Saturday 30 October 2010

Planning the Balmain "leather" skinnies

This morning's Guardian weekly fashion video How to Wear Leather video link is all about leather: dresses, trousers, pleated skirt and even shorts! So this is a leather winter, but unlike last winter, it's NOT about motorcycle jackets, although no one could tear me away from my dark red leather jacket right now. But onward...I guess until we hit the leather underwear dilemma.

 I had a pair of leather trousers I loved, back in 1983, made of dark brown calf which I'd bought very cheap in a Hong Kong outlet that supplied me with all my discounted designer items. I recall wearing them out into Hong Kong's New Territories the day I produced a team radio piece for NPR on Chinese clans. Funny how "what I wore" moments really stick. My colleague went on to greater fame and fortune at ABC News, but where did those trousers go? Anyway, here we are, full circle, back at a leather trousers moment. But do you like your ankles sticking out of your trousers? I think it would just look dumb on me.

Gemma Arterton, whom I take to be some kind of celeb, wearing the short kind of leather trousers..

Burda has been showing us variations of leather trousers for a while, like this one from the BurdaEasy AutumnWinter 2010, and BurdaStyle August 2010
Frankly, my inspiration was neither a moth-eaten T-shirt look, nor what Selfish Seamstress calls "Clown Love, but rather, the designer Balmain, as in these:

I've bought some rather convincing pleather which I intend to use for my test pair before contacting Mr. Fauck at Leather Heaven up in Berlin for the real thing. (He supplied me with the gorgeous kingfisher blue suede for last spring's Burda dress. see PR Review.) 

Of these two design choices, neither is ideal. The main problem is that my inseam is 33.5 inches and I like my full leg length to run about 108-110 cm, while the Easy Burdas at the top are only 99 cm and the Clown trousers slightly more. So, if I want the dribbly-hemmed Balmain look, we're in for some major lengthening.

Second problem, as Dingyadi and Bubblegum4breakfast, and I have found out, Burda "slims" require a lot of taking in.  The Burda Easy's have three leg seams which promise more in the way of fitting possibilities than the BurdaStyle clown and have a rather nifty padded motorcycle knee. On the other hand, the clown versions have that crucial seam at the knee which I'll need if I transfer my results to real leather. 

I think a muslin for the muslin may be required. How boring. I wish Selfish would finish with her damn curtains and give me some advice.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Vogue's Donna Karan sleeveless black dress

EM agreed to go with Mom and Dad to an evening "house concert" in Geneva, probably because it gave her a chance to wear her Burda lace shift again. (review in PatternReview)  I'm wearing the Donna Karan sleeveless version of the twist knit dress, Vogue Designer 1159. If you tilt your computer screen a little forward, it might be easier to make out the drape in the black.

First off, Vogue's photo on the pattern envelope is awful, with the model wearing a version made up in a cheesy knit print that does nothing for her, nor for the wonderful design. I was, however persuaded by the beautiful version made up by Allison C in Hong Kong's DK dress in maroon in a plain knit.

Those who've sewn this dress will join me in saying that the design is not so much dressmaking as fabric origami. It helps to hang the dress on your dress form or a cooperative friend, and chalk up as many meeting points as you need before assemblage, which then is surprisingly quick. I'm not sure, by the end, whether I got it right— particularly the neat bit at the centre front waist where you're supposed to sew the lining together with the pleated under-part of the skirt. Once I saw on my dress form that such things didn't matter, I just scrunched it all up as neatly as I could, and ran it under the machine, knowing my sins would be covered by the drape. On the other hand, this design was not going to cover the defects of my decolletage, so I had to add some tacking stitches for the cross-drape at the critical juncture.

But thanks Allison! for warning me about the weird dip at the back of the underarms where she designed an artistic insert. I tested this at the drafting stage and can report that the dress is very forgiving if you simply stitch higher up on both sides, closing the armhole to a comfortable spot. I also tried the dress on for drape issues and indeedy, I'm not fulsome enough in front for the size 12 so I hiked it up tighter at the shoulders by as much as an inch.

Finally, I had to lengthen the very weird hem pieces; crossing my fingers, I just cut a size 18 hem for a 12-14 dress. I'm very happy with the result.

All this took two days, too late for the LBD contest, but I'd highly recommend it in any plain or lightly sequinned fabric. I'd stay away from the busy, flashy or distracting prints. What a waste to camouflage wonderful design in all that busyness.

Thanks Moushka for reading my Voltaire comedy. I cherish you, dear reader. (I'm assuming that's the one you read of the three, because the black humour of Under Their Skin or my Hong Kong murder mystery doesn't usually prompt thanks for chuckles) Copies shouldn't be that hard to find! In the UK, used or as-good-as- new's can be had for one penny on amazon. Pass one on! Cheaper than flowers or wine!

Speaking of savings, this DK designer dress cost me Sf 36. The two-way stretch black jersey is a very soft and workable viscose that breathes nicely.

Monday 25 October 2010

The Red Coat Came...

Here's a photo of my cat Frisbee moleing, without much success, or if you like, the Last Rose of Summer over there on the right, or me setting off in my new red coat, Vogue's OOP classic trenchcoat 2449, to see the Metropolitan Opera's live HD broadcast of Boris Godunov last Saturday. The funny thing was, all the bad guys guarding the Russian Czar were dressed in—this very coat! In the last scene, everybody wearing a red coat was dragged in front of the peasant mob and beaten to a pulp. Live in HD. And my favourite bass, Rene Pape, was in top form for it all. The whole production was styled in red and gold. Anytime you fear you're overdressing, go to a lavish opera. There were 600 costumes, according to the intermission interviewer. Keep sewing til you'll still never catch up with the MET costume department.

Now to sewing. The toughest part of this coat was sewing the welt pockets, an important feature of my target MaxMara design, below. Like many people, I hate welts and took my time. I actually didn't quite follow the lower placed cutting lines as I wasn't sure the welt would actually cover the cut once flipped to the back. I was cautious, and right to be so. Do watch how you cut that corner at the lower back, and test the welt position to make sure you don't have an ugly bit of lining and cutting showing.

As this was an old Vogue pattern, the two collar pieces were designed to be cut separately, so that turning and steaming the collar into shape over the collar stand was more Vogue's achievement than mine. I'm not sure I'm confident enough to reshape the upper collar piece myself, Burda style, over a ham or my hand.
Here's a better view of the welt pockets. Because the trench style asked for double top-stitching and I didn't want that effect, I ended up topstitching the pocket welt once, and then stitching it down to the coat body again, stitch-in-the-ditch style at the upper and lower ends.
Unlike the camel coat, this coat wasn't interlined.  In the end, the camel coat, with its chambray muslin underlining, stands up to the darkest Swiss snowy nights, but weighs a ton.


Sunday 24 October 2010

Figuring out the Red Devil MaxMara Weekend coat

As I sewed MaxMara's long camel coat last autumn (see below) and wore it to death, I was looking to add a shorter and more casual coat for this season. And suddenly, after years of hiding my red lipsticks and sweaters, it felt like a Red Moment was hurtling back into focus. Then the Guardian fashion gurus confirmed it in yesterday's video, linked below. I went back to MaxMara and found what I loved in their "Weekend" line. Isn't it snappy? It was just the right length for my new, flat-heeled motorcycle boots. The problem was that, here I was with three years of Burdas neatly collected, with their line drawing pages all catalogued, and a fifteen minute riff through their offerings couldn't find this combination of pocket, collar, fitted shoulder and wrap effect! I was stunned. I had the impression I'd been awash in Burda options.
In the end, I had to resort to my dog-eared collection of Vogues—more on that treasure trove in coming posts. At the bottom of a ten-year-old box, look at what I found—in the place I least expected it. See that sneaky little red devil lurking in the corner? I was so traumatized by the adventures I had with the classic trench in the middle, (see review on PatternReview, under member Inkstain.)  I never noticed the chic lady on the right with her Dalmatian bag.  Only a few adaptations were required. I didn't want the tabs on the MaxMara lady as I inherited some real fur from my great aunt and might want to add some fur cuff trim later, and obviously I didn't want the buttons on the Vogue lady. But the collar (finally!) had been found. I also had to lengthen the belt of the trench, virtually doubling it from a buckled number to a bathrobe tie.
Next stop was the fabric store, where I found some lovely red wool/cashmere blend. The MaxMara coat, made of what we do not know, ran Sf530 online, not counting the shipping/handling. My materials came to Sf145 and I know what my coat is made of. As Erika B says on her blog, you look at the rack and say I could make that! But could I?
At any rate, the Little Red Devil was born!

Saturday 23 October 2010

The Red Coats are Coming!

I'm going to launch my "new collection" with a photo of my latest project, the Red Coat soon, but first I'll whet your appetite with a little preview; this link to a video from the Guardian's fashion editors this morning about how important red is going to be as "the colour" of this season. I notice that another blog is crying out for an OOP Donna Karan pattern featuring a red coat, but aha! mine is finished and just waiting for the cameras. Having been way ahead of the game last autumn by keeping my eyes peeled for the signature coat in the MaxMara line, which was camel, I've returned to their house for more inspiration and you'll soon see what I mean...
In the meantime, here's the video: How to Dress RedJess Cartner-Morley: red dress

What I've Sewn Over the last few years...all reviewed on PatternReview

Schizophrenia may be the best route...

It's about time I split my literary life from my sewing hobby. So here goes with a dedicated sewing blog. It means a lot of web housekeeping over the next few days, not unlike moving from one home to another— cleaning out the closets and deciding what to shift, what to sell, what to bin. Then there'll be all the linking to the blogs I love, and perhaps a few comments here and there on what works, at least for me, and what doesn't. All of this delivered with the rather jaded outlook of someone who's been sewing since 1968. And what it won't be is an instructional blog. I'm afraid my camera skills, not to mention my craft, might not be up to such scrutiny.