Thursday, 3 July 2014

School's Out maxi skirt

The teachers are freed tomorrow!

Yes, end-of-year show yesterday, reports today, and then just one more morning to go - with all this week's school-related busyness and pre-summer holiday gift-giving, it's hardly surprising that teachers were on my mind as I photographed this skirt.

Though specifically, actually, it was art teachers.

Perhaps it's the pompom trimmed hem or simply the colourful, swirly swishyness of the whole thing, but yes, I think of this as an art teacher skirt - in a fantastically comfortable, utterly lovely and I-don't-care-how-stylish-anyone-else-thinks-it-is kind of way.  An initial measurements fail led to a lovely, tidy but HUGELY too big waistband with invisible zip, so after some highly frustrating seam ripping it's ended up with a yoga-style knit waistband. FYI guys: yoga-style knit waistband + legs draped in rayon challis = BEST SKIRT EVER.

Yes, rayon challis.  Now I know what the fuss is about - this stuff is pure gorgeousness. It's Sinister Swarm from Anna Maria Horner's Field Study range, which I have long coveted and to my total astonishment managed to WIN in a rather generous giveaway by Jane at Pelly Melly. THANK YOU Jane!!

Which brings me to the other reason that teachers were on my mind this morning. Because as I was taking my photos, I remembered that Jane is a French teacher.  And not only do I owe Jane herself a massive thanks for getting rid of this beautiful fabric, I also owe a huge amount of gratitude, and in fact a great deal more in life too, to French teachers in general.

My secondary school French teacher was Mrs Harrison, a woman with the no doubt generally unrewarding task of getting English girls to learn foreign words, and who was probably therefore rather pleased to recognise both an aptitude and enthusiasm for languages in the incredibly shy 11 year-old that was me. For the next four years, until she went on maternity leave, she kindly, gently encouraged me, and in the process set me up with probably the most useful life-skill I have. (It's also my favourite. Truthfully: French even beats sewing).

One of the things Mrs Harrison told me was that when she was learning, she used to try to think in French, because once you can do that, you know you've got it.  So I spent almost all of my teenage years persistently translating my own thoughts as I was having them (did anyone else notice, I wonder?), all along knowing that at some point I'd "get it" too.  I didn't study languages at university, but I did know that once I'd graduated I'd be going to live in France for a year to become really, truly fluent.  The frenchifying of my thoughts turned into daydreams of a garret flat with shutters in Paris, plus a sexy French boyfriend-with-Vespa and a convenient family home with swimming pool in Provence or the Pyrenees. All soundtracked by Air and Daft Punk, of course.

When it came to the practicalities, it turned out that France was not my destiny. Native English-speaking admin staff were (and still are) in high demand in Brussels, and if my colleagues were ever-so-slightly put out that I refused to speak a word of my mother tongue with them, it never showed. They corrected my blunders until eventually, finally, I got there - and never looked back.

Then I met and later married a Flemish man, and accidentally learned to speak Dutch too. The year in France turned into 15 years (and counting) in Belgium, and to be honest, I don't think a be-stubbled French bloke on a moto would have suited me really anyway.

So, these are the entirely untranslated thoughts in my head when I think about this skirt. A little detour from the sewing - let's call it the scenic route around this post, and my little ode to those here who have one day left until their eight well-deserved weeks of holiday.

Back in the gritty reality, we also have this going on:

My first ever foray into bra-making territory!  Drum roll please - it's a glamorous adjustable strap to make my bras racerback-friendly...

Now, it's exactly the same as the plastic straps I saw in the shop (and didn't buy, because my version is not-plastic). But of course, because of the way it hooks on, it doesn't lie flat across my back. Is this a design fault with all bra-strap adaptors??? I demand to know!

See the floaty flaring...

I think I've found my summer non-school uniform :-)


  1. La jupe est tres jolie! 😉

  2. huisje boompje boefjesJuly 03, 2014 2:28 pm

    Love the skirt and background story :)

  3. Nom de Dieu, ce tissu est tellement belle....

  4. So many thoughts to say - I'd better start a list!
    1. Love that skirt! It looks so comfy and casually elegant.
    2. I love languages too! And I definitely agree that thinking IN the language is the only way to get fluent ideas to come out. Otherwise I end up with ideas I don't know how to say, and it all goes wrong.
    3. Are there any French or Dutch words that you can't find a good equivalent to in English? There are a couple of useful Japanese words that there are no good substitutes for in English, and I always pause awkwardly in conversation while my brain tries to switch languages!
    4. My bra solution for racerbacks is to alter an old bra that's all stretched out in the band. I take an inch or two out at centre back on either side of the clasp, which tightens up the band again AND brings the straps closer together. It doesn't work on really narrow racerbacks, but it's good for most things!

  5. Love the skirt! Looks great on you, I'm glad the fabric was put to good use! Lovely to read about your French learning too, it is also my first love, I did German and Spanish too, but French is still my favourite. I love teaching it too. I'm off to France in the morning with 38 eleven year olds for the weekend to educate them in the delights of French markets! One more week for me then I will also be on holiday, going back to France for a week in and around Bordeaux (with a friend...not 38 eleven year olds!!) can't wait. Enjoy your summer!

  6. You had me at pompons on the hem of your skirt! Great make Jo in such stunning fabric. I'm going to take your advice and start translating my thoughts into French. We will be there at Christmas this year and it's always my goal to be just a little bit better than last time (not sure that ever happens but its a goal). Love you in a racer back btw.

  7. Fantastic skirt! I just ordered some of this very fabric myself as part of all the sales the US shops are having right now. Love the maxi length. I'd always heard that you can tell you know the language when you start dreaming in it :)

  8. Very organised thoughts! I do find there are quite a lot of words in both languages that don't translate - the problem in Brussels is that it's so internationally mixed, everyone is mixing words up and generally you'll get understood anyway, so we all get pretty lazy. My English has seriously deteriorated by now! In fact I've found writing for the blog has improved it again, as I'm much more aware of expressing myself in English and for other native speakers. I'm in awe of Japanese though - so totally different! I've never managed to venture out of language families pretty close to my own!

    And good ideas on the racerbacks too - I'm going to have to experiment more, as my adjustable band proved to be rubbish over a whole day of wear :-)

  9. Good luck with the eleven year olds! That sort of thing is the main reason I never ever considered teaching languages, even though I do like to spread the love!

  10. Yes, I heard that too. I never remember my dreams so I wouldn't know if it's true :-) The fabric is lovely - what are you planning to do with it? It'll no doubt be gorgeous, whatever!

  11. Thanks Kirsty! I think it's really difficult to learn a language when it's not used much in your everyday environment, especially as it can feel so much like an obligation - it's not really motivating! Do your kids speak French with their Dad? Or does he find it difficult to keep up being the only French-speaker? We found it really weird when our firstborn arrived and suddenly G was speaking Dutch at home with/to her. It took quite a lot of effort from both of us to stick with it.

  12. Love the skirt and especially the trim. New to your blog but it's really fun. I'm Canadian and so speak French to some extent for my job, although as my partner is an Italian national Italy and the Italian language have taken over my brain! I try to embrace life's detours though... :) I also credit my lovely high school French teacher for opening my eyes to another culture or two. Oddly enough, he came to us via Germany. Enjoy your summer uniform!

  13. I have a bit of the blue/purple way and I love the fabric, the hand. I want to use them for everything so it's hard to decide between a dress, a blouse or a newly inspired maxi skirt :)

  14. Ben started off really well with the first born, but drops into english a bit too much with the second. We are so lucky here that the kids go to a bi lingual school so they do a lot of French at school and speak it quite a bit at home. I can't say any of the 3 boys in my house are particularly kind to my french speaking - but I persist - but not enough.


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