After a Fashion

Stephen attends a bash and sews a bag

Mark Mueller surrounded by his merry pranksters at the Wizard Bear and Sammy party at the Belmont.
Mark Mueller surrounded by his merry pranksters at the Wizard Bear and Sammy party at the Belmont. (Photo by Seabrook Jones/

SEWN UP I sewed recently. I didn't really mean to sit down and sew, but I did. While I was visiting at my friend Jacki-OH's house, she mentioned that her sewing machine had some problems. Well-grounded in the subject of sewing machine problems, I glibly volunteered to repair the machine since I had no other pressing matters on my agenda. Checking all the obvious trouble spots and making a single adjustment, the machine was chugging along perfectly in less than five minutes. Okay, next! My interest was piqued. "Give me something to sew," I demanded, knowing that Jacki would have a ton of mending and alterations for me to do. I couldn't remember the last time I sewed – and that was a very strange sensation for someone who had devoted most of his life to sewing. I do recall the distress and discontent I was feeling when I decided to quit sewing a few years ago; it was increasingly difficult to continue wanting to do something that I loved so much that seemed to be bring increasingly more frustration and despair. I simply couldn't work as a one-person operation anymore, and, unable to generate enough income to support myself and my studio, I simply didn't have the option of expanding. So I quit designing and sold off (again) collections of fabric, samples, equipment, etc. for the last time. But of course, I didn't forget the techniques and tricks I'd learned over the decades, including repairing sewing machines. When I asked again for something to sew, Jacki produced the pieces of a hanging toiletries bag she'd tried to make for her dad as a Christmas gift. I ruefully recalled one hellish night of trying to give her advice on the project, but Jacki, being Jacki, already knew exactly what she wanted, and I ended up walking out that night thinking, "This is why I don't sew anymore." And yet, months later, there were all the pieces in front of me again, along with instructions from Jacki to "just finish the thing any way you want." There were plastic zippered pockets, mesh cargo pockets, bias binding, elastic loops, and other devices that Jacki had originally intended – some I used, some I did not. Stitching the various textures and components together was satisfying and even a bit exciting. Watching the project take shape made me remember the immense pleasure that can be had from sewing, and I posted on Facebook that I'd been sewing. Friends commented that they were pleased that I was engaging in something from a happier and healthier time in my life ("3-D design," my friend Elizabeth Christian called it), and another friend even took me to task for wasting my skills on something as proletarian as a toiletries bag (though he did mention that he still uses the laundry bag that I made for him 20 years ago). After I applied the finishing touches on the bag the next morning, Jacki was delighted when she saw it, amazed that it had indeed come to fruition after so long. We loaded it with personal care items to make sure it would hold everything and still be compact enough to pack in a suitcase and left it on display all day so our friends could ooh and aah over it. Repacking Jacki's sewing machine and supplies, I felt no regret. It had been fun to flex my mechanical and technical muscles, but I definitely did not have stars in my eyes anymore or dreams of getting my designs into Bergdorf Goodman or Women's Wear Daily, as I'd done earlier in my career. No, it was simply the satisfaction of doing a job well that stayed with me and reminded me that somewhere I still have a sewing machine too ... in case I want to design any more toiletries bags.

HEAT The most fashionable party of the week? Mark Mueller's annual throwdown, of course, at the always-fabulous Belmont. This year, it was the Wizard Bear and Sammy's Imaginary Is Real party. I can't even remember how many years I've been going to this party, and I've watched it evolve from a huge no-holds-barred fiesta with big-name entertainment to this year's more intimate, hand-picked affair that was, in its way, even more lavish and glamorous than the larger parties. Naturally I arrived impeccably late with an entourage including Jacki-OH, Micah King, Nico, Jay Woods, Mitch Schultz, and Ramzi X, and we were instantly captivated by the ghoulishly costumed entertainers and the music from the Mexico City band DaPuntoBeat. The already-hot night became even more sizzling. Lloyd Doggett, Mindy Montford, Michelle Valles, and a host of political, legal, and entertainment figures strolled the club chatting up friends and guests, while the food and drink flowed bountifully from the trays of the Belmont's excellent staff. A perfect summer party, signaling the end of a perfect social season and the beginning of a new one.

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Austin style, Jackie-OH, sewing machine, Mark Mueller, annual party, Wizard Bear and Sammy, toiletries bag

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