dispatches from my street(s)

this past week’s observations, obsessions, and so forth:

-saw a girl near the flatiron building/5th/broadway/23rd street with what looked to be a puffer vest (i.e., a vest with a standing, funnel-like collar, that buttoned up the front) made from an old, lovingly worn quilt. meaning, it was a quilted patchwork vest. so, so cool. i love patchwork anything, so of course the garment in question caught my eye. it looked like the vest was handmade, from the remnants of a vintage quilt, perhaps. she was wearing it with jeans and boots, if the memory serves. it was pretty great looking, i’ve never seen anything quite like it before. the only thing that ruined it, in my opinion? someone (the wearer? the crafter/restyler/designer?) attached via applique a block with sunbonnet sue to the back of the vest. sort of took the look from homespun to country craft corner in a not-good sort of way, making it kind of cheesy/chintzy/odd. but anyway, interesting enough to stick in my mind…and tell you about. it’s got me wishing i could find a great old quilt to turn into a jacket, vest or coat…but it’d have to be just the *right* one to work, you know…?

-the grunge thing i sort of mentioned a little from that last dispatch is SO STRONG. pete and i are making a game out of spotting all the combat boots/pixie boots, ripped tights and ditsy floral dresses on the streets in recent days whilst out on walks…it’s kind of over the top. it looks costumey, no? it does to me anyway. i blame urban outfitters (and now topshop?), you can go right in and go whole hog on that look right now if you please. it’s not for me, i’m not really feeling it so much, having been there the first time around… 🙂

-went to the african bazaar @ bam this past weekend: it was AMAZING.

(image via BAM)

for over 30 years, the brooklyn academy of music has hosted said african bazaar in association with it’s dance africa event, and it features a cornucopia of food, art, clothing, textiles, music and decorative objects offered by vendors who hail from or associate themselves with the cultures (past or present) of africa and the caribbean (including the arts and foods beloved by african-americans). what a feast for the eyes, ears that event was! i was especially enamored with these things i saw: a tanned light colored leather bag, shaped like a little briefcase, the front of which was inset with multicolored, geometric fabric; piles and piles of african/dutch wax print fabrics and gorgeously graphic earthy mudcloth in shades of black, white and brown (i bought some of the latter to make a coat, i couldn’t resist!); absolutely GORGEOUS, hand-stitched humungous leather (!!) earrings, and funky, summery straw toppers. i can’t stop thinking about a girl i saw there, milling through the crowd: she was wearing a strappy, tent-shaped, empire-waist sundress made from a patchwork of african fabrics, each block about 6 inches across…i so want to make my own version of that very dress, if i can ever, ever find the time! *sigh sigh sigh* i wish they did this event regularly…more than just once a year! i want to be able to go back and visit and drool over all the amazing handmade things and textiles whenever i want! i’m definitely going next year!

[(which reminds me, anyone know of a place in NYC where i can buy african fabrics, particularly of the dutch wax print variety? will travel! do pipe up if you know of a store that carries such anywhere in the metro area! thanks!!)]


  1. hillary

    I have noticed that all the girls doing the ripped tights and grunge look around here at least weren’t old enough to of done it the first time (as you suggest). I being similar age to you also was there the first time and wore my moms hand made flower dresses and knee high combat boots to highschool in oh 93?

    Also why pay good money to rip something? Tights are not cheap.

  2. Jessica

    I know this isn’t exactly helpful, as it isn’t proper information, but I can tell you there definitely is at least one shop in Manhattan that sells exactly that type of fabric, and various other African things. I have no idea where it is or what it’s called, though – I just happened across it on one of my first trips to NYC (I recently spent 4 years in Princeton, NJ – my first & only visit to the US, so used to pop in to wander around occasionally). It was in quite a residential area, not a very flashy nor touristy part of town… yeah, as i say, you won’t find it from this description, but at least you shd know that what you’re looking for does exist! Good luck!

  3. 39th & Broadway

    I’ve been craving an African inspired tent dress for awhile now but haven’t seen one (or the fabric) anywhere, so it’s funny that you should mention it as well. Just wish I had known about this event in Brooklyn earlier.

    Love your site!

  4. Sue

    I am old enough to have been there for the birth of grunge the first time, and I think it’s just that the look happened somewhat organically at the (first) time. We all were broke, had the flannel, boots etc… and we shopped vintage because it wasn’t the mainstream thing as it is now – it was cheap. And we were broker than broke. (God the thrift pickings were so much better back then…sigh)

    Now it does look like it’s trying too hard, as does the over the top 80s look. (which I also wore 1st time around – ugh) Out of context, it can’t help but look costumey. Same reason I mix my 30s and 40s pieces but hardly ever wear it all as a look.

    It needs to be cleaned up or modified somehow, to make it a bit fresher.

    For the fabric – it has been so long since I lived in NYC that I can’ be too helpful, but try asking the african art street vendor who is always around MOMA. He might be able to help. It is def going to be a trip to Bklyn/Queens/Bronx to source it. I did find this one:
    Nyame Nti African Fabric
    2 E 167th St # 167
    Bronx, NY 10452
    (718) 538-1121?

    or ask this site/company for assistance: http://store.calabar-imports.com/index.html

    Good luck 🙂

  5. Mimi

    Have you seen the installation work of black British artist Yinka Shonibare? It’s amazing, complicated stuff — dioramas of life-sized, headless mannequins dressed in Victorian styles (i.e., from the height of British empire) made in those Dutch Indonesian wax-print fabrics that were imported to the African colonies to somehow then become iconic of an aesthetic Afrocentrism. Here’s an interview with him on-line at BOMB that features lots of photographs.

  6. Pingback: “it’s not for me, i’m not really feeling it so much, having been there the first time around…” « OnParkStreet
  7. onparkstreet

    Yeah, I hear you on the retro 90s thing. I guess being there the first time around makes it not so fun (the retro 80s thing is more fun for me because I was in high school in the 80s and wore a lot of black and didn’t have as much fun with color as I should have. So, in bits and pieces, now, I kind of like it.)

    I could go for retro 90s if it was the romantic, Sleepless in Seattle flowerly Meg Ryan drop waist long dresses, somehow made modern, you know? Like Elaine wore in Seinfeld. And the hair scooped at the back of the neck with a ribbon…..