Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Mosch, Me and Aud

Having reviewed a lot of photos of Moschino trousers I am strongly of the opinion that they are designed to fit badly in and around the crotch area.

So I didn't feel too bad when I made my alterations to the £310's worth of recently purchased Moschino pants.

The waist was too big by about 1 1/2", and the bum was saggy along with wrinkles around the crotch. I promptly took ripper and scissors to the trousers in an attempt to get a better fit.

Mrs Mole would be proud of me. The back seam was ripped out to crotch and the waistband cut in two. I re-sewed the centre back seam taking in almost 1" on either side, cut this off the waistband and made a centre back seam. Stitched the belt carrier over this seam, re-stitched the waistband down, sewed the label back on and Bob's your uncle - a pair of relatively well fitting Moschino pants.

I managed to keep a few wrinkles (in keeping with the Moschino fit) but overall, a much better pair of trousers with no gaping at the waist. There are a few extra wrinkles that, to be honest, if I was making these myself from scratch, I would not be happy with. Another reminder of why we make and don't buy.
The shirt is my take on Audrey Hepburn's from Roman Holiday for SWAP 13. I had to ditch the Chanel jacket from the collection as it is a jacket and not allowed as a top and I had to find a replacement. I need white shirts/blouses, so this seemed a good option.

 I started with McCalls 6068 (OOP) but as you can see is it unfitted. It's a great little basic shirt pattern with easy collar, cuffs and the two-piece sleeves make for an easy vent too.

With the shirt pieces pinned onto Doris I set about adding darts - two in the back, one in each front and bust darts for shaping. I removed the cuffs and shortened the sleeves to elbow length. The fabric is a white cotton broiderie anglaise that I rediscovered in the attic recently. I bought this in London almost 25 years ago!

With the little bits of leftovers I made a little necktie - mostly to cover up my poor sewing at the collar.

It wasn't all plain sailing however. It was difficult to tell right side from wrong side with the fabric and I ended up making two left sleeves. Nice little reminder to not be so cocky.

 The shirt is long enough to cover the backside when worn loose or tie at the waist for a 1950s look and still be fitted enough to tuck in without acres of shirt tails bunching up inside the trousers.

Me and Audrey are becoming really good mates - here's us playing cards and shooting the breeze in our pristine white shirts.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Cheap & Chic

Today I went to the hairdresser's and then I went to the shops...... and I bought........some clothes!!!!!

One of the things was a pair of Moschino trousers: small black and white houndstooth wool with slight stretch. Ankle length, side pockets and wrinkly crotch all for the grand price of £310, very similar in style to those on the right. This is NOT cheap in my book and the saggy bum is definitely NOT chic.

It's been so long since I've bought RTW that I'm not even sure what size I am anymore. These were too big around the waist.

So I came home and did this....

 Scissors, pins and ripper and an interesting look at the insides of RTW. No back seam in the waistband meant no easy take-in, so I had to cut the band in two. Pinned out about 1 1/2" along the centre back seam easing out all the way to the crotch where the inside legs meet.

Oh, just in case you thought I'd abandoned sewing for real and gone over to the dark side, I picked these trousers up at 80% off and when I came home I finished this to wear on top.

Details to follow shortly.....

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Coco's Garden and Other Stories

I'm beginning to think that life is just a series of coincidences - one event/decision/action leads to an apparently unrelated event/decision/action, which leads to another and so on, until all those little things add up to one big thing. Here's how my recent series is connected:

For nearly a year I have been reading Coco's Loft. A fabulous and talented lady who makes the most outstanding clothes and has really defined her style. Many of her photo shoots are in her garden. My fingers are definitely NOT green, I can kill weeds, but Coco's garden is tropical, lush and very, very green. Every time I see it I tend to look at the plants and not the dress (sorry Coco).

Then Elizabeth, from Sewn, was fixated for a while on a Burda batwing top and made some beautiful versions, each a little different from the last. I actually have this pattern too, being one of the few that I managed to trace off and know her addiction well. I also made 3 or 4. It's an easy pattern, front and back cut on the fold with a bit of bias or other finishing technique around the neck, sleeves and hem. Recently she also posted about hating to cut out, have I got a treat for her!

Next, I set a puzzle pattern piece for you to guess what it would morph into. I inadvertently posted a photo of the pattern and The Centre for Pattern Design told me off, in case some unscrupulous sewer copied the design from my blog. I promptly removed the image and for my efforts, CPD very, very kindly gifted another pattern. I also suspect that they received considerably more orders for patterns that week.

I've also been reading around the blog-o-sphere of Fearless February. A personal challenge to settle down and tackle those sewing related things that you 'need a bit more practice' at. While not officially signing up, the challenge did spark something in me. So things I'm really crap at - sewing in a straight line; applying bias binding without wrinkles; sewing an even distance from the edge; good top stitching, and stitch-in-the-ditch. Ironically, I used most of these techniques in the recently completed raincoat but I've seen it up close and believe me, there's lots of room for improvement.

Bear with me, we're getting there.........that's four stories so far.

While in town the other day, the one and only fabric shop had a table set up with a selection of cottons at half price. Most were end of rolls but generally 1 -2m in length. All sorts of colours and patterns but I was drawn to a grey/green leaf design.

My immediate thought was - Coco's garden!

Then the pattern arrived in the post (air mail no less), MV bias cut top. Wait for it.....one piece!

My immediate thought was - Elizabeth would love this: batwing style and easy to cut out!

And so, we are now at the point of culmination of all these coincidences to proudly present the Centre for Pattern Design's Madeleine Vinonnet's inspired bias cut top-

And so we come to then end (so far) of this series of fortunate events...or do you have any to add?

I've practiced my top stitching and stitching in the ditches, attaching bias binding in lots of different ways, and discovered a top that has one pattern piece that is cut on the bias with only 2 seams (count them, two!), drapes beautifully to the body without being clingy and can be made in almost any fabric.

The pattern comes in small, medium and large but without SAs. I started with the L but have added 1cm on every subsequent cut. The fit on Number 2 and 3 is much better than the Number 1 satin. Just check the width of the bottom of the sleeves - too tight and you'll end up with a T-shirt like me! You'll need about 1.5m of fabric and the wider the better, especially of you want longer sleeves. The excess fabric at the end can be used very productively for making the bias binding.

Most batwing tops are difficult to wear under a cardigan or jacket without the sleeves all bunching up but this top has narrower sleeves and easily fits comfortably underneath a cardi.

Do you have any strange coincidence stories,  or a train of events that led you to where you are now?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Rainy Day Bridge

SWAP 13 , the bridging garment - a reversible raincoat.

This is what finishing an inside seam on a two piece sleeve looks like. 

I started to mess about with a fancy stitch along the edges of the reversible coat as a finishing technique and it looked pretty good, but after all that forcing through the machine for a clean seam finish the raw edge started to fray a little and it became messy and untidy.

I was lucky enough to have a 3" strip of the black jersey along one selvedge of the fabric without the twill attached, so I cut this off and being jersey it was malleable enough to stretch around curves and points. No need to bias it. This also does not fray but my straight stitching and stitch-in-the-ditch techniques are abysmal so I choose a feather stitch on the machine that was wide enough to catch all the edges in one pass.
Not perfect, but adequate and does finish the coat to a higher standard. Thanks to all of you who suggested the bias strip - it worked! The trim goes all the way around the entire coat; lapels, sleeves and hem. I think I just about made it and fretted that I would run out of the black jersey to complete the job. The gods were smiling on me that day and I had a measly 7" left over.
As for the collar - I attached it as usual on one side - making the assumption that this is the 'right' side. 

On the other side, I slipstitched the seam allowance under to hide the raw edges. Let's hope it holds. the collar is the only bit of this coat that has two layers. I didn't add interfacing as it sits well enough on its own. The twill is fairly stiff and required the use of a jeans needle in the machine to get through it.
All the seams are flat felled and nearly even!
Although I added an extra 20" to the pattern to get a full length coat, it was actually too long. I was aiming for about knee length. So I had to whack off another 4-5".

With the cut off hem I made a black belt for the days when I wear the coat inside out.

I also added a single button closure at the front for the times when I want the coat closed but not belted. My machine was not in good form for making buttonholes and the whole area was frayed and smashed beyond repair. I added a patch to cover the mess and I suppose it's better this way as it reinforces the buttonhole. From the button box came two different buttons to match either side. They are sewn back to back so some days I'll button to the left and other days I'll button to the right. 

And just in case  you thought I am wonder woman to get all this sewing done I'd like to point out that I'm off work on half-term and though I should be marking and prepping, I didn't think a little dedicated sewing time would hurt anyone. Now however, I'll be sitting up 'til 2am on Sunday morning to get ready for Monday!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

For your Erudition - HG

Bettina Blouse


Time to get serious again..... continuing series on the history, legacy and benefits of past designers. Hopefully you'll learn something, or at least appreciate today's fashion. Because, folks, not surprisingly, nothing's new!

Born in 1927 to an aristocratic French family Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy was raised predominantly by his mother and maternal grandmother from whom he inherited his passion for fabrics. He headed to Paris at the age of 17 and enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Apprenticed to Jacques Fath in 1945, he then worked under the legendary Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. Givenchy made an immediate impression - statuesque and handsome (he was 6' 6") and his designs epitomised glamour and femininity. 

            In 1952, he established his couture house, la Maison Givenchy, launching his debut collection of separates; light floor-length skirts and stunning blouses, including the celebrated Bettina Blouse, named after model of the day Bettina Graziani. The Bettina Blouse was actually made from a cheap cloth that was normally used to produce the toile for the more luxurious fabrics. A collection of separates was novel in the era of couture dresses and ball gowns. The idea that a woman could mix and match and stamp her own personal style upon Givenchy's clothes, rather than wear solely as the designer intended, released a new philosophy in the rarified world of the haute couturier and its customers. Two years later he broke the mould again and became the first couturier to present a luxury ready-to-wear line.
Interestingly, he inherited his design aesthetic of simplicity from his friend and mentor, Cristóbal Balenciaga (see For your Erudition - CB). The two were designing at the same time in Paris and no doubt inspired each other. During this era of collaboration and friendship Givenchy introduced (simultaneously with Balenciaga) the sack dress, acclaimed as “a genuinely new fashion shape.” 

    Givenchy is credited with pioneering the princess silhouette: in simple terms, a fitted bodice, small tight waist with a full flared skirt. Extremely feminine and glamourous. While this style of dress had been around for many years before, Givenchy transformed it from the evening only ball gown to the everyday dress.

You cannot acknowledge Givenchy's contribution to fashion legacy without mentioning at least his long term relationship with Audrey Hepburn. The two practically go hand-in-hand, both through an evolution of her personal style and a development and popularity of his designs. I can't help wondering where either of them would have ended up if it hadn't been for this close collaboration. A symbiotic relationship that benefited both, I believe. In the words of Hepburn, Givenchy to her was more than a couturier, and indeed she to him far more than a muse. Theirs was a relationship not only of professional advantages, as they propelled one another into the royalty of their respective worlds, but one of deep and long-lasting affection, that would continue for more than forty years.
Givenchy designed Audrey Hepburn's personal ensembles, as well as those made famous by her in the films Funny Face, Sabrina, and of course that little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Interestingly, Givenchy was told to expect Ms Hepburn at his studio in Paris for a costume consultation for an up and coming film, Sabrina (1954). Mons. Givenchy, not completely au fait with Hollywood celebrity and current affairs, anticipated Ms Katherine Hepburn to appear and had already started to draft designs based on her figure and style. But who should turn up at the door? But Audrey!
This little story of coincidences and serendipity makes me feel all warm inside as the theme of my SWAP 2013 is the Hepburn - based upon both ladies' styles and I've only just learned this story because of the research and reading done for this post.

Although we admire Audrey's gamine figure today, back in 1950 it was the opposite of Hollywood glamour. Think Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Russell at al. - all hourglass, cleavage, hips - curves and sex appeal from head to toe. Then along comes the boyish stick figure of Audrey. Personally, I see that Givenchy gave her the curvaceous, feminine figure desired at the time as defined by his clothes and cut: waistlines, gathers and drapes over the hips to widen and round, high necklines to disguise lack of cleavage but still creating the all important sex appeal. For this reason - fullness over the hips -  he has never been on my list of favourite European designers I being one of those (un)fortunate beings who do not need anymore fabric that absolutely necessary in that area. But I do admire his style and skill in being able to create an hourglass figure where none exist with just the cut of a skirt or a dress.

By the 1970 and 80s Givenchy appeared to be losing, not only his muse in Audrey (she died in the early 1990s) but the inspirational designs that preceded. She was spending more and more time on humanitarian work and he was severely criticised for his lack of creativity and originality in one collection as it was  considered to be tediously ladylike.

This may have contributed to him selling the business to Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey in 1988, and ultimately to retiring in 1995. Still alive in his 80s and enjoying his retirement, Givenchy has very little to do with the fashion world today but his legacy lives on. He created a style that requires no embellishment - ever see embroidery or jewels on an original Givenchy? The clothes create the mystery of the figure beneath and they are the only decoration a girl needs. He selected and used the best and the most innovative of fabrics for his collections and let them speak for themselves. Givenchy's name and legacy have been synonymous with Parisian chic for more than 50 years and will continue for probably another 50. 

Looking back over his designs and creations we can, yet again, see the inspiration for many of today's trends and styles - but as we read and learn - nothing in this world is new!
1969 - Feathers cocktail dress
1971 - cotton, plastic, glass and silk
1975 - silk jersey - delicious
1980 - Burda S/S 2012?

More detail, procrastination and vital information can be found at the following sites:




My thanks and credits go to coutureallure.com for images as well as the metmuseum and other images gleaned from Google

Next time, I think I'll deviate from my roots somewhat and head across the pond, but not towards a 'designer' but a Hollywood costumier. Any guesses who?