Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wardrobe in Progress: Merovingian - coat

I have almost finished the reconstruction of the brown wool/silk blend coat – or as I affectionately call it, Mervin. I removed the collar, pulled it apart at the side seams, took 15 cm off each side of the body panel, raised the gores to start in the underarm, added extra length and width to the gores, put it all back together and reattached the collar. All that remains now is to hem it.
In spite of the initial frustration of trying to get it figures out and the disappointment that many people looked at the first version and declared it unattractive or, worse yet, inaccurate, I am very proud of my work on this project, and with the finished product. Firstly, I took the research and had a go. I still stand by my initial interpretation of the construction. If I had made it up in a very light silk, as was the extant garment, I believe my original garment proportions would have been appropriate. However, I listened to and took on board people’s comments and observations, and decided to rework the garment, necessarily reinterpreting the research, to make it more practical, and more appealing to the modern aesthetic.
I showed the coat to (Mistress) Margie last night and we had a good chat about the difficulties of reproducing garments from early eras when there is so little surviving extant evidence. We also discussed the fact that, as modern people, we view things through our own filter, and make assumptions about how garments were made or looked in the period, based on our own aesthetic bias. Perhaps big, sack-like coats were how it was done, we will probably never know.
In any event, I will be warm, comfortable and dry at Festival in my woollen coat, although I worry a little about rain on the silk collar. On the other hand, the collar is easily detached and replaced, so I will try not to fret too much.

Still on the ‘to do’ list:
Re-hem the red tunic, taking about 10 – 15 cm off the length
Finish green linen tunic
Make 1 – 2 more pair of hose
Make red coat (maybe. I hope I get time, but it’s not essential)
Make 2 more under tunics, hem and alter current under tunic.
Buy 2nd pair of shoes – I wore my leather shoes with my hose last night. Not only were they comfy, but they also attracted compliments, so I will definitely buy a 2nd pair - Perhaps a red pair? Or black?
Have belt made to fit new buckle fittings from FC Pewter.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Birthday Dress – the beginning

I really wanted a new dress to wear for my birthday outing at the end of the month. I don’t need a new dress - I have plenty of lovely things to wear, but I wanted one. I had thought of going to Fashion Incubator and splashing out on a designer dress (, but I also want to save my pennies for my trip to Festival at Easter.

The other day I was running through my stash in my head, thinking about another project I suspect, when I remembered the purple crepe I bought earlier in the year. I had planned to make a Golden Age Cat Woman dress for a fancy dress party (, then realised the party clashed with a mate’s gig at the Espy. Since we was driving overnight from Wollongong to do the gig, the least we could do was attend – so the dress was never made.

With less than 3 weeks until my birthday, rather than trying a new pattern, I have decided to make a new version of a dress I made several years ago: Simplicity 9258. I chose the pattern size based on measurements Villana took of me in January – does anyone else find they take bigger sizes in patterns than in off-the-rack clothing? Perhaps it’s because the patterns are not Australian.

Last weekend I cut out all the pieces. I have realised that, for me, I need to break sewing from a commercial pattern down into small steps. First, I cut out the patterns pieces, then I leave it until the next day/weekend to construct – otherwise I suffer delusions of grandeur about the speed with which I sew, and get upset when the piece isn’t finished in a day.

Today, I constructed the bodice section. I am taking my time, reading the instructions carefully and following them precisely, not cutting corners or rushing. And as a result, I am not only enjoying the process, I am really happy with the results (so far). It means I haven’t finished my dress in a day, but I think I will end up with something of which I can be really proud.

So I am not a fast seamstress – I can live with that, as long as I look good doing it.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Tim Gunn Challenge (1)

In his make-over show, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, Tim Gunn asks his subjects to select ten items from their closet that they cannot live without, and explain why they selected each item. These items, says our stylist, should be ‘soul stirring’. Inevitably the subject chooses practical, comfortable, “safe” garments that have been in high rotation in their wardrobe. Rarely are the items classic, inspirational or irreplaceable – and rarely do they meet with the approval of Tim and his co-host Greta.

In the interests of investigative fashion reporting, I have decided to share with you some of the garments I cannot live without. For the purpose of this challenge, I define item as a garment of outer wear, excluding underwear, hosiery, shoes or accessories.

1. Black tulip skirt from Camden Markets, England – so called because of the embroidered tulips, not because of its shape. I love the drop waist with full skirt, which I think is flattering as well as comfortable; the flowers are beautifully done and the red border gives the piece interest and contrast; it moves well when I walk; it is appropriate for a variety of situations and weather conditions.

2. Brown vintage wool coat – well to start with it’s not black! Again, the shape is beautiful and flattering; the black velvet ribbon detail is elegant and glamorous; it works with pants or skirts; it’s practical for winter without being dull, bulky or ugly.

3. Light tan cotton coat from Cotton On – again I like the shape; it’s comfortable; the button detail adds interest; it goes with pants and skirts; it’s a good weight for trans-seasonal wear.

4. Green vintage coat – again, shape is a big factor; the fabric and collar details are interesting and I love the colour; it’s another trans-seasonal piece; it’s a one-off (in fact I think it’s a bespoke garment); and I have altered it for fit and flattery, so it is now bespoke to me.

5. Jeans from Sara

6. Brown Ojay wrap dress – although this is getting on a bit, it’s still one of my go to garments; it can be worn alone or over pants, with boots, sandals or heels, and works for a variety of occasions and weather conditions; the shape and fit I think are flattering; the colours are good for me (I think), and the pattern is interesting.

As you can see, there are only 6 items on my list. I had listed more garments, but upon contemplation, realised they are not soul stirring, merely comforting and comfortable.
So, over to you – what 10 items can’t you live without? Do you have 10 in your wardrobe that are soul stirring? Can you limit it to only 10? Leave a comment here letting me know you’ve taken up the challenge including a link to your own Tim Gunn challenge results.

Yours in fashion,