Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal Fashion coverage

Back to the Past

I am finally back in my sewing room, working on my emerald green silk suit.  The event to which I had hoped to wear this suit has come and gone (I wore something else that evening and the world somehow kept on spinning – amazing!), but this sewing project was and is on my Spring agenda and I am bound and determined to finish it.  Until I have made a bit more progress, with something to show for it, I thought I would indulge you with a book review of the 1956 Claire McCardell (1905-1958) book, What Shall I Wear, re-published in 2012 by The Rookery Press, in association with The Overlook Press, New York, New York.

Back to the Past

This book came to my attention by way of The Vintage Traveler blog (thanks, Lizzie!).  I purchased it on Amazon last Fall, and then, to my surprise, it was one of five books chosen by Christina Binkley of  The Wall Street Journal for her annual list of “Best Style Books”.

This annual feature on "style books" is always one of my favorites.

This annual feature on “style books” in The Wall Street Journal is always one of my favorites.  It appeared on December 20, 2012.

Here from Binkley’s review of the book: “This book is a gem.  …It manages to be modern more than 60 years later…  The designer created chic casual items that we take for granted today, such as trim ankle pants and full skirts that permit comfort and movement.  … She demonstrates an understanding of women’s lives. ‘Everyone should have a “pop-over” dress – a sheath that they can just pop over their head and go.’”

Here are some of Claire McCardell’s fashion tips and thoughts which struck a chord with me, especially in relation to sewing and dressmaking:

1)  The simple act of changing buttons (or in sewing, choosing the right ones) can make a dress fit your style.

2) When putting together your clothing (or pattern and fabric) budget, consider carefully where you want to put your money.  Make one major purchase a year, something classic and timeless is always a smart move.

3) Use color extensively and don’t be afraid to stretch from your normal palette.

4) Coats should be a large part of your wardrobe.  Indeed, she recommends compiling a “Coat Collection”.  That’s advice sweet to my ears!

5) Learn how to tie a scarf!  In her words:  “You miss all the fun if you can’t tie things.”  “If you really care about Fashion, sit down right now and learn to tie.  An ascot, a bandanna, a neckband, a bowknot.  This means knowing how to fold first, knowing how to loop next, knowing how to get the knot straight, knowing how to make the ends even – or uneven – on purpose.”

6)  Like all the great fashion designers and couturiers, she emphasizes the overwhelming importance of fit.  All those muslins/toiles we make are worth the time they take!

7) Accessorize your outfits with the appropriate jewelry, shoes, and bags.  Restraint is better than opulence.

8) She was a big fan (and proponent) of the “American Look”: meaning comfortable clothing with clean lines, displaying elegant simplicity.

The final chapter of the book is appropriately entitled:  Fashion has no last chapter.

You can read here for yourself her Essential Eleven.  Pay particular attention to #2!

As a preface to this list, McCardell states:  "There is a great deal in common between the woman who designs clothes and the woman who knows clothes."

As a preface to this list, McCardell states: “There is a great deal in common between the woman who designs clothes and the woman who knows clothes.”  (Click on the photo for a close-up).

Earlier in the book on page 103, she relates her first experience with dressmaking: “Miss Annie … came to the house to make clothes for mother and me.  The process fascinated me from the start – selecting the pictures of dresses in the Vogue Pattern Book, the fabrics to be bought at the dry-goods store, the cutting and basting and fitting, the pockets and buttons and buttonholes…”

Surely sewing and dressmaking have no last chapter either:  What will you wear?  What will you sew?

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Coats, Scarves, Uncategorized

Green, green, and more green

When Pantone announced the color of the year for 2013 last week, I was immediately smitten.  Actually, I’ve been smitten with Emerald Green (Pantone 17-5641 TCX) for as long as I can remember – and finally, finally, it’s going to be center stage again after at least 30 years in hiding (as deliciously detailed by Christina Binkley on the Personal Journal front page of The Wall Street Journal on December 6.)

My initial euphoria turned to smug (yes, I admit it!) satisfaction.  Why is this?  Just this Fall I had seen emerald green silk matka on the website of Waechter’s Fine Fabrics.    Well, I sent for a swatch and upon its arrival I speedily ordered three+ yards. I knew I would have to make a Spring suit out of this fabric.

This is the swatch I ordered from Waechter's Fine Fabrics

This is the swatch I ordered from Waechter’s Fine Fabrics.

Of course, this was before Pantone made its announcement. And although I still would have purchased it even if this shade of green were the “uncolor” of the coming year, I’m looking forward to being stylish, to boot!

But wait, that’s not all!

Much earlier in the year, I had purchased this yardage of Moygashel linen from an Etsy shop.  What attracted me to it was that emerald green is featured so dominantly in it.  I’ve shown this fabric before on this blog, but I could not resist showing another peek at it.  I still keep thinking it would make a gorgeous Spring coat… or pants.

The emerald green in this design really makes it pop!

The emerald green in this design really makes it pop!

Finally, this color – this Emerald Green – has given me the perfect opportunity to tell (and complete) a story about a dress I made for myself in 1980 – and share some wonderful, wonderful family news, too.  Here’s the pattern:

Yes - it is for a maternity dress...  from 31 years ago.

Yes – it is for a maternity dress… from 32 years ago.

And yes, I made it in Emerald Green:

With a few hang lines after 32 years!

With a few hang lines after 32 years!

DSC_0737

A detail of the yoke. I chose two pearl buttons from my button box of 32 years ago to add a little interest.

This was a piece of Pendleton wool I picked up on sale in the Fall of 1980 when I was scrambling to make some dresses for my first pregnancy (our daughter was born in April 1981).  I loved the color and thought it would be quite beautiful over the holidays. In fact, two years later, when I was pregnant again (with our son), I wore it for our Christmas photo:

.

Our growing family, in 1982.

Whatever possessed me to save this dress, I’ll never know.  I actually saved all the maternity clothes I made for myself.  I dug them out of the cedar closet this Fall to show to our daughter (the little girl in the photo)– who (taa daa!), with her husband, is excitingly expecting their first child (our first grandchild!).  Whatever thoughts I had about the suitability of these dresses for “today’s” pregnant style made both of us laugh!  My daughter will not be wearing vintage maternity dresses, even if one of them is an au courant color.  But oh dear, the wheels started to turn in my head.     Hm-m-m-m, why not take this green “tent” and make a skirt for MYSELF out of it??  Wouldn’t that be a story to tell?

So now, I’m realigning my winter projects.  Come January I’ll be seeing and sewing GREEN.

By the way, Pendleton fabric yardage used to come with labels to sew into finished garments.  I never sewed the label into this dress, but here it is:

A pristine label, still attached to its card.

A pristine label, still attached to its card…

... with care instructions on the back.

… with care instructions on the back.

This time around I plan to use it!

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Filed under 1980's dress patterns, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens

My very stylish pants.

For several months I was watching a piece of Moygashel linen for sale by Revival Fabrics.  When I first saw this offering, I had the eerie feeling of déjà vu – I was sure I remembered seeing this patterned fabric in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s when I was a steady admirer and occasional purchaser of this brand of linen I love so much.  The piece that was being offered was three yards long, 44″ wide and included a Moygashel label.  The description accompanying it suggested making patio furniture pillows or tote bags with it, neither of which much appealed to me.  And actually, this suggestion threw me off a bit ; I wondered if it was drapery-weight linen, not dress-weight.  But the more I looked at it online (clicking close-ups of the images), the more convinced I became that it was dress-weight.  I finally decided to buy it, not really knowing what I was going to make out of it (maybe a sheath dress…?)

When the package arrived and I finally saw this linen in person, I was – so excited! It was gorgeous – and my suspicions were correct – it was definitely dress-weight.

Here is a lengthwise view of the linen.

Here is closer view of this amazing pattern.

My first thought after my initial euphoria was:  This would make up into fabulous ankle-length pants (worn with a black, yellow or khaki top – and of course my black and yellow Bakelite bracelet).  And yes, I was sure I would have the nerve to wear them!

I laid out the fabric with a black cotton knit top and my Bakelite bracelet just to see how it would look.

And here is the label which came with the fabric.

With my plan in place, I decided this would be my next project after I finished the one I was on.  Then something really amazing happened.  A fashion article in the May 3, 2012 edition of The Wall Street Journal caught my eye.   Christina Binkley, one of the newspaper’s fashion reporters, headlined her weekly column “On Style”  with The Pantsuit Takes a Walk on the Wild Side.

I don’t like any of these fabric designs as much as I like my Moygashel linen!

I’ve never been a fan of pantsuits, but some of the fabrics featured had that same ‘60s’ feel as my new vintage linen.  The reporter rightly questioned how well these head to toe outfits would “play on the streets”, but then she added:

“…at least one mainstream retailer will highlight the idea that the pantsuit can be worn as separates…  There will be more busy pants than busy jackets.  ‘There may be women who wear it head-to-toe – very daring,’ says Sak’s Ms. Sherin.  ‘But for us, it’s probably about the patterned pant’.”

Then, Ms. Binkley suggested:  “The key to wearing this trend is not straying too far from your safety zone.  Stick to colors and patterns you will still love in five years.  And let the bold pattern do the talking – go with a conservative fit if you’d rather not be the center of attention.”

Further:  “It’s probably not a coincidence that wild pantsuits are appearing just as ‘Mad Men,’ the style-influencing television show, is entering the psychedelic phase of the ‘60s.”

Well, my linen fabric is far from psychedelic, but it is bold – and reading this article certainly did validate my plans for making pants.   I also already knew the pattern I wanted to use, one quite appropriately from the early to mid ‘60s!

I really like all the styles featured on this pattern – the coat, the two blouse variations, the cummerbund –and the “conservative” pants.Classic looks – all of them!

Okay – I was ready to start this project.  First I washed the linen in cool water, delicate cycle, and dried it on medium heat.  This way I know my pants are totally machine washabIe.  Next I made a muslin of the pants pattern to check for fit.  I should have done a little more measuring first, as the crotch was too deep and had to be redrawn.  Also, although I like slim-ankled pants, these were just a bit too slim, so that was another adjustment.  I ended up making muslin #2, which was much closer to the final version from which I cut my pants.  However, I had made so many adjustments, that I decided to copy the final pattern onto freezer paper. (Freezer paper is my secret sewing friend – the dull side provides a wonderful surface upon which to draw in pencil and the shiny side can be ironed to fabric to cut out appliqués or anything, really, and then easily removed.  And the long continuous roll of paper is perfect for long pattern pieces like pants, coats, etc.)  The good news is that now I have a pants pattern that fits really well with the slim, but not too slim, legs that I like.

During construction, I tried on these pants about a ga-zillion times.  This fabric was just too dear to make any mistakes, and the more I tried them on, the more I liked them.  Here they are, all finished.

I’d say these are definitely bold!

Here is my outfit, complete with Bakelite bracelet.  (I think the camera angle makes the legs look different lengths??)

A close-up of same, with the earrings I’ll also wear with this outfit. (Click on the image).

Here is a view of the waistband and zipper.

And here is the final touch – the label attached to the inside back of the waistband!

How neat is it to sew something up in vintage fabric, using a vintage pattern – and be totally stylish in 2012? And – I still have enough of this fabric left over to make a skirt.  Hopefully that will be very stylish, too, whenever I get around to making it!

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Filed under Bakelite buttons and/or jewelry, Coats, Linen, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns

What would Christian Dior do?

Without a doubt, the two dresses featured above left in my blog heading were inspired by the designs of Christian Dior.  This return to the feminine silhouette was led by Mr. Dior, starting in 1947, and it continues to influence fashion to this day.   In 1954, he published a small book entitled The Little Dictionary of Fashion, which was reprinted in 2007 by Abrams (and available at Amazon.).

Some of the language and expressions in this little book seem a bit old-fashioned, but it contains a wealth of information and advice.

It is really a combination of fashion and sewing terms, accompanied by his philosophy of life.   Here is a sampling of topics:

Bodices:  “… the most important part of any garment….”

Cosmetics:  “… play a very big part in the secret of beauty, but they mustn’t show…”

Emphasis:  “If you have a particularly outstanding feature it is always a good thing to emphasize it….  The whole of fashion is emphasis – emphasis on woman’s loveliness.”  [I think this is very sweet!]

Handbags:  “ A very important accessory and used with not enough care by too many women.”

Jackets:  “…must always be worn with a slim skirt…”

J is for Jacket!

J is for Jacket!

Key to Good Dressing:  “There is no key…  but simplicity, grooming and good taste – [are] the three fundamentals of fashion…”

This Dior outfit is described this way: "simple black suit, matching gloves and muff, and hat and scarf, in vivid cerise." Dressing beautifully, indeed!

Materials:  “You can never take too much care of the materials you choose to make a dress…”  [In this entry, he seems to be addressing the home sewer!]

Pockets:  “… pockets are very useful to help you to do something with your hands if you are embarrassed and don’t know what to do with them.”

The Way You Walk:  “… can make or mar your clothes – cultivate gracefulness.”

And my favorite:

Zest:  “…You have to live with zest — and that is the secret of beauty and fashion, too.”

Although Mr. Dior died in 1957 at the height of his career, his eponymous couture house has, as everyone knows, continued over the years under the direction of many different artistic directors.  Just this week the newest Creative Director for the House of Dior was announced.  Although I am a casual follower of current fashion (mostly to see how the vintage looks influence today’s looks), I was pleased to see that Mr. Raf Simons has been selected to head Dior.  I thought the designs he did for Jil Sander  over the past few years were among the most flattering that have appeared on the runway.  His selection is detailed in a fascinating article by Christina Passariello, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, April 10, page B4.  (By the way, The Wall Street Journal has terrific fashion coverage and advice, specifically in the Thursday and Weekend editions, as well as other times.)

Here is what the cover of Vogue Pattern Book magazine looked like in October, 1957, the month and year of Christian Dior's death.

Mr. Simons’ first designs for Dior will debut in July.   I wonder if he is now asking himself “What would Christian Dior do?”

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Filed under Uncategorized