Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Six Interrupted Hours of Handstitching...

and this is what I have to show for it:

Butterick 2564 and the Butterick 5429 twist top

All hems, sleeves, and one neckline were slip stitched into place. More (better!) photos and pattern reviews to come later.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Coco at Colette's

This week at the Colette Patterns' blog I explored the designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. It is illustrated with more of these pictures by Karl Lagerfeld. Really!!

Check it out here.

Images: (left) silk evening dress, 1927; (right) chiffon day dress, 1922. From Chanel by Harold Koda.

Gabrielle Chanel - Functional Chic

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (1883-1971) French

Coco Chanel

Prudence Glynn, a fashion journalist, described Coco Chanel’s style as functional chic, which is completely accurate, seeing as her clothes came from the desire to dress herself in comfortable functional pieces without extraneous details. Practicality was the genesis of her style, in the ease of putting on a man’s sweater, the abandonment of the corset, and the light comfortable use of jersey as the fabric of choice.

Silk charmeuse day suit, 1927. 

An outsider because of her lower class background, Chanel’s connections and love affairs with men of status and importance allowed her access to wealthy clients and the money to back her retail ventures. Originally a milliner selling hats in a small shop, she soon branched out to clothes.

Tweed day suit, 1963-68.

Her early style consisted of an unstructured cardigan-like jacket in plain jersey and calf-length straight jersey skirts worn with white blouses; otherwise, known as the “dressmaker suit.” Though now known almost exclusively for her eponymous Chanel suit, the popularity of that design did not come until the second half of Mme Chanel’s career when she reopened her business in 1953 after a fifteen-year retirement. Though similar to her earlier suit design, the later style jacket of 1964 consisted of loosely woven tweed or mohair trimmed with braid, gold buttons, and lined in fine silk. The patch pockets used on her jackets caused criticism because they were thought ungainly and unladylike and their placement at the hips altered the posture of the women who wore them. However, her dresses were still feminine and skimmed the body, no bouffant or crinoline looks from her.

Gloria Swanson
Hollywood connection: In 1931, she was employed by Goldwyn Mayer Studios. For one million dollars she was contracted to travel to Hollywood twice a year. She created the costumes for Palmy Days (Jean Harlow), Tonight or Never (Gloria Swanson), both disasters in 1931 and The Greeks Had a Word for It (Joan Blondell) a success in 1932, before she quit disillusioned with what the studios wanted from her – a style that was not her own.

Wool rayon lace gown, 1938.

Home sewing connection: In the 1950s, Elle magazine published a House of Chanel pattern offer in their magazine and received over 25,000 requests!

Tweed coat and day dress, 1929.

Silk evening dress, 1930.

Her style, innovations, and influence on fashion:
  • Her favorite colors; navy blue, beige, black and white coincided with the WWI restriction on colors used for clothing.
  • In 1921, she launched Chanel No. 5 in direct contrast to Paul Poiret’s earlier and more fanciful fragrances, both in presentation and in formulation. No. 5 was the first to combine natural and synthetic components to insure a long lasting scent.
  • Along with her suit, other iconic Chanel details were the combination of beige and black, black-toed, beige sling-back pumps, quilted handbags, silk Camellia flower brooches, strings of pearls (real and fake), straw boater hats, and gold linked chains.
  • Jersey fabric; formerly only used for underwear, and tweed were considered cheap and mainly working class fabrics. However, her use of lightly quilted silk linings and her superb tailoring made them chic.
Images: Karl Lagerfeld and Gerhard Steidl, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, May 5 to August 7, 2005 exhibit.

Sources: Chanel, (2005) Harold Koda; Dressmakers of France, (1956) Mary Brooks Pickens, Dora Loues Miller; Secrets of the Couturiers, (1984) Frances Kennett; Fashion(2003) Christopher Breward; Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, (2002) James Laver.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Still Trying...UPDATED

I have a dilemma with M5686. I'm not so sure about the fit even if I do re cut another muslin in size 12. I let out the bodice pleats and the waist darts and it was still strangely small. It has something to do with the shoulders and armholes. So, how could adding only a quarter inch to each seam (1" total) make it fit? Also, the fact that I could not find online even one person who had made this dress without problems doesn't help it one bit. Such a cute design but discontinued so early makes me wonder too.

Remember, I had already cut the pattern so when repairing it I had to fudge a little bit and be creative about what I cut off. The pattern is now out of print so I can't just go and buy the next size up. I checked the Internet and the only copies of this pattern up for sale are the same size I have.

Does anyone have M5686 in a size 14-16-18 that they want to get rid of? If so, I will send you any pattern in my Etsy store that you want in exchange.

I looked through my pattern stash to see if there was another dress I wanted to use instead. Unfortunately, not in this fabric. I really wanted a Mad Men-like dress in this print and most of my other dresses are more loose and shift-like.

M6011 M5686

McCall's did bring out another dress pattern, M6011 (in the same collection, Easy stitch 'n save) with almost the same bodice and I'm tempted to go buy that one and frankenpattern it with this skirt. What do you think? It's only $3 or is it not worth the trouble?

Vogue 8701

UPDATE: Now I'm thinking Vogue 8701 for the bodice? Closer still, but not as cheap a replacement.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sewing and Draping Classes in Richmond, VA

A year ago, I wrote about a draping class that was being offered at our local community art center, the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. Well, this coming Winter/Spring semester has a few more incredible sewing/fiber arts classes available. Lucky for me I have already been volunteering for them so I am eligible for a discount off the class price. Check these two out (there are more here)!

Beginning Pattern Making & Drafting

Can’t find generic clothing patterns at stores in Richmond that fulfill your needs? Want to make your own clothing patterns from your own designs with your own personal measurements? This class teaches beginning pattern makers how to make the basic “sloper” pattern from your own personal measurements. The sloper is then manipulated to create any clothing design. Students will leave at the end of class with their personal slopers, a muslin mock-up to insure fit, the patterns they draft from those, and a simple sewn garment if time allows. Sewing skills are a requirement due to the amount of information learned.

Dress Forms 101: Pattern Drafting & Draping - Intermediate/Advanced

In this class students will learn the basics of flat designing and draping (the oldest design method) and the interaction of the two through construction techniques. Students will learn how to take personal measurements for drafting accurate patterns and how to adjust industry patterns and for personal fit. Students will construct one garment from a foundation pattern and use the dress form to support proper fitting. Although this is a technical class, demonstrations will help students convert techniques for quick and easy sewing in and out of the classroom. Students will be introduced to tools of the trade for drafting and draping and discussions will include how to “pad-out” the dress form for personal fit. Fashion design and textile usage will also be reviewed.

The prices range from $180 for eight 2 1/2 hour-long sessions to $220 for ten 2 1/2 hour-long classes. That makes the price per session only $18 to $22. Very doable. The original draping class from last year(which I couldn't afford at the time) was $140 has now increased to $180 but it would be worth it, right?

So, if you are in or near enough to Richmond, please sign yourself up for one of these classes. I'll be sitting them out this semester because I'll be taking two night classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays already. However, if no one signs up for these they might not be offered when I CAN take them.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Madeleine Vionnet - Sculptural Modeling

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Madeleine Vionnet (1877-1975) French

Photo by Edward Steichen.

Madeleine Vionnet trained in the well known fashion houses of Callot Soeurs (Callot Sisters) and Jacques Doucet. While there she discovered a way to work with fabric that sealed her destiny. 

Silk cut-in-one gown, 1936.

Her influence is now seen in every slinky, body-skimming dress. She developed a style of three-dimensional cutting, using the three ways of fabric: lengthwise, crosswise, and bias. Cutting on bias is the practice of cutting cloth diagonal to the grain of the fabric that enables it to cling to and move with the wearer. To better accommodate the use of bias and to eliminate using multiple seams, Vionnet would order from her supplier fabrics that were two yards wider than usual for draping.

Silk day dress, 1920.

In 1912 she founded Vionnet, her own fashion house. She was one of the first designers (along with Poiret and Chanel) to liberate women from corsets. Her designs produced sensuously shaped, floating dresses with lowered waistlines that transformed Greek and Medieval inspirations into distinctly modern clothes made in silk, organdy, chiffon, velvet, and clinging lamé.

Silk pin-tuck dress, 1926-27.

Unlike other designers of the times, her dresses defied copying. To obtain the patterns her designs would have to be disassembled and laid flat in order to be understood. Some of her dresses, shapeless on the hanger, only made sense when viewed on the body and some even required instructions to wear!

Wedding gown, 1929.

To learn more about her work and method, you can consult Vionnet by Betty Kirke and the book’s complementary Japanese volume with reproducible patterns and photos of their reproductions published by the Bunka Fashion College -Vionnet Research Group who studied and recreated the work of Vionnet according to Kirke’s researched methods. Another book, Patterns of Fashion 2: 1860-1940 by Janet Arnold includes five patterns from Vionnet. View a completed project here.

Silk evening dress, 1939.

Rayon gown, 1938.

Hollywood Connection: She worked uncredited on 1931’s The Bachelor Father starring Marion Davies, fashion plate and tycoon William Randolph Hearst’s mistress. On the movie, she worked alongside fellow uncredited designers John Redfern, Captain Edward Molyneux, and Gilbert Adrian.

McCall 4468

McCall 5635

Home sewing connection: Vionnet designed some patterns for the McCall Pattern company in the 1920s. Some were credited and some were just "inspired" by her designs.

Silk lamé bias dress, 1938.

Her style, innovations, and influence on fashion:
  • Through her reliance on bias cutting, she was the first to design a dress without fasteners that could be slipped on over the head.
  • The use of crepe de chine as a dress fabric when it was formerly only used for lining coats.
  • She pioneered innovative seam decoration with her visible seams sometimes forming star or flower shapes.
  • The elimination of interfacing in order to keep the fabrics and the silhouettes flexible.
  • Characteristic Vionnet inventions included the handkerchief dress, the cowl neckline, and the halter neck dress.
Images: Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology.

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 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Who’s Who in Fashion (1980) Anne Stegemeyer.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hanging at Colettes

Hey, guys!

I have great news. I've been reading a lot about fashion designers lately and I've found a way to put that knowlege to great use. Perhaps you already know but I've been submitting little posts on certain designers to the lovely Sarai of Colette Patterns and she has graciously published them on the past two Wednesdays. Please join me as I learn more about the heavy hitters of fashion's past.

Tomorrow's entry will be female designer, Madeleine Vionnet, most famously known as the developer of the bias cut.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Muslin Is A Very Very Good Thing

Well, this weekend I finished my McCall's 5686 bodice muslin. I did my normal change where I cut the bodice out as a 10 (I was assuming excess Big 4 pattern ease) and tapered out to a 12 at the waist. BIG mistake. It was WAY too small! I felt like I was trying on a child's outfit.

It seems someone has been in denial about how a few pounds weight gain has effected her figure. Not only do I have pants that I can't button but it seems my fairly modest bosom has enlarged as well. Funny how something I would have been estatic about in junior high is no longer good news. Nothing fits or if it does, I at least can tell that it's straining.

When I say a few pounds, I really only mean a few, five to be exact. Which means that my clothes were probably already close to not fitting last fall. So, where I thought I was a Big 4 size 12 I am now a 14. Size-wise I have no problems with that, in fact my proportions fit that size much better at waist and hip. However, those 109 patterns that I already own and have always held out that one day I would make for myself? Hello! Not all of them go up to 14. I am the queen of patterns sized (8-10-12). When you only have to widen the hips a bit, no problem, but my new measurements (as of this morning) seem to suggest FBAs will be in my future.
Dum Dum DUm DUM
So on to muslim number 2, right after I tape some paper to my already cut pattern and redraw those size 12 lines. Wish me luck.

This is a great example of why a muslin is important. Also a warning that you should take your measurements every few projects or so.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Paul Poiret - King of Fashion

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Paul Poiret (1879-1944) French

George Barbier illustration, 1912.

Originally, apprenticed to an umbrella manufacturer, Paul Poiret would sketch and create small dress models using the discarded silk scraps. His clothing career began in earnest with a position at the House of Worth under Charles Worths’ sons Gaston and Jean-Pierre. There he was expected to create the practical clothes while Jean-Pierre created the jewels – the  sumptuous evening gowns and fancy dress costumes. This arrangement did not last long, only from 1901 to 1903, as his creativity was not being used or appreciated.

Fancy dress costume, 1911.

In his free time, Poiret designed for theatrical performances, which explains his more fanciful designs. His fluid cocoon shapes had ease and comfort.

Silk gown, 1922-23.

He took his cues from Grecian columns in creating dresses that fell supported from the shoulders with wide bateau necklines. He saw his work as art first. His simple flowing pieces were made in materials such as silk, velvet, lame, and brocades, in unusual colors and shapes that escalated them to luxuries.

Opera coat details, 1912.

 Velvet "Robe Sabot", 1921.

Notably, his work reversed the female silhouette he learned at the House of Worth, in the fact that he up-ended their preferred bottom-heavy triangle. Instead, strong shoulders appeared over an ever-decreasing skirt width. While Poiret succeeded in freeing women’s shoulders and waists, his invention, the hobble skirt, limited a woman’s stride to two or three inches at a time. In fact, corded “hobble garters” were worn just above the ankles to prevent regular walking strides from ripping skirt seams. Ironically, these were popular at the same time as suffragists were demonstrating in the streets, many wearing these decidedly challenging skirts. Another controversial action was his introduction of the v-neckline for daywear. This exposure of skin was considered a sure way to contract pneumonia.

"Le Bal" beaded shoes, 1924.

His style, innovations, and influence on fashion:

Beaded silk chiffon, 1926.
  • The first couturier to advocate the elimination of the corseted female body.
  • Conceived new fashion shapes such as the kimono-sleeved coat in 1906, hobble skirts in 1910, harem pants in 1911, and the lampshade tunic in 1913.
  • Influenced by the Orientalist designs of Leon Bakst for the Russian Ballets Ruse, Poiret introduced a new dramatic palette and combination of colors.
Beaded evening dress, 1913.
  • He chose to name his clothes instead of the customary practice of using numbers to arrange a collection. An example: his “Sorbet” costume, a wire-hooped “lampshade” tunic atop harem pants in chiffon and gold fringe.
  • He was the first couturier to release fragrances; however, his were released by a company he created in his daughter Rosine’s name.
  • Artist Paul Iribe illustrated and released Les Robes de Paul Poiret racontees par Paul Iribe. This publication and other illustrations by Erte, Louis Barbier, and Georges Lepape served as early forms of visual marketing for Poiret’s designs.
  • In 1931, he authored his autobiography, King of Fashion.
Images: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) Museum of Los Angeles, 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; Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, (2002) James Laver.

Answered My Own Sherlock Question

Since the first episode of Sherlock, I've been intriqued by Dr. Watson's (Martin Freeman) military-style jacket. Because of the dark scenes, I couldn't figure out what exactly was on his shoulder. As it turns out, he had leather patches on both elbows and on only one shoulder. I posed a question to the internet about the jacket, not knowing that the show's costumes had already made a splash in England. Honestly, the only thing I noticed was that one jacket! Well, I got my answer from Sarah Arthur, costume designer for the series:

Where did Watson's coat come from? The black jacket is from Haversack... I wasn't overly keen on Watson's original coat from the pilot - but [the character] had just come out of the army so I knew where they were coming from. I wanted to keep him old school, with check shirts, but make it a little bit more interesting.

However, a clearer and lighter picture shows that the jacket isn't as I imagined in my head. It's a regular canvas shooting jacket (much like the Barn coats that L.L. Bean is famous for) with a corduroy collar and the three leather patches. I had imagined it in wool melton, with somewhat pea-coat styling. Oh well, it's not like I was going to buy it for myself anyway.

Note: I think I found it: Haversack Style: 470928, Black cotton shooting jacket with black corduroy collar, leather shoulder guard, two chest pockets, hammered press studs, button front, two large bellows pockets and buttoned, vented cuffs. £725.00 ($1,170 US)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Why, Sherlock, Why?

How many were shocked and somewhat disappointed by the lack of conclusion to the three episode series of Sherlock?

I know that they are planning on another series but still, according to Masterpiece Mystery scheduling, we'll have to wait until this time next year to find out what happens. And you know something amazing must happen because it doesn't look like our heroes have a chance at all of surviving, even if they do take down Moriarty.

Oh, and speaking of James "Jim" Moriarty? That actor, Andrew Scott, was amazing. Now, that is the way to play a diabolical genius that is capable of anything. His great acting, mannerisms, and strange voice inflections were all working for him! He may not have gravitas, but I sure would be scared in a small space with him, wouldn't you?!

So I still love this series but to wait a year...

Flashback to Coraline Goodness

You know I loved the movie Coraline when it came out. The 3-D version was lovely, still can't forget the fireflies. I even admired the plastic figurines that were available.

However, what I loved the most about the film is that it was stop motion and therefore, every little prop or costume was real and hand made. Here is a great interview with Coraline's costume designer, Deborah Cook from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) Museum's blog. Enjoy!

Deborah Cook Interview

Just look at those little clothes AND the shoes! I could seriously squeal right now.

August 2018 Update: a new interview with Deborah Cook, Laika Films' fashion designer.

Image: FIDM blog

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Observations From My Past

About nine years ago, while visiting California, a friend and I were exploring Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, CA. My friend decided to step into a nearby Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf shop. I was still checking out the area when I decided to follow her in. Coming around the corner, I almost ran right into a woman walking to her car with coffees in her hand. We both smiled at each other and said ‘hi.’ The weird thing is I said 'hi' in the tone of voice I would use for someone I knew and was surprised to see there. It took a minute for me to realize that the woman was not really someone that I knew but actress Patricia Wettig of thirtysomething, Alias, and now Brothers & Sisters.

  1. Having met or been in the presence of celebrities before in my career history*, I had never experienced feeling that I “knew" them. However, I did spend an hour a week, for years with her. In fact, I still am. That is more time than many of us might get to spend with some of our closest friends.
  2. She was naturally beautiful in real life. What I remember is that her whole face seemed to be glowing, from her eyes to her smile. I have always held to my impression that she looked better in person than she ever looked on TV and in magazines. To this day, you can see that she’s taking to aging naturally and gracefully.

The best thing: Even though she probably read my tone of voice as “Oh, I recognize you!” she still seemed genuinely friendly and had no trepidation or “fan fear” in her eyes. Thanks, P.W.!

*Strangely, on another business trip to California, I not only met the late Tony Curtis but also ate dinner at the table next to Carol Kane, Danny DeVito, and Rhea Pearlman as they held some sort of celebration for Carol. Danny was videotaping the whole thing, so it’s weird to know there is a good chance I am in Danny DeVito’s personal home movies?!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Charles Worth - The First Couturier

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Charles Frederick Worth (1825–1895) English

The Empress Eugenie Surrounded by Her Ladies in Waiting,
Franz Zaver Winterhalter, 1850-90.

France is the birthplace of fashion, and the very first couturier that created a following and was known by name was based there. However, Charles Frederick Worth was not French, but an Englishman.

Afternoon dress, 1872.

A salesman of shawls, ready made coats, fabrics, and trimmings in England, at age 20, Worth moved to France in 1846. At that time dressmakers, the majority female, catered to customer wishes and desires. Worth’s self-confidence (and alleged rudeness) allowed him to not only disagree with his patrons but to push his own ideas in such a way that they were accepted and the customers began to depend on his advice on what looked best. It was Worth, with his gift for self-promotion, who transformed the dressmaker from an artisan to an artist. With him, couture was born and from it grew its poorer but more widely influential cousin, ready-to-wear.

Evening ensemble, 1862-65.

Worth’s talent was first glimpsed when he redesigned the uniform for the female shop assistants at Maison Gagelin, his employer. One assistant, Marie Vernet, who he later married, modeled the store wares in his designs and created a demand for his work. He opened the House of Worth in 1858 and soon caught the attention of Eugénie, the Empress of France and wife of Napoleon III, who eventually appointed him as the royal dressmaker in 1860. The Empress was one of the last royals to have a large influence on current fashions. She was a fan of the crinoline, a contraption that Worth would eventually detest because of its popularity. Instead, he made gradual changes. By creating a skirt that was narrow and flat in the front with draping on the sides, he moved the fullness to the back.

Wedding dress, 1896.

Eventually this style became what we know as the bustle. However, because of the crinoline and its many configurations over its 15-year long reign, the female silhouette resembled a bottom-heavy triangle as the style of hats had become smaller in proportion to the full skirts in fashion.

Evening ensemble, 1887.

His style, innovations, and influences on fashion:
  • Utilized a technique similar to smocking, called gauging, which produced a firm, non-elastic fabric that was used to avoid placing darts in lacy and delicately patterned materials.
Afternoon dress, 1872.

  • Development of aniline dyes in the 1870s allowed the use of rich, bold colors, as first seen in his purple, blue, orange, and lavender gowns.
  • First designer to use living models to show his clothes in seasonal “fashion shows”.
  • Launched the concept of mass produced dress components that could be rearranged to create different dresses.
  • Responsible for the creation and adaptation of the crinoline, which in later years he regretted because of its ubiquity.
Images: Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sources: Dressmakers of France, (1956) Mary Brooks Pickens, Dora Loues Miller; Secrets of the Couturiers, (1984) Frances Kennett; Fashion (2003) Christopher Breward; Costume and Fashion: A Concise History, (2002) James Laver.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Fall Wardrobe Progress Report

I'm done with my muslin of the McCall's 4052 bodice. Though I'm made this dress before, I always though the shoulder and bust area of that one was too loose. So this time I cut the bodice pieces as a size 10 and tapered the side pieces out to a 14 at the waistline. Yep, a difference of two sizes, but it fits perfectly now. I have to figure how to work with this plaid on the six separate princess bodice pieces. I'd like to play with the bias but I'm scared how that might effect the fit. I'm thinking only the middle pieces on the bias and matching the side pieces (on grain) at the side seams. Any advice? Any images that you can direct me to on what I can do with the plaid?

Before I start on the final version of that dress I am first going to do a muslin of the bodice on McCall's 5686. I'm scared that the neckline might be too wide for my shoulders. So then, once I fix any kinks there I can cut out both dresses, finish up one dress, and then immediately move on to the other. Or, at least that's the plan.

However, the very first finished project out of the pack will be a wearable muslin (I hope!) of the Butterick 5429 twist top. I'll be using my wonderful polka-dot gift from Kyle since I want to make these in knits instead of wovens. I think I might make the short sleeve one as I think the long sleeves might be too much polka-dotted goodness on me. So, woo hoo for me, using up some of my stash!