Sewing and Style with Seamstress Erin

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Go check it out!!! My Sewing & Style post over on Seamstress Erin‘s blog!
Continuing the discussion started here, the one all about style and sexiness and the expression of both!

I’m honored to be included in this series. Some really awesome folks preceded me.

Thank you for asking me, Erin!

Shades of Grey

Hey, all!! This here (comfy, like lying in the clouds of the Gods!) sweatshirt has been done for a while. But, there was a bit of a shake up with my Britex guest blogging gig.

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But more on that, later. Let’s talk about the sweatshirt. Yes?

With winter fully set in here in Brooklyn, I was immediately drawn to the “double” in the description of this double-faced rayon knit. It implied double warmth and double softness so it was, therefore, double good. With the fabric selected I thought…what to make? This was the project I dragged out my copy Built By Wendy Home Stretch for. I used a slightly altered version of the Flashdance mods. But, looking back, I might have liked that super off the shoulder look…good thing there is no shortage of fabric in my home.

SAM_0133 With my three pattern pieces ready to go, I drafted some super simple cuffs and a hem band (or, you know, I just cut the hem band) and I was off to the races. Or, to the sewing machine. The project was done so super quickly! Maybe an hour? Paired with leggings, it was my wardrobe for the next two days :D

SAM_0126 What more can I say? That I’d like to sleep in sheets made from this fabric? That I could EASILY make a dress, leggings and a slouchy sweater and be all set for my PJ days. For there are several days a month where I need to wear as close to jammies as I can get. Tomorrow is one of them.

SAM_0118Go get some grey and make a sweatshirt, or two!!

As for me, I hope to get into my new patterns, this week. And try my hand at some baby knits for the hubby’s niece. Hope that knitting curse was broken with the completion of Frida’s heart!

Urban Stroll Cape

After I stopped squealing and jumping around when the good peeps at Britex asked me to join their team, I zoned in on the project I wanted to start with. Almost immediately the word

*CAPE!!

(yes, all caps with !!!!) came to mind.110Because cape wearing, to my way of thinking, is for women with a certain flair. A certain sense of style. A certain je ne sais quoi! Therefore, I did not feel like cape wearing was for me. But, through sewing for myself, and blogging all about it, I became a part of a super supportive community: The Sewing Blogisphere. With the help of these virtual (and real-life) friends my feelings about beauty and talent and style began to change. As those feelings changed, so did the way I viewed myself. I slowly came into my own style. Accepted, and appreciated, my own looks and figure. Got much better at choosing and making things the flatter me. And made the kind of friends that tell you, without hesitation, how great they think you are.

Amazing!!

Also amazing, this *Liesl + Co. pattern!!

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It appealed to me for many reasons. One: it looks amazing on Liesl!! Two: the equation {simple to make = fabulous result} is not always a given. With this pattern I thought I’d have the best of both worlds. Three: thing one + thing two = perfect intro into outerwear. Four: It’s perfect with both dressy and casual outfits. That’s a major one for this tee, jeans and sneakers lover.

IMG_9019You might have noticed that my version is a little different than the pattern image. I didn’t think those curved hems would work well with the curvy area of my body they’d line up with. I also left off the buttons. During one of my (many) try-on-and-twirl-in-the-mirror sessions I began to realize that I loved the look, as is. Simple. So, I swapped out buttons and buttonholes for covered, sew on snaps. I also went with the largest size. I wanted draaaaape!

This wool is PERFECT for drapey-ness.

And it is, easily, the most beautiful wool I’ve ever held in my hot little hands!!

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I had to leave the male side of the snap plain. Covering both sides made them sit too high.

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Isn’t the lining perfect! I loooove the color!

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And my new Chelsea Crew shoes!IMG_8962

Ahem, back to the cape….I also left off the side buttons, opting instead to add about one inch of stitches, straight through both layers, to hold the sides together.

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Now the front is as sleek as the back.

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Overall, this project was a JOY to work on!! It’s SO easy that I’ve promised my sister one. And I never sew for others. It’s so easy to wear and make but still makes a statement!! Even for novice cape wearers. Seriously, I’ve worn it everyday since I completed it. I SO need a plain black one. And a boldly colored one. And one for my little girl. And maybe the big girl, too

;)

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*Amanda guessed that I was making a cape and Lizzy guessed which pattern!! Maybe we’ll be a little mini army of cape wearers, soon!! Get a feel for how fierce they’ll look in this post.

HOT posing, ladies!

GIVEAWAY CLOSED: Guess That Pattern!!

Hello, again!!

I realized that I forgot the best part of a guessing game,

prizes!!!

So, I’ll be giving away two patterns, one to Amanda who guessed which type of oterwear correctly.

It’s a CAPE!!

The other pattern will go to the person (and if more than one, a randomly selected person from that pool) who can guess which pattern it is.

Here’s a photo I posted on instagram while I was tryng to decide on the final finishing.

Britex Fabrics Project #1

I’m so excited to show you the final product!!

EDITED TO ADD:

Lizzy got it right!

A Britex Fabrics Guessing Game

Before I can dip into all of that super delicious fabric I posted about (which has the added bonus of reminding me of the lovely company I had every time I look at it) I have a bit of housekeeping to do. This cold snap is just the thing to get me moving on finishing my Britex project!! I’m super excited about it (I put it on partially finished and I felt FABULOUS in it) and I want to get you all excited, too!

And play a little guessing game.

You might know that I’m using some lovely wool fabric.

Britex WoolIt is so, so, so, SO beautiful in person!

I hinted on Twitter that I would be dipping my toe into dum-dum-DUM

OUTERWEAR!!

And I mentioned, once upon a blog post, that I felt ready to rock a specific type of outerwear.

So….

who wants to guess what type that is?

Newest Britex Guest Blogger? ME!

Britex Guest Blogger

You read that right?? I’ll be joining one of my fave ladies, Jen from Grainline, and other super talented sewcialists over on the Britex blog!! I am so stupid excited about it!!

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I also spent time with beautiful and talented sewcialists (and some of their family members) at the Male Pattern Boldness Day Extravagaaaaanza.

AND, thanks to the easy to decision to sew with Victory patterns, I had my picture in Flare, a Canadian fashion magazine!!

From Kristiann @ Victory PatternsThis week has been awesome for sewing news!!

What’s (sew) awesome with you?

Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced – A Handmaker’s Factory Review

A curator’s job must be so difficult. Deciding which bits of a vast history, body of work or era to include sounds immensely challenging. Perhaps, that is what makes it all the more impressive, and rewarding, when the job is done well. When I planned my visit to the Stephen Burrows exhibit on display at the Museum of the City of New York, I expected to see beautiful clothes arranged in an artful setting. But, both Mr. Burrows work and the museum met, and far exceeded, that expectation!

The very first thing you see when you enter the space that houses this collection is a massive photo of Grace Jones, outfitted in Burrows’ clothes.

This image immediately sets the tone for the liveliness, beauty and attitude of the entire exhibit. Burrows’ work is an explosion of color, pattern, texture and, most of all, movement. Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced, is appropriately named.

The designer’s evolution is clear and the way the exhibit has been arranged encourages you to view the pieces in the order of that evolution. Positioned just after Ms. Jones are several sketches. An introduction of sorts.

Leather, fringe, fur, glamour give way to jersey, silk chiffon, sequins, glamour. Even a coat made of wool felt drapes in such a way as to appear weightless. I was also struck by how body conscious and sleek many of the pieces were while still remaining fun and elegant. Quite the accomplishment.

Taking it all in as one evokes a feeling that Iman succinctly sums up:

Even the room is cloaked in billowy fabric, carrying the movement from the clothing up the walls to the ceiling.

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The sparse color of the ceiling, background and platforms create the perfect backdrop for this color explosion. The deep ebony mannequins setting them off in a way that any other color just couldn’t do. Their posture communicating self assurance, elegance, class, playfulness, sex appeal.

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Stephen Burrows continues to enjoy a thriving career and made a splash at the opening ceremony for the exhibit. It’s so wonderful to see someone receive their honors and accolades during their lifetime. To have the chance to see the impact that their influence has had on their industry. What an amazing privilege.

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It’s thrilling to see him smile and mingle with those whose careers mirror his own rise. Iman, Bethann Hardison, and more of the African American glitterati gathered to reminisce with him and show that they still look fabulous in his clothes. This exhibition is just one in a long line of retrospectives, documentary films, awards and fashion milestones. After more than 45 years in the fashion business, he can also add to his list of distinctions the honor of styling for a range that includes collector edition Barbie dolls and the First Lady of the United States.

His continued success and growth into a fashion mogul that has prospered with the times, he’s on Twitter AND Instagram creating his own buzz about his work, makes me think of his contemporaries (like Jaxson and Kelly) who did not live to do the same.  With a few of his vintage pieces for sale on Etsy and Ebay, including sewing patterns(!!) and invitations from the Chambre Syndicale de la Mode to present his collections in Paris, make me hopeful for more of his work for years to come.

IMG_7993This review originally appeared on Handmaker’s Factory.
Thanks, again, to Nichola for making the arrangements for me!

Scout Sew-Along Challenge Winners!

 To aid in getting back into my groove, let’s talk about winners!
The Scout Sew-Along Challenge Winners! Scout Sew-Along Challenge Winners!

Taking part in this Sew-Along was a lot of fun! I’m so flattered and pleased by the positive feedback I received and the extra Scout’s in my wardrobe are pretty awesome, too!!

Check out the two amazing ladies that won the sew-along! Click on the photos for more details and click around Laglov’s profile to see the other kick ass versions she made! And Sally made more than one version, too. It was Scout fever over at Kollabora!

Laglov’s Tulip Scout Laglov's Tulip Scout

Sally’s Color Block Scout Sally's Color Block Scout

Dudes. I really want to sew but it is SO HOT IN MY APARTMENT! We’ve always managed to get through the summer without an AC, but this year we might cave. It is brutal here in NYC. And the kids are stir crazy, so outside we go.

Wish me luck!

Designers of Color in Fashion History :: Patrick Kelly

Designers of Color in Fashion History :: Patrick Kelly

I was astonished to learn that Jay Jaxon was the first American (and by default, African American) haute couturier. He is not widely known, so it stands to reason that this extraordinary fact about him must be little known, too. So, I found myself surprised, again, when reading up on Patrick Kelly. In the late 80’s Kelly was the first American and person of color to become a member of the exclusive Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter. Though Kelly enjoyed a degree of success and recognition during his lifetime, that has endured after his passing, I imagine that this honor felt like a huge validation of his talent and vision as a designer.
After all, the world he would eventually inhabit was light years away from his humble, but proud, beginnings. In his working class Mississippi home, Kelly was surrounded by female family members with a flair for making-do and mending. He was introduced to embellishing, reworking and otherwise refashioning from a very early age. It was here that his social consciousness was raised, too. According to reports, Kelly noticed the lack of African American women featured in magazines. His grandmother explained that designers did not think of them when making clothes. This, perhaps, provides some reasoning for the imagery he used in his work. Golliwogs previously had no place in haute couture.

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Kelly began what would become his life’s work, to clothe ALL women, by starting with his junior high classmates whom he designed and sewed dresses for. Later, Kelly attended Jackson State University where he studied art history and African American history. Eventually driven out by the prejudice and racism he experienced, he left his hometown to pursue a career in fashion.
On his own and living in Atlanta, he began to make clothes again. This time, to sell. His work sorting donations at AMVETS (an American veterans’ organization, there) gave him access to a wealth of designer clothing. He refashioned the garments and sold them alongside his original designs. This allowed him to work as a window dresser at the Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Boutique for free. The position gave him a crucial in with the fashion industry elite. His volunteerism paid off. Kelly began to draw a salary at the St Laurent boutique and eventually opened his own selling vintage. In addition to this, he taught classes at a modeling school where Pat Cleveland, a notable person of color in fashion’s history in her own right, encouraged him to go to New York.
Taking the advice to heart, Kelly studied design at Parsons in New York City before landing in Paris where he really began to make his mark. Calling on his combined influences: skills he learned at the feet of his family, showmanship developed while in school, technical skills honed at Parsons and the hustle he displayed when volunteering at the St Laurent boutique, Patrick sold his designs on the streets of Paris. To much acclaim. This is not an easy thing to do. According to Christian Lacroix, “The French function according to love at first sight. If they fall in love with you, they accept you. And Patrick is very lovable. Everybody loves him.” It’s as simple as that. Or is it? Patrick was driven. He took risks. He worked hard. His success did not come from nowhere.

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Kelly went on to produce unique collections, presented in electrifying (for their time) shows. He remained true to his mission by designing with all women in mind and kept an ear to the street so that his work was reflective of what was in Parisian style. He believed in making affordable clothing, the kind of luxury that women like his mother, aunt and grandmother could have worn in their time. He achieved a level of success that those women, his “full-figured girls”, did not think possible. He had clothes in the finest boutiques, magazine spreads in Elle and so many orders and freelance jobs that he hadn’t vacationed in years. His creations were worn by princesses (like Diana) actresses (like Jane Seymour) and the singers (like Madonna and Grace Jones). It was the all singing, all dancing Patrick Kelly show.

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But that show would not go on. Kelly’s full and fabulous life was cut short at age 35(ish- he was secretive about his actual year of birth). Though the original cause of death was attributed to bone marrow disease and a brain tumor, it was later confirmed that Kelly was HIV positive and his death was AIDS related. Unlike the houses of other famous designers, Kelly’s folded after his death. One can’t help but wonder what led to this. Kelly had a seemingly vast (and influential) circle of friends. Did legal issues play into the demise of his house? Was there a clash of interests that led its standstill? Are there other, notable designers of color whose work died with them?
This article originally appeared at Handmaker’s Factory.
There’s a lot more information available about Patrick Kelly than there was about Jay Jaxon. Spend a little time getting to know more about him and he’ll start feeling like a long lost friend!

PUNK: Chaos to Couture – A Handmaker’s Factory Review

“Tears, safety pins, rips all over the gaff, third rate tramp thing, that was purely really, lack of money. The arse of your pants falls out, you just use safety pins”
-Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols

This quote sums up the origins of the punk era, taken from one at its center, Johnny Rotten. I copied it from one of the walls in the Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibit currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, here in New York City. It was located towards the end of the rather large collection. Copying it was difficult because the area it was located in was dark, crowded and full of flashing light thrown off of the massive video display on a nearby wall. I felt compelled to copy it because it allowed me to identify the feeling of “something’s just off…” that I was afflicted with while taking everything in.

Let me explain myself. Directly beneath this Johnny Rotten quote reads:

“More than any other aspect of the punk ethos of do-it-yourself, the practice of destroy or deconstruction has had the greatest and most enduring impact on fashion.”

It continues on for a bit. Espousing all of the ways that punk style, method, material and attitude has influenced many of the designer featured in the exhibit. What the composer of this spiel apparently misses, which I saw clearly with reading these things one after the other, is the huge irony of the entire exhibit. Mr. Rotten’s quote tells you directly, punks wore their clothes that way because they had no choice! This style/lifestyle grew organically. It grew out of necessity. And it became cool (and political) because those who rocked the style were so awesome, so talented, so in your face their lack of money and torn, pinned clothing only made them better, more interesting, more desirable. So, a ritzy museum like the MET, which calls one of the toniest neighborhoods in NYC home, offering an exhibit on the fashion of the poor, downtrodden and disenfranchised is really quite amazing.

Title Wall Gallery/Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

When you walk into the chamber that punk claimed you are met with a massive, jarring video display that is Right. In. Your. Face. It’s followed with a reproduction of the filthy bathroom at CBGB and continues with the actual clothes made/worn/sold by punks and punk Godmother Vivienne Westwood and her god-children the Sex Pistols. The moody dark atmosphere of it all the sets bar at a height that the remainder of the exhibit fails to meet.

Facsimile of CBGB bathroom, New York, 1975/Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

430 King’s Road Period Room/Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

D.I.Y.: Hardware/Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The above chamber does feature some vintage punk couture. However, from here on, many of the items featured are “punk inspired” designer clothes. Designer clothes that cost into the thousands of dollars. That is not punk. A neatly trimmed grocery store shopping bag paired with silk shantung pants does not make quite the same statement as safety pinning the ripped crotch of your pants together because you can’t afford to buy new ones. In my humble opinion. Strategically slashed designer jeans are not DIY. The do-it-yourself label cannot be applied to mass produced goods. Can it? Attaching two lengths of elastic to some black netting, and charging a fortune for it, is not a continuation of the punk era.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some absolutely stunning things in this collection. Particularly some additions by Alexander McQueen and this set of dresses made with hand painted fabric.

D.I.Y.: Graffiti & Agitprop/Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

But, unless Dolce and Gabanna painted and then wore these gowns themselves, can they really be DIY?

After you take in all of the color and slash and ironically contrary text spread around the place, you’re dumped out into a gift shop. A gift shop. Could they have ended on a less punk note? There is not one piece of free memorabilia for this collection. Well, if there was I surely did not see it. What you are given is the opportunity to spend $46 on a book about it. Or to buy a postcard with Sid Vicious scowling on it. Or a studded platform shoe key chain….

This photo, where I’m reflected in a sign pointing me toward the exhibit, is all I have to remember the experience by.

To visit Punk: Chaos to Couture online, click here.

This review originally appeared on Handmaker’s Factory.
Thanks to Nichola for making the arrangement for me!