Saturday 23 June 2012

Burda two-tone tunics, April, 2012, model 129...way to go....or not...

I promised a tale of woe and triumph, and although we haven't reached triumph quite yet, I think we're coming to the end of the Philip Lim knock-off saga.
As long-suffering Chanel No.6 readers will recall, I wanted to mimic Philip Lim's peach and lilac look above: as well as Burda's single color tunic, left, Burda, April 2012, model 129.
I wanted to make two tunics at once.

Whoopee! Twice the effort, twice the disasters! Let me count the ways!

The first disaster came from a misunderstanding with Thai Silks. I begged them in writing to send my fabric order by normal airmail only. Instead they send it by airmail express, pushing the total cost of the package-plus-shipping over the Swiss customs limit, incurring another hefty fee from my mailman on delivery. I've sent the Thai people a rocket trying to explain to them that they tripled the cost of my purchase through their well-intentioned shipping decision.

Second, when the fabric arrived, it was far more transparent than I thought. I should have ordered the more expensive devoré crepe, not satin.

Third, the venerable RIT company blew me off with their refusal to sell an overseas customer powdered dye, in order to obtain a custom two-tone look guided by their mixing advice online. A few of you extremely kind sewists even offered to send me the RIT dyes from America (WOW! such goodness out there!) but I did revert to the drug store stuff they sell in Switzerland, which unfortunately doesn't match up with the nifty RIT dye guide. So I was on my own.
Getting my peach required going back to the site here Dye Mixer to get the right proportions between pink and yellow. I arrived at a very soft peach and lilac.

Four, I learned that mixing a truly light pastel means using so little dye in the bucket that you don't get a rich and even look. Some of the China silk came out blotchy. A few crystals of yellow mar the peach lining and the blue isn't quite even. Happily the satin devoré came out okay so all DIY sins would be under cover.

Finally, I had my fabrics, except...

Five, (and here's where we move from irritating to frustrating to near-tragic) the China silk length for the blue version caught fire going into the simmering bucket of dye-water on the gas ring. I lost a good half foot of carefully measured and ordered silk. I burned my fingers. I nearly lost some hair, but caught it all in time. Hence some crazy-woman layout problems which were solved by a single-layer cutting lay-out sacrificing some seam allowances.

To save money, I'd reckoned on using the cheaper China silk as the underlayer of the tunic attached to the fluttering satin hem. Here's how the peach-lilac under-layer looks on the machine. This was after another disaster (six, if you're still counting) where I had to rip off both blue satin hems as I got confused when part of the lining was turned in and part of the lining facing out. Not your usual configuration, and most annoying as I was using French seams throughout.

(By the way, Burda French edition calls them English seams. I wonder what the Russian edition calls them, maybe "Ukrainian seams?" And the Brazilian edition calls them, "Venezuelan seams?" 
I digress.)

Here's how the blue undertunic hangs on the bodyform.

Here's the blue tunic, left, waiting for more thread. Yes, seventh blunder, I didn't buy enough thread for the project.

We persevere. I hope to be able to give you a photo of one of these tunics being worn at son Theodor's Cambridge U. graduation on the 28th. Any sewing victory will be eclipsed by our musician T.'s own triumphs—including winning the university-wide award for best performance in exam. On to the Royal Academy of Music in London for his master's in violin and conducting.
Bravo, T!

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Pleasure before Pain, the Vintage Vogue, Ralph Lauren palazzos found their blouse

While I'm finishing my Philip Lim knock-off two-tone tunics in pastel silk, (a sorry saga of everything imaginable going wrong, triumph over adversity, yadda yadda,) I'll soften the dark tale to come with a little upbeat post today:
These 1986 Ralph Lauren Vogue Designer OOP 1723 palazzo pants (center photo) finally found their partner, but it took more than two decades! I sewed them up  in 1993, the summer after I had my third child, a daughter. I even used the same fabric as Ralph, a heavy silk crepe in black with cream polka dots, purchased in the garment district in Manhattan.
I wore them exactly once. Meanwhile, the "baby" is currently reading biology at University College London.
Why no traction for these?
Because I didn't have the right shoes, blouses, red lipstick and toenails, or retro hair to capture Ralph's Cap D'Antibes-South of France-Zelda and Scott mood. Wearing them with flats as shown by RL in the eighties didn't work for me. I had long straight hippie hair. And, alas, I was too short-waisted to wear them with a tucked-in top or a leotard. The balance was completely skewed.
I forgot about them.
Then two things happened. First, I lost my Burda black cotton "shark" skirt and had to turn out three closets and two garment cases in storage hoping to find it. The loss of a single garment threw me into an inexplicable obsession to find it in time for a trip to see another son graduate from Cambridge University at the end of June. More on those choices later. Like, uh, I didn't have anything else to wear? But this disappearance preoccupied me: I was like a maddened nineteenth-century English rector hunting down that last Roman coin for his collection.
In the process I eyeballed twenty-plus years worth of clothing and got a shocking overview of my accumulated stock of lovingly sewn but forgotten clothes.
Including these Ralph Laurens.
Second, the other day at Promod I saw the perfect Great Gatsby blouse on sale for 50% off. For 20 francs, what was wrong with this perfectly classic, Chanelesque "little darlink" on the sale rack? I washed and ironed it and as it turns out, there wasn't anything wrong with it. It was just waiting to be hooked up with the perfect palazzo pants and platform shoes.

It took twenty years for these two to find each other, but here's the lesson. Don't toss good clothes made with love out of good fabrics just because the era or accessories feel off. Don't forget your abandoned babies in the back closet/clothes box. Be ready to give them another think. Have faith, because as you build your wardrobe and find your style, things will start to hang together and deliver with consistency. And don't forsake the sales racks: a little mending or in this case, an under-appreciated item may find its perfect love near your sewing machine.
What goes around, comes around and sometimes a good garment delivers—after a few decades' rethink.
p.s. The hunt exhausted, I called UCL. Indeed, the Burda shark skirt, that useful black cotton number, was in the back of her closet.
Here's a photo of the outfit last night before attending an unbelievable private concert in Geneva by the brilliant, beautiful and talented Eldbjorg Hemsing.