Thursday, May 17, 2018

Upholstering the Body

I was given this length of upholstery fabric a few months ago, and immediately knew that I wanted to do something special with it.

Then Gertie released Butterick 6556 and I knew I had found the perfect match . . . if only I had enough yardage.  And by some miracle, I did!

The Royal Wedding Sew-Along that McCall is hosting was the motivation to get started!  I also thought I would step up the look with a couple of rhinestone pieces since this was a more fancy schmancy occasion.  The smaller of the two pieces is a buckle; the larger is actually a shoe clip, but I am missing the matching clip.  The idea was to add one to a belt and use the other for some kind of hair accessory.

With such a large scale print, I though it would be a good idea to match prints as much as possible.  And I had enough fabric to make my center back bodice line up nicely which was the spot I was most concerned about.

I am beginning to run out of solid colored cottons that I hoard from past projects to use for sew-in interfacing.  I have plenty of little pieces, but facings are often strangely shaped and take up more real estate than you might think.  This beige would not normally be my first choice of color for this print, but it means I am sewing with stash fabric, and that has become a bit of a mission around these parts.

Other than a bit of time and energy spent on pattern placement, this project went together very smoothly.  I gambled that the pattern would be a good fit with my standard adjustments, and everything turned out great.  In fact, this is a fabulous design, and if you think you might like the silhouette, grab yourself a copy because it's a keeper!

Then it was just a matter of finishing everything nicely with a little rayon seam binding.

I know a lot of people avoid quilting cottons and upholstery fabric for garment sewing, but I have really had amazing results with both.  For upholstery fabrics, I make sure to launder before sewing since some of them are treated with fire retardant chemicals that I would just as soon not have next to my skin.  And just look at the fabulous volume on the pleated skirt with no petticoat!

I also managed to eek out a bodice lining from some leftover bemberg rayon.  Hooray for stash busting!

I do wish that the lighter colored bemberg was not quite so sheer, but it is a lovely fabric to work with, so I continue to use it.

The neckline treatment on this dress is wonderful, and I wanted to get that center front notch just right, so I marked my stitching line with a fabric pen.

And while it may be a bit of a pain to match up every pleat with its corresponding dart or seamline, it is worth the effort.  I am beginning to think I need more pleated skirts in my life!  Gathers are fun, but pleats are so very chic!

I hand picked a lapped zipper for this dress.  The fabric is just a little too thick for me to be comfortable using an invisible zipper - those things can be super finicky with bulky seamlines, and I did not want to chance it.

And then, of course, the remaining raw edges get hidden behind a lining, or bound with seam binding.

I am quite pleased with how this one looks, inside and out.

And I will definitely be making another version at some point in the future.  There are quite a few finished dresses popping up on the internet, and I anticipate there will be many more of Butterick 6556 appearing in the near future.  This pattern is definitely a winner!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Feeling Scrappy

My rag rugs have gone a long way to lessen the amount of quilting cotton stashed away in my sewing room.

But just how small is too small when it comes to useful scraps?

Well, I now have an excuse to keep tiny pieces of cotton . . . a paper pieced quilt top!

Most of these fabrics were used to make dresses over the years, then my rag rug, and now, a hexie quilt.

This is going to be very time consuming, but so far, I am really enjoying the process.

It's the perfect excuse for tiny hand stitches - my favorite!

I have been using Gutermann quilting thread.  It's coated specifically for hand sewing to help keep tangles and knots at bay, and it is considerably stronger than a standard machine thread.

There is a lot of paper cutting, wrapping fabric scraps around tiny paper pieces, and miles and miles of hand sewing left, but I am looking forward to it!!

Friday, May 11, 2018

The 2018 Met Gala Red Carpet

Monday was the annual Met Gala - an evening in which celebrities go all out with their red carpet looks. Some follow the given theme (this year is "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination") and some choose not to, but really, the event is an excuse to pull out all the stops when it comes to fashion. Because really, there are not that many places you can get away with wearing a massive train these days, and quite a few of these ladies took advantage!

My favorite of the night, by far, is Blake Lively in Versace. I gasped out loud when I saw this. It fulfills all of my dress fantasies, possibly because my formative years were in the late 1990s, and I distinctly remember wanting a prom dress with this exact bodice shape. This dress is the perfect combination of Vivienne Westwood, Lacroix, and recent Dolce & Gabbana designs - the best of all possible worlds when it comes to over the top dresses. It's opulent and lavish without looking overdone or cheap like so many of the contemporary jewel encrusted pieces that I see these days. As far as wearability, I am not sure I would be comfortable with that much sheer fabric all the way up my thighs, but to have an opportunity to wear a work of art like this, I might just be able to get over myself! I love the hair with the jeweled halo and the earrings. Perhaps the gold of the bracelet is a bit too bright (I would have preferred a more antiqued gold), but this is close to perfect for me, right down to those Louboutin shoes.

In the past, I have mentioned that I believe Priyanka Chopra is one of the most beautiful women in the world, and this Ralph Lauren outfit is doing her justice. She often makes strange fashion choices, in my opinion, but this is stunning. And hey, it doesn't get much better than wine colored silk velvet. We have a perfect fit, combined with a flattering color to her completion, and lovely makeup. The front hairline with that jeweled hood is perfection. This is beautiful!

I adore Sarah Jessica Parker, especially because she can and does manage to get away with crazy ensembles. This Dolce and Gabbana, however, I am not so sure about. The creche on her head is incredible (although I would have liked to see another cluster of flowers to balance the other side of the piece). And while the overall silhouette is great, I am not a fan of the gold fabric. It looks cheap. I also think the color of the bustier/panty thing that is worn underneath for modesty is the wrong color. Perhaps this dress was initially made for someone with a different complexion? Although SJP is so petite, it's hard to believe that she could wear anything originally made for a model.

[I was also curious about how one gets to and from an event with such a tall headdress - the answer is a really tall van - SJP had an instagram video that showed her leaving her home and getting into said van. And the train is detachable, which helps when you have to get in and out of any vehicle.]

Evan Rachel Wood looks like phoenix rising in Altuzarra. If only there was a little something more happening with the hair . . . this golden cloak is amazing, but I lose her face in all of that gold. Do we think this is sequined? Or lamé? Maybe more substantial earrings would do the trick. And I definitely think she needs a darker lip.

Kate Bosworth is looking very Madonna-like in Oscar de la Renta. The metallic tulle is exquisite, and I love the head covering. Are we calling this a mantilla? Or is it a veil? I love the whole darn thing. So glad there is no necklace distracting from the overall look. This is fantastic styling, right down to the shoes.

I love the fact that this particular religious theme seems to have made headdresses and jeweled additions to everyone's coiffures a requirement. While the idea of depicting oneself as holy is slightly odd, I rather like this Ralph Lauren piece on Rosie Huntington Whiteley, complete with golden halo. She certainly does look like an angel. The dress and the cape are lovely, but something is not quite right for me. I keep staring at the dress length and the shoes. It may be the shape of the hem - I would have like a slightly trumpeted silhouette at the hemline to echo the cape.

Moschino does over the top and tacky extremely well. I would have preferred to see what Dolce and Gabbana would have done with this particular idea of covering a dress with religious iconography, and I am not sure I love the waistline treatment with the chunky black leather and buckles, but Stella Maxwell looks so Bottechelli-esque that I am really liking the overall feel to this. But it really is a bit much.  It reminds me of those old cars that people cover in plastic toys and beads  and paint and all manner of stuff.  So, far from my favorite, but I can't stop staring at it just the same.

I would love to see Salma Hayek's dress up close. It has an almost tapestry like texture - is it beaded, sequined, how did they accomplish this? I am not sure that neckline is the most flattering on her, but I can see why Altuzarra chose to leave the silhouette simple to showcase that amazing print. The hair is boring, and doesn't live up to the dress at all.

If I had to choose a second favorite of the evening, Zendaya's Versace look would be it. Okay, I admit it - I am in love with this dress. It looks an amalgamation of the two characters in one of my favorite Pre Raphaelite paintings, "La Belle Dame sans Merci" by Frank Dicksee. I believe Zendaya was actually going for a Joan of Arc look to match the Catholic theme for this years Gala, but that is not what I choose to see. Who knew armor could look so darn good!

My first look at Amal Clooney's gown was from the back of this Richard Quinn piece as I was sneaking a peek of the red carpet arrivals at work, and I was ready to fall head over heels in love. But then I saw the front. But that train . . . the things I would do with that fabric!! I am disappointed in the pairing of the metallic bustier and the ill fitting satin pants. The earrings and shoe choices do little to bring the look together, and it leaves me underwhelmed.

From the side view, I actually like the idea of this Prabal Gurung on Diane Kruger. However, other photos show just how long the train is, and the shape of the dress is a little too balloon-like. Don't get me wrong, I love a good 1960s style skirt that has a lot of volume through the hips. But this one starts higher than the waistline, but too low to be empire. It is less than flattering with all the extra volume from the train. I do like the idea, though, and the lace appliqué.

Wonder Woman is alive and looking amazing. I think the color is stunning on Lynda Carter, and while I am not sure about the fabrication, I am liking this Zac Posen design. Actually, the accessories are what make the outfit for me. The crown is perfection, and the medallion necklaces under the outer coat-thing is fabulous. The clutch totally works, too. I also really love the basque waistline - so few dresses include the detail, and yet it is so very flattering.

And then Frances McDormand walks into the room (or, in this case, up the stairs). This color combination is luscious. I assume the headdress is Philip Treacy? The entire look is brilliant. Where can I find myself a brightly colored silk opera cloak and who wants to invite me to an event suited to such an article of clothing. Because I am in!! And look - no horsehair braid - the faille just folds in its own fantastic way and looks like some painting by an old master.  Love it, love it, love it!

Oh, the glorious color on this Prabal Gurung gown! Not thrilled about the necklace choice - the bodice ruffle on this thing is way too busy for such a large necklace. And I think the silhouette would work better if the front of said ruffle were just a bit shorter. I do like the simple hair and makeup, though. These colors . . . they are just too, too good!!

Back to that whole Pre-Raphaelite thing . . . Amanda Seyfried in Prada looks like she stepped right out of a painting. I don't think this particular shade of mustard is the right yellow for her skin tone, but the hair and the dress embellishments are really nice. And I am not thrilled about the elastic casing around the sleeve piece on couture, but not sure what the alternative would be.

While I am not usually a fan of the fashion choices that Kim Kardashian makes, I rather like this Versace dress, except for a couple of issues. First, the corset line is very visible at the hipline, and I find it irritating. But what really bugs me is the slip that ends at her knees. In some photos (and I assume different lighting) this is not visible and the liquid gold is really lovely. It's not as thought this woman is afraid of showing the world any part of her body, so why the modesty lining? Or, if the garment requires a lining, make it go to the hem of the dress, for goodness sake.

And the curse of the horsehair braid strikes again; I don't think we have made it through a red carpet without a poorly executed example for years now.  This looks to be about 2" wide instead of the 4" or 5" stuff that has been dragged down the red carpet lately, but what the heck?!  This Ralph Lauren gown is actually backless, and therefore a bit more interesting from that angle, but I cannot get past the unnecessarily sloppy hemline. I adore the hair, though.

There are not many people out there could wear this Givenchy gown without it wearing them, but Lily Collins is one of them. I can't put my finger on why I like this so much.  She almost looks other worldly. Here we have another halo. I think this one, combined with the makeup is stunning. The hair is a bit severe and from the side angle you can see her scalp which looks rather painful, but the effect from the front angle is really beautiful.

It's always fun to see what Janelle Monae comes up with - this time she is wearing Marc Jacobs. The black and white is striking. The moire texture on the train seems unnecessarily busy, but I like the idea. It also looks very 1940s to me, with that jeweled headscarf/wrap thing. Even the halo/hat works somehow. Is there anything this woman can't wear?

Taylor Hill is wearing Diane von Furstenberg. And this looks way too close to an actual Cardinal's vestment for comfort. The cross necklace steps over the line. Don't get me wrong, I love red and black - the edging detail is great, but it just seems tacky to dress as a Cardinal and then show that much skin, right?! I haven't heard any backlash from conservative Catholics, but this seems like it's pushing the limits of good taste.

Anne Hathaway looks like she should be sitting for a portrait in all that silk taffeta from Valentino. On a shorter individual, this would be ridiculous, but I think she carries this off well. The crown of thorns halo is slightly disturbing, but it cuts the sweetness of the dress.

I am not sure that Bee Shaffer ever really follows the theme of the evening (I guess red = religious?) but this Valentino Couture piece is beautiful. Oh wait, there is a cross on her clutch. Points for following mommy's theme, but what the heck does that have to do with the dress?!

Normally, the combination of red and pink makes me cringe. But this Prada on Katherine Langford works. Or is it just that anything that smacks of 1940s elegance gets a pass from me? I don't like the hair or the makeup, though. Why the corpse lip when you are wearing bright red? Pull out the red lipstick, for goodness sake!! I also think those earring were a mistake with the belt, and a matching cuff on each wrist would have looked really wonderful. Next time . . .

Tracee Ellis Ross in wearing Repose, and while I prefer Frances McDormand's cape, this hair is amazing. I love this 1960s look on her, although I would have like a brighter pink lip.

And while there was quite a lot that I liked walking up those famous stairs, here is another whoops. Jennifer Connelly carries off "fashion" pieces quite well, but this Louis Vuitton is a mess. I love when designers combine crazy textures and designs well. This is not one of those outfits. And to top it all off, it's too long. Nope, don't get it at all.

And I definitely would love to talk with a staunch Catholic about how they feel seeing Rhiana wearing the Pope's mitre. John Galliano has made his home at Maison Margiela, but I miss his Dior work so very much. This seems to be bordering on blasphemous. I often find Rhiana's fashion choices to be tasteless, so perhaps that is coloring my perception, but this just seems wrong on so many levels. I bet that embroidery is amazing, though.

Kendall Jenner is wearing Off-White. Okay, trouser length is getting out of control. At least we can see her toes a little tiny bit, but now we have trains for wide legged pants?! How is this a thing? And I would love to see what those white pants look like after she has been dragging them around for an entire evening. Kendall looks gorgeous, though. The hair and makeup is stunning on her, as is that off the shoulder neckline.

So, while there were surely a few "what on Earth were they thinking" looks for me walking those stairs, there is a lot of fashion inspiration to be found here - which is a real relief after the past year of being rather underwhelmed with formalwear on the red carpet!

[Click on image for source]