I'm a sewing enthusiast in Beacon, New York, with a love of all things retro. This site is all about tutorials, tips, inspiration, and lots of spirited discussion about sewing as it relates to fashion history, pop culture, body image, and gender. My first book, Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, is now out from STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books! Also look for my line "Patterns by Gertie" from Butterick.
Oh, readers. This was supposed to be my "Au revoir, I'm headed to glorious Palm Springs!" post. Alas, I am not. There are gobs of snow falling onto New York right now and my flight was canceled. I'm rescheduled to head out Friday morning. I suppose we'll see. In any case, I'm still taking my planned-on vacation day today and staying home and sewing my little heart out. Things could definitely be worse.
In case you missed my post where I mentioned the Palm Springs trip, I'm going to be guest-teaching at Heather Ross's weekend sewing workshop at the fabulous Ace Hotel. (Come on, weather! Cooperate!) With any luck, I'll be lounging poolside by Friday afternoon.
While I try to maintain a tightly-run ship around here, things will be a little more loosey-goosey until I'm back next Wednesday. However, I am planning on blogging a bit from the workshop, so don't be a stranger! I'm packing my camera and hope to capture lots of Palm Springs sewing magic for you.
Our gun-print dress discussion was more than just thought-provoking—it was inspiring too! You all had so many fab ideas for designing and making your own prints. I was very lucky to connect with a budding fabric designer who is making me a gun-free print via Spoonflower inspired by the Betsey Johnson dress (more to come on that exciting front!).
On the subject of cool prints, commenter Sarah correctly predicted that I would love the designer Peach Berserk. Holy cow, have you readers seen her stuff? She's in the vein of Betsey Johnson, but she makes all her own prints (like the wonderful lobster print above). She also teaches silk screening in Toronto (any Torontoans want to adopt me?) and has written an awesome book on the subject. I love her dress designer feature, which lets you design a one-of-a-kind dress with the click of your mouse. (You can make the model's hair blue if you want!) She even sells yardage of her screen printed fabric online. So you can get your lobsters printed on candy pink dupioni if you want.
Basically, I want to be this woman when I grow up.
I'm reading the silk screening book now, and it's fascinating stuff. I have about a million ideas for fabric prints that I'd love to try, but the process seems so involved. So, my question is: have any of you tried screen printing? Am I right to be intimidated by all the supplies involved? Or is it no big deal? Dish, please!
P.S. If you're a New Yorker who could demonstrate silk screening to me, you should know that I make amazing chocolate-chocolate-espresso-cinnamon cookies and I'm not afraid to bribe you with them.
First, let me start by saying this: I know my "yea or nay" picks will be polarizing. That's the point! It would be an exercise in futility with you awesome people to post a frothy 50s Dior couture dress (for example) and ask your opinion. That's right, I know how you tick! Instead, I usually post things that aren't necessarily my style but I think may be kind of cool (or I could be completely wrong about).
Today's on-the-edge fashion is open-toe booties. Readers, how I've struggled with this style. I first dismissed them as utterly fug. Then I started seeing them on some of my favorite retro style bloggers, looking glam paired with full-skirted dresses. How confusing this dark period was for me!
Another turning point in this scintillating story occurred yesterday, with the arrival of the new Anthropologie catalog. Readers, I saw these:
And was inexplicably drawn to them. I just like them, that's all there is to it. I showed them to Jeff.
"Well, you don't have any other shoes like them, that's for sure," he declared. (He often puzzles over why I need, say, hot pink pumps in two different styles.)
"Are they . . . ugly?" I asked.
"Borderline," he replied.
So yes, I have ordered these "borderline ugly" shoes so I can see for myself. But what do you think, readers? What say you of open-toed booties in general?
Now, for a few footwear fashions that I hope aren't polarizing. First, what I think may indeed be the ugliest pair of shoes I have ever seen:
And on the other end of the spectrum: these fabulous platform pumps, which I admit are on their way to me as well, due to a moment of weakness and an Anthro gift card. Look at the raspberry-colored piping and hidden platform!
Now, if you need a good laugh at Anthropologie's expense after viewing any of these, you must read Regretsy's new feature: Etsy or Anthropologie? Pure awesome. She really stumped me with the plastic dinosaur brooch.
Ready to sew? Your first step is to sew your darts. I thought I'd give you a little post on how I sew mine, in case you need some pointers.
First, I clip the end of my dart legs. This helps me line up the dart lines more accurately.
Next, I fold the dart in half and mark the very tip of it with a pin. (Note: you won't be able to see my chalk tracing lines on the fabric; I did it in a very pale yellow so it wouldn't show through. But you'll get the point.)
Match up the clipped ends of the dart and pin.
Next, I put a couple pins through the actual dart line itself, parallel to the fold.
Make sure they go through the dart line on the opposite side for a perfect match.
It's worth noting that there are several ways to pin a dart and several ways to secure a dart. You can:
1. Leave long-ish thread tails and tie them in a knot.
2. Start decreasing your stitch length toward the end of the dart, til you're down to about .5 mm. These super short stitches will be extra secure.
3. You can also tack within the body of the dart. (This is how I do mine.) Sew to the end of the dart as per usual. When you get to the end, lift up your presser foot and pull the garment piece toward you an inch or so, pulling out a bit of thread from the machine. Next, anchor your needle within the body of the dart and make a few stitches. This machine tacking will not be visible from the outside since it's inside the body of the dart. I learned this technique from a Threads video, so have a watch if you'd like to see it in action.
And press! Press your bust darts down and your waist darts toward the center of the garment piece. Repeat on the two back pieces.
So, I've always been a big proponent of not taking shortcuts. I used to machine baste my underlinings with very bad results, so I switched to hand basting and never looked back. Until the Crepe Sew-Along. I've been a little overwhelmed lately: work has been crazy and I had the never-ending cold. I desperately wanted to get caught up on my sew-along posts but had to do all the painstaking hand basting of the underlining that I instructed you all to do.
Readers, here's my confession: I glued the underlining! This will no doubt sound wacky and ill-advised. But I came across the tip in Claire Shaeffer's The Complete Book of Sewing Shortcuts, and she's a lady I respect. So I cut the fashion fabric and batiste underlining out separately, and laid out the fashion fabric pieces, wrong side up. Make tiny dots of fabric glue (I used a brand called Sobo, pictured above) in the seam allowances every couple inches. Lay the batiste piece on top and run your hands over the top of the fabric to make sure it's secured. Set the pieces aside to dry. Done!
I will say that this method doesn't work well with an organza underlining because the glue seeps through the organza and makes a mess.
Shaeffer's philosophy is that shortcuts are good things. If they make life easier and do the job well, what's the harm?
Hello, sew-alongers! Thanks for your patience while I've been catching up on sew-along posts. Today's post is one final checklist before we start sewing. From here, it will be fast and fun!
Here's your pre-sew checklist:
1. All bodice and skirt pieces cut out and underlined (optional). Make sure you've cut four of the back skirt piece.
2. Necklines stabilized. For good measure, I also stabilized my armholes. I used a new method that a brilliant commenter pointed out. Take a bias strip of silk organza and press it while stretching it as far as it will go. This makes a super stable strip that will go around curves.
I love this dress. I've actually had it in my inspiration folder for a couple years, and I keep coming back to it. It's from Betsey Johnson's 1985 collection, and she showed it again for her fall 2008 show to celebrate her 30 years in the biz.
I've always thought this gun print was so amazing and have often contemplated imitating it with graffiti-style stencils on fabric. There's something so badass about the image of a handgun, especially when combined with a feminine silhouette like this one. It makes me think of Bonnie Parker, especially with the long, lean skirt. It balances punk and glam perfectly, and let's face it—it would look awesome with tattoos. As evidenced by this short pink version:
But in a strange moment of synchronicity, I came across this picture on my computer the day after the shootings in Tucson. I'd already been thinking that day about gun laws and the ways we seem to let the mentally ill fall through the cracks. To be clear: I don't know the solutions to these issues, and I'm not saying I know how the shooting could have been prevented. But the images of the guns on the dress struck me as more sinister than I'd seen them previously. Of course, this got me thinking about what we say with our clothes. What exactly are you saying to the world by wearing this kind of dress? That guns are cool? That violence is awesome? Or just that you have a sense of irony about the way you dress?
I know I must sound really bleeding-heart liberal right now, and that dresses with guns printed on them are the least of our problems in the U.S. And it's not really any different from, say, a dress with skulls on it. And I am still leaning toward the dress being badass and a total "yea" and worth taking the time to replicate on my own. I just think it's interesting when the semiotics of fashion breaks down a bit and becomes suddenly strange to the viewer. And fashion has always had a fascination with the play between glamorous and macabre, so perhaps that's all that's at play here.
Wow, I loved all of your insightful comments on my post about the $348 Nanette Lepore dress. (For the record, I haven't bought it—yet.) I especially enjoyed the differing opinions on what is considering "stealing" when it comes to knocking off designer clothes. It was fascinating to me that everyone seems to have their own personal moral compass when it comes to copying designs, and the range of what's considered acceptable varies hugely.
For instance, lots of people were (rightly, I think) shocked that someone would suggest buying the dress, taking it apart and copying it, re-stitching it and returning it. But many of these same commenters had no problem with buying and returning the dress to copy it, in a less invasive manner. Still others found the very idea of trying to copy the dress repugnant and a form of intellectual property theft.
The fashion industry itself has not set a very good example in this area: knockoffs are rampant because there's no real way to copyright a garment design. (Yet, anyway. There are proposed laws that would potentially change this.) And the sewing pattern companies have followed suit. While the Big Four pattern companies do license designs from designers like Michael Kors and Tracey Reese, just as often designs are copied without the designer's consent. Take the famous Roland Mouret Galaxy dress, which later cropped up in the very similar Vogue 8280:
And several of the aforementioned Nanette Lepore's designs have been copied as well, like this bow lapel jacket.
Here's McCall's 5815. Look familiar?
But then there's the question of the home seamstress knocking off designer clothes for themselves with a little ingenuity and spunk. While I'm not an advocate of stealing intellectual property, I have a hard time getting too worked up about this as a moral issue. Knocking off unaffordable designer clothes is the very reason many people get into sewing. I certainly do it! My yellow dress design was taken directly from an Anthropologie dress. (For the record, I didn't buy the dress and return it; I just took some stealthy pictures in the dressing room and adapted the details.) Furthermore, as long as you're not mass producing replicas or selling the patterns you drafted off another designer's work, is there any harm in it? That's an honest question; I sincerely don't know for sure.
What do you all think? Where does this issue fall on your own moral compass?
Hey, here it is! I'm writing this late at night after my Black Tie event, but wanted to update with a few pictures. This is Vogue 1176, made strapless and floor-length. The fabric is a ruby-colored Vera Wang satin.
My mom (and dad) gave me the absolute perfect necklace for Christmas. How did she know? Mom-related sixth sense, I guess.
There are 16 rows of boning holding this baby up.
Evidently the dress code was actually "creative black tie." Yeah, I was waaaay overdressed. Whatever.
It's not quite right without glasses, is it?
The all-important butt view.
More details on the pattern to come, if you're interested.
A big shout-out to Jeff, who planned and hosted this entire event while extremely sick. Everyone, now: feel better, Jeff!
Hey all! This is a sew-along post, but even if you're not sewing along, drafting your own facings is a great skill to have. And it couldn't be easier! There are plenty of times you might need to draft your own facings. You may have made so many fitting changes on your pattern that it's easier to start from scratch on your facings. Or your pattern may call for just a lining, but you'd prefer facings. No problemo!
A facing simply encloses the neck, armhole, waistline, or hem. A facing pattern follows the outline of the pattern piece, but is (usually) only 2" wide--plus another 5/8" for the seam allowance.
So, to make a facing for the Crepe neckline, I'm going to start by drawing a line 2-5/8" away from the pattern edge using a clear gridded ruler to help me. This is the outer edge of my facing pattern.
Finish off the piece by tracing the neckline and shoulder. This is your facing pattern.
That's all there is to it! Make sure you transfer any marks, like grainline, etc. This piece will be cut on the fold, so make sure to indicate that.
Next, let's take a look at the armhole facing. This looks tricky because it's such a curvy shape, but it's the exact same process as with the neckline. Start by measuring and drawing your line 2-5/8" away from the armhole line.
And finish up by tracing your outer armhole and shoulder line. (My lines are just approximate, FYI!)
Does that make sense?
Now repeat the process for the back neckline and armhole.
Another reminder for sew-alongers: make sure your bodice waistline still matches up to your skirt waistline. Add or remove width as needed!
Because I almost did. Seriously, I was SO close to buying this little Nanette Lepore number. I think I about lost my mind, readers. You see, I went on a lunchtime expedition to Lord & Taylor with a coworker who needed to return some shoes there. Of course, I had to take a swing by the designer dresses and try a couple on "for research."
I get that this black ponte knit sheath probably doesn't look like anything to get too crazy about. I do get that. But I put it on, and it was like THE MAGIC DRESS. I was quite sure that I looked absolutely sensational in it—it framed my tattoos perfectly, my figure looked smashing. Don't even get me started on how great my butt looked.
I can't remember the last time I bought a dress, but I really talked myself into this one, even at the steep price. It's the kind of thing I'd wear to work all the time.
The only problem was that it had a tiny little flaw: the twist tie that goes around the waist had become un-tacked on one side and was flopping around. The easiest thing in the world to fix, right? But for $348, I wanted a flawless one.
I told my issue to the sales person. She didn't have another size 10, sorry. At that point my friend cheekily piped up that I might be offered a discount on the flawed one, which the sales girl declined to do. My only option was to pay full price for the one they had, apparently. Readers, I was NOT going to be making any repairs to a $348 dress before I even wore it. It was the principle of the thing. I'm sure you understand.
Well, I left it, thinking I would find it elsewhere online. But by the time I got back to the office, the magic of the MAGIC DRESS had worn off. Was I really about to pay that kind of money for a doubleknit sheath dress? Granted, it had incredible butt-flattering properties and a few special design features (pleated cap sleaves, a wide waistband, a surplice pleated sweetheart neckline, and the aforementioned waist wrap) . . . but nothing I absolutely couldn't try to replicate, I suppose. So instead of ordering the dress, I ordered three yards of black doubleknit. When I'm going to find time to sew with it, I'm not sure.
Damn, it's hard being principled sometimes.
Please tell me you understand, readers. That a certain magical item of clothing has you so entranced that $348 seems like an absolutely reasonable price for a simple work dress. Anyone?