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!

 

 

Long sleeves in linen

I started sewing clothes for myself in 2012. Before that, my sewing was all about kiddie stuff and quilting cotton. It was also the year I discovered that I could sew with ponte knits and linen. I quite simply overdosed that year. Lucky for you guys, this was also before I started blogging.

I’ve always loved linen, but it’s one of those fabrics that I rarely, if ever, saw in the RTW shops I frequented back then. So it was mindblowing to me that I could suddenly make everything in linen. So did I? Yes. I. Did.

I’ve since had a few years without a lot of linen in my wardrobe. There’s been the odd thing, but nothing like it was in 2012. However, I feel the season changing. I am so in love with it right now. It’s like my long lost friend has returned.

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The thing about linen though, is that it is one of the fabrics I am most pickiest about in terms of quality. I loath buying it online. I’ve been disappointed a few times when I’ve opted for the cheaper option. I recently purchased a length of European white linen from Fabric dot com. In the description it was recommended for making dresses, pants, anything. Let’s just say, I’m ditching the idea of using it for a Summer top and might simply hem it for use as a pretty table cloth instead. I think I’m a linen snob.

The linen I used for this top came all the way from Tessuti Fabrics in Sydney, one of the few places I trust implicitly in buying linen from without ordering a swatch first (online shopping is sadly my only way to purchase quality fabric in the Midwest). This linen is truly delicious. I could iron it better, but I really, really love linen crinkles.

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This top is the long sleeve variation of a pattern I’m working on right now. I paired it with my long leather shorts.

If everything goes to plan, I might be ready for testers in a few weeks. It takes time because I want to make sure that even my testers get a good experience.  If you are interested in testing this or anything else in the future, please head over to my Facebook page, Lily Sage & Co. To avoid driving non-tester inclined blog readers batty,  I will only be putting the tester call out there from now on.

NEW PATTERN ALERT: The Sea Change top + discount code

I’m so excited to announce a that a new pattern is available in my shop today. It’s the Sea Change top, an easy fitting, kimono style top that is just perfect for high waist jeans and skirts. And in honour of this exciting day, I’m also discounting the pattern (and everything else in my shop, including the Twirl to Me dress pattern) for the next seven days. Use code: SEACHANGE15

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I’ve already been getting a lot of wear out of my versions, and I have a few more planned for Summer.  It’s such an easy and versatile top. Check out the pattern yourself here.

The Sea Change top is tester ready!

This is the kind of easy fitting top that works well in both a knit or a woven. My striped version was made up in a knit, so I thought I’d trial this one in a woven. My fabric of choice is a special length of silk CDC from Tessuti Fabrics. I don’t buy much fabric on whim anymore, but this one just jumped in my shopping cart without any project in mind. I’m glad it did.

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I’m very pleased with the way this top turned out. I love the contrast panels and I especially love the opportunity they provide for mixing fabrics and prints for different looks on the same simple top.

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My blog has been a bit unpredictable over the past week while I’ve been getting it set up properly, so I started my call out for testers on Instagram for this pattern. I’ve had an overwhelming response for some sizes, but I’m still looking for testers in the following sizes: L (14-16) and XXL (20). If you think this might be you and you have the time and energy to trial this very simple top, please let me know. Once again, I have no interest if you blog or shout out to the masses through social media (although if you do, that’s fine by me too). I’m simply interested in your honest feedback.

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Cropped leather pants

I’m going to call these my cropped leather pants. I could just as easily have called them long shorts. I toyed with the idea of gaucho, but they don’t really fit that definition either. Gaucho pants should really be high waisted and with a bit more of a flare in the leg, as would be seen on the Argentinian horsemen from which the term is taken. These pants sit on my hips, which is where I like them right now.


 

The leather I used is a type of composition leather called Perfection Fused leather. It is a very thin, uniformly processed layer of cowhide on a rayon backing. It’s a beautiful weight and drape for many garments, although I wouldn’t consider it suitable for coat making. It will never compare to a buttery lambskin or genuine cowhide, but I’m impressed with it nonetheless. 

Perfection fused leather looks convincingly like leather, but without the imperfections, and it comes with a price tag of only $15 per yard. It’s the perfect, low-risk ‘real’ leather to have a go with if you’ve never sewn with leather before. It’s a dream to sew, but you do need to be careful when pressing (or when you are pressing an adjoining fabric like pocket lining). This type of processed leather does not tolerate heat at all. The leather layer is very thin and it comes off easily if you iron it.  

 

For these pants, I used V8909. You’ve seen it many times before. My modifications were as follows:

  • I ditched the yoke
  • shortened the crotch seam
  • added side pockets instead of inseam pockets
  • drafted a separate waistband instead of folding the top over to form the encasement
  • added a single back patch pocket
  • cropped the legs
  • I also widened the legs. Have a look at the modified pattern pieces below. To achieve the wide leg look, I simply redrew both the inner and side seam lines straight, in line with the grainline.

Other patterns you could use to make shorts like this are:

Carolyn Pyjamas (shorts) by Closet Case Files: I’ve only recently finished sewing a pair but the fit of the pants is fabulous, and totally worthy of outside pants. They sit on the hip, fit the bum nicely, include a faux fly (like my leather ones), and have some great shaped side pockets.

The Robbie Pant by Tessuti Fabrics: These pants appear to be higher waisted, but they have some neat side patch pockets that would look fantastic in leather. You could easily make the pants a little shorter.

Cropped pants look great with a lot of different style tops, including my short, white pinafore and my Lou Box tunic top. They would also look great paired with a chunky knit and layered over dark tights and long boots in Winter.

 
 

 
 



Oliver + S denim culottes for Miss Six

It’s not often I’ll race out and buy a pattern as soon as it’s been released. I’ve only ever done it twice, and both times they’ve been Oliver + S patterns. The minute I saw this pattern I knew I had to have it. Do I need to tell you why?

They’re culottes!

I fell in love at first sight with this pattern, but I also knew that I would have a bit of trouble convincing my skirt wearing six year old that she needed a pair for herself. Part of my sales strategy was to show her my denim pair of culottes and to offer to make her the same. She loved the idea. And I loved the idea that I wasn’t going to have to use pink, or sparkles, or big flowers.


I cut a size six in the pattern but I made a few changes: 

  • I like a sleeker look to culottes so I combined the two front pleats into a single centre pleat. This also gave me more room to add my pocket details.
  • The contrast waistband and pocket was attached externally, so I ditched the inseam pockets. The pocket style is very similar to the ones I made for my denim culottes.
  • I lengthened them by 1″ for my taller than average 6.5 yr old

The denim I used for these culottes is quite heavy. It’s probably a lot heavier than was intended for this pattern, but I quite like the volume it gives the pants, and I know they will  be great to layer with wool tights to keep Miss Six warm in sub-zero temperatures. I made sure the back elastic in the waistband was fixed quite tight to keep the pants up.
 
I really like the waistband design of these culottes. It’s the same as the Oliver + S skort pattern, but this time it also includes instructions to interface the front section, which I think is a smart addition to the pattern. The front of the waistband is kept smooth because the elastic is only threaded along the back, stopping at each side seam. It’s a great design feature but it also means that you need to get the waist sizing close to perfect when selecting the size you cut. If you make the culottes too large in the first place, it’s difficult to pull (the half waist-length) elastic tight enough to keep the pants tight on a little waist. Skirts and pants that fall down while they play are a personal pet peeve of my girls. 


The boxy, drop shouldered top is one of mine that I refashioned specifically for Miss Six. It was originally cropped on me so I didn’t have to alter the length at all. I simply unpicked the side seams to remove the bust darts and re-stitched them narrower to suit her. I also added two pleats to bring the neckline in a bit. The sleeves are long on her, but I think they look great rolled up. She’s pretty happy with her new outfit. I think that smile says it all.



Denim culottes

No wardrobe can possibly be complete without culottes. So here, my friends, is yet another pair. I’m determined to persuade you!

 
 

This time, I made them up in heavy denim, with pocket details in white denim and contrast panels in dark green corduroy. I picked up the denim for a steal at Jo-Ann. It’s the kind of denim that would make good work-wear. It’s quite heavy, in a blah blue colour that will fade, and with no stretch to speak of. It’s exactly what I was looking for.

 

 

Once again, I used my trusty Esther shorts pattern. The basic shape of this pair of culottes is the same as my last pair, but with a few additional modifications:
  • I put a fly zipper in the front instead of the back invisible zip. I wanted these culottes to have a more jeans feel about them. I toyed with adding a button at the waistband, but I just didn’t like the casual feel of it. I stuck with a hidden hook and bar, and I bound the waistband (my new favourite thing!).  

 I also:

  • shortened the hem by several inches

  • added decorative patch pockets and panels to the sides of my culottes. I was inspired by the detailing in the skirt in this picture. It was posted on Instagram by a friend of mine so I have no idea who designed the skirt, or who is wearing it. Any ideas people?

 
I love the way the silhouette of culottes change depending on which angle you look at them from. I also love that I can walk, run and bend after children without losing my modesty. I think it’s going to be a culottes kind of winter for me. I’m wearing them with my 80’s man-shirt here, but in a few months time I’ll be layering them with fleece lined tights and weatherproof boots. That’s something you can’t do with skinny jeans! Are you sold…yet?
  


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!
 
 

Dressing up my culottes with a cropped Kanerva

Now this was the top I’d originally intended to wear with my culottes, before I was seduced by the novelty factor. If you look closely, you can see the back buttons match those on my waistband. This time, I’ve glamorised the old culottes a little with some sky high heels and a cropped Kanerva by Named.

I really like the Kanerva top. My first one was made in a lovely Liberty of London from Tessuti. It fits well enough but I was keen to try it in a fabric with more stretch. I chose a lightweight ponte knit for this version, purchased online from Fabric.com.

Ponte knit is so comfortable and practical to wear and it suits the Kanerva perfectly. The cropped version is a great length for me as it is short, but doesn’t really show any tummy if you wear a high waist pant (bear in mind that I am 5″10 so the cropped version will come down longer on some). I made a few small changes to the pattern again this time. I started with a size 40, then:

  • lengthened the arms by 3cm
  • took about 2cm off the front neckline and shoulder seams
  • dropped the back neckline by 1cm
  • narrowed the waist a little by taking 1cm off each side seam
  • I also removed the front waist dart and increased the bust dart ever so slightly
  • I cheated with the back. The buttons are just for show. I overlapped the back edges to keep the centre back where it should be, and created two seams (one false) on each side. I then sewed the buttons straight down the middle without buttonholes.