September 30, 2015

Corsetry light

Ok, I suppose I should start this post with a bit of an update: 
- The commissioned slopers have been fitted. At least, without sleeves. I wasn't disappointed. The shoulders on the woven one were a bit too long but not in a crazy way and the waist could be taken in a little bit at the side seams. On the knit sloper, I have to move the shoulder seam a bit forward and take out some excess fabric at center back. Oh, and Prior Patterns, your comment about flattering styles for that particular body shape was spot on.
- And those jeans... Well, I was a bit over-confident there. I may not be very tall but 1.10 meter is only enough for cropped designs for me. As a result, I suppose both real culottes and flares are out of the question. I may have to buy some more denim and I will be looking at ankle length 1940's and 50's styles for this piece of fabric.

For now, I have allowed myself to get distracted.
I have wanted to make a lingerie corset for a while. I don't think I really need shape wear but I find it a rather interesting bit of sewing and pattern making.  And it would perfect some 1950's looks. 
So, I have finally started to make one. 

I used the pattern I made for my the bodice of my strapless party dress as a starting point. 

And I had a look at a RTW lingerie corset. This type of corset is often sold at bridal stores here in the Netherlands (I got mine from the store I used to do alterations for). Although I usually wear 75B in RTW bras, the low back of this style allowed me to go for the 70C instead. Which is a good thing because it is still a bit loose at the waist. It allows me to study the construction though. 

I split the front into three panels instead of two and narrowed the side back to allow for some more width in the only stretchy panel, the center back. In the real corset, the other panels with be made from non-stretch net covered with black lace, maybe alternated with panels covered with solid fabric. 
I'm going to use spiral steel boning and bra cups made from padding (cut-and-sew foam) with underwires.

I made a test version. It's not bad, just a bit too loose. And, because of those 1950's looks, I would like a bit more emphasis on the waistline. So, I think I will make a few alterations and then start cutting the real thing.

September 27, 2015

Vintage glamour

When do you think fashion was at its most glamorous? In the 1950's? Or the 1930's? Whichever era you choose, is that choice based on the clothes themselves, or on the way we've seen them in pictures? 
We don't often get the chance to inspect real couture gowns from any era but we can all look at gorgeous pictures of them. As a result, the style of those photographs becomes part of what we see as the look of a particular era. Their style is in part a result of the same spirit of the time which inspired the fashion itself. On the other hand, it is also often based on the technical possibilities at the time and on the individual skill and style of a photographer. Because of that, some fashion photographers have become stars in their own right. Fans of vintage fashion may be familiar with some names of these old masters of photography: Cecil Beaton, George Hoyningen-Huene, Horst P. Horst...   

Yesterday, the exhibition "Horst P. Horst, Photographer of Style" opened in the Nederlands Fotomuseum (= Dutch Photo museum. The link goes to the Dutch version of the site because the English version doesn't load properly) in Rotterdam. 
As a photographer for both French and American Vogue from the 1930's to the 1950's, Horst was certainly one of the people who defined the vintage glamour we know and love today. Even if you don't recognize the name, you will probably have seen this image, a 1939 advertisement for Mainbocher corsets which is the most famous example of his work today:

The exhibition shows a great overview of his work, including a huge amount of iconic fashion images and portraits of fashion designers, actors and artists. Much of it is shown in the form of original vintage prints, often not much bigger than the negative format used for the images for 1930's Vogue: 8 by 10 inches. 

Interestingly, this makes viewing these sleek, monumental images a rather intimate experience. Many of these pictures were probably printed to show the images to editors or clients and there are a few examples in the exhibition which bear pen marks which show the retoucher how to alter the image. A great look at "Photoshop" before the digital age. 

As an added treat, there were also some examples of Paris couture gowns from the 1930's. Glorious designs by the likes of Vionnet, Schiaparelli, Gres and Chanel, on loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. 

Oh, and the colour images were a real surprise as well. The colour negatives you may remember didn't exist yet in the first half of the 20th century but there was another process available at the time. Technically complex and expensive, it was only used for commercial photography and magazine covers. 
Horst took many such pictures and those were there too. The original magazines were in display cases but there new, large prints have been made from the original film of quite a number of them. Unlike 1970's colour negatives, the colour information on the film from this rare process doesn't degrade over time so the new images look incredibly fresh, beautiful and difficult to date. 

And that wasn't even all. 
With the Horst exhibition as its main display, the museum has decided to make a bit of a theme of "fashion". To this end, they asked fashion designer Mattijs van Bergen (I didn't know the name either but as a graduate of ArteZ in Antwerp and with a master's degree with Central st. Martin in London, he might be one to watch) to create a collection inspired by the museum's extensive archive of black-and-white photographs (which includes the work of many celebrated Dutch photographers). In turn, this collection was photographed by three different fashion photographers. 

Before seeing it, I was a bit skeptical about this project, I feared it might be a bit of a gimmick. However, the result was actually very nice. Unfortunately, the presentation (which works quite well for a visitor of the museum), on dark dummies in spotlights in a dark corridor, made it very difficult to get some pictures to share with you. 

You can visit both exhibitions until January 2016.  

September 24, 2015

1.10 m of denim...

A couple of months ago, one of my usual fabric stalls at the local market had some odd bits of extra fabric. On top of the bolt in their "1 euro a meter" sale corner, they had dumped some off-cuts which had nothing to do with the other fabric they were selling. From time to time, they added more from a big bag. 
On closer inspection, it looked like they were selling the remnants of some frugal persons stash. There were all kinds of fabrics but most of them looked a bit dated: No stretch, old-fashioned curtain-like lace, quirky prints and either cotton or particularly nasty and easy to recognize synthetics. And all of them small pieces, 1.5 m at most.
I picked up a piece of sturdy mid-blue denim, thinking I could always use that. It cost 1 m and when he packed it, the seller stuffed the bag with other small bits of fabric I had shown a bit of interest in (they are fun, actually, but so small it is hard to come up with a project for them).

When I bought that fabric, it was summer and I didn't want to think about sewing jeans. Now, it time to think about it.
Since I bought it, I thought I had exactly 1 meter of this fabric. Which would be just a bit too short to myself a pair of trousers (I know I've made a lot of tapered ankle length ones but that really requires a slightly sloughy fabric). This particular denim is really a bit old-school: Mid-blue with a white weft, a dense twill weave and quite thick and sturdy. 

For a while, I've been telling myself I would use it to make culottes. The kind that has been in fashion this past year: Well past the knee and a bit more trouser-like than the vintage variety. Or plus-fours.

Then, yesterday, I got the fabric out and held it in front of me while looking in the mirror:

And suddenly I was thinking 1970's bell bottoms...

There is a little more fabric than I had thought. 1.10 meter. Just enough for full-length trousers if I pick a design without extra details and lay it out carefully. Which also means that big flares won't be possible. I will probably be more of a boot-cut.

And then, I googled "culottes" for this blog post. I'm not a huge fan of a lot of mainstream fashion but modern culottes are nice. They fit to the natural waist or just below it and most are more properly culotte-like than I had thought. They may or may not have the center pleats I used in my very skirt-like culottes years ago and the shape at the outer leg is usually straight or A-line. Many have added pleats at the front and only the most trouser-like offerings have front fly. I want to make a pair. However, all that lovely fullness means you will definitely need more fabric than "one time the length of the garment" to cut out the pieces for a style like this. So, I won't be able to make culottes like that from this fabric. 

I know I feel a bit frumpy in 'normal' jeans in this mid-blue. So it has to become something a bit more unusual. As skirts go, I think this would only fun for a full skirt which would be better with more fabric. It's too thick to think about dresses although a 1960's shift would look good. 
What do you think?   

September 22, 2015

Dutch fashion

Just a little tip if you happen to find yourself near The Hague in the months to come (between now and February 2016): The Gemeentemuseum is hosting its annual fashion exhibition! This one is called "Ode to Dutch Fashion". 

As a volunteer for Modemuze (="Fashion Muze", a website which promotes the Dutch museums which have fashion collections and makes those collections available online), I got to go to the opening of the exhibition yesterday evening. Which was fun but I will definitely go back for a better look. And because the museum allows visitors to take pictures as long as they don't use a flash nor a tripod, I will try and share that look.

For now: Don't you love the use of the stripes in this dress?

September 20, 2015

Sewing sporty stuff... again

I had planned to show you a whole outfit today. Sportswear, that is. 
However, I didn't quite manage it. 
Yesterday I was working on the last and most simple piece, a top. I thought I could finish the top with lingerie elastic but the neckline was a bit on the deep side already. Perfectly fine as it was but too deep when folded back another centimeter. The obvious solution was fold-over elastic but I didn't have enough of it for the top. I'll buy more tomorrow to finish it.

I did make another, warmer, version of this sporty cardigan. The first one was made from thin sweatshirt fabric. It is nice and comfortable and I wear it a lot before and after climbing. Now, with autumn on the way, I thought I could use a warmer option. 
This one is made from a thicker knit, a mixture of wool and synthetic fibers. The fabric is not very nice to the skin and I recently found some material on sale which was kind of like the lining material of some sports clothes. 

So, I lined it. It is nicely warm and snug.

I also made a pair of trousers to climb in. So far, I have only worn RTW sports trousers but why not make my own? I know I prefer slightly loose fitting trousers over leggings and I like a length to just below the knee (far enough below the knee so the legs don't ride up when I bend my knees). 

My RTW trousers have a similar waistband: Soft wide elastic encased in fabric, with a drawstring. They also have pockets but those are useless for climbing and can be annoying because the pocket bags get pulled out with some movements.   

To hopefully get the right fit over the knee, I added knee darts at the front leg and elastic in the hemline (this is a picture of the inside where you can see the darts more easily). 
The fabric I used is a dark brown pique knit (the same stuff which is used for polo shirts). A stretchy but stable cotton fabric.  

Today, I put the trousers to the test. Because the person taking the pictures is also the person belaying when I climb high walls, I only have a picture of me bouldering in them. So, you'll just have to believe me when I tell you the trousers also performed well under a climbing harness. 
Before I started climbing, I wondered whether the legs were just a bit too short but they were not. In fact, the trousers were very comfortable. I may just have to make a few more pairs.

September 14, 2015

The last dress of summer...

It seems like I do this every time: I tend to sew for the weather it is, not for what's just around the corner. So, when the seasons change, I often end up making one last garment which ends up being stashed away until the next year.
This may be one of those.

I drafted the pattern and started sewing before I went on holiday but only finished it last week.
And as usual, I'm not very worried about it. This is the kind of dress I've liked for a while and I think I'll continue to like it. It's a 1950's look with short kimono sleeves and slim skirt with a wide bit at the back. The sleeves have underarm gussets. The skirt has small pleats and slant pockets at the front. At center back seam, I cut it to flare out and to have gathers between the usual positions of the back darts. The front has a small overlap (with a snap to prevent gaping) and sashes which are inserted into the side seams and wrap around to tie in a bow at the back. 

I made it from a fabric I've had in my stash for a while. It's black cotton with white dots woven in. The material is nice but a bit tricky to work with. At the wrong side, there are long lines of loose white thread between those dots. It's very easy to get something like a ring caught in these. Which, of course, could cause trouble...

I managed to make it work though. Then, I wasn't quite so sure about the look. I usually sew with plain fabrics. Or with stripes or plaid. And sometimes with bold, graphic prints. I was wondering if these dots might just be a bit twee. 
In the end, I think it's OK. It was one of my reasons for this combination. A slim 1950's silhouette doesn't end up looking cute quite so easily. 

At the moment, it's still warm enough for a dress like this, so I think I can still wear it at least once this year.

September 11, 2015

So many ideas, so little time

Today definitely feels like late summer but it has now become impossible to deny that it will be autumn soon... Whatever else that may mean, I'm actually never sorry to start thinking about autumn sewing. There's a lot about it which I really like. Many of my favorite fabrics are most suitable for autumn and winter sewing. Wool fabrics especially but also heavier cotton ones like flannel and corduroy. And I like designs with a certain sculptural quality which never really works in light summer clothes...

Of course, there are loads of things I would like to make. I think some more sporty things may be up first. And maybe a pair of denim culottes/three quarter length trousers. I still have more Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge related plans too, 1970's certainly and maybe something from between 1940 and 1947 or another go at 1920's... And practical needs may show themselves over the course of the season and they will have to be dealt with too. 

However, today I would like to share some of the inspiration pictures I've stored on Pinterest, all of them dresses I have thought about for a while. For some, I should even have starts of patterns already. For all of them, I have thought about the pattern and I have fabric in my stash... The only real question is if I have the time and the justification (in expected wear) to make them all...

This is the amazing suit I almost started on in spring. Back then, I realized that my spring-suit-appropriate fabric wouldn't work for a design like this and I made this suit instead. It was the right decision but I still want this one too. And I have a fabric in stash which might be suitable (although I worry about the bulk and weight of that drape). Made from jersey (the original inspiration suit as well as the version I'm planning) it should be easier to wear than your average 1950's suit.
Although it is also tempting to first make that lingerie corset I've been thinking for years and have this thing fit snugly over it....

Then, there is this beauty...
It was one of the inspirations for my flounce dress but, in the end, not the main one. The disadvantage of this design (by Nina Ricci) is simple: There is no way I can get a similar look and secretly introduce more room for movement in that narrow skirt. 
The fabric I have in mind for this one is a cotton flannel in a small blue and grey houndstooth. It's a direct relative of that white-on-black check I used for the flounce dress so I know this stuff will be good to sew with and wear and wash well.
Because of its disadvantages (and also because I already have a flounce dress), I also have another candidate for that fabric. 

This dress. Nice skirt with width at the back, interesting sleeves integrated with with the yoke and that pocket might work... A bit more normal maybe but also more practical and it looks like it was made from a fabric like this in the first place. And I have already drafted that bodice (as one of the options for my black wool crepe. It seemed to casual/sporty for that fabric but would work well for the flannel).

Oh, and this picture comes from a different magazine, from just over a year later. Could this possibly be the front of the same dress? 

And there's this dress. Lots of pockets and kind of ugly and glorious at the same time. I'm thinking about making it in brown corduroy. 

And I have been talking about gather a lot but I have really sewn a lot of gathered designs. This is a fairly recent pin and not one which comes from a vintage magazine I own. It is fabulous and I could make it, draping jersey over a smooth fitted under-layer. Although I would probably need that girdle/lingerie corset to get such a great silhouette. 
I have a fabric which would be great for a dress like this but I'm not so sure I have enough of it.

I also feel I should definitely sew up the wonderful tartan I bought last year in Scotland. It was expensive so I didn't buy much but it should be enough for a sleek and simple dress. Something a bit like this.

Some of these dresses (and suit) will certainly 'come to life' this coming autumn and winter but it is more than likely that many will stay on my long, long to-sew list for just a bit longer... So many ideas, so little time and closet-space.

September 8, 2015

commissioned work...

You may have noticed that I don't sew a lot for other people and almost never on order and for money. I've done a few things like that for friends but mostly, the bridal alterations job I used to do has cured me of any desire to try and make a living by sewing. 
And yet, the first sewing related thing I'm doing now, after coming back from holiday, is to draft slopers for a commission. It's for a lady who helped me get started with bouldering. I'll be making her some tops, mostly in jersey and maybe a dress as well. 
Knowing the pitfalls of sewing for other people, I have warned her that it will be a bit of a process, requiring several fittings. 

I took her measurements before I left and have finished the patterns today. One regular sloper for woven fabrics (which has waist darts, a shallow one at the front and two deep ones at the back, but they don't really show in the picture) and a zero ease one for jersey.
I'll sew them up tomorrow. They look quite odd to me. The client is a petite but very athletic lady and a great rock climber and boulderer. As a result, she has, among other features, big muscles in her back and shoulders. I guess those are what makes clothes shopping particularly challenging for her. It also made drafting the slopers a bit odd. Using the back width measurement (back width is notoriously difficult to measure so normally I look up the corresponding back width for each bust size in a chart. I just knew that wouldn't work in this case) made the back pieces substantially wider than the fronts and messed with a couple of other things. I think I've ironed out the real oddities but kept the width difference. I'm also pretty certain that the back width will have caused the shoulders to be way too wide.
Oh well, I warned her the first fitting would be about correcting slopers...

In the mean time, I'm thinking about styles which might flatter her. She seemed mostly concerned with getting a close and flattering fit but also mentioned halter necks, waterfall necklines and V-necks. I completely agree about the waterfall necklines and some V-necks can work well for a lady with a small bust (but certainly not all) but I think tops with twist details at chest height would also work really well and with autumn on the way, I think we should be looking at which sleeve shapes work for her. 
As far as I know, she is a rather sporty dresser but I don't know how much of that is out of choice.  
Any suggestions?

September 6, 2015

I'm back!

Hi everyone! My apologies for my silence over the past two weeks. I know lots of bloggers announce their holidays but I still hold to the old rule of not telling on the internet that you'll be away from home... 
I had actually planned to write the occasional post but it just didn't happen.

For the past two weeks, I was in Austria with E. We've done a lot hiking in the mountains, made use of the local ski lifts to get up an even higher mountain (the Volluga), done some bouldering on a slope near Galtuer (very nice but we could have done with a good clear description of the area and where the climbing routes are) and visited the lovely city of Innsbruck. 

For most of the time, the weather was excellent, on the last three days it was cloudy and occasionally rainy. And yesterday morning, when we were driving back, there was snow on the peaks of the mountains...

Summer is definitely over. Back here in the Netherlands as well. 
Sewing-wise, I still have a half-finished dress which I started working on before I left. It's cotton and has short sleeves so I may still get to wear it this month. After that, it's time to start on proper autumn sewing.  Fortunately, I like that.