Friday, March 28, 2014

Classic Shirtdress

I didn't have the 70s Halston shirtdress pattern, so I used pattern 114 from the April 2010 issue of Burdastyle which is a similar classic style. I used the long sleeves from its sister shirt pattern, #116.

The fabric is a very crisp cotton poplin which feels and sounds almost like taffeta when you brush your fingers over it. It didn't turn out to be the easiest fabric to work with, but I like its stiff drape. Wearing it makes me feel very put together. It would be fun to make the same dress in a softer fabric for a more relaxed feel.

I added a box pleat in the back.

I did a forward shoulder adjustment. It looks pretty good when I stand straight.


Of course when I move, my shoulder can jerk further forward and it still looks off. That's the thing about clothes, you move around in them!

I'm really glad I got a head start on my Spring sewing. So far, a jacketa blouse and this shirtdress.
The weather is supposed to be really nice this weekend. Maybe I'll be inspired to switch out my closet to my warm weather clothes!
What have you sewn for the new season?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reaping Inspiration From the Fashion Shows

Christophe Lemaire, Spring 2014

Do you look to the fashion shows for inspiration?

I do. It's not that I want to follow trends especially, but designers sometimes have really good ideas. Or they capture a mood that resonates with me and helps me define the direction I wish to go in with my sewing.
I pin a lot as soon as the pictures from the runways appear on Then I go back several months later, at the approach of the season and weed through my pins. Through this editing process, my personal style aspirations emerge. My Fall 2013 board was all about slouchy menswear.
Looking at my Spring 2014 board, my eye is particularly drawn to the Christophe Lemaire look above. It is a shirtdress, plain and simple. Wearing this dress, you could go pretty much anywhere. Whatever the day's activities, you'd be prepared. And look, almost no accessories!
The color is gorgeous. I love organic colors for Spring, greens and earth tones.
You might have guessed, I plan to sew a green shirtdress.

Karen Walker, Spring 2014

I also love this Karen Walker look.  What a beautiful palette! The color combination is very creative, but the mood is tender. Playful, yet serene. Though the proportions work well on the model,  I don't think I would attempt that much volume, but, ideally, I would like to incorporate this easy going chic vibe into my Spring wardrobe.

Are there designer looks that you feel are a good representation of your style and wardrobe aspirations? How does this translate into your sewing?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spotted Blouse

As I sort through my closet at the end of each season, I take some notes for the following year. Was there anything I felt I needed that I didn't have? Are there items I could use more of or that should be replaced? So when I'm ready to start sewing for that season again, I can pull out my list and get to work.
One of the things I wrote down at the end of last summer was that I needed some elegant tops to dress up jeans as a change up from my usual tees and tank tops. So here is a blouse. It's a bit dressier, but still has a relaxed vibe to it that I feel comfortable with. And I think it's pretty retro, in line with the 70s Saint Laurent vibe of my safari jacket.

I used pattern 127 from the March 2012 issue of Burdastyle magazine.

The fabric is a silk/cotton voile from my stash. I'm not sure if it is supposed to be an animal print. Maybe a tiny giraffe? If so, you could say I'm continuing on my safari theme.

The shell buttons are really pretty. You can't tell in the picture, but some of them give off an entire rainbow!

I sewed the denim pencil skirt last year and kept it in my closet for winter, but it rides up when I wear it over tights. I actually sewed a slip for it but that didn't really work out. Wearing a slip under a denim skirt just seems weird. But it's a great basic and I do expect to wear it in the Spring.

A bientôt!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wardrobe Musings: Black as an Accent Color.

Nicolas de Staël, Le Piano, 1955

Black is a color.

Some people think of black as shadow, and therefore not a color : there is no black in a rainbow.
However, black can be found in nature. It is rare, but beautiful. An animal with black hair or feathers really stands out in a natural environment of greens, browns and blue.
In the de Staël painting above, black is not used to depict shadow. The piano is black and its color is, to me, as rich and vibrant as the red cello case, the yellow background or the blue stripes on the chair.
Several years ago, I saw a young red-headed woman dressed beautifully in rose and caramel tones with caramel shoes, and to top it all off, a black coat, which looked incredibly striking against her hair color and the other colors in her outfit. The coat was clearly very high end, impeccably made of high quality deep black wool, but I probably wouldn't have noticed how beautiful it was if she were dressed all in black. Black probably wasn't "her color". It's generally not recommended for people with her complexion to wear black near their face, yet, worn that way, as a single and very unique piece, it made a gorgeous outfit. The young woman looked pretty and stylish. She looked happy too, which didn't hurt.

Boring black.

Black is considered elegant and cerebral. In couture, a black gown is form reduced to its essence and can make a bold statement. However, in the streets, it doesn't usually play out that way. It might have been chic in the 20s with Coco Chanel, and subversive in the 70s with Punk, but I'm afraid today it makes no statement at all, other than maybe a willingness to blend in with the crowd.
There is a lot of black in a city environment. And the way most people dress in wintertime forms a sea of black.
It is also, unfortunately, overrepresented in my closet. I wear a lot of black in winter because it is practical and flattering to the silhouette. A black turtleneck, black pants and shoes is a uniform that will take you pretty much anywhere, and the little black dress really is perfect, isn't it? If brown suits you better than black, do you think a little brown dress would be just as chic? Very unlikely. Black has become a no brainer for daily dressing, but as we see it everywhere, it no longer seems so elegant. In fact, it has become boring and conventional.
I'm so sick of it actually, I really want to try to avoid wearing (and sewing) black all Spring and Summer long.
But my hope is that after a black fast, I will be able to approach it in a new way.

There are two kinds of black.

I read that the romans had two different words for black. One was for beautiful, lustrous black, and the other was for dull shadowy black. I think it would be a good idea to reconsider black.  Since it is generally viewed as a neutral, it tends to becomes a backdrop for other, more interesting items in our outfits, and as the vague and nondescript sea of black expands, it doesn't seem to matter much anymore if black clothes are low quality and badly made.
I very rarely see black worn in the way the red-headed young woman did, singled out as a beautiful color. When I come back to black, that is how I hope to use it, and make it special again.
How do you feel about black in your wardrobe?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Saint Laurent Inspired Safari Jacket.

This is the first item in my Spring 2014 wardrobe. I think a jacket is a good place to start. If you make a bunch of garments and then decide to make a jacket, it might be difficult to find a style that will work proportionally with all the other items. So working in this order makes sense to me.

I used pattern 105 from the October 2013 issue of Burdastyle.

And I made a few changes to the style. I ditched the gun flaps, used buttons instead of a zipper and used a tie belt instead of the drawstring. These modifications make it look more like my inspiration jacket, the vintage Saint Laurent. I chose to make the pockets flat because the original pockets in the pattern just looked really bulky on my muslin. I also reduced the size of the lower pockets a tad. The pockets as they are drafted don't really fit onto the front piece in the size 38. You would need to sew the top corner a little bit over the side seam which I thought would look strange, so I  reduced them in width and length equally.

I reworked the shoulder/sleeve area quite a bit. I raised the armscye for greater ease of movement, reduced the width of the shoulders, reduced sleeve cap ease. I also slimmed down the sleeve gradually from elbow to wrist so they are narrow enough to scrunch up.

Scrunching the sleeves and popping the collar make a jacket fun to wear!

I really wanted to be able to pop the collar. Last Fall I made a peacoat using a vintage Simplicity pattern. I was so pleased that they provided a separate pattern for the under collar and that it was meant to be cut on the bias which is what a lot of experts recommend, well when the jacket was finished, I couldn't pop the collar! This was disappointing because I feel it is essential to giving a peacoat that "just in from the high seas" vibe. The under collar was just too soft compared to the upper collar.
So, for my safari jacket, I cut both collars on the cross grain and interfaced only the under collar as per Burda's instructions... and, it pops!

The fabric is a really crisp cotton gabardine in a bronze color. A Paul & Joe remnant I've had for several years, but always knew was meant to be a safari jacket. Since it does tend to wrinkle, I chose not to line my jacket for easier upkeep. I flat felled all the seams, and I can tell you it took me a lot of time and effort to figure out how to flat fell the center back seam into the back vent in order to get a clean finish. I couldn't find any tutorials on how to do this so I made several samples until I figured it out.

Vent : Right Side

Vent : Wrong side

I drafted a front facing which extends to the shoulder seams so I could use Connie Long's tutorial on "sewing collars without a back facing" from her book "Easy guide to sewing blouses". I use this book a lot. It is such a great reference.

The hanging loop is a really pretty multicolored ribbon. I sewed it down into the collar band using a three step zigzag stitch, so it's really strong.

I'm very pleased with this jacket and look forward to building my Spring wardrobe around it!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sewing & the Minimalist Wardrobe

My Bias Tape Stash

I've been reading a lot of blogposts about minimalist wardrobes. I love the concept : you select only the items you love from your closet and add whatever pieces you need to compose outfits with a minimum number of garments. Some say 10. Others 20, 25, or 33... The idea is that with a well curated set of items that can easily mix and match, it will always be easy to get dressed in the morning and this surely makes sense.

Sewing is an indulgence.

I think those who sew are necessarily going to go about constructing their wardrobe differently than those who simply shop for their clothes. After all, sewing is our hobby. There is pleasure for us in the process of making. It's not just about the finished product.
When I first started sewing five years ago, I really did not give much thought to building a sensible wardrobe. It was all about learning the craft, manipulating fabric, the pleasure of creating pretty clothes. If I saw a pattern I liked, I went ahead and made it. Some of these clothes I still wear today, others haven't seen the light of day.
I now want to be sure the clothes I sew get maximum wear, so I have been putting a lot more thought into wardrobe planning. But it must remain a pleasure.

There is the matter of Creativity.

The minimalist wardrobe is all about restraint.
How does restraint affect creativity? The format of a canvas or of a sheet of paper is something you have to account for when composing a picture, but has never kept artists from being creative.
Would spending more time and thought on each garment, so it's worthy of its place in your pared down wardrobe lead you to make it even better, more special, more creative? Or would you feel that sewing only "useful" pieces is too limiting and boring?

There is the matter of the Fabric Stash.

Some of you might live near an amazing fabric shop which always has exactly what you need, when you need it. I wish I could shop that way, but I don't have that kind of store around. Where I live, we have a few options, but I can never be sure I'll find what I need when I need it, especially when I sew off season. So, I grab it when I see it, and therefore have a sizable stash (seriously, it's taking over our apartment!).
I really don't think a fabric stash fits in with the concept of a minimalist wardrobe, yet, to me, it's a necessary component of the craft, and I'm not going to feel guilty about it.

The minimalist wardrobe aims for perfection.

I feel I need to hit the right balance between creativity and reason. I don't want to reign myself in too much. Though I do plan future sewing to a certain extent, I stay open to inspiration. It's ok to change my mind. And it's ok to make mistakes. Some things work out, some don't. It's almost an organic process.
I do put a lot of thought into each piece I sew. What place do I hope it will hold in my closet? What will I wear it with, and where? But there will always be a level of uncertainty as I can never be sure of the outcome. A garment I make might be a success and earn its place as a key element in my wardrobe, but sometimes it just does not work out as I had hoped. And if it's not perfect, I'll probably still keep it. I don't think my wardrobe will ever be perfect. It is constantly evolving and that's part of what keeps the whole thing fun.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on wardrobe planning. Do you think sewists can apply minimalist wardrobe principles?

More on wardrobe planning: Do you find wardrobe planning overwhelming?Sewing a wardrobe you love