After making four knit dresses in a row I finally feel like tackling a woven project. I am also still in need of interesting clothes that I can cycle in. I’ve been gradually improving my cycle friendly wardrobe over the last year, but I find myself wearing my Burda jeans a minimum of once a week. And then I need tops to go with them. Putting on a dress involves so much less thought than finding separates that go together.

Clearly the answer has to be a jumpsuit. All the convenience of trousers with the simplicity of a dress. Surely that makes up for the aggravation of having to take it off when going to the toilet.

So I went looking for patterns. This is the one that first caught my eye, from Burda April 2014.

burda 107-04-2014 tech drawing

I like the fact that it’s fairly smart, but that notched collar looks complicated. I’ve never made one, and tackling it for the first time with only Burda instructions for help probably isn’t going to produce a polished result.

Then there’s this one from Ralph Pink.

Ralph Pink jumpsuit tech drawing

I’ve seen a great version of this from Kazz the Spazz (sadly no longer blogging). I really like the style (click on the link, Kazz looks amazing in hers) but I’ll admit that the fact it’s a PDF pattern puts me off. I don’t mind tracing at all but I hate assembling A4 sheets.

I’m also not convinced I could do a good enough job with the fly on this one. The instructions say something brief at the end along the lines of ‘attach buttons and work buttonholes in your fly to match’. I’m not sure it works to wait until the very end to make buttonholes in a fly; wouldn’t you want to do it before the whole thing was assembled? Kazz left her buttons off altogether but I’d be worried about the whole thing falling open if I did that! I think this might be a pattern to leave until I’ve got some more experience.

Burda have produced many jumpsuit patterns over the last few years.

burda-103-10-2010 tech drawing

This is Burda 103-10-2010. It looked considerably less boxy in the model photo where it was made up in grey silk and worn with a belt. I think I’d take off the breast pockets. Who needs pockets right over their boobs?

burda-119-05-2010 tech drawing

And this is 119-05-2010. I like the elasticated ankles. This was styled as a safari look in the magazine. I think this one needs the pocket flaps to make the style work, but I’m not keen on sewing fiddly details that are not functional. Yes, I’m very lazy.

And finally the one I’m actually planning to make, Burda 130-09-2011.

burda-130-09-2011 tech drawing

I like the casual drapiness of this style and the turnups at the wrists and ankles. There are no really fussy details. It’s not very fitted, which is probably a good thing as I’ve changed shape a bit and will be trying a new size in Burda in future. The plan is to make it up in a brown cupro fabric I have that looks like washed silk. Fingers crossed!

Go see this – Yohji Yamamoto at the V&A

I’m back from my break from blogging. Teaching and marking are over for this academic year and I’m really looking forward to having some more free time to sew.

One of the few sewing-and-style-related things I have managed to do over the last couple of weeks was get to the Yohji Yamamoto restrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. And it was great. It’s on until July 10th, and if you get a chance to go and see it I really recommend it.

It’s not just that the clothes are fascinating – and they are – but the way they are displayed is so much better for the viewer than most exhibitions. Normally the light level is kept low and everything is up on stands or inside glass cases to protect it from damage. This exhibition hall is brilliantly lit like a stage show. The clothes are presented on dress forms dotted around the floor. You can walk all the way round each one and get close enough to see all the details of the garment. You get so much more out of it than most fashion retrospectives. You can’t touch anything of course, but I was able to take a peek at the inside construction of the skirt of one of the more unusual dresses by sitting on the floor, and no one seemed to mind.

The clothes themselves are great. The exhibition has both mens and womenswear. The womens’ clothes vary from the clever but rather unwearable – for example a long black evening dress with an integrated sequinned handbag on the backside – to things I immediately wanted to reproduce. There’s a lot of unusual construction and structure to admire. Plenty of black and some wonderful bright orangey reds. There’s also a small group of coloured dresses where the fabric has very fine patterns produced by unusual dyeing techniques. The techniques had names I didn’t know but they looked like variants of tie-dye and batik to me. The fabrics in general were beautiful, although apparently they are all specially made for the designer so that’s not so surprising.

The menswear is not as wearable in general but I do like the suits with attached oversized tartan wraps and the colours. There were also videos of many of the collections to watch.

The exhibition spills out into the rest of the museum with five or six groups of garments placed outside the exhibition hall in various parts of the building. The V&A is huge so it took a while to track them all down, and in the process I saw parts of the collections I’d never gone into before.

Anyway, do go if you get the chance. I’ve certainly come back with some new ideas, and it’s not often you get the chance to look at this sort of clothing so closely. I hope the V&A does more of these.

I should know better – Burda April 2011

I’ve been meaning to get around to reviewing Burda’s April 2011 issue for a couple of weeks. It keeps coming to work with me so that I can scan in a few of the pictures, and then it comes home with me again because I never quite get round to it. And that really says it all about this particular issue – I just can’t get excited about it. To be fair to Burda, the reason for this is that the themes for this month’s stories are pretty much a listing of my pet fashion dislikes. All links go to the German site by the way.

Nomad style? I don’t normally do floaty, hippy or anything tie-dyed. Another story is called ‘flower girl‘. You wouldn’t catch me dead in a small-scale pastel floral print. And then there’s maritime de luxe. I know the maritime look is classic and easy and looks good on everyone…but I don’t like it. Never have, never will. I think it’s the blue. My school had blue PE kit and it’s put me off for life.

That leaves ‘mother-daughter style‘ – which seems to consist of dressy satin pieces. Finally we have the best story in the magazine, ‘the layered look‘ in beautiful Jil Sander style saturated colours. But it’s the plus-size story so only good to me for looking at, not making.

Mother-daughter style has some possibilities. I really like the lines of this leather dress, model 119:

I think that could work in a stretch cotton twill if I drafted facings or lined it. It also has pockets which is a really nice touch. Burda are doing lots of dresses with pockets lately. This is a Good Thing and should be encouraged.

I might also make this top from the maritime story, just not in navy blue.

And then there is another style I keep coming back to, even though I know it will not work on me. It barely works on the model. It’s this T-shaped dress, also from the maritime story.

Even on the model you can see it’s falling off the shoulders, and I have very narrow shoulders to start with so this would just swallow me. But I keep coming back to it. I should know better!

Despite this I still love Burda and I’m looking forward to the next issue, where we are promised Mad Men style and brightly coloured dresses. Roll on May.

Check this out – Computational Couture

One of my colleagues drew my attention to a really interesting project called Continuum. The idea is that you go to a website, scribble a drawing of a dress, and a program translates that into a pattern sized to your measurements. You can then download the pattern and sew the dress. It’s only a demo so far, but you can have a play with it at http://www.continuumfashion.com/Ddress/.

Mary Huang, the designer behind it, has made three real dresses from patterns generated by the software. You can see them at her project website here although you’ll need to scroll down a bit. The styles produced are very futuristic and angular because the software works by generating a grid of triangles based on the original sketch. Personally I love that sort of thing and I really hope this becomes more than just a demo. She’s currently trying to raise funding to set up production via Kickstarter. This is a pledge bank arrangement – you can pledge to support a project, usually in exchange for promised rewards, but if the project doesn’t reach its target level of support by its deadline then no money changes hands. One of the possible rewards on this project (for a pledge of $25 or more) is your own Continuum dressmaking pattern! So I’ve signed up, and fingers crossed the project becomes a reality.

I should say I have no affiliation with Kickstarter or the Continuum project beyond having signed up – I just think it’s a great idea and wanted to spread the word.

In search of skull-print fabric

There is a very talented webcomic artist called John Allison whose work I’ve been reading for, erm, more years than I like to think about. One of the things I really like about his creations is the clothes the characters wear. His ladies are usually very fashionable or very cool or both.

Last summer he did a picture which included one of the characters from his old webcomic Scary-go-round wearing a maxidress in skull-print fabric. You can see the picture at the link below.

So I’ve been keeping an eye out for skull-print fabric ever since. MacCulloch and Wallis had some a while back but I dithered and it sold out. Since then of course I have realised that their fabric is exactly what I wanted and I was a fool not to buy it while it was available because I’ve found nothing else as good anywhere since. Other places have skull prints but they are not the same.

So on Saturday I was fabric shopping on Goldhawk Road in London, having long ago given up looking for skull prints. And there it was in the window of one of the smaller shops: the exact same fabric. At about a third of the price, too. So I snapped it up. Now all I have to do is draft the pattern.

Skull print fabric

This may be slightly easier said than done as the fabric is only 45 inches wide and the print runs along the crossgrain rather than the straight grain so there’s not as much length to play with as I would like. Still I’m sure there’s a way to make it work.

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:

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.