Catching the Kimono Train

I was reading about Chanel No. 6’s blue cut velvet kimono the other day, and thought I’d share my 2 cents from my clipping stash (and past obsession with many things Japanese, though mostly pop / modern).

So here’s the lovely kimono she made, with her step-by-step instruction inspired by an authentic kimono she got from a friend.

And here’s how to wear it
if you really must do housework in it…

Keeping Your Sleeves out of the Soup (and Laundry)

I’m glad I found this, for I thought my mind was going. I vaguely recall seeing something like this, but can’t find any evidence in my clipping stash. Must have been some girl’s manga I was into way back when.

I wished I had found it earlier though. I had made this kimono robe a few years ago. But it got little wear because…well, the sleeves was sharing my soup and much more.

It also doesn’t help that it’s a bit immodest in the back – thanks to not enough yardage as it was just another fabric from the stash. And as Channel No. 6 mentioned, you really do need a very soft, drapy fabric. Mine was a bit spongy – soft, but not limp enough. So it feels a bit too boxy for a shorty like me.


Mine is a little bit different from the version Channel No. 6 detailed. It also has the open underarm and inner edge of the sleeve flaps, but without the rectangular insert mentioned in her step 6.

I made mine unlined and reversible as I find the peach side more flattering for my skin tone than the lovely iridescent blue side.

Mine was based on a Threads article on kimono from Jan 1991. Unlike the recent Burda 7/2011-124, it’s all rectangular pieces of fabric…

It seems relatively authentic – if you can trust Japanese Jenny doll kimono pattern and instruction to be faithful to the real thing…

Variations & Styling…

I love the extra long sleeves of girl’s / single women’s formal kimono. So decadent! There are some styles that don’t seem to be as well known in the west. Like the middle picture below, which is a Meiji period school girl uniform.

Kimonos from different periods

Interestingly the Japanese versions don’t seem to be drapy. Yet the way they wear it still makes them look slim and elegant. I guess what looks like a padded middle and the resultant high-waisted effect create a vertical column that’s slimming…Unlike my unpadded attempt which by betraying a narrower middle paradoxically ended up exaggerating the width above and below the obi belt (actually a wide scarf ).

And the long sleeves of course further emphasize the graceful vertical lines. Love to catch a breeze in those!

Also note how the collar hangs away from the back of the neck in the most deliciously seductive way. As they say, less is more – just a tiny peak of a graceful long neck is way more enticing than acres of skin.

But can one pull off a Japanese styling if one’s not Japanese? I think I’d feel foolish. Costumy is not an issue, but I’d wouldn’t know how to move in it with conviction. And that, I think, is a key ingredient of style.

My all time favourite western styling of a kimono has to be this one from John Galliano’s Autumn/Winter 1994 collection…

John Galliano Autumn/Winter 1994

Supposedly he was so broke he had to resort to cheaper lining fabrics for this collection. Yet the result is stunning.

A real shame then about his recent disgraceful behaviour. But I’ve never been one to put talented people on pedestal. So the fall in no way affects my appreciation of his designs.

Oh the foolishness of youth!

It’s youth’s perogative to be over-optimistic and foolhardy. So there goes 20 – 30 or so Vogue patterns, several expensive designer ones amongst them. All cut out to a youthful size 8. Now at least two sizes too small – and counting! Many weren’t even ever made. Sigh.

Let that be a lesson to any beginners – always, always, I repeat – ALWAYS- make and work on a copy. Keep the original. Maybe one day they’d be vintage and you can flog on eBay for a princely sum!

So, amongst the carnage were these gems:

Vogue Pattern 1479 Bellville Sassoon dress

Never made. Looks so pretty & feminine. But maybe a tad too much with the lace – almost bedroom naughty! If I can salvage the pattern I might make it with lined chiffon for the main part & unlined chiffon border instead of the lace.

Vogue Pattern 1390 Genny wrap top & skirt

Adapted the top to copy a Romeo Gigli wrap top. But the fabric color doesn’t really suit my skin tone. So now in the TBA pile. Shame. I might attempt again with a more flattering color, though I better check it’d fit still.

Vogue Pattern 1891 Oscar de la Renta evening dress

Never made. No occasion. But a girl can still fantasize! Maybe it can be shortened, made with menswear fabric minus the bows for a more wearable version?

Vogue Pattern 1793 Marc Jacob dresses

Made the one on the left. Again fabric color wasn’t the best. (I seem to have a whole pile of them – so lovely by themselves, not so lovely next to my skin }:-) Had to give it away to charity shop when I grew sideways and could no longer breathe in it :-(

Vogue Pattern 1639 Badgley Mischka dress & jacket

Vogue Pattern 1633 Karl Lagerfeld jacket & pants

Never made. interesting details, but not really sure about the overall silhouette.

Vogue Pattern 1638 Oscar de la Renta jacket & skirt

Vogue Pattern 1224 Karl Lagerfeld jacket & skirt

Made the skirt on the left, and the jacket on the left.

1638 looked like a clipping I liked which I still have somewhere. The skirt was a dark brown boucle and got lots of wear. So much so that it got a bit thread-bare in places and had to be chucked.

1224 jacket was my first tailoring attempt. It turned out well…except the silhouette didn’t really suit me: Too wide at the shoulder, too short in the bodice, big lapel that make my upper body look rather stumpy.

Vogue Pattern 1918 Michael Kors jacket, top, & pants

Never made. Am still thinking of making the jacket. Normally they’re quite spacious aren’t they. So hopefully I can just make the cut out size 8 and it’d still fit right?

Vogue Pattern 1608 Isabel Toledo top, shirt, skirt, & pants

Made the sleeveless top in some leftover baby blue satin. Another one that turned out well, but had to be given away because I got fatter. Bummer.

The shirt and skirt I’m not so sure about. The detailing’s interesting, but it look like a potential figure puffer. Leave it for the tall girls I think.

Vogue Pattern 1415 DKNY jacket, dress, & shorts
+ unkown DKYN shirt pattern

Never made. Sorry, I lied. I kind of adapted the dress for a satin skirt, which didn’t work out so well until I chopped the length. It’s kind of a cute silhouette – the jacket & short combo.

The shirt I never got, and can’t figure out the pattern number anymore. Shame as I kind of like it now.

Vogue Pattern 9015 jacket, skirt, & pants

Made the jacket in a stiff ribbed silk blend. Got a few wears out of it, so not so bad. But the one in the picture looks much nicer. Love the rich red, softer fabric. Mine didn’t drape so well when worn open.

Vogue Pattern 9000 dress

Made and failed. Love the pictures, but mine didn’t come out right. It was tugging at the wrong places and just looked dowdy. I might have thrown the pattern out after that – I can’t find the pattern in my stash anymore.

So there you go, live and learn. Maybe once I’m back in full swing I can pick up some grading skills and salvage these.

In the meanwhile, they’ll be safely locked away in the PSV (Pattern Stash Vault).

Blast from the past: back-burner CdG top

Hurrah! La Chemise is done!

And for once I’m quite pleased with the result. There were hiccups for sure. But not bad enough to make me want to feed to the TBA pile. More about La Chemise soon. London weather has turned all Spring-y and changeable. So it’s too dark to take pictures. And a blog post is no fun without the pictures.

In the meanwhile here’s a blast from the past. Another back burner project. Another attempt to raise the glorious dead! :-)

The sketch is from a long time ago, in a notebook I hardly use anymore.

Like most of my attempts back then, it was an attempt to copy designer clothing I couldn’t afford as a student – I was much more fearless back then. The inspiration for this one was…as the sketch indicates…Comme des Garcons’ Spring / Summer 1987 collection. I adored CdG at the time. It was my first designer love. This collection was quite feminine – a bit unusual for the avant-garde brand better known for weird baggy stuff. Actually there were a few seasons back then that were quite feminine / wearable.

My copies were mostly guesswork. Occasionally I got to examine the real deal in store and make a few sneaky notes. Sometimes the guesswork paid off. But mostly there were no cigars – like my various attempts to recreate Romeo Gigli Autumn / Winter 1989-90 coats…more about that epic attempt another time!

I made this top once back in the days and it was relatively successful. Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of the result from that incarnation.

I’m now hoping to create it again. This time with a thinner, flimsier jersey. I’m hoping for a slightly more fluid, drapy  effect, like the variation in the collection that was the same sort of bias-tape-lace effect, but on what looks like chiffon or voile.

I’m a bit worried that this fabric is going to stretch out of shape while I sew the bias tape on. Hence the procrastination. Maybe a bit of dissolvable stabilizer like those used for machine embroidery?

In the meanwhile, here are some more luscious CdG SS 87 clippings for you to oggle!

Comme des Garcons Spring / Summer 1987