Thrifted Inspiration: Chanel

Dear readers,

 

I’m not much of a shopper and I feel like my appetite for the RTW I can afford is decreasing everyday. However, if there is one thing I cannot resist, it’s designer labels at the thrift store. Especially the French luxury Ready-to-Wear pieces. I have such an admiration for those brands that the idea of owning a little piece of it is just too tempting. I thought I may share my occasional weakness with you!

Chanel Shell-4

I found this Chanel silk shell at Beacon’s Closet in Manhattan for about 50$ if I remember correctly. The color is a very trendy “millennial pink”. Based on a quick internet search I would think it’s only from the late 90’s, but this garment has had a rough life. It has a tiny hole and some discoloration. It’s still wearable but definitely not in “mint condition”.

Chanel Shell-5

The shape is very simple, semi-fitted, no darts, hip length with a placket opening at Center Back (and the original button, yay!!). It’s a size 36 (french sizing) and although it’s a bit big on me I will be able to wear it. The fit in the bust is very nice and the armholes/neckline do not gape at all.

In terms of construction, the armholes and neckline are finished with a .5cm/1/4″ bias binding. The remarkable feature for me are the teeny tiny flat felled side seams, no more than 1/8″. I tried to replicate them on my machine but I can’t say I was very successful, as  evidenced below:

Chanel Shell-8

Another notable point is the shoulder seam with a fused seam allowances, then stitched, pressed towards the back bodice and overlocked. One of my favorite features is the lingerie strap guard. I usually don’t make the effort of sewing some on in my handmade garments and I think I should! The buttonhole is very fine. I don’t think there is a way for me to achieve this quality. My home machine produces ok-buttonholes for things like cotton shirts and little human garments but I think it would ruin the look a delicate garment like this one…

Chanel Shell-3

This kind of pieces really inspire my sewing, as I love the idea of putting a lot of effort in garments that you can wear any day of the week. And in case you want to re-create a vintage Chanel silk shell at home, watch what will happen at Just Patterns (hint hint)… I hope you enjoyed looking at the details of this simple top. Chanel has a special place in my personal fashion Pantheon ( and I would love to hear which are the brands that keep inspiring you?

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Tidbits #5

Dear readers,

Welcome back for a new edition of Tidbits, where I gather links of what I enjoyed reading, watching and listening lately. This week is all about inner conflict and my naturally french contradictory spirit. You can blame it on my on-going binge of In Treatment. That show is seriously addictive! I decided to add excerpts of the articles I am referring to in case you don’t have time to read through. Let me know if you think it’s the right or wrong approach!

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Sewing Bits

    1. Pillowcase Pattern Co

      The patterns will be available soon from Etsy for just $24, and include detailed instructions with full color photographs, beautiful packaging, and all the information you need to get started. There will also be a big blog tour so get ready!

      Made by Meg

      This April fool’s joke was hilarious. I do see the irony of me saying that, since I just started selling sewing patterns on Etsy. I decided to jump on the bandwagon, when I realized that there were 2 ways of not selling 24$-beginner-friendly-hipster-sewing-patterns. One is not to sell sewing patterns at all, which is what I had been doing until then. The other other is to sell cheaper patterns that would build on sewer’s experience and encourage self-confidence rather than hand-holding. So far, we had a little over 30 sales with our marketing efforts are very minimal and inconsistent so I feel it goes in the direction that there is appetite for a different offer…

 

  1. Sewing Polar Bear

Day 12 of #miymarch17 – Teacher. I suspect there are many patient mothers out there getting credit today ☺Mine is no exception, but my interest in sewing first appeared a few years ago. Since I have studied and worked far from home I have mostly used the Internet. There are some question though that Google has a hard time answering (like "how to get your collar band not to look like a turtle made it" and "how to sew that armhole of your coat without having a mental breakdown"). I have used Skype with my mum in those cases (let's just say she is very, very patient 😂). Side note: I'm currently trying to improve my shirt making skills and have discovered Angela Kane and her YouTube channel. She almost makes me want to quit my job, drink all the tea and handstitch collars all day long! 😆

A post shared by @sewingpolarbear on

I admire makers that are able to create visually pleasing Instagram accounts. I certainly don’t have the discipline to do it myself (hum hum… all the baby pictures) but I wish I did! See what I mean with this lovely lady, Sewing Polar Bear. At the same time, I look at my feed and I like that it reflects my real life, or at least a filtered version of it…

Other Bits

    1. The White Wall Controversy: How the All-White Aesthetic Has Affected Design

      So what does that mean for white rooms and the all-white trend? I think this look is one of the many styles in this particular zeitgeist that will be beloved and revered by some for years to come, but changed and moved past relatively soon for many.

      Grace Bonney,  Design Sponge

      My walls are all whites and my style revolves around classic and simple silhouettes. Still, at times, I am embarrassed about how much it fits current trends. Is it what I really enjoy, or am I a product of too much Pinterest? How do we keep challenging myself visually? Obviously home and fashion trends follow similar cycles. Are we on the verge of going back to a more maximalist approach to design?

 

    1. Minimalism is Boring

      Can I have both — the noise and the quiet; the jeans and the neons? Here are three outfits born out of the totems of a minimalist wardrobe.

      Leandra Medine, Man Repeller

      Gretchen Jones touched upon a similar issue in Episode 7 of Seamwork Radio when she said that she wasn’t really interested in the current fashion scene. I like Leandra’s differentiation of a maximalist style vs consumption. Hopefully, you can achieve an over the top look without over sized closet size.

 

    1. Minimalism: another boring product wealthy people can buy

      We cannot pretend that performative reduction in consumption, or choosing to only consume in certain ways, is not one of the most gratuitous displays of privilege out there, and to frame it as in any way a moral choice is more than a little offensive.

      Chelsea Fagan, The Guardian

      I’m a Konmari convert, but I couldn’t help agreeing with a lot of what was said in the article. This type of writing is essential for me. Although I can never be free from trends or my preconceptions, recognizing that they exist is the first step in minimizing their impact on my behaviors.

 

    1. The Myth of the Ethical Shopper

      We are not going to shop ourselves into a better world. Advocating for boring stuff like complaint mechanisms and formalized labor contracts is nowhere near as satisfying as buying a pair of Fair Trade sandals or whatever. But that’s how the hard work of development actually gets done: Not by imploring people to buy better, but by giving them no other option.

      Michael Hobbes, Huffington Post

      I cannot agree more with what is said here. Buying fair trade is not bad per se, but it shouldn’t stop us from looking at the (very) big picture. Changes have to happen at all levels!

 

  1. We’ve Forgotten How to Dress Like Adults

    Each decade of age seemed to offer its own licenses.
    “By the age of thirty, most women were married, held jobs, or both,” writes Przybyszewski. “And they were presumed able to handle the eroticism embodied in the draped designs that made for the most sophisticated styles.” Draping gathers excess fabric into unique waves that draw attention to the wearer’s womanly curves and the tug of gravity.

    Rebecca Huval, Racked

    “Adult” dressing used to be valued and enviable. Back in December, I visited a great aunt in her 80’s with a great sense of style. She was telling about meeting her late husband when she was in her early 20’s and he was in his 40’s. She said “You have to understand, it sounds like a big difference but back then at 23 we were women. We wore gloves, suits and a hat. Not jeans or t-shirt”. I was of course in my rattier jeans with the little human on my lap…

That’s it for today. I would love to hear your thoughts and what you have you read lately that challenged you!

From Inspiration to Garment – Part 1 – Draping

Dear Readers,

I mentioned in my last post that my sew-jo has been low since the beginning of the year. I can think at least of 2 reasons. One, I cleaned out my closet (and the whole house while in my Marie Kondo phase) and I like owning less things, which tends to be incompatible with sewing. Second, I’m quite satisfied with my wardrobe. It sounds counterintuitive but after cleaning it , I see less gaps than before. Probably because I actually know what I own now. If you add the fact that I also shop RTW, it means that I’ll have to empty my wardrobe regularly and focus on less but better quality items.

When I cleaned out my closet, I had to part with a lot of handmade items. I never managed to do it before. The Konmari approach helped me realized that they were garments that performed their “Joy-Giving function” by being made but no longer did it by being worn. They had to go, and they did. However, it was not a very pleasant and to avoid it in the future, I want to focus on sewing what I will really enjoy wearing. Different tools are available for that (Capsule planners, Wardrobe architect, etc.) but they are all too formal/definitive for my taste. So I decided to be simple and shop my own Pinterest fashion board for ideas. I created a Sewing Queue board to gather my ideas and help me maintain focus when fabric shopping.

Picture courtesy of cupofjo.com
Picture courtesy of Cos

After finding a pretty Rag&Bone Chambray at Moods during my last trip to New York City, I decided to start by the first above picture. I believed that it has been pinned thousands of time. I went to find the original dress on the Cos website (see 2nd picture) and I was stunned at how this dress would never have caught my attention without Pinterest!

Since I am also to renew my sewing appetite, I decided to brush up on my draping skills. I attended several FIT courses when I lived in New York, and this is probably what I miss the most from the city! When draping by myself, I have a draping book open for guidance and reference. I actually don’t use it much but I like to have it next to me. I own several and my favorite is still one of the first books I bought: Draping – Art and Craftmanship for Fashion Design, by Annette Duburg. In my opinion, it has the clearest step-by-step instructions both for basic and advanced designs.chambray-draping-2No matter what book you use, the steps to draping are always the same and I will try to outline them. Before starting, this is what I did:

  1. Design analysis – in this case I noted kimono sleeves, front and back gathers for the bodice, font and back darts in the skirt, italian pockets and an invisible zipper at center back.
  2. Preparing the form – it includes adding style lines and in this case attaching my (self-made) arm which I taped to a cupboard to keep it way from the body (for the kimono sleeve).
  3. Prepping the muslin – cutting the different pieces, straightening the grain, pressing it and adding the main lines (center front, center back, bust, hip and others as necessary).

chambray-draping-1I then proceeded with the actual draping. There is a general order to this (neckline at center front, waist, bust at side seam, neckline at the shoulder, etc.) and it becomes natural once you have done it a few times because it’s quite logical.

I like to use style tape not only to mark the line on the form but also on the muslin. You may need to re-do it a few times and it will help keeping the toile relatively clean until you are ready to mark on it. Tape is also very useful to drape pleats or gathers.

chambray-draping-3 chambray-draping-4 chambray-draping-5When one think about draping, we tend to picture ourselves creating beautiful “drapés” and laboring over tiny gathers. The reality is that you spend a lot of time removing the muslin from the form, ironing it flat, “true-ing” your lines, cutting the excess of fabric, repining together and putting it back on the form. After each change, you repeat the process to assess whether it works or not. In that sense, draping is not necessarily much faster than flat pattern making. Of course, it depends on the design and your own preference.

chambray-draping-6 chambray-draping-7The waistband is a simple straight band, nothing particularly is particularly challenging about it. The only thing you have to get right is the positioning. In my case, I realized that it looked better a little higher than what I initially thought.chambray-draping-8 chambray-draping-9 chambray-draping-10Once I was happy with the bodice and the waistband, the next step was the skirt. You can see it below but I was unsatisfied with the hip curve. I ended up using the pattern of my open skirt project. I removed the pegging at the hem and I widened the side seams to match the waistband.

I have to add that the overall this is tighter than how you should drape. I lost some weight since my form was made to measure 4 years ago. My solution is to drape “skin tight” on the form and I get a comfortable garment on myself. I never had bad surprises so far…

chambray-draping-11chambray-draping-12My least favorite step is next: copying onto paper. I find it an intrinsically imprecise process.  Once done, I added my seam allowances, drafted all the details such as facings, closures and pockets. It’s the perfect time to mentally sew the garment to make sure the process is engineered in the pattern as much as possible. Doing this, you will be amazed at how much easier it is to sew a pattern you drafted compared to one you bought. Everything just comes naturally and I make less mistakes.

I don’t do many process posts so I hope this was useful to you. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen the dress finished already! Let me know if you have any questions or if you have any draping tip you would like to share!

One final point, I’m currently spending the month in Ottawa, Canada (for work). If any of you are around, I would love to engage in some sewing gossiping/fabric shopping/coffee drinking!