Tuesday, January 13, 2015

First Project of 2015: The Slam-dunk Asymmetrical Jacket

First off:  This jacket deserved a photoshoot at one of our local-ish landmarks, Stonehenge maybe, or the Bristol Suspension Bridge.  But that just didn't happen (thank you gale force winds and unending rain). So, after waiting a week for some more photogenic opportunity I caved and did the old self-timer in the patio garden routine.


Jumping out to take advantage of a ten minute break in the effing rain.

This pattern is a perfect example of why I love Burda so much, and why it's worth sticking with Burda, even when some of their issues can be less inspiring.  It's a great design, super modern, well thought out, elegant and chic.  The drafting is impeccable; it went together perfectly and I made no alterations - this is a straight 38.  Melissa at Fehr Trade mentioned that it runs tight - it does!  I toyed with sewing up a size, but ultimately I decided to make the trade off of less ease / slim lines.  This jacket does run small - I would probably strangle myself if I tried to do it up all the way to the neck.  In fact I have't sewn those snaps on yet because I'm pretty sure I'll never try.  I'd be interested to hear if anyone thinks this looks small - I prefer a very fitted style, so to my eyes it looks correct.
The back yoke has fantastic style lines, they look really modern and give a great, structured shape around the shoulders.
 I LOVE the asymmetrical lines of the jacket.  The two fronts are asymmetrical and significantly longer than the back.  This side view is my favorite look, there's something unexpected and chic about it.  The sleeves are super slim!  I won't be able to wear anything more than a fine sweater or long-sleeved top under it.
 When the jacket is worn open the back hip area peplums out a bit, which is interesting.  My neighbor, who used to sew a ton, told me off for not interfacing the back hem with canvas.  She's right, it would look better if I'd stabilized that area.

**Edit** I meant to add that I did an unusual-for-me experiment with this jacket.  I'm usually all about the sew-in interfacing, hair canvas, pad-stitching, etc.  This jacket is the opposite.  I took the lazy way out and followed Burda's directions about interfacing and construction.  No sleeve heads, no twill tape at the shoulders, and I only used fusible interfacing.  I've learnt my lesson!  Don't use fusible for any project that requires structure or real stability.  Even though I pre-shrunk the interfacing and was careful about fusing it, the jacket suffered for my "time-saving."  The fusible doesn't give enough heft to the neck areas, which need more stiffness to retain their nice shape.  The interfacing is also coming away in places, and I ended up having to catchstitch the seams to the actual fashion fabric to keep all the layers together.  Next jacket will be properly tailored!
The jacket looks completely different when you wear it open.  The sides hang loose and give an almost unstructured look.

One of my sewing goals over the last year has been to sew more modern clothes for myself.  I spent my 20s and 30s dressing like Miss Marple.  But if I dress like Miss Marple now I just look like a middle aged spinster (instead of a hot girl ironically dressing like one!). This jacket fits that bill.  It's almost a little futuristic to my eyes - like something a career girl in 2114 would wear.
 One of my other resolutions was to use more gifted / vintage / thrifted fabric (for financial and anti-consumerism reasons). This fabric came from a great store on Berwick St, London, whose name I can't remember.  In the basement they have a wonderful selection of vintage fabrics.  This must have been the bolt end, because this number-2232-and two red lines were embroidered across it.  I salvaged the number to use on the facing to add a bit of interest.  This was actually a great stylistic choice but a slight f***-up on my part.  I think this yoke facing is supposed to be cut with an ease pleat in the middle.  The jacket would probably be a bit more giving if it had those extra inches of ease through the shoulders.
Pockets! The only flaw I found in this pattern was that it was drafted without pockets.  I added some!

I consider this a great start to 2015!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Skipped Stitches

My friend Nhi thinks I should write a book that talks about life through sewing metaphors.  I think it's a fun idea… a novel perhaps… called "Skipped Stitches," or "Loose Tension."  Today I realized that I've been noodling over jacket / coat muslins for weeks.  Unable to decide what to make, what fabric to use. What I need or want in terms of clothing.  I suspect this is all symbolic of a very deep inability to figure out what I need or want in all areas of life.

The Burda peacoat is fine, but not inspiring.  Possibly because it has some issues that would require my sewing group's eyes to fix.  The Burda asymmetrical jacket from 1/2015 is much more interesting, but I need to figure out a way to get rid of the boob-truncating seam on the front.  It makes me look like a sexually ambiguous dentist from the 23rd century.  The seam adds shape at both ends.  One end can be turned into a dart, but the other requires more finesse.

I'm paralyzed by my fabric; my stash is on the other side of the world, and I have one piece of beautiful,  vintage, dove-gray herringbone to cut into.  It seems a bizarrely weighted decision.  The fabric is tagged with a yardage label going back 40 years… making the right choice seems important.

So that's it, Creativity wise. Other than that life continues to be a learning experience with a Major in "You've got to be Kidding Me," and a Minor in Red Wine and Rain.

Goodbye 2014.  You sucked.  Here's to a more hopeful 2015.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Winter Coat, 2014. Stage One.


I've made coats over the Christmas holidays for the last two years.  2012 was the Christmas of the White Coat. This coat needs some tweaking: I need to add shoulder pads, futz around with snaps on the lower front opening and so on.  Lesson Learned from this coat: It's hard to wear a white coat in a dirty city!  It's had very little use just because I'm so paranoid of getting it dirty, strictly a "special occasion" coat.  2013 was the Christmas of the Megan Draper coat. I still get a warm glow of joy from this coat; it's probably the most successful and ambitious thing I've ever made. I wore it constantly last winter. Lesson Learned: expensive materials pay you back in the end results and refinement is in the details.  The Hem could do with some work, but it never bothers me enough to actually sit down and do it.

This Christmas I'm hoping I'm able to sew a coat too: the main challenge is the unsettledness of the next few months (I'm in the UK AGAIN to help my mother threw another health crisis).  I don't have any materials with me so purchasing the fabric for this coat will require a schlep to London… and paying London prices.  Once again, kudos to UK sewers.  We in the US are spoiled by the relative availability of affordable, quality fabrics. 





Add caption

Vogue from 1996.  


I haven't nailed down a style yet, but I'm thinking of making this season's "must have" short coat.  The minty blue Gucci coat/jacket is fabulous.  I love the high, big collar, the welt pockets and the overall fitted, 60s look of it.

I've also had this royal blue coat pinned as an inspiration piece for years - longer, more of a traditional "coat" and simultaneously glamorous and effortless.  Both coats share the military inspiration, which I love.  The only pattern I have to work off of is this Burda from October, 2014.  It's more or less perfect for the long coat, but would require alterations to make it work for the shorter look. 

Here are my main questions about making the necessary changes to the pattern. a) The Burda WTF pattern has the kind of dart that runs down and across - i.e, the welt pocket in the line drawings is running over a horizontal line of stitching that extends to the side seam.  If I used this pattern that line of stitching would be exposed.  I would probably topstitch it and make it a feature (along with the other dart line) but is this considered a tailoring "no-no?"  I suspect it is, but I also don't want to spend weeks sourcing another pattern.

b) I'd have to move the break line up and adjust the size and shape of the lapel - this seems an easy enough alteration, but wondering if experienced tailors have any tricks to ensure that the end result is harmonious and pleasing?



Of course the other thing to consider is that this is essentially a variation of the pattern I sewed last Christmas.  I keep saying that I want my style to evolve and to become more modern.  So, should I hold out until the January, 2015, Burda is released and sew this fabulous short coat instead?


Or should I be insanely ambitious and make both??




Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Ginger Jeaning / Sad Trombone

For all my big talk about supporting female entrepreneurship I've never actually sewn an indie pattern (other than those in Gertie's books).  This has changed! I joined the stampede and purchased the Ginger Jeans pattern. The fabric is a medium body denim with the necessary 20% stretch factor, bought from the local fabric store.  Let me tell you, one pays a significant premium for buying fabric in rural Wiltshire rather than the LA fabric district!  This stuff was no bargain.

Here are the end results:
 I'm going to the the long, trombone slide of "whhhhaaa-Whhhhaaa" in the Ginger Jeans parade.  These just don't work any magic for me.  I like the fit of the legs at the front, kind of a nice, relaxed style, but the rear is just unflattering.  I don't think it's the pattern's fault.  I sewed the low-rise, stove-pipe view, when I know that a higher waist and skinnier leg is better on my figure.  The pockets are way too big and too low for this view - though I'm guessing they fit nicely and accentuate the appropriate curves on View B.  I also sewed a 10, but really should have gone down at least one size.  I took in the inner and the outer leg seams on this, so these jeans are probably closer to an 8 now anyway.

The good news is that I was inspired to go back and tweak my Burda jeans from April.  I took in the leg seams, reset the zip and hemmed them.  They clearly have some fit issues too - at the front - but I think those are the result of sewing a stretch denim style with only slightly stretchy denim.  I think with the right fabric they'll look good.
 ** Some blogger out there wrote a really funny post about how Hasbeens are the official shoe of the sewing blogosphere - yep!  Here are mine. **

And I prefer the back view in these ones too!

I have one more length of denim, should I try View A of the Gingers or give the Burdas another go?

Sidenote:  Mad respect to UK bloggers.  How the heck do you get any photos worth a damm when the light is never brighter than "dull grey?"  And UK bloggers -- any of you in Wiltshire or Wiltshire adjacent?  I'd love to meet up… or in London.  Please let me know of any meet ups if you happen to read this!



Monday, October 06, 2014

Final Spring 2015 thoughts: Louis Vuitton / Miu Miu

I am disconcertingly unimpressed by Louis Vuitton under its new designer, Nicolas Ghesquiere.  His clothes don't move me, which wouldn't be a problem, except I suspect that I am actually missing the point and that the point is significant in someway.  Whether you like his stuff or not, he is taking the same starting point as Hedi Slimane--vaguely late '60s to mid '70s vintage--and adding in something more interesting on top of that initial inspiration.  I don't get it, I don't like it, but I suspect I'm on the wrong side of fashion history with this one.



You could argue that these pieced leather dresses and jackets are "mod;" certainly the fastenings have a strong '60s flair, but they also feel bracingly new too.  I can imagine being young now and loving these pieces precisely because are a demarcation line between people who find them compelling and exciting and people who don't.  The same way people of my generation responded to grunge in the early '90s.


He threw in some dark jeans and jackets to appease people like me.  I love the cut of the denim and the neat blazers.  Nothing new here, but certainly good sewing inspiration.

 I couldn't care less about Chanel, which feels so labored at that point that it's almost painful (the epic productions seem designed to disguise the lack of ideas in the clothes). Instead I think Fashion Month officially ends with Miu Miu.  I don't have the nuance to parse much meaning out of these designs; a few fashion critics made the connection between Baltimore bad girls in John Waters films, which I think is a solid jump.  I saw The Shangri-Las in these vaguely slutty, yet still lady-like outfits.

The Shangri-Las  .. Best known for the 60s tune "The Leader Of The Pack" ... brings back so many memories!

Granted, The Shangri-Las never actually dressed like this, but somehow their music and these clothes mesh perfectly.  

 Can't you see these girls begging their parents to "give us your blessing," then running of with their no-good, bad-boy lover when their mother and father threatened to put them in a convent instead?  I love the way these clothes straddle the line between appropriately demure and utterly uncontrolled wantonness.

 Whatever storyline you read in--lots of great colors, textures and general sewing inspiration.

And that's it for Fashion madness 2015.  I think any fashion editor who survived four weeks of this stuff deserves a pat on the back.  I've picked what I thought were the most interesting stories, but these were slim pickings.  I used to envy people who got to attend these shows, now I realize how soul-sucking it must be to have to sit through hundreds and hundreds of fashion shows designed and realized by people who have almost nothing new or interesting to say.  Thank God for Prada!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Saint Laurent / Boo

I loathe Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent collections.  Where Prada is thoughtful, intelligent and layers meaning into her garments Saint Laurent is (now) the opposite: lazy, reductive and cynical. (Though one could argue I suppose that his cynicism is in fact "meaning" and that perhaps he is making some kind of ultra-meta commentary on the necessary repetition of unending fashion cycles. But somehow I doubt it).
Fashion critics tie themselves in knots trying to justify the "new" Saint Laurent and Hedi Slimane's vision. The most astute observation I've read is that he is essentially a fabulous stylist, whose taken a bunch of Top-Shop level looks and zsushed them up with some couture-level construction and great accessories. 
I actually like some of these looks; they are exactly the way a certain kind of rock and roll twenty-something should dress. This look especially--
is fantastic in its multiple layers of Sunset Boulevard.  There's a more than a little Gloria Swanson in the turban and fur chubby. The slashed-to-the-navel disco dress and platforms reference the disco and punk era who made Sunset Boulevard their home in the seventies and eighties. So - clever layering.  I like it.  But that "like" is dependent on context; this look only works if the "girl"  wearing it pulled the individual pieces from her grandmother's closet, thrift shops and her own sewing machine.  It just doesn't make any sense with it takes a supposedly master designer and an army of the finest craftswomen in Paris to create it (and thousands of dollars to buy it).

 Every fashion blogger in the business is going to go insane for the shoes, and I get it.  Everything about these shoes spells glamour and decadence; these are dime-a-dancer shoes at ladies-who-lunch prices.  This is were criticism of Slimane gets more complicated; is this a joke, or some kind of wry commentary on the insanity of fashion?

Either way you certainly can't accuse him of originality.
Hooker chic isn't exactly a new idea, but I suppose he gets points for the brazenness of selling low-rent looks to high-rent clientele.


There were a few looks were the spirit of the original YSL pushed through the spangles and lurex:
Burda WOF did a great version of this jacket a few years ago.  I may have to dig it out and re-consider it as a possible autumn sewing project.

I always wonder what Betty Catroux does as she views these shows from the front row.  I imagine her anxiously looking at her nails and wondering when the hell she can get out of there.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

I'm back-ish / PRADA

Sort of at least.  No new makes to report; in fact this has been the longest sewing-less period of my post-teenage life (I don't call it "sewing-free" since that implies the lack of sewing is a good thing, which it isn't).  I suppose that at some point I will have to return to So Cal and make a commitment / choice about where I'm going to live, but if I can put it off for another month - well that's all right.

So, Prada.  I have a borderline unhealthy love for Prada--not for owning it, which is fortunate, but as a source of inspiration.  Miuccia Prada--more than any other designer than I can think of--is less a fashion designer than an artist who uses clothes as her medium.  Her collections always say more about the world than simply what rich ladies are going to wear in six months.  Tim Blanks wrote a brilliant review of this show--



Imagine a woman escaping into those purple-shaded dunes with the few scraps of her old life she could carry (including her platform clogs), then hanging on to those mementos and mending them lovingly. Clothes were pieced together, seams marked out for sewing, roughly picked out in topstitching, held together by leather and the occasional strip of brocade. Hems trailed threads; stuffing burst from pockets. Clothes that might have been rich in a former life were now beautiful fragments. There was a definite tug between rich and poor, not just in the collaging of gilded fabrics and humbler stuff, but in the way one neckline was threaded with diamonds, another defined by plain dark contrast stitching.




Miuccia's vision, which Tim Blanks seemed to see more clearly than any other reviewer, feels recognizable to me.  Is that what many of us are doing now anyway? Dealing with ever-diminishing economic horizons and the not-so-far-off promise of climate collapse and infrastructure failure?



And what will we be wearing when that moment arrives?





Or is that too much to read into a fashion show?

Either way I'm completely inspired by what she's done.