Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Too Small Dilemma

Well, last weekend I really wanted to start on some projects. I was going to get the easy ones out of the way, the ones where I didn't need to alter the pattern in any way. Well....

New Look 6939 New Look 6939

For the longest time I knew I was going to make New Look 6939 in view C out of my Alexander Henry Mocca Chocolate fabric. Unfortunately, my fabric is only large enough for the indecent version of the dress, remember from last week? In order to reach the new modest length I prefer, I will have to add a panel at the bottom of this one too.

So, a piece of the same fabric but not trying to line up the pattern or instead use a contrasting solid strip?

What do you think?
Simplicity 2406 Vogue 1922 (OOP)

In the meantime, I'm going to measure and alter the patterns for the View C dress of Simplicity 2406 (I'm one size larger than the pattern) and the pants of Vogue 1922 where the pattern, bought a decade ago, is now two sizes too small. I have to add an inch to each seam allowance for the pants to fit.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Betsey Johnson - Cartwheels In Color

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Betsey Johnson (1942 -     ) American  

As a child, Betsey Johnson spent her time in dance classes. Her early love of dance and its tulle-enhanced costumes directly influenced her adult design sense. She eventually left Connecticut and moved to New York where she studied at Pratt Institute and graduated from Syracuse University. In 1964, Johnson got a fortuitous break when she won a Mademoiselle guest editor contest, resulting in an internship at the fashion magazine.

Spring 2016

After working as an assistant in the art department at Mademoiselle she was hired as one of the designers for the popular Paraphernalia boutique in 1965. The boutique was modeled after the London store Biba, creating up-to-date and revolutionary fashions for the youth market. While designing for Paraphernalia, Johnson continued to develop her style combining her childhood love of those feminine ballet costumes and the newer influences of rock and roll and current street fashion.

Betsey Johnson wool sweaters

Her A-line minis, groovy pantsuits, and drop-waist knit dresses were very popular. Her long vintage-inspired prairie dresses in small floral prints were reminiscent of the calicos described in the Little House on the Prairie book series. Paraphernalia was popular with the fashion and rock and roll crowd such as models Penelope Tree and Twiggy, members of the Velvet Underground, and actress Julie Christie. In fact, style icon and Warhol star Edie Sedgwick was Johnson’s fit model.

Knit top and shorts, 1970s.

Johnson left Paraphernalia and in 1968, she opened a boutique with two Paraphernalia co-workers called Betsey, Bunky, Nini.

Alley Cat color block sweater dress.

 In 1970, she was hired as a designer for Alley Cat, a junior sportswear company until 1974. During her time at Alley Cat, Johnson became their head designer and had creative control, designing everything for the price conscious line aimed at teenagers and young adults. Her rock and roll and rockabilly influenced clothing were a success, sometimes incorporating hippie-like maxi skirts, vibrant knitwear, and petticoats.

Quilted corduroy jacket, Alley Cat, 1971.

Her designs were made accessible to another market, home sewers, when she collaborated on a line of Betsey Johnson for Alley Cat patterns with Butterick Patterns. Her designs were first produced under the Betsey Johnson of Alley Cat label and later as Betsey Johnson. She produced over fifty patterns with Butterick.

Christy Turlington in Betsey Johnson, Vogue 1991.

She worked for Alley Cat until 1974 and in 1978 started her own company, Betsey Johnson, LLC with business partner Chantal Bacon. With her own company, her designs started to embrace the ballerina aesthetic. Now Johnson is known for her tulle-enhanced feminine styles and the generous use of the color pink. This was not always a pale ballerina pink but frequently a shocking hot pink shade usually combined with other bold colors and black. She no longer used prairie prints, instead her floral prints became large-scaled with roses in vibrant colors. They were printed on cotton-Lycra jersey to create form-fitting and sometimes overly frilly dresses.

Shoes and accessories were designed to complement her clothes. Like other designers, Johnson also held licenses for items such as lingerie, handbags, eyewear, hosiery, and fragrances.

This use of the colors, pink, black, and white were also evident in the interior design of her retail stores and in her homes. Her elegant and colorful homes share the same color palette and have been featured in magazines such as Vogue, Elle and others.

Spring 2011

As a breast cancer survivor, Johnson has been involved in securing funding for several breast cancer organizations such as the National Breast Cancer Coalition and the CFDA Fashion Targets Breast Cancer Initiative. For years she has also hosted a yearly event in her boutiques and has created limited edition items whose proceeds fund breast cancer-related charities.

In 2001, preparing for her end of show cartwheel!

Over the years, Johnson has been known for a particular look and persona, with her shocking yellow, orange, red or white-blond colored wigs that immediately announce her presence. Her mega-watt smile and natural exuberance lead her to perform her signature cartwheel down the runway as an ending to her shows even though she is now in her late sixties. Her runway shows incorporate loud rock music, inventive lighting, her colorful clothes, and rock and roll styling, all with energy to match the designer’s own.

Edie Sedgwick in Ciao! Manhattan.

Film Connection: Betsey designed the wardrobe that Edie Sedgwick wore in her last film, Ciao! Manhattan (1972).

Butterick 6529

Home Sewing Connection: In 1971, Johnson was included in the Butterick Young Designers collection along with designers Mary Quant, Jean Muir, and Willi Smith.

Her style, innovations, and lasting influence on fashion:
  • In 2008, Johnson was awarded the Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Fashion Award.
  • While at Paraphernalia she designed a “Do-It-Yourself” transparent vinyl dress kit packaged with stickers that could be placed in strategic locations on the dress.
  • Johnson was once married to Velvet Underground member John Cale, who wore her designs on stage when performing.
  • Johnson’s daughter Lulu starting working at the company after graduating high school and is now a creative director.
Images: Twirlvintageco; DearGoldenVintage; Yannis Vlamos –,, Getty Images,

Sources:; Fashion: The Century of the Designer, 1900-1999 (1999) Charlotte Seeling; “Betsey Johnson for Alley Cat” (2009) Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum blog; Weller, S. (2015, February 15). Betsey Johnson: A Role Model, Still. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Say It And It Will Be Done...

  1. I will start on two new projects this weekend, an easy top and an even easier dress. I have already altered the pattern pieces and just need to lay them out and cut.

So now that I have written (said) that on this blog I must be held to it.

Give me h___ if I have no progress to write (talk) about on Monday, ok?

UPDATE: I was a very bad girl. No sewing happened. I thought about it a lot though. Does that count?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Norma Kamali - Retro Punk

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Norma Kamali (1945 -    ) American

Nylon parachute dress in International Orange, 1974.

Norma Kamali (born Norma Arraes) grew up wanting to be a painter but instead graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) with a degree in Fashion Illustration. While searching the city for a job in the fashion industry she worked in the office of an international airline. A perk of this job were the discount tickets that allowed her to visit London frequently, sometimes weekly. In 1968, she and her husband opened the first store in New York importing and selling some of the clothes she saw in London along with items from local Salvation Army stores. In 1974, the store moved to a more fashionable address on Madison Avenue.

Nylon evening dress, 1978.

She was now creating and selling her own designs. She began experimenting with unusual materials, producing dresses and jumpsuits from parachute silks. To capitalize on the original use of the fabric these pieces were constructed with drawstrings in place in order to adjust the fit of the garment. Her 1975 “parachute” collection was a huge success. In later years, the material used would be changed to a more durable and water-repellent nylon. Several of these pieces are now part of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art permanent collection.

Kamali in the sleeping bag coat, 1982.

The following year, she produced her most famous item, the “sleeping bag” coat. Inspired by an actual sleeping bag, she wanted to transfer that insulated and snug feel to quilted, down-filled outerwear that insulated the wearer from winter weather.

 "Pull" swimsuit, Cosmopolitan, June 1977.

Kamali’s swimwear business was launched after Christie Brinkley wore her “Pull Bikini” on the June 1977 cover of Cosmopolitan magazine and the orders multiplied. The unique bare and graphic  suit was a sensation and Norma Kamali became an internationally recognizable name.

Sweatshirt fleece dress, 1980s.

Kamali and her husband divorced in 1978. Norma Kamali, Ltd was dissolved and she began a new company, OMO for On My Own. During this period she produced clothing made from sweatshirt fleece, knits and terrycloth. She elevated gray sweatshirt fleece from functional athletic wear to everyday street fashion. Many of the dresses incorporated elasticized sleeves or waistbands and were sold with detachable shoulder pads.
1970s sneaker flats.

To complement her new take on using gym-like fabrics she designed high-heeled sneakers that literally looked like athletic shoes propped up on sturdy heels with extra-long laces meant to be wrapped and tied around the leg. Her fondness for athletic wear would continue as she has a current partnership with Everlast and has aimmence interest in health and wellness.

Jersey plunge halter dress.

Swimwear continued to be a substantial amount of her business. In the 1980s her designs changed to more retro-influenced styles, long before the recent fascination with all things vintage.

Antonio Lopez illustration

Around the same time, Kamali had a distinctive look loosely based on the 1940s with her jet black hair put up in victory rolls, a powdered face, and lips made up with red lipstick. She has streamlined her look and wears less makeup but that retro look is still seen on her models in promotion materials.  She was influenced by films of the ‘30s and ‘40s in her personal wardrobe and her clothing designs too. Her ensembles of bold-shouldered jackets, mid-calf skirts and platform heels were highly reminiscent of Hollywood designer Adrian.

Jersey dress and shawl, 1980s.

In 1995, she developed an interchangeable practical, comfortable wardrobe of jersey pieces available in three colors; black, red, and white. This collection was reminiscent of the clothing philosophies of designers Bonnie Cashin and Claire McCardell.

Resort 2017

Early on Kamali embraced the possibilities of direct marketing and the Internet for customer sales. Her direct marketing venture, 1-800-8Kamali allowed her customers to purchase all of her products through the Internet. Her product line at this time includes swimwear, active wear, fine clothing, home furnishings, her cosmetics line Norma Kamali Beauty, fragrances, eyewear and swimwear.

Kamali Walmart Fall 2010.

In 2006, she revisited the jersey wardrobe idea and produced an affordable collection, Norma Kamali Timeless, exclusively for the Spiegel catalog and Instructive videos were provided on the website showing the many ways the pieces could be worn. She used this same concept in 2008 for an even lower priced collection for Wal-Mart stores. A $30 trench coat from that collection was voted Best Travel Fashion in Travel + Leisure magazine in 2009.

Emerald City sequence in The Wiz, 1978.

Film Connection: Kamali designed the costumes for the hyper-colored Emerald City sequences in The Wiz (1978) with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.

Her style, innovations, and lasting influence on fashion:

Darren Fawcett poster, 1976.

  • Kamali was responsible for the red bathing suit worn by Farrah Fawcett in her best selling 1976 calendar.
  • She designed costumes for three of choreographer Twyla Tharp’s dance performances.
  • Her 1999 Living Rubber collection introduced a thermo-chromatic fabric that changed color via body heat similar to a mood ring.
  • Kamali has been awarded many honors for her clothing, video production, and architectural and interior design,  along with her efforts for education and the arts in New York public schools.
  • She received a plaque on the 7th Avenue Fashion Walk of Fame in 2002.
Images: Mark Seliger; Costume Institute at Metropolitan Museum of Art; Pamcoco on Etsy; Kick Shaw Productions;; and the Norma Kamali OMO blog.

Source:; Norma Kamali (2003) index magazine; Who’s Who in Fashion (1996) Anne Stegemeyer; Fashion: The Century of the Designer, 1900-1999 (1999) Charlotte Seeling.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Open For Business!

As you can see to your right, my Etsy shop Metamorphpursuit is back up and open.

I made a new header

(which I made in Powerpoint...who knew?)

and added 20 or so new patterns. In a few days, I will have ALL of the patterns I mean to sell in the shop. While the store is still heavy on 1980-90s patterns I am also including some more recent ones (from the 2000s!!) as well as some from the 1950-60s, courtesy of the Ruth Harvey pattern collection.

I spent this last weekend getting everything organized and ready. So, please check it out.

Metamorphpursuit at Etsy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Coordinated Summer Wardrobe

Over the last few months I did a little bit of fabric shopping. As I've written before, most of my pants no longer fit and I don't own any shorts. So I felt some new fabric was warranted. I used my state tax refund of $50 to buy most of this so I don't feel guilty. I don't, I swear!

Here are the goodies and the projects that these are destined for:

Brown heather linen-like, Daphne batiste (for linings) in papyrus, Prairie Rose Swiss dot, a stone gray polynosic woven, and an Alexander Henry Mocca print in chocolate. What I love about these fabrics is that unconsciously I ended up with mostly items that go together, with the designer print standing alone. They are destined for a top, two dresses, shorts, and pants.

The Swiss dot is destined for a sweet top, perhaps a 2nd Sorbetto? I was only able to get 1 1/2 yards of this, so it is pretty precious. The brown heather woven is the same fabric used on this skirt. I chose it this time to make a pair of shorts, either classic style Vogue 2532 view B, skirt-like Style 1902, or Vogue 2883, a combination of the two.

Luckily, I bought enough of the brown to also make a Simplicity 2406, view C dress, the gray will be pants from Vogue 1922, and the coveted AH print will either be another New Look 6939 or the Vogue 2883, view B dress. I first need to compare the patterns to find the least sack-like one.

Mosaic Multi Dots matte jersey

Of course, there was one fabric I did not buy because it wasn't on sale. I love this Mosaic matte jersey at Jo-Ann. I've been wanting this fabric for over a year now. Next time I have money and it's on sale, IF it is still there, it will be mine!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yves Saint Laurent - Le Style du Monde

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Yves Saint Laurent (1936 – 2008) French

"Le Smoking" tuxedo suit, 1966.

Yves Saint Laurent arrived in Paris from Algeria at 17 years of age.  In his second time competing he won 1st prize in a 1953 design competition for the International Wool Secretariat. The award led to being hired to assist couturier Christian Dior. In his three years as a Dior assistant he submitted approximately 400 sketches for each collection and as many as 50 of his were produced in a resulting Dior collections of 180 pieces.

Silk and pearl suit, Spring/Summer 1963.

In 1958, following the death of Dior, Saint Laurent was chosen as his successor; a decision made by Dior himself earlier that year. Saint Laurent was 21 years old at the time and his first collection, Trapeze, was a huge success. However, his second collection three months later was not. While prior Dior collections embraced a feminine and mature woman, Saint Laurent wanted to design for modern woman who were members of the youth culture. In addition, his drastic changes in design themes and moods were not appreciated by the old school couture customers or the fashion press.

Antonia in YSL spring/summer 1964.
Photo by William Klein.

During his short stint in the French army in 1960, Saint Laurent suffered a complete nervous breakdown and was medically discharged. During his recovery and absence from Dior, the company took advantage of the situation and installed Marc Bohan as acting chief designer. At that time, Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre BergĂ© chose to start their own company. This split divided the Dior staff and half chose to follow him to his new venture. A breach of contract lawsuit was filed and Saint Laurent won.

Wool jersey Mondrian day dress, 1965.

Saint Laurent opened his own couture house in 1962 with a successful first collection. His subsequent collections would shock the world, such as his 1966 Pop Art collection and the 1965 Mondrian-influenced collection consisting of checkerboard dresses in primary blocks of color.  “Le Smoking,” the female tuxedo, safari leisure suits, bold jewel tone colors, the use of gold, bold pairing of colors, and ethnic inspired collections with Eastern influences, and the use of non-white models in his runway shows are all fashions and design elements associated with Saint Laurent.

Silk and feathers dress, 1974-75.

Saint Laurent launched his ready-to-wear boutique line, Rive Gauche, in 1968 for his younger female customers believing that ready-to-wear was the greatest force in the fashion world. He supplemented the line with designs for handbags, belts, jewelry, knitwear, shoes, and even menswear.

Ethnic evening ensemble, Fall/winter 1976.

He is well known for his Russian Collection of Winter 1976-77 that incorporated elaborate embroidery, metallic piping, braided trim, full sleeves and embellished bolero jackets. It was inspired in part by Babushka peasant costumes and the Ballets Russe, which was also an influence for the designer Poiret. His other collections would pull design references from China, Peru, Central Africa (the Safari Collection in 1967), bullfighting (1979), the 1940s (1971) and even the hippie culture of the time.

Saint Laurent’s later years would be complicated by a heavy alcohol and drug addiction that included many attempts at rehabilitation. After retiring from the business in 2002, he succumbed to brain cancer in 2008.

Claudia Cardinale in The Pink Panther, 1963.

Film Connection: He designed costumes for the female leads in The Pink Panther (1963), wardrobe for Leslie Caron in A Very Special Favor (1965), and that of Catherine Deneuve in several of her films such as Belle de Jour (1967), Liza (1972), Mississippi Mermaid (1969), and The Hunger (1983).

Vogue 1675, 1967.
Home Sewing Connection: For decades, Yves Saint Laurent lent his name and designs to Vogue Patterns.

Ethnic evening ensemble, Fall/Winter 1976.

His style, innovations, and lasting influence on fashion:
  • The designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel were great influences on him.
  • His great friends and style muses were actress Catherine Deneuve, model Iman, and Loulou de la Falaise.
Evening dress & shoes, 1960.
  • There was a 1983/1984 Metropolitan Museum of Art retrospective exhibition of his career. This was the first one held for a living designer.
  • Saint Laurent was also honored with a posthumous retrospective in 2010 held at the Petit Palais, City of Paris Fine Art Museum in Paris. This exhibition featured 307 pieces from his entire body of work between 1958 and 2002.
"Pour Homme" cologne ad, 1971.
  • In 1971, he posed nude to advertise his cologne, Pour Homme. Recently, designer Marc Jacobs appropriated the same concept for his fragrance Bang.
Sources: The Great Fashion Designers (2009) Roger Tredre and Brenda Polan; The World’s Most Influential Fashion Designers (2010) Noel Palomo-Lovinski; Yves Saint-Laurent: Forty Years of Creation (1998) Beatrice Dupire, et al.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Knit Cardigan - Simplicity 2560

Pattern: Simplicity 2560

Pattern Description: Misses' Knit Cardigans

Pattern Sizing: View A in size 14, no alterations

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, it did.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very much. Because this was a knit I used a combination of straight and zigzag stitches on the seams.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I loved the flowing nature of the design.

Fabric Used: Rayon/Spandex knit in Potent Purple from Jo-Ann Fabrics, $9.75.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Besides lengthening the sleeves as much as the pattern layout would allow (to right below my elbows) I made no other alterations to the pattern. I hemmed and double stitched the sleeve hems to look like a twin-needle. At first I wanted to leave the edges raw, scared of the hem stretching out and rippling. However, I ended up hemming the piece because it just didn't feel finished without that step. It worked out fine, probably because the fabric is three layers at that point. Next time I will add more length to the sleeves even if I have to piece them.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes. I highly recommend this pattern, it was an incredibly easy and quick sew.

Conclusion: A very comfortable cardigan that could be made out of even thicker sweater knit for a more substantial feel.