posted by meowser
Yeah, I know. Caftans, muumuus…if you’re a true fatshionista, you’re not supposed to touch them. They personify everything that’s evil about plus-sized clothing. All I can tell you is this: SHUT UP.
While I certainly agree with fat people not being limited to such shapeless threads, I work at home, in a (rented) house with no air conditioning. (I might be moving before summer arrives, but it’s rare to find air-conditioned dwellings here in PDX, regardless.) It’s pretty comfortable most of the summer, but we definitely have stretches when it gets HOT HOT HOT, and when it gets HOT HOT HOT, a nice, lightweight, flowy garment that I can wear to nip out to a meal or an errand and sit at my desk and concentrate on doctordrone for eight stinky, boob-perspiration-filled hours, is exactly what I want and need. I don’t even like to wear shorts or a knee-length skirt while sitting on a computer chair; I HATEHATEHATE the way the chair fabric feels along the backs of my thighs. Also, I don’t necessarily want to shave my profusely hirsute legs every hour on the hour, which I still feel compelled to do if said legs are going to be visible to any member of the public at any time.
Plus I tend to wear dresses and skirts at what I call “aspie length”; that is, if I happen to forget which direction my limbs are pointing in, at a given moment while seated or lying down, if my skirt is long enough I don’t have to worry about said public having a free glimpse at my cervix. So yes, a caftan. But with a sash, in case I wanted a more shapely variation on the theme. And it’s that time of the year when colorful craft projects like tie-dye call my name to counteract the Gray Blanket (as my friend J. refers to the endless winter cloud cover here). Where to look? Dharma Trading, of course.
Dharma has every tool you ever need for pretty much any technique of applying color to fiber, plus dyeable clothing and accessory blanks, fabric, even dyeable yarn, if you’re so inclined. And I’d ordered from them several times before and got terrific service. As far as the clothing blanks are concerned, they offer everything they can get for a reasonable price, but can only provide what their suppliers offer them. So unfortunately but predictably, the larger your dimensions, the sketchier the selection. I think they do have several styles of dresses up to about a size 22 or 24 (after shrinkage — ALWAYS subtract about 5″ or 6″ from the measurements they state unless you’re ordering a preshrunk garment), and I’m going to go out on a limb and say the caftan I got would accommodate about the same size; I’ve got 47″ in the bust and 50″ in the tush, or thereabouts, and even after shrinkage I’ve still got a good foot of fabric to spare on either side of me. If you are over women’s size 24, or men’s size 3XL, you can still get t-shirts and hospital scrubs that accommodate up to about 65″ in the bust/chest or hips, but you have to look under “Men’s Bigger Clothing.” I got this light rayon caftan (in Plus) and this rayon sash (the 11 x 60).
I used Procion fiber reactive dye, which is what they recommend for rayon and cotton (Chris and his son, Charles, were going to be dyeing cotton t-shirts along with me, plus I was also dyeing cotton t-shirts for my almost-2-year-old twin niece and nephew). I ordered way more dye (plus chemicals) than we were going to need, figuring that the powder would keep for a couple of years and I would almost certainly use it up. (You can buy kits if you’re just starting out, and they give tie-dyeing instructions here. I also found Virginia Gleser’s Tie-Dye Book, which I got out of the library, very useful.) I got the basic three colors of turquoise, fuchsia, and yellow, from which endless color combinations can be mixed, and I also got black (they’ve got several different ones — I went with Better Black), bubblegum pink, and mist gray, figuring those colors would be a huge pain in the butt to try to mix.
It was a giant mess, of course. Glorious fun, but a mess. I will add my own caveats if you want to try this: Put TONS of newspapers and dropcloths EVERYWHERE, including where you mix the dye. Make sure you don’t wear anything, shoes or socks included, that you care about staining. Get LOTS of rubber gloves (I learned the hard way not to use the same gloves I used for mixing dye to fish the fabric out of the soda soak — oops, didn’t mean to leave a giant turquoise thumbprint!). Check the bottoms of your shoes for dye powder, that shit tracks everywhere. I highly recommend devoting one scrubber sponge to cleaning up accidents. And getting the dye into the squeezy bottles, if you don’t get a kit where they do it for you, is, well, interesting. I used a funnel; were I to do it again, I think I’d go with a tiny measuring spoon instead and rinse it good after every color, because every time you get dye powder on the funnel you can muddy up your next color with the one you just mixed.
I knew mine was going to be a big splashy mess, because I was trying to squirt as much dye as I could, in as many colors as I could, into the fabric folds. (My last tie-dye experience had left me with way too much white to suit me.) But that’s the great thing about tie-dye; it’s klutz-proof, in that it almost never looks bad even if it doesn’t look exactly the way you planned it. And for me, part of the fun is the 24 hours that you leave the dye to set before untying, rinsing and washing, anticipating what it’s going to look like.
Pictures, you say? You want pictures? Okay then. (All pics are headless, because the dress is the thing, dude.) Here’s one without the sash, hanging straight down.
And here it is with wings spread, so you can see the riot of color better.
And how does it look with the sash tied? Glad you asked.
And is it comfy? Mais oui! I’m wearing it now and I don’t want to take it off, even though my ass is freezing.
I’ll bet Cass Elliot had a dress like this once, I’ll just betcha.