Friday, July 30, 2010

Wedding Style: Part 1

Sean & Meghan McNally's Wedding
The Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus
Sean and I just celebrated our 6 month wedding anniversary (woot!) and with working on the blog, it made me think of our wedding style.  Weddings are obviously massively important, but our philosophy was, it is essentially a party, so let us avoid getting stuffy about it.  Nonetheless, it is the ultimate party celebrating the rest of your brand new life with all your nearest and dearest so you had better make it an awesome one.  High stakes.  For this post, I will go over the bridal clothes.   

The Dress

Last year, my wedding dress shopping trips and internet research revealed that the national average cost of a wedding dress in 2009 is $1505.  I love beautiful things, and a girl's wedding dress is the single most significant article of clothing, so I was prepared to go a little crazy.  I love so many different dress styles so my one must was silk.  During the agonizingly drawn out shopping trips, I noticed that wedding dresses are just not worth their price tags.  Poorly made, cheap material, badly constructed, and generally just..froofy and boring.  I have enough knowledge of clothing, fabric and construction costs to figure out how much a dress should cost, and trust me: there is a massive mark-up on bridal gowns just because they are bridal, not because they are well made.  (At the average wedding dress shop, you’d think the color white was running out of stock on a global scale.)  So the choice was $1505 for a meh dress or $4000 for a knock-out, designer silk dress.  I was not thrilled at this point, and had developed a deep and burning dislike for wedding dress boutiques, and started seriously considering making my own dress.  Then my sister told me I should check out AriaDress.  Based on vintage designs, they use lovely material with a noticeable devotion to silk that I found very appealing (they offer dresses in 3 different types of silk!  Squee!) and keep the costs down by sticking to simple, classic designs.  If that seems unexciting to you in print, think of the Audrey Hepburn/Givenchy style revolution.  AriaDress also has the refreshingly retro attitude that the point is to make beautiful gowns - that happen to be white and worn for a wedding - and should be priced accordingly. 

The Jacket
The jacket I made myself.  It is made of silk and pont d’sprit, and I believe I spent a total of $25 for the material.  It took me forever to design and sew as working with that type of silk was like trying to nail Jello to the wall, but it was the perfect accent to the gown and was surprisingly warm.  Also, several of my close friends spent hours entertaining me as I finished it in the week before the wedding, (my friend Natalie actually finished sewing on the trim the morning of the wedding) so the jacket absorbed a lot of love during construction.    

I bought my shoes on Amazon.  Since age thirteen, I wanted to wear white leather lace-up boots for my wedding.  I found Doc Marten boots on Amazon and blue striped Diesels for the reception.

Photography by Essence of Love Photography
Make-Up by Wendy Fitos

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


GAP (top) vs. Coach (bottom)
I am very slow on picking up fashion trends, so I only learned of this  "Coach" phenomenon sometime last year.  (FYI: I am hopeless with fads.)  Coach Leatherware has been in business since 1941, so my interest was somewhat piqued, and I purchased a belt for Sean.  My apologies to any die-hard Coach fans, but I am not thrilled.  The topstitching is great as you can see in the picture, but the leather, which is made in China, has the feel of plastic and puckers, even when held straight.  The belt is less than 4 months old.  The GAP belt pictured above is 7 years old, (leather made in America) and is in awesome shape.  I generally stay away from Chinese leather because frankly, the quality is usually awful with only a few exceptions.  The best leather seems to come from Italy, Brazil, Mexico or the United States.  Spend money on high quality leather goods since you wear belts, shoes, and bags with every outfit.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dublin Doors

Dublin Doors, originally uploaded by Mister Rad.
Origins of Tweed, Cont'd.
Does this make you smile or what? You know it does.  These doors say, "Come in, come in!  Relax.  You are far too hurried.  Have a whiskey."  Not directly related to design, but it serves to set the right mood...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Origins of Tweed

D'you know what things inspire me style-wise?  Tweed, suede elbow patches, Oxford drunks, pipes and pipe smoke, cigarette cases, port, Evelyn Waugh, wood paneling, leather furniture, stone fireplaces, cased colored lead crystal,  argyle, P.G. Wodehouse, square-ish  wool sweaters, wingtip shoes, rainy weather, whiskey, canes, brightly painted doors in an otherwise bland stone exterior.  You can buy these crushable walking hat made of 100% Donegal tweed and these Tweed throws online.    

It might at first seem that my style sensibility is directing me toward the fashion of a 70 year old man after being brainwashed with Brideshead Revisited  Yes, much of these things seem more suited to St. Andrews Links with fuming Scotsmen, but the drizzly charm of this visual genre is not only captivating, it is very versatile.  Look at these tweed! shoes from Ruche.  (I would like a job for which I must purchase and collect these pretty things for the sake of posterity, please.)  Done with a light touch, it can even be sexy.  Behold a creation of Dolce and Gabbana featured in, um, Vogue was it?:
All those unexpected occasions when I had to dress up, rifling grumbling through my closet knowing full well I did not have a dress I actually wanted to wear all evening, this was the dress I wanted and did not know!  Opera, gala, formal, wedding?  Whatever!  

Also, here is a peak at the fabric that inspired my tweed reverie:
It is Irish linen I bought from a fabric warehouse ($5/yd!) and I am hoping to make it into a full length dress.  I cannot accomplish the D&G dress as that looks to be silk, but I will see what I can do.  I will post when I silence on the subject will mean that it is lying in a wad at the bottom of my closet in a frustrated heap.

P.S. The word tweed is an 1830s misprint of the word "tweele", the Scottish word for twill.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Triplets of Belleville

Forgive me for this long-winded post, I promise I will only do this every once in a while.  I will, however, not beg forgiveness for stepping back 7 years to revisit a PG-13 animated film, as I reserve the right to explore whatever takes my fancy.  You should be made aware: this blog will be outright anachronistic since I have little interest in things that are in fashion or current.       

The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

I am in love with this movie.  Sean has been recommending it to me for four years, and we finally watched it this past weekend.  It is enchanting!  It is like a cross-breed between Amelie (2001) and WALL-E (2008).  These three movies all have a view of the ordinary details of life with a filter of deep affection for the quirky that takes what is normally plain, and makes it bewitching.   

The Triplets of Belleville is a French/Belgian/Canadian/British film that lost Best Animated Picture Academy Award to Finding Nemo.  This is the synopsis from the official website, The Triplets of Belleville:  

Adopted by his grandmother, Madame Souza, Champion is a lonely little boy.

Noticing that the lad is never happier than on a bicycle, Madame Souza puts him through a rigorous training process. Years go by and Champion becomes worthy of his name. Now he is ready to enter the world-famous cycling race, the Tour de France. 

However during this cycling contest two mysterious men in black kidnap Champion.  Madame Souza and her faithful dog Bruno set out to rescue him.

Their quest takes them across the ocean to a giant megalopolis called Belleville where they encounter the renowned "Triplets of Belleville," three eccentric female music-hall stars from the '30s who decide to take Madame Souza and Bruno under their wing. 

Thanks to Bruno's brilliant sense of smell, the brave duo are soon on to Champion's trail. But will they succeed in beating the devilish plans of the evil French mafia?    

Like WALL-E, The Triplets of Belleville is virtually a silent film; the dialog is negligible and you can watch it in French without subtitles without missing a beat.  Also, like WALL-E , there is an unhurried fascination and love for the world.  The miraculous thing is, both movies have a magic that provides adults a window to see the world in a child-like way again.  Young children are in a perpetual state of wonder; they find value and beauty in places and things that adults have forgotten.  Telling the plot almost entirely through action and visuals helps underline the savoring.  How great is it that there are these filmmakers that are resurrecting a modern adaptations of silent films?  While I love good dialogue, non-verbal storytelling that you find in Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin silent films shows how much is wasted on the vapid filler dialog.  (P.S.  The sound effects in The Triplets of Belleville are incredible, especially for the obese hound, Bruno.  It sounds like someone actually followed their dog with a recorder.  It makes modern Disney cartoons sound like they were recorded in a basement.) 

Similar to AmelieThe Triplets has that uniquely French mode of visually cherishing both the lovely and the grotesque.  (While Pixar has this gift to some extent, American films seemed cursed with an oddly sterile filter that makes the settings look like no one lives in them.)  Amelie and The Triplets somehow create settings that are both fantastical and otherworldly yet still look lived in -- comfortingly cluttered with a treasure-trove of clever, pretty, and weird things -- without being chaotic.  It is a connoisseur's collection of happy things.   

Further and more significantly, Amelie and The Triplets do not idealize and whitewash life with an  unattainable and barren perfectionism.  The grotesque and ugly get about as much screen time as the quaint and charming.  When Madame Souza lives with the elderly Triplets as she looks for Champion, the three sisters kindly inflict their French-American cuisine on their guest: raw-ish frog stew, frog-ka-bobs, and frozen frog-cicles for dessert.  With all the crunchy sound effects and floppy amphibian bites you never particularly wanted to see.  Likewise, there is such an abundance of rolling, obese characters to illustrate the streets of East Coast America.  The reason the grotesque works in Amelie and The Triplets of Belleville, though, is because it is not self-conscious.  They do not celebrate weird for the sake of nettling the audience; they celebrate the strange because it is genuine reflection of life.  
It could be a little distorted by exaggerating the grotesqueness or prettiness, but the point is that it is a recognizable reflection of the human experience.  Frankly, sometimes the off-putting foibles of friends causes a strain on your patience as you try to adapt to the oddities of others out of affection for their more attractive qualities.    

What is best about The Triplets (and the other two films) is its portrayal of heroism in the ordinary.  I know: what ordinary?  When Madame Souza trails the industrial steamboat that imprisons her grandson Champion via paddleboat in a transatlantic pursuit with Bruno the overweight bloodhound?  Exaggerated though it may be, the heart of the story is Madame Souza's fierce maternal love.  That fierceness tugs at every viewer because everyone either has a fiercely loving mama or wishes they did, and viewers who are parents watch Madame Souza's dogged persistence with understanding.  An odd heroine, Madame Souza is exaggeratedly plain.  Dwarfish and stubby, with a special shoe to compensate for a club foot, she has an ungraceful tic of violently adjusting her spectacles with a glassy tink when upset or flustered.  No famed French “aging with grace” in her.  At first you doubt that Madame Souza could possibly be the main character of the film, but, this completely plain woman is somehow an archetype.  At the risk of reading too much philosophy in a trippy cartoon (too late?), the heart of the film is a celebration of utterly ordinary characters living with nobility, beauty, and grace.  These films offers genuine, delightful escapism (I am going to bleed from my eyes if I have to watch one more movie about war, drug trafficking, or adolescent swooning over a vapid relationship); no soapbox, just beauty, life and art.  Thank God for pieces like The Triplets of Belleville, Amelie, and WALL-E.

Monday, July 12, 2010


These are vintage Alabaster glass beads from Japan, circa 1940s, which I also bought from oldragonlair.  I love alabaster, and this necklace design is a decent first attempt, but I still think it needs something else.  It needs more personality, maybe something more like this from Ruche?  

P.S. for pretty wooden jewelry for sale, there is this bracelet from Ruche.          

Jewelry design by Meghan McNally
Photography by Sean f. McNally

Sunday, July 11, 2010


After looking for graceful wood jewelry that does not scream "tribal" for about four years, I accepted that "quietly bohemian" is not especially in fashion at the moment and decided to create my own style embellishments.  I found a great seller on ebay of the name
oldragonlair, who has a huge variety of most anything (his name says it all).  He was fantastic to deal, very fast, very friendly and for repeat buyers he sometimes throws in extras.

Jewelry design by Meghan McNally
Photography by Sean f. McNally

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I bought two dresses recently, and I had to alter them both to fit.  Off-the-rack dresses are easier to make, but they are pretty depressing to shop for.  Designers generally create clothes for one body type, which means for everyone else, the dress is going to look a little funky.
"I've got this figure of mine that looks impossible in off-the-rack clothes.  If the length's right, then the top swims on me.  It's very discouraging to see yourself looking practically malformed.  I loath trying on clothes."  --Audrey Hepburn
 But the thing is, women should stop feeling misshapen every time they try on mass produced dresses.  Unless they are mu-mus, most dresses have to be fitted for the woman in order to look right. 


Monday, July 5, 2010

Color Palette

Does anyone else find themselves doing this?  I go for a little 4th of July sales shopping trip for nothing in particular, and find that unintentionally, I shopped exclusively in one color palette.  Does this indicate style foresight and mental orderliness or a sort of fashion colorblindness? 

Ars Sine Scientia Nihil

Because of Coomaraswamy's East meets West awareness and his intelligent -- and incredibly well read -- commentary on Art, my husband recommended that I read The Essential Ananda K. Coomaraswamy.  And, because I am at heart still a student of literature, I have to add a few epigraphs even to a casual blog:
" for whom art was...a means to present ends of use and enjoyment and to the final end of beatitude equated with the vision of God whose essence is the cause of beauty in all things."
"To one who plays his instrument with art and wisdom it will teach him such things as grace the mind; but to one who questions his instrument ignorantly and violently, it will only babble (Homeric Hymns IV.483)"
"'Science renders the work beautiful; the will renders it useful; perseverance makes it lasting.'  Ars sine scientia nihil (art without science is nothing)."