Clown or chic? Burda March 2011

I love BurdaStyle magazine but I confess I was a little disappointed by the March 2011 issue. It’s the wedding special so I can’t say I was really surprised – I’ve been married for nearly twelve years, so I’m not likely to want to to make a wedding dress any time soon. You can see the the styles here on the French Burda site, although that URL doesn’t look stable to me so who knows how long it will last. The rest of the issue was OK but nothing leapt out at me as a must-sew.

However my eye kept being drawn to model 106, which is one of the wedding dresses. I’m not quite sure how to describe it. Sleeveless, floor length, and, well, egg-shaped. Here’s the line art.

Common sense says that this dress is likely to make me look (at best) heavily pregnant. I can’t quite translate the French captions on the website but I’m pretty sure it says something about requiring a slim figure (‘une silhouette mince’) to wear it, which I fear might be fashion editor code for ‘only size zero need apply’. The English-language magazine, incidentally, simply says ‘you will look charming in this dress’. A case of the French editors being more realistic than the Brits?

Anyway I can’t help wanting to give this one a go, in a really loud print. Although as it requires three and a half metres of fabric it’s also going to have to be a really cheap print. Not like these John Kaldor ones, beautiful though they are.

So am I insane or could this work? I shall certainly be looking out for cheap prints in the next few months.

Leaving the comfort zone

I started sewing my own clothes in part because I wanted very particular styles that weren’t available in the shops. I had a definite image of what I wanted to sew and for a while I made that. And very good it is too being able to make things in silver fabric and that actually cover the bits I want to cover (not modesty, just a case of feeling the cold!)

However I’ve been quite surprised to find that making my own things has led to wearing styles I probably wouldn’t have contemplated a few years ago. For example the 70s jumpsuit, which started out as a bit of a joke:

Simplicity 9369

I’ve been amazed how much I’ve actually worn this. It does help that it’s warm and I can fit thick tights and a long-sleeved top underneath.

So when I saw this orange wide-legged YSL jumpsuit in Harper’s Bazaar (while waiting in the Chinese takeaway of all places) my first thought was ‘I wonder if I can make one like that’.

Might have to wait for the weather to warm up a bit first though.

Indefensible style

I can’t remember where I came across this quote:

Style can only be created at a risk, it’s a form of courage, it is an exposed and often indefensible position.

I couldn’t find it in my dictionary of quotations, but Google (after a lot of searching) tells me it’s from Edwin Denby, a poet and critic who I hadn’t heard of before. He has another good line:

There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.

While I was searching for the original quote I came across this:

Style is the man himself.

which is from Buffon, a French naturalist.

Which is all rather a roundabout way of saying I haven’t had time to do any actual sewing this week, but there has been a good deal of thinking about sewing and style in between the day job and the marking.

I think Denby and Buffon make excellent points. But I’m still not quite brave enough to wear silver lamé to work!

How fab is this?

Just a very quick post today as I’m writing this on a borrowed computer. I recently bought this amazing 70s pattern on impulse from ZipZapKap.

The more I look at this the more I want to make it, insane though it is. I think I’d stick with the colour scheme on the envelope but go for a chunkier zipper. I will spare you the other two views on the envelope. One of them has it made up in a large-scale orange floral which is a little too seventies even for me, and the other’s bright yellow.

I just wonder what type of fabric to make it out of. The envelope suggests a bewildering range of possibilities. As well as the things you’d expect like doubleknit, various other knits, and crepe, it suggests novelty pique (sounds scary), denim, and hopsacking. I thought hopsacking was something you made, well, sacks out of. Other slightly less unusual suggestions are wool flannel and linen.

My first thought is a very stable doubleknit but I’m worried it will grow. Still, as I have about four projects lined up that I already have fabric for there’s plenty of time to search for the perfect fabric for this one. Plus a big can of hairspray and some platform boots.

Style inspirations – President Servalan

Here’s one of my stranger style inspirations: the charactor of Servalan in Blake’s Seven. If you don’t remember the TV series, it was a BBC science fiction drama that ran in the late 70s and early 80s. It was meant to be serious and the plotlines were usually quite dark and depressing, but the costumes…not so much.

The series is set in the future where much of the galaxy is run by the corrupt and authoritarian Terran Federation. Servalan is the major villain. She starts off running the Federation military but eventually rises to President via a coup during an intergalactic war. And she does it all while wearing glamorous evening wear and high heels. All images are from Lisa’s Video Frame Capture Library -if you want more Blake’s Seven nostalgia I highly recommend a visit.

In season one and two Servalan almost always wears white. At first her outfits are relatively restrained. You could almost wear this one to work (well, perhaps not in white satin)

They get steadily more dramatic as the series goes on. I’ll spare you the one with the giant silver lizard attached to the front from season two. Halfway through season three she switches to black:

But my all time favourite has to be the red sequinned number from the episode Gambit in season two:

I am pretty sure this is the only time Servalan wears a colour when she is wearing her own clothes. She’s seen in lilac at the start of season three, but the dress is borrowed from another character. She describes it as ‘unsophisticated’.

Hmm, where’s my ray gun?

Vogue autumn 2010

I love Vogue patterns. I don’t know exactly what it is about them but in general they appeal to me far more than McCalls, Simplicity, or New Look. It’s not just the lure of ‘designer’ patterns because I often find myself passing over those in favour of the Easy Options and Divine Details ranges. Maybe it’s the styling of the envelope pictures?

So the autumn 2010 range is out. These are the ones that took my fancy.

8666. This one could have been made with me in mind – sleeveless princess seamed sheath dress with colour blocking potential? Yes please! There’s a view with sleeves as well, but I’m not sure how to colour block that. I’d like to make this in yellow or white with the side panels in black.

This is 1192, an Anne Klein design. I think the envelope photo doesn’t do it justice as the busy print hides the style lines. I’m not sure what fabric I’d make this up in but it would be plain to show the tucks!

1194, a DKNY design. I didn’t go for this one at first sight but the long sleeves and pockets won me over. I think this would be a good winter dress for work, comfortable but not boring.

8667. This is an Easy Options pattern. The variations include a fitted skirt, short sleeves, and a collarless version, but this one’s my favourite. I like the tweed fabric as well as the style, although I’d want something less beige. I’m fantasizing about making this in white.

1195, Badgley Mischka. This is a combination of a very plain spaghetti-strapped dress and an amazing drapey top. It’s the top I’d go for here. The line art is a bit strange-looking but if you stare at it long enough it sort of makes sense. I think I’d make it up in a plain silk jersey. Something neutral and sumptuous anyway, rather than the bold print shown in the picture. Not that the print isn’t good too, but more for evening than daytime.

There’s plenty more but these are the ones I want to make right now. You can see the whole collection (at least for the moment, those do not look like permanent URLs to me) at or What are your favourites?

Style scrapbook

Ages ago I read an interesting post on A Dress A Day about finding your personal style, or something along those lines. I can’t find the post now to check. The gist of it was to read fashion magazines, tear out all the pictures you like, and once you’ve collected a few sit down and work out what they have in common.

I’ve been tearing pictures out of mags for years but never did a lot with them. I have a scrapbook but I manage to stick pictures into it at a much lower rate than I accumulate new ones. So recently I dug out my folder of pictures to see if there’s a common theme. Turns out that once you remove the completely unwearable, there are several categories:

  • Silver. Any item of clothing made out of a silver fabric gets selected. Since I started making my own clothes I have made three silver dresses and two silver skirts. There is a much smaller group of gold metallics too, but gold only appears in heavily textured form – hello, Balenciaga C3PO leggings.
  • Sheath dresses. Mostly in black, grey, or red, and especially ones by Roland Mouret. Again, my collection of homemade sleeveless sheath dresses is alarmingly large. However I don’t own a copy of Vogue 8280, the Roland Mouret Galaxy knockoff pattern, despite having carefully preserved every picture of the Galaxy that ever appeared in Vogue.
  • Colour-blocked dresses. I’ve made two of those so far. Both sleeveless sheaths so two for the price of one! Lots of Marios Schwab here.
  • There’s a large category I can only describe as ‘cyberpunk’. A lot of black shiny stuff with some very acid brights. I’ve mostly failed to find fabric to make anything like this. I do have a favourite black dress in a 100% nylon stretch twill which came from Oasis over ten years ago. Sadly it is now too tatty to wear. I’ve never found fabric like it on sale anywhere so this category is not contributing to my dressmaking yet.
  • Tartan, mostly as dresses, and mostly Alexander McQueen, but the occasional Vivienne Westwood suit.

So, does this tell me anything useful (apart from the fact that I have horrifyingly expensive taste and therefore better learn to sew…oh wait)? The strange thing is that I don’t own anything at all in tartan, nor have I ever bought any tartan fabric. I once saw a tartan Yohji Yamamoto dress in Selfridges that I’d love to make a copy of, but I suspect my sewing skills aren’t up to it yet. It was fairly punky with a very uneven hem and a zip down the front. It had a V-neck and I think was sleeveless. The fabric was mostly blue.

So tartan is something I should probably try out some time soon. That’ll mean learning how to match those stripes though. In the meantime I’m working away on my plain blue Burda shirt, which doesn’t fit into any of my style categories, but certainly comes under the heading of learning new skills. Hopefully I’ll have that finished next week.

Balloon dress planning

Bottega Veneta balloon dress
I have always really liked this Bottega Veneta balloon dress from 2006. Excuse the terrible picture quality! There’s a better picture here on

The only thing I don’t like about it is the colour. I see this in bright orange (yes, I’m probably mad. But I have resolved to sew only what I really want to wear and right now it seems to be the weather balloon look).

I spent some time wondering what type of fabric would work. It needs to be not too drapey but not too stiff either. I found some orange cotton poplin in John Lewis which I thought would make a good lining with some body, and then spent a while looking for a fabric for the top layer with no success at all. I considered silk and chiffon but didn’t find anything I liked that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. In the end I decided to go with the poplin for both the fashion fabric and the lining.

I didn’t want to try to draft a pattern from scratch. Burda had a suitable pattern in the May 2010 issue but the neckline’s different, it has an empire line seam, and there are no shoulder yokes:

I considered trying to eliminate the empire seam but decided that was far too much like hard work, so my version’s not quite the same shape as the original.

When I traced the pattern I altered the neckline and added extra seam lines to make shoulder yokes by laying the pattern pieces for Vogue 8319 over the top of the Burda pattern and drawing new lines in roughly the right places. Not scientific but it seems to work.

So that’s the planning and preparation done. Next up, some very orange pictures of the finished dress.

Possibly NSFW

Burda 105 05/2010

Thanks for all the nice comments! Here’s the Burda 105-05-2010 jersey dress. It’s very quick to make – I sewed it up in a single evening. However when I tried it on I didn’t like the length and cut six inches off without measuring very carefully. This proved to be rather more than I intended. I think I forgot to allow for turning the hem up after I’d trimmed it. Consequently this dress isn’t going to be wearable for work.

I do like the flower, although I think it would have been better placed a bit further to the side – in the pictures I’ve pulled the top to one side to get the right effect. I don’t think it would have been possible to cut it that way with the amount of fabric I had though. I’m claiming the wonky shoulders are fashionable asymmetry.

This dress is much more in the style I like to imagine myself having than the pleated one I finished the other week. In fact it very much reminds me of some of the things Tegan Jovanka wore in Doctor Who. (Why yes, my taste does owe a lot to 1980s BBC science fiction.) I think Tegan usually wore flats though, and this style does seem to work OK with my favourite red plastic shoes:

Burda 105 05/2010

This is a good thing as I can’t wear heels for any length of time, never mind walk in them gracefully.

Tegan had one very brightly coloured outfit that I loved. There were surprisingly few pictures of it to be found on the Internet but I do still have an old poster from Radio Times of the character wearing it:

This one is definitely on the list of things to be copied when I find the right fabric.

Next up is the dress that, at the age of about nine, I imagined I’d be wearing when (as was clearly only a matter of time) I became a Doctor Who companion. It’s not entirely sensible but probably wearable for work, at least on days when I only have to do software rather than hardware. It’s made out of the white and gold fabric I got last month. Twenty six years on and no Doctor so far, but once it’s finished I’ll be ready if he does turn up!