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 // Pinwheel slip dress in silk

I have quite a mammoth sewing to-do list in the lead up to Christmas. I didn’t plan it that way. In fact, I didn’t plan to do much Christmas sewing at all this year. My only goal was to sew that velvet dress, and of course, the Winter coat (that is slowly coming along).

The Winter coat now has buttonholes and a collar, but the rest of it has been put on hold while I catch up on the selfless sewing that I was trying to avoid. However, I think the Christmas bug has just caught me a little later this year, because I’m looking forward to the quick and fun sewing that is now on my horizon.

It all started with Miss Seven. It’s an annual tradition at her elementary school for all the 2nd grade students to dress up and attend the Nutcracker, by the Kansas City Ballet. It’s quite a special occasion for the little kids each year and even more special because her best friend is a part of the cast (although not performing on that day). The kids look forward to this event for literally a whole year, but I didn’t consider the ‘dress-up’ component until about a week ago when Miss Seven started muttering about the ‘fancy dresses’ the other girls were wearing, and then the email came home from the teacher requesting that the boys wear ‘nice’ jeans or pants.

Miss Seven already had the perfect dressy coat for the occasion. But I decided to sew her a special dress to wear with it. The fabric came from my stash. It is a vibrant Ralph Lauren silk CDC that I previously used to line this coat of mine. I had the perfect amount for the Oliver + S Pinwheel slip and tunic dress pattern.

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I modified the pattern slightly to sew the tunic and slip as one, instead of making separate dresses to layer as the pattern suggests. I also changed added a keyhole to the back as the method of fastening. To do this, I copied the neckline and armscye of the tunic over the slip pattern and then sewed them together at the neckline. This eliminated the need for neck binding or facing. The slip portion also became the lining. In addition, I lengthened the arms.

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I’m pretty chuffed with how this dress turned out. I made it up in a size 8 but was a little worried it would be too big. Miss Seven is taller than average and quite slim through the body and hips (her hips and waist are a size 5), but she seems to have a nice width to her shoulders which probably accounts for how the dress fits. The shoulder fit is great but the dress volumes out beneath that (which is nature of a the dress design anyway). The length is short but acceptable (I normally lengthen patterns for her).

Miss Seven is delighted with her early Christmas present and that makes me happy too. I consulted with her all the way in the making of it, because I feel like she’s old enough now to start developing a more informed opinion on clothes and styles (rather than just a need for all things swishy, ruffled, and pink). Of course, I had to pull the reigns in with regards to her initial selection of suitable fabrics and design (ie not floor length velvet like Mummy), but we talked over the options and she came up with some of her own ideas. In the cool weather, she’ll be wearing this dress with white, fleece lined tights which will look super cute too.

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Oliver + S Apple Picking Dress in bird fabric

When I went fabric shopping for my bias dress muslin, I may have purchased a little too much of this particular bird fabric. It has a lovely, light-weight feel and drape, but it is still 100% polyester. I find it easier to overlook the poly-factor when filling my childrens’ wardrobes.

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Miss Seven was the recipient of this Apple Picking Dress by Oliver + S. There are quite a few details in this pattern that require a little extra care, but nothing is particularly complicated. In fact, the only thing that made this dress difficult was my choice of slippery, press-resistant polyester. Pure cotton or silk would sew up like a dream.

I really like the double, front button placket and collar/tie. I also love the loose bodice and drop waist shape. My front placket is far from perfect. I didn’t match my interfacing well enough to the fabric and buttonholes. There’s some puckering on the buttonholes which I find very annoying. I should have gone a little sturdier on the stabilising. Maybe it also would have helped if I’d lowered the stitch tension.

A size 7 in this pattern fits Miss Seven very well. The shoulder width and arm length looks good to me. I sewed the full length arms and they are probably designed to sit a little longer, but this length is very practical for a child. I’m not sure why the front placket is pulling up when the dress is worn. It could be that I tied the collar a little too tight. It could also be due to the way she is standing (with her shoulders back and arched slightly).

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I’ll definitely sew this pattern again. My choice of fabric works beautifully with this style of dress. It’s a design that would also sew up exceptionally well in silk for a special occasion.

 

Simplicity 1435 // A quickie Summer dress for Miss Three

I’ve made this pattern more times than I care to remember. It’s a very simple style that is both comfortable and practical. It whips together very quickly and always becomes a favourite.

I made the sleeveless version this time. I bound the neck and armscye in my own way, with my own self-made binding, but only because I didn’t bother to look at the pattern cover to see that the pattern also included this view, and therefore would have included binding in the pattern pieces had I chosen to look.

 

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So, it seems that my little one hasn’t changed a great deal since I first made this pattern up for her. We’re still on a size 3. I’m sure she has grown a little bit taller, but she doesn’t sprout up at the ferocity of her bigger sisters. She truly is my little one.

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The fabric I used for this dress is French terry, which is thicker and less fluid than what I’ve used before. I would have thought that this would have made for a closer fit, but it seems not. In general, I find that the sleeved versions of this dress are a lot more forgiving (and flattering) with fit.

This version (sans sleeves) is clearly comfy, but the wider fit through the shoulder seams (as required to fit the sleeves) isn’t the most flattering design. I’ll keep making it though. My favourite part of the dress is the complete lack of closures, which facilitates independent dressing, and lets me enjoy my morning cup of tea in peace.

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Jaywalk refashioned

This time last year, I made myself a dress and a maxi skirt in some striped jersey fabric. The dress is no longer with me. I literally wore that dress to death. I still like the skirt in theory, but the length of it was a bit off-putting for everyday wear. It was a simple issue to fix.

This refashion was quick and easy. I chopped the top off the skirt, tapered the side seams in a bit to fit my hips better, and re-attached some elastic to the waist. The top I’m wearing is my Camilla camisole. It’s a simple, bias cut cami that fits beautifully.

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I didn’t waste an inch of fabric in this refashion. The length I chopped off was just long enough to make a simple skirt for Miss Seven. I bought the side seams in by about 1.5 inches and shortened the elastic in the waist. She’s pretty chuffed because it fits the definition of a ‘fitted mini-skirt’ for her, which is something (along with heeled shoes) that I refuse to let a seven year old wear.

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Seeing double: Simplicity 1435

Simplicity 1435 is my go-to kid pattern for easy knit dresses. I’ve made it a few times already for my littlest peep. This time I really stretched myself and whipped one up for Miss Five too. The fabric I used is a very drapey viscose knit. The fabric is quite heavy so it does drag the dresses down a little at the waist, but I’m fond of a drop waist anyway, and I just love those stripes.

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These two girls are little peas in a pod. I spoke not a word during this photo shoot. It’s quite hilarious to watch them getting flowers for props and posing together.

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Every time I make a dress using this pattern, it always becomes a firm favourite with Miss Three and I know why. Fuss free knit dresses are so comfortable. She can dress and undress easily as there are no fastenings and the layered skirt provides just the right amount of swish-factor.

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Simplicity 1435 is a very simple pattern, a super quick make, and very practical for everyday wear. There’s nothing perfect about these versions. I whipped them up so quickly that the stripes aren’t precisely matched, but I know they will be worn to shreds. I just wish the little one would decide to like this dress too (which I think is utterly adorable), which hangs forlornly and completely ignored in her cupboard.

 

The yellow drop waist refashioned

You’ve seen a slightly different version of this dress before. I wasn’t happy with it and although I meant to walk away, I simply couldn’t stay away for long. There was too much about the original version that I did like. It had potential. Unrealised potential.

 So what did I do to improve on the original? I cut away the skirt, raised the bodice a little, changed the front bodice shape, and redrafted the skirt completely. I think I’ve come away with a much better dress. And have I said before how much I like yellow right now? Could it be that some of those yellow pineapples I keep seeing in blogland are finally rubbing off on me?



 
 


Sunshine in a drop waist dress


Let me start by saying that this is just a wearable muslin. It is such a simple little sun frock that completely belies the amount of pattern cutting, slashing, taping and calico testing that went on behind the seams (ha, see what I did there!).

I’m still not happy with this dress though. It fits well and looks ok, but it doesn’t match the vision in my head and I’m not happy with the way some of the pieces fitted together when I was sewing it. I had to do a bit of freestyle pattern shaping when I was sewing and of course by that stage, I’d had enough and failed to adequately record the last changes.

The pattern pieces of the skirt need the most work. I like the hi-lo hem, but I need to shave a bit more off the front and I need to remove a bit more body at the sides. I also need to work on the shape of the bottom bodice/flounce seam.

 
 

I like the look of the back though.

And for a behind the scenes look at my photo shoot. Like always, the little one is my Director of Photos, advising me on how to place my hands. She’s dressed down today, in her big sister’s cast offs that have been getting a second lease of life in the dress up box. There would usually be a few more layers of dresses involved in her outfit. She likes to wear all her favourite clothes at the same time.

 
But back to my dress. I’m not going to call it a compete fail. It’s the kind of easy cotton sun dress that I can see myself wearing a lot over summer. And the colour definitely makes me smile. I’m just completely worn out by puzzling out this pattern. I’ve walked away. I’m yet to even pack away the crumpled, overly taped pieces of tracing paper, or the completed shorter skirt flounce that I decided not to layer over the longer flounce in the end.


I won’t be making this pattern again as it is. Maybe I might have the strength to improve it or modify it in the future though. And having these blog photos to refer back to will certainly make it easier to see the changes that I want to make.

 

A different kind of maxi skirt

So this skirt is the final chapter of my denim on denim story. My denim shirt is blogged about here. The skirt itself, is a very simple, self-drafted number. I used my pencil skirt block (seen here as a neoprene and faux leather mini) and simply shaped the bottom hemline to be high at the front and low at the back. I then gathered a large rectangle of beautiful
Tessuti linen into a skirt. The effect is a drop waist in a skirt. I love the subtle hi-lo hem, and my love of a good drop waist needs no further explanation.

 

Winter white drop waist dress: AKA Chanel knock off

 

This dress falls squarely into the ‘what was I thinking’ category. It is pure white, dry-clean only, Ralph Lauren wool suiting, made up in a dress for a mother of three. Go on, tell me that isn’t just a little bit crazy. However, in my defence, the fabric was already in my stash, and nothing was ever going to make it more wearable, no matter how long I left it there. I’m going to chalk this purchase up to jet lag.

 
 
 
 


Obviously, it’s another drop waist dress. The pattern is my own. You’ve seen it before on more occasions than you’d care to remember. This time, I switched the zipper to the back, added sleeves and some little front pockets. I drafted a new set of facings and lined the bodice with silk jersey.

 
Yep,  those are darts you see facing inside out. I’m not quite sure how I managed that one. Thankfully I got the back lining right.
 
 
 
My inspiration for this dress came from a picture I found on Pinterest. The link took me to an Asian website, so using my great powers of deduction, I’m going to have a stab at guessing that this is either a Chanel dress or one that is inspired by the great fashion house. It was the only picture of this dress I could find online. Aside from the gathers in the sleeve caps, I fell in love with everything about it.
  
It was one of those rare occasions that I had the pattern (drop waist, hello!), I had the perfect fabric, and I had a pretty keen desire to put some impractical stash to good use. I would rarely copy my source of inspiration outright (she says as she gathers fabric for her Dior coat knock off), but guys, this is Chanel!
 
Should I open up a can of worms here and ask what you guys think about copying designers? My personal feelings are that if you are giving credit where credit is due and not mass producing the items for sale, then it’s no big deal. I’ll always reference my point of inspiration, and since there was no chance of me ever purchasing the item in the first place, I’m hardly affecting anyone’s bottom line. I do still feel like a bit of a cheat though.