's nice to see it have its day in the sun. Silk cotton pleated gown with gold bias organza and beaded band.