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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Wardrobe Architect Week 4: Proportions and Silhouettes

This week’s Wardrobe Architect is about finding out what silhouettes we like to wear. It builds on last week’s assessment of the shapes of garments we like to wear and puts them together to make outfits, which emphasise or hide different areas of our bodies by ease or length. The idea is that we will come up with some key silhouettes we like, which will become the templates for what we sew and what will hopefully become a capsule wardrobe.

I came up with a few ideas for outfits I like to wear – some are smart, some are casual, some are for Winter and some for Summer. I found pictures that were the shape of garment I was looking for, but not necessarily the colour. All image sources can be found on my Wardrobe Architect Pinterest board.

1.Skinny jeans, loose top, cardigan flats.

1.b Or the above outfit as a bit more casual with trainers and a different top.

2. Pleated Trousers with a loose shirt, jumper and flats

2.b Then there’s a more casual version of this with boyfriend jeans and trainers.

3. Short skirt, tights, slightly fitted top/shirt (tucked in), cardigan, flats or ankle boots.

4. Loose shift dresses, tights, cardigan, ankle boots.

5. Fit and flare Summer dresses with sandals.

 

I could swap out sandals for shoes or trainers and lose the cardigans and jumpers for more Summery versions of the outfits. Living in England we don’t have much of a Summer usually – a couple of weeks if we’re lucky – so layers are usually the way to go when it’s warmer.

I’ve found this week really helpful in terms of working out a capsule wardrobe! I’ve been feeling recently that I have lots of clothes and not much to wear, and I carry on making things but still think I have nothing to wear. This exercise will definitely help me pick what to make so that I have lots of combinations I can put together into outfits I actually like and feel are ‘me’.

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Wardrobe Architect Week 3: Exploring Shapes

This week’s Wardrobe Architect exercise is about finding out which shapes of garments you like wearing – and possibly more crucially, which shapes you don’t like wearing. Some of the things that contribute to the shape of a garment include ease (tight or loose), length, neckline, waistline position, sleeve length, and fullness. There’s a really helpful worksheet you can download from Colette to help you rate the different aspects of each different garment, to help you see which shapes you like. I think we’ve probably all sewn things that we didn’t feel great in, or weren’t the most flattering, and I feel like this week will be the beginning of me working out what’s good and what’s bad!

The worksheet has you grade different elements of different garment types, where 0 is hate wearing it and 10 is love wearing it.

Here’s my overview:exploring-shapes-worksheet
Then there’s another section with more specific necklines and sleeves to mercilessly judge:

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Skirts

According to my scores, I mostly like skirts which are mid-thigh or knee length – I’m too short to pull off midi! And I like them to be fairly straight in style, including pencil-type skirts, though I don’t like them to be too tight. I found some photos to sum up my taste – some of the photos are things people have sewn from patterns (including one I made myself!) because it seemed like a not-terrible idea to find things I might actually be able to recreate!

exploring-shapes-skirts-1 exploring-shapes-skirts-2 exploring-shapes-skirts-5 exploring-shapes-skirts-4exploring-shapes-skirts-3  exploring-shapes-skirts-6-2(All image sources can be found on my Wardrobe Architect pinterest board)

Dresses

I definitely wasn’t surprised that what I like are shift dresses, without waist seams. Also that they are quite loose and hit me mid-thigh. I feel exposed and uncomfortable in mini-length things, especially if I have to sit down!

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I also quite like the 60s-style high waisted look. I think this will be a silhouette I’ll experiment more with. I’ve been meaning to make a Tilly and the Buttons Megan Dress (from Love At First Stitch) for ages, so maybe now is the time!

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(All image sources can be found on my Wardrobe Architect pinterest board)

Trousers (Pants)

From my scores of trousers, it seems that I like most styles and shapes – really fitted, somewhat fitted and somewhat loose. Also I’m quite flexible when it comes to where they sit on my waist.

You can’t beat some classic black skinny jeans!

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I do also like wide-legged trousers, though there is a limit! I think being short I can’t pull off giant trousers.

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I also like these more boyfriend-y shapes. The Morgan Jeans are on my #2017MakeNine list, so I’ll be making myself some this year.

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(All image sources can be found on my Wardrobe Architect pinterest board)

Tops and Blouses

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I like loose, boxy tops. I hadn’t really thought explicitly about what length of top I like, so that was interesting to think about – I like tops just above hip level. I don’t mind the odd cropped top, but with high-waisted bottoms. I think the tunic length on me would just throw off my proportions because I’m short. Weird how basically all the photos I picked are monochrome!

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(All image sources can be found on my Wardrobe Architect pinterest board)

 

Jackets and Blazers

I wasn’t really surprised by how I scored the different styles of jacket/blazer – I kind of knew I like quite loose, slightly boyish shaped jackets, in a length that hits on or just below my hip bones. Jackets are definitely an area I want to move more into, given the office I work in is fairly smart, and I feel a bit more put together and grown up if I’m wearing a jacket. This first photo is the hacking jacket from the first Great British Sewing Bee book, so that’s definitely on my list to make.

exploring-shapes-jackets-1 exploring-shapes-jackets-2 exploring-shapes-jackets-4exploring-shapes-jackets-3
(All image sources can be found on my Wardrobe Architect pinterest board)

Cardigans

I found it really hard to find pictures of the kinds of cardigans I like wearing! I like round necked, plain, fairly fitted cardigans – it’s one of the few things I prefer to be more fitted and not as loose. Maybe I’ll explore with other styles in the future? Since I now live in a very cold place, I like the idea of some over-sized, snuggly knitwear!

exploring-shapes-cardigans-1 exploring-shapes-cardigans-2 exploring-shapes-cardigans-3 exploring-shapes-cardigans-4
(All image sources can be found on my Wardrobe Architect pinterest board)

Outerwear

Apparently I like grey and yellow coats! I also like them to be loose, and I love cocoon shapes (which weren’t really covered on the worksheet). I have a duffle coat which is more hip length and I like that, but I also love my Freemantle coat, which is a bit longer – you need to have some long coats, for warmth if nothing else! I may have to make another Freemantle because I really do love it. I might try making it more round necked, though, as the v is very deep so not super warm when it’s really cold unless you’re wearing a giant scarf!

exploring-shapes-coats-1 exploring-shapes-coats-2 exploring-shapes-coats-3 exploring-shapes-coats-4
(All image sources can be found on my Wardrobe Architect pinterest board)

Well there we go. I don’t think there were a huge amount of surprises for me, but it was interesting to look at the specific design elements I like and like to wear – sometimes I look at things and think ‘I really like that’ but I don’t analyse why, so sometimes I sew things I think I’ll like but then don’t, because it doesn’t fit with these scores. I’m definitely going to try to remember to come back to this post when I’m planning my makes!

p.s. Sorry this is going up a day late – I was writing it yesterday evening and was still going at past 11, so I figured there was no point forcing myself to stay up and get tired just to finish it a couple of minutes before midnight, just to have it be published on the Sunday.

 

 

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Style Crush: Melissa McCarthy

So I’m probably the last person in the world to start watching Gilmore Girls! But start watching it I have. And I love it (no spoilers please, I’m on season 3!). I’ve loved Melissa McCarthy since seeing Bridesmaids – unbelievably I’d not really seen her in much before that – and it’s fun seeing her earlier in her career. Like most other people, I think, I thought she stole the show in Bridesmaids and I’m glad to see her career has gone from strength to strength. I’ve just looked it up and she was nominated for an Oscar and a Bafta for Bridesmaids!

I also love Melissa McCarthy’s style. She can totally rock a leather dress. And I really want the leopard print shoes! (not sure about her hair here though….)

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I reckon this outfit would be fairly easy to replicate and would be a great choice for holiday parties this year. Sequins are always a good choice for Christmas! There are loads of tunic tops and leggings patterns so you could totally use your go-tos to copy this.

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 I really, really love this outfit – the pleating on the skirt is great and it makes it a lovely shape. I’m digging cocoon-y shaped things at the moment. I love the simplicty of the blouse with the lux fabric. This could totally work for a work outfit, if you work in a fairly smart office.

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I definitely think pink is her colour, so I love this photo.

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This dress is quite simple, apart from the embellishment around the neck, but it looks great because it fits her so well. Again, I think this would be easy to replicate, maybe with the Colette Dahlia.

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I like this dress too, expecially styled with bright blue shoes! It’s pretty much all about the fabric, this one.

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I’m a huge fan of blue (as you’ll probably know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, or know me in real life!) so I love this. She does seem to stick to fairly simple silhouettes and showcases great fabrics and embellishments, which is probably why I’m drawn to her style – I love a shift dress.

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Having just said that, though, check out these sleeves! I think I may seriously have to copy this dress. I love the pleat on the skirt and the fabric – I’m loving pink at the moment. I think I could use one of the tutorials from Rosie Martin’s book to copy these sleeves, probably adding them to a dress pattern……though I don’t know which one! Any ideas?

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Speaking of pink……I love, love, love this jumpsuit! I’m glad they are still kind of in fashion as I’ve been meaning to make one or two for aaaages so fingers crossed I’m not too late!

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And speaking of jumpsuits. How amazeballs is this!? I love it all – the pleats, the leather and it has POCKETS!

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I do love yellow – mostly mustard on me, but all shades on those that suit them. I think I chose this photo because of the combo of her happy face and the happy dress. I like the nude underlayer too.

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I like the fabric and the style of this dress. I like the reddish-corally colour in the pattern and the cut of the dress looks great on her.

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I really love this lace top – again it has excellent sleeves. I think this might be the same skirt from the outit higher up with the silver blouse. I’ve still got some of my navy lace left over after making my dress for a wedding, so maybe I’ll copy this top!?

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I picked this photo because I love the colour blocking. I think it could be easily achieved with any shift dress pattern – I have the Colette Laurel and I think it could also work with Tilly’s Coco, and she even has a tutorial on her website on how to draft a contrast yoke.

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She can also totally rock a gown on the red carpet – though I like that most of the outfits I found and liked are a bit more edgy and rock and roll. Also weirdly both gowns I picked out are the same very pale pink colour!

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I like the textured fabric on this one particularly. And it’s pretty similar to the By Hand London Alix dress so I think I could rip it off!

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One of the other reasons I love Melissa McCarthy is because she lanched her own fashion line. She is certainly not alone in doing this in Hollywood but she did it from a standpoint of body positivity and trying to make clothes for women of all shapes and sizes. I read a quote where she said some days she wants to dress really girly and other days like a rock star and she had stopped being able to dress how she wanted on the high street. So she launched a label called Seven7. (Side note, this is why sewing is awesome, you can make any clothes you want to wear :D)

I really love this spangley skirt.

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She actually studied textiles at university and was going to go into fashion as a career….before having an amazingly successful acting career!

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I particularly like the top Melissa is wearing in this photo. And I like the spotty sweatshirt-y top on the left.

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I really like the fabric she used in this top. And how happy she looks 😀 I think I would look that happy if I had adorable dimples and a fashion line and a Hollywood film career!

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Spring For Cotton Dress (a bit late!)

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’m not very good at joining in with sew-alongs or sewing challenges – I tried to do the Emery Dress sew-along but finished about a month (or more) late! I did join in with the Yellow Skirt gang and only finished that in time because the deadline was extended. So it will come as no surprise to learn that I didn’t finish my Spring For Cotton dress on time! If you haven’t heard of Spring For Cotton, it’s a challenge run by Lucky Lucille where you have to sew a pattern that is either vintage or inspired by vintage style, entirely in cotton. The video of everyone’s finished makes got published yesterday – so I really was too late! You can see the full parade here.

As you will also know if you’ve read my blog for a while, I have a growing stash of vintage patterns (some from my Grandma and some from a house clearance). I decided to go with one I got from my Grandma for my first foray into sewing with a vintage pattern. I was torn between two (both 60s style, as it’s definitely mt favourite decade for fashion):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI finally decided on the second one, and decided to make view D, on the far right. I wasn’t sure I liked it when I was making it, until it was completely finished. I loved the fabric when I first saw it in Rolls and Rems.

Spring for Cotton fabricBut as I was making the dress, I was worried it would look a bit costumey. It also looked like an ugly overall for quite a while, but taking up the hem definitely helped reduce the frump factor.

Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-1I had already removed 16cm from the hem when I cut it out as it would have reached to my calves almost! Little tip: when making a cut vintage pattern – check the pattern pieces for any alterations the previous owner (my Grandma) made to the pattern pieces! I carefully cut out my pattern pieces – the back had already been used but the front piece hadn’t ( there are different front pieces for each of the views for the trim markings). My Grandma had already shortened the back piece, by about 16cm, so then when I removed another 16cm, it didn’t even cover my bum. So I re-cut the back piece – luckily I had just about enough fabric. I made no attempt at pattern matching, also because I initially stupidly had the front piece laid out upside down, so the flowers would have faced down on the front and up on the back. So the cutting stage was not my finest hour!

I do wish I had properly centered the flowers on the front of the dress, so that the trim lined up.

Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-2I used some bias tape , folded in half for the white trim and bought some buttons to match the darker coral shade on the flowers. It was the trim that made me feel like it would look a bit costumey, but I actually like it, now the dress is finished.

Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-7I did make a couple of fitting adjustments as I went along – I knew the dress would be too big as the pattern is a size larger than my size. I added 2 darts to the back, which are 3 inches from the centre seam and are 1 inch deep at the waist. Looking at the picture below, I should have ironed the darts as they look a bit crap.

Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-3I made the effort not to over-fit the dress as it’s not meant to be figure-hugging. I did, however, take in the side seams a bit, by 2cm at the waist, tapering out at the armpit and hip. I wonder now what it would have looked like if I had hemmed it before making the fit alterations – it might have looked a bit over-sized, but in a good way. Oh well, I’ll learn for next time! I cut another 10cm off the bottom and then did a hem of 1.5cm twice (total 3cm), which tells you how long the dress would have been if I hadn’t taken it up! Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-4The dress was meant to have a 22in invisible zip, but I had this short one in my stash and knew from my 2 Laurel dresses, where I did the same thing, that I would be able to get in and out of the dress with a shorter zip – it just has to go over my head instead of being able to step into it!

I’m pleased with how the facings turned out – it’s nice to work with a fabric that irons so nicely, so the facings stayed on the inside, without poking out – i did understitch them too. Then I slip-stitched them on the inside as it was kind of a pain in the arse having to tuck the facings in every time I put the dress on!

Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-8 I’ll leave you with this kind of goofy picture! (and yet again it’s blurry – I don’t know why, it’s so annoying! Any advice gratefully received. I’m thinking more light would help – so maybe I’ll move outside from now on!) Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-6 Did you join in with Spring for Cotton (and finish in time!)? Have you sewn with a vintage pattern. I found it wasn’t as tricky as I feared, but I think that’s because my pattern was late enough to have all the same markings as modern patterns. The other pattern I considered (above) is unmarked, and I might give that a go next time – I like the idea of a matching dress and coat!