Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Threads Special Designer Issue

Have you ladies and gent(s) seen this issue? I know many of you have, since you're the ones who recommended it to me. Damn, this thing is good. It's worth it for the price alone for the article "Memories of a Parisian Seamstress: Tales and techniques from the workrooms of couturier Jacques Fath." The funny thing is, I actually have this article on my Threads DVD that I got for Christmas a few years ago, but somehow never came across it. It outlines, step by step, the process that Fath used for draping an evening gown foundation with cotton tulle. (As you might recall, I wrote about this technique a few weeks ago).

I can't recommend the article highly enough. It's given me a ton of ideas for how I might utilize this technique on my own. Plus, it gives a bunch of awesome insights into being a seamstress for Fath in the late 40s. It's pretty amazing being able to read a first-hand account of that era.

There are also articles on Chanel, Norman Norell, and Yves St. Laurent, among others. Even if you have these on disc, it's pretty cool being able to read them all together, on the subway, for instance.

Anyone else obsessing over this issue?

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Daily Dress: Dita in Dior

Happy Memorial Day! I thought we'd commemorate with a look that seems very WWII era to me. This is Dita Von Teese at Coachella this year, wearing Christian Dior RTW from Spring 2011. I love the subtle Hawaiian print of this jumpsuit and the sailor hat she paired it with. Plus: espadrilles!

The styling of this show was fabulous; I loved the hair and accessories.

For your own take on this look, I would pair a tropical-ish print like this one:

Pair it with a retro romper pattern like M6331:

Top it off with a jaunty sailor hat (I'm sure you've got a few of those around, right?) and you're done!

Have a lovely day, all!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gertie's Week in Review {5.28.11}

Welcome to the weekend, dear readers!

What a week it's been. My last day at my old job was Wednesday, so there was a lot of packing and tying up loose ends. And then Thursday I was a brand new woman! But no rest for the wicked—I spent the early part of the day on several phone calls, while getting short bursts of book sewing done in between. It was also the first day of the new session at The Sewing Studio, and I taught two beginner classes that evening. I do love my beginning seamstresses; it's so satisfying to see the progress they can make in just a two-hour class.

Friday I got up and ran errands right away. I even did the grocery shopping and made dinner last night! I can see this is the beginning of my life as a domestic goddess. Maybe. Probably not.

Readers, I have so much to do in the next week or so. I'm prepping for the filming of my online class, which is in a mere week and a half. I also have samples to sew for an article I'm writing. Oh, and there's that whole book thing. Good thing I don't have that pesky job to get in the way anymore!

In closing, have you all seen this video? If not, you must watch it RIGHT NOW. You won't regret it.

There. Aren't you glad you did that?

What are you up to this weekend, peeps?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Daily Outfit! {5.27.11}

As promised, the beginning of the daily outfit posts! This is my second day of my new freelance life. Both days I've gotten up early, done my hair and makeup, and put on a comfy dress. A ponytail is about all I can manage in this hot weather (with no AC yet; I'm holding out). Here's what I'm wearing:

Dress: Lemon Tree Dress, made in May 2010. Belt omitted for comfort.
Jewelry: Seashell bracelet, gift from my first boss
Shoes: Sadly discontinued Simple peep-toe flats
Unmentionables: Nude bike shorts and a nude bra.
Sunglasses: plastic rhinestone cateyes, gift from a friend

Readers, the nude bike shorts are a revelation. I bought them yesterday at American Apparel, even though I dislike shopping there for a number of reasons that I won't go into right now. They were $24, which is ridiculous. I hope you won't judge me when I say I've made a pattern from them (with a few fitting changes) and am planning on making a bunch.

It's become clear that I need more comfy shoes. Any suggestions for casual peep-toe flats? I really like the Keds/sneaker style ones.

Oh, I should mention the sunglasses are non-prescription, so I can't actually wear them out in the world. But I adore them. They're just cheap plastic ones, not the kind you can put a prescription in. Any thoughts on similar styles that can be taken to an optometrist?
Also, I'm planning the return of Gertie, Girl Reporter! Is three posts in one day too much?

Featured Comment: Elizabethe on Working from Home

I thought it would be fun to occasionally highlight a particularly funny, useful, or insightful comment in a post. I know you can't read all the comments, but I do! I love them all, and what better way to show my appreciation than by featuring your brilliant thoughts here. 

The first featured comment is from Elizabethe, a longtime commenter who consistently provides excellent points and even sometimes makes up show tune lyrics on the spot! I found her advice on my post about working from home to be so helpful, I almost printed it out to tape to my wall. Here are her words of advice on navigating the world of the home office, complete with tips on fashion, diet, and exercise!

Hi Gertie, I work from home as a freelance writer and a SAHM. Here are my 5 uncomfortable truths about working from home (this applies to the work of motherhood as well):

1. Clothes are like money: bad clothes drive out good. 
When you wake up in the morning you (or maybe just me) will always be pulled, as though in a riptide, to the ugliest, slouchiest pjs or sweats or jeans you own "just for today." Always.

Solution: Your nice stay at home clothes have to be just as comfortable as your slouchy clothes -- that means no tight waistbands, few buttons.

I've gathered a bunch of skirts I can wear with T-shirts and some nice wrap dresses. I have just two pairs of jeans (one in flat length, one in heel length) to wear when I need to. I wear longer skirts when I'm going to the playground.

2. If you are at home during the day, you WILL nap.

Just plan on it right now. It's natural to nap after lunch, like it's in the human physiology.

Solution: Wear something you feel comfortable napping in on the couch, whatever that is for you.

3. You will NEVER dress to look nice "just for yourself" no matter what your good intentions are.

Solution: plan to go out for lunch or coffee once a day -- to provide structure, and to make sure you see other people to get that motivation to look good.

4. You will be tempted to turn your home into a personal "nest" and alienate the people who live with you.

If you wear pjs and sweats all day (and sometimes even if you do dress up nice), the house will become more like your "den" and the people who live with you will start to feel like they are intruding on your lair when they come home. And that's not good.

Solution: Schedule two "transition times," once in the morning before you "go" to work, and once in the afternoon as you "leave" work. Spend this time cleaning up after yourself. You are there more, you'll be making more mess, you will have to clean more. Just get over it and do it (this is gender neutral advice, btw).

Most importantly, if you wound up wearing pjs all day, change into real clothes so they are greeted by a real person when they come home and not a den monster.

And finally, slightly OT, but a must mention,

5. You will probably gain weight unless you guard against it.

Solution: Pack yourself a lunch and snacks or go out to lunch and a coffee break, whatever you did when you were going into the office. Keep your old office habits at much as you can, until you can figure out what works right for you for working at home.

Whatever you do, don't torture yourself by planning to "throw together" a salad every day for lunch. A salad is the most labor intensive thing to make in the kitchen and leaves the biggest mess to clean up. In fact don't plan to cook anything for yourself for lunch, it will just make another mess that you will have to clean up (maybe you find cooking and cleaning a relaxing break, more power to you. I used to too, until I had to do it every single day while also finding time to work.)

Now, granted, it seems stupid to pack a lunch when you are at home all day anyway; but it really works. Make the kitchen off limits when you are "at work." This is even BETTER advice you if you are taking care of kids. I started packing my kids and myself a lunch and snacks everyday even if we aren't going anywhere, and it is so much easier on everyone and there is much less tendency on everyone's part to mindless snacking.

Good luck Gertie, I can't wait to see what you wear to work from home. =)

 Thanks to Elizabethe for providing our first featured comment!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Daily Dress: Strapless Cotillion Dress

Look at the drama of this skirt! I chose this 50s dress today (for sale here) because it's a good example of a boned garment. My high-waisted boned skirt tutorial today is really just a short strapless bodice, if you think about it. You can use the same techniques to make a strapless dress, but you will want to omit the horsehair canvas (too stiff) and sandwich the boning in between a layer of lining fabric and a layer of silk organza instead.

This dress also demonstrates how to effectively use stripes on a full circle skirt. See how the grain line is horizontal at the center front skirt? Because the skirt is a complete circle, the stripes become vertical at the side seams, so there's no need to match stripes up at the seams, since they'll be parallel to each other.

The red arrows in this photo show the grainline.

In the picture below, you can see that the dress closes with a side lapped zipper, which is a lovely vintage detail.
The seller notes that the label reads "Cotillion Formals." It would also make a lovely wedding dress, don't you think?

Tutorial: Adding Boning to a High Waistband

This is a technique that I've been researching for quite some time. So when Sunni approached me about contributing to her Ginger sew-along, I knew now was the moment to share it with you! Ginger is a great pattern for beginners, but if you're reading to try some more advanced skills, consider adding boning to the waistband. This technique adds structure to the waistband to keep it from scrunching, wrinkling, or buckling around your middle. It's similar in theory to a strapless bodice: both keep your garment where it's supposed to be. The garment I'm working on here isn't Ginger; it's actually a sneak peek of a project from my book! But it's very similar to Ginger in construction, so you'll get the idea.

I'm using spiral steel boning, which you can buy in many lengths here. You can also buy longer steel boning and cut it down, just make sure to get end caps to cover up the raw edges. (See my video on this here.)

You can also use rigilene, a polyester boning sold by the yard.

You'll need to slightly singe the ends of rigilene to keep it from poking through your garment.

There are different ways to approach this technique, and here's the one I mashed-up after much reading and thought. Here's what you'll need for this particular tutorial:
  • cotton flannel for the waistband underlining
  • horsehair canvas or other sturdy sew-in interfacing for the waistband facing
  • silk organza for the waistband facing
  • spiral steel boning or rigilene boning
Okay! Let's begin. For your pattern, you'll have two sets of waistband pieces: 2 front pieces and 4 back waistband pieces.We're going to start with the pieces that will be attached directly to your skirt, not the facing pieces.

I started by using cotton flannel to underline the fashion fabric. I'm using a thin suiting, and the flannel cushions the boning to keep it from showing on the outside of the skirt. If your fabric is thick or textured, you can skip this step. (If you're not sure, test some layers of fabric and boning in your hands and see if the boning shows through.) Cut out one set of waistband pieces in the flannel.

 Lightly draw in the seam allowances on the flannel.
 Pin the flannel to the fashion fabric.
 Hand baste the flannel to the fashion fabric just outside the seam line.

 Cut the flannel out of the seam allowances to avoid bulk.
Repeat on your back waistband pieces. My pattern has a button underlap, which I omitted the flannel in.
Next, sew these pieces together at the side seams and then attach your waistband to the skirt by stitching it to your skirt upper edge as usual. Set the skirt aside and get out your other set of waistband pieces.

Now we're going to apply interfacing to the waistband facing. It will be a double layer of horsehair canvas and silk organza, which will be stitched together to create boning channels. (This is similar in technique to my yellow dress boned lining, shown in this post.) Cut out a set of waistband pieces in horsehair canvas (or another sturdy sew-in interfacing) and another set out of silk organza (or another thin fabric like cotton batiste).

Draw in your seam line on the interfacing. Pin the interfacing and silk organza together.

 Arrange the boning pieces on the interfacing.
Draw around the boning with a ruler and pencil. Your boning lines should be 3/8" wide.
At your machine, stitch along the boning channels. Also stitch along the top seam line. Leave the bottom open so you can slide the boning into the channels, between the interfacing and organza.

 I ended up adding a couple more channels because it wasn't balanced.
 Baste or stitch along the bottom seam line to keep in boning in place.
Next, you'll baste the boned interfacing to the waistband facing. Lay the boned interfacing on top of your fashion fabric facing. Hand baste the layers together, just outside the seam lines.
Here's your finished front waist facing. It has three layers: the fashion fabric, the interfacing, and the organza.

 Cut the interfacing and organza out of the seam allowances.
Next, baste interfacing only to the back waistband facing pieces. The back waistband is narrow and doesn't need boning. Stitch the front facing to the back facing at the side seams.
Turn in the lower seam allowance.
 Now pin the waistband facing to the waistband (with flannel underlining) at the upper edge.

Carefully machine stitch the facing to the waistband, using a zipper foot to avoid stitching over the steel boning. Trim, grade, and press your seamline and turn the facing to the inside. Here's what the facing looks like opened out.
The turned-under bottom edge of the facing is hand stitched to the seam allowance to enclose the waistband.

I hope this all makes sense! Let me know if you have questions.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Working-at-Home Fashion Dilemma

Readers, today is my last day in corporate America. Huzzah! While it's exhilarating, many challenges lie ahead. First and foremost: what the heck to wear?

I've spent the last 10 or so years cultivating a workplace style: one that's vintage but professional, appropriate yet colorful and artsy. Lots of pencil skirts, sheath dresses, pumps, etc. Now that I'm going freelance, it's time to cultivate a new style, preferably one that doesn't involve either uncomfortable footwear or—on the other end of the spectrum—elastic waistbands. You see, when at home I tend to stay in my pjs. I'll be working from my apartment a lot now (though also out of a studio) and I don't want to spend all my time looking like a slob. I want to take the opportunity to be a bit more casual, but not sloppy.

So, readers, any tips for freelance/stay-at-home fashion? I'm thinking comfy dresses are the way to go, and if I had all the time in the world, I'd whip up a few vintage housedress patterns. Like these:

Or perhaps I could just swan about dramatically in this:

I'm also interested in making some of my regular basics, like high-waisted pencil skirts and such, in comfy stretch fabrics. I'm especially psyched to make this DKNY sheath dress pattern in leopard print jersey (the first view on the left, ignore the blocky sandals):

Vogue 2091 (OOP)
But beyond that, I'm having trouble imagining what I'll wear on a day-to-day basis. Any ideas or advice, readers? How do I: 1) avoid looking like a slob all the time and 2) what new basics do I need in my wardrobe to stay chic and comfy?
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