The Hundred Years Wardrobe Project

Since I’ve been sewing for a while I’ve decided to try to challenge myself to expand my skills and to sew garments and with fabrics that are outside of my comfort zone. And so was born my idea for the Hundred Years Wardrobe Project.

I’m going to sew one thing from each decade of the 20th Century. There is no time limit for this as I want it to be a fun exercise and deadlines are often where stress lies for me.

I’m going to also try to do some posts about my research for each decade and share some of my inspiration. A while ago I did write some posts about fashion history but I ran out of steam with them – hopefully with a garment to relate the history to I will have more to say and more to share. Some of the makes will be inspired by fashion and some will be from films – either made at the time or set in the past.

I would love it if anyone else wants to join in with this project – I’m calling it a project rather than a challenge as there is no deadline and there will be no prizes, just the pride in having made something cool!

Spoiler alert: I already have my first make made and ready to blog soon!

Style Crush: Kerry Washington

Last month I decided to start watching Scandal, which is all on Amazon Prime, to see what all the fuss was about, and because I love Joshua Malina on The West Wing Weekly podcast. I can’t decide if Scandal is good or not – it feels like a soap with a bigger budget, which is fine but not what I thought it was. Anyway I’ve decided I’m a bit in love with Kerry Washington. She is so so beautiful! And I love her style, so I thought I would share some of my favourite looks with you, in no particular order.

I really love the simplicity of the silhouette of this dress, coupled with the graduating colour of the sequins. If I had an exciting party to go to, I might make a copy of this!


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This dress looks like a pretty good idea for this hot Summer weather we’re having. It’s a bit Halston to me, and coupled with her more natural hair, it looks really effortless.

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This is another of my absolute favourite looks – I know she was styled for Elle magazine here, so they’re not necessarily her clothes, but I really want to copy this outfit. I love the proportions and the colour, and the tunic/dress could be worn on its own, which would give you a 60s vibe. I also really want to get a pair of those shoes!


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I like the silhouette of this outfit and the use of the reverse of the fabric on the top compared to the dress underneath.


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You know how much I like yellow. Nuff said!


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She seems to be so good at choosing simple but chic outfits for the red carpet, and this Lanvin (I think) dress is no different. The fit is so impeccable and I love the bow detail on the shoulder.


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I really love the bedazzled lips, matchsticks and jewels on this blush pink colour.


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This pink is perfect on her and I really love the panelling on the skirt. More inspiration to copy for next year’s Dressmaker’s Ball?


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This might be my absolute favourite look I’ve found.  It definitely has a 70s vibe, especially with the clogs and I love her hair here. Definitely inspiration for a cute denim Summer dress, and I love how the topstitching adds an extra layer of detail.


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More sequined dress inspiration! I love the neckline and shoulders on this. I reckon I could recreate it using the Tilly and the Buttons Martha Dress, which I have but haven’t made yet.


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Not sure about the 60s beehive but I love the dress – the fabric having the squares pattern on makes it more interesting.

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I love how she wears maybe more grown up looks and then younger looks like this dress, which is definitely made cooler with the booties and the loose up-do.


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And I couldn’t resist sharing this look – I love the sculptural style of the dress and how the white patches look almost like a lapel. And I love the blunt hair with the straight lines of the dress.


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Have you watched Scandal? Do you love Kerry Washington as much as I do?

 

 

Fashioned From Nature Exhibition

A couple of weekends ago I went to the Fashioned From Nature exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It’s on until January next year and if you are able to, I would really recommend you try to make it to see it. It’s in the same place as the Balenciaga exhibition but for some reason I thought it would be smaller, but I was really amazed at the scaled of the exhibits and the accompanying information. I think we took longer to look around this one than the Balenciaga one!

Fair warning, this post is very photo-heavy!

The first half of the exhibition was a little depressing if I’m honest – it was about how we have exploited the world throughout history to make clothes. The first dress had a whole map and explanation about where all the different components came from.

There was a section and garments relating to each thing used to make clothes which came from/comes from animals, like silk.

This lace was truly a wonder to behold, given that it was all made by hand – some of it by bobbins and some of it with needles!

I’ve always kind of liked whales, I think since I did a project on them for a Brownie or Guide badge so it makes me sad that they were used in clothing and accessories, as much as I can admire the carving of this walking stick.

I love how the x-ray of this corset shows the whalebone inside.

Even hats had whalebone in, to keep their shape.

The things made of fur were also a bit sad. It’s a tricky thing because it makes sense that in the past people didn’t have synthetic alternatives (which come with other problems) to enable them to keep warm, but of course suddenly killing lots of the same animal means there will eventually be a lot fewer of them.

Wool seems like one of the less evil things we’ve made clothes from – at least the sheep is still alive once it’s been sheared.

It’s amazing that these colours have lasted as long as they have, given that the book is over 200 years old!

I couldn’t believe how tiny the coat on the left was! I can only assume it was for a teenage girl.

Cotton obviously has been responsible for a lot of evils in the past, but it must be one of the most used fibres ever for clothes.

Cotton opened up a whole load of possibilities of colours, and designs.

I love how even in the 1780s people refashioned clothes to make them last longer or make them more up to date with the changing fashions.

These hand made buttons were teeny tiny – I don’t even know how someone would make them!


I love the combination of patterns on this dress – there are 2 different designs of flowers on the different parts of the dress.

I think I found the feathers possibly the most upsetting because there were multiple things with whole dead birds on, which is just creepy – I don’t know how it was ever fashionable to wear a whole dead bird as earrings or on a hat.

I love this photo of a group of men protesting against the killing of so many egrets for fashion. Not to stereotype, but they don’t look like a group of radical protesters!

Also I found out that ‘mad as a hatter’ as a phrase came from the fact that milliners used mercury and actually went a bit mad.

With the advent of synthetic dyes, a whole new world of possibilities opened up in terms of colours, but then, as now, the impact on the people and the environment was less than perfect.

I loved this diagram of how the below dress was assembled.

A slightly nicer part of the exhibition was the part about how the Victorians got all into nature and so painted/embroidered images of the natural world on their clothes.

I’m sure it was on an episode of No Such Thing As A Fish (a brilliant podcast) where they talked about the Victorians’ obsession with ferns, and that was definitely in evidence in the clothing in the exhibition.

These are silk flowers!

 

I like how even in the past, people experimented with using unusual fibres to make clothes, like this dress made from pineapples.

This dress, rather creepily, is decorated with beetle shells.

One thing I didn’t really consider as coming from animals was mother of pearl, but of course it comes from the inside of shells.

All of the below things are made from spun glass, which somehow was woven into fabric. I don’t know how strong it is, but it’s pretty impressive!

The second part of the exhibition (upstairs) was much more hopeful that the first half – it was all about new developments in sustainability and designers looking for better ways of making still beautiful garments.

This dress was one of my favourites in the whole exhibition. It’s made from strips of cellulose acetate stitched into silk and decorated with artificial pearls. And it’s from 1936! It looks like it was made last year!


This dress from 1920s Paris is made from Bemberg silk, which is made from cellulose.

This 1980s dress is designed to stretch over people of any size, which means the manufacturer doesn’t have to make multiple sizes, which means less waste from the sizes which remain unsold.

I love this ‘suitcase’ made from a suit – I should have had this idea during The Refashioners! I like how they’ve retained the look of the original sleeve and pockets.

This dress was stunning – it looked like a leopard skin draped on the front of it, but it’s all made from beads!

I love that the depiction of nature is still a thing that is done now.

I love the underwater scene on this Zac Posen gown.

 

Since I found the real feather so creepy, I really liked the simplicity of the fake feathers on this dress.

I was very excited to see No Patterns Needed and a shout out to the growing group of people who make their own clothes.

I’m not totally sold on this look but I can see the merit of the idea of using parts of crochet that no-one wanted to create a new garment.

Apparently John Malkovich is a fashion designer, who uses flax as his preferred fibre, as it uses less water than other fabrics.

I was quite excited to see this outfit that Emma Watson wore to the Met Gala a couple of years ago as you will already know I love her style. And I remember her wearing this outfit, which is made from 3 different components so she could wear them again in different outfits. The fabric was also made from recycled materials – I like how she uses her very high profile to shout about sustainability and to support movements like the Green Carpet Challenge.

I found it really interesting to see that the stitching on the ties was white and not black. It was quite difficult to see how the outfit was assembled as it was a little dark.

I enjoyed the exhibition so much I treated myself to the book, which I will get around to reading (and maybe reviewing) at some point in the future, when I magically have loads of spare time!

This exhibition really inspired me, along with the Love To Sew Podcast episodes on sustainability to be more mindful about my consumption of fabric and the kinds of fibres I use. I always look in charity shops for fabric but they never seem to have anything good, but I’ll keep looking. I also want to try to buy fabrics that are a bit less evil for the environment and the people who live where they are produced.

Do you think you’ll make it to the exhibition?

 

 

Designer Inspiration: Cristóbal Balenciaga

A couple of weekends ago (the day after I went to the Great British Sewing Bee Live), I went with my Aunt to the Balenciaga exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It was a Birthday celebration for my Aunt, but I really wanted to go too, so win win! Fair warning, this will be a very photo-heavy post. Also I can’t remember all the things I read in the exhibition, so my comments may be few and far between! I’m definitely thinking I want to buy the book of the exhibition because I bet there is tonnes more information in there!

Anyway, here we go…….

His earlier clothes definitely had a Spanish influence, from his roots. I particularly love the matador-inspired jacket, above.

I feel like you could find this pink flowery dress on the high street this year! It has the statement sleeves that are everywhere at the moment (and which I’m coming around to!).

Lace was definitely something that popped up quite a few times – he was well-known for using lace, and slightly rejuvenating its reputation and making it cutting edge again.

This was definitely one of my favourite pieces – and I loved how they had x-rays of the garments so show all of the structure going on underneath what looks like an effortless, easy dress. They had a few dresses where they had a recreation, the x-ray and a video showing how the garment came together.

Love, love, love the fashion sketches!

I took a video of this dress because it was constantly rotating that that’s the only way to full see it all!

I kind of want to have a go at recreating this one! Maybe one day…..

This cape/jacket is amazing! I took a photo of the accompanying blurb so I’d remember how it  works – there are hidden ribbons underneath all of the pleats to hold them in place. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to ever put your arms down!

This is a recreation of an original which was black and impossible to photograph! It’s a bit bonkers, but I kind of love it.

This might be my absolute favourite one – again the original was black so my photos of it didn’t really come out, especially with the reflections from the glass to contend with. This recreation was done by Claire-Louise Hardie of Great British Sewing Bee fame.

I love how you can see there is a separate sort of binding on the hem, which you couldn’t really see in the black original. There was a video showing how this one was constructed, and I thought it would be on the V & A facebook page (as I didn’t get a chance to video the video) but it’s not there, sorry! It’s all one piece of fabric and the only seams are on the shoulders. It boggles my mind how that even works!

If my memory serves, this one shows the influence of Japanese fashion on Balenciaga, in the form of the kimono-style belt.

This is another one there they show all of the engineering underneath what looks like a simple shaped dress! The corset is inside out so you can see all of the boning in there.

This red dress had to be one of the most bonkers ones to see the construction of! It’s tied underneath to the wearer’s knees!

The video of how this one works is online, and is definitely worth a look!

Fabric choice is definitely key in so many of Balenciaga’s designs, and especially this one.

I didn’t know this, but he also made a bunch of really cool hats!

Throughout the exhibition there were photos of the original buyers wearing the designs that you were looking at, which I really liked. It made them seem like real clothes (and hats), that people actually wore, and not things just to be revered – though it’s great that so many of them survive, and in such great condition.

After the hats was a whole section on embellishments, which was AMAZING! I naively never think about the fact that designers in the past, and now, make their own textiles, by embroidering/embellishing/painting the fabric, I always think they bought the fabric like that and just cut it cleverly, but of course, that isn’t the case! This beading is amazing!

This ombre jacket/dress was particularly amazing because there was a video showing how the beading etc was done – it was recreated by the couture embroidery house Lesage.

This is the recreated piece of beading and embroidery. I would definitely recommend watching the video, least of all because it’s all done upside down, where the right side of the fabric is on the bottom of the frame. And the person does it so quickly, it’s mind-boggling!

This dress was all hand-embroidered! And the pieces were all marked out and only the pattern pieces were embroidered so as not to waste time embroidering bits that would be cut off, but it was done when the fabric was still flat, before the dress was assembled. The shape of this dress also is amazing – teeny tiny waste!

I strangely love the feather sleeves on this one, even though it’s a bit mad!

All of the flowers on this outfit were hand painted! The craftsmanship involved in this level of fashion is truly amazing! Makes it seem almost worth the crazy price tags!

The above suit definitely seems pretty tame compared to most other things in the exhibition, but I love how they displayed the tailoring tools, below. I had no idea the tracing wheel had been around that long!

This is one of the more famous dresses, I think, and it’s on the cover of the book of the exhibition. I love how well the brooch goes with the dress – there are also bejewelled shoulder straps, though it was tough to get high enough to take a photo!

Classic 60s shift/sack dress. Not sure about the hat though……

This part of the exhibition was definitely more about wearable clothes that he made for his many wealthy clients.

I love the scalloped coat, which was made for Ava Gardner.

 

On the first floor of the exhibition space were loads of designed influenced or inspired by Balenciaga. I was particularly exited to see this dress, worn by Tilda Swinton, which I wrote about in my post about why I love her! I can’t remember who designed it, let me know in the comments if you know! (I should have taken notes!)

Also very excited to see this Courreges coat, which I posted a photo of in my post about him! Courreges studied under Balenciaga, so it makes sense he was represented here!

This one has a clear inspiration, from a garment in the other part of the exhibition!

I weirdly love this look, and I’m not sure why. The trousers are totally wearable and not too out-there, but I love the whole thing.  Especially the shoes.

Bonkers but amazing!

This was definitely one of my favourite inspiration designs, it looks kind of like a ship.

And it’s slightly pointed at the front!

The beading on this one is amazing!

This seems to be the evolution of the trapeze shapes Balenciaga played with. I really like the strapping details on the back.

I really like this silver and black version of the pink ombre one.

This one is an even more crazy version of the one on the cover of the book.

The pink dress with the statement sleeves….

…which has a zip all the way down the back.

This tube-y dress was by a Japanese designer, I think, who plays with zero-waste fashion and using as few seams as possible. I’m keen to start looking into zero-waste sewing/fashion, so I found this really inspiring.

Phew! There we go! I definitely want to have a go at recreating some of these looks. Which is your favourite? Do you hate the more shapeless looks?

 

 

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Fabric shopping in Birmingham

Last Saturday I went with some of the ladies I met at Sew Brizzle to go fabric shopping in Birmingham. I was sad to have missed the bigger meet up the previous week but in a way it was nice to go in a small group as it gave me the chance to chat with everyone (which I didn’t manage to do the time I went to a big London meet-up).

Here we are outside Guthrie and Ghani. Thanks to Sarah from Like Sew Amazing for the photo – she remembered to take pictures when I didn’t! A very kind man took this picture for us 🙂

From left to right: Karen, Amy, Me, Sarah, Ruth and Jen.

Our first stop was Fancy Silk Store. I felt a little overwhelmed when we first went in as it’s deceptively big – and has an upstairs – and I couldn’t take everything in! I did spot that they had reasonably priced denim and after we’d been around some other shops, we circled back and I bought some stretch and non-stretch denim for Ginger and Morgan wearable toiles.

This is the stretch one – it has a nice flecked weave and looks a little like linen, but is thicker. It was £6.99 per metre and I got 1.4m.

And this is the non-stretch. I did want something a bit lighter for my Morgans, but this will do for a practice. It is a little lighter than the stretch one. It was £7.99 per metre and I got 1.6m.

After this first shop we headed into the rag market, where there are loads of fabric stalls, inside and out. I had made the mistake of not taking out any cash as I thought if I did I wouldn’t buy anything! But I did have enough to get some black and some white cotton twill (I think it was twill and not drill, anyone know the difference?!).

I’m planning a 60s style colour blocked Tilly and the Buttons Megan Dress. I bought 2 metres of the black and one of the white, and it came to £12 in total (so £4 per metre). I bought this fairly early on and for some reason it weighs loads, so I got pretty sick of carrying it around by the end of the day – I was glad I waited until the end to get the denim!

After the rag market, we all got on a bus and went to Moseley to visit Guthrie and Ghani. I was not-so-secretly hoping we would go there, and I’m so glad I was with people who knew how to get there! I just followed 🙂 I could easily have spent a small fortune in Guthrie and Ghani – you can tell everything is really good quality. And the shop is so pretty!

I decided to treat myself to a couple of patterns which I wanted – the Ebony Tee and Dress by Closet Case Patterns and the Guise Pants by Papercut Patterns.

They have a really great selection of remnants and I couldn’t help picking up a couple of them. I just loved the pattern on this Robert Kaufman cotton. It’s navy blue, though it looks kind of black in the photo. It seems to be called Storm Drown, and I can’t find it anywhere online so I guess it’s not available. This bolt end was 275cm x 90cm and was £15.50. I’m hoping there will be enough for a Colette Aster blouse.

I also couldn’t resist this gorgeous mustard loopback jersey. The photo doesn’t do the colour justice, nor how soft it is. It’s honestly one of the softest fabrics I’ve ever touched. It was £6.50 and there’s only 155cm x 40cm so I’m not sure what I’ll be able to make, but I had to have it.

The final thing I bought from Guthrie and Ghani was this coral crepe fabric. It has a lovely drape and a slightly mottled texture and I got 1.7m of it at £10.50 per metre. This is one of the more expensive fabrics I’ve bought, but the Anderson Blouse I’m planning to make will still only cost £17.85 which is pretty good for a blouse made of such nice fabric!

The last fabric shop we went to was Barry’s. I would have no idea how to find it on my own, but it’s definitely a hidden treasure!

This is another shop that is very, very full of fabrics and I think you could easily spend 4 hours in there and still not see everything!

I did manage to find one treasure, thanks to Jen (Gingerella). It’s this nice blueish-greyish cotton and I bought 2 metres – I can’t remember how much I paid, though. I think I’ll make a short-sleeved Melilot Shirt for when the weather finally gets warm!

So there we go, that’s my haul for a day’s shopping. Not too bad I think. Have you been fabric shopping in Birmingham? Did we miss anywhere good?

 

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