Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rhapsody in Blue

Here is the finished dress - finally!

I was so enamored of the Butterick 6413 bodice, I decided that I needed to make a second version of the dress, this time with a circle skirt.

One floral fabric design later, with some digital printing help from Contrado, and my creative vision is complete!

I had to cheat to make everything fit on my yardage, so the skirt is slightly less full than a complete circle, but it still turned out almost exactly as I had hoped.

In fact, I was so pleased with the way it turned out, I couldn't be bothered to wait for the warm weather to arrive before wearing this one out a few months ago.

This particular garment has already had another outing now that warm temperatures have arrived.

I just love how comfortable this is to wear.  And my obsession with tea length dresses is far from over.

I still have the finished version of the pencil skirted version of this dress to show you, so you have not seen the last of this pattern.  And if the bodice was not quite as distinctive, I might be tempted to make another!

Dress:  Made by me, Butterick 6413

[Disclosure:  Contrado provided me with this fabric, but the opinions posted here are my own.]

Monday, May 8, 2017

McCalls Summer 2017 Catalog

I really used to look forward to new pattern releases . . . that does not happen very often these days. 
McCalls 7599
The Archive Collection has returned, but if this is what it has to offer, I am not very excited about it.  I guess basic sells, but boy is this BORING.  Basic bodice, check . . . basic circle skirt, check.  Okay, so they gathered the straps, but do we really need a pattern for that?  How many variations of this dress do we really need!?  I am also confused by the styling.  Love the gingham, but the gloves, pearls, and hat say "afternoon at the museum," and the dress and shoes say summer picnic.  The yellow floral ensemble is all over the place, too.  Where is my pretty original vintage illustration?

McCalls 7599
To be fair, the McCall catalog is generally my least favorite; I definitely prefer Vogue and Butterick if my pattern library is anything to go by.  But I may have to add this bodysuit to my collection.  I remember owning a bodysuit back in the 90s and I really liked it, once I found one that actually fit my long torso.  This might be nice pattern to have around.

McCalls 7606
I also really like this blouse.  The high neck and cut-in shoulder line is not particularly flattering on me, but I have always loved the style.  Maybe if I find the right fabric/print I can make this work.  Then again, this kind of thing really looks great with a pair of pants - and you know how I feel about them!

McCalls 7601
And finally, for a good laugh . . . I am no ballet technique expert, but I adore watching accomplished dancers on stage.  But goodness gracious, this is painful to look at.  No more models doing ballet poses - it's just wrong!  Her face is stunning, but those feet look like a four year old attending her first day of ballet class.  The arms and hands are bad enough, but the feet!!!  Why on earth would they make this woman take a picture like that?!?  It's so very bad, I just can't look away!

McCalls 7615
So nothing that will be jumping to the top of the sewing queue, but I may just take a stab at making that blouse . . .

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Thoughts on the 2017 Met Gala Red Carpet

As expected, the 2017 Met Gala red carpet included some crazy outfits (not surprising considering that Comme des Garçons is featured in this year's exhibition) as well as some downright boring ones.  

While I can appreciate the creativity of Rei Kawakubo, her designs are certainly not my style, so I suppose it is not all that surprising that I had a really hard time picking a favorite look this year.  (I know it will surprise everyone to know that the gentleman carrying his own shorn dreadlocks was not my first pick of the evening - props for creativity, but that is one accessory that should have stayed home for the evening!)  Actually, I had a difficult time finding a single ensemble that I really loved.  But I keep coming back to this Alberta Ferretti dress on Fei Fei Sun.  Don't know who she is, but she looks beautiful.  Those sleeves are amazing, and the different textures of the fabrics play really well together - this dress would easily work in the closet of a 1930s movie star.  I even love the simple un-done hair with this look.  It is very easy to overlook details in a black dress, but this one is so spectacular it's hard to miss. 

Most of the ensembles that I was drawn to actually turned out to be devoid of much color.  I like the streamlined look of this black and white design.  The play of masculine and feminine design details has been done many times before (Emma Watson really knows how to make this sort of thing work), but this Carolina Herrera pant and bustier with an oversized train is very chic on Emmy Possum.

Continuing with the black and white theme, here is a Diane von Furstenberg dress on Allison Williams.  If someone had asked me, I would never have guessed that this is a Diane von Furstenberg design.  Hate the hair (which looks like an uninitiated hairstylist decided to have at it with a curling iron and a lot of hairspray), hate the earrings, and the sheer underlay on the sleeves is irritating me and distracts from the simplicity of the rest of the piece, but I do love the overall design.  The black and white combination and the asymmetrical peplum paired with the long sleeves is really lovely.  I just love a long sleeve on a formal gown!  

And here comes the boring . . .  This is a lovely little Diane von Furstenberg frock, but it just doesn't deserve a spot on this particular red (or blue or cream) carpet.  It's pretty, but it's just not special enough.  Would I like to own it?  Sure.  But if I was invited to an event like this, you better believe I would do something with my hair, and make sure my slip strap was not showing!  The overall silhouette is really lovely on her, though.  Just step it up for a big night out, would you please?!

This Topshop gown on Candace Swanepoel has some oomph to it due to the sheer size of the skirt, but again, I want more.  I don't like the hair much, and the nude lip trend has got to go.  I think they were trying to go for a Brigitte Bardot look, which would look lovely with a sun dress, but when you are wearing a ball gown, my goodness, you need to live up to the drama (even if it is a little on the boring side).  But I am sure she had fun twirling around in all that fabric - or at least, I would have!  Do supermodels twirl, do you think?

There was a tree in the backyard of the house I grew up in that had some very intriguing fungi growing on it one Winter.  The same species appears to have taken up residence on Halle Berry's Versace dress.  The beading on the bodysuit even looks like bark.  It's bold, and at least the proportions of the design are very pleasing, but I just can't stop seeing that tree fungus when I look at this picture.

And here we have a case of the old "actor that thinks she has to dress as a character she played for the rest of her red carpet life."  I haven't read any of the Fifty Shades books, and I haven't seen the movies, but this looks very good girl goes bondage to me, and I just don't think that Dakota Johnson can pull off this Gucci look.  I think that the design is interesting, but a lot of the detail gets lost in the black - I would have loved to see this in a deep wine or emerald with perhaps a bit of texture on the banding at the waist and shoulders, and on someone else.  The earrings also look a bit fussy for this dress, I would have liked to see something more modern.  I do thank her for doing something with her hair, though; this looks so much better than what she did with it for the Oscars.  

Katie Holmes and her BFF Zac Posen were out on the town together again.  There were a number of instagram videos posted, and it looked like she could barely walk in this.  Rule number one:  if you are going to be walking down a red carpet, for goodness sake, make sure you can move in the darn dress.  Rule number two:  if you can't handle a train, don't wear a dress with a train!!  And it looks like the dress suffered with an inexperienced driver at the helm - the hemline is already shredded after a few minutes of abuse.  I guess those tiers are unfinished?  At least Posen finally went with a more matte fabric - that shiny poly satin has got to go.  But I would have preferred to see Dita von Teese in this dress a couple of years back when she attended with Zac Posen.  She would know how to do this justice.  I also think the severe hair, eye makeup, and diamond choker was a styling mistake which makes the dress look a lot more "Red Carpet Barbie" than it should.

Okay, Zendaya, I love big hair and am super jealous of people with voluminous locks, but this is a little over the top.  I think it's the combination of the hair and the dress; the sheer volume of everything is too much.  Or maybe it just needs more, like a jeweled parrot perched atop the mass of hair to really make the ensemble larger than life.  D&G Alta Moda are always dressing their models in crazy head pieces, and I think that is what this is missing for me.  But the dress is just too cha-cha for words!  Dolce and Gabbana keep coming up with these ridiculous prints, and the more crazy they are, the more they work.  When they begin work on my dress, I will be asking for a different color palette that will not make me look like death warmed over, but Zendaya can certainly handle the mustard tones.

Belle is back, this time being played by Jessica Chastain (I have a feeling the yellow gown is going to be rearing its head quite a bit for the next year or so), but this time she has showed a bit of restraint in Prada.  I really love that neckline and the draped sleeves, but overall this is still quite underwhelming for the Met.  She really does look like a Disney princess, doesn't she?

And once again, here is a Babette to complete the set.  I can sort of understand why Blake Lively chose this dress because her body looks spectacular, but then you get to the hemline and the blue feather duster train is just bizarre.  I guess Versace was going for some kind of exotic bird?  The look on her face makes me think she is second guessing her choice, as well.  I think this one belongs in Vegas . . . hey, JLo, I think I found an outfit for your next stage show. 

But wait a minute, Ms. Lopez decided to go for something quite different today . . .  I really want to like this very 1960s inspired blue number on Jennifer Lopez, and maybe with eight inches of hair removed it would work for me.  I do, however, appreciate that she went for something a bit different.  We have seen so many barely covered looks from this lady, so this is a nice departure.  But I think that perhaps the chiffon overlay could have been just a tad more sheer so the under dress it just a little more visible.  She really does Old Hollywood very well, and in this instance, the light lip with the heavy eye makeup works.  Those earrings are the perfect finishing touch, too.

Julianne Moore went with a Calvin Klein feathered number (also very Vegas appropriate).  I think this would have worked better if the hemline was slightly shorter.  And I hate the shoes and purse combo.  The matte white just drags all of those feathers down.  Where are the metallic scrappy sandals, please?!

I rather enjoy this Pre-Raphaelite-like craziness.  (Zendaya, this is what I was talking about with the hair, just with some sparkles and feathers, perhaps!)  It is possible the dress looks incredibly gaudy in person and in the daylight, but I love the headdress and the curly blond ringlets on Haley Bennett, and the sleeves, the earrings, and the bright pink lip compliment each other perfectly.  She looks like an gilded angel.

I love a ballgown, I really do.  And I am certain that this Oscar de la Renta was amazing to wear, and I would really love to see that textile up close (I would hope it is a brocade and not just printed), but here is another basic strapless gown.  The hair, makeup, and restrained jewelry and shoes is spot on, though.  I guess I will give Miranda Kerr a little credit for the interesting skirt length, or do we think this was just made for a shorter individual?  It does look very Audrey, so all is not lost.

As someone who is very long waisted, I am intrigued by this Chanel bodice.  It looks almost Elizabethan with a very restrained farthingale-like skirt.  I do love that vibrant pink.  The shoulder bloom is reminding me a bit too much of that tree fungus on Halle Berry, though - look out, the spores are spreading!  And Lily-Rose Depp looks rather miserable; I am concerned that embellishment is beginning to strangle her.

Oh dear, the shiny satin is back, thanks to Carolina Herrera.  At least this looks like silk, though.  Satin just creases and looks rumpled so very easily.  And this should have been hemmed up another inch or so for it to fit Taylor Hill properly.  I do love the sleeve, though!  I am also confused as to why the hem is faced with horsehair, or is there some kind of fabric facing?  It is killing the drape of the train.  And could she not do something with her hair?  And what is up with the pink eyeshadow trend?  Maybe it works in an editorial, but in the sunlight, it looks like something went horribly wrong.

Speaking of rumpled . . .  there is something about this I like - perhaps because it reminds me of something Donna Karan would have designed fifteen years ago.  But not for a formal event, for goodness sake!  Turns out, Doutzen Kroes is wearing Brock Collection, which I am not familiar with.  I am reminded of that mustard Marchesa monstrosity that Katie Holmes wore to an event some years back.  This lacks a bit of that volume which somehow makes it work (for a day dress).  It often seems like these designers think that real opulence involves taking some beautiful fabric, throwing it on a dress form, tacking it down in a few random places, and hoping for the best.  There is a fine line between looking like you are not trying very hard and looking like you pulled your dress off of the floor of your closet.  I think this particular dress has failed that test.

Almost twenty years later, Gwyneth Paltrow tries to get that ill fitting pink Ralph Lauren princess gown she wore to the 1999 Oscars right, and I think she finally managed it in this sparkly Calvin Klein.  And yes, I am still never going to forgive her for stealing the award from Cate Blanchett that year, which may have something to do with my intense dislike for the ill fitting gown.  I do wish she would have bothered to swipe on some mascara and a bit of lipstick, and a bracelet of some kind would have been nice.  This is nowhere near as good as the white caped Tom Ford from a few year back, but sleek and modern really suits her, and hey, at least the darn dress fits this time.  But is it enough for this event?  I think not.

And to end, there is nothing that exudes true style and class like a hand on your wife’s rear end in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and hundreds of photographers.  Do we think Mr. Brady has cold hands and did not want to get Gisele's back chilly?  I am going to put this in the Angelina thigh category.  I suppose they think they are being cute, but it just looks tacky.

All in all, a bit of a disappointment this year, but it always is fun to see what walks up those stairs!

[Click on image for source]

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Summer Simplicity

The Simplicity Summer catalog has been released, and they even managed to get their website updated in time!  That has not happened since the website revamp, so perhaps things are going to improve as far as that goes . . .  

With no new vintage to gush over, my favorite design by far is the American Duchess version of that famous red Outlander gown (Simplicity has recolored the dress to be a greenish teal for the website, so not sure what that is about?).  With the panniers, this dress is very unsuitable for my daily life, but it is really gorgeous.  Swanning about in over 8 yards of fabric sounds pretty darn fabulous, actually.  Just not sure that I would be able to squeeze into my car - otherwise it would certainly be fun to show up wearing something like this to work!  I haven't dressed up for Halloween for a few years now . . . maybe that will have to change . . .

The Cynthia Rowley top/dress is cute, but I already have a ton of her patterns, and rarely make them up.  And I am not so sure that skinny off-the-shoulder elasticized piece looks especially comfortable, so I am going to have to think about this one.

While I have not seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie, I was very disappointed by stills of the yellow gown, especially the bodice treatment.  But looking at the line drawing for Simplicity’s version, I actually like the flounces on the skirt back very much.

They also have the cartoon version of the yellow gown, made up in a particularly horrible polyester satin.  My skin is getting itchy just looking at that thing.  The model does not look terribly pleased, either.  Someone please destroy all of the Casa Collection satin and embellished organza - the world would be a much better place for it!

Simplicity is also jumping on the pattern hacking bandwagon.  Is this not what everyone already does with a pattern?  I suppose it could be helpful to a beginner who might not otherwise understand just how easy it is to add a ruffle or shorten a hem or scoop out a neckline.  Do you think they include instructions on how to properly draft those changes?  I may take a peek at the insert on this pattern next time I stop by the big box fabric store.  (I have to admit that when I first started using dress patterns, I thought that the instructions should be followed verbatim, so they may be onto something!)

I guess that means there is only one pattern that will definitely be coming home with me this season, but it's a good one!  Now if only 8 yards of glorious silk would suddenly appear in my apartment I could get started . . .

Monday, April 17, 2017

Out of Season

Today's unseasonable and very soggy weather reminded me of this outfit.  I was almost tempted to throw on a wool sweater in the middle of April.  What is going on?!?

And what the heck happened to our beautiful Spring weather?  I am really getting tired of the gray skies and the rain.

This garment will be getting a whole lot of wear towards the end of the year, but for now, I am much more interested in light colors and fabrics (even if the weather is not playing fair).

I sure do love a circle skirt, though!  If I can find a suitable mid-weight wool in a beautiful color, I may just have to make myself another for next Winter.

The most irritating part was, you guessed it, evening out that darn hem.  Even thick wool coating is not immune to the dreaded bias droop.

The sweater was a quick knit when I was in need of a portable project that would not require a lot of fuss, and one that I would be comfortable stopping and starting at a moment's notice.

It served its purpose quite well, and I may want to make another in a warm weather appropriate fiber.  If the rainfall keeps up, I may finish my current knitting project soon and do just that!

Sweater:  Made by me, “Jumper with a Boat Neckline” 
Skirt:  Made by me, Vogue 2902
Shoes:  Royal Vintage “Marilyn

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Finishing Touches to Shades of Blue

I have not been spending as much time in the sewing room as I would like to, as of late.  And I am still unable to motivate myself to deal with the dreaded dropped hem on the full skirt, but I am very, very close to finished with this dress!

I decided to use an invisible zipper this time around.  The design has a definite vintage vibe, but I thought a streamlined approach would work well with this print instead of a lapped zipper.  I also had a very good color match in an invisible zip stashed away, so I went for it.

Just like the straight skirted version of this design, I did not use the given instructions.  This involved a lot more hand sewing than the pattern intends, but I prefer the control I get working by hand.

A bemberg rayon was not a suitable choice for this stable mid-weight cotton, and since I had enough leftover scraps of the printed fabric (but not enough to make another garment) I decided that I might as well use it for the lining.

When I posted some of these images to Instagram, I received a lot of questions/comments about the bra situation for this design.  It is possible that a bra with a very deep plunge could work.  It would also be quite easy to alter the depth of the v that is cut out of the midriff piece if the plunge almost works, but not quite.  But as drafted, this will definitely not work with a standard bra.

My solution was to add the foundation garment to the dress itself.  I have found that I prefer the "soft molded bra cups" to the "molded" ones, which feel a bit like armor.  The soft version is quite pliable, and while not as supportive as an actual bra, it definitely makes a difference to the garment's structure, in my opinion. 

If the bra cups you find do not reach to the seam allowance, you can stitch a scrap of fabric directly to the cup so that you have an anchor point.

I use a very loose basting stitch or catch stitch to anchor the cups to the seam allowance, and then cover the whole thing with the lining.  Just make sure you try the dress on to ensure everything is in the proper place before stitching the lining down permanently! 

I also added two ribbon hangers to each side seam since the neckline is very wide.  A length of narrow ribbon gets folded in half and stitched to the seam allowance before the lining is stitched down.  And this is the step I am most likely to forget on any given project!  I cannot tell you how many time I have had to re-open a seam because of this . . . it must have something to do with the fact that the end is almost in sight.

And now I really need to get over myself and fix that darn hem!

[Disclosure:  Contrado provided me with this fabric, but the opinions posted here are my own.]