Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Charles James (1905-1978) American
Comfort was something that James held second to the construction in his clothing. Halston referred to him as the Leonardo da Vinci of fashion — he was more concerned in the construction than what was seen on the surface. He was a sculptor of fabric and his designs depended on intricate cutting and precise seaming rather than outside ornamentation. His gowns were embedded with a pre-determined structure intended to shape and form the body within, hiding numerous figure flaws, if needed. However, the gowns, some requiring 25 yards of fabric and weighing up to 18 pounds, could not have been the most comfortable to wear. In fact, the observer would seem to enjoy the garments more than the actual wearer because of this rigid construction.
James often placed his design ideals before practical concerns, which was a factor in his company’s short existence. His success was hampered by the fact that he had no grasp of the costs required in ready-to wear manufacturing. He ignored wartime fabric rationing guidelines, deadlines, and shipping orders, which resulted in accumulated fees. He was more concerned with using only the best materials and fulfilling his own perfectionist requirements for handcrafted work, in turn increasing cost, time, and labor. This eventually led to bankruptcy and years later to his death at the Chelsea Hotel in New York.
Home Sewing Connection: This is an example of a Charles James sewing pattern put out by The American Weekly.
His style, innovations, and influence on fashion:
- The batwing, oval cape coat, bouffant ball gown, and asymmetrical shapes were his design hallmarks.
- His unique down-lined white satin “Pneumatic” evening coat was pictured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1937.
- The names for his dresses would include the “Pouff,” “Butterfly,” “Sylphide,” “Petal,” and “Four-leaf clover” gowns.
- He believed that his Four-leaf clover dresswas the culmination of his career with its unique skirt of four lobes formed by an understructure that created eights sides to the skirt.
- In his later years, James was hired by the designer Halston as a consultant for his company.
- Since his work focused on custom designed and fitted garments for individual women, his house only created about 1,000 different designs and few of these dresses exist today.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
How about doing it in a new dress you made yourself? Here are some lovelies available at the Dragonfly- Metamorphpursuit shop on Etsy. Why not try one of these?
Vogue 1110 SOLD
An Emanuel Ungaro design
Style 2005 $4
Vogue 2065 $5
A Badgley Mischka design
And here is a two-for-one deal, two patterns for only $8:
A Scaasi design
Luckily, in my stash I have a few left. At some point I must have been into buying in bulk because I was able to find two zippers perfect for my two upcoming dresses and what I have left are some assorted colors in 7-inch lengths for pants and skirts. Which means in the not too far future Coats & Clarks will loom over my future projects.
There may be salvation, in close-ups on the web, the Ziplon coil zippers by YKK look pretty similar to the Robin brand. If I can find them in a store, I'll try them out. It seems you can order them on both the Hancock and Jo-Ann websites but my local stores do not seem to carry them. Do any of you use YKK zippers and how do you like them?
Also, does anyone know why Coats & Clark seem to have a monopoly in Hancock and Jo-Ann?! Why don't they sell a variety of zippers from multiple companies?
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Originally published on the Coletterie blog.
Madame (Alix) Grès (1903 -1994) French
Born Germaine Emilie Krebs in Paris, she worked under the name Alix Barton for years, later changing to Madame Grès. She studied sculpture and this showed in her draping, which many times resembled the marble togas on classic Grecian and Roman sculptures. Her work skimmed and flowed around the female form, celebrating but never exploiting it for the sake of fashion. Her clothes were never vulgar and always dignified.
She opened her own house in 1934 under the name Alix and reopened in 1942 under the name Grès when she adopted the name of Madame Grès. During WWI, the house of Grès was allowed to remain open during the Nazi occupation of Paris. However, she then refused to dress the wives of the Nazi officers and also created controversial nationalistic collections featuring the three colors of the French flag. Not surprisingly, her salon was soon closed.
Madame Grès was known to have inspired Cristobal Balenciaga to open his own house in Paris. She had refused to hire him when approached as she thought him too talented to work for someone else.
She created her designs by draping them instead of sketching them beforehand and was a fan of chiffon and fine silk jersey for her luxurious and diaphanous gowns. Along with Chanel, Grès advocated the use of matte silk and wool jersey as suitable fabrics for garments and also brought back the use of old stand-by fabrics like faille, taffeta, and linen.
Hollywood connection: She worked in Hollywood from 1934-1941.
Home sewing connection: Created a series of elegant patterns for the McCall’s and Vogue sewing pattern companies.
Her style, innovations, and influence on fashion:
- She was known for her generous asymmetric draping atop a firm bodice structure.
- Her goal was to use a minimum number of seams, despite sometimes using 20 yards of fabric to construct a gown.
- Grès created gowns in her favorite colors of cream, lacquer red, and a particular honey-colored jersey. Grès had a daring eye for colors, especially when creating her evening gowns in two colors.
- In 1970, she was elected president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, the highest rank in French fashion.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Over the next few weeks I am going to try to load up my Etsy shop, Dragonfly, with all of the patterns that I have to sell. There will be even more as I am going to ruthlessly go through my personal pattern stash and sell the ones that I would never see myself wearing EVEN if I could afford to pay someone to make them for me. See? That's the real test. If that garment is not appealing to me at no effort on my part, then why keep it around?!
Not that there's anything wrong with them, it's just that I probably bought them so long ago that they don't fit my image of myself now.
So check out Dragonfly-Metamorphpursuit throughout the holiday season. There will be seasonal patterns, patterns for the warmer months, designer, non-designer, older 1980-era patterns, and ones from the last few years. All at lower than average Internet pattern prices too.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Originally published on the Coletterie blog.
Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949) Italian
Though not a true couturier, by developing a hand-made dress that would never go out of style or impede a woman’s natural figure, Mariano Fortuny made a memorable name in fashion. A renaissance man of sorts, Fortuny was a painter, inventor, sculptor, architect, and theater technician. It was this last talent that led him to working with fabric. He started his career in fashion by designing costumes for theater productions. In one, he designed his Knossos scarf of silk, rectangular in shape, and printed with asymmetrical diagrams and patterns which could be manipulated around and on the body. This was where his fashion career began.
- Fortuny’s secretive patented mushroom pleating of silk pongee or silk satin was a radical discovery in the freedom of movement allowed his models.
- His stenciled velvet fabric could resemble elaborate antique tapestries.
- Instead of the aniline dyes in use at that time his colors were created with overlaid vegetable dyes.
- His influences ranged from Greek and Venetian to all things Arabic and Asian inspired.
The book is called Little Green Dresses: 50 Original Patterns for Repurposed Dresses, Tops, Skirts, and More* by Tina Sparkles.
Not only is it about repurposing old items of clothing it is also about taking a pre-existing garment, calculating a pattern, and using it to cut a new shape into the item. And when I say a "pattern" I'm not kidding. From pencil skirts to shift dresses to haltered full skirted dresses these are real patterns you are creating by using your own measurements (always a plus!) and then modify to create other options. It is the nitty-gritty way to learning how to draft patterns. That way every pattern in the book comes in your size! Who could want more?
Why this book has not received more hard copy, Internet, and blog press I really don't know? I discovered it by chance in a big box bookstore and wanted to read the whole thing right there. From beginner to intermediate sewists, definitely check this out when you have a chance! While the styling is definitely geared towards the 1980's (uber-trendy with loudly colored, patterned fabric choices, and glitter makeup) you can still see how the instructions taken on their own could be used to make more subtle designs.
A review complete with a look at some of the pages is at Whipup.
Author Tina Sparkles' own website
And, no, I did not receive a free reviewer copy...I wish! I have still only looked at this book (though pretty extensively) in the store but hopefully after the holidays this little publication will finally come home with me!
*Published by Taunton Press, publisher of Threads and Sew Stylish.
Monday, December 06, 2010
If I altered the side seams it would look like the sketch.
Friday, December 03, 2010
- Hold a photo shoot for my latest two projects, Butterick 5429 and vintage Butterick 2564.
- Make up the McCall's 5686 bodice muslin in a larger size.
- Make up a muslin of the Vogue 8701 bodice. Yes, I'm buying it tonight, I couldn't help it. The pattern is still on sale and I just can't stop thinking about that dress . Also, wouldn't it be better for the gray plaid since it has darts instead of princess seams?
- Make a pair of flannel pajama pants. Why put those off just because they're easy?!
That's it. I'm not going to push my luck. See ya next week and happy sewing!
By the way, the Colette Patterns blog posts for December are focusing on four of the great fashion innovators of the 1930s and 1940s, so don't forget to check those out every Wednesday.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
First Try at the Muslins:
I can't show you the "real" first try because it would be scandalous because it just wouldn't fit! I had cut this one out as a size 10 at top and tapered out to a size 12 towards the waist. In order to get these pictures, I had to remove the waist darts completely and shorten the neckline darts just to close the back. You can see it is still too small because of the strained direction of the neckline tucks which should be almost vertical. Oh, and also the fact that I can raise my arms only so high...
As far as they will go...
I still like this neckline and the general idea of what this could look like, so I will be attempting a size 12 muslin of this same pattern before jumping off to use something completely different like the lovely Vogue 8701.
Here's the only decent photo of the first McCall's 4052 muslin, also in a size 10 tapering down to a 12 at the waist. Between the time I made this muslin (and it fit perfectly!) and when I posed for this picture, I had gained some weight, which is evident in the horizontal stretch marks and mono-boob situation. I also do not remember that much gaping in the neckline before.
Therefore, because of my frustration with both muslins, I then moved along to two other projects during Thanksgiving weekend. I will probably also work on a third top or bottom before returning to these dresses. Hopefully, in that time, I will get answers for this bizarre weight thing.*
How I cheated: I didn't want to trace the pattern again or paste paper to the tissue pattern to regain the size 12 seam allowances that I had cut off making a size 10. So, I used a regular office copier. Voila! Instant white borders around the pattern pieces that I could use my curved design ruler on. I will be using this technique from now on for any small pattern pieces.
*No, I did not gain the weight during the holiday weekend, but before it happened. Weird, right? I've since lost some of it by walking more.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Originally published on the Coletterie blog.
Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) Italian
Elsa Schiaparelli created simple wearable clothing with elaborate or eccentric trimmings and details. She was known for unusual, sometimes trompe l’oeil effects. In fact, her first design was for a black pullover depicting a white bow as if tied around the neck.* Once disparagingly called “the Italian artist who makes dresses” by Coco Chanel, the description was accurate. The art of her clothes was the focus, not trend-making style. She was one of the first designers to link fashion with the fine arts.
Hollywood connection: During her work in Hollywood, she designed Mae West’s costumes for Every Day’s a Holiday (1937) and she designed costumes for Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1952’s Moulin Rouge.
Her style, innovations, and influence on fashion:
- Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali designed fabric prints that she used in her clothing such as her Salvador Dali collaboration on a white evening dress emblazoned with a large red lobster for Wallis Simpson.
- For her retail business, she created traffic-stopping window displays.
- Her surrealistic motif of three-dimensional hands clutching the chest of a garment has been reinterpreted by many designers, most recently, Comme des Garcons in 2007 and Hussein Chalayan in 2010.
- She was the first couturier to highlight functional zippers as part of the design. Even though they were dyed to match the fabric, they were meant to be seen.
- First designer to delve into merchandising, she created her own line of accessories, trimmings, handbags, hats, and jewelry.
- In 1954, she authored her autobiography, Shocking Life.
Images: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Sources: Dressmakers of France, (1956) Mary Brooks Pickens, Dora Loues Miller; Secrets of the Couturiers, (1984) Frances Kennett; Fashion (2003) Christopher Breward; 100 Dresses, (2010) Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The World’s Most Influential Fashion Designers (2010) Noel Palomo-Lovinski.