Fashion trends and sewing

I have this theory about fashion trends and sewing. Being able to sew amplifies any trend (well, it does in my closet anyway!).

I’ve always been interested in fashion and I’ve always followed trends to one degree or another. But ever since I began sewing, fashion trends have been so much more pronounced as they’ve worked their way into my wardrobe.

In 2012 (pre-blogging photos from the archives), I made peplums. There were more than these, but I can’t find the photos right now.

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Next, I made drop waist dresses. There were more here too.

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Then I made culottes, which gradually progressed to wide leg and gaucho pants.

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Now, I’m working through the off-shoulder/cold-shoulder trend. There have been other trends along the way that also managed to captivate my interest. I seem to make between 3-5 garments that are in line with any trend. In my pre-sewing days, I’d have purchased 1-2 trend-driven pieces and otherwise kept to classic staples.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why sewing enables me to do this. Here are my ideas:

  • Sometimes it takes more than one go to get a handmade garment right. A wearable muslin first, followed by a better version immediately doubles the number of items. Maybe I would have bought one RTW item in the past, but I would have had the opportunity to try on several first to find which one worked best. You don’t get that opportunity with home sewing.
  • If the design worked and it fitted well, of course I’ll want to sew it again. And sometimes it’s simply easier to sew repeats than to work through new designs and muslins, particularly if the garment was seasonably appropriate and nice to wear.
  • Sewing means that I can refashion, recycle, and reuse old fabrics and old clothes. It means that I can also make more trend-driven items without spending more, or expanding my wardrobe. I don’t have to be as sensible with my clothing choices, because I can always refashion back to sensible if need be.
  • Sometimes (if I really like a style) I might decide to digitize a pattern, which means I have to test the pattern and make it perfect, thereby making multiple versions of the same style.
  • It usually costs me next to nothing to sew a few extra pieces. This wasn’t always the case though. When I was a beginner, there were so many wadders and ho-hum makes that it cost more to sew than to buy RTW (just check out those peplums!). These days, it’s very economical for me. I spend well on fabric for classic, long term pieces. I save a fortune by making swimsuits and leotards for myself and my girls. And for the trend-driven items that I know will only last a season, I’ll often use thrifted, upcycled, or economically priced fabric that is nice enough to produce a quality garment, but costs a tiny fraction of RTW. For example, the entire fabric cost of all the cold-shoulder makes below was about $18 (the largest portion coming from the $10-15 white linen tablecloth of which I still have a lot remaining). I also know that I’m very capable of cutting up any of those tops and dresses to refashion into something new down the track.

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  • I can make it so I can do it. And I can do it now! Sewing gives me freedom to follow a trend and make something immediately. Unlike RTW shopping where I’d have a vision in my mind but never be able to find exactly what I wanted, sewing enables me to make a garment to match my vision. It also enables the power of now. I can cut up an old sheet on the spot and make something at midnight, before garments hit RTW shops or are even available online. I’m not saying I do this, but I could!

So I think this explains how I end up with so many trend-driven pieces in my closet each year. It may seem like I have a lot of clothes, but I take a lot of care (via refashioning) to make sure that my closet doesn’t expand too much, despite sewing all year round. I’m also lucky to have a lot of girls to sew for. In any case, I think I’m just about ready to move on to my next obsession. I just have to figure out what it will be!

 

 

Oliver + S Hide and Seek dress into a skirt

A long time ago, I foolishly used some untreated wool fabric to make a scrappy dress for Miss Seven. Needless to say, the wool in the bodice felted and shrank in the first few washes. I solved the problem by cutting off the bodice and turning the dress into a skirt.

That skirt became one of the most worn items in Miss Seven’s wardrobe. I’ve tried to figure out why and I think it comes down to the length (long, but not too long), and the fact that it has these particular pockets.

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It may also be because the volume of the skirt is not excessive like some gathered skirts can be. It fits the idea of a full skirt, but it is really more A-line in design.

It’s easy enough to turn the Hide and Seek dress into a skirt. I simply cut of the bodice to about an inch above the pockets and drafted a waistband. I kept the front princess seams (for the pockets, obviously), but did away with all the other seams to cut the back of the skirt as one. I retained the subtle A-line shape.

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I made this skirt in a lightweight corduroy that will be great for layering over tights in Winter. It also looks great with Miss Seven’s new shirt. I think this little chickadee is developing quite the covetable wardrobe. I’m beginning to get jealous!

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Oliver + S Carousel dress

While I love to play around with drafting and hacking patterns for myself, I like to switch off completely when I sew stuff for my girls. Kid sewing is my cotton candy. It’s my sewing crack. It’s me sipping a big glass of Chianti Classico in front of the TV.

I love Oliver + S patterns because they are perfect just the way they are. I feel no need to adjust, modify, or add ruffles. I’ve sewn enough of them now to know how the sizing fits my girls. And I haven’t been disappointed yet.

 

The Carousel dress is one of their new patterns. After some futile resistance, I ended up purchasing this pattern in the small size range, somewhat encouraged by the recent sale. I generally only buy their patterns in the size 5-12 packet because that’s undoubtedly the best value for me. My eldest two girls just slip into that size range, but little Miss Three (formerly known as Midget) always misses out. This time I splurged on her and it was worth it.


It’s a festive little dress. I used a small remnant of red floral cord (of unknown origin) and some denim remnants leftover from my recent denim skirt and culottes. The back is fastened with a little handworked loop and a Liberty of London covered button from my stash. I chose the ruffle skirt option, because Miss Two loves her ruffles. Oh, and the dress has pockets. I know I’ve said it before, but every dress needs pockets!




 

Japanese corduroy culottes

My last pair of culottes are getting so much wear right now that I knew another pair wouldn’t go astray. This time I played around with the design a little. I kept the length, not just because I quite like the longer hem trend, but also because it keeps my legs warm in Winter.


Once again, I started with my Esther shorts pattern. I made the same modifications as with my green culottes, but simply skipped the pleats. I also widened the waistband a smidgen, moved the zipper to the back and added side seam pockets.

 
 
 

I also tried something new in the construction of these culottes. Have you noticed that RTW pants never have waistbands like we sew at home? I’ve had these suit pants for about seven years now. Have a look at how beautiful their innards are.

The edge of the inside waistband is bound with pretty binding. It’s so simple to do and it means that you don’t have to bother with folding the edge under and painstakingly pin it to ensure you catch it all perfectly as you stitch blindly from the other side. I actually don’t know why it’s taken me this long to try this technique. It looks better and it’s way easier. I bound the inside of my waistband with Liberty of London and stitched in the ditch from the other side. Next time I will bind the pocket edges too.


There is a lot less fabric in these culottes compared to my last version. This is just because I took out the pleats. This cord is also a lot lighter in weight. I could see this style of pant working well for Summer in either linen or cotton, at this length or just below the knee. If it weren’t Fall here, I’d be making myself a slightly shorter version in denim. In fact, I might still do so…

 

Corduroy culottes: another Esther shorts hack

I’m here to convince you that culottes really are the new skirt. And I’m not talking about the cute little flippy variety that could be mistaken for a skirt. I’m talking about the hard-core, wide leg, knee length type, or the sharp, A-line, midi silhouettes that are probably giving some of you unpleasant flashbacks right now. I admit, I get the flashbacks too. My high school sports uniform was a pair of bottle green, knee-length culottes (that memory came flooding back to me when my ‘blue’ corduroy arrived in the mail). But don’t worry, I’m quite determined to sway all you doubters out there, and to do so, I’ve put together not one, not two, but four different looks with the same pair of fabulous winter weight culottes.

For Autumn, I’ve paired them with my Nani Iro top and a pair of open booties. A long pair of tan leather boots would look fabulous right now, but I don’t own any and I spend all my spare cash on fabric instead of shoes. Can anyone else relate? 

The fabric I used in my culottes is utterly divine. It’s a cotton corduroy by Thread, with the most beautiful velvety sheen I’ve ever seen. It’s called ‘blue’ but it is most definitely a bottle green. I knew what I was getting though. It’s nothing like the dull kiddie quality cord that I’ve sewn with in the past. I should have paid more attention.


I do all my fabric cutting and sewing in the evenings in poorer light than I would like, but that’s just the way it has to be. I don’t have time to sew during the day. So I happily cut into my gorgeous fabric, positioning the legs in opposite directions and paying complete disregard for the nap. I merrily sewed away at the project until I tried my culottes on to decide on the hem length. The lightbulb suddenly went on in my head. Nap! Why did I not consider this first? I thought I’d made a total blooper of these pants. One leg was clearly a different shade to the other.

I think the difference in nap looks more pronounced in artificial light, and from my persepective as the wearer, looking down at an acute angle. It is such a silly mistake to make that I still feel like giving myself a slap. Anyway, they are so comfortable and warm that I’m just going to wear them anyway. I think it’s pushing it a bit far to call it a design feature so I’m just going to feign ignorance. What, my legs are different shades of bottle green? No way! It’s a shadow. Go get your eyes checked!

For view two, I opted for a more vintage feel. I’m wearing my Liberty of London Kanerva with them this time.

 


The pattern I used to make these culottes was based on the Esther shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics. My modifications were pretty simple. I added a 10cm pleat to the front legs. I also widened and lengthened the legs. I really like how they turned out but next time I will definitely add in-seam pockets.

I also tried my culottes out with my new favourite shirt. I like chambray with cord. Hubby isn’t too sure about this combination. He can’t decide whether I look like Anne of Green Gables, a school mistress, or Brethren. 

 
 
 

And finally, I paired the culottes with my black ponte and leather top for a slightly more edgy look. I like the silhouette of a cropped top over high waist pants. 

 

Here’s a summary of the four looks. Which one do you like best? And more importantly, when are you going to make a pair!
 
 

Cynthia Rowley vs neoprene

The problem with sewing things out of season is that by the time the appropriate season swings around, I’m no longer enamoured with the idea of the thing I sewed. This is the story of my Tokyo jacket. I still love the neoprene but have bigger and better ideas for a winter jacket.

I was able to cut around the faux leather neckline of the original jacket to preserve most of the neoprene. I had the perfect amount left to use for my Simplicity 1366 top. I’ve sewn this top before in Nani Iro. I’m a little bit besotted with this Cynthia Rowley pattern right now. It’s so simple but so perfectly shaped. I love those extended shoulder seams.

I’m smiling extra brightly so you don’t notice that I didn’t ‘hang’ my circle skirt before I hemmed it. Duh!
 
 
 
 

For the back of the top, I used a little bit of leftover printed corduroy (seen earlier here). I used the same corduroy for the sleeve caps. The only other change I made to the pattern was in using ribbed jersey to finish the neckline, sleeves and bottom hem.

I really love how this top turned out. The structured look of neoprene fits this pattern so well. I paired it with my much loved wool circle skirt for the photos, but I know I can also layer it for winter and wear it with jeans.

Miss Two just did her All the Single Ladies routine. I always have an audience.

Oliver + S School Photo dress

This little dress is soon to be wrapped up and hidden for Christmas. Santa will deliver it to Miss Six. It should be perfectly snuggly and warm for winter school days. Miss Four agreed to model the dress. It’s a size 7 so it is understandably way too big for her. Seeing it on her gives me confidence that it will fit Miss Six well in a few months time.


I picked up the fabric from Tessuti several months ago. It was one of my last purchases before I left Sydney. It is a beautifully soft, brushed corduroy with just a little bit of stretch. I was actually planning to make my girls some trousers in it, but since they flatly refuse to wear jeans and long pants, I can’t see the point. So here’s to a little dress instead.


I know the print is a little unusual for a child’s outfit. Perhaps that is why I like it so much. I can see my eldest daughter looking very smart in this dress, paired with grey woollen stockings and some little winter boots.


As always, this Oliver + S pattern did not fail to impress. The instructions are fabulous and I love the little details. The front pocket is a winner (although I forgot to take a picture with it in use), and I love the look of that collar, even though it does look a little restrictive on Miss Four. I haven’t secured with the collar in the back with a hook and eye as the pattern suggests. I’m going to wait to see how it fits the true recipient before I do this.

I will definitely make this dress again, although for comfort and practicality, I may try making it without a collar next time. A wool or flannel version would be lovely for winter!