Wednesday, 25 September 2013

'Stylish Dress Book : Clothing For Everyday Wear', Yoshiko Tsukiori.

It was with excitement this week, that a review copy of 'Stylish Dress Book: Clothing For Everyday Wear' dropped through my door from the lovely people at Laurence King Publishing. 
Already completely sold on Yoshiko Tsukiori's 'Stylish Dress Book: Simple Smocks, Dresses and Tops', published in May this year, 'Clothing For Everyday Wear', published next month, is more of the same delights : simple, effortlessly gorgeous, feminine garments for easy day to day wear and full size patterns included for each in the back! 

This book is a delight. It is beautifully put together and the designs are cleanly presented with simply styled photographs of each of the 26 dresses, tops, jackets and trousers. There is something of the Noa Noa in the understated elegance of the designs, all of which are ultra feminine and wearable day to day staples, but each with an added, signature embellishment giving that extra magic touch - everything from a sleeveless top with pretty ruffled front and sleeves, a back-wrap dress with additional lace trim, an Empire line sun dress with gathering on the bodice and a wrap-over blouse with ruffled shoulders. Other attractive details that give each design their own 'calling card', are the inclusion of
 bell sleeves, a funnel neck, super deep pockets, a bow collar and hem tucks - 
something for everyone ! 

All of the designs have an appealing and reassuringly uncomplicated feel, (reminiscent of other Japanese sewing books) and all 26 carry the essential elements of 'wearability', style and of course, once made by your own fair hand in the fabric of your choice, that prized uniqueness that escapes the raft of 'identikit' clothes that can appear on the rails each year. Indeed this is part of the book's premise - to use these patterns in creating your own stylish, personalised garments, to your taste. If you hanker for something a little different that you can put your own stamp on, then this is the pattern book for you.

You'll of course be wondering at this point how easy it is to translate these designs into their ready-to-wear, end product and this is where the book scores another big 'tick' from me. The instructions are step by step, seamstress friendly and include clear, easy to follow construction sequence diagrams.
My only word of caution is that the necessary overlaying of cutting lines / sizes to include all 26 fabulous patterns in the back, requires a concentrated eye on the right lines, before you start tracing and cutting. However, still preferable to the mammoth 'print-off' and jigsaw-like assembly involved with on-line pdf patterns. There is also a helpful key on each sheet directing you to the right patterns sheets (and side) for each of your chosen pattern pieces.

It occurs to me at this point that this book is also fabulous value for money when you consider that a single pattern can be purchased for about the same price as the book (from the leading pattern manufacturers/designers).
Frankly, there are so many tempting creations in this book that I don't know where to start! My review copy has been sabotaged with yellow post-its and 'notes to self' already. Currently I am torn between the Bell-sleeve jacket with ruffle trim and the sequinned drop-waist dress, (cute ruffled waist detail at that) AND matching clutch bag - perfect for Christmas, (did I just say that?) Certainly a very cute and stylish dress for occasion wear. In fact, the lovely decorative design elements carried by each of the garments - ruffles, gathering, empire lines, drop waists, or the inclusion of a sumptuous element in the fabric - eg. lace or taffeta make them each fabulously versatile. I challenge you not to fall in love with at least one item in this book and want to make it your own!

And in anticipation of a new found passion for Japanese sewing books, you may like to check out Yoshiko Tsukiori's 'Stylish Dress Book - Simple Smocks, Dresses and Tops' for more indulgence! (Totally in love with the dropped-waist coat dress). Enjoy!
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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Vintage in Vogue.

Vogue 2903
It has been an exciting Summer for lovers of all things vintage fashion. With the sixtieth anniversary of the Queen's coronation, has come a celebratory revival of the Fifties, from John Lewis' Summer window display of four prom style dresses revived from 1953 sketches in their archives, to Hampton Court Flower Show's celebration of the Fifties floral and nods a' plenty to an enduring style that continues to epitomise sophisticated charm and elegance. 

Over the last few days, the catwalks of London Fashion Week have also buzzed the Fifties vibe, channelled through the designs of Jasper Conran, Alice Temperly, Emilia Wickstead and others, with elegant Fifties silhouettes and modern twists on vintage style themes. Whether it's a flirty Monroe look or a Stepford Wife (though perhaps less of the 'stay at home'), a mid length dress that you can twirl in, or a pencil skirt to put a wiggle in your walk, the Fifties vibe and modern homages to it, seem to be contagious. Something in its magic makes it timeless, enduringly popular and evidently adaptable to 2013/2014. Perhaps it is simply on account of its uncomplicated, effortlessly feminine shapes. Either way, the catwalks suggest it will be carrying its charm onwards into the heart of Spring/Summer 2014.
Vogue 1019
And to carry us through the Winter in Vintage style?...Perhaps the return of Downton Abbey (and the cinematic revival of 'The Great Gatsby') will see us reaching for our long beads, feather boas and drop waist dresses! And for the avid dressmaker there is a host of exciting patterns out there waiting to bring the Roaring Twenties back to life. My favourite..?...McCalls 4990. (Lady Mary on the left ?)

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Friday, 13 September 2013

September Sewing Tea

I am currently sitting at my laptop, watching an aerodynamic display of swallows in the fields through my windows and musing over the lovely morning I've had. My mind should really be engaged back in work and sewing up, (entirely unintended pun!) those 'end of week' emails and work calls. However, I decided this post couldn't wait!

Friday 13th has its own connotations, but it was Lucky for the Whitstable coast this morning when a group of uber-talented, gorgeous ladies convened in the splendid Marine Hotel, each enrobed in their own hand crafted attire, for a morning of seamstressing chatter. The inspired idea of the lovely Vicky - and what better antidote to the passing of  the Summer!

Not only was it inspirational to see everyone together wearing their own creations, but it reminded me also of one of the reasons I took up dressmaking in the first place. Everyone around the table had created clothes that reflected their own unique styles and personalities and wore them with panache and confidence. It struck me that even if you only make one, simple signature skirt or dress in a fabric/style that expresses 'You' individually, then one is almost entirely constricted by what is available on the High Street, or even what the catwalks, celebrities or fashion magazines are 'telling' us we should be wearing.

I have no problem with this per say - (and I buy clothes on the high street as well !), but I reached a stage where after the initial excitement of finding something in a shop I liked and that seemed to fit my 'style', I would then lament the fact that I did not like the feel of the material, or else the colour was not right for me, or worse, it did not fit as well as it should - or curiously did in some places and not in others!

Today reminded me that ultimately, there is nothing more personal than being able to choose and fall in love with your own fabric, seek out a pattern that does what you want it to (and that you can make changes or additions to where it doesn't) and create something tailor-made to fit You. (Not to mention the inimitable thrill of wearing something you have made yourself !) Several people amongst my circle of seamstressing pals have patterns that they have made over and over again, in different fabrics, for Winter and for Summer, simply because they 'fit the bill' and tick all of the right boxes for them.

Everyone sipping tea today, including our very own Tutor, (the best in Christendom), exhibited this 'thought for the day' in their own unique way....everything from a gorgeous burnt orange, fitted skirt and jacket, exquisitely crafted linen shirt, bellows pocket skirt, a fabulous array of Summer dresses and skirts in gorgeous jersey and cotton prints and not least, the Fifties vibe in a full skirted dress complete with short socks and ribboned pony tail, (made my heart sing - and we got a twirl!)

So, it's been a good morning and now, somehow I've to get back into work mode and stay away from the fabric and pattern websites! Though, in my defence, dressmaking was always intended to stretch me a bit and motivate me in another direction away from the laptop! Being part of such an inspiring and lovely group of ladies has been an added bonus. I've said it before and don't mind saying it again....sewing and friends....good for the soul!

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Monday, 9 September 2013

Gathering Thoughts.

After the excitement of a new fabric purchase (and a few days spent showing and describing it to anyone who'd listen), the time came at the weekend to assign it a purpose! It is currently taking a similar shape to the vintage floral of my previous project. Having made several additions and adjustments to that New Look pattern to indulge a few personal whims and fancies (eg adding pleats in the back of the skirt), it seemed a shame to consign it back to the pattern box until 'next time'. So, in a bit of a variation on a theme, here it is again !
This time, as well as cutting the front bodice piece on the fold, I changed the neckline a little so it is more rounded and less 'V'. I may or may not include the covered buttons this time, but they were such fun last time we'll see ! I also added a contrast fabric for the yokes at the shoulders as well this time, courtesy of some leftover navy stretch velvet bought last Winter, also from my friendly, local The Sewing Shop.

The back of the skirt is where things got exciting. With the extra panel inserted into my pattern the first time round, instead of two inverted box pleats, I decided to try some gathers or smaller pleats this time. Handmade gathers can be a bit of an organic and fiddly art I find - certainly not the exact science they can be when undertaken in industry. In this attempt, mine looked pretty gathered and pinned in place, but once under
the machine, the effect was not as neat and 'defined' as I had hoped.

Whilst still creating a feature of interest at the back, I decided to unpick them in favour of a further twenty minutes spent creating some mini pleats. These achieved the neater, more 'structured' gathering I had in mind. I also moved these to the centre of the back skirt panel, rather than two lots on each side as previously. So...a compare and contrast! .....both pretty variations on a theme and an effective flourish to what would otherwise have been a straight A line skirt at the back. (One day I am just going to indulge my secret hankering for a full-on Victorian bustle! Watch this space!) In the mean time, a more subdued take on things :

I must have used nearly all of my pins securing the tucks in place in a paranoid vision of them breaking free of their constraints. I felt happier when I had them all tucked, pinned and had shown them the iron! - (I should say, given them the press of their life!) The result is a pretty profile at the back that adds a bit of extra interest.


Onwards with the sleeves, zip and binding - and in time for Autumn wear!
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