Sunday 21 November 2010

In praise of straight skirts and my basic "leopard" fur skirt

An Italian silk manufacturer visiting Hong Kong once told me that to start a grown-up wardrobe, every woman should have a Black Skirt. Note, he didn't say a Little Black Dress. He then started to weave visions of all the things you could put on top of that black skirt. The variety was dazzling. Eugenia at World of Eugenia just posted about a great black Vogue skirt she made with a gathered insert at the back. Elegant and versatile. Everybody should have a favourite straight skirt pattern and start with a black skirt. That's the one you learn to sew on, you know you can do in a day, you even know you can do with your eyes closed.

I think the same is true of long black trousers. During my extended illness in 2009,  I pulled on the same Vogue basic black trousers (from an OOP Wardrobe pattern) every other day to go to the clinic, varying the tops with a very limited enthusiasm, but still the doctor said, "I appreciate it that you dress so nicely." I think that was his shorthand for "not jeans."
But once you have the black skirt, it's time to play.

My daughter's first try at sewing was a Chanel-buttoned knock-off in a lovely deep blue satin using this BurdaEasy pattern. I then made the same skirt in grey stretch cotton and then in brown pleather embossed with bronze roses shown in my original posting below about "What I've sewn." Using a Vogue so OOP, it's more like Out of the Universe,  I've made two daytime skirts in tobacco brown and a khaki, both in wool gabardine, and, now, my new favourite, the leopard fur, here on the right:

Would you believe that for me, this leopard fur skirt has become a Wardrobe Basic? You'd think that it's as un-basic as they come. Yet somehow, these days, whenever I'm facing a dark, grey day, have to pick up a loved one at the hospital, or get myself out of the hospital, which is alarmingly frequent of late!, this is a pick-me-up garment. Its so soft! It goes from day to night with a sort of Donatella panache and fits right in with this season's faux fur thing. Along with the black trousers, a black skirt, grey skirt etc., and a wardrobe of turtlenecks and matching tights, the daily "what to wear" for a home office is done for me, and I can concentrate on evening wear and fun-fashion projects.

Which reminds me... it might be time to replace my original black straight skirt....


Sunday 14 November 2010

The pleather "test" pants, but do I lead a Balmain life?

Of course, these are supposed to be styled with high heels, a shiny jacket and an evening blouse, to approximate the Balmain look. Not something one wears in my village to pick up a copy of the NZZ and croissants. For the moment, however, let's talk sewing, not style. I avoided the thin vinyl that Burda lately uses, and went for a thicker pleather that worked about as easily in the hand as car seat upholstery. I'm sure, however, that these babies will love the snow and rain of a Swiss winter. They certainly are warm enough.

To pad the signature "motard" knees, I used remnants of my cashmere camel coat, and instead of stiffening glue, as instructed, I top-stitched four layers of wool to the inside of the pad on the second line from the outside, and then trimmed the wool way down, so it wouldn't peek out of the finished knee, then applied the pads using the rest of the top-stitching lines. I also trimmed as close as I dared around the outline with manicure scissors. Marking this stuff is a trial, but a ballpoint pen leaves enough of a dent and no colour, so I went with that, measuring the distance between the lines, just to make sure I'd transferred them correctly. There's no forgiving using this stuff if you sew something "wrong."
The wrinkles at the back are a little bit of a bummer but this stuff isn't the stretchiest, so that's what happens when you have a 38 waist and 42 hips. I decided to get fancy, too, and my pride dictated that even though this was a Burda Easy, I'd add top-stitching to the side and back seams in the middle of the leg, too, so it would be hard to correct the fit.

As for the leg length, I lengthened these a total of 9 cm, five at the calf and another 4 at the hem. Just right, unless I want to go for the cropped look. (I have a 33+ inch inseam.)

I also moved the invisible zipper to the back. When I say "invisible," I mean it! Why have it bungling up the hip line?

Of course, if I wanted to do the real Balmain look, I'd need more of a low-waisted jean cut, with pockets, and front zip, but I think that might be too much bulk for my silhouette. Kate Moss I'm not. These come to just about an inch below the true waist, not hiphuggers, but not Mom jeans, either.

Now, I'm wondering whether I should order the real leather from Mr. Fauck, or run these around the block for a few weeks, to see just how much of a Balmain life I'm leading...

Thursday 4 November 2010

Burda for December preview

I can only come to the conclusion, that like some strange empire on their own Byzantine, imperial, or otherwise Putin-ordered Secret Schedule, the Russians among us sew to a different calendar.

Hence, we have, and I do love getting it!  the December preview of Burda available on the Russian site which mysteriously bounced me to the German preview, click here when for months the French site has been whiffing around just trying to get up to speed on the shift from October when they were dead in L'Eau, to November.

I cannot in any way begin to match the wit and lovely bile of the Selfish Seamstress in ripping/shredding the Burda previews to delightful ridicule, but she is making curtains, (wouldjabelieve?) so let's have a sane, mature, considered look behind her busy back:

 What is that? A birdie costume? I can't wait to see how we're supposed to fend off the European cold by gluing feathers to our sleeves. Meanwhile, here they go again with weird pants. I have very long legs, but a short waist. Burda wants me to make that disproportion super, super painfully obvious to everyone with these "pull them up to your nose" pants. Do you think these will ever look normal? I've heard of carrot pants, but these strike me as turnips. I think these would look great on C.J. Cregg of West Wing, and nobody else.

But there's one thing they do every year, along with the regularity of my favourite safari issue, the over- the-top-evening-gown issue, (although I loved their "smoking" tribute to YSL this month) and the under-peopled-summer-wedding-I-wouldn't-want-to-attend-issue, and that is YES, it's the Swiss fantasy chalet feature!

Which looks ludicrous if you live all year in Switzerland as we do. I can't tell you how fast I'll be flipping the pages of these kitschy, gemütlich scenes out of Heidi. Somebody make me a martini and fast.

Thank you. Now there are three intriguing items that did catch my eye, fashion wise.
I could see borrowing these interesting sleeve designs and putting them on better items, like a real jacket or a dress that didn't fly apart as soon as you crossed your legs. Save those sleeves. And this interesting ruffled blouse, not frilly but nicely dramatic. I'd use something besides grey cotton.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Spot the Lanvin ringer....

Apparently sometime between this November 20 and 24, we're all supposed to be taking pencil sharpeners to our elbows preparing to gouge each other in a mano-a-mano for the limited new Albert Elbaz/Lanvin's exclusive, not-to-be-restocked collection for H&M. Now, I was a huge fan of the first such guest collection, done by Karl Lagerfeld, and I still wear his jackets (four) I bought in some kind of post-book-publication indulgence from that season. Never before or since have I worshipped so generously at the altar of the Swedish emporium. But, here's a preview of Albert's drool-ready party dresses, in this rather bizarre video, the Lanvin video from the Huff Post, which left me with one impression. We sewists can do an Albert, without a sweat. Just watch...

Okay, it's not hard to spot the ringer in blue. It's one I knocked up today from some silk in my stash (purchased in Hong Kong in 1980, for God's sake!) lined in bemberg, and belted, then put it on my daughter when she got home from school. She is a good sport. I hope this inspires all of you to knock up your own "Albert" in a day!
We've got patterns for these on our shelves from the wicked seers of Burda (April and June issues, 2010).  I used the "Latino" dress from April, but perhaps the June blouse has the better ruffles. Your call. You can simply double up and widen the ruffle quotient in stiffer organza silk or go for a silk crepe print, as I did. Albert's rose version would mean laying on ruffles bottom as well as top, which is way too much frosting on my personal cake, while the yellow version doubles the width of the ruffle, and the printed version means wearing the whole thing below your armpits.
On the April Burda cover (French edition) they pulled the dress off one shoulder, while on the bed photo, below, it's more sedate. But any way you cut it, I don't think its worth blinding your fellow shopper over in a catfight. Sorry, Al.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

If you're a U.S. citizen,cast your ballot! Imagine how angry you'd be if someone stole your voting rights. But if you don't vote, you gave them away. Our great grandmothers fought for your voice. Don't let those brave ladies down.

Monday 1 November 2010

My "insider," darling goddaughter

Okay, I confess, I have the advantage over all you other sewists because I have an inside track on the fashion industry. Kind of. My darling English goddaughter, known to the family as "H," and disguised in my novel, "A Visit From Voltaire" as a daughter of the "Worthy family" was tapped on the street by Elite Models in London about a year ago, and before you knew it, was on the catwalks in Amsterdam, Istanbul, Paris and London last year and this. Whew! Here she is visiting me with her Mum in Switzerland a little more than a decade ago.

and here she is on this autumn making heads turn as a beautiful woman. We are all so proud of her, and her Mum and I are riveted to the internet pages of the shows, trying to spot her in all her fashion guises. H. says modestly that the magic is  all in the makeup box, but let's face it, it helps to be 5'10", with her fabulous figure. When I run a fashion idea by her, like the Maxmara Camel Coat idea, I know I'll get a straight answer. Here she is in this season's Christopher Kane show. She did eight shows in Paris for the AW 2010 collections— a fantastic start for someone so new on the scene. And when I was in hospital last year for the Dire Worst, who was the first to "text" Auntie D. her support? Watch out for her!