Category Archives: Viva Las Vegas

VLV13: Prepare to Launch

If you know me, you know that my year pretty much centers around the annual Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekender in April. Well, it’s that time of year again, and so off I go. My flight leaves in about 12 hours, and I am mostly packed. Ish. My planned wardrobe includes four vintage dresses, one vintage swimsuit, and one pair of vintage capris (which still need a tiny bit of mending, it will be a busy day!). Also, one dress that I made with the aid of a vintage sewing pattern. None of my shoes are vintage, because my feet are not an era-appropriate size. I do my best with modern shoes inspired by vintage looks (but I can’t afford the Rocket Originals or ReMix shoes that get all the details right). So let’s see, what’s on the to-do list before I boogie out of here? In no particular order:

– polish nails
– rip Elvis movie to iPhone (in-flight entertainment)
– mend capris
– pack/ship two shop orders
– eat something
– finish packing
– make like a tree and vamoose!

If you’re also heading to VLV and want to find me, today’s travel outfit is (at the moment) cuffed jeans and a red-and-black t-shirt. I hope to be sipping whiskey in the Crawfish Bar by midnight!


Filed under fashion, music, vacation, vintage, Viva Las Vegas

Task: Vogue 9996

I bought Vogue 9996 in, I believe, 2008, the day that my friend Megan and I picked through a small basket of vintage patterns at an antiques mall about halfway to Wyoming.

Last month, I finally bought the fabric and notions necessary to make it. A plaid? Why did I choose a notoriously-difficult-to-line-up plaid? Oh, well. Today, I hauled out my machine (I have a PILE of stuff that needs mending before Viva; I may as well start with the most difficult project) and opened the envelope. 18 pieces in all. 18 pieces in the envelope.

But 6 of them are from a different pattern! That means that I’m missing 6 pieces! Although I’m not planning to sew the overblouse option… those pieces, I have. No, I’m missing every single piece of the bathing suit top, and the lower back facing for the shorts.

I am doing my best to recreate the missing pieces from a scan of the instruction sheet, scaled up to life size. I’ll keep you posted as to my progress. Keep your fingers crossed!

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Filed under collections, fashion, sewing, vintage, Viva Las Vegas

Drill Down to the Heart of the Matter

Dice bracelets. I originally made them just for my own use, but someone said I should sell them, and so I started adding them to my Etsy shop in early ’08. I wound up bringing a pound or two of them with me to VLV10 for my gal-pals and I to mix and match with our wardrobes. They’re fun, and handy for covering up those vinyl wristbands which can mar an otherwise cool outfit.

My bracelets are made with real, new, game-play dice. Not casino dice, which are not only expensive but also bigger, heavier, and have very sharp edges. Those edges aren’t something you pay attention to until you want to wear them for a few hours. I specifically buy dice with rounded edges because of their contact with delicate wrists. And I drill each and every single die myself with a corded drill. One. At. A. Time. It’s a tedious process, and being “off” with my pressure can break or, more commonly, chip the dice. But the most frequent issue that I run into, as shown above, is that my drill bits heat up enough to melt the acrylic content of the dice, and seize within the confines. There is no way to get a seized drill bit out, save for application of a hammer. It wastes a heckuva lot of time, not to mention the dice that are murdered for the cause.

I’ve conferred with The Guys At The Hardware Store about ways around this unique problem. I’ve tried bits made from different compounds, I’ve tried dipping the bit in cold water between each pass, I’ve tried drilling slower and faster and upside-down and sideways (no, not really). Drill: seize. Drill: seize. Drill: seize. After a few years of this, I am, as the kids say, Over It. I do not make enough money on these bracelets to outweigh the loss of materials, let alone the manual labor.

I’ll leave any existing listings in the shop until they sell, but they will not be replaced. I’m keeping my supplies on hand for special requests or for other projects that may come up, such as Chop’s occasional solicitations for “danglies” for his custom bikes. However if you’ve been thinking about getting one or two but can’t decide on colors, now would be the time to act. I’ve already started letting some listings expire, so if there’s a color combo you want but don’t see, don’t hesitate to ask. I may very well still have it available.

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Filed under fashion, jewelry, pet peeves, vintage, Viva Las Vegas

Feb 1: Two Months to Viva!


Whew. Okay. As many of you know, my Biggest Event of the Year is the annual Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekender. I first attended VLV10 in 2007 at the urging of (and spending all of my time with) my friends at Peek Photo and a mutual friend of ours. They were absolutely sure that VLV was my bag, Baby, and boy were they ever right. I live a relatively sheltered life, and I did not know that there were people out there, hundreds of no thousands no TENS OF THOUSANDS of people out there who listen to really great music and dress the way I wanted to dress. I was hooked!

VLV10 was a pivotal event in my life. For one thing, I met my now-boyfriend, although I didn’t run into him again (and learn his name) for another 6 months. For another thing, spending an entire weekend with my friends brought us that much closer, and they are just about the only ex-coworkers with whom I still hang out (I am historically bad at keeping in touch with people). And finally, I felt free to dress in my beloved mid-century silhouettes without worrying about what people might think, because I knew that scattered around the globe were more people like me who supported my style. To be truthful, I did get some funny looks. I worked at that time within very close proximity to a semi-upscale shopping mall, where I would frequently head for lunch. I was occasionally aware of someone staring, but for the most part I went surprisingly unnoticed. The only time anyone ever approached me directly was to tell me how nice I looked. This was unexpected!

I bought my first vintage dress during my freshman year of college (boy do I ever wish I still had that dress, let alone the 22″ waist that once fit into it) and I’ve been casually collecting ever since. Those of you who know my age know that references a long time. Now it was my goal to make sure that I had enough vintage and repro clothing in my closet to support another year at VLV! I began to collect more aggressively, spending hours lurking around eBay and diving deeper during thrift store excursions with my similarly-afflicted Bestest Friend In The Whole Wide World. As my collection grew, I also had more to wear on a daily basis. And wear it I did. A different-yet-similar group of friends got together for VLV11, and as we prepared we would hunt in packs for dark-rinse high-waisted jeans and era-appropriate shoes. We studied the events schedule and planned our outfits weeks (months) in advance so that we could pack as efficiently as possible. I managed, after months-months-months of looking, to buy for myself a coveted deadstock-with-tags 1960/61 gold lamé DeWeese swimsuit, lightly embroidered and studded with rhinestones. A swimsuit so stellar that I dared to wear it two years in a row. Of course, I can’t get away with wearing it three years running, so the hunt is on for this year’s swimsuit.

Oh yeah, did I mention the swimsuits?

The weekender is held in early April, but it’s held in April in Las Vegas. 100-degree days are not uncommon. And so the weekend winds down on Sunday with a pool party. While this pool party is the first time that us revelers have a chance to slow down, it is also a veritable gallery of vintage swimwear. People are there to see, and to be seen. In swimsuits. In April. Pasty-white April. Only-three-short-months-from-holiday-excess April. So, when VLV attendees say that they’re starting their diet on January 1, this is no empty New Year’s resolution. This is an Emergency Situation.

Nick’s diet plan included being a complete glutton over the holidays, eating himself sick so that by January 1st, he wanted nothing but juice and salad. And of course, the extra pounds that he had packed on melted right off, because his body never adjusted to that artificially high caloric level in the first place. But from a mental standpoint, those pounds dropping encouraged him to keep going and he has been eating an almost-entirely-raw diet (exceptions made for coffee and Monday night dinner with friends) and he feels fantastic and looks better than I’ve seen him in months.

My own diet is less extreme and less effective, but more realistic for a foodie. On a recommendation from Erin,  I downloaded an iPhone app called LoseIt. It’s helped to keep me on track, and as of this morning I am 2/3 of the way to my goal weight (and halfway to the weight I was when I had that 22″ waist). Jeans that fit a year ago once again fit properly. I very much look forward to them being a little too big. I’ve started my flickr album of outfit planning, which for the first time is overloaded with options. I have an increasing pile of “needs sewing for Viva.”

I have two months to get everything done. Let the countdown begin!


Filed under fashion, food, friends, nostalgia, shopping, vacation, vintage, Viva Las Vegas

Too Pretty To Die

Mal: [under cross-fire] Bendis, look at me! Listen. We’re holding this valley, no matter what.
Bendis: We’re gonna die.
Mal: We’re not gonna die. We can’t die, Bendis. And you know why? Because we are so… very… pretty. We are just too pretty for God to let us die. Huh? Look at that chiseled jaw, huh? Come on!

I met Johnny in a pool. That is, I was in the pool, but Johnny was too cool to sport swim trunks, and was lurking at the edge in his deep-cuffed jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. He cut a dashing figure, and my friends encouraged me to flirt with him, in spite of my protests that he had a very good-looking girlfriend who had kindly “saved” me from a semi-creepy guy who was actually IN the pool with us.

Johnny came right up to the edge of the pool and introduced himself to me. Shook my hand. I have no idea what I answered to whatever polite question he probably asked, but I remember that he told me he was in school, living in Long Beach, and was starting up his own company that would make reproductions of vintage clothes, starting with the sweaters beloved by his vintage motorcycle club.

We found each other on MySpace and while we never had three-hour talks over coffee (or beer), or pondered together the meaning of life, we did pop in and check on each other from time to time. We would have little email conversations for an evening, and then lose track of each other for a month.

When I next saw Johnny, it was at the Viva Las Vegas weekender a year after we’d first met. I was on my way to see the Chop Tops, and Johnny was heading in the opposite direction. I waved, and he came straight over and gave me a fantastic hug. I couldn’t help but notice that he was wearing a really well-made ’40s-looking motorcycle sweater with his name chain-stitched on, and I guessed it was one of his own creations. He handed Nick his card, and explained that the clothing company was up and running. At the car show the next day, I saw that his company, OddBall Brand, had its own vendor booth. Johnny and a partner were manning the booth, and Johnny came out to give me another of his (apparently signature) deep hugs. I was on the hunt for a particular handbag that I’d spotted earlier, so I said my good-byes and figured I’d see him at the pool the next day. I never did find him. He went to Europe after VLV, so it was a couple/few weeks before I pointed out to him in a message that we hadn’t had our photo taken together. I teased that we’d have to make up for it next year.

Tonight, realizing that it had been a while since we’d last written, I cruised by his MySpace page to see if anything interesting was happening in his life. Specifically, I visited his company’s MySpace page first, to see if any new designs were being released yet. And I saw the blog headline, “Sun May 17 1:11 AM our Pres/Founder John Slisko passed away…” Well, that can’t be right. Is his dad a financial backer? But I thought his name was Peter? I clicked on the link.

And my heart fell out.

Our first President and Co Founder of ODDBALL MC, John Sliskovich, was killed in a motorcycle accident at El Mirage lake bed 2:11 AM Sunday morning.

He had ben at El Mirage since Fri. with some of his MC, the ODDBALLS, and a couple members of the Regents MC for a campout/bike riding weekend.

Just after midnight sunday morning there was a motorcycle accident out on the lake bed and an ambulance went to the scene. John and his friend Buck went to see what happened. John was riding a 1940 BSA. It’s top speed was 55 mph. Buck saw a berm coming out of the darkness and hollered to John. Buck laid his bike over. John seems to have landed face first into the lake bed. No helmet. It doesn’t seem that a helmet would’ve helped.

He wasn’t moving but he was breathing. The ambulance from the first accident, which was close by, couldn’t come to John’s aid as they were trying to save the life of their accident victim (a fight they weren’t able to win). At some point John stopped breathing and his friend Frankie, who has paramedic training, was able to get him breathing again. The ambulance arrived about 20 minutes later and just as it did John stopped breathing again. The paramedics went into CPR but couldn’t bring John back.

I don’t think it would’ve mattered how quickly the ambulance got there, it doesn’t sound like there was anything that could’ve been done for him.


“Johnny didn’t suffer for a second- he was just havin’ fun, doin’ what he loved & in the blink of an eye he was out.
That berm came into view too late for him to do anything but hit it head on- I was ridin’ right about his back tire & right as he hit the berm I hit the skids, I saw his bike pop up & out of my light & I just layed my bike down & slid up over the berm. Later, lookin’ at the site with the CHP we could see that he unfortunately hit the berm at the highest possible spot & right where he would have landed & maybe begun to get control of the bike there was a big crater that would have caught his front tire & caused the bike to flip on it’s side- he lit there & the bike continued to tumble. It was a perfect set up for the worst possible outcome but I can promise you John never knew what hit him.”  -Buck

I know that Johnny and I weren’t best friends, we weren’t even what I’d call close, but there is still a hole in my heart. Johnny was kind and genuine and a go-getter and yes, one handsome sonofabitch. I always assumed we’d have a chance to get to know each other better, but I’m glad that I got to know him at all.


Poolside: The day we met, April 13, 2008


Blue eyes and puppies: The photo all the girls love


John “Slisko” Sliskovich, 1984-2009


Filed under friends, nostalgia, Viva Las Vegas

The Skirt

Finally, the skirt that I promised to blog about. This skirt is near and dear to me because it combines so many things that I like: Vintage illustration, thrifting, handcrafting, fashion, recycling, and BALL FRINGE.

You see, this skirt started life as a vintage kiddie curtain-and-valance set. Wonderful old Mother Goose illustrations, and, if I haven’t mentioned, BALL FRINGE. Oh man, do I ever love ball fringe. (Some day I will have a skirt that is tier upon tier of ball fringe, hopefully with a matching box-cut sleeveless top, but this is not that day.)

I saw the curtains in a thrift store, and immediately knew that I would make it into a skirt. Because I am some sort of thrift store goddess, I got the set for $2.48 (plus tax). Step Two would be finding a pattern to match what I was seeing in my head. A simple, high-waist pencil skirt. I went to JoAnn. Butterick had nothing. Simplicity had nothing. New Look, Burda, Vogue, McCall’s… nobody had what I was looking for. And my own drafting skills… well, they get me by for Halloween costumes, but this was going to require better than that. So I sat on it for a while, but I knew that I wanted to make this skirt to wear to the Hooch n’ Smooch event at Viva, and time was ticking away.

Enter: Another trip to the thrift store.

Thrift stores always have sewing patterns, and more often than not, they are a disorganized mess of the worst that fashion had to offer… in the ’80s. And that’s saying something. I usually give the pile a cursory glance, to see if there are any promising yellowing envelopes sticking out, and then I continue on my way. But this one day, at this one thrift store, the stash of patterns was small enough to consider flipping through each and every one. I wasn’t even looking with the skirt in mind, but rather just to see if anything seemed workable for any project. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Without merit. Ugly. And then… skirt! Here’s a skirt pattern, in my size! Three options, one of which is JUST what I am looking for! There were no prices marked, but I took a risk. At the counter, the cashier informed be that all sewing patterns are 49¢. Was I okay with that?


Ahem, um, yes. That’s fine. Thank you.

I got it home, and cleaned off the dining room sewing table. I knew that the pattern would already be cut out, but hoped that if it was cut smaller than my size, I could at least estimate up to… holy chit. This pattern is untouched. Nobody has ever cut it, and as best as I can tell, nobody has ever even unfolded it. There’s still an advertisement in it for new, upcoming Spring (1987) patterns. LA LA LA LA LA!

I got busy with my seam ripper, opening up the curtain panel everywhere I had to, and nowhere that I didn’t. I laid out the pattern pieces so that I could salvage most of one of the original curtain seams, thus NOT having to cut the ball fringe in one place. I wound up using just about the entire curtain for the skirt, and a bit of the valance for the waistband. The waistband which turned out to be FAR easier than putting in the zipper, and shouldn’t have slowed me down to a procrastinating crawl. And then I was done! Well, except for the last hook-and eye… hook-and-eye… I have about 300 (okay, 48 and yes I did count) assorted hook-and-eye sets in my sewing basket, and none are the right size. Damn damn damn. A trip to JoAnn and back home, and now I have the hook-and-eye and WHERE the hell are my sewing needles? Oh, come ON. I am NOT going back to JoAnn AGAIN. And then I remembered the emergency sewing kit I kept in my desk at the office, and that my desk at the office was still packed into a box in the basement, and lo and behold, I have a needle.

The end result is a one-of-a-kind, semi-vintage skirt that cost me approximately $4 (curtain, zipper, hook-and-eye, thread) and is, like anything I sew for myself, only a little too big in the waist.

(They’re difficult to see, but the flowerpots full of smiling daisies are my favorite bits.)

ADDITION: Dur, I forgot to post the pattern!  It’s Butterick 4706, ca. 1986, and it looks like this:


Filed under blogging, cute and fuzzy bunny, fashion, sewing, vintage, Viva Las Vegas

Weekend Update

A blog post? On a weekend? No, Hell hath not frozen over. Although, by looking out the window on this April morning, you may not realize that. Yesterday was beautiful; sunny and warm, so today? Snow. Welcome to springtime along the Front Range.

If you follow me on Twitter (@ampersandwich) you know that I was sewing a skirt the other day, and even hinted at a blog post about it, but suddenly stopped talking about it. Here’s the deal: it’s coming out really well. Seriously. The first evening of sewing went off without a hitch. The initial fitting is just about perfect (as with anything I sew for myself, I could have cut it a little smaller). The only thing I have left to do is the waistband, which I’ve been putting off because I’ve never done a waistband before and I don’t want to screw up an otherwise excellent sewing project.

On the other hand; without the waistband, it’s unwearable. So there’s that.

Also, I desperately need to finish this skirt because not only will it be fodder for an interesting (I hope) blog post, but because it’s a planned outfit for Day One of my annual pilgrimmage to the Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekender, and Day One is getting very, very close. So close, in fact, that while I certainly miss the income that comes from being employed, this is the last weekend before the big event and were I having to head to the office on Monday, I would be FREAKING OUT right now.

Which brings us to Viva Las Vegas. Vivaaaaaa Las Vegas. In past years, I have spent the month or so before the trip planning and plotting and packing with local friends. This year I’ve been on my own, although with the supportive buzz and hum of assorted online “friends” whom I expect to run into down there. I suppose I should be more assertive (eek!) about getting people’s phone numbers, so we can actually coordinate general times and locations. It can be difficult to find people in the sizable crowd even when you DO know what they look like in 3D. I was planning on spectating from the safety of The Boyfriend’s arm, but it turns out that he has a handful of friends who will be there, and he’ll want to spend some time with them. My last attempt to make friends with his friends didn’t go so well, so I think I’ll bypass this “opportunity” for now. (It wasn’t their fault. It’s just that, even when you explain social anxiety to folks, they think that once they say “hi” and the sky doesn’t fall down, that I’ll become a normal person. But it doesn’t work that way. This, apparently, leaves them feeling inadequate. Or something.) A couple of my own friends recently decided to go as well, but they’ve been keeping to themselves lately and I don’t want to interfere with whatever they’ve got going on. So I guess I’m back on my own again, for some events. As a result, if you’re down at The Orleans and see a ’billy girl hyperventilating quietly in the bathroom, that’s just me, freaking out about having to interact with other, live, human beings. Please move slowly, bring me something to drink, preferably liquor, and I’ll be okay. I have already put the schedule of bands I want to see into my iPhone, so if you can help me calm down enough to operate it, I’ll know where I need to be next.

As for now, I need to busy myself with finishing the skirt, creating three more hair flowers, researching spray tans so my pasty glow doesn’t blind people poolside, getting my hair color touched up (appt is on Wednesday; nothing like the last minute!), making a new necklace, and figuring out how to fit 8 dresses, 8 handbags, 8 pairs of shoes, plus all of my toiletries and whatnot, into ONE suitcase and ONE garment bag. If I have time left over, I’d like to sew my Standard Oil patch onto the back of my jacket (Suggested company motto: ‘Squishing a dwindling supply of dinosaurs for over 100 years’) and paint flames on the cuffs of a pair of jeans (although I’ve been saying I’m going to do that for a year).

Today’s agenda: Finish skirt. Glue flowers. Make trip to Walgreen’s to exchange the Almay Moisturizing Eye Makeup Remover pads for the less drippy Almay Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover Pads. Seriously, I think Almay took all of the oil they WOULD have used in the oil-free pads, and added it to the oil in the moisturizing pads. Dipping a cotton ball into straight mineral oil would be less oily. I went through two tissues before switching to a washcloth just trying to get the excess oil OFF of my eyes. I’m all for moisturizing the delicate eye area, but come on. Oh, and the gal who will be doing my hair on Wednesday asked if I could stop by her shop today so she could take a look at what she’ll be dealing with. And, um, post this. So, step one begins… now.


Filed under blogging, fashion, friends, nostalgia, sewing, vacation, Viva Las Vegas