Monday, February 24, 2020

Cotton Cord

Here is a project that has been sitting in a bag, unfinished and forgotten for years.  Years!  I honestly cannot remember when I started this.  And I am actually quite glad that I left it unfinished for a couple of reasons.

But first, here is McCalls 3730.  I liked the pattern enough to purchase it, although I wanted to make changes to those sleeves from the start.  And I conveniently kept a little sketch of my idea in the bag with all of the bits and pieces when I abandoned the project.

At the time, I desperately wanted to use a couple of crochet trim pamphlets that I had collected.  So I got to work and made up my trim in lengths that would match my bodice and yoke pieces so there was no need to cut anything and have it unravel.

I remember tea dying the pieces because I didn't like the brighter ecru color against the darker colored flowers.

I also left myself a couple of pages with measurements and even a drafted cuff for my theoretical sleeve.  But I never cut out a sleeve, which meant that I had enough leftover corduroy to do that now.  And instead of drafting my own sleeve, I decided to test out a vintage pattern, Simplicity 9723, first in muslin.

The sleeve fit beautifully into the armscye of McCalls 7370 (it always helps to have a sleeve with a gathered cap, though!).

Instead of lining the sleeve, I flatlined it with rayon bemberg.  I figured this was the easiest way to approach the sleeve construction, and I knew I wanted a lining of some kind with the sticky cotton cord.

This pattern has a technique I have never seen before that stabilizes a small opening with a scrap of fabric that gets used as the cuff opening.

If you have a very large hand, this might create a problem as there is a lot less room than a traditional placket opening, but for me, it worked beautifully.  Will I make every cuffed sleeve I encounter in the future in this manner?  Probably not, but I do love learning new tricks from vintage pattern primers!

And here are the sleeves on the dress - so much better than the ones that came with the McCalls pattern, in my opinion!

Once the sleeves were on, I fiddled with trim placement along the shoulders and hand stitched it into place.

Which brings me to another reason I am so glad I set this project aside.  In the project bag, I had started to cut into some polyester lining.  Thankfully (although I didn't feel that way at the time), I failed to transfer some of my bodice alterations to the lining pieces so that they would not work with my dress.

Which meant that the horrible staticky and gross poly lining did not get attached to my dress.  Instead, I used some bemberg remnants in my stash to recut the lining with my alterations.  It really is incredible how a short dress takes so little fabric yardage.  (I don't plan on deserting my tea length frocks anytime soon, but I understand why manufacturers push short hemlines - they save on fabric and therefore costs go way down, which they don't necessarily pass on to the customer.)

And I added handmade crochet trim to the hemline as well.  Past me was very considerate and kept all of these pieces with the project so I didn't have to go searching for them.

The final bit was buttons and buttonholes on the cuffs.  I still can't get my Bernina machine to play ball, so I have to pull out another machine . . . which is aggravating.  But I made it work.

It is also interesting to note that these cuffs are quite slim.  I generally have to make cuffs smaller, either while cutting out, or cheating on button placement.  With this 1970s pattern, I made sure to pick a small button so I could easily get the cuff to wrap around my wrist.

And here is my dress!  The copyright on the McCalls pattern is 2002, and I would guess that I cut into this soon after purchasing the pattern since I did not have the pattern stash that I now have.  Which means this project probably took at least 15+ years to complete.  And I think that's a record for me; one which I hope I never repeat!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The 2020 Oscars Red Carpet

An interesting conversation about sustainability has been happening surrounding red carpet events.  But with a few exceptions, the stars and their stylists don't seem to be listening.  It is especially interesting to me that most of these woman change into a second or even third gown for the afterparty.  That seems to me to be the opposite of sustainable, and completely unnecessary.  I seem to remember one or two women who chose to wear a massive ballgown on the red carpet who would change into something that did not take up quite as much real estate to attend a party or two after the main event.  And if you take up at least six square feet and want to walk between tables to mingle, I can see the point.  But now almost everyone does it, even if their dress of choice is not preventing them from moving easily in a crowded room.  Why is no one talking about that kind of excess?  But on to the festivities.  [And just a reminder that the following critique is not about any average woman dressing herself on any given day, but rather, a woman being dressed and fussed over by multiple people in charge of making her look as perfect as possible for a walk down a red carpet where she will be seen by millions of people.  I think we can all agree that the bar is set much higher for anyone attending this event.]

I have been quite disappointed with Charlize Theron's red carpet choices this year.  This Dior Haute Couture piece is, by far, my favorite of her choices, although it certainly isn't my favorite of the evening.  Something about the neckline of this gown is off for me.  I am trying to envision it without the one dropped shoulder, but even so, that deep u curve looks odd to me paired with the structured peplum.  You know how I feel about a thigh slit by now, but really, I think it works in this case, and the choice of heels and a black mani/pedi is a nice touch.  I love the severe platinum hair.  I could use a little more lip color, but I think a nude is actually an interesting choice.  That necklace pairing is strange, though, much too staid and old fashioned for the modern lines of the gown.  I definitely was hoping for something more exciting.  Perhaps Charlize is so striking that I expect her clothing to be just as striking, which it isn't in in this case.

Moving on to a neckline that is spot on!  I am not sure who is responsible for Stephanie Allain's look, but I love the lines of that bustier covered by a deep plunging tuxedo jacket.  Love the hair, love her smile.  But then I look below the knees and I am confused.  It seems like there is some kind of pleating or ruching on the outside of the pant leg?  And those chunky heels scream Spice Girls in the late 90s.  From the knees up, this is excellent, though!

I appreciate that Rooney Mara almost always makes bold choices on the red carpet.  This Alexander McQueen, however, is too bizarre for me.  Part of the bodice looks like some weird oversized bra paired with an ineffective bib.  The structure of the sleeve is a result of a gathered piece of tulle (perfectly acceptable) but because it is visible, it looks like someone shoved a dark colored plastic bag in there.  I have seen vintage pieces that are sheer and have a puffed sleeves accomplished with much more finesse.  I think an obvious solution would be to use a flesh colored tulle.  Not positive that would fix the issue up close, but it certainly would photograph better.  Although difficult to tell with the black color, I think the skirt is tiers of lace.  Or is it feathers?  I like the body of the skirt paired with a form fitting bodice, but the curved line of the skirt/bodice join makes her look really, really long waisted.   I think a little more body in the skirt would be helpful.  Unfortunately, this comes off more young goth that got to grandma's doilies with a vat of black dye than couture work of art.

Penelope Cruz was one of the actresses who chose to dig into the fashion archives for her choice of dress.  Online information suggests the gown is from 1995 which is not actually vintage by any definition, but I appreciate getting another look at a dress like this.  And I really like the look of this even though I'm not a big Chanel fan.  Love that 1960s style puffed skirt with the asymmetrical hemline.  Really lovely.  The pearls around the waist cheapen the gown slightly in my mind, and I am not sure that the oversized and puffy white camellia was totally necessary, but overall, really beautiful, and I guess Chanel wanted to make sure everyone knew it was one of theirs.  I don't even mind the flat ironed hair since it looks like she actually put a brush through it.  And those shoes are perfection with that dress silhouette.

At first glance, Natalie Portman in Dior Haute Couture was one of the looks that stood out to me.  I really wish she would have pulled something vintage from the Dior archives, though.  I love the message of the embroidered names on the cape, but the oversized lapels extending past her shoulder make the piece look a little oversized and sloppy.  I am not a huge fan of the "naked" dress look, and this is bordering on embroidered naked dress material, but the overall feel is very nice and the black and gold combination is nice.

Oh, how I appreciate a statement sleeve!  And they are so very few and far between these days.  So, right off the bat, Olivia Colman had my attention in her Stella McCartney gown.  Unfortunately, other than her glowing smile and her adorable haircut (wish I could get away with wearing my hair like that!), and the sleeves, of course, I am not really a fan of the dress.  McCartney is recycling the skinny dress idea she had back in Fall 2011, which could work with those sleeves, I suppose, but then she throws in a rectangular floor length train, too?  The curved lines of the dress clash with the linear train in a very distracting way for me.  And if I am being picky, I am not so sure that those sleeves are the most flattering look for her figure since they disguise the shoulder line.  If the train was tapered it might work better.  I see the artistic merits of this gown, but as is, I find it a little too all over the place to work as a single garment.

Here is another example of when some fabulous design details go horribly wrong when a designer (Donna Matotoshi) keeps picking at things and adding more and more until it is difficult to figure out where the focus should be.  The beaded shoulder epaulet detailing on this dress paired with the stand up collar at the back neck and a plunging neckline is sensational.  The beaded mess at the wrists is too much, and that thigh slit is way too much.  Pick one, please, Blac Chyna, décolletage or thigh exposure, you can't have both.  I do love the hair, although the marcelle wave says 1920s and the dress says 1940s to me, but the lips are so very distracting.  Her face didn't always look like that, did it?!

Does this woman even age?!  Julia Louis-Dreyfus rarely makes very surprising choices on the red carpet, but she know what works for her (in this case, Vera Wang), and she rarely looks anything but classic and stunning.  I don't even mind the pooling of the hem since there is no horsehair.  Sure, I could have used a little color on her lips, but I love the soft wave in the hair, and the color of that silk is gorgeous on her.  The dress isn't going to win any design awards for originality, but I think she looks wonderful.

You know how I love a long-sleeved gown, but my goodness Dior Haute Couture, who set in those sleeves?!  It looks almost as though someone gathered the lower portion of the sleeve instead of the cap, figured out their mistake, ripped it out and tried again and then didn't press anything?  I am so confused by the puckering.  I love that green, although I am not sure it was the best choice for Sigourney Weaver.  Or maybe a little lip color would perk up her skin tone.  The draping on that bodice really is exquisite, especially paired with that pleated skirt.  But I am still very concerned about those sleeves . . .

The color of this dress made me stop in my tracks.  Love this Louis Vuitton on Lorene Pugh.  I think the length and proportions are excellent for a petite woman.  I love the tiered skirt and self-fabric belt.  I am not at all sold on the hairdo or the necklace.  But thank you for the amazingly vivid colored satin.  More color, please! 

I can't find any mention of who Dominique Lemonnier is wearing (her husband was the one up for an Oscar, so not entirely surprising), and while her outfit is not my style at all, I think she looks amazing and I had to include her in this roundup.  I wonder if the cape could be a vintage piece?  I love the artsy volume of the cape paired with a simple turtleneck and wide legged pants (or is that a skirt?).  Super chic and she looks incredibly comfortable.

Here is a woman who chose an odd color for her gown.  Does Dior even care about skin tone when they choose fabric?  Haute Couture is about flattering the individual, right?  Looking past the strange misstep with the olive toned silk on a blond with pale skin, I am intrigued by the hem treatment.  Could that be fringe on Greta Gerwig's hem?  Is it a reference to a Victorian gown in some way, or am I reading too much into that?  I do approve of the necklace choice paired with a very classic strapless gown, but overall, this is rather underwhelming.

And speaking of color choice, here is my color nemesis, yellow.  Maybe it's the lighting, because I would expect this difficult to wear color would make Mindy Kaling glow, but the yellow Dolce & Gabbana doesn't seem like the right shade for her.  I am going to guess it's a lighting thing and move on.  Because, while there is nothing here that hasn't been seen before in a gown, this silhouette looks wonderful on her, and the whole ensemble is really beautifully put together, from head to toe.  And look, no horsehair!!  Definitely a winning look.

So Tracee Ellis Ross is on the Vanity Fair party red carpet, but I had to include this dress, because I think she looks amazing.  The front plunges, so does the back, the cape is totally overdone, but it look amazing.  Can't explain why I like this Zuhair Murad as much as I do, but it's fantastic.  She looks like a modern version of the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis with her winged cape, and there are photos online of her spinning around with arms outstretched to prove it.  Love this so very much!

And in another twist of fate, I actually like something that Kerry Washington is wearing to an awards show.  That never happens!  This is also Zuhair Murad, and clearly this designer has been boning up on ancient Egyptian fashion.  Sure, it's a lot of look, but it works together and the cropped silhouette suits her perfectly right down to the skirt length and the peek at those scrappy gold shoes.

Oh dear, Billy.  This is not your best work, and I would hope it's not Giles Deacon Couture's best work, either.  From the waist up, this is amazing.  I love the gold feathers.  Then again, I would expect some fabulous headdress to compliment the look.  And the restrained bracelets don't work.  Maybe a thick gold cuff, or two?  But the bottom half of this ensemble looks phoned in, and I don't believe it's salvageable.  Did this get put together at the last minute?  Because it certainly looks that way.  Very disappointing.  Maybe it's time to get back to basics instead of trying to outdo himself with each new appearance. 

Oooohhhh, classic hollywood, here she comes.  Rebel Wilson looks fantastic in this gold number.  Love the hair, love the lip color, love the simple necklace that compliments the dress.  Getting glammed up really suits her!  If I am being really, really, picky, I would have like a bolder eye - get some falsies on that girl to make her eyes pop!  But she makes that Jason Wu dress look amazing.

No, Sandra Oh, no.  And Elie Saab, you are certainly to blame.  There is just way too much going on here.  The sleeves are ridiculous, but could be fabulous in a feathered tulle matador sort of way, but then they multiply and vomit all over the skirt, too?  Too much volume, darling.  I don't think that even Ginger Rogers could make this one work.  I love the sequined or beaded dress bits, and the plunging neckline, although I will never understand adding that strange illusion mesh; just go for a plunging neck - you know these woman are taped in, anyway.  I love the belt, but I think this would have looked so much better if that skirt was straight and there were no tulle growths attached to it.  Aargh.  Such a strange fashion misstep from this lady.

Scarlett Johansson is wearing Oscar de la Renta.  And I do love a great de la Renta.  Why did no one think to pull out one of his vintage pieces; it would have been perfect.  But this messy beaded thing made it, instead?  So confused.  Did the atelier stop by Michaels to get some beads for coverage through the bust area and then went hog wild when they realized they were on sale?  Did some of the beaded string fall down, or are they supposed to be hanging there?  This does not look intentional at all, it looks sloppy.  The instagram account for de la Renta suggests that over 300 hours of work went into this . . . I don't believe them.

But Janelle Monae comes through in Ralph Lauren.  That drapey hood is perfection.  I love the necklace and the red lip, and the side part in the hair.  Now, you know I live a full skirt.  And I think the overall look is magnificent, however, the fact that you can see the foundation boning in said skirt is disappointing.  It looks like that crinoline needed to be covered to mask the ridges of the boning, perhaps with a cotton flannel?  Too bad the execution of this wasn't perfect, because she looks so very good.

Loving that teased bouffant hair on Rita Wilson.  I also love the tiered layers of beaded fringe.  Oscar de la Renta, take note:  this is what lengths of beaded fringe are supposed to look like, not two or three anemic looking strands that look unintentional.  That champagne color also looks pretty stunning on her, so much so that I will forgive the nude lip (which screams 1960s along with that hair).  And I would bet this is fun dress to wear with all of that movement!

I am sure this Armani Prive on Renee Zellweger took a lot of time, the fit is great, but like so many of her other fashion choices, I am not a fan of this look.  The strapless side of the neckline looks like it is digging into her underarm, so maybe not quite a perfect fit.  I think white works nicely with her complexion, but this is rather blah for me.  Maybe the stage lighting makes it sparkle a bit more than daylight.  I do like that she doesn't have hair in her face, though.  And we have another case of lost lip color.  Someone really needs to find where all the lipstick is hiding.

Now here is a white dress that I can stand behind.  This is really exquisite archival Ralph Lauren, and with her sleek dark hair, Lily Aldridge looks stunning.  Love the makeup, love the minimal jewels.  If I had to nitpick, I wish that red rose was placed an inch or so toward her midline so that it didn't make her waist look wider than it is.  But overall, really nicely done.

Versace has pleasantly surprised me in the not too distant past when I consider some of the looks of the late 1990s and the garish and over the top trends this house is responsible for.  So I will start with the good.  The color is perfect for Regina King, and the fit is spot on.  The length of the column skirt is draping nicely and looks like it was hemmed to the correct length.  I think the asymmetric band is very flattering, as are the curved lines of the beading that comes off of that band, and I love the overskirt.  Super chic and elegant.  I even like the pointed and asymmetric neckline.  But what on earth is that random strap doing?  Why was that necessary?  Clearly that bodice can stand up on it's own, so no need to hold the dress up.  I think her hair could have been better, and I would have liked a little more pink on the lips, and maybe one less diamond ring (but I understand wanting to wear all the bling on an occasion like the Oscars).  This is really close to perfect, but what is up with that silly strap?!?

I love a pale pink paired with black accents, and Laura Dern looks beautiful.  But why on earth did Armani put a smattering of messy tassels on this dress to ruin it?  The uneven placement looks sloppy, and some of the beading under the bust looks ratty.  The fit at the underarm also looks odd to me.  This could have been so much better.

Why are they ruining pale pink and black combos?!  What did the color pairing ever do to deserve this?!  Caitriona Balfe is beautiful, but the blouson top and the mermaid hem is too much overall volume and does her no favors.  The fitted potion of the skirt doesn't even fit properly around the knees.  This outfit just makes her look like a mushy mess.  So disappointed.  I love a good sheer overlay, but this one just doesn't work.  And why is the sheer upper bodice of the dress visible underneath?  This is a big "no" for me.  But I thank you for the colored lipstick, so there's that, at least.

And we move from bad to worse.  What is this monstrosity on Saoirse Ronan?  Evidently Gucci chopped up her black BAFTA gown and made this thing in a nod to sustainability.  Not sure how destroying one gown to make another is sustainable?  Especially when it is as horrible as this.  Why does the peplum look like that?  If I had to guess, this might do well as an undergarment to make an actress appear pregnant when she wears a dress over it.  The black and white work together, but why add a lavender moire fabric.  The textures just don't work together.  And her hair looks sloppy.  The only good thing about this dress is that clean neckline.  Everything from the high waist down is terrible.  I suppose the good news is that Gucci will just rip it apart once it gets back to the work room and make something else with the fabric.

Now here is a refreshing change from that mess.  Joanne Tucker's choice of gown is lovely.  I am getting a slight Sabrina/Audrey Hepburn/Givenchy vibe, and it works for her.  The hair is a little messy for my taste, and I would have chosen a necklace with a little color to compliment the floral skirt, but overall, very nice.  And Adam Driver isn't too shabby as an accessory, either!

Hooray for bright pink.  I love this color and it looks great on just about everyone.  Sure, the oversized bow could use a bit more finesse, but the classic pleated fabric and silhouette work for Idina Menzel.  The diamond necklace works with the strapless neckline, and while the hair looks silly to me, and she could use a darker pink lip, overall, not too bad.

Christin Lahti chose Romona Keveža.  I am not familiar with the designer, but the fit of this dress is pretty great.  There is something going on right below the waist seam, maybe too much length in skirt pieces before the hip flares out?  But honestly, a solid color highlights every fitting flaw, and this is very good.  But the dress looks like a prom gown that you could purchase at Macy's.  From the lovely soft fold at the hemline, my guess is that this is made from some kind of silk, so it should look incredibly expensive, but it doesn't.  That might have something to do with the pseudo 1980s spiral perm growing out thing going on with her hair, but other than that, I can't put my finger on why this dress looks rather blah.  And I usually love off the shoulder gowns.

If I wasn't so distracted by that weird forehead necklace, I would actually like this Alberta Ferretti on America Ferrera.  The empire waist works well with her growing baby belly, and I think the sleeve proportion works when it could easily have gone too big or small.  But the straight hair extensions with that band across the forehead and no lipstick is just odd.  Oh, and the train on this look rather weak and wrinkled.  I think the dress would have work even better without it.

And to end on a fun note, here we have Ms. Sandy Powell, costume designer extraordinaire.  I love her, and her red carpet choices are always on the wild side and her looks always have a sense of humor.  This one is no exception.  The suit, signed by many famous actors, will be auctioned off for charity.  And that makes it even more fabulous.

Overall, nothing so spectacular as to make me jump out my seat and applaud, but there were some nice looks.  My main issue is that I am extremely disappointed that no one pulled from the Dior archive after all that fuss about the lack of sustainability in the fashion industry.  And someone needs to stop the dress swapping at the afterparties - it's fashion overload, and not in a good way!

Did you have any favorites for the evening?  Or looks that had you totally baffled?  Or are you completely over the red carpet, in general?