Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal Fashion coverage

Do You Do Pink?

Apparently, pink is a controversial color. Or maybe “was a controversial color” is a better statement. A recent article by Nancy MacDonnell in the Off Duty section of The Wall Street Journal (“Making Peace with Pink” February 11-12, 2017) makes a case for the appropriateness – and timeliness – of pink even for those who think they don’t like it. While I am one who thinks pink is always in fashion, it turns out that this Spring, it really is in fashion! According to Ms. MacDonnell, “On this season’s runways, pink predominated.” The different fashion houses showed varying interpretations of pink: Michael Kors was “brisk, All-American, [and] cheery.” J. Crew was “equally upbeat,” while Valentino showed pink that was “lush and romantic, with intricate appliqués and historical references…”   The list goes on and on. The unifying thread (pardon the pun), as claimed by the designers, was the lack of traditional “sweetness” associated with pink, with emphasis on the feminine power inherent in the color.

Looming large on page 58 from the November 2016 WSJ Magazine is a Valentino coat, quite traditional in design, but made very special by its stunning appliquéd pink wool.

According to Dr. Valerie Steele, the Museum Director at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, who was quoted frequently in Ms. MacDonnell’s article, the idea of pink as a feminine color did not take hold until the 1950s. Back in 1954 when Christian Dior wrote The Little Dictionary of Fashion, his entry on “pink” stated: “The sweetest of all the colors. Every woman should have something pink in her wardrobe. It is the color of happiness and of femininity.”   He even used pink throughout his book for illustrations, chapter headings and the title page. He recommended pink “for blouses and scarves; … for a young girl’s frock; it can be charming for suits and coats; and it is wonderful for evening frocks.” Who can argue with that, be it 1954 or 2017?

The title page of Dior’s smart little dictionary. (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., NY, NY, copyright 2007)

This page from the June/July 2013 issue of Town and Country Magazine gives an interesting timeline of the color pink, “how the color of little girls and baby dolls came of age”:

Click on the image to read it.

I particularly like this statement from Laura Vinroot Poole, the founder of boutique Capitol in Charlotte, N. C., quoted in The Wall Street Journal article: “To wear pink, you have to be an interesting and smart person… You have to have things to say. In pink, you can’t hide.”   Nor would you want to.

Personally, pink is my favorite color. I am always drawn to it, regardless of its hue. And its hue covers a huge range from palest pink to deepest fuchsia, from bubblegum pink to raspberry red. In thinking about pink for this post, I gathered this stack of pink fabrics from my collection. Just looking at it makes me happy!

From top to bottom:
1) vintage Moygashel linen, purchased on eBay
2) silk charmeuse, purchased from Britex Fabrics
3) vintage Moygashel linen, purchased by me in the 1970s
4) linen, possibly Moygashel, purchased on etsy
5) silk jacquard purchased from Britex Fabrics
6) silk charmeuse, purchased from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics
7 & 8) coordinating silks, purchased from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics

The only controversy I have with pink is deciding which hue of it I like best.

17 Comments

Filed under Fashion commentary, Moygashel linen, silk, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric

The Domino Effect

Being totally smitten with this bold floral linen, purchased within the past year, I have had my heart set on making it into a day dress this Summer.

Big, bright daisies with lavender centers.

Big, bright daisies with lavender centers.

Not long after I purchased it, this small article on “Signs of Spring 2015 On New York Runways” appeared in the September 10, 2014 Wall Street Journal.

"Memorable moments included bold floral daytime dresses from Carolina Herrara..."

“Memorable moments included bold floral daytime dresses from Carolina Herrera…”

And then in November of 2014, more of Carolina Herrera’s Spring/Resort collection for 2015 was featured in Town & Country magazine.

Perennial daises on two lovely Carolina Herrera dresses.

Perennial daises on two lovely Carolina Herrera dresses.

It seems this vintage Moygashel linen from the late 1960s, with its bold daisy design is very much in vogue currently, both for its size and its floral motif. (The bodice of my recent fancy dress also featured a “daisy” motif in the silk embroidered organza):

The Allure of silk, pt 1

Although I am of the mind that daisies are always in vogue, nevertheless, this seems like the perfect year to fashion a dress from this linen. Such a demonstrative print begs for a simply-styled dress, such as – you guessed it – a sheath dress.   The fabric will make this dress, not the pattern. How could I, I wondered, do something a little different and still keep it simple? The answer to that question began to take shape when I found a length of pale lavender Moygashel linen this past Spring. Suddenly I envisioned a V-back to a sheath dress with a rounded neck, detailed with piping made from this lavender linen.

Then it began to get complicated. With just a few inches over 3 yards of the 35” wide lavender fabric, I knew I would have to calculate carefully when I cut bias strips for the piping, if I wanted to fashion another garment out of the lavender. And of course, I do! Actually, when I looked at the lavender fabric, and paired it with any number of my other fabrics and/or dresses, it seemed the only thing to use it for was a “Spring” coat. But would I have enough fabric for both a coat and bias strips for piping?

Obviously, I would have to find a coat pattern and lay it out leaving enough space for bias strips, to see if I could manage this minor miracle. Of all my coat patterns, this Madame Gres design is the one I decided had the best chance of working, both for my limited yardage and for the pattern’s simple, uncluttered lines:

The short version of the coat is on the left.

The short version of the coat is on the left.

The fact that it is featured with below elbow length sleeves and in a shorter version – perfect for pairing with coordinating dresses – worked in my favor. The entire coat has only 5 pattern pieces: front, back, collar, undercollar, and front facing. First I positioned the tissue pattern pieces on my fabric, strewn out on the floor selvedge to selvedge. I was heartened enough by this exercise to go ahead and make a muslin, so I could have a “real” pattern to work from. All this time, the pink flowered daisy linen lay folded, awaiting her turn.

One of the most unusual features of the coat design is the front dart, which serves both as a bust dart and as a side-shaping dart. As is so often the case with these vintage patterns, the dart sewn as indicated on the pattern was too high for me. In addition, it pulled and stretched the kimono shoulder in all the wrong ways. I lowered the apex of the dart and re-sewed it, trying to preserve its curve, and suddenly it fit like a charm.

The newly drawn dart is in orange, while its original position is in red.

The newly drawn dart is in orange, while its original position is in red.

Now that I had a workable pattern, I knew I could just eke out the coat if I “pieced” the left front facing. I could live with that! And, just as important, I would have enough of the fabric to cut bias strips for piping for my daisy sheath. Whew!

This see-through ruler helped me find a corner from which to cut the bias strips for the piping.

This see-through ruler helped me find a corner from which to cut the bias strips for the piping.

So now, the pieces for the coat, with their silk organza underlinings pinned in place, are taking their turn waiting for further attention. One project started another and now both are lined up like a circle of dominoes, ready to go down in an orderly fashion, albeit in slo-o-o-w motion.

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Filed under kimono sleeves, Linen, Moygashel linen, piping, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns

January Jumper

My blanket dress has morphed into a jumper. Not that that means it is going to look any different. Probably the biggest question I had when deciding to make my Irish blanket into a dress instead of a skirt was “how practical is this”? A sleeveless “everyday” dress for Winter? It was a given fact that I would be wearing a cardigan sweater with it, but I wasn’t sure I could find a suitably hued sweater to go with the bold plaid of the blanket. I had visions of taking up knitting (which I still should do…) in order to get the correct sweater match for this dress.

And then, last week in the Style section of The Wall Street Journal the lead article was entitled “How Dresses Lost Their Sleeves.” The sub-caption was “Women Want to Cover Their Arms Comfortably, but Designers Say That is Asking too Much.” It seems that many designers consider sleeves to be “frumpy”. Apparently, it is “so tricky to make a flattering sleeve that is roomy enough to offer a full range of motion.” (I can’t help but insert here a MEMO to current designers: take a hint from styles in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Sleeves were often designed in two pieces to create extra give without bulk, many sleeves had two or even three elbow darts to add ease of movement, and of course, kimono and dolman sleeves were stylish and their roominess added to the overall look of a dress or coat.) But – back to the sleeveless dress dilemma. The three solutions offered in the article are, of course, first, pairing that sleeveless dress with a cardigan sweater; second, wear a coordinating blazer or jacket with the dress; and third, “layer a thin T-shirt, turtleneck, or blouse under the dress – taking care to choose a neckline that looks graceful with the dress.” Of course! This solution makes the dress into a jumper! The term “jumper” conjures up visions of school uniforms, little girls’ attire, and bib aprons for many people, but for me, it reminds me of a look I have always loved and enjoyed wearing.

This entry from The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, Third Editiion, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New York, 2003, defines various types of jumpers, including the A-line jumper.

This entry from The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, Third Editiion, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New York, 2003, defines various types of jumpers, including the A-line jumper.

About the time I was reading this article, I had already cut the lining for my blanket dress. I had (very proudly, I might add) found some yellow crepe de chine in my fabric collection which I knew would be perfect for the lining. Not only did this mean I would not have to buy another piece of silk, but this particular color of yellow also had a slight brownish-greenish tinge to it, making it a pretty and pretty perfect complement to the plaid of the blanket.

Not sure the real color of this silk comes through here, but it's close!

Not sure the real color of this silk comes through here, but it’s close!

Now a woman with a mission, I checked on the remaining yardage of the yellow silk. I pulled out a vintage blouse pattern which I thought would compliment the lines of the dress and the neckline. I laid the pattern pieces out to determine if I had enough fabric to make a long-sleeved blouse. Yes, I am sure I do if I am “creative” when laying it out.. (When do I ever not have to be creative in my pattern lay-outs?)

And that’s how my dress turned into a jumper. Talk about frumpy! But seriously, how frumpy can a fringed-hem jumper be? I don’t think it will be, but I guess we’ll see for certain after the “ensemble” is complete. In the meantime, I’ll share the details of the finished jumper/dress .

January Jumper

January Jumper

1) I used brown thread to sew the fashion fabric, and it blended in beautifully.

2) The dress is underlined in white silk organza.

Here are the silk organza pattern pieces arranged on the fashion fabric.

Here are the silk organza pattern pieces arranged on the fashion fabric.

I cut the silk organza the full needed length of the dress in order to know exactly where the fringe should be placed for the hemline.   Then I trimmed off the excess later in the process.

I cut the silk organza the full needed length of the dress in order to know exactly where the fringe should be placed for the hemline.

I trimmed the organza about an inch from the beginning of the fringe and catch-stitched the edge of it very carefully to the fashion fabric. The tight weave of the blanket allowed me to do this without stitching or pulling showing on the right side of the dress.

January Jumper

3) I cut the armholes a little deeper than I would for a sleeveless dress, in order to accommodate the sleeves of the still-to-be-made blouse.

January Jumper

4) After trying it on to check the fit, it felt funny not have more weight at the hem other than the single layer of fringe. So I got the brainy idea to double up the fringe if I had enough left in my scraps. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this, but I thought I could somehow figure it out. Sure enough, with piecing and matching, I had enough fringe to add another layer directly underneath the existing layer. When I found a long piece of brown rayon hem tape (vintage, no less, complete with rusted pin holding it all together!), I knew I had a plan. I stitched the pieced sections of fringe onto the rayon tape, and then hand-applied it to the dress. First I attached the upper edge to the lower raw edge of the silk organza , and then carefully slip-stitched along the “hem” edge to make the two layers of fringe act as one.

January Jumper

 

Another look at this!

Another look at this!

5) Of course you already know the dress is lined in yellow crepe de chine!

January Jumper

January Jumper 6) I saved the label from the blanket and sewed it into the back neck edge, so I’ll always be reminded of our lovely trip to Ireland when I put this on!

January Jumper

I guess on really cold days, even a blouse may not be enough to keep arms warm. I just may have to be really frumpy and wear a long-sleeved silk under-shirt underneath it all. Or maybe I really should take up knitting?

18 Comments

Filed under couture construction, Jumpers, Uncategorized, underlinings, woolens

A Fascinating Foundation

Vogue patterns from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s never cease to amaze me. The intricacies of construction, the detailed instructions, and the artistic styling of so many of the patterns from those three decades make sewing from them such a pleasure. Each one is like a mini sewing lesson, neatly packaged with beautiful photos and/or sketches and precise line drawings.

Such has been the Emilio Pucci Designer pattern on which I am currently working.

Happy New Sewing Year - Pucci pattern

The unusual construction of the jacket caught my attention as I was trying to lay out its lining pattern pieces along with pattern pieces for the dress.  As I mentioned before, the front of the jacket is cut on the bias. However the interfacing and the lining pieces for the front are cut on the straight of grain. How, I wondered, is that going to work? The answer to that question is one of the most fascinating construction methods I have ever come across.

The interfacing and the lining both have deep darts to form the bust line. Of course, the jacket front, cut on the bias, is going to have built-in give for the bust. But in addition to that, there was a “cup-like” pattern piece for adding to the front interfacing, clearly with the goal of enhancing the bust line, and defining it.

The "cup-like" pattern piece is in the lower right.  Notice the large dart in the piece next to it.

The “cup-like” pattern piece is in the lower right. Notice the large dart in the piece next to it.

Here is the instruction page for assembling these interfacings. In effect, it is a process for making an interior bra.

Click on the diagram to read it more easily.

Here are my front interfacing pieces with the darts sewn.

Here are my front interfacing pieces with the darts sewn.

Here I am reinforcing the darts in the bust (cup) interfacings.

Here I am reinforcing the darts in the bust (cup) interfacings.

Here they are ready to be added to the base interfacing pieces.

Here they are ready to be added to the base interfacing pieces.

And here are the front interfacings assembled and ready to be attached.  Looks kind of risque, don't you think?

And here are the front interfacings assembled and ready to be attached. Looks kind of risque, don’t you think?

Note also the detailed instructions for making the bound buttonholes on the above instruction sheet. I did a practice run on a bound buttonhole, being careful to layer the fabrics exactly as they would be layered on the front of the jacket.

My sample buttonhole.

My sample buttonhole.

The right jacket front, marked for buttonhole placement.

The right jacket front, marked for buttonhole placement.

Another detailed instruction was given for the sharp angle under the sleeve. The instructions called for a 2” x 2” square of fabric to reinforce that corner. I used black organza.

The organza patch is sewn on the right side of the jacket and pressed to the inside.

The organza patch is sewn on the right side of the jacket and pressed to the inside.

The organza patch makes a very secure and precisely sewn  corner possible.

The organza patch makes a very secure and precisely sewn corner possible.

And here are just a couple of photos of the interior of the jacket with the rest of the interfacings attached.

The right front of the jacket, with buttonholes sewn.

The right front of the jacket, with buttonholes sewn.

Thje front of the jacket.  Note the "stays" made our of seam binding.  They are loose except where they are attached at the underarm and at the collar.

Thje front of the jacket. Note the “stays” made out of seam binding. They are loose except where they are attached at the underarm and at the neckline.

The back of the jacket - simple compared to the front!

The back of the jacket – simple compared to the front!

There is something else that never ceases to amaze me either about these sophisticated vintage Vogue patterns.   That is – how stylish and current so many of them are.   Here’s an example of what I mean. Take a look at these recent jackets from current designers.

I clipped this out of The Wall Street Journal sometime within the past year, but I unfortunately forgot to note the date.  Click on the photo for a close-up.

I clipped this out of The Wall Street Journal sometime within the past year, but I unfortunately forgot to note the date. Click on the photo for a close-up.

The article rightly makes the reference to Balenciaga, but look how similar these are to the Pucci jacket on which I am working.

A Fascinating foundation -picture of Pucci jacket

These thumbnail sketches  also help to show the similarity to the current jackets.

These thumbnail sketches also help to show the similarity to the current jackets.

Well! I am looking forward to sharing some more details about this outfit when I can show it completely finished – in my next post – and answering those nagging questions, “Did piecing the lower sleeves on the jacket lining actually work? Will anyone guess my secret?”

 

 

21 Comments

Filed under bound buttonholes, couture construction, kimono sleeves, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns

“P” is for Pearl — and — Perseverance

Among timeless fashion statements, pearls and wrap dresses both make my top-ten list.  The opportunity to combine the two was just too good to pass by, especially after being inspired by a silk charmeuse perfectly suited for just such a pairing.

Pearls and ribbons and clusters!

Pearls and ribbons and clusters, fabric purchased from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in NYC.

As luck would have it, shortly after I purchased the silk for this dress, an entire article in the Style & Fashion section of The Weekend Wall Street Journal of August 24 – 25 (2013) was devoted to “the old-fashioned allure of pearls…”  It seems that pearls are “showing up on everything from shoes to wallpaper to chairs”  – and to fabric, as evidenced by my Italian silk charmeuse.  I am just “old-fashioned” enough to think that pearls are never not in style, but I must admit that even I was smitten with the unusual and modern approach of this fabric design.

Pearls required - WSJ article

Pearls are showing up everywhere, it seems.

So – how would this modern fabric look, made up in a mid-1970s’ wrap dress pattern?   I thought it would work quite well. But getting there turned out to be challenge.  Although I was lacking the classic Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress pattern that I envisioned for this dress (blogged about here), I thought I could piece together a 1976 Simplicity version and a new Vogue wrap dress pattern to achieve my goal.

This is the dress I wanted to recreate...

This is the dress I wanted to recreate…

The Simplicity "version" of the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress.

The Simplicity “version” of the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress.

Vogue 8784 diagrams

Vogue 8784 diagrams

Here’s what I did:

1) I decided to use the princess-seamed bodice back from the new Vogue pattern.

2) I re-cut the collar and the cuffs from the Simplicity pattern so that the points on them would not so extreme.

3) Because the ties on the Simplicity pattern were not attached to the dress (the tie was just like a very long separate sash) I used the ties from this DvF pattern, and attached them to the side seams.

Pearls required - DvF pattern

4) The missing sleeve pattern piece in the Simplicity pattern meant that I had to use the sleeve from the new Vogue pattern and basically redraft it, with an elbow dart, and with cuffs.  I also used Simon Henry’s book The Little Black Dress: How to make the perfect one for you as a reference.

Pearls required - LBD book

This is the wrap LBD dress featured in the book.

5) I ended up making two complete muslins and re-stitching one of those muslins, before I had a workable pattern.  All of this seemed to take forever!

When I finally cut out the black silk organza underlining, I was ready for a celebration, but of course, that would have been premature.  Although the design in the fashion fabric really could not be “matched”, I still had to respect the placement of the “clusters” as they would relate to the bodice.  (I did not want “clusters” at the apex of the bust darts, for example.)   And I felt like the “clusters” should be placed at equal distances from each other over the expanse of the dress, if possible.  After determining all this and  cutting out the fashion fabric, I finally got to sewing, which included lots of basting, catch-stitching all the seams to the underlining, understitching the collar by hand (which worked beautifully, for which I was very grateful!), setting in the sleeves, making the lining, etc., etc.

Here is the final placement of the fabric design on the front of the bodice . . .

Here is the final placement of the fabric design on the front of the bodice . . .

P is for pearl

. . . and here is the bodice back.

Understitching the collar created a slight under-curve which helps the collar lay flat.

Understitching the collar created a slight under-curve which helps the collar lay flat.

This boring view just shows the lining that was so tedious to attach!

This boring view just shows the lining that was so tedious to attach!

I made the mistake of making the cuffs before a final fitting of the sleeves. (I thought I was being smart and getting “prep” work done, but I just made more work for myself).  I ended up shortening the sleeves and enlargening the openings so that I would be able to push them up on my arms if I wanted to.  The cuffs I had made were not long enough to accommodate these adjustments, so back I went to cut and make new cuffs.  Fortunately I had just enough fabric to squeeze these out!

For buttons for the cuffs, I went to my button box and came up with this card:

The original price of these buttons was 10 cents.  I picked them up for 50 cents at some point.  It almost seemed a shame to cut them off of the card!

The original price of these buttons was 10 cents. I picked them up for 50 cents at some point. It almost seemed a shame to cut them off of the card!

Because I had reduced the points on the cuffs, I needed “not-too-big” buttons and these proved to be perfect, I thought, and in keeping with the “pearl” theme.

Here is one of the cuffs with buttons attached.

Here is one of the cuffs with buttons attached.

Working on the black fashion and lining fabrics was tedious.  And it seemed the more I worked on this dress, the more there was to do on it!  Kind of like eating a big bowl of pasta – the work seemed to multiply before my eyes.  Fast, easy, and jiffy this was not!  It’s times like this that being of a stubborn nature serves me well.  I persevered and got it done!  And even better, I am really happy with the results.

I will replace this photo with one of me in the dress as soon as I can!

Here is the dress on my new dress form . . .

. . . and here it is on ME!

. . . and here it is on ME!

DSC_1022

DSC_1028

P is for pearl

Now – two more “P” words.  I have “P”romised myself that my next “P”roject will be simple.  Maybe a blouse – or even a blanket?

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Little Black Dress, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Wrap dresses

Paris in Baltimore – and Beyond: A Small Fashion Show

Shortly after I returned home from my Classic French Jacket Class with Susan Khalje, an article entitled “The Comeback of Haute Couture” appeared in The Wall Street Journal.  The reporter, fashion editor Christine Binkley, gives an overview – from the haute couture week in Paris, of course – of the frenzied and renewed interest in “astronomically expensive made-to-measure clothing [ranging] from $10,000 to $150,000 or more.”  Among the fashion houses showing haute couture collections was Chanel.  To quote:  “Chanel . . . looked as though the clothes could be easily worn, even if they were assembled, pleated, and embellished by dozens of ‘petite mains,’ as haute couture seamstresses are called. ‘Of course it’s comfortable.  It’s Chanel,’ said designer Karl Lagerfeld . . .”

“Comfortable” is a description frequently used by those of us making our own Chanel-inspired jackets.  Of course, everyone knows that the inspiration for Coco Chanel’s original cardigan jacket came when she cut her lover’s cardigan sweater down the front, added some ribbon trim and created a classic.  How the construction of the jacket went from sweater to quilted, silk-lined boucle is unknown to me, but one thing is for sure:  these jackets feel as cozy and comfy as any old favorite sweater.  I think this was a revelation and lovely surprise to all of us.  It makes wearing them all the more rewarding.

And – wear them we are starting to do!  Some of my classmates have kindly given me permission to show their finished jackets here on Fifty Dresses.  I am delighted to share these lovely examples made by “petite mains” Joanne, Holly, Myra, and Sherry:

Joanne’s classic black jacket is elegant and so versatile.  Her lovely floral lining fabric does not show, but trust me that is stunning.

A simply lovely jacket!

A simply lovely jacket!

Holly’s jacket has sparkle to it, just like her!

Look at the beautiful lining that Holly chose.

Look at the beautiful lining that Holly chose.

Isn't this color perfect for Holly?

Isn’t this color perfect for Holly?

The buttons which Holly chose are perfect!

The buttons which Holly chose are perfect!

With a few scraps left over from her lining, Holly made a color-blocked shell to wear with her jacket!

With a few scraps left over from her lining, Holly made a color-blocked shell to wear with her jacket.

Myra’s horizontally and unevenly striped boucle caused some minor headaches during the pattern placement, but look how beautifully it turned out.

Looking lovely even in the hot sun!

Looking lovely even in the hot sun!

Myra's jacket - 2

Myra's whimsical lining fabric features images of Audrey Hepburn.  She brought this fabric with her to Baltimore and chose her boucle accordingly.

Myra’s whimsical lining fabric features images of Audrey Hepburn. She brought this fabric with her to Baltimore and chose her boucle accordingly.

Sherry chose a creamy white, loosely woven “windowpane” boucle for her jacket, and the result is pure loveliness.

Isn't this beautiful??

Isn’t this beautiful??

Sherry very cleverly made her pockets on the bias.  The petite buttons are just right for the weave of the fabric.

Sherry very cleverly made her pockets on the bias. The petite buttons are just right for the weave of the fabric.

Look how well Sherry's jacket fits.

Look how well Sherry’s jacket fits. 

One of the many fun aspects of the class was the color variety of jackets being sewn.  While there were other deep shades (raspberry pink, royal blue, true purple) I was the only one making a red jacket.

For starters, here is my jacket hanging.

For starters, here is my jacket hanging.

A few details.

A few details.

A view of the lining.

A view of the lining.

Shown with basic black.

Shown with basic black.

I can't believe it's finished!

I can’t believe it’s finished!

I added a gradual 1/4" to the back length, which gives it a more graceful line, I think.  This was one of Susan's many excellent suggestions.

I added a gradual 1/4″ to the back length, which gives it a more graceful line, I think. This was one of Susan’s many excellent suggestions.

Red Chanel jacket

There is nothing shy about this lining fabric!

There is nothing shy about this lining fabric!

During the lengthy process of making my jacket, I have had lots of time to reflect on some of its charms:

1) Boucle is wonderful for hand-sewing, as one’s stitches simply disappear into the fabric.

2) This is “common sense” sewing: every step (of which there are many) adds in subtle or significant ways to its wear-ability, appearance, or fit.

3) Finishing a project like this is empowering.  I felt like I grew as a “dressmaker” during this process.  And beware . . .

4) Finishing a project like this is addictive.  Yes, I already have a boucle for my next one . .

However, before I start my next one, I have one thing to (start and) finish:   That charmeuse I used for the lining?  I purchased enough to make a sleeveless sheath dress to wear with my jacket.

What was I thinking??

28 Comments

Filed under Chanel-type jackets, Coco Chanel, couture construction, sewing in silk, Uncategorized

A “Little” More on Chanel

Coco Chanel has been the fascinating, and sometimes controversial, subject of many, many biographies, several of which I have read.  However, none has charmed me quite the way Different Like Coco has.  This delightful slim book by Elizabeth Matthews is written for the 5 – 9 group.  Now, I don’t mean the fun-loving cocktail ladies, who start sipping at 5:00 PM and finally get to dinner at 9:00.  No, this group is the age-group of 5 – 9, meaning the “little” ones.  Yes, this is a children’s book, a small biography of Coco Chanel, with expressive illustrations, and text which strikes a good balance between simplicity and sophistication.

This bright yellow book jacket hints at the lively story inside.

This bright yellow book jacket hints at the lively story inside.

Different Like Coco was published in 2007 by Candlewick Press, a children’s book publisher located in Massachusetts.  I became acquainted with the newly-minted book when I read a review of it in The Wall Street Journal, by Meghan Cox Gurdon.  Being a “pushover” for all things about the fashion and creative sense of Coco Chanel, I ordered my own copy from Amazon.  (Little did I ever imagine that 6 years later, I would have my own little granddaughter who might just hear this book read to her – oh, who knows how many times?)

On one level, the book is purely biographical, emphasizing Chanel’s childhood spent in poverty – which she did not allow to define her.  The later part of her childhood was spent in a convent, and it was there where she learned to sew.

The author's charming illustration of Coco as a child with her sewing.

The author’s charming illustration of Coco as a child with her sewing.

Those sewing skills were the “mechanical” ticket to her success, while her creativity, her determination, her hard work and her daring flounting of convention set her apart from others of her age.

Coco's creativity on display.

Coco’s creativity on display.

The story emphasizes these characteristics for the young readers of this book, which makes it more than a biography.  Indeed, these characteristics are treated as inspirational, which they certainly can be to children.

Some of the more controversial aspects of Chanel’s life are handled discreetly, so that the opening of her first shop and the creation of the classic cardigan jacket (made from one of her lover’s sweaters) are seamless chapters in her life story.

A classic created anew!

A classic, created anew!

For the adult reader of this sweet book, there are two features which I guarantee will be read again and again.  One is the “Timeline” which is in the back of the book (accompanied by a bibliography, too).  All the important dates of Chanel’s life are succinctly listed, including the development of her perfume Chanel No. 5 in 1921; the afore-mentioned creation of her signature jacket, also in 1921, and her debut of the “little black dress” in 1926.

The other compelling aspect of this book is one of pure brilliance from a design point of view:  the lining pages feature a “running commentary” of some of Chanel’s famous and less-known quotes.

One side of the lining pages of the book.

One side of the lining pages of the book.

A sampling of her quotes about fashion:

“Fashion is made to become unfashionable.”

“A fashion that does not reach the streets is not a fashion.”

“Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.”

And some of her quotes about life:

“There are people who have money and people who are rich.”

“Luxury must be comfortable; otherwise it is not luxury.”

“How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.”

And I so appreciate that this quote is placed centermost:  “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself.  Aloud.”

I cannot close this post without a special word about the author, Elizabeth Matthews.  The book jacket has this short statement about her and her motivation to write this book:

Click on the window for an enlarged view.  PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL ILLUSTRATIONS ARE COPYRIGHT 2007, THE CANDLEWICK PRESS.

Click on the window for an enlarged view. PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL ILLUSTRATIONS ARE COPYRIGHT 2007, ELIZABETH MATTHEWS.

Thank you, Elizabeth Matthews, for making the life story of Coco Chanel an inspiring and almost magical tale for 5 to 9-ers of every age!

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