Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fly Girl (Another Stash Busitn' Project)

As promised, here is Stash Bustin' project #2, a little girl's dress (approximately size 3T) made from an old pair of jeans with the skirt and ruffle made from fabric in my collection. The hat and dress were so much fun, I think I have a collection in the works!

Monday, February 22, 2010


This is definitely one of those "why didn't I think of this" kind of things. I discovered it via Love My Dress, where it is billed as a bridesmaid dress. One dress, four lengths/hemlines and two sizes that accommodate most every size and figure, and can be worn fifteen different ways, available in eighteen different colors! So, yes, of course it is a great solution to the oft-frustrating bridesmaid dress dilemma, but it is also just a fantastic dress to have in your regular wardrobe. What a great dress to take on a cruise, to wear to a work party, to wear to a play/symphony/opera/fancy dinner out. This dress might never go out of style! It can even be worn by pregnant women, which is super-fantastic because that is a very difficult time to find a flattering dress. Dress from twobirds, prices start at $270. So unless you can find fifteen gorgeous, well made dresses for $18 each, then this is really a great deal!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

All Aboard! (A Stash Bustin' Project)

I felt really inspired by So Zo's Stash Bustin' challenge... inspired enough that I broke into my stash of my husband's old jeans with the holes in the knees and grabbed a roll of accent fabric out of my collection and... voila. A day later, I have an engineer's hat.

I plan to make another hat and a little girl dress... three new items from one old one!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bustin' out

I was cruising the awesome Colette Patterns today when I came across this link to "So Zo" with this explanation of the Stash Bustin' committment:

"People, may I please have your attention for a moment. I am launching a new campaign: Stash Bustin'! Like pretty much ever sewer on the planet, I have too much (fantastic, potential-filled, perfectly usable) fabric sitting about crying out to be turned from it's raw form into a myriad of awesome projects. It really is quite a crime. Therefore, I am pledging to bust my stash, using as much of my fabric collection as I can, over the next few months. I will only be stepping into a fabric store when absolutely necessary to pick up items like linings and interlinings to complete projects when I don't already possess an alternative."

Although my life circumstances keep me from doing as much sewing as I like, I'm really into this idea and want to sign up and promote anyone else interested to join in!

I will post my Stash Bustin' projects when (if!) I complete them!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"Getting dressed is a creative expression"

Saw this video of Iris Apfel on Advanced Style. She has great words of wisdom for the design lover and fashionista and it is a really nicely composed piece. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Accomplishing a handmade look

One great way to get a handmade look for less is to purchase a ready-to-wear wedding gown in a plain, simple design and then look at it like a blank canvas for your bridal design expression. Stores like David's Bridal of course always have economic choices. At $250, this was the lowest price gown currently on the J Crew website.

For one look, pair it with this $22 handmade bolero for a pop of color and a look that is unique.

You could also sew on some handmade pieces. These organza flowers available in sets of ten for $3 on etsy would make a lovely asymmetrical cascade starting on one shoulder, continuing down the back.

For a bolder look, you could add several fabric flower corsages like this one for $8.50 also from etsy.

Another idea is to keep the dress simple and make the fashion statement all about bold accessories that will steal the show. It is justifiable to splurge on accessories because there will likely be opportunities in the future to wear them again (which more likely than not will not be the case for your wedding gown). For example, you could have the hem shortened in front (image for visual aid purposes only!) and don a truly stunning pair of shoes that won't go hiding under a modestly long gown.

And rock a bold handmade necklace

Or an over-the-top hat or headpiece:

or like this somewhat more demure one available for just $145

(both pieces from Gena Conti Millinery)

You may also want to consider custom-dying your gown a la Gwen Stefani for a true rockstar look.

And you don't have to give up on the idea of a handmade gown. If you or a friend sews reasonably well, there are a large number of quality commercial bridal patterns available that can make the process fairly simple. (A word of advice from a bride who has made her own wedding gown: do NOT procrastinate! Give yourself plenty of time to sew and make mistakes and get help, etc. Plan to be done two months before your wedding so you can have those last several weeks to deal with the final details and RSVPs, etc.)

This simple but elegant pattern is available at any fabric store that carries Vogue patterns. When you sew your own, the options are limitless. You can be creative with colors and fabric textures, and pick great detail items such as exciting buttons (for an off-beat look, get vintage buttons and have each one be unique).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The cost of custom-made

(image from hu-made, a one-woman "factory" in New Mexico. I am borrowing it because she so aptly describes what it is to have something handmade.)

I just have to come out and say it. Having something custom-made, handmade, made just for you, is not likely to be the most cost effective choice. In this day and age and world, you are almost certain to find a ready-to-wear, factory-made, mass-produced thing for much cheaper.

When garments are made in a factory, the patterns are often made by computer, with the punching in of "typical" measurements to get the proportions right. Designs are engineered to require the minimum amount of stitching and labor. Fabric is laid out layer upon layer upon layer and cut with what is essentially a large saw so that many copies can be cut in the time it takes to cut one. The garments are then assembled by teams of stitchers who are often paid minimum wage at best, each stitcher usually completing one single part of the garment over and over and over again, and passing it to the next stitcher for the next component to be completed. Factories have large amounts of space and can buy fabric and materials in bulk, wholesale prices. The prices are marked up at least 100% over the wholesale cost when you buy in the store (increase that percentage by a lot more when you are buying designer). And then, if you want an excellent fit, you have to pay for alterations on top of the price you paid in the store.

When garments are custom-made, the patterns are draped and drafted to suit your specific measurements and shape. Designs are engineered to your tastes and desires, and many couturiers will create a muslin mock-up of your design to try on you to ensure that the size and silhouette are exactly what you want. Fabric is laid out carefully and patterns meticulously placed to ensure that the grain and size are just right. Garments are then assembled by an individual who pays explicit attention to the details and can incorporate many hand-finishing techniques that are simply too costly to incorporate into mass-produced garments. Many people who create custom-made garments work from their home and often must buy their supplies and equipment in low quantities and at retail prices (even though we're usually pretty good at knowing where the deals are!) An artisan who works from home must incorporate many factors into the price of the goods made: the space used in the home in proportion to the rent or mortgage paid, the time in planning and conceptualizing the product, the cost of utilities and supplies and appliances (and their upkeep) that go into running a small business, the cost of gas and car maintenance for shopping trips, as well as the cost of materials and labor (I believe my time is worth more than minimum wage).

When you buy custom-made, you are paying for what you get. You are not paying for factories, shipping fleets, advertising, retail stores and pushy sales staff. It can be more cost effective for some people (especially if you are considering purchasing a designer label), but one should not seek custom-made simply because they are looking for a bargain.

If you believe that you are the kind of person who wants custom-made but just really can't fit it into the budget (and that is perfectly reasonable!), stay tuned to my next post for some tips on how to get a hand-made look for less.

Monday, February 8, 2010

You know how the wise man once said "life is what happens while you're busy making other plans"? Well, long story short I have decided that my big project will have to hold off a while... I'll still be working on it (slow and steady wins the race!), and I'll let you all know when it is done. Meanwhile, it's back to business as usual!

(I know this picture is a little crazy, but I figured it was OK to use it on my style/fashion/sewing blog because she made her earrings from spools of satin ribbon.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Vintage Plaid Day Dress

I recently purchased this adorable vintage brown/green/blue cotton plaid dress from Swift Vintage (blog here and awesome etsy shop here). The dress fit me very nicely (I kind of have a "vintage" body type and seem to do well with 1950's/early 1960's stuff). I was, however, feeling a little bit... matronly... in it given that it is so dark in color and has a conservative neckline. So I decided that a bit of hemming was in order. I cropped it to just above the knee and was happy with the results.

The angle of the picture isn't terribly flattering, but it gives the idea. This was just the little alteration that this dress needed to feel a little more up-to-date and flirty and more appropriate for evening. Although you can't see it in the picture, I have decided that I like to wear my belts backward to add a little interest to the back of the dress. Maybe I'm crazy, but I like the look. I love this dress so much and have worn it twice already!

I try to adhere to the principle of "waste not, want not", so I'm holding onto the extra fabric. I think there is just enough to make a cute little vintage inspired baby girl dress like this one: