Robert Kaufman Aster Blouse

I feel like it’s been a while since I made something I didn’t totally like, so I guess I was due a ‘meh’ make and unfortunately it’s made from some beautiful Robert Kaufman fabric (called Storm Drown I think) which I got from Guthrie and Ghani when I went shopping in Birmingham a couple of months ago.

I definitely think part of the problem was my fabric choice – it’s quite a stiff cotton, and I think the Colette Aster would do better in a fabric with a bit more drape – even a slightly more drapey cotton would probably improve things.

But there is also the problem that I obviously did something rather wrong when sewing the button bands as the blouse ended up really quite big on me – hence the sad/perplexed photo below! You can also just about see in this photo that the neckline does not go to a point, but is flat where the button bands meet. It is not meant to look like this.

Of course, since it’s not a super fitted make, I didn’t try it on until I’d totally finished it – lesson definitely learned for next time! I made the size 6.

I did realise, though, that it fit much better – like the darts were vaguely near my boobs which they hadn’t been before – if I folded the button bands back by each band’s width (if that makes sense?!). I think my mistake was to not turn them back on themselves enough times, so the shirt ended up too wide.

So after finishing the whole blouse, I took off the buttons and turned the bands on both sides back on themselves and top-stitched them again! I then re-did the button holes – which was super fun given how much my machine enjoys sewing them, not! Then I stitched the buttons back on and there was definitely an improvement.

I don’t think the neckline sits very nicely on me, though. Again, this could be because of my fabric choice, I don’t know. I don’t generally wear or make things with v-necks so I probably could have guessed this might not be the best shape on me,  but I was seduced by the versions in the pattern photos, particularly the long-sleeved (I think) chambray one – it looks really chic on the model.

I dislike the back neckline less than the front, though it does look a bit weird to have all the shirt shapes like a yoke and pleat, but no collar!

I did learn a new skill making this blouse, though, and that was to make my own bias binding using a great tutorial by one of my sewing crushes, Helen from Stitch My Style. It meant I had loads of bias binding, so I’ve still got some to use next time I’m making something and don’t realise I don’t have any shop bought stuff and can’t be as lazy as usual! I don’t have one of those gadget things for making bias binding, so that is definitely now on my to-buy list!

Aside from the neckline sitting a bit funny, one of the other things I’m not super keen on with this pattern is the sleeve length. For some reason they feel a bit frumpy – they’re not proper short sleeves or 3/4 length sleeves, they finish literally at my elbow and I don’t know why, but I don’t really love it 😦

I’ve been wearing it (yes, even though I don’t love it, I’ve still worn it a couple of times for work) with the little cuffs folded up and I feel like even that little change makes a bit of a difference – it’s probably all in my head, but never mind!

So all in all this was a semi successful make, which I don’t think is helped any by my looking quite washed out and tired in these photos! Luckily I have some of the fabric left so hopefully I can make something a bit more successful from the leftovers – it’s a shame to waste such lovely fabric on something I don’t totally love. And to think I was moaning that I didn’t have much to say about some of my recent makes, because they’ve been relatively simple and successful. I guess the lesson is be careful what you wish for!

 

Outtake! Mid-blink. And what is my hand doing!?

Designer Inspiration: André Courrèges

I realised it has been a while since I wrote a post about a designer I love, so today I bring you André Courrèges. I thought I’d try a slightly different format, too, and put the whole biography at the beginning (it’s all copied from Wikipedia, the shame!) and then put all the pictures, so you can skip the words if you just want to swoon at some amazing 60s fashion!

André Courrèges was a French fashion designer who only died last year but was one of the main designers of the 60s whose designs were influenced by modernism and futurism. He also “defined the go-go boot and along with Mary Quant, is one of the designers credited with inventing the miniskirt.”1

“At 25, after studying to be a civil engineer, Courrèges went to Paris to work at the fashion house Jeanne Lafaurie. A few months later, he went to work for Cristóbal Balenciaga.

In 1961, Courrèges launched his own fashion house. He became known for extremely simple, geometric, modern designs, including the “little white dress” and pants for women. They were often paired with low-heeled white ankle boots, a style that became known as the Courrèges boot, and evolved into the popular go-go boot.

Courrèges was also known for the miniskirt, which he explicitly claimed to have invented, accusing his London rival to the claim, Mary Quant of merely “commercialising” it. Courrèges presented short skirts (four inches above the knee) in January 1965 for that year’s Spring/Summer collection. He had presented “above-the-knee” skirts in the previous year, with his August 1964 haute couture presentation proclaimed the “best show seen so far” for that season by The New York Times. Valerie Steele has stated that Courrèges was designing short skirts as early as 1961, although she champions Quant’s claim to have created the miniksirt first as being more convincingly supported by evidence. Others, such as Jess Cartner-Morley of The Guardian explicitly credit Courrèges with having invented the miniskirt. Alongside short skirts, Courrèges was renowned for his trouser suits, cut-out backs and midriffs, all designed for a new type of athletic, active young woman. Steele has described Courrèges’s work as a “brilliant couture version of youth fashion.” One of Courrèges’s most distinctive looks, a knit bodystocking with a gabardine miniskirt slung around the hips, was widely copied and plagiarised, much to his chagrin, and it would be 1967 before he again held a press showing for his work.

Courrèges’s favoured materials included plastics such as vinyl and stretch fabrics like Lycra. While he preferred white and silver, he often used flashes of citrus colour, and the predominantly white designs in his August 1964 show were tempered with touches of his signature clear pink, a “bright stinging” green, various shades of brown from dark to pale, and poppy red.

In 1967 Courrèges married Coqueline Barrière, his design assistant. They had met while working together at Balenciaga, and worked together as a husband and wife team for the rest of his life.

In 1968 Courrèges sold a share of his company to L’Oréal in order to finance his expansion, which, by 1972, included 125 boutiques around the world. That year, Courrèges was commissioned to design staff uniforms for the Munich Olympics that year. He began offering menswear in 1973.”2

 

 

I thought I’d start with some of his wackier designs! This is surely not at all actually wearable, but I do still slightly love it. I guess you could wear a polo neck underneath and some thick tights or trousers?

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I really like this one too – I think it’s the funnel neck collars and the swingy shape. Again, this would be wearable with something underneath. Or I’m tempted to try to recreate it but with a contrasting colour instead of the transparent section!

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And now onto the slightly more ‘normal’ looking clothes. He has a good line in jacket/dress combos. I’m not sure these would be flattering on me as I have a long body compared to my legs and I feel these would accentuate that, but I do think the models look really cool. Especially with his trademark ankle boots.

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He definitely likes stripes! I like this double-breasted version of the jacket – and it has a matching striped lining to the skirt! Not sure about the hats though….


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 As well as the short/cropped jacket and dress combos above, Courrèges also has a good line in dresses with matching long coats, like this cream and blue number. I love how the piping on the neckline of the dress lines up with the piping on the collar of the coat.

 

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I’m not really a brown person, but I like the combination of fabrics on this one.
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If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I like blue, and particularly navy blue, and particularly navy blue with white/cream, so this is amazing to me. I can’t really see the dress underneath, but I do kinda want to copy this outfit, even though I would probably never wear it!

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But actually this is definitely my absolute favourite of the long coats I found searching for images of Courrèges’ clothes. I wouldn’t make it in red, but I really might add this to my list of makes, once I vaguely learn how to draft things for myself – and learn how to draft something as complicated as a coat! Maybe I could pattern hack something, so I at least have a starting point. Maybe the Closet Case Patterns Clare coat (though it has raglan sleeves)? If you have any other ideas of a pattern I could hack to make this, please let me know! I have plans for another coat this year, but I could make this one early next year and still get some wear out of it!


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The other main category of garments I found when researching Courrèges was, of course, shift dresses. He definitely seems to use really interesting seam lines and shapes to make his stand out from what was probably a very saturated market!

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I do really quite like the scallops on this one. And I like the orange, though it wouldn’t be a colour I would usually wear!

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Fabric choice is definitely key for this cream dress, though, again, there are interesting seam lines and details. He seems to emphasise the seam lines with a sort of piping, as below. Does anyone know how it would be done?

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I put this one in to show how a dress with a massive hole in can become wearable with a polo neck underneath!

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Yellow is really moving up the list of my favourite colours to wear, after blue, of course. I really like the lines on this dress and the modest – for Courrèges anyway – cut out at the neckline. I like the faux wrap style of the bodice too, I think it’s really cute.

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And here is Diana Ross in an amazing yellow dress and coat – I particularly like the coat – and a slightly blue wig!

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Whenever I do one of these posts, I really want to make a copy of pretty much every outfit I find! Which would be the one (or the first one) you would want to make/wear?

 

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Wardrobe Architect Week 14: Overcoming Editing Hurdles

Well I made it to the final week of The Wardrobe Architect! Hurray! I was supposed to reach the end on 2nd July, but I didn’t end up sticking 100% to the schedule I’d set myself in the first week. (By the way there was a week 13 but it was a giveaway in the original series, so I haven’t missed one out!)

This week Sarai asks:

Why is it so difficult to let go of things?

Slowly, we collect things into our lives and homes. We buy things we need, and things we don’t need, things we want, and things we don’t really want. They pile up in our closets, our garages, and our living rooms.

All of this clutter begins to drown out the things you really love, the objects you’re attached to and find value and beauty in.

And yet, they are so hard to give up. Why? Let’s dig a little deeper into our psyches to find out.”

I would definitely recommend going to the original post to read her thoughts in more detail, but she sums up our inability to get rid of things in 2 ways: Loss Aversion and Cognitive Dissonance. The first means we fear we will be missing out on something if we get rid of something, and losing something feels much worse than gaining something feels good; and the second means if we spent hours and hours making something, only to find it doesn’t suit us or doesn’t fit or we never have the occasion to wear it, it’s hard to admit that making it might have been a mistake so we convince ourselves we will wear it one day.

Overcoming these mental hurdles

  1. Be self-aware. The first step in overcoming these blocks is to recognize them for what they are. They are psychological biases. They don’t necessarily make sense.
  2. Name the risk. When I find myself wringing my hands over throwing out something I never use, I stop and think about what the chances are that I will need to replace it. I think about whether it’s really something I will be worse off without, in any way.
  3. Name the reward. What is the reward for cleaning out your closet? A fresh perspective, feeling good in what you wear, less guilt about things you don’t wear, better buying habits, cleaner space. Some or all of these might help you.
  4. Appreciate what you don’t miss. This has been extremely helpful to me. Every time I do a clean out, I realize that no matter how hesitant I was to give something up, I completely forget about it once it’s gone. I can’t think of one thing I’ve given away that I truly miss.”

Exercise

This week, it’s time to edit our closets and rid of ourselves of what we no longer need or want.

Gather your capsule wardrobe items together.

This one is a bit tricky for me as I don’t really have space to have some items together, away from other items. Also I’m trying to work towards all my clothes being like a big capsule wardrobe, where lots of things go with each other and I never feel like I have nothing to wear or I’m wearing clothes that don’t make me feel as good as other clothes.

Pack away out of season clothing.

I actually did this when we moved into our flat as our closet space is really quite limited. I had all my Summer things packed away under the bed in my massive suitcase which I rarely use. I also have a couple of blankets and bridesmaids dresses in there. When I got everything out for Summer this year, I had a mini clear out as I knew I wasn’t going to wear some of the things – mostly I knew because of the colours, which I have focussed on thanks to previous weeks of The Wardrobe Architect!

Purge.

I’ve done this about 4 times in the last 18 months or so! I did it twice before we relocated from London 18 months ago, then I’m pretty sure I cleared out some other stuff when we moved into our flat a year ago and I fully unpacked everything. I also did it, as I mentioned above, when I got my Summer clothes out. I think I’m getting better at clearing things out – and I like taking things to charity shops as I know they will get another life, whether in someone else’s wardrobe, or being recycled into chair stuffing or whatever they do with clothes that can’t be worn any more. I even got rid of some of my me-mades last time! I have kept the first dress I made, even though I only wore it about twice, because some things have a bit of sentimental value!

I even cleared out my fabric stash a bit a couple of weeks ago, clearing out all my tiny scraps and some larger pieces of fabric which I know I’m not going to use. I keep meaning to find out if any local charity shops or groups would have use of fabric scraps, but the 2 massive bags are still floating around our dining room! I keep having these thoughts that I should be able to think of something to do with all my scraps, but I keep coming up blank. If you have any ideas, please do let me know!

 

And there we have it, it’s over. I definitely feel like doing the Wardrobe Architect has helped me to focus on what I like to wear and what I feel good in – from shapes to colours to outfits. It should help me reduce the instances of spending ages making something I’m then not going to wear! I just need to keep all of it in mind when planning my makes – and especially when buying fabric and particularly patterns. It’s so easy to be seduced by the latest releases by all the amazing indie pattern designers, but I try not to jump on a bandwagon if I know something isn’t really my style……that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a massive stash of patterns I have yet to make though 😉

 

 

Stripey Cropped Inari Tee

I made a cropped Inari Tee! I haven’t actually worn it yet as it feels a little breezy around the midriff and it’s been pretty cold recently in Cirencester. I do really like the proportions and the shape of this top, though – that’s one of the things that made me want to make it, seeing everyone else’s great makes.

I made the size 8 with no changes as this was kind of a wearable toile – I used leftover fabric from my Marianne dress so if it had been a disaster I had only used some leftovers! I did the same thing as on the Marianne dress by using the stripes the other way around on the neckline, and I still like how it looks!

I also love the cuffs, which I also did with the stripes going the other way. As I mentioned in my post about taking in a raglan tee, I’m really liking cuffs on short sleeves at the moment. It’s definitely one of my favourite things about my new melilot shirt, too.

Although I quite like the proportions of the top, which I’m wearing here with some high waisted trousers (which I altered last year), I think on my next version – yes, I’m already planning another version – I might lengthen it by an inch, just so I feel a bit more comfortable. If I put my arms up at all, there is a lot of skin on show – and if I put my arms really high, you can basically see my bra! I guess this is not a top to wear on days when I have to reach for anything in public! I might also level off the hem as I don’t really love how it’s higher at the front for some reason.

I wonder if I should maybe take it in a bit at the shoulders with the next version? In a less drapey fabric, it might not sit as nicely – I can see a little bit of pooling in the upper bust area, which might look worse in the fabric I’ve got planned, which is a little more structured than this jersey, though still quite drapey. What do you think? Is it worth making lots of changes to a fairly simple t-shirt?

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Book: Decades of Beauty

A couple of weeks ago, The Boyfriend earned some real Brownie points by buying me this book from our local Oxfam. I saw it in the window on my way home on the Friday when they were already closed. He then went out on the Saturday morning to get bread and milk and came back with the book, before I had a chance to buy it myself! Aw!

I love this picture of the woman (in I think the 20s) running on the beach! Also fair warning, there are a lot of photos in this post!

The book takes you through each decade of the hundred years from 1890-1990, looking at fashion, beauty and hair trends as well as a brief outline of the historical happenings and social norms for each period.

Each decade gives you 3 style icons that typified the fashion of that era, or were perhaps a bit groundbreaking for their time. I love that Calamity Jane and Princess Alexandra are both there for the 1890s!

You also get hair and beauty trends for each decade – shame I’ve got such short hair, some of these look like fun! Especially the giant ‘do on the far left hand side!

Any clothing that requires first of all help to get into and second of all someone else’s foot in your back cannot be comfortable!

At least they weren’t likely to get sunburnt! I’m tempted to recreate one of these beach outfits…

I love this photo of women at work – in the US in 1908 – it looks like it’s some kind of textile work, though I can’t tell what they’re doing exactly – any ideas? The caption just says ‘women at work’. Helpful.

Here are the icons of the 1900s. The only one I’d heard of, shamefully, was Lillie Langtry – and that’s mostly because there’s a pub named after her in Norwich, where I went to university! Also one of my friends lived near Newmarket for a while and Lillie Langtry’s house was on the corner of the track leading to her house.

The below product looks like it will help you look healthy without needing make-up, presumably. But it contains arsenic, so I don’t think the ‘healthy’ glow would make you that healthy in the long run!

I refer to my above comment about corsets – no matter how much they might hope it, I’m sure it was no ‘a dream of comfort’! She’s so comfortable she’s taking a nap, after all!

And we think unrealistic body image is a new phemonenon……No-one could possibly have had a waist that thin and been still able to breathe, let alone admire oneself in the mirror.

Of course the 1910s was the era of the Suffragette and it’s good that this book covers the social context of each decade as well as the fashion and beauty trends.

This is the first decade where I recognise all 3 of the icons!

I love that in the earlier decades in the book there are fashion illustrations instead of photographs (obvs!). These ones are particularly great. There are also some designers who were particularly influential in each decade mentioned – I didn’t realise Lanvin was so early!

Also Elizabeth Arden started in the 1910s! No idea she – and the brand – were that old.

Oddly after I took all these photos of the book, I discovered a new podcast called You Must Remember This, all about the unknown and hidden stories from classic Hollywood. The first few episodes are random, but then she goes into themes – like dead blondes, blacklisted, stars at war – and one of the episodes is about this woman, Theda Bara. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but it was great timing because I thought she would be an interesting woman to know more about!

Black Ascot sounds super creepy, but I thought I would post this photo of the text that explains it – and how it influenced My Fair Lady!

 

I think 1920s fashion illustrations are definitely my favourites!

I love pretty much everything about this photo of Clara Bow – I especially want her shoes. And he hair actually – I’m thinking of growing mine out and this slightly frizzy ball might be achievable for me!

I absolutely love this! And it shows there must have been a bit of variety in the clothes people wore – there wasn’t just one shape or style that everyone wore, though there are, of course, similar elements.

Having said I loved the other photo of Clara Bow, I think that might have been in part because I can’t see her eyebrows. Check these out for a brow style! I’m not totally sold on them to be honest…

Another huge, famous make-up name which has been around much longer than I thought! Max Factor started in the 20s, who knew?

Having watched all of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries about 3 times, I knew from watching a clip talking with the costume designer that she was desperate to do a tennis episode because tennis – and the associated clothes – was hugely popular in the 20s, it was pleasing to see this photo in this book.

There’s not really much to say about these icons! Except I fancy wearing a tux one day. Maybe when I’ve sewn everything else I can think of, I’ll make myself a tux?!

I read a whole book about Jean Harlow a few years ago – she had a very short life and a fairly tragic end, but she did pack in quite a lot! She was the first platinum blonde bombshell.

I couldn’t not include a photo of my namesake! Shamefully I don’t know much about her except that she disappeared. Though recently it was in the news that they thought there was a photo of her and her navigator on an island in the Pacific. Curiouser and curiouser.

Of course in the 40s women went to war.

It’s funny to reconcile the above photo and the 3 women below – the reality of life for a lot of people during World War 2 and the continuing glamour of Hollywood.

I pretty much only know Veronica Lake from her hair, so it’s funny to see this photo in the book – maybe that really was what she was most famous for?

The advent of the bra much had been a huge relief for all concerned – though I’m sure I read somewhere that the bra Howard Hughes made for Jane Russell was incredibly uncomfortable, so maybe sticking to corsets wouldn’t have been so bad, at least temporarily!

I didn’t seem to take so many photos of the 40s. Weird. Well, onto the 50s…. I like the contrast in the 2 photos below – black and white vs colour, austerity vs plenty.

And we get 3 of the most iconic actresses of all time in one decade! I definitely have a soft spot for Marilyn Monroe – Some Like It Hot is one of my favourite films. It was also the biggest decade for the Hollywood musical, but that doesn’t really get a mention here.

Ah, Givenchy and Balenciaga. I’m going to see the Balenciaga exhibition at the V & A in September and I am really excited!

And onto my favourite decade 😀

I love how different some of the 60s icons are – Jackie Kennedy vs Twiggy vs The Supremes. All great, in their own different ways.

Edith Head is definitely someone I want to read more about – I read recently about the brown evening gown Bette Davis wears in All About Eve and how there was a mistake in the measurements so it ended up being off the shoulder when it wasn’t supposed to be. I bet there are loads of make it work moments like this throughout her career.

I think I might add all of these designers to my list of ones to cover in future posts.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but this has to be the most iconic haircut of the 60s. I might grow my hair into this finally, and take the plunge!

I kind of love/hate the 70s. Some of the style is great but some of it less so!

Possibly my favourite thing about this whole book is that Miss Piggy is one of the style icons of the 70s!

I might also cover all of these designers in future posts too.

It seems that the 70s was when jeans really took off, so I guess we do have one thing to be grateful to the decade for.

The photos for the later decades definitely got fewer….

Dynasty has to be the most quintessentially 80s programme.

The gown on the left, from the 80s I think must be Valentino because it looks quite like the gown Julia Roberts wore when she won her Oscar, which was a vintage 80s Valentino dress. Apparently this kick-started the trend to wear vintage dresses on the red carpet.

I feel like the 90s was kind of the start of fashion being comprised of multiple trends.

I think it’s fitting that the last photo I’m posting is of the Spice Girls, the most 90s of groups! Apparently Geri’s union jack dress was made by her sister out of a tea towel – if that’s true, it’s awesome that something made at the last minute became so iconic!

Do you have a favourite fashion history book?

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