White lace dress

One great thing about living in the USA is that my birthday is in Summer here! I’m so much more inspired to dress up and head out for the night in the middle of Summer. The end of June always seems so cold and dark in Sydney (relatively speaking).

To be perfectly honest though, I’ll use any excuse to sew a nice dress. Yes, there’s still over a month until my birthday, but several years ago I came up with best birthday strategy ever. For the next month, many sentences will begin with, “It’s my birthday soon, so…”. If I really stretch it, I can milk my birthday for a good eight weeks, which could possibly turn into several dinners out, maybe some new shoes, fabric…and you’ve already seen my “birthday” sunnies if you follow me on Instagram.

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But let’s get back to the birthday dress. It is my own design, albeit a very simple one, and also one you’ve seen before. The skirt is the only real part of the design I changed, moving and adjusting the pleats a bit to create the volume and shape of the skirt. I also moved the zipper to the back and left it exposed (because it is a bit fancy!).

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I’ve been calling the outer fabric lace, for want of a better word. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. It is actually faux leather embroidered on scuba mesh. Surprisingly though, it is very stable. There isn’t much stretch in that mesh so I was able to turn the fabric on the cross grain to utilise the mesh edging/selvedge as a hem. I decided that the lining needed to be black for contrast and cotton for breathability under the spongy synthetic exterior.

Now, the construction of this dress is where things went a little Pete Tong. My original plan was to partially line the bodice, just like this blue Milly dress. However, after sewing all the seams  (of the outer fabric) and serging them, I realised that the underside of the lace was so hard and scratchy that the dress would be unwearable if it was left even partially unlined. I could have used silk organza blocked into the top part of the lining and sewn it as a full lining, but I didn’t have the right shade of nude on hand and I just wanted to get on with it.

My solution was to first bind the armscye of the outer lace. Then I sewed together the lining in full and attached it to the lace at the neckline. Then a lot of hand-stitching ensued. I slip-stitched the lining to the armscye binding and down the centre back. The dress is actually very close to passing as reversible.

I’m very happy with the fit. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but I think I will always feel an element of surprise and delight when I step into a garment that is perfectly molded to my body. It’s a sensation that I’ve never felt with RTW.

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And while we are speaking of perfect fit… I drove past an estate sale last week and bumped into the impeccable Jill Sander shoes that you see in the photos. They were not only my exact size, but comfortable, possibly unworn, and totally meant for the dress I was sewing. I felt like Cinderella!

Zippered faux leather skinnies

I’m not going to lie. This was a slap dash, poorly thought out project. I just suddenly, desperately needed a pair of leather skinnies with feature zippers and I thought I could whip them together using a bit of cheap, novelty fabric.

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I freestyled an existing trouser pattern into a slimmer design. However, I realised along the way that the fabric (faux stretch leather) needed to be very close fitting in order to minimise the sight of ugly wrinkles and creases. I should have started with a leggings pattern, not a pants pattern. I had to narrow the legs further as I went, by inches at a time. It was never going to bode well.

The irony of the matter is also that this faux stretch leather is only slightly stretchy, and in one direction only. It’s like wearing skinny jeans in non-stretch denim. There’s not a lot of give when I bend and stretch. I’m pretty sure I’m going to rip the crotch seam next time I wear them, but I’ll still happily wear them until I do.

The three feature zippers are non functional. I installed them as per this tutorial, however I covered the backs of mine with a soft fabric, rather than add pocket bags.

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In any case, it was a fun make. I needed a frivolous sew after I spent so many hours on my coat, and these pants suited the purpose well. And besides, everyone needs the occasional wadder to keep things real!

 

Oliver + S // Faux leather pants

I’m not sure how long I’ve had this pink faux leather in my stash, but it was always destined for Miss Six. She’s such a groovy little chickadee.

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I used the Parachute pants pattern from Oliver + S. I removed the side panel, narrowed the legs a little, and lengthened them to the next size up to better fit my tall girl.

The legs are obviously too long on Miss Six right now. I was planning on hemming them, but the faux leather looks cleaner unfinished, so the extra length comes from the hem allowance that was never turned up. We’ll probably leave it as it is for now and just roll the legs up until Miss Six’s legs stretch (which happens regularly anyway!).

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Leather wrap skirt

Remember the last wrap skirt I made? Well, not long after I made it, I spotted this Tibi skirt on Instagram. And as fortune would have it, I had just the right amount of (Perfection fused) leather leftover in my stash. I’m not exactly sure how this leather is made. It looks convincing but it definitely doesn’t compare to genuine lambskin. It is very affordable and easy to sew. The underside is fabric and the outer is leather. I find it doesn’t press/glue quite as neatly as the real stuff, but it is lightweight, quite fluid, and without flaws, which makes sewing with it very economical.

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I used the same basic pattern as my last wrap skirt. It is a very simple modification on a pencil skirt (details here). However, this time I created a facing instead of a waistband and added a strap to wrap around my waist and tie secure at a silver ring. I didn’t line this skirt because the fabric backed leather didn’t require it.

This is a fun skirt. I’ll enjoy wearing it before the weather gets too cold. And later, I might have a go at layering it with jeans or skinny pants.

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Grainline Archer // vintage sheet shirt

So, I loved Miss Seven’s vintage sheet shirt so much that I just had to make my own. Here it is.

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My Grainline Archer has been modified to accommodate my standard broad back/long arm/height requirements. I also added a classic, tailored sleeve placket, and two fish eye darts in the back.

 

 

 

A very simple top in THE fabric of the month

I’ve had this gorgeous fabric languishing in my stash for nearly two years. I don’t use a lot of floral and I rarely have the occasion to justify sewing with silk charmeuse. Even so, this one stopped me in my tracks and I had to have at least a little bit of it. I went home with a little over 1m. In retrospect, I wish I’d purchased more. It would have been the perfect silk to use for my bias cut dress.

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I was just waiting for the right idea to come along. I should thank from Melanie from Poppykettle and Rachel from Boo Dog and Me for inspiring me with their beautiful Frocktail tops. In particular, I liked the idea of pairing such a delicate floral print with leather.

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The design is a loosely fitted shell top with straight side seams and bust darts for a little shape. I hand-stitched the binding and hem down. I felt like this fabric deserved it.

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I also tried to achieve a length that would suit wearing it out loose or tucked in. I’m very happy with how it worked out, but next time I will raise the armscye by smidgen (about 1/4 inch).

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I love the way this fabric pairs with leather. These shorts were a bit of a rush make compared to the other leather pants I’ve made (here and here), and the leather is more faux than real, but I’ve always recognised them for being the trend-piece that they are. I’m not going to love this style forever, but I have been getting a lot of wear out of them this season. No, I don’t wear them on the school pick up, but when paired with a nice top, I find them to be the perfect blend of smart and casual for outdoor parties and BBQ’s.

 

Shop the Look

(No affiliate links. It’s just fun to compare to RTW. See how much we save by sewing!)

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                      Zara                                              St. John                                              Vince

 

Refashioned // leather trimmed tunic

The thing about unfitted dresses (like the ones below) is that they need to be short or they can verge on looking frumpy. In my opinion, the black tunic dress that I used for this refashion went slightly over the length threshold. It’s only a very small difference, but it has a big impact. Compare the difference in look with these two very similar dresses.

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There were a few other things about the black dress that I didn’t like. The base ponte fabric, whilst interfaced, didn’t have the structure to give this style a nice shape. It drapes too much. I should have either made it fitting (as would suit a ponte knit) or choose a more structured, woven fabric and flared it out. Like the length, the fit is half-way there but neither fitted or boxy. The sleeves and front zipper don’t do this dress any favours either, but I remember why I made it as I did. I was using up a limited scrap supply at the time which meant I couldn’t cut the fabric as one piece and proper sleeves weren’t an option.

I did actually wear this dress a LOT during Winter. I’m not as fussy about clothes when it comes to dressing warm (hello minus 15 degrees Celsius!) and this seemed to be the fall-back dress I would pull out anytime we had a dinner or event to go to. It was comfortable, warm, and I usually wore it layered with tights and my Dior knock-off coat. However, in the light of Summer, I was able to make a more objective critique of the garment. And the critique led me to this:

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I love problem solving ways to make things work and I definitely enjoyed the process of making this jacket. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that anything about it is couture. I just bound and topstitched the leather and I have yet to hammer those seams flat. The waist tie is an unfinished strip of leather. I really wasn’t sure that this would work out at all. It still leaves a lot to be desired, but it is much better than I anticipated, and a good reference point for drafting a similar piece in the future (and one that might closer resemble my inspiration).

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The steps in this refashion were pretty simple. I started with my tunic and cut off the hem to the length of jacket I wanted. I preserved that hem (including the back embellishment) by dividing it in half and turning those halves into the sleeves.

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I then just unpicked the bound neckline to change the shape of it a little, attached the front leather panels, and bound or turned the raw edges under.

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I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of this in Autumn, but most likely with jeans. I seem to be without jeans at the moment or I would have worn them in the photos. Jeans are one of my few RTW concessions. I just can’t summon the desire to make myself a pair, despite admiring the amazing handiwork of others out there.

 

 

A blue cotton top

I’m putting this top to bed. I like it from some angles and not from others. I might still wear it, or I might cut it up and modify it, but I don’t think I want to make another.

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The fabric that I’ve used does it no favours. It’s a denim-look cotton shirting with just enough stretch to keep the bound armscye and neckline permanently wrinkled, despite a good pressing.

Perhaps I could lower the neckline and change the shape of the front armscye, or add darts, but I’m just not loving it either way. And I need to love it if I’m going to spend any more time on it. Sometimes you just have to let things go.

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