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.

New horizons

I can’t remember the last time I sewed something that wasn’t a sleeveless dress. After I finished the balloon dress I’d run out of planned projects and inspiring fabric so I had a rummage through my old copies of Burda and checked out the online pattern stores in the hope of finding something different to spark some creativity. This shirt, 122 from March 2010, appealed:

I have never made a shirt before but this one looks quite easy. The lack of cuffs and buttonholes is a big plus (I never get good results with my machine’s buttonhole function) and for once Burda have provided instructions for a pattern that make sense to me. Of course just because they seem to be clear now doesn’t mean I’m not going to run into horrible trouble while constructing the shirt, but it’s a start.

Having picked a pattern out of Burda I nevertheless also picked up Vogue 8644 and Colette Patterns’ Lady Grey coat. The Vogue is yet another sleeveless sheath dress, but this one has pockets so I’m claiming it counts as different. The Lady Grey coat is something I want to sew but I’m not totally sure my skill level is up to it. I bought it so I could read the instructions. They seem very straightforward but I keep hearing dire warnings in the blogsphere about attempting anything tailored without using ‘proper’ tailoring techniques so I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not.

Finally I have a pattern I bought last month at the Hay Festival from Merchant and Mills – yet another sleeveless shift but this one has an asymmetric seam feature. The pattern is unusual in that it’s a cardboard pattern, not paper, and comes with very detailed instructions suitable for complete beginners. The idea behind the range is that in the shop there are samples of the designs made up in every size, and you try them on before buying a pattern, thus no need to make a muslin. This appeals to my laziness! The designs are very simple classic dress styles. These patterns are beautifully packaged in a cardboard tube.

Having acquired some patterns I then needed fabric to go with them. I didn’t succeed in finding anything for the coat, but I did get this peacock blue muslin for the Burda shirt:

and this metallic drill for the Vogue sheath dress:

I also got some lovely silk to use for the top half of the asymmetric dress but I need to find a toning fabric to go with it for the bottom half, so I’ll save that for later.

Now I’m off to iron and cut out the blue muslin. And try not to think about what on earth I’m going to use to interface the collar. Advice most welcome!

Possibly NSFW


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. More pictures here.

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:


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!