Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Work uniform, Fall 2017

So a couple of years ago, I loved the pencil skirt with fine-gauge sweater (with scarf and boots) for work.  This year, I can feel a new uniform developing: the pencil skirt with high-waisted "sweater" (with cute flats and statement necklace or brooch). 

I had to make some fit adjustments to the original pattern, but this skirt is the same pattern I drafted in my patternmaking class several years ago.  It's such a great design and fabulous wardrobe staple.  See, high-waisted = covers my belly button!
A few weeks ago, I went to the "Artistry in Fashion" event at Cañada College (where I'm currently taking a pants drafting and fitting course).  Britex had a small booth there with some discounted remnants, so I scooped up this luxurious Italian wool fabric.  There was only 2/3 of a yard, but with my lack of height, I knew I could eek out a skirt.  And I did, with some inches to spare!

The inside has a self-facing and is fully lined (Bemberg rayon, in the most lovely pale blush color) and there's a back vent (which is completely necessary for walking!).

I used the tried and true Astoria top from Seamworks (with personal fit modifications) for the top pattern.  It's so versatile and comfortable.  Here's the top with a swishy skirt and it works just as well.
For the top, I had a gorgeous plum stretch wool-rayon double knit from Mood.  It's pretty thick with not much stretch, but it's perfect for this type of "sweater" top.  The high-waisted, wide band really works with this skirt, I think.  And there's enough coverage for me to raise my arms (within reason) and not show too much skin.
Since the fabric has very little stretch, the neckline stands up a bit, but I think it gives a bit of a vintage vibe to the garment.

I've already got fabric for three more skirts lined up and a couple more tops.  I'm clearly very excited about my new uniform!  

Friday, October 13, 2017

Nettie bodysuit for the Fall

I've sewn a bunch of garments since returning from my Paris trip--three dresses, a few tops, a skirt, prototype pants for my class--but I just haven't had a chance to document most of them.  So, this bodysuit here isn't a rare finished project, it's just one of the few I've actually taken photos of!  Actually, I tried it on after finishing to make sure the final product looked good and just went ahead and set up my tripod for the pics.  Efficiency!
I have a couple of garments that I was having trouble finding tops to go with--a high waisted skirt that I made as a tester for Blank Slate (above) and a few cute wrap skirts (here and here).  It occurred to me that a bodysuit would go well with both types of skirts.  So I bought one.  And while it's super adorable and awesome, it wasn't cheap and I had to employ my sewing machine to alter the crotch depth anyhow.  I've made bathing suits, so it was sheer laziness that caused me to take so long to just buy a pattern and sew a darn bodysuit.  (Which is lazy unto itself because I've actually drafted a bodysuit pattern in my past and I just didn't feel like sizing it down.)
Anyhow, laziness aside, I bought the Nettie bodysuit pattern and cut out the size 2, grading down to 0 at the hips.  I quickly realized that the back pattern piece would be way too narrow for my broad back and redrafted the back pattern to add width at the armholes and center back (about 2.5 inches at the widest point!).  I'm so happy I did because the original version would have been uncomfortably tight.
Actually, the entire bodysuit is a bit tight.  It could be my fabric choice, which is stretchy, but not SUPER stretchy.  I may try with a different fabric, but sizing up wouldn't hurt either.  It's absolutely wearable as is, so I'm not too upset about it.

There are a variety of options for the front and back necklines, but the low front was too low and the high too high for me.  I drafted my own Goldilocks neckline :)  It looks graceful but not too revealing. 
I love the low leg holes.  They're the best!  My butt is covered!  I used three snaps for the crotch, not at all following the instructions (and cutting off about 2" on the crotch length).  The best part about sewing bodysuits (or bathing suits or underwear) is being able to stretch the ribbing or elastic where you want it.  I always pull it a little tighter in the part that's going under my butt and less tight near the hips and crotch. 
Overall, I'm pretty thrilled with my bodysuit.  I can imagine wearing it a lot this fall, under a wrap sweater like this:
Or maybe just prancing around like this:
That's totally cool these days, right?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Reversible wrap dress in stretch rayon

The temps have dipped a teeny bit and school starts on Monday; for the moment the Bay Area feels like Fall!  This amazing sea green and black fabric, a medium-weight stretch rayon, felt like a gorgeous choice for a new cooler-weather dress.
Since the style is always flattering and effortless, I chose a vintage Diane von Furstenburg wrap dress design (Vogue 1548). The pattern envelope suggests that the dress can be worn with the wrap in the front or the back, but truthfully I kind of chuckled at the idea of wearing it "backwards". However, after trying it on both ways, I was convinced; the deep-v in the back is just so striking! 
The fabric has a glorious weight to it, and coupled with the busy print, all bumps and lumps are well hidden.  
To get a decent fit, I made some petite adjustments to the pattern.  First up, I shortened the bodice at the midriff by about 1".  I'm not sure I did it quite right as the wrap "front" gapes a tiny bit, but I think I can adjust that for the future.  Then, I hacked off about 5"of the hem since I prefer an above-knee length.  And while it wasn't a fit issue, I reduced the sleeve from full to 3/4 length, which is just my own personal preference.  
This dress is definitely business in the front, party in the back...but unfortunately, that's enough "party" to make it not at all work appropriate (at least in MY line of work :).  It looks so subdued from the front, doesn't it?

But wait!  While I prefer the "backwards" version, it can also be worn with the wrap in the front!
Somehow, this version is still not exactly work-appropriate either (I suspect that might be DVF's intention!) but is also very lovely.  Perhaps a cami would make it suitable?  Or a snap to keep the wrap at a decent depth?

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with my new probably not-for-work dress.  I can always use something fun for evenings out!  Happy Fall!
My most sincere thanks to Britex for the lovely fabric.  I know it's been crazy over there with the upcoming move, but we're all so grateful that Britex is staying in the city!  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A month in Paris: the couture dress!

Today marks exactly two months since I arrived in Paris and one month since I departed.  I guess it's about time I wrote about the dress!
The primary objective of this couture techniques workshop was to sew a custom-fit dress in the style of Madame Grès.  Our dresses were based on one of her designs from the 60s, with some slight variation (the original had an exposed zipper in the front--eek!).  Madame Grès is best known for her finely pleated creations, so our version is a "starter" Grès, with a mere 20 pleats!
The fabrication for our dresses was supposed to be viscose jersey, but I made a poor choice and brought modal jersey.  It was a bit too stretchy and much more annoying than the viscose, and mine happened to stain with water, so it was all around a royal pain.  The dress started with 7 yards of fabric, cut into 4 equal lengths and we draped the garments such that the straight grain was along the center front and back.  The only critical measurement was the waist and that was defined by the "bolduc" (twill tape).  Nearly all markings were done with hand-stitching, so we "passed a thread" to mark the edges of our dress, shoulder points, and eventually all the pleating.  Here's my work after a few days, on the dress form, with the pleats placed and marked with thread.

After defining the pleat positions on the front and back sides, the markings were then transferred via pins, then chalk, and finally thread to the second half of the dress. Pleats were then repositioned, sewn with tiny stitches, and eventually attached to grosgrain ribbon on the inside.

First the pleats are secured (this is the inside of the dress, below):
And then sewn to the grosgrain by sewing over the pleat stitches.
The front and back necklines (and shoulder seams) are strengthened by strips of silk organza, attached with tiny stitches along the neckline edges. You can see a bit of that in the image below, with the silk organza in cream.  The second picture shows the nearly invisible stitches along the neckline edge.

A separate underlap was sewn in (by hand, of course) for snaps and some critical hook and eyes to keep the whole thing closed.  

The upper line of tiny stitches along the waistline is secured with satin ribbon in the same was as the grosgrain.
The neckline edges were overcast by hand (no sergers here!). We did use the straight stitch machine for doing the final line of stitching at the center front/ back, side seams, and shoulder seams but only after "passing the thread" on both sides and basting with contrasting thread!

Here's the dress before cutting for the hem. I kind of loved the pooling effect, but it was certainly not practical (whatever that means when you're making a couture dress). 
We had an initial fitting with the instructor--the shoulders had to be adjusted and the waist is quite loose.  I had lost some weight over the month, so the waistline *should* have been adjusted by about 1.5" but I chose to leave it;  I couldn't face whatever ridiculous alterations were necessary with only a few days left!  At the second fitting, we determined the hem length. There was considerable discussion among the instructors about how high the side hem should go and here I am in the "model" dress to check the side length.  The instructors wanted it this high!
I went with something a bit more conservative (whatever that means when your dress has this deep of a vee in the front, back, and sides!).  In the image below, the front hem hasn't been trimmed yet, but the sides are cut.
Once cut, I spent over 6 hours hand-rolling the hem!
In all, I spent about 50 hours on this dress.  It's not perfect (the side seams roll like the devil and the waist is still too big!), but I'm proud and pleased with this dress!  
Here are some lovely photos of some of my colleagues and I in our final product.  This style was universally flattering and all of the dresses turned out stunning.

Here are a few more professional photos (the first three pictures in the post were also taken by the pro):

Finally, I was lucky enough to be able to try on (and fit!) a real Madame Grès dress that I had been oogling the entire month.  Here I am in that dress (made of the finest silk jersey) with my amazing instructor Madame Martine.   
Seriously, look at the pleating of a true Grès dress!
Truly words cannot adequately describe my experience in Paris. It was hard work and not always fun (I cried in class one day!), but I was humbled by the immense knowledge of all of my instructors and to say I learned a lot would be a tragic understatement.  Ah, Paris.