Older But Not Wiser

Decades ago, when I was a relative sewing novice, I was much more adventurous with my sewing.

Slapdash Pattern Happy!

I thought nothing of my poor techniques, and happily dabbled with making my own patterns. Like this dress…

Apology for the blurry photos. My Mom wasn’t exactly ace with the camera and this was in the days before digital cameras. So you had to wait for the films to be developed to find out that you got some dud photos!

Note the stiff exposed back zipper. The collar probably wasn’t properly interfaced either. But it was my own design, probably inspired by some magazine photos. And then there’s this one…

What was I thinking of? LOL. My head was in the cloud back then. I don’t even remember making this one. (You know I must love you to share such unflattering photos of myself with you! ;-)

Designer Love Love Love!!

Many were the attempts at copying designer clothing I liked but couldn’t afford. There was the Romeo Gigli coat wannabe I wrote about a while back. But my main love back then was the Japanese design house COMME des GARÇONS.

Here’s an example, modeled after a skirt from COMME des GARÇONS Spring Summer 1988 collection…


With the twinkly sequins and sparkling tear drop crystals, the lace skirt was like the widowed Scarlett O’Hara on a crisp rainy day. Rain in its romantic glory of course, not London gloomy.

And another inspired by COMME des GARÇONS Autumn Winter 1988-89 collection…

A red flannel pleated skirt with crochet lace embellishment and self-fabric belt.

I love that folklore inspired collection! There were many more ideas that I didn’t get around to try out.

From the next collection – COMME des GARÇONS Spring Summer 1989 – there were at least two more…


A gathered skirt with one panel folded back up at the hem and hand drawn Renaissance style Pierrot characters.

The blouse pattern was rather interesting. The sleeves were cut as one with the bodice, not separate pieces. They were like bat-wings extending up beyond the shoulder seam. Halfway up the armholes they separate from the upper armhole of the bodice, then were gathered and reattached to the upper armhole. You know those Japanese designers, they like their origami! And yes, those are pom-pom faux buttons.

Sometimes I’d take the liberty to “improve” on the original. Like with this Marc Jacobs dress. I made my version reversible.

Bring On Them Tailoring Challenges!!!

I also wasn’t afraid to tackle tailoring. Here’s my first Vogue suits – Vogue Pattern 9199…

The result is a bit conservative for me at the time, so I didn’t wear it much and have no idea what happened to it.

But then under the lens of the right photographer – my university friend in this case – even a plain old suits can look fashionable!

That suits though didn’t make use of proper tailoring. But this Vogue Pattern 1224 one did… Apology about the lack of mug shots. I guess I used to take sewing for granted so didn’t think to document my projects. Anyway, this one had the pad stitching, the hair canvas, the roll line tape  and everything.

Jolly Old Midlife Crisis!?!?!

So what happened? Well this for example:

Note all the drag lines. Fitting has never been my forte. Nor was picking the right proportion and silhouette. The V1224 suit above for example had wide lapels and extended shoulder that doesn’t really flatter my short-waisted figure. I also didn’t think to lower the waist band slightly to create the illusion of a longer torso. I mean a waist goes where your waist naturally is or where the pattern designer intended it to go, right? So naive I was. I simply took instruction and the pattern at face value. I didn’t think to customize it to suit my own figure quarks.

The other thing that happened was aging. Although I wasn’t great at fitting, stuff I made before didn’t look too bad. The T-Shirt above is actually a recent make. Shock Horror – my figure has changed. And in exactly the ways described in Fit For Real People! The rounded upper back, forward shoulder, fuller bust front and narrower back, fuller tummy, sway back and droopy behinds. You name it, I got it. Makes fitting so much more difficult.

Hence my current obsession with making slopers instead of lovely clothing from the Big 4 patterns  and Burda magazines I’ve collected.

What about you? Have you grown wiser with age and sewing experience? Have you ever hit a sewing midlife crisis like me & got over it? Please, please tell me there’s light at the end of the tunnel! ;-)

UFO Revisit 3: Faux Shearling Stole

OK, last UFO Revisit for the year. What with Xmas coming up I don’t think there’s any chance of finishing anything else. So here you go.

Not my favorite styling, but at least it illustrate the wearing options courtesy of multiple hooks in different places!

The inspiration…

…Was this fabulously faux Comme des Garçons Garcons design from Autumn/Winter 1989-90…And I’m fabulously late of course!

Actually, I had been planning on making one since the beginning. But finding the right faux fur wasn’t easy. Obviously what I ended up using isn’t the same type of  faux fur, but it’s fabulously luxurious darling!

And in the intervening years, I’ve also picked up this lovely Michael Kors take on the fur stole. (In 2D form of course, I have no filthy rich but widely hated nowaday sugar daddy to fund my wardrobe.)

I love Love LOVE the juxtaposition with manly tweed. I’m still plotting to make that coat in the right one day.

And as usual I didn’t document which year this clipping is from. Can you ID the collection?

Of course lately there have been other retro faux fur stole in fashion. Like this clipping for UK Glamour, again date unknown, but I know it’s definitely recent.

So, when I finally found the Luxe Plus faux shearling at B&J in NYC last Feb, I thought the time is nigh for a faux fur stole.

Looking for the perfect pattern

First the search for the right pattern. I have no idea what shape it would be. It seems like just a straight cut of fabric. But then would it mold well to the shoulder? And if curved, how curved and where curved?

I initially cut the fabric to this Japanese pattern clipping I have. It’s from a feature on faux fur garments in So-En from ages ago. (Sadly So-En is no longer a pattern magazine, but just a fashion forward fashion magazine. And I’ve been a bit sacrilegious, having clipped out only those patterns I liked at the time. And you know how some  tastes changes over time… :-(

I like the oversized edgy look – I didn’t want to go too dainty. But when I tried it on and it looked unruly. I think my double cloth shearling is a bit too stiff for this much fabric. I had to move on to Plan B.

I briefly toyed with idea of Burda Style 2011-12-117. But I ruled it out because the shaping seam running length-wise in the middle of the stole won’t work on my double-faced faux shearling. There’s no lining to cover up the seam and I think it’d look weird having the seam exposed in a stole.

So the final Plan B is an adaptation of another design from the same So-En article…

This is  a little bit more dainty than what I wanted. So I ditched the CF gathering; enlarged it to make full use of the fabric piece I already cut out; and curved the edges. In retrospect maybe I should have curved it more for a better fit around the shoulder. But it’s good enough to wear.

The furry sewing experiment

It got a bit furry when it came to the sewing. My RTW faux shearling coat has straight stiching along the cut edges with no seam allowances. But when I tried the same on a scrap, it didn’t look right nor feel right.

The edge felt a bit rough, which is a problem for a garment close to the skin. The top edge was also shedding fur and showing the cut edge.

I tried blanket stitching the edges. Still no good. So in the end I went for one of the techniques recommended for double-faced fabrics…

  • I peeled the edges of the double-cloth,
  • straight and zig-zag stitched the edges to reinforce them,
  • freed some trapped furs, but then promptly sheared off the one in the seam allowance to minimize bulk,
  • turned the seam allowance of the fur side in and hand-stitched in place,
  • finally turned the seam allowance of the suede side in and slip stitch the two layers at the edges.

Closure choices

I checked out other stoles and decided against the decidedly dainty ribbon closure. It wouldn’t work on my slightly oversized stole anyway. Fur hooks on the fur side doesn’t quite work either as my fur pile isn’t long enough to hide them. And with the double-faced cloth, there no way to sew the hooks to the wrong side with only the hook and loop bits poking through to the right side. So I ended up sewing 2 sets to the edges of the suede side, then throw in a bar tack loop for good measure.

Now you see it now you don’t!

A few strands of thread loops coved with blanket stitches blends into the furry background quite easily. In fact, sometimes I had trouble finding it when I want to. I also tried thread loops made with chain stitches, but it didn’t blend so well and seems a bit too fragile.

Getting crafty with it

And you thought that’s the end of it? Oh no, not so fast! There are still these inspirations to tackle…

On second thought, maybe that’s enough image porn  for one post. Stayed tuned for crafty part 2.

Byzantine dreams

OMG, I can’t believe I’ve just finished not 1, but 2 sewing projects! Granted, both left a bit to be desired in the fitting department. But still, it’s unheard of. Almost.

London weather being dull as ever, no evidence of my minor achievements just yet. Instead you’ll have to make do with part 2 of my Gigli coat quest. Nope, you haven’t heard the end of it yet! :o)

While Gigli attempt no. 1 was hibernating, I stumbled across Folkwear 503 Poiret Cocoon Coat pattern. It’s vaguely Gigliesque. So I thought I’d try a store-bought pattern for a change as my attempts at copying designer garbs have been a bit of the luck of the draw.

The example on the pattern envelope is a bit ugly to be honest. But I thought with a classier fabric it might look glam enough. So I plucked for a gorgeous brown cut velvet with silver-gray satiny lining.

And here’s the result…

Well, the almost-finished result anyway. You see, the trouble is once it’s mostly made up I lost heart. It felt more like a dressing gown for Ladies who Lunch than a Byzantine Princess Coat. So I never put the finishing touch on it. Instead it’s been languishing for years in the TBA pile.

A real shame as I  even added some nicely finished welt pockets with almost perfectly matched pattern. And extra double-welt pockets in the lining as well!

(Why anyone would want to laden such delicate coat with dead weight is beyond me now, but I vaguely recall being obsessed about lack of pocket practicalities in women’s clothing back then.)

Here’s the not so graceful back view. The drapes just look wrong so low down. It reminds me of an oversized diaper: Squarish. Bottom heavy. Not very flattering no matter what shape you are.

Here’s a Poiret illustration for comparison.

And it gets weirder. Here’s the batwing. I feel like a flying squirrel. Or is it the sleeve equivalent of a Hammer pants? ;-)

If I were to do it again, I’d go for something a bit more like this:

But given my lack of success with the Gigli coat attempts, I doubt I’ll try this style of coat again. Especially with the advance of middle age spread where my already small frame subcomb to gravity and grow sideways!

Instead I think I’ll look to my old favorite Comme des Garçons for inspiration on refashioning this lovely cut velvet coat.

Comme des Garçons Fall 1996

Probably not another coat though.

Maybe a top like this sketch I drew of a lady in a CdG top at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I love the contrast between the austere muslin and the sumptuous cut velvet.

So maybe I’m not cut out to be a Byzantine Princess. But a Byzantine Peasant wouldn’t be too much to ask for innit?

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


Next on the chopping block?

Now the taffeta skirt is out of the way (or I’ve had enough of it anyway), what next?

One Night Wonders

I should really just follow one of the store-bought patterns. I’m in awe of self-taught sewers who manage to whip up something fabulous in a few hours from these home sewing patterns. I think the Selfish Seamstress and Alision C are guilty as charged. I’m sure there are others, it’s just that I haven’t caught them in the act (of bragging about it!) Mine always takes days, even for very simple stuff. As my mom said, I’d starve if I sew for a living. Anyway, it would probably up the chance of something being finished in time for the British (non-)Summer.

But I’m gravitating elsewhere…What usually inspire me are magazine clippings which presumably I’d need to make up patterns for. (My imagination doesn’t stretch beyond the dowdy images you see on pattern envelopes – much to my dismay.)

At the moment there are also some fabrics I’d really like to wear, but can’t quite decide on shape or form. Commitment phobia again. Usually what I do is take them out, drape them on, let the imagination run wild, then promptly put them back into the boxes until next time. They’re so full of possibilities uncut… Maybe that’s why I’m always weary of making dresses and instead veer towards 2-piece. That way at least some of the potentials remain. But sometimes dresses look nicer. Ahy decisions decisions!

So here are the candidates…

Ms Jersey Print

Ms Pomegranate Chiffon

Ms Flesh Chiffons

Ms Floral Habotai

Contestant 1 Ms Jersey Print

I wish the pattern were diagonal. Then I could have knocked off the Selfish Seamstress’ Last Dress.

But it’s regular as Swiss clockwork and I’m at a loss. When I saw it at the fabric store I had paired it with a blood red jersey. But my shopping trips nowadays are mad chaotic rush on short trips to NYC and inevitably means hard choices had to be made to fit them all into the luggage. The red jersey got cut, this one didn’t. But I’m not sure it is any good without its partner in crime.

I might still do a Diane Von Furstenberg style wrap dress. Am waiting for more live examples of Burda Blumarine (BS 2011-06-139) before deciding whether to go with Vogue 8379. The Burda Blumarine looks good on voluptuous Christina on Assorted Notions. But I haven’t got the rack to fill it out, so might look like the Kabuki man.

Funnily enough, I have a piece of fabric just like hers, which I was originally thinking of doing a wrap dress as well. But I might do something old school Jean-Paul Gaultier or a sleeveless cowl neck top instead.

Regardless of which one I go with I’ll be checking out these tips from Pattern Review of an original DvF pattern from the 70s to hopefully get her glam look.

Contestant 2 Ms Pomegranate Chiffon

This silky number I had for so long that the moths got to it first :-( I love love LOVE the color. But I can’t decide whether to do a slip dress, a scarf, and/or an evening jacket / warp. I only have 1-7/8 yard of the 43″ wide fabric. So it’s pretty tough choosing.

Contestant 3 Ms Flesh Chiffons

CdG SS 91

CdG SS 91 detail

I recently got into a fleshy phase. My last shopping trip was at least half flesh color. Yes, it can be a bit provocative. But style it right I think you can avoid looking trashy. Plus I needed slip dresses to wear under other chiffony numbers. Like the Comme des Garcons Spring-Summer 1991 stained glass dress I had from way-back-when which doesn’t get much wear because it’s too immodest.

But having drapped it two-tone-doubled as a one-shoulder dress, now I’m wavering about wasting them on boring slip dresses.

Contestant 4 Ms Floral Habotai

My mom gave me this so I guess it’s somewhat vintage. It’s absolutely gorgeous. And isn’t floral in this summer? (Or have I missed the boat by a few months?)

But again, I can’t decide. It’s so floaty it feels unjust not to have flounce. Maybe a halter top with ties that hang like a scarf…a bit like Anna Sui’s Vogue V2968?

Then again there are these beauties from old US Vogue clippings…drool…



Decisions decisions decisions!