corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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Second Home (Mexico)

Get a cup of tea…..

There are many things I’ve never done in my life so far – I  have never travelled beyond the equator; been to the continents of Africa, Australia, Eurasia; nor even across the Atlantic Ocean. This summer I managed to accomplish one of those nevers: at the ripe old age of middle I managed to cross the Atlantic and for the very first time in my life set foot on USA soil, albeit for a few hours stop over in Atlanta airport on my way to Leon, Mexico.

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Leaving Mexico

I haven’t been beyond UK borders for years. For 10 years or so as a family we took many holidays all over mainland Europe but generally speaking that’s just like being at home except for a different language and warmer weather; travelling to Mexico is culturally unique. I feel a trifle guilty showing you my suitcase because I did not sew everything I packed.

There are occasions in our lives when you have to make decisions and sometimes buying holiday-one-off clothes makes a lot more sense. My suitcase compromised a mix of RTW and sewn. I cannot foresee some of my Mexican wardrobe ever being worn in the very near future – I mean temperatures of 26 degrees and above are relatively unknown in my part of the world – and so I truly wasn’t prepared to spend money, time and effort on sewing things when I could buy them in the summer sales. This one of the reasons that I never signed up for 100% 12 months of sewing my own wardrobe. You never know what life will throw at you, offer you or knock you sideways.

In May this year I was diagnosed with yet another malignant melanoma – good grief, it’s my third! If not identified and cut out, this is a 80% death sentence. Wear the sunscreen people!! A temporary, damaging sun tan is not worth it. Take it from a bottle if it’s that important to you. My gratitude to our British National Health Service cannot be expressed enough. Obviously……

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Proudly displaying my newest “I’m still alive” scar

So when I received an invitation from ReAnn to visit Mexico my first thoughts concerned my life, health, skin, potential sunburn and subsequently the consequences. I have typical Irish, Northern European skin – pale, freckly and my delicious blood is a gourmet meal for every flying insect

 

Decisions to travel were – Yes, then No it’s too risky – life’s short and all that sun is dangerous:  then YES! Life is really and truly too short so take all and every opportunity whenever they present themselves.

Thankfully when the husband was asked if he wanted to come too he gave the right answer – No!

So off I went solo.

 

Packing philosophy

Choose a base/primary colour and add co-ordinating colours to ring the changes.

Slide1My base colour was royal blue, it is surprising how many colours coordinate with this principal colour and the co-ordinating ones were neutrals of white and natural linen. I had a little bit of space left in the case so in went one black and a couple of patterned items.  Mostly my clothes were solid colours but I did add these few patterns for variation.

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I bought two items while I was there – an expensive designer linen step-in skirt (a perfect opportunity for another blog post) and some khaki shorts from the tenguies (market) simply because I didn’t own a pair of shorts.

DSCN7751Merchant and Mills Bantam vest in lime green rib

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I packed two pair of shoes – flip flops for pool and early mornings, one pair of blue flat sandals and I wore the leather lace-up shoes for travelling because I don’t like moving through heavily populated areas such as airports and underground stations with my toes exposed in case of back-stomping and trampling.

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You will excuse me, I’m sure, that I do not model the entire suitcase. Everything that I packed was worn and most pieces at least twice, although I had the advantage of having a washing machine. Some items of clothing are very old and have been blogged before and it was ultimately very beneficial and gratifying that I had already spent the time making them, just waiting for their day in the sun. The olds include:

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Donna Karan wrap dress

See the lotion on my pale Irish legs? (Emm delicious). This photo was taken last year after the Donegal midges attacked. The DK dress was worn at dinner one night and turned out to be a ‘signature’ look – see below….. I had a posh meal out at the Insitutio while a world renowned classical guitarist played and who happened to know I was from Ireland and played a little ditty with Latin influences. God bless him.

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Self drafted T-shirt dress with beading

This self-drafted, beaded neckline dress was  worn for dancing the night away to what else but ‘the blues’. I went dancing with Jan to a Blues night uniquely sung in Spanish with the most adorable lead guitarist. I even got asked to dance.

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Sateen patterned cotton trousers, so old now that I cannot rightly remember when these were made. The new additions were a hybrid Alabama Chanin/ CfPD Bias top in white cotton jersey.

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Location is someone’s exquisite bathroom….

DSCN7752The white cotton CfPD Spiral Top with a little waist tie detail and needs an ironing…..

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My version of Monsoon blue and white striped cotton trousers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A homemade copy of Oska summer linen dress, made in a fine checked natural linen and the base pattern was StyleArc’s Toni.

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Another modification of the Toni was the black muslin over-dress.

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I bought a few plain white T-shirts, a swimsuit, a cover-up. I didn’t pack enough loose tops even though I’d made them, such was the temperature. Lesson learned.

At least now I have stuff that will travel the world with me wherever I go in the future- I have a wardrobe for all seasons and all temperatures.

 

 

 

 

IMG_0694So anyway, poor ReAnn felt a little under the weather one day and I set off to visit Canada de la Virgen (ancient pyramids) all on my own.

On the bus to the archaeological site this couple asked me if I had had dinner at a place the night before and that they remembered me because of my lovely blue dress (the DK). They then ‘looked after’ me for the rest of the day.

See – sewing has many unknown and undocumented advantages!

 

 

 

 

Then one other day as I was sitting by a fountain and waiting for ReAnne who was having her hair cut some American ladies walked by and commented that I should have a photograph taken. I gave them my phone and this is it. We met them again later that day.

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On another day ReAnn and I had a fabulous day tour around Guanajuato.

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I wore my black muslin over-dress with white cotton shift and white linen trousers and she wore a plain black dress too, both of us in total contrast to the colourful houses – we must have looked like two devotees of some religious sect together. Apparently Guanajuato was the backdrop for some Disney animation film recently but my days of watching such genre has become temporarily dormant.

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One evening we went to a really bad fashion show which I would not have missed for all the tea in China or all the Tequila in Mexico – it was so bad it was good!

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On Tuesday morning I shopped at the local market and had the best meal of the entire visit – a whole fried fish, crispy on the outside and creamy white on the inside. We were the only gringos at the long table. Perfect.

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I had tequila. Salt and limes included.

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I helped ReAnn fit and finish her Vogue 1442 dress.

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I advised and assisted Kathy with fitting and understanding the instructions for her very complicated Vogue 1424

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For which she very kindly gifted me the best present ever – a cactus pincushion.

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And within an hour of unpacking, my cactus had fruit, just like the real thing.

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I regularly sent home pictures of Car of The Day from San Miguel.

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There was art, churches, markets, eating, walking, talking, cooking class (thanks to ReAnn for the following photos), characters, sunshine, scenery, mountains,

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When I had 30 mosquito bites, I stopped counting!

I didn’t have altitude sickness (6000ft), I didn’t suffer jet-lag, I didn’t get sunburn, so a few irritating insect bites were a small price to pay.

Believe me, I saturated myself with insect repellent, Avon’s Skin So Soft – you name it, I lathered it on and the wee sh*tes still found the areas that I hadn’t covered – between toes, fingertips, thumb.

Other wildlife included Silence of the Lambs sized butterflies (moths) in the bedroom.

IMG_0760Amazing hummingbirds….honestly, can you ever imagine an Attenborough thingy visiting your garden???

 

 

 

 

I had an absolutely brilliant time in Mexico – a unique lifetime experience for which I wholly and truly have to thank ReAnn and will probably never have ample opportunity to repay ….and of course, sewing which was our initial reason for contact.

I have henceforth decided on a new acronym: AFS = away from sewing machine! What was the first thing I did on my return home??? You guessed it.

Suitcase still packed and I hit the sewing room………there was no time to suffer jet-lag.

Take life’s opportunities NOW.

Do not wait until next year, next week, next month, tomorrow……..and if ever anyone says to you that sewing is a solitary, isolated activity – here’s absolute proof that it is not and if anyone ever offers you anything – take it!

 


41 Comments

Clothes for Camping

Home again, home again, clippity hop!

Thanks so much for all your comments and critiques on my most recent posts.

I’m back home after a fortnight in the depths of Mexico (more to come later) – I have a lot to show and tell but first I’ll cover the Scotland holiday camping trip wardrobe. This camping trip, tent and all, occurred the very first week of July with two girlfriends. We journeyed all the way to Durness and if you get the weather that we had, I would strongly recommend this as a destination. However, if the forecast is four days with gales and pouring rain – I would definitely not suggest you go there. I guess you take your chances with Scottish weather and we got lucky! The sky was really and truly that blue – these photos are not Photoshopped.

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Our half acre camping site: tent, camper van with awning, outdoor kitchen, fairy lights, lanterns, candles, solar lighting, sitting area, wind break and views out to sea – perfect!

Now, I know you’ll be thinking: what on earth do you sew at home for a camping trip iin the most northerly town in the United Kingdom where it never got dark at night and the weather was extraordinary?  This is our beach…..IMG_0391While packing, I was preparing to experience all seasons in one week, as is customary for UK holidays, but ultimately we had Mediterranean weather for the whole week – which was nice and my homemade wardrobe fitted in perfectly. I did purchase some cheap RTW long sleeve T-shirts to add to the rotation and provide some protection from the sun but otherwise this is the packing rundown.

Gather together the following patterns:

Pirate Skirt pencil skirt

Greenstyle Sundance Jacket 

Vogue Paco Peralta 1550 trousers

Marcy Tilton Vogue 8837 pants (OOP) but any legging/jogging bottoms are suitable.

A few tops / T-shirt patterns that in my case incorporated : Merchant and Mills Bantam vest; Centre for Pattern Design bias cut top: Drape Drape 2 asymmetrical top; basic long sleeved T-shirt from whatever pattern you favour.

Slide1Choose co-ordinating fabrics and sew at will. What you can end up with is at least a five day wardrobe……..

I looked at specialist RTW clothing  before I started sewing – outdoor activity sites, camping gear, mountain rescue clothing and the like but everything was in the colour range of black, navy or khaki. I most certainly didn’t want to wear these on holiday. There’s a gap in the market there somewhere…..

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Pencil skirt and white T: eating an ice lolly and carrying a bag of ice for cocktails back at base camp.

My primary colour was the lime green flowery scuba from Fabworks. It has pinks, greys, black and white incorporated, which then became the co-ordinating colours for the extended holiday wardrobe.

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One thing that is of ultimate importance for camping clothing is comfort and flexibility, lack of wrinkling is also a benefit so this wardrobe is wholly comprised of man-made fibres – no I tell a lie, a few items are cotton jersey: all that bending down and stretching and sitting and fixing things and walking, putting things up and taking them down and what have you requires clothes that move with the body but don’t shift. The ability to layer is also useful for evenings when it might become a little chilly.

Mostly I wore trainers during the vacation, in the following photos I wore pink flats.

The photos are taken at home after the holiday but hopefully you’ll get an idea of the interchangeability, co-ordination and range of looks, style and most importantly, wearability of this little wardrobe. And just because you’re sleeping in a tent, doesn’t mean you have to look like you are during waking hours.

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As always, with a little bit of left over fabric, I made a little sling purse and a narrow neck scarf – just in case I felt I wasn’t totally co-ordinated enough.

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Slide2The Greenstyle Sundance jacket proved to be indispensable: I made a full sleeved, hooded, pocketed outer layer in the flowery scuba and then made a sleeveless, non-hooded over/inner layer in heavy pink cotton jersey for layering purposes. This relaxed front zipper closing sports jacket incorporates a drop back hemline, optional hood, zippered side seam pockets for extra security and an additional pattern alternative for a pleated back which I didn’t use. Because I made both a sleeved and a sleeveless version, the two could be worn together, either on top on underneath.

The pattern includes a long cuff with thumb holes for those of you who run on the streets in winter and for those of us who don’t, it’s a little design feature to keep your hands warm should the need arise or else provides you with the style ability to mimic your teenage children by being slouchy with an attitude.

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If you don’t want to look like this on a fabulous, truly memorable camping/outdoor holiday….choose your clothes to reflect the experience.

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Sew your own……….

No, I will never wear the two together but it was fun to show you.

Next time, it’s Mexico……


20 Comments

Evolution

It was only a matter of time before I dived headlong down the Tina Givens rabbit hole. I started long ago with the Tiltons (slightly quirky), then progressed to Oska rip-offs (quirky and loose) and have now advanced to TG (quirky, very loose and extreme). I have summarily decided that the rest of this year will be the year for making slightly unusual and slightly weird clothes. I mean why not? I already have jeans and Chanel jackets, pencil skirts and frocks, so what’s missing from my wardrobe? The slightly weird and unexpected.

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In order to ease myself into the TG aesthetic, the Plinka pants were downloaded, tiled and taped because they’re free. During a recent fabric clear-out I uncovered 4m of dark navy stuff. I have no idea what this fabric was originally purchased for, where it came from or what’s in it; that’s enough to tell you that it is definitely not made from natural fibres. I’ve had this stuff for so long that it now falls into the category of ‘free’.

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TG patterns are almost free-form: no fitting required which allows for a certain freedom in cutting and sewing but I would strongly advise that you cut at least a size smaller than you need in order to avoid being overwhelmed by swathes of fabric. I regard myself as a UK 14 and always cut a Vogue (US) 14 but I make alterations as I sew. With TG I happily cut out a Small.

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Plinka pants are essentially bloomers (take note Demented Fairy) that are perfectly acceptable to be worn on their own. Elasticated waist, patch pockets, comfortably loose with interesting details at the hem. Taking my time, I contently pressed the navy stuff into pleats, made binding, hem pleats, pockets and, out the other side,  a matching Ogden cami. Now I have an “outfit”……

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I also uncovered a little bit of navy/ivory linen that became another Ogden. This time I utilised all the leftovers and cut them into strips with pinking shears, sewn along the centre line only and left to fray at will.

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Pinking shears are the most recent tool added to my sewing arsenal. These were a Christmas gift from my son and they have been indispensable. 286-9061_PI_1000017MNGenerally overlooked nowadays because of overlockers/sergers but these amazing scissors have been used in haute couture since its inception to reduce bulk in seams and they prevent fraying in the simplest way. I don’t cut out a pattern with them but use them for seam finishing under a lining, trimming inside collars and cuffs, neatening the edges of patch pockets and sometimes using them for effect.

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The little patch of linen on the Plinka pants hopefully ties these two together. My label was sewn on using another patch of linen on the outside – an idea from and a small acknowledgement to our dearly departed TwoToast -who sent me to TG in the first instance.

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I totally love these!  I hope I wear them and carry them off with the confidence and aplomb that they deserve. They do have that dropped crotch of which I am not generally a fan but somehow it works with these.

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Went to a gin tasting a few weeks’ ago, even though I don’t like gin, but doing my best to support the local Belfast hospitality industry – I’m such a martyr to the cause……. and I didn’t have to think about what to wear………..

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Back soon.

 


79 Comments

Is this the end or the beginning?

An unusual ennui seems to have inflicted my favourite sewing bloggers and I too am not immune. Time between posts just stretches into longer and longer periods. I’m sewing lots, what I’m not doing is standing in the garden with carefully selected shoes and full make-up, salon hair, a smile and taking photographs.

Maybe it’s the summer season; maybe it’s holidays and days away; maybe we’re all busy with life and other stuff; maybe we’ve nothing left to say; maybe it’s the end of blogging…….bit like gym membership.

Anyone remember recording songs off the radio onto cassette tape, listening to your Walkman, watching videos, talking to people via landlines? See what I mean, everything has its day. Mind you, my 21 year old son is gradually building an impressive collection of vinyl LPs – what comes around, goes around. If we stick this blogging lark out, then maybe we’ll be back in vogue!

I have made some very good friends via blogging. I’ve met a few in real life and many more virtually. Every one is special and valued and I would not have have this connection without this blog. Hence, I’m rent in two like a beautiful piece of linen, right across the grainline. Do I continue to write this blog?

I have other on-line platforms – Instagram, Pintrest, Facebook and I don’t update those either. I’m really lazy or more to the truth, I couldn’t be bothered.

I have sewn so many garments since my last post that I probably have enough material (ha ha!) to complete a blog post every day of summer. The thing is – are you interested? Will there really be anything new? I’m beginning to think that blogging is just an internet version of “Show and Tell”: “Look how good I am”.  Please don’t misunderstand me, I find daily inspiration, advice, tips, laughs and stimulation from the blogs of other sewers and I still feel I should contribute too. And that’s the dilemma. Those of you who have not written for ages either must surely recognise this quandary.

To try and inject a new level of energy and re-kick-start regular broadcasts on Corecouture – I bring you the actual and real Wedding Guest Dress.  I made a prototype here but then had enough time to make another. Hence, I’ve dusted off the camera and tripod, taken off my jeans, found the shoes, put a bit of lipstick on and here we go…….

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There is no pattern for this dress. Well there is but you need to get hold off Bootstrap Off Shoulder dress for the top half and back and then the free download Julies Sissions Scarlett backless red dress for the front skirt. You put these two together, look at loads Vivienne Westwood frocks online and make the rest up as you sew.

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Fabric is Romance Rose from Fabric Godmother and is fabulous but sold out I’m afraid. A cotton sateen with 98% cotton and the difference made up from Lycra/elastane. Fitted but with room to move.

Those front pleats cover a multitude of sinful late night snacking and still they keep giving…..even after a wedding dinner. I wore this dress for 14 hours straight and it looked as good at the end of the day as it did at the beginning. I didn’t, however wear the VW shoes for 14 hours – I had flats at the ready.

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While it might look like those shoulders are about to fall off and cause untold embarrassment to the wearer, they will not. Take a little bit of scrap fabric or ribbon and a snap; sew along shoulder seam and put your bra strap through the loop. Perfection and totally secure. Wee haute couture tip there for you. You’re welcome.

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Then I obviously still had too much time left over for sewing because I also made a coat and bag to match.

The bag pattern was a free download years ago from Hot Patterns.

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The wedding was in May, which can be chilly at night here so this was not wasted effort. downloadThe pattern is vintage Vogue 1137 which I have made many, many times and as usual this version has a few modifications such as narrowing the swing and widening the sleeves. The coat is a light boiled wool, unlined, with patch pockets from Fabworks and if I had my wits about me I might be able to tell you exactly what it is.

 

I sewed flat felled seams and used a pleasantly matching grosgrain ribbon on the front facings and hem. The sleeve hems are faced with the dress fabric for that totally co-ordinating outfit – a very, very haute couture touch.

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Oh yeah, I also managed to sew an eternal corsage from all the left over fabrics, a few spare ribbons and a button.

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Till next time.

Whenever that may be….

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Thank you so very much for your loyalty, consistency and continual reading. My words are not enough to express this gratitude.

You want a few pictures of the wedding though now, don’t you?

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52 Comments

Zippy

Here’s how another One Thing can lead to another, which can lead to many more…..I just love the trail of thoughts and ideas and discovering where they all end up. Starting points……

Mags sent me to Croftmill for grey ponte at £7.00 p/m: Elaine sent me to Kaliyana for asymmetrical zip jacket and the Anti-Suit: one of the lovely ladies from our Sewing Away Day donated a fine grey spotted cotton jersey: Julie wore a jacket on the same day that had droopy back pockets and was so casually impressive and understated that I want one: Anne showed the most beautiful Chanel suit this week: many, many other blog active sewers have been showing and telling their cropped/wide leg/trousers/culottes. I put in the hours of planning, cutting and sewing.  Armed with a bag of assorted open ended plastic zips, some almost-matching thread, some patterns and a bit of flexible time – this is the result from my too short half-term break.

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Many patterns were gathered, edited and then finally selected to the finalists – Vogue 8641 five easy pieces, Vogue 1550 Paco Peralta, Vogue 8559 Marcy Tilton, self-drafted Three Bears T.

I’ll start with the jacket as it is a wee bit impressive, even if I have say so myself because there’s no one else writing this. We’ll call it an idea in progress.

Start with Marcy Tilton’s 8559 (OOP) cardigan-wrap top; no side seams and cut on the fold, no back seam either. A waterfall front, centre back seamed collar and shoulder seams. Clever pattern placement can easily incorporate selvedge edges too, although using the dark grey ponte fraying isn’t an issue and raw edges are abundantly on view. I added a whopping 9″ to the length, then got to work on adding zips!

Three zips on either side. Hopefully they form some sort of design feature on their own but they are also functional – an infinity jacket? I had to press gang Doris into modelling today because, quite honestly I couldn’t have been bothered. Hopefully you’ll understand why in a just a moment.

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Left open and unzipped, the zips provide a bit of weight to help the fabric drape (ha – I like to believe this is similar to Chanel’s chain on the bottom of a jacket – dream on….).

Zip 1 – short centre fronts. Zip 2 – bottom right edge matching with a right hand side princess seam location. Zip 3 – 45 degrees on right hand side and shoulder width on left.

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All the zips zip into one another; that is, zip 1 will zip into zip 2; zip 2 will zip into zip 3 and so on. This multitude of zips allows for a multitude of closure options; exaggeration of the draped front and hemline, cowl necklines, loose or square body shape.

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Zip 3 zipping into zip 3 pulls and is quite difficult to do up so I might have to rethink the position of these ones. However, I can close zip 1 with zip 2 or zip 3 for yet more variations.

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If zips do not provide enough variations for your taste, then add a sewn brooch to merely clip various points of the jacket closed to suit your mood and the weather conditions.

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But wait, that’s not all. Being very impressed with Julie’s jacket, I added a deep strip of leftover fabric to the back and sides of the jacket matching the raw edges to provide those covetous voluminous back pockets and I also managed to get two at the fronts too. They will be very handy to hold emergency rations such as Kendall Cake and Mars Bars.

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And because this ‘pocket’ band is on a different grain there is a gentle shading that I always find attractive in unique clothes. Other waste selvedge cut offs were added to the sleeves as mock cuffs, adding weight and extra finishing.

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I did experience the dreaded jersey wobble – which could be an acronym from suburban New York for cellulite but I mean the stitching of a zip to stretch fabric. Is there a remedy? I know I could have added interfacing but this is an unlined jacket and visual evidence of reinforcing would be unacceptable. All suggestions welcome for both problems……….DSCN7564

The tunic top was quickly made from the donated cotton jersey in Vogue 1550. There’s nothing fancy or notable about this, apart from the fact that IT IS Paco Peralta. I didn’t add the signature inserts but did manage to do admirable mitred corners on the side drape points.

The pale grey ponte was put into use as a pull on pair of trousers from Vogue 8641 (OOP). Again, not too much to declare about these apart from adding two, shaped patched pockets on the front and cropped, more because of fabric restrictions than trends.

Finally, I just had to make use of the leftovers and cutoffs and managed to sew a Three Bears T (see link above) that became more of a sweatshirt. It has two layers below the bust seam that allows for minor variations of styling. There’s a few raw edge seams to follow the theme, such as cuffs, hems and bust line.

I don’t like the matchy-matchy trousers and top – too much like PJs. It looks much better with a dark grey bottom and believe me, I have many dark grey trousers to wear with this.

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So, there you have it – four pieces that became an outfit and what’s better, they can all be worn with existing wardrobe items that hopefully coincide with Oska and Kaliyana aesthetics.

This has got me thinking of joining SWAP this year although I am late to the party. My primary colours being grey and adding highlights of whatever colour I like because grey is such a neutral. Is there a colour that does not wear well with grey?

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This style of dressing is definitely not form fitting, no pencil skirts or slim-line trousers here but so comfortable, transitional and, dare I say it, unique?

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I mean, how many of your jackets have back pockets?

Now, in which pocket did I put that Mars Bar?