Here is my Fall for Cotton dress, just in time for the deadline! The challenge was to use 100% cotton and a vintage inspired design. I drafted this design completely from scratch. It's a close-fitting dress with a wrapped skirt that has a pleated drape detail. The top is regular with waist darts and has a cowl neck.
I probably should have hung and ironed the fabric before sewing :)
The dress has half sleeves which, while being closely fitted, are still comfortable. It is made with a cotton sateen in a rich purple hue. Because of that sheen, I think I will save this dress for "special occasions" or maybe even the "For Love and Fashion" show.
My only complaint is that the neck just didn't drape as much as I'd like. I originally drafted it transferring all dart bulk to the cowl, which resulted in an extremely deep (and just as boxy) neck on my muslin. This is more appropriate but doesn't hang well. However, I kind of like the structural look that it gives the neck.
I'm really very happy with my work. This was the first real run through of the dress (I never do muslins completely) so next time there are a few finishing details that I need to tweak. Otherwise, I think it came out great. I only wish I had more opportunities to wear this kind of dress. I also wish I had time to do my hair. I waited until the 11th hour to draft the skirt, cut it out and sew it, so I had very little daylight to work with and had to rush out to photograph it as soon as I finished!!!!
My partner and I were talking about different clothing items of mine and which ones I tend to use only around the house and which ones go to work. Many of my skimpy items go neglected except around the house because of my issues with dressing discreetly at work. He says that most women wear tight shirts with lots of cleavage at their jobs on a daily basis. He would know since he has constant interaction with the public all day.
This may be true, but I would feel totally uncomfortable with my boobs
(I prefer another word but we'll keep it PG here) dangling out for all to see. It's not that I'm particularly modest, but it's distracting to the people around you.
Most importantly, I feel that I have special considerations when it comes to wardrobe at work. I work with a wide array of individuals and we meet 1:1, often talking about fairly personal issues. I have the combined responsibility of conveying warmth, acceptance, guidance and above all a firm sense of safety and boundaries.
What about you? Do you think that social workers, teachers and "helpers" of the world have special needs when it comes to dress, or do all working women have to worry about this?
Here is my list of things that teachers/counselors/social workers/etc have to think about when dressing:
- Making the rounds to assist students/clients in a group setting: can I kneel, squat, bend and lean over in the clothing?
- Sitting with a client or student without a table in front: Does my skirt cover me and can I still shift positions if I need to? Do my pants pinch me in awkward places?
- Traversing outside the office: Can I make home visits to rural areas, walk up the street to another community agency, visit the court room or walk across campus to get the kids in these clothes?
- Standing up to give presentation or teach: Am I comfortable standing up in full view in my clothes? Or will I be tugging and adjusting constantly, distracted from my work?
- Temperature: Can I add and remove layers to compensate for faulty heating/AC systems or having to go to various locations throughout the day (in Vermont!)?
- Discretion: Is the clothing sheer? Are my bra straps showing? Is the clothing tight enough to show all my undergarments? If buttons, do they threaten to pop open? Oh yeah, and I'M GONNA SAY IT--IF MY NIPPLES GET HARD, IS IT GOING TO SHOW!??!??! (this is more of a bra shopping dilemma. Ya, we'd all love to have cute lil' lacey bras but you know we just buy the cardboard ones).
- More discretion: Is my cleavage and butt crack concealed without me having to wear a Snuggi?
- Care: If I get a few chalk stains on this fabric or sweat profusely (a regular occurrence for me) can I easily wash it, or will it sit in the "to be dry cleaned" bag for two years?
- Respect: Does the clothing make me look professional without seeming intimidating or snobby?
After considering all of this, you can see why many teachers and social workers resort to sweat suits and bring afghans and slippers to work. There isn't much room to ask the question: do I feel good in what I'm wearing? Does it reflect my style? Do I feel good about myself when I get dressed or do I feel unflattered, squashed and frumpy?
What do you think? I am I overanalyzing here?!
My penchant for turning perfectly fine words into longer words (cool to coolio, goal to goalies) probably has you thinking this is a post about soccer. As if! But while we're on the subject take a look at this picture of me during my soccer days! I friggin' hated team sports, and what's more, I sucked at them. Damn, I really hate sports.
Anyway, what I really DON'T hate is pattern making and sewing.
So this post is about goals. I've been working really hard lately to achieve some goals, such as digitizing my sewing patterns in order to sell some of them as PDFs for home sewing use. My friend April was kind enough to help me out with using Adobe Illustrator to achieve this. I'm getting pretty comfortable with the process and hope to release my first pattern within a month's time.
That right there is a size 8 pocket skirt front without its waistband and pocket bag. The process I'm using is to take my existing paper patterns and plot their points, then enter on the computer. Some people draft entire patterns digitally without any hand-drawn or paper parts. I guess I'm kind of a purist in this regard and feel suspicious. But since I have an array of basic foundation patterns, I suppose there wouldn't be any harm in making new patterns digitally, manipulating the foundations that I've entered into the program.
Other goals: I have always intended to publish books about a variety of things. Regarding sewing and pattern making, I'm considering hatching plans for a book about drafting your own patterns. In my experience (and granted I haven't read all the ones out there), many books tend to be so exhaustive and overwhelming (fashion school text books), or way too "dumbed" down to the point that the user is kind of restricted to the projects that author sets forth in the book. I think I could offer people an understanding of the actual principles of pattern making in a more casual and user-friendly way which would allow them to create the building blocks needed to move on to increasingly new and different designs.
Lately I've been really interested in taking classic designs and translating them to stretch knit fabrics. This is a classic fit and flare with a slightly bias skirt, gathered neck, puff sleeves and waist band. I'm very happy with the result.
I have raved about this fabric before, but this is a cotton and soybean blend with just a touch of lycra. It has enough stretch for a design like this and also has great recovery--meaning that when you stretch it out, it snaps back to shape. It's wonderfully soft and comfortable. I definitely want to order more in some different colors. How do people feel about chili or plum colors? They also have dark brown and more of a navy color.
The only thing about this dress (which isn't really an issue with the dress) is that it does kind of show your stomach. My stomach is looking like how a tray of freshly baked bread rolls look when they come out of the oven; since I've stopped drinking, I've been consuming more Chester's ice cream sandwiches. But basically I don't really care, except that it does add the only slightly un-work friendly factor to this otherwise totally work appropriate dress.
My Mom kindly suggested I could get some SPANX to which I replied I would try panty hose first, thanks very much.
Or, I could go the Kate Middleton route and be all like, "this is my post baby stomach, DEAL WITH IT!" except that I haven't just had a baby, soooo.....
I also have to give a big thanks to Tasha at By Gum, By Golly
for her tutorial on doing quick and easy roller sets. It was the fastest and easiest method I've tried so far and it looks better than any other! I don't really want to do the vintage repro look but I really enjoy the hairstyles. I feel like it's between this or doing a very close, layered, razored cut and I'm kind of over the whole Joan Jett hair of my early twenties.
One great feature of etsy is the ability to look at your shop stats. You can see how many views you've had, which items got the views, and what search terms were used.
It's overwhelmingly clear that the Ready Ruthie items getting the most attention are those pictured on this page.
I know this not only by the stats but because I've sold many of them and received many inquires.
People seem to really want gingham and love these silhouettes. They're decidedly vintage inspired.
One thing I love about my designs is the nod to vintage fashion. However, I don't want to be someone who designs reproductions. I want my clothing to be modern and relevant.
In my own life, I have a full time job as a vocational rehabilitation counselor and am a licensed social worker. Like many women, I have struggled to find clothing that I can wear to work, but which also looks unique and feminine. I know this is a special challenge for women like me who may work in a direct service capacity in education, social services or health care settings. Although I love vintage fashion, I don't feel comfortable wearing straight up vintage to work--my clients don't get it and it's just not who I am. Therefore I am working on making all my designs work-friendly while still retaining those retro influences and uniqueness. If I feel comfortable putting it on for the work day and it makes me feel confident and cute, it's a winner.
I'm definitely keeping these styles available and am going to be getting some fabric that has both the classic vintage influence, but remains versatile enough for modern use. I'm also going to be tweaking these styles just a bit to make them just a touch more modern and easier to produce.
In the past I have bought a lot of cute prints but I think sometimes my customers just want some basic options in gingham, dots and solids. Keep your eyes peeled for some new, beautiful, classic fabrics that I'll be using for my fit and flare and wrap designs (including some gingham).
As usual, I am trying to "kill" as many "birds" as possible with one "stone." Therefore, my ideas for Fall for Cotton are influenced by my need to do some pattern making changes for my Ready Ruthie line. One thing I want to make is a fit and flare dress similar to others I've made but with a lower neckline. This fits in well with my Fall for Cotton idea because I want to make a sexier, scoop neckline or low hanging cowl neck.
As a side note, I noticed that many vintage 50's and 60's patterns I see on the internet have a full skirt and not a very sexy neckline. It makes me wonder if the wiggle dress was in fact such a fashion staple during that time. Could it simply be that it wasn't as popular a style for domestic housewives or home sewers, and more popular with movie stars? Or could it be that modern-day vintage enthusiasts made it up to create the rockabilly look? Perhaps Marilyn Monroe was the only one wearing them and, due to her becoming the icon of hte 50's/60's, it stuck. The designers of Mad Men certainly use wiggle dress a lot with Joan, so that's enough for me to believe it's legit. Either way, it's a cool silhouette that I haven't used much, so nary a worry have I! I kind of want a neckline shaped like the ones above, but scooped as low as the ones below...
Rochelle (Lucky Lucille
) and Tasha (By Gum, By Golly!
) have started a new sew-along called Fall for Cotton. The only parameters are that the design must be vintage inspired, and the material must be 100% cotton. I have never done a sew-along because I'm always so focused on doing items for Ready Ruthie, but I think this would be a good experience for me and a great way to meet other sewers!
I happened to have this purple cotton sateen which I bought last fall. Its grey counterpart was used to make my mock wrap dress, and I bought the purple thinking perhaps I'd do a pencil skirt. It's not really a color I typically wear, particularly with it being shiny to boot. Although I think a red color would look better on me, I decided to use this fabric for the challenge to stash-bust. It will be a fun opportunity to make something a little different and perhaps suitable for a special occasion kind of event.
I started thinking about shiny, more luxurious-looking fabrics when I recently watched all six seasons in a row of Mad Men. I realize I'm a little behind on this trend but my boyfriend and I finally got into this show. I loved it for many reasons, one of which of course is the amazing fashion.
I've been studying Joan's dresses and it seems most of her frocks are just a simple, darted, two-piece dress with half sleeves. They're close-fitting, of course, and she almost always wears a tight pencil skirt versus a full skirt or circle skirt. You also never see her in an aline or tent dress silhouette, despite the 60's influence.
I've noticed some of her dresses have a princess seam on the bust, perhaps to accommodate Christina Hendricks' endowment. Her dresses generally have a low cut neckline and few embellishments. One thing I may need to consider is doing a seamline on the sleeve in order to make it tighter-fitting.
So I've decided to make a Joan Harris-inspired dress in the purple sateen. I'm really looking forward to playing around with a look that's quite different from what I usually do!
I recently joined Blog lovin' and have really enjoyed keeping tabs on what other seamstresses are up to. It's so much easier than remembering to manually check blogs that I like, or relying on facebook to tell me.
If you please, you can now follow me on Blog lovin' as well!
Man, I really love this skirt. I wore mine all day today and it even provoked someone to ask if I had lost weight--to which I replied that I think it's just the cut of the skirt!
I had been wanting a high waisted, vintage inspired silhouette without the tightness of some of my other skirts.
I have a black skirt made of stretch cotton with a similar shape (shown here
) and I wear it CONSTANTLY. The flared skirt is great for many settings but especially work because it isn't clingy, yet it's also very feminine.
This skirt has six gores, or panels, which flare out toward the bottom. In this crisp black cotton twill, the flare really stands out.
I think this style looks great on so many people and, again, is feminine and sharp without being overkill vintage inspired. The cotton twill is appropriate for work settings but not overly formal.
I'm hoping to make this in additional colors for the future, in either a recycled poly cotton blend (made from old soda bottles!!) or an organic cotton.
I probably should have ironed the fabric before photographing it (!)
When you work a "real" job in addition to pining for the day that you can take your craft (or other) business full time, it's essential to be very careful about how you use your free time. In some ways limited time is a good problem to have because it does force you to prioritize.
Lately I've been crunching a lot of numbers and trying to think more realistically about how much time it takes to make certain garments, and how much time I have to spare both now and if I were to not work my current job. I made sure to factor in all of the things that, at one time, I dismissed, such as blogging, promotion, photography, etc. I also made sure to consider the fact that I have relationships and nutritional needs.
This led me to some startling discoveries and some new plans.
1) Within a year's time, I plan to launch some sewing patterns to sell to home sewers. I have so many pattern ideas only seconds away from conception (a matter of tweaking existing slopers) that I desperately want to share with the world. However I often get stuck trying to decide what fabrics to use and how exactly to execute the design. The idea that others can use my patterns and interpret them in many unique ways is very exciting to me. It also makes sense because I'm already putting the time into drafting patterns, then more time into actually sewing up the orders.
2) For the pieces I offer in my shop, I will be focusing on designs that I can produce in less time. Some of my current pieces take me up to 7 hours to make (!) This is not a joke, I've timed it. And that's with me being extremely focused and not counting cutting. For a home sewer, sewing for oneself or maybe a gift, this is okay and can be spread out as needed. But in terms of completing orders in a timely fashion, especially if the goal is to eventually be able to do this full time, I simply can't sell pieces that take this long, unless of course they are wedding dresses or other special occasion items.
3) The beauty of this plan is that I can offer more complicated or time-intensive patterns to home sewers who will enjoy the challenge, and I don't have to bid farewell to the pattern drafting challenges that I so love. This is also a gift to myself--it forces me to stop over-thinking my ready-made designs, because I have a time limit!
4) Sometimes the simpler or less time-intensive projects are the best and most beautiful. For a long time I abhorred the idea of a tee shirt dress because--get this--I felt it was too novice and I wanted to show off my drafting skills. Guess what I'm just cut out? A t-shirt dress with a ruffle hem! It's okay to simplify especially if you use gorgeous fabrics at the same time. The things that I find "simpler" still look beautiful and well-made.