Does this look familiar?

Here’s my new coat, Vogue 1276 by Sandra Betzina.
Vogue 1276
Here’s the pattern envelope photo.

And this I found while browsing on Net-a-Porter. It’s from Rick Owens Lilies, one of my favourite lines.

While strikingly similar it’s not quite the same style. The Vogue has a much fuller skirt and lacks the extra-long sleeves. But it has all the features that appeal to me in the Rick Owens coat. Pure serendipity!

More space clothes

Thanks for all the lovely comments about the final version of Vogue 8633. I wore it to work this week and it’s definitely my favourite dress.

So here’s what’s next up on the project list:

I am in two minds about this dress. I love the picture. But I fear that what I love about the picture may be the fact that it seems to have been shot in the BBC gravel pit. For those who didn’t grow up in the UK in the 70s and 80s, the BBC made a lot of science fiction series on the cheap. They often used nearby clay pits or gravel pits for shooting scenes set on alien planets. The gravel pits turn up in so many stories that there is an urban legend that one day Doctor Who and his companions were fleeing from the Daleks in a gravel pit and bumped into Blake’s Seven running from the Federation.

Anyway, I have bought the fabric for the dress now so I’m going to have a go at it despite the doubts. I am certainly not using real leather in the side panels though. I lucked out and got a remnant of silvery grey pleather from the Cloth House on Berwick Street a couple of months ago. This pic is actually of the cutting scraps; it’s very hard to photograph.

I’ve heard pleather sticks to itself and is a pain in the neck to sew. This stuff doesn’t seem sticky though, so hopefully I’ll get away without having to get a teflon foot.

Ninja Scientist photos

I love Vogue 1239, despite the ninja scientist vibe. Or possibly because of it.

Vogue 1239

The strange-looking sleeves are actually very comfortable to wear, although they were tricky to sew.

And it goes with my new shoes. I think it will be OK with flats too.

I think this has taken a whole month to sew. I’d like to make it again, but I need a break first!

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.

Style ruts

Vogue UK used to regularly run articles about getting out of style ruts. These are or were pretty formulaic: take one woman (usually someone who already writes for Vogue) who is allegedly stuck in a style rut. Get her to wear anything other than her preferred style of clothes for a month. This is usually achieved by the fashion editor’s picking out a range of fabulous new outfits for her to wear that will allegedly change her life. At the end of the month the test subject invariably writes an article about how she is going to go back to her regular habits but her eyes have been opened and she will be a little bit more adventurous in future. So far, so predictable, which isn’t to say the articles aren’t interesting reads. I have an insatiable interest in how other people choose their clothes.

I guess it’s good to try new things once in a while, but are style ruts really so bad? Maybe we get stuck in them for a reason. There was a period of a couple years when I only ever wore black. These days I wear a lot of bright colours, but I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see pictures of myself in black. For some reason it works on me despite my deathly pallor. I have a friend who has a very classic, pulled together, preppy look and is rarely seen in anything else. When we go shopping I can predict exactly what styles she will pick out. Another colleague always wears dresses in neutral colours but always has some slightly edgy detail like an exposed zip or darts sewn on the right side. They both look great and make it look easy. Admittedly there’s more to it than style consistency – remembering to put your lipstick on clearly helps too.

So hooray for the style rut. Maybe we could call it a style groove instead – being in a groove sounds better than being stuck in a rut! I am going to embrace my groove and buy more black fabric. Anyone else have a style groove that they love? Colours, shapes, fabrics?

A whiter shade of pale?

I finally got some reasonable photos of the white dress. The weather in the UK turned a lot greyer which probably helped, although I’d rather we still had the sun!

Simplicity 2833
Simplicity 2833

I haven’t got the fit quite right but it’s wearable. I think I overdid adjusting for my narrow shoulders so next time I’d trace a size up in that area. The pattern itself runs true to size.

I really like the lapped zip. I will definitely do that again. I usually do an invisible zip on all centre back zips, but this is neater and easier, although probably slower to sew.

I’m just not sure what to wear the dress with. These blue shoes are the best out of the ones I’ve got. It would probably look better with white patent leather shoes or boots, but that’s not the most practical option even if I could find a pair!

The devil’s own hue – white dresses

I’ve been making a lovely reissued sixties pattern, Simplicity 3833. It’s a fairly simple A-line minidress with a nice bodice detail. I’m doing the long-sleeved version in the mini length.

I used an ivory-coloured stretch cotton. The idea came from a black and white photo I saw of someone wearing very much this style in white. I think it was taken in the late sixties. It looks elegant and a bit Courrèges on the lady in the picture so I thought it was well worth imitating.

I’m quite pleased with my version, but I cannot get a usable photo of it. We’ve had a couple of tries under different lights, but the shots come out overexposed. Very frustrating. I remember reading somewhere “white is the devil’s own hue to paint” and the same seems to be true of photography. (After some checking I found out it was Dorothy Parker, of all people, in a story called The Custard Heart.)

So as I can’t show you the dress properly here’s the one decent picture I do have, a close-up of the bodice sitting on my dressform.

Anyone got any tips for photographing white dresses? I’ve tried outdoors and indoors…I’m wondering if I need to wait for a day with no sun.

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.

Space clothes or curtains?

I’ve been making a top inspired by this outfit from Blake’s 7. For those who weren’t brought up in Britain in the late 70s/early 80s, this was a TV science fiction series known for its dark themes, strong characters, and spectacularly silly costumes. This is one of the more wearable ones. The character is Jenna, who was the spaceship pilot from the good guys in the first two seasons.

(Picture from Lisa’s Frame Capture Library).

And here’s my version.

Vogue 1195

The pattern is the top from Vogue 1195.

The fabric is a black and white chiffon bought on Goldhawk Road in London. The fibre content is a mystery. There is no point pressing it, as no amount of heat and pressure will put a crease into it. On the upside, it doesn’t melt even with the iron at its maximum temperature. It frays quite badly and it’s a challenge to get iron-on interfacing to stick to it. I had to press it for twice the time the instructions said. Is there such a thing as Teflon fabric?

I replaced the fabric belt with a loop of wide elastic with its ends stitched together permanently. The belt runs inside the top at the back which makes the back hang completely loose, unlike the original.

Vogue 1195

The top has a bound neckline and bound buttonholes for the belt to run through. I used Vilene bias tape on the neckline and stabilised the binding strips for both the neck and buttonholes with lightweight knit interfacing; the fabric was far too slippery on its own. This was my first attempt at bound buttonholes and they weren’t as complicated as I’d been led to believe. Not that mine are perfect, but for a first try I’m very pleased with the results.

This isn’t the easiest thing in the world to wear. It needs high, chunky heels and leggings (or possibly very skinny jeans) otherwise it looks like a tent. Even with the heels it looks a bit like I woke up and decided to put on a pair of curtains rather than clothes. Still if I am ever called upon to fly a stolen spaceship I have the right outfit now.

Vogue 1195
Vogue 1195

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.