26 December 2015

Vintage Taffeta and the Happiest Party

Last Sunday Umberto threw a party.

I'm calling this out of focus shot "Art"

Actually Filippo and Camilla held a party too, on the previous evening and almost all their guests slept over 'til Sunday morning. Well it made sense, coming from Verona as they had out to where we live in the sticks; and it gave all the mattresses I've collected over the years for the purpose and stored in the roof, their annual airing
(please note guys, I NEVER  provide bedding!)

So, that was all pretty straightforward. Fil and Cami are twenty and eighteen. They already knew who they wanted to invite, and after issuing me with a shopping list and an invitation to be elsewhere on the night, they got on with preparing the music, food/beverages and ambience themselves.
But, I felt Umberto needed a party too and as he's autistic, organising it required a different approach.

Umberto adores Christmas.

He loves it almost as much as riding on steam trains in England. 

When I suggested a Christmas Party to him he was very enthusiastic.

Decorating the tree is a family affair

The trouble was, Umberto doesn't have "mates" to invite. I suppose encouraging socializing is a common challenge for the parents of autistic adolescents (and non).  He has fulltime one-to-one assistance which enables him to attend a mainstream Professional Hotel School just 10 minutes away in Bardolino on Lake Garda. He's well accepted by his school companions, but they don't connect with him beyond school hours. After all, they're only big kids too, and they're too busy working out how they fit into this world to be thinking about involving Umbi too, however briefly, in their social lives. To be fair, in our modern culture of "instant gratification", Umbi gives little satisfaction. On the phone, he'll listen intently but barely responds verbally. He doesn't use FaceBook or send texts. He seems content to remain in the sanctuary of home.

Luckily he has grown up with a brother and sister for company, but I'm acutely aware of how cloying it must be for him to constantly have to stay under our (but particularly my) surveillance. He's sixteen for goodness sake!!! Much as he loves me, he MUST be desperate to get away from me too! So, I was delighted when last Spring he was included in a swimming team made up of a mixed group of local "boys and girls" who get picked up from home by minibus once a week. His relief at being given the opportunity to leave without me, as I see him off for the pool every Thursday evening, is almost tangible. The swimming course culminates in the Summer with a day of races between teams which also arrive from abroad. Last year there were teams from Israel, Germany and Denmark.

Umbi could hardly contain his joy as he waited for starters orders

As soon as his trainer released his hand, he dived down to the bottom of the pool. He swam along for 15metres, enveloped in the peace and equalibrium of underwater. Then he surfaced, sought me out amongst the spectators, gave me a jubilant Thumbs Up, and spalshily swam on, in an uncoordinated mass of limbs, to win his race.

Umberto is Triumphant.

So it was to the fantastic squad of volunteers, who make the swimming course a reality, that I turned for help in organising Umbi's Christmas party.

What we wore:

Apologies for the photographs. My camera was sorely tried by the indoor lighting - but as Santa's sack around here is only as deep as the depth of my pockets permits - I'll need to wait a bit longer before I can upgrade. Please bear with it :)

So, a question for those in the know: 
When does "old" qualify as Vintage??

There's was no way I was going to entitle this post "Old Taffeta and the Happiest Party", so it's clear I'm hoping to get away with passing off my 1987ish taffeta jacket as "Vintage". Back then when I made it, it was the third time I had used this Vogue  1614 coat pattern.

The first two versions were winter coats, but when (still in my twenties) my darling friend Jon    http://www.jonrhodes.co.uk/   gave me some shot silk taffeta, I just added a gold satin lining and flaps to the pockets and made this jacket.

An inside out shot showing gold satin lining, patch pockets with self flaps, lapel flop .... and how much I hate ironing

The shoulderpads in the original design immediately give it away it's 80's origins, and I'd already removed them a few years ago (which then made the sleeves too long - argh, what the heck!).

This was as poised as I could manage, with Cami hissing urgently,
"Mum, there are people here!!!"

As this was a far lighter fabric than the coating I'd used for my first two versions, I'd thought I could get away with less structure in the lapels. I was wrong. These are pretty deep lapels and the right side has a chronic case of Flop,

Lapel Flop

... so I've used a brooch to pin it in place.

Thanks to that Sewing Sorceress Erica Bunker and her Coat Sewalong, I now know better. IIf you're interested in seeing how it's done, you should scoot over there ...

Two back-to-back teenage parties in as many days were responsible for the manic glint in my eye. This, coupled with having just had layers cut into my hair (which hadn't quite settled into its new shape), lends a demented quality to my overall "look".

My favorite slip dress and demented hair

Umbi had just been commanded by his brother to 

I wore it with Italian made bootees in the softest black leather, and my favorite little slip dress given to me a few years ago by a very stylish friend, together with miscellaneous other of her cast-offs. Although it's a bias cut black silk satin, it doesn't take itself seriously enough to be "sexy".

The neckline is flatteringly scooped but its adjustable straps ensure good underwear coverage and help avoid arm cleavage. The frill lends it girliness, and the unexpected addition of the exposed "077" label on the back adds a touch of irony.

I suppose there could be a case against 55 year old, upper-arm exposure, but I can't give it any credence. I live in Italy. In summer it's too hot for sleeves, so I'll go sleeveless in winter too if I like.

My pearl and bronze necklace was a pre-emigration gift from a neighbour before she left for a life in Canada. Cinzia is an actress, artistic commentator and a dynamo of creativity.
Italy, your loss is Vancouver's gain.

Umberto with Filippo

Umbi wore his favorite Christmas T-shirt. He loves the Grinch, but then he also loves Scrooge and I think his predilection is more for Jim Carey's acting which infuses these characters with an energy that resonates with him.

Umberto's guests brought their parents who all kindly contributed delicious homemade dishes for the buffet, and they were joined by all the volunteers also involved with the swimming team. The indomitable Jack who drives the minibus whipped up risotto for 35 guests, and although a Secret Santa was a new concept for everyone, it added fun, excitement and anticipation to the evening.

Waiting for the "Secret Santa" game

Umberto loved having his friends around him, though at times the noise of gaity forced him to block one - or both ears.

  It was a privilege for us to host an event for a group of such exceptional guests

They made this truly


This Blog is pro-autism.
Thank you, Sallyxx

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