Sunday, August 13, 2017

A month in Paris: Hats, dyeing, felting, and feathers

About half our time during our month at the Paris American Academy was spent doing something other than sewing our couture dresses: the fashion shows, attending museum tours and special exhibits, and taking special topic workshops.  The workshops were a nice break from all-day hand sewing, and we were able to learn new skills and create beautiful items to take home.
We spent two full days working with Jean Pierre Tritz (who designs hats for Jean-Paul Gaultier!).  On the first day, we stretched and worked felt hats and created fanciful sisal fascinators.
My brown wool hat (above) and a few from my table mates (below):
The sisal hats were so much fun to work on!  I wore mine "out" to our end of the summer celebration, and was so pleased to have successfully gotten it home from Paris (very carefully carried in my hand!) in hopes of wearing it in California.

I'm happy to have gotten a photo (in my sisal creation!) with one of my favorite professors, Agnes Rannou (below) at our wrap up celebration.  As an Art and Fashion History professor, she brought us around to all the museums and fashion exhibits and gave us the most wonderful history and information.  It will be hard to go to a museum without her now!  
The second day of hat making included sewing a felt beret and a tiny fascinator.  With the floppy felt, our berets looked a bit more like chef's hats!

This itty-bitty fascinator (below) took 4 hours of sewing time!  And, quite unfortunately, I must have left it in Paris because I couldn't find it on our last day of school.  Wahh!  Here are some photos of the process....first stretching the fabric over the form....
 Sewing wire around the edge....

...And then skip a bunch of steps to finished fascinator!
We also spent two days with instructor Sandi Keiser dyeing fabric and wool felting.  On the "dyeing day" used various Japanese shibori techniques, which resulted in some gorgeous silk scarves.  Below, my scarf has been initially dyed grey and then wrapped around a wine bottle (there are a few to spare in Paris!).
 My friend, Irina, working on hers.
And after some color-removal of the base color (grey) and redyeing with the yellow and greens, the scarf is complete!
We had the opportunity to dye a second scarf, using whatever techniques we wanted to try.  Truthfully, I don't remember exactly what I did here, since the first go was unsuccessful and I went back to do more to it.  The end result is pretty, though!
Wool felting to create flowers was day two with Sandi.  Here are some in-progress photos of my first flower:

....And a photo of the other three I made!  Felting was so much fun and resulted in such beautiful objects.  
Our last "special project day" was working with Maude Ruby, a feathers expert.  We created lovely butterflies!  Mine was probably the least exciting, colorwise, of the group, but I'm pleased with how it turned out.  Now, I need to attach this beauty to a headband!
We learned so many amazing skills and techniques and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to try all these new things!  

Thursday, August 03, 2017

A month in Paris: Behind the scenes at Paris Fashion Week

As many of you know, I traveled to Paris for the month of July to participate in a Couture Techniques Workshop through the Paris American Academy.  Clearly, I didn't blog about it while I was there and now it feels almost impossible to sum up what a amazing experience it was!  So I'm going to take a few posts to hit some of the highlights of my trip: Paris Fashion Week, hat making, shibori dying and felting, and finally, the culmination of the trip, my couture gown.

During our first few days in Paris, before I even was acclimated to the 9 hour time difference, we were thrown into working behind the scenes at Paris Fashion Week.  Our group of students worked as "dressers", dressing the models in haute couture gowns and garments, for 5 different shows:  Galia Lahav, Georges Hobeika, Tony Ward, Alexandre Vauthier, and Zaid Nakad.  

Dressing a model seems like a simple task, but it's actually not that easy!  First, you must not put any garments over the head--after hours in hair and make-up, that's rule #1.  Therefore, the [couture, handmade, crazy expensive with hundreds of hours of work] dresses have to be put on the ground and manipulated to create a "hole" so that the model can just step into them.  Likely, they are wearing heels, so it's critical that they don't catch their Louboutins on the fragile fabric.  Then, zip corsets, latch hook and eyes, button buttons, buckle belts, etc. etc., all in the smallest span of time imaginable. While everyone is sweaty and stressed out.
Above are some photos from behind the scenes at Galia Lahav, our first show.   For this show, I only had to dress two models before the show, so there were no quick changes.   In the photo below, I dressed the model in the mini-dress, as well as another not in the shot.
However, for the second show (Georges Hobeika), I had one model with two looks.  How it works is this: after the model walks the runway in the first look, we have to change out her gown, buckled high heels and 6 pieces of jewelry in the span of 2 minutes for her next walk.  It's nuts!  In the end, it was more like a wheel-change at a car race--we all descended on any model that walked back, stripped her down and suited up, ready to walk out again.  My model was the gorgeous Mili from Serbia:
And miniature me next to her!  Notice she was kind enough to scooch down to minimize the height difference :)
This purple gown, below, was Mili's first look.  Each garment was meticulously hand-beaded and just flat out gorgeous.  Georges Hobeika's work was amazing.
And the pile of shoes after the show.
The third show was Tony Ward and we had the opportunity to watch the walk-through before the show at the L'Oratoire de Louvre.  Initially, the models walk the runway in just their heels (and whatever they walked in wearing), but we saw the wedding dress finale in full effect to check the lighting.
Gathering of models after the show, with some of us students (dressed in black) looking on:
Photo with one of the principal sewists--in my opinion, the stars of the show since they actually do all the fabulous work!
 My model in her second look.
Georges Hobeika and Tony Ward were the same day, and at about 4-5 hours each, it was a long day!
Alexandre Vauthier was our 4th show and I didn't take any photos of the garments (here is the Swarovski-encrusted garment I put on my model, though.) The picture, above, is inside the Grand Palais with a glimpse of the partial "Eiffel Tower" that Chanel used for their show. In some cases, designers don't permit photos behind the scenes until after the show, but in this case, I didn't take photos because it was outrageously hot in the Grand Palais and I was hungry and thirsty and on my feet for 5 hours.  I wasn't happy enough to document the event!

Zaid Nakad was our last show and I had three garment changes for one model.  It was all kinds of crazy.  The backstage area was tiny and the gowns were enormous, so it was a true task to get all the garments on and off 30 models in a timely manner.  The first gown for my model must have weighed 40 pounds between the crinoline and the beaded dress--I could barely lift it!  Here I am trying to hold up the crinoline (which was about 20 lbs by itself!):
And next to the model wearing the black beaded gown with crinoline underneath:
Here's a photo of my model in her final look.  She is tall, of course, but wearing 6" platform heels makes her look positively enormous next to me (at a mere 5'1").
 Here the models are surrounding the designer, Zaid Nakad, below.  His work was also brilliant and gorgeous.
Below is a photo of another model, doing what the models do quite a bit; taking a selfie.  However, what is even more interesting in this picture is the pile of haute couture dresses on the left; after a dress comes off a model, there isn't time to hang it up until after the show, so we just throw all the amazing, handmade, outrageously expensive dresses in a heap.  That's the final wedding dress on top. It's staggering.
In the course of putting the gowns back on hangers and into garment bags, I got to hold up the wedding dress (which pretty much stood on its own, with all the structure and horsehair underneath). It's just like trying it on, right?! 
Finally, a few of the designers served champagne backstage after the show, so here's my friend Irina and I toasting being done with Paris Fashion Week!
At the start of the Week, I felt completely inept.  I had never worked any role in any sort of fashion show ever and it was scary, considering how much money is on the line for these designers. But by the end, though, I felt like a complete pro and was a little disappointed that we were finished with that chapter of the adventure, especially considering I will never again have such an opportunity. But, I have good memories and even better stories forever....

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Two fit + flare dresses

Again, I couldn't help but make two of the same pattern!  This time the pattern is the Bronx dress from SBCC, with some fit alterations (armhole redo, back width increase, sleeve redraft).  As I'm sure I've mentioned on this blog before, I just love the fit and flare shape.  What I especially love about this dress, though, is that I can sew it in way less than 2 hours, from cutting the fabric to hemming.  Plus, it only takes like 1.5 yards of fabric, so it's kind of a stash-buster, too.
I made this wallpaper floral knit dress first, just because I adore the fabric. It might be a little bold for Paris, but I like bright colors and patterns, so I guess I'll just stick out.  Plus, the poppies will remind me of California when I'm homesick.

Looks like I could use a it of a sway back adjustment, too, but I don't see back there too often :)
Simple and comfy, yet a bit dressy.  My kind of travel outfit.
So the second dress came about because I got my schedule for school in Paris.  The first three official days are going to be spent working Paris Fashion Week!  Backstage, we'll be assisting the models into their haute couture garments.  Holy crap, guys, I will be able to touch and see the insides of haute couture dresses!
But the catch is that we have to wear black.  For three days.  Clearly I don't really *do* black clothing (my dark neutral is navy, obviously).  In fact I've only made two black garments (I believe, though my memory is pretty crap): this black skirt, which I made for a funeral, and a pair of black pants that wasn't properly blogged about and no longer exist in my wardrobe.
Of course, I immediately ran out to buy a few yards of black stretch knit and whipped up another Bronx dress.   With the leftovers, I made a simple black tee to go with some RTW black pants I already owned (to be blogged about shortly).  Two outfits is going to have to be good enough for three days....hopefully no one notices.

A black dress is definitely a useful staple item in a wardrobe, and perhaps more appropriate for Paris, so I'm really pleased with the addition.  Plus, I can make it more colorful with accessories!  I'm in NY now visiting family, but a little over a week until I make my flight to France!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Draped denim day dress

Here it is; the culmination of my draping class at WVC!  When I say draping class, the assumption is that there are going to be, like, a drape of fabric somewhere on the garment, but really draping is just another way to draft a pattern.  Many of the styles we did as exercises were not "drapey" at all, since the method lends itself well for creating perfectly fitted garments.
It looks very simple, but there are some tricky (to drape) and interesting elements to the dress.  Let's walk through it, shall we?  First up is the combination sleeve and bodice. It's essentially a kimono sleeve.  I love the above-bust seam line for us smaller-chested ladies.
The front bodice has a seamed center front and I used decorative red topstitching for fun.
There are princess seams in the front that transition into scoop pockets.
The back also has princess seams that end at the hip.
I topstitched the hem in red and used a red invisible zipper to tie it all together.  The back bodice/ sleeve combination has the same general shape as the front
My original dress didn't fit me because my dress form at school wasn't petite enough (despite grabbing the only petite form in the class), so to adjust, I took up about an inch on the upper sleeve seam, if that makes any sense.
While it's not the most earth-shattering design, it's very me and I kind of love the utilitarian vibe it has.  Also, within 2 minutes of wearing it to the farmer's market, a woman walked over to me to tell me how much she loved my dress and asked where I got it, so that was affirming.  It was pretty amazing to be able to say I designed and sewed it myself!
As a bonus for making it this far in my post, I've also photo'ed my mid-term dress!  It doesn't work on my body, so here it is on the form.  The assignment was to design using bias or other non-straight grain grainline.

The dress opens at the front at the waistline with a snap--it's kind of clunky.  The dress was a complete pain to drape and it doesn't look like I envisioned it, so I'm not thrilled with it.  Let's look at my final project again, since it was a pleasure to work on :)
Thrilled that this is one of the items I'm taking to Paris!