Archive for the ‘fashion’ Category

NY Fashion Week

September 13, 2007

I moseyed on over to to check out some of the designs coming out of New York fashion week. Mostly I look at this kind of stuff for inspiration — ideas on stuff to sew or color combinations or shapes. It’s tricky to do, though, especially for silhouettes, because you have to translate shapes from the models, who are all the same shape, to your own shape. There are some things which look very nice (or interesting, which isn’t at all the same thing) on the runway which would just not look at all right on me. You also have to not let the model-shape colonize your head. Most women don’t look like that, but if you spend all day looking at these pictures, you can forget that, sometimes.

When you look at runway shows, you see a lot of stuff that is silly and easy to mock, and it was not my intention to do a post about that stuff. But I failed. There just wasn’t enough stuff that I liked. So I’m gonna start with a couple of very bad mistakes.

Marc Jacobs was playing with asymmetry and with garments where the left side didn’t match the right. Some of the results were tragic:

This is from Heatherette. Who I had never heard of before, but I hated their stuff.

You might have to blow the photo up. It appears to be some species of crotcheted beach short for men.

This is Valentino. I thought he had died, but turns out he just retired, so I don’t feel bad mocking him.



I suspect this is what they call “challenging”. I just think she looks like a lampshade. And are her arms pinned to her body with this contraption? (Don’t tell me you don’t need to move you arms if you’re wearing a couture gown. How do you sip your cocktail??)

The only thing I’ve seen so far that I’ve thought “hrmm, I might make something like that” is this:

I don’t know what it is, exactly but I’ve been watching an old BBC series called The House of Eliott. Two upper class sisters in London in the early 20s are left penniless by their father who was mean and frittered away the family fortune. The only thing they know how to do is sew, so they open a fashion house. Trials and tribulations ensue, and there are a lot of fabulous clothes. They spend a good deal of time swanning around in their pyjamas, which have wonderful matching dressing gowns. So, even though I suspect this is a dress, I think it would be an absolutely divine dressing gown. Do you think anyone does a print like that in flannel-backed satin?


Website Review:

August 2, 2007

I stumbled across Vintage Sewing this morning when I was looking for some information on drafting cowl necks. The site is run by a nonprofit and maintains a library of public domain sewing references, which are reproduced in full on line.

There’s some stunning stuff there. My own search for cowl neck patterns lead me to the full text of F.R. Morris’ Ladies Garment Cutting and Making. Which is an extremely comprehensive reference in itself, with some beautifully clear pictures.

The history of sewing references is also a fascinating look into the world of women and girls in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Olive C. Hapgood’s 1893 School Needlework is a classroom text for schoolgirls.

It begins:

DEAR GIRLS: You have now become old enough to prepare for woman’s duties; one of these is the art of sewing, which we will take up as simply as possible. By following the given directions carefully, you will become able to dress your dolls, assist your mothers in mending, make garments, fancy articles, etc.

Then Ms. Hapgood (well, probably not Ms., actually) dives right in. By half way through chapter two, she has the girls “honey-combing”. I’d never heard of this before, but it’s actually a very beautiful piece of fancy stitchwork:

This is schoolgirl work in the 1890s. Schoolgirls. No way am I doing handwork like that.

The site has materials from as early as the 1890s through the 50s. Wanna make yourself some gloves? Consider these basic pattern drafting instructions from How To Make Gloves by Eunice Close.

The jewels of the site, as far as I’m concerned, are of course the pattern making books. As well as the abovementioned Morris text, there’s also Harriet Peplin’s 1942 Modern Pattern Design. Between those two there’s a wealth of pattern making information that’s not only of relevance to those interested in vintage sewing, but also entirely applicable to making clothing with modern lines.

Oh. And as for the cowl neck problem that led me there in the first place. There are a variety of ways to do this, but the for the one I’m interested in, you alter the pitch of the front armscye so that the distance between the shoulders is broader, and then curve the “neckline” upward.

A picture &c. :

Liz Claiborne

June 28, 2007

has died. She was 78.

Her company was the first founded by a woman to be included on the Fortune 500 list, and in many ways, her design aesthetic was all about women breaking into a man’s world.

At a time when conventional wisdom — and John T. Molloy of “Dress for Success” — had businesswomen dressing like slightly curvier men in gray flannel suits and floppy ties, Claiborne created clothes that were appropriate, stylish, but also feminine. They were fashionable but not trendy. And most importantly, they were priced so that both the executive and her secretary could afford them.

It’s thanks to her that we don’t all have to wear blouses with foufy bows at the collar (the early “feminine” take on reinterpreting business clothing — specifically neckties — for women).

You can read her obituary here.

Sewing on TV

June 25, 2007

TLC just debuted their latest offering “I’ve Got Nothing To Wear”. The show is pitched much the same way as “What Not To Wear” and “I Was An Ugly Duckling Until A Fabulous Gay Man Taught Me How To Dress”. The premise of the show is this: a woman is offered a wardrobe makeover with a twist. The show’s stylist combs through her closet and picks out items to keep, and items to go to the “chop shop”. The chop shop is staffed by a crew of design students, who are required to cut up the reject garments and recycle them into something new.

The debut showing featured two shows back to back, with two separate women, and two distinct sets of designers. The designers are under the charge of George Simonton, a professor of fashion design at FIT, who unfortunately but perhaps unavoidably is bound to be compared to Tim Gunn — and nobody can ever be another Tim Gunn. The designers are given somewhat short shrift here — we only get to know them by first names, and because the designers switch in every show, there’s no real chance to associate any personality with them.

In the first two episodes, we see a variety of transformations: a pair of pinstriped pants is revamped into a bustier; a loose-fitting knit tunic becomes an off-the-shoulder asymmetrical dress.

An oversized sweater is turned around, and refashioned with waist darts and a plunging back neckline — I thought this one was a neat trick, and easy to do at home.

I would of course love to see more of the design process, especially for projects that would be easy for beginners, but that’s difficult to market (and encouraging people not to buy stuff is not exactly a show that makes it easy to sell ad space).

I’m also hoping to see a more diverse range of women on the show. Both of the women in the episodes I saw were young and slim, and I suspect recycling is a bigger challenge for women who are less inclined to wear micro-minis and/or who look for high quality and cut in the garments they buy.

The show did, however, have me running to my closet looking to see if there was anything interesting I could do with various things that persist in hanging around despite my never wearing them. I didn’t find anything that called out to be retooled. What I did find, however, was a pair of lollipops that had turned into some sort of liquid goo in the pocket of a leather jacket. Clearly snuck in there by vicious imps, since why the hell would I go around stashing lollipops in my pockets?

Crocs and Socks

June 22, 2007

The Washington Post’s fashion correspondent, Robin Givhan, took some flak from feminist bloggers in the past for her coverage of Nancy Pelosi and Condaleezza Rice.

Givhan’s beat is to write about clothing and fashion (although not necessarily both at once), and I get the impression that although she gets a kick out of covering the latest catwalk shows in Milan, she’s not interested in only writing about haute couture*. One of the topics she frequently takes on is to analyze the social significance of clothing — and because she’s a DC based writer, she analyzes the social significance of clothing vis-a-vis power. It’s extremely difficult to write about the social significance of what powerful women are wearing, because for a very long time, there weren’t any powerful women, only women in supporting roles to powerful men. Because one of the jobs of those women was to be decorative, it was perfectly acceptable to write about their clothes. So when you write about the clothes of powerful women, you have to be careful not to imply that you think the women should have a decorative function.

Givhan succeeds at this in no small part because she is equally as likely to deconstruct the fashion choices of powerful men.

Hence today’s article on Bush’s choice to pair socks with crocs.

Givhan’s major focus is on the shoes.

The shoes can look cute on children. But all those adults walking around in Crocs, going on about how comfortable they are, look like overgrown children. They are like the workday Peter Pans who carry backpacks in the city. Not grown-up leather backpacks, but the kind made of nylon with water bottles stuck inside a web of bungee cords and a canister of Bear Be Gone hanging off the side. They have mistaken their walk to the office for a climb to the summit of the Grand Tetons.

Why, oh why, must people assimilate perfectly reasonable, functional and cheeky sports attire into street clothes? Why couldn’t they keep their Crocs on the boat or in the garden?

Oddly, she barely touches on the socks, merely commenting that crocs were originally designed as boat shoes, so socks are superfluous, and that “[t]he combination makes one think of an old man on his way to the beach.”

In the UK, socks and sandals are a fairly potent signifier. They are worn by people who in Australia would be called dags. The critical core of the stereotype is that the socks-and-sandal wearer is socially inept, unaware of the norms of sartorial behavior (which is quite different to a stance of being aware but not caring, which is to be admired). The closest US equivalent signifier that I can manage to bring to mind is the pocket protector, and even that has achieved some level of geek chic — although I suspect these folks are trying to bring something similar to the s&s brigade:

Is that a great photo or what?


*Even when she is writing about the rarefied air of Snooty Fashion Week, she manages to keep her feet on the ground. She looks to runway shows as predictors of what will translate to accessible RTW collections and thinks in terms of how ordinary women will react to their translation to street wear. She’s also been critical of the CFDA’s “voluntary” health plan to combat eating disorders in the modelling industry.

DC Shopping Guide: Intern Version

June 21, 2007

So it’s intern season again in DC, where a horde of well-scrubbed and earnest young people descend on the city for a summer of working for peanuts. It can be hard to pack for a professional wardrobe, and harder still to shop for one when you get here — especially if your are a veteran thrift-shopper — so in the spirit of welcoming you to our fair city, I give you the DC Shopping Guide: Intern Version.

First, some ground rules:

1. Stand to the left.

2. Do not wear flip flops to the office.

3. Do NOT, on pain of DEATH, come into my local and play Journey on the jukebox. I stopped believing years ago, quite possibly the year in which your boss was a fresh-faced intern and played that song one too many times. Also? I have it on good authority that there’s no such place as “South Detroit”.

The rules of the Shopping Guide are easy. Everywhere is accessible by metro; everywhere that I mention is a place where I’ve acquired a piece of professional clothing for less than $30. DC is not a town where it is easy to find thrift stores. I’ve included a few consignment stores on the list; you shouldn’t expect thrift store prices from these. You’ll also need DCists excellent Google map/metro mashup.

How globalization causes camel toe

June 6, 2007

From Fashion Incubator, who runs a fantastic blog about commercial clothing manufacture. Her stuff is often a little too advanced for a home sewist like me, but it’s a great read for insights into the industry.

Part 1

Part 2

The short version, for those of you who might not be quite as fascinated by the industrial standards for pattern making: This fashion misfortune is entirely due to bad cut — you can get more pants out of a bolt of fabric if you make the crotch curve shallower. And if you are testing your factory prototypes on models of a different size and shape to the people in the market that you are selling to, you will never notice the, erm, misfortune.


May 8, 2007

It’s prom season, and that means it’s time for … duct tape prom outfits! Every year, Duck Brand Duct Tape runs a contest for the best prom outfit made entirely of duct tape. The winning couple each receives a $3, 000 scholarship.

I looooove this contest. It has just the right combination of DIY style and kookiness. And let’s face it — for some young women, the high school prom can be a source of some anxiety. Can you find a dress that fits? Will you have a date? (My source of anxiety was my hair. I went to the hairdresser beforehand and asked for some curls. She took my waist length hair and curled it in such a tight spiral that it only fell to my shoulders. The curls were so stiff I could have taken someone’s eye out on the dance floor.) This makes prom fun again.

Here are last year’s winners:

Stuck At Prom Winners 2006

I rather like this butterfly themed entry:

Stuck at prom butterfly entry

And these boys are stylin! (but are their ties made from duct tape? I can’t tell.):

Stuck at prom stripes

The contest is still open, so if you are over 14 years old and attending a high school prom this year, you have until June 8 to send in an entry. Full rules & entry guidelines are here. More pics of previous entrants are here.

To cuff or not to cuff?

March 22, 2007

Today’s post was going to be about how to hem your pants, but the subject-pants in question, which belong to Spouse Phor, remain unhemmed, due to a compelling question.


I was half way through measuring the pants when he mentioned that of course he wanted cuffs on the pants. I recoiled in horror.

Furious internet searching ensued, with each of us claiming fashion knowledge superiority. The level of debate slowly sunk lower and lower until Spouse realized that he was claiming victory based on a bulletin board post in a Cooking Lite forum.

So, what say you, internets? These are dress pants; one half of a suit, in a charcoal worsted wool. They have pleats in front. Are cuffs on such pants de rigeur, or completely passe?

Men’s pleated pants: To cuff or not to cuff?

1. Yes. Definitely.
2. Ew. No.

View Results

Make your own poll



March 12, 2007

The latest fashion trend to come down the pipes is shaping up to be cocoon silhouettes, in various forms from the sublime to the ridiculous. Designers everywhere are adding volume into their cuts — some of them in interesting and flattering ways, and some of them in ways that look fine on the particular constrained body type that is allowed on the runway but gives one pause for the way the garment will look on women with curves.

The basic shape in a jacket seems unobjectionable enough — here’s a version (spotted by in a brown silk print.

Cocoon Silk Jacket

I don’t personally love it, but I think the shape is adaptable to a professional wardrobe, and I like it rather more than the wee wasp-waisted shrunken jackets we’ve been seeing in women’s suits lately.

Michael Kors (who I will never forgive for giving the Project Runway win to Jeffrey Sebelia, who misogynist and gruesome, but Kors is a good example for current trends since you can buy these clothes at Macy’s) has a version where the coccooning lives in the skirt.

Michael Kors cocoon skirt & peasant blouse

It looks fine on this model. I suspect that if I wore it, it would make me look like I had a disease where my legs were wasting away. Cut right, it might look good on pear-shaped women, but I’d want to see the skirt cut so that it’s not too tight right under the hips.

The empire waist lends itself nicely to the cocoon trend, giving designers a chance to nip a dress in at the bottom and let it cocoon around the waist and hips. Personally I happen to think that a gathered empire waistline is a monstrosity that makes every single woman who wears it look like she is pregnant. But. This dress puts the empire waist to shame.

Belted neckline dress by Noir


This dress is very ugly. And unless you have the figure of a pre-pubescent girl, it will make you look ugly. Besides which, it costs £770, which is fourteen hundred US dollars. If you really must have this look, I suggest that you grab an eighties style cummerbund belt from the nearest thrift store, and jury-rig the look with an old bedsheet. You’ll not want to wear it more than once.

From the ridiculous to the sublime. This dress is by the Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee. It’s gorgeous.

Sabyasachi dress


The cut is very simple — a high empire waistline, but shaping achieved with bust darts and the cut of the skirt, rather than with gathering. The colors harmonize beautifully. And there’s a cocoon there, but Sabyasachi is subtle, slipping it into a sleeve detail in a garment that will age well rather than looking hopelessly dated two summers from now.