Category Archives: Fashion commentary

Is It a Trench Coat – or Is it Not?

It is not.  However, I am quite sure this classic look from 1974 was inspired by the classic Trench Coat as we know it.  

I am certain this Vogue pattern is from 1974, as it is featured in that year’s July/August issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.  It is part of a section entitled NEW ARRIVALS.  

The caption tells me it is made in silk shantung, a little bit of information unknown to me when I decided to make my (new) version of it in silk taffeta.  

Interestingly, in the same NEW ARRIVALS section, a dress by Patou also is reminiscent of Trench coat style, with its epaulets, slotted pockets with shaped flaps and a belted waist.  It also has a center back inverted pleat.

Fast forward two years and here is a very classic Trench in the 1976 September/October issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.  

The caption reads: “Come rain, come shine, what more liveable coat than the trench!  All that star reporter elan in epaulets, front & back shields, center back inverted pleat.”  This particular pattern also includes a detachable lining for the coat and additional detachable collar. I believe that is the collar you see in red in the above picture from the magazine.  The thumbnail drawings of the pattern are helpful in seeing these details:

Now, hang onto your hats and fast forward 46 years to 2022.  The Trench Coat, despite being in fashion since the 1940s, is apparently enjoying new attention and reimagination according to an article in the Style & Fashion section of The Wall Street Journal, April 23-24, 2022.  Although I am a little doubtful as to the long-lasting appeal of some of the Trench Coat variations shown and suggested in the article by Katharine K. Zarrella – which include a skirt, pants and a corset (really?) – some of the reflections and thoughts on Trench Coat style by various fashion insiders are worth sharing.  

Michael Kors is quoted as saying:  “A trench coat inherently feels like an old friend that makes you feel very secure…  But you want an old friend to surprise you.”  (Pink checks, anyone?)

Jane Tynan, author of a soon-to-be-released book entitled Trench Coat, says the appeal of the Trench to contemporary women is the “danger and sensuality it conveys.” (Think spies and clandestine meetings.)  However, a certain Loa Patman of Boston, Massachusetts, says, “Anything trench-inspired tends to look somewhat pulled together and professional.”  

Well, I don’t expect to be doing any sleuthing in my Trench-inspired Christian Dior design from 1974, but I do aspire to feel “pulled together” while wearing it.  Right now it is anything but pulled together, as you can see from the photos of my “work in progress”.  

Thinking further about the origins – and definitional category – of this particular design from the House of Dior, it seems to me to be a cross between a dressmaker coat and a Trench. Perhaps “Dressmaker Trench” might be the best description. As you will recall, if you follow this blog, I have referred to “dressmaker coats” before. Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion describes it as: “A woman’s coat designed with softer lines and more details than the average coat. May have a waistline and unusual details, e.g., tucks or pleats.” (p. 92, ibid.)

I’m not sure Dressmaker Coat is a descriptor many use anymore, but it certainly is useful. One thing I am quite certain of, once this Trench-inspired Dressmaker Coat is finished – it promises to stand the test of further time. I anticipate it as a staple in my Spring and early Summer wardrobe.

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Dressmaker coats, Fashion commentary, Mid-Century style, Silk taffeta, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

Personal Style – And the Passage of Time

Over the past few weeks, in anticipation of my current project, I have been thinking about personal style and how it changes – or doesn’t change – over the decades of one’s life.  What  prompted my contemplation is this pattern:

I purchased this pattern when it was new about 1974 or ’75, when I was in my mid-twenties.  I loved the style then, and although I was in dire need of clothes to wear to work, such as dresses and skirts, I must have decided I needed this coat more.  I made it in a tan cotton twill, and it accompanied me on many a trip on the commuter rail line into Philadelphia (Pennsylvania.)    At some point years later, I obviously discarded it, along with other pieces I had diligently sewn.  I am certainly glad I kept the pattern, as I still love this style. Working on it now is a true deja vu experience.

I am not sure I recognized it per se, but my fascination with coats must have already been firmly established in my personal style, even then.  For example, I was obsessed with this color-blocked coat pattern:

At the time, I remember resisting the urge to purchase it, as I could not guarantee to myself that I would actually get around to making it.  The pattern was too expensive ($3.50) for me, at that time, to take that risk.  However, though many years passed by, I never forgot it. Those of you who follow this blog know that I did finally purchase this pattern a few years ago and this time, I did make it! It continues to be one of my favorite pieces, and I feel wonderful wearing it.

Then there is this pattern, also purchased in the mid-seventies:  

I must have thought this was a more practical style and worth the cost.  I never made it, but one of these days I intend to.  

Buried deep in my cedar closet is a white wool coat, purchased when I was in high school in the mid-sixties.  I am not sure why I have kept it all these years except that I loved it and perhaps in some way treasured it more since my father bought it for me.  Its style is very similar to the coat of this pattern – a style I still love  – and also hope to make some day. 

I find it interesting that three of the patterns pictured are Christian Dior designs. Hmmmm…

I guess what I am getting at, using these coats as an example, is how consistent my style has remained over almost five decades.  How about you?  Do you still gravitate to the same profiles in clothes that you wore in your twenties (assuming you are at least 40)?  If not, what has changed?  

What has changed for me is not the style, but the choice of fabrics and color.  I am more adventurous in using color than I was as a young woman, although even then, I gravitated towards pink. 

I made this Moygashel linen dress for our Honeymoon in 1973. Pink? YES!

All this makes me wonder if one’s personal style is part of their DNA; why, for example, do I like softly tailored, feminine clothes (and have obviously done so for years) while someone else likes the Bohemian look and wears it well; why does someone prefer to wear black, and more black, while I love color (and the occasional black, too).  Quentin Bell summed this observation up well in his quote:  “Our clothes are too much a part of us ever to be entirely indifferent to their condition; it is as though the fabric were indeed a natural extension of the body or even of the soul.”  [my italics]

And what about the person who follows every fashion trend that comes along?  Do they not have that personal style component in their DNA, or are they governed by different needs?  Toby Fischer-Mirkin, in her book Dress Code addresses this – and offers some frank advice – in her chapter entitled Fashion and Status:  Under the Spell of Haute Couture:  “The unrelenting quest to be fashionable is usually undertaken to fill not a closet, but a personal void….  A woman’s fashion compass should come from within.  When you’re aware of what works for you, you’ll take pride in that aesthetic and, within the boundaries of good taste, project the person you truly are.”  (pages 146-147)

Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York, New York, c1995

Is your personal style really that important?  Does it allow you to project the person you truly are?  If so, I can understand why one’s personal style does not change very much over the years.  Indeed, Givenchy once said, “With style, you must stay as you are.”  When I was a young woman in my twenties, I never would have guessed I would, decades later, still gravitate towards the same patterns, the same silhouettes, and have the same weaknesses for certain apparel (such as coats.)  I have changed personally in many other ways, but obviously my personal style has not – the recognition of which has been a revelation to me.  

I suspect there are many, many of you who, once you think about it, can say the same thing?  

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Fashion commentary, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized

A Very Pink Coat, Part 1

Some projects deserve more than one blog post and this pattern and coat fall into that category. 

I am making View A, although with the concealed (fly front) opening.
I purchased this cashmere and wool blend from Farmhouse Fabrics. It has a “brushed” surface, giving it a nap which provides a depth to the deep pink color. I have underlined all the components of the coat with silk organza. Basting holds the two fabrics together and also gives me my stitching lines and other pertinent information.

From the magical year of 1957 (I promise some time I will devote an entire post to the notable spot that the year 1957 occupies in the modern history of fashion), this coat pattern is in a class of its own.  Referred to as a “car coat” in two Vogue Pattern Book Magazine entries, it is a quintessential example of that genre.  Here’s why:

  1. It is a wonderful example of fashion following lifestyle.  The copyright date of 1957 puts it firmly in the early appearance of this form.  To wit, the entry for car coats in Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion reads:  “Sport or utility coat made hip-to-three-quarter length, which is comfortable for driving a car.  First became popular with the station-wagon set in suburbia in the 1950s and 1960s and has become a classic style since then.”  (ibid, p. 89)
  2. The flap pockets – three of them – are intentionally utilitarian, but also add a certain finesse to the coat.   Those flaps help protect the contents of the pocket – in the case of a car coat, obviously keys, perhaps gloves, or even a change purse. 
  3. The side slits give a bit of wiggle room to the area of the hips, for sliding in and out of car seats.  And the buttoned tabs at the wrists add to its aesthetic appeal.  No, they are not really necessary, but that is not what this coat was all about.  It was meant to be extremely functional, but smart looking.
  4. The concealed front in View B, commonly referred to as a fly front, steps the appearance of this coat up a notch.  Particularly notable is the arrowhead detail at the top of the topstitching on the front of the coat.  
  5. The busy mother and wife would have looked very “put-together” wearing this coat out and about.  Later versions of the car coat style included Benchwarmer, Duffel coat, Ranch coat, Mackinaw jacket, Stadium coat, and Toggle coat (according to Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion)  But this coat was a car coat, in its very pure early, but fashionable form.

This pattern is featured twice in the Vogue Pattern Book Magazine from August-September 1957.

Here is the longer version shown on page 22:

“The coat that goes over everything.” Here is an interesting observation which might not be readily apparent. When I was fitting my muslin (toile) for this coat, I initially thought the sleeves may be a bit too loose. You can see in this photo they are not slim on the model. But then I realized they have a bit more girth to them for a reason – to give the wearer comfort and unrestricted movement while driving. (And in 1957 there was a good chance she was driving a stick-shift car!) I kept them the way they are as I will appreciate being able to wear a heavy sweater under my coat.

And here on page 37 is a drawing (by illustrator Dilys Wall) of the coat in red with this description:  “A hounds-tooth-check car coat with three flap pockets, side-slit seams, and tab-button detail on the sleeves.  Designed in sizes 10 to 18.”  

Interestingly, also featured in this same magazine is this example of a child’s coat, also with a fly front.  This type of opening takes more skill – and time – to make.  I love the affirmation this item gives to the commitment and ability of the home-sewer in the 1950s.  

Because this coat has those extra details which put it a notch above ordinary, there is a lot of preparation work before seams can actually be sewn together.  The sleeve tabs, with their bound buttonholes must be complete before the sleeve seams can be sewn.  Additionally, the set-in pockets with their flaps present a considerable amount of prep work on the fronts of the coat.  Sounds like fun to me! More to come . . .

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Filed under car coats, Coats, Fashion commentary, Fashion history, Mid-Century style, Pattern Art, pockets, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, woolens

Diversionary Tactics

While bogged down in the fitting of these wool slacks, my mind has been thinking about capes instead. 

Almost ready for the waistband!
But first – finish inserting the lapped zipper and the silk lining.

I know myself well enough to recognize it is always prudent to work on the least favorable item first and save the ”goodies” for later, and that is what I have done with this cape and slacks ensemble introduced in my last post.  There is a reason I have made few pairs of slacks in my years of sewing:  I find fitting them tedious.  So, while I think I am just about satisfied with how they are coming along, the thing which has kept me sane is the prospect of making that beautiful cape. 

All of this has led me to do a little research into capes.  I started with Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, as I often do when investigating a sewing/fashion topic.  Well, oh my!   There happen to be no fewer than 8 pages of entries for capes, cloaks, and shawls!  It turns out a cape is not just a cape, and the history of capes is long indeed.  For my purposes here, the simple definition of a cape is sufficient:  “Sleeveless outerwear of various lengths usually opening in center front; cut in a full circle, in a segment of  a circle, or on the straight – usually with slits for arms.  A classic type of outerwear worn in one form or another throughout history….”  (The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, Third Edition, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyllis Tortora, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New York, c2003)

Interestingly, Christian Dior has no entry for capes in his Little Dictionary of Fashion, another one of my go-to reference books.  But as luck would have it, the newest J. Peterman Company catalogue, Owners Manual No. 197, Holidays 2021, arrived in my mailbox this week.  And there on page 5, he has offered for sale a Plaid Wool Cape, with the enticing caption:  “Capes are mysterious.  Alluring.  Functional. In the past, they’ve existed as an alternative to coats so you wouldn’t crush your real clothing…”  He goes on to say one will not want to take off this particular cape, as there could be nothing better under it.  Well, I guess that’s an arguable point, but you get the picture.  Capes demand attention, but in a good way.

I started thinking about the patterns I have gathered over the years, and I remembered at least two which feature capes.  Once I got into my pattern collection, I found four besides the one I am currently using.  

The earliest one is clearly this Vogue Couturier Design from the second half of the 1950s.

Its description reads:  “Suit and Reversible Cape.  Easy fitting jacket with concealed side pockets buttons below shaped collar.  Below elbow length sleeves.  Slim skirt joined to shaped waistband.  Reversible, collarless cape has arm openings in side front seams.”  I think this is pretty spectacular, and while the suit is lovely, it is enhanced many times over by the addition of the short cape.

Next is this Advance pattern from the 1960s, a cape in two lengths.  

The more I look at capes, the more I think I like the shorter versions.

I was attracted to this pattern because of its lengthwise darts, its rolled collar and back neckline darts.  

This diagram from the back of the envelope shows the finesse of the design.

The 1970s is represented by the Molyneux pattern I am using and two more: a Pucci design and a Sybil Connolly design.

I purchased the Pucci pattern for the dress (which I now believe to be too “youthful” for me), but its cape certainly completes the outfit.  The description reads:  “…Cape with jewel neckline has arm openings in side front seams; back vent [which I find interesting}.  Top-stitch trim.”

And the final cape pattern I own – almost a capelet – is this Sybil Connolly design.  The caption states “…Short asymmetrical flared cape has side button closing.”  No arm slits in this cape.  

I actually made this cape a number of years ago, but I must admit I have worn it infrequently.  The wide stance of the neckline makes it a little unstable.  I guess there is a good reason most capes have a tighter neckline – and open in the center front.  

So there is my whirlwind cape tour. What do you think?  Are capes alluring and mysterious?   Functional and sophisticated?  I, for one, think capes have a slightly romantic charm to them. Do you?  

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Filed under Advance vintage patterns, Capes, Fashion commentary, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

What Do You Think of Pockets?

Do you love pockets and add them to your sewn creations wherever you can?  Would you be happy never to have to sew another pocket?  Do you tolerate them in a garment, preferring to do without if possible?  Many people have very strong opinions about pockets or the lack thereof. I think those of us who sew are among those with the strong opinions, primarily because we have it in our power to add them or delete them.  My personal mantra on pockets is “Let’s see if we can do without them, unless we can’t.”   

I generally divide my thoughts about pockets into three categories: those in dress pants (slacks), those in dresses and skirts, and those in dressier coats and jackets. (A little caveat is probably useful here  before I get any further.  Yes, jeans should have pockets, as should hiking and/or activewear pants and shorts.  And absolutely, pockets are part of the functionality of active outdoor coats and jackets and vests. Those categories are not part of this discussion.)  

It was over two decades ago when I first started thinking about the dilemma pockets in slacks present.  I had just purchased a navy blue wool flannel, dressy pair of slim pants, which fit well and were flattering.  There were two welt pockets on either side of the front which were basted closed, as is the custom in better clothes (leaving it up to the purchasing customer to remove the basting.)  I left the basting in and preserved the slim silhouette of the slacks.  Had I removed the basting, the front, I am sure, would have “pooched” out at those two spots and, well, not done my tummy any favors.  Once I started buying vintage patterns a decade ago, I began to notice the slacks in the patterns from the 1950s generally were pocketless.  (I have long thought fashion and style in the decade of the 1950s was at its zenith, both in elegance and in silhouette, which is a topic for another discussion.)  Here a few examples of patterns from the 1950s:

Note the defining tuck in the front of the pant legs.
These slim pants are enhanced with 4 shaping darts each, front and back, with no waistband.
These slim pants do have a waistband.

In my mind, pockets in dress slacks are superfluous at best, detrimental at worst, and just unnecessary.  Although I rarely make pants and slacks, I have yet to put a pocket in any of them.

Dresses and skirts are a bit more complicated.  Fuller skirts often provide the perfect camouflage for in-seam pockets.  I have sewn at least three such styles, the patterns for which included pockets in the side seams.  Interestingly, two of them were vintage Diane von Furstenberg patterns from the 1970s; the other is a more recent Vogue shirt dress.

This DvF dress pattern from the 1970s has pockets in the side seams.
And so does this one!
Again, pockets in the side seams in this Vogue pattern. The fuller skirts in all three of these dresses conceal the pockets well, but only if they are empty! If I make any of these patterns again, I will not bother with adding pockets.

There was a charming article appearing this summer in a Weekend Edition of The Wall Street Journal by author Jasmine Guillory and her “perfect dress” which, alas, has pockets. (Check her website here to read the article under “About”.)  Here is what she wrote, “The only element that mars this dress’s perfection is its pockets.  This might be a controversial statement, but I don’t like dresses with pockets.  They pooch at my hips, even when empty, and if you put something in them, it’s worse….  What’s this great need for dresses with pockets?”  She goes on to say she regularly takes her dresses with pockets to the dry cleaner to have the pockets removed.  (Alas, again!  Her dry cleaner closed during the pandemic, meaning that her “perfect dress” still has its pockets, making it “almost perfect.”)  

But what about slimmer silhouettes?  In-seam pockets could cause the same “gapping” situation, which begs the question “Would you put anything in those pockets which would cause that pocket to gap even more?  Probably not.  I would place my hankie or my cell phone or lip stick in my handbag, not in my pocket – and that goes for fuller skirts as well.  (Besides, like Jasmine Guillory, I am quite smitten with handbags.) 

However, what about in-seam pockets which are part of the design?  Here is a notable example:

This Vogue Designer pattern has shallow pockets in its side front seams. Somehow, I can’t imagine this dress without them!

And then, of course, applied pockets are often part of the design, but not really intended for practical use.  Take a look at this evening gown: 

Notice that these pockets open from the side.

You might be able to tell I have decided I am not so keen on pockets in skirts and dresses either – UNLESS they are integral to the design.  

Which brings us to coats and jackets.  I think one’s first reaction to this category would be “Well, of course, jackets and coats need to have pockets.”  And for the most part, I would agree with that.  Often pockets in coats and jackets are part of the design and add stylistic interest as well as functionality.  Here are a few examples of coats I have made, with such pockets: 

The pockets in this coat are inserted into the shortened princess seam.
I am very fond of the slanted pockets in this Christian Dior design.
A pocket detail from a Givenchy Vogue coat pattern, with hand sewn topstitching.

Here is a jacket pattern which is in my sewing queue for 2022.  I absolutely love the pockets.

And where would a Classic French jacket be without its pockets?  They are not really functional, but undeniably integral to the design. 

One of the Classic French jackets I have made.

Not all coats have pockets, however.  Take a look at this Madame Gres design which I made in a lavender linen.  It has no pockets, nor would I want them in this Spring coat.

And here is a “summer” coat which I think is just so chic.  No pockets.

I have made this coat pattern twice – once with pockets and once without. 

The wool version has in-seam pockets which I find useful:

A peek inside one of those in-seam pockets.

But here is the same pattern, made as a “cocktail” coat.  I made it pocketless and love it.

No pockets needed when one has a lovely little clutch to carry.

Clearly there is much to consider when it comes to pockets.  When we add them to a garment, or delete them, or change their placement, or baste them shut to eliminate that dreadful “pooch” problem, we are admitting that not all pockets are equal.  Some are perfect in every way, some not so much, and some – are never missed.  

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Filed under Coats, Day dresses, Fashion commentary, Mid-Century style, pockets, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns

“A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing” – Book Review and GIVEAWAY

Two of the most creative and stylish ladies I know in this global fashion sewing community, Sarah Gunn of Goodbye Valentino, and Julie Starr, have collaborated once again on a book dedicated to our craft.  Their first book, The Tunic Bible, published by C&T Publishing, met with acclaim and well-deserved enthusiasm, establishing itself as the go-to standard for creating one-of-a-kind, flattering tunics.  In A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing, Sarah and Julie broaden their focus to cover a range of styles, namely those that have stood the test of time and are considered “classics.”

I love the size of this book. At 9.5″ x 7.5″, it is easy to hold and use.

The book is very handily compartmentalized into 30 chosen styles, the “classics,” thoughtfully documented by Sarah and Julie.  I would have loved to be privy to their brainstorming sessions on what styles to include in this list.  There are the obvious ones, of course, such as the pencil skirt, the sheath dress, the shirtdress, and the French jacket.  But they also cleverly identified some styles not always necessarily thought of as “classic.”  But indeed, they are, and truly deserve their place in this book.  Think Halter dress or top, Palazzo Pants, Jeans-style Jacket, and Menswear Pajamas!  All these and more are included in this book.

Each chapter deals with one ”Classic” and its history and who, throughout the years, has worn it.  Also included are sewing tips, fabric suggestions, and styling guidelines for each classic.  Some of the chapters include a cautionary paragraph on how to avoid the “Frump Factor.”  Simple changes like altering the hem length or wearing the appropriate shoes can change one of these classics from frumpy to fabulous.  Pay attention to the authors’ suggestions because they know about what they are writing!

Here is just one example of tips and styling ideas included with each category.

Accompanying each chapter is also one of my favorite aspects of this book – a carefully chosen quote.  I thought I had come across just about every quote about fashion and sewing that was ever spoken or written.  But somehow, Sarah and Julie have discovered some real gems and placed them perfectly in the book.  Take for example this quote by Winston Churchill included in the chapter for the pencil skirt: “A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt:  long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

Or consider this one by Georgio Armani in the chapter on the Bateau Neckline: “Elegance is not standing out, but being remembered.”  As one who loves a bateau neckline precisely for its elegant appearance, I found this quote perfectly placed.

The center section of the book, nestled comfortably among the many chapters, is “the Classic Garment Gallery.”  I was very flattered to be asked to contribute to this section, which is a compilation of classic styles sewn by “members” of the worldwide sewing community.  Here you can see these classic styles modeled by the makers, and it is a marvel to take this all in.  Yes, this is a section to return to again and again to get inspiration.

And speaking of inspiration, the absolutely delightful illustrations by Beth Briggs will not only captivate you, they will also provide you with styling ideas and concepts.

At the back of the book is a carefully considered list of Resources.  Included are lists of Fabric Books; Fabric Vendors; Fabric Shopping Around the Globe; Trims, Tools, and Notions; Related Articles, Videos, and Online Classes; and Sewing Instruction and Alteration Books.  No beginning or advanced devotee of fashion sewing should be without this list of Resources.

Well, no fashion sewing book is complete without a pattern, and I am happy to report that included with A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing is a multi-sized pattern for the Goodbye Valentino modern classic pencil skirt.  There is nothing quite like a pencil skirt for a basic wardrobe component.  This is a skirt to be made time and again, following the precise instructions included in the back of the book.

This is a sewing book, and as such, targets those of us whose passion is sewing our own fashions.  However, there is much in this book which would be of value to anyone wishing to enhance or perfect her own style.  Likewise, it should be inspirational to those just beginning to sew for themselves as well as those who just aspire to it!  How perfect is this quote from Audrey Hepburn (page 161): “The most attractive accessory a woman has is confidence.”  With this book in hand, you will both sew and dress with confidence and style.

And now, it is with great excitement that I am able to offer my readers a chance to win a copy of this book, compliments of C&T Publishing. Should the winner be a resident of the United States, he or she will receive a print copy of the book;  an international winner will receive a digital copy of the book.   For a chance to win, please leave a comment with this blog post no later than  Sunday, December 8th at 12 noon, Eastern Standard Time.  I will draw the winner late afternoon on Sunday, December 8th.

To read more reviews, and for more inspiration, please visit the following sites (dates indicate the day of review):

Dec 2  Lori VanMaanen

Blog – girlsinthegarden.com

Instagram -@girlsinthegarden

 

Dec 3 Andrea Birkan

Instagram – @andreabirkan

 

Dec 4 Anita Morris

Blog – anitabydesign.com

Instagram – @anitabydesign

 

Dec 6 Alex Florea

Blog – sewrendipity.com

Instagram – @sewrendipity

 

Dec 7 Lucy VanDoorn

Blog – myloveaffairwithsewing.com

Instagram – @myloveaffairwithsewing

 

Dec 7 Cennetta Burwell

Blog – themagonanystylist@blogspot.com

Instagram – @cennetta_burwell

 

Dec 8 Manju Nittala

Blog – sewmanju.com

Instagram – @sewmanju

 

Dec 8 Dorcas Ross

Instagram – @lonestarcouture

 

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Filed under Book reviews, Fashion commentary, Fashion history, Uncategorized

Completing the Pink Coat Ensemble

Although I hope to wear my pink wool coat (completed Spring of 2019) with various dresses and skirts, I particularly wanted to make a skirt which would coordinate with it.  That way I would have a “planned” ensemble.  I envisioned a petite pink-and-gray houndstooth wool, or a mini-checked pink-and-gray wool.  After a wide search and coming up empty-handed, I was just about convinced I was not going to find either of those two fabrics, at least not in the time frame I planned.  And then I found a lightweight wool and silk blend on the website of Farmhouse Fabrics.  It was a variegated gray and oyster-white plaid with a pink pinstripe running through it on the cross-grain.  Although it looked lovely on my computer screen, I wasn’t sure it would fit my needs, so I ordered a swatch.  From the swatch I could see its beautiful quality – and its perfect colors – so my search was over.

I am so accustomed to using silk organza as my underlining, but the incredible softness and delicacy of this fabric made me think twice.  I thought silk organza would undermine the fluidity of the wool/silk blend, so I decided to use a very lightweight cotton batiste instead. Using the Susan Khalje pattern for which I already had a toile (yay!), I made a very simple straight skirt.  Just for fun I decided to line it in pink silk charmeuse.  I had some in stock as I had used it for the pocket linings in my pink coat.  I also lined the waistband, which I like to do when sewing with wool.

The pink charmeuse lining is my unseen homage to this color which I love so much.

I inserted a lapped zipper by hand in the center back seam.

I angled the center back vent toward the center back seam so that it will hang evenly when I am wearing the skirt.

It is easy to see the angle on the vent with this particular fabric.

One side of the vent folded back.

When I cut out the lining for the coat, I maneuvered the pattern pieces to give me a long narrow length of the silk, which I made into a scarf.

Paired with a V-neck gray sweater, it proves to be the perfect accessory.  As Christian Dior said in The Little Dictionary of Fashion, “In many cases, a scarf gives a final touch to a dress.”

It’s a nice combination of colors!

The scarf is a pretty addition to the coat, I think.

It is rewarding to see my vision become reality!

So, now the big question, one which I have been asking myself frequently as of late, “When and where will I be wearing this lovely ensemble?”  It seems life is just so despairingly casual now, affording few opportunities to wear pretty dresses and skirts and specialty coats.  I try to buck the trend when I have the place and time to do so – and I have yet to feel like I have been overdressed.  Of course, Christian Dior had something to say about this, too. “Generally it is very bad to be overdressed, but I think that in certain circumstances it is very impolite and wrong to be underdressed.” I could not agree more and personally prefer to be slightly overdressed than underdressed.  How about you?  I do hope my pink coat, paired with this gray skirt, will prove to be the perfect dressing for many occasions.  I am certain I will enjoy wearing them.

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Fashion commentary, hand-sewn zippers, Linings, Scarves, Straight skirts, Uncategorized, underlinings

Odds and Ends and One Thing You Mustn’t Miss

Sewing has been, well, challenging this summer.  In reality, I think I have been able to accomplish just about all I could have hoped for – so far, at least – but it certainly doesn’t seem like very much.

When I packed fabric to bring along to our new vacation home in Wyoming, I tried to think ahead and determine exactly what I would need.  For instance, I brought two decorator fabrics which I had picked out for two of our “new” bedrooms, with plans for making decorative pillows and at least one bed skirt.  I also brought two fabrics with which to make dresses for our two little granddaughters who were arriving, along with the rest of our immediate family, in late July.  I also brought some vintage Moygashel linen, many pieces of shirting and dress cottons, skirt fabric, and a piece of Viyella cotton/wool blend.  What was I thinking?!!  Certainly no one could accuse me of being under-ambitious!

I totally misjudged how much of my time would be taken up with organizing and setting up a new household.  So – what have I been able to sew?  A number of decorative pillows, for one thing. I find them – and all that self-bias tape I had to construct – utterly boring to make, but satisfying once they are completed.    The bed skirts have been moved to the “still to do” list.

was able to make dresses for my granddaughters.  My original intent was to make each dress out of a different fabric, but when I stretched out my ladybug embroidered, striped fabric from Emma One Sock, I realized I had more than I needed for one dress.  With one minor compromise, I knew I could get two dresses from my existing yardage.  So I changed plans and made matching dresses.

I made white piping for the pockets and collars out of kitchen string and white batiste.  The ladybug embroidered fabric is really so cute!

The compromise I had to make involved the sashes, as I did not have enough fabric to cut sashes for two dresses. Fortunately I had enough of the coordinating red fabric to make the sashes. Now I’m glad it worked out that way, as I think it makes the dresses cuter.

I had pre-purchased red decorative buttons, thinking I would need them for just one dress. Normally I would put three in a row centered beneath the collar, but with four buttons, and two dresses … Well, you do the math!  Two on each dress it is!

Having spent many summer days and nights in Wyoming before this year, I knew  from experience how chilly the mornings – and nights – can be throughout the summer.  (The days are warm and glorious, however.)  Warm cozy slippers and a winter-weight bathrobe are necessities. And that is why I brought along the afore-mentioned Viyella fabric.  Although I packed a winter-weight robe which I made a few years ago, I wanted to make a new robe which I can leave here, therefore eliminating one bulky item from future suitcases.

How lovely to have the opportunity to use this vintage Vogue pattern once again.

This robe takes a lot of fabric, and it was a tight squeeze fitting all the pattern pieces on it and matching the plaid as well.  I had to make the sash out of two pieces of fabric, seaming it in the back. Additionally, I had enough fabric for only one pocket (I prefer two.) But, I am happy with the outcome, and very pleased to have used one more piece of fabric from my sizeable collection!

Viyella is the perfect fabric for a lightweight, but warm bathrobe. It is machine washable, and gets softer with age.

While the bathrobe, and the little dresses, were enjoyable to make, neither were challenging in the “couture” sense.  So I did my  “couture” dreaming vicariously through the Susan Khalje  Couture Sewing Club, where inspiration abounds in many forms.  Earlier in the month, Susan was interviewed for the “Love to Sew” podcast.  Treat yourself and spend a lovely hour-plus listening to it, if you haven’t already done so.  The interview, Episode 106, dated August 12th, can be found here:

www.lovetosewpodcast.com.

Among Susan’s new pattern offerings is this jacket:

When I arrive back home in Pennsylvania, I will be searching through my fabric closet for the perfect pairing for this pattern.  I am just itching to challenge myself with such a project.  No more pillows, at least for now!

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Filed under Bathrobes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Fashion commentary, Sewing for children, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

More on Dior

In re-reading my last two reviews of the Dior in Denver Exhibit, I realize how very little I was able to include, when there was so much to see and learn.  Well, these reviews cannot go on forever, but there are a few other aspects and components of the Exhibit that I still want to share.

In one of the narrower passageways between Exhibit “rooms,” there was a display of Dior scarves lining each side.  From the Dior Heritage Collection in Paris, these printed silk twill scarves were designed by Alexandre Sache between about 1958-1976.

The very bright graphic ones were so eye-catching:

And this engaging one with its impressionistic rose in the center was my favorite, I think:

You may have noticed in my first two reviews how many of the fashions, especially the early ones, were made in black.  Dior considered black “the most elegant of all colors.”  While they often do not photograph as well as other colors, these fashions made in luscious black fabrics commanded attention throughout the Exhibit.

I apologize for not having the attribution on this cocktail dress.

Also spread throughout the Exhibit were quotes from the various Creative Directors.  Two especially caught my eye.  The first, from Christian Dior himself, was one I had never read before.  “The Americans are, by essence, impeccable.”  Wow!  What a lovely tribute to his stylish American clients.

And then there is this one from the current Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri:  “A dress can have some impact but a woman makes the difference with her attitude.” This quote needs no further commentary…

The Exhibit included so many supporting documents and written and printed materials, it was impossible to identify the most important.  But I want to share this copy of Time Magazine from March 4, 1957, with Christian Dior on its cover.

Dior died the same year, 1957, on October 24th.

As Exhibit goers departed the exhibition space, there were paper punch-out Dior “handbags” for the taking:

Here is the reverse of this small bag, with punch-out puzzle pieces of the coat included! So clever.

After four hours nonstop in the Exhibit, I reluctantly departed from the Denver Art Museum to get a very late lunch, with intentions to return to the museum shop for a little browsing.  Here I am upon my return, standing in front of one of the displays of books:

And here is the bag (I love bags!) which housed all those lovely purchases made at the Museum Shop:

Upon my return home to Pennsylvania, I was anxious to see what Christian Dior Vogue Designer Patterns I have in my collection of vintage patterns.  Two are actually ones I purchased in the early 1970s, another time in my life when I was  actively sewing for myself :

I made this coat when I was in my early twenties. I only wish I still had it!

I never made this pattern, but I may still do so.

And then there are these two, somewhat recent purchases:

These two patterns are earlier than the two above.

And yes, you do see a theme emerging if you consider these four patterns.  They are all coats!  (I am obsessed with coats…) Any guess what my current project is (after I make birthday dresses for my granddaughters)?

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Fashion commentary, Fashion Exhibits, Fashion history, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

Dior: From Paris to the World in Denver, Colorado: Review of the Exhibition, Part 1

Some opportunities in life just beg to be taken advantage of.  Such was the case when I knew that Dior: From Paris to the World would be at the Denver Museum of Art from November, 2108 until March, 2019.  Denver is a four-hour plane trip from my home on the East Coast of the United States, but, really, that did not deter me.  My husband said he would join me on this expedition, and the icing on the cake was the fact that our son and his girlfriend, who live in California, would rendezvous with us in Denver to have a long weekend together.

Tickets to the Exhibition needed to be purchased in advance, as the Museum had timed entrance to view it.

I had read numerous professional reviews of the Exhibit before arriving in Denver, so I knew that the displays of the clothing did not have captions on them.  Instead, attendees each received a “little black book” in which were listed the numbered captions and a replica of the storyboards on display throughout the Exhibit.

I loved this method of captioning.  It allowed the clothing to appear uncluttered, reading the captions was easier than trying to share a small space with lots of other exhibition goers, and the little black book makes a wonderful reference to pair with the photos I took.  (The only confusing aspect was that many of the fashions on display were not in numerical order, so I had to pay close attention to the numbers on the platforms as I read my little black book.)  In addition, the Museum provided each attendee with an audio device, for intermittent descriptions and historical context throughout the Exhibit.  Most of the designated  audio stops in the Exhibit had not only an adult version, but also a “kids” version, which I thought was a brilliant idea.

The Exhibit was huge, incredibly comprehensive, and beautifully presented.  It is not only a retrospective of the Fashion House founded and “grounded” by Christian Dior, it is also a visual history of some of the most important influences on modern, post-war fashion. It reminds us in no uncertain terms of the importance of Christian Dior himself  in shaping our current interest and fascination with the world of haute couture – and for those of us who sew – the world of couture dressmaking and sewing.

In this Part I of my review, I will limit myself to the Artistic Directors/Fashion Designers – and their body of work – who have led the House from its beginning in 1947 up until the current day.

It was exactly 72 years ago today, February 12, 1947, when Christian Dior presented his first collection.  Although he named the two lines of his collection  Corolle (Flower) and En8 (Figure 8), the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Carmel Snow, immediately gave a new name to this ground-breaking style, calling it the “New Look,” a designation which endures today. Of course, the most recognizable of this New Look is the Bar suit.

Other dresses from the reign of Dior himself include the following:

Wool afternoon dress, Fall-Winter, 1948.

Wool suit with high windbreaker collar, Fall-Winter 1949. I find this a rather remarkable look for 1949.

Taffeta evening dress, Fall-Winter 1952. Dior was known for punctuating his shows with a vibrant red dress at the halfway point.

Satin dress with Chinese motif, Fall-Winter 1956.

Short brocaded silk evening dress, Fall-Winter 1957. This was so gorgeous!

Here is a side view of the same dress.

After Dior’s untimely death of a heart attack in 1957, the House was led by Yves Saint Laurent, who had been 19 when Christian Dior hired him as an assistant in 1955. Only 21 at this pivotal time for the fashion house, Saint Laurent boldly presented a departure in silhouette in his first collection in 1958.  The Trapeze – or Triangle – collection was welcomed by fashionable women, and Saint Laurent was embraced as fashion’s new hero despite his young age.

Short evening dress with bobble fringe trim, Fall-Winter 1960.

Wool ensemble, Fall-Winter 1960. Notice the large pompom buttons.

This side view shows the size of the pompoms. This was really a fantastic look.

Short evening dress embellished with satin bows, part of Saint Laurent’s Trapeze line, Spring-Summer 1958.

By 1960, Saint Laurent veered again, presenting his “Beatnik” look, which was too radical at the time to be widely accepted.  He left the House of Dior that year and was succeeded by Marc Bohan in 1961.

Bohan had the longest tenure as Creative Director for the House of Dior, leading the firm from 1961-1989.  His first collection emphasized slim youthfulness, but with a classic nod to the founder of the House.  Elegance, beautiful fabrics, embroidery, restrained but noteworthy color, and exacting fit were his hallmarks.

This image is from a looping video in the Bohan section of the Exhibit. Classic coats with coordinating dresses is what I think of during the 1960s, and Bohan was a master of such.

And here the models show the dresses beneath the coats.

Long printed faille evening dress, Fall-Winter 1971. The placement of the stripes is so well executed, leaving the top of the shoulders in black.

And here is Bohan’s sketch of a similar dress.
The supporting documentary materials in the Exhibit gave another layer of interest to it.

In 1989, the Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre became the Artistic Director of the House of Dior.  After a rise in ready-to-wear in the world of fashion, Ferre was part of the revived interest in haute couture, and his designs are rich in color, ornamentation, and volume.  He stayed at the House until 1996.

Wool ensemble, Fall-Winter 1989. Doesn’t this look like the 1980s?

Long embroidered quilted lame dress and taffeta coat, Fall-Winter 1992.

Long printed organza satin dress, Spring-Summer 1995. The fabric in this dress is absolutely exquisite.

Printed chiffon dress embroidered with grass stalks, Spring-Summer, 1996.

John Galliano took over the helm in 1997.  Although still steeped in the precision and excellence of haute couture, Galliano became known for flamboyance, foreign influences in his designs, and his own rock-star status.  And oops!  I am lacking photos of examples of Galliano’s work.  Never a fan, I read about every one of his works on display, but failed to concentrate on photos.

After the sometimes rocky tenure of Galliano, Raf Simons was a breath of fresh air.  He became Artistic Director in 2012, and although known for his minimalism, he followed the heritage of the House of Dior. His designs showed a new romanticism, a love of color, and the influence of some of the world’s best modern art.

Three-quarter length duchess satin evening gown, Fall-Winter 2012.

Two-piece dress, Spring-Summer 2015.

And here is Simon’s notebook, detailing this dress.

Wool tuxedo jacket and wool cigarette pants, Fall-Winter 2012.

After Simons tenure ended in 2015, the House selected its first female Artistic Director. Maria Grazia Chiuri arrived in 2016.  She is a great student of Christian Dior and her designs are freshly reminiscent of his.  She features flowers, excellence in construction, with an occasional nod also to the modernist artists of the 20th century.

Wool crepe skirt suit, Fall-Winter 2017. More red – I love it.

Tulle ball gown, embroidered with poppies, Spring- Summer 2017.

Are you exhausted yet? There is still so much more to come, but that will be in Part II.  And – I have some sewing that needs attention, too.  Imagine that!  To be continued, both the Exhibit and my sewing.

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Filed under Christian Dior, Fashion commentary, Fashion Exhibits, Fashion history, Uncategorized