Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Married in peacock

(Photos by Adeline Newmann)

LinkThe bride with her father

I recently had the pleasure of making a unique wedding gown for a friend. Erica is an artist currently earning her master's degree at CalArts. When she asked me to help her out, I knew we were going to make something exciting! I was especially thrilled when we went in the direction of working with some color (it is no secret that I am a fan of colorful wedding gowns!).

She was married on June 11 in a Japanese tea garden, where her peacock color scheme looked incredible.

While we were fabric shopping, we were struggling to find a brocade that was just right for the sash. I tend to be a bit on the selective side, I don't usually get a fabric or trim unless it seems exactly right. Sometimes it is hard to believe that one can't find the right fabric in blocks and blocks of fabric stores in Downtown L.A.'s Fashion District. Luck was on our side, though, when we stumbled over a gorgeous emerald green brocade with a gold peacock feather motif!

The fabric worked perfectly for the dramatic sash, tied in a one-loop bow, trailing behind the bride like a mini-train.

All that was left was to find the silks to complement the colors in the sash. The top of the gown is a taupe satin charmeuse, the cumberbund midriff is a gold silk taffeta (which I also used to line the underside of the sash) and the skirt is a rich royal blue also of silk charmeuse.

The bride created the antique brooch and peacock feather detail which we pinned on the back of the sash from a family heirloom pin and she also wore her mother's bridal veil.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Polly Pocket's got nothing on this!

Just recently came across this awesome tutorial for a portable fabric dollhouse! What little girl (and probably a few boys and grown-up girls!) wouldn't LOVE this as a special homemade gift?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bippity boppity boo

There is no question that the entirety of the Disney Princess franchise is fraught with controversy and inaccuracy. One issue that has always bothered me from a fashion history standpoint is that the clothing the Princesses wear bears next to no resemblance to actual historical fashions. Los Angeles illustrator Claire Hummel has taken on this issue in a new series of illustrations featuring the renowned ladies in more historically appropriate attire. She did a lovely job maintaining the integrity of the original designs that we have all become so familiar with, while adding more authentic silhouettes and fabrics. Hope you enjoy as much as I did! (She even has prints available in her shop for a mere $10).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head...

... but that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turnin' red...

Especially if I were wearing a pair of Jessica Swift Rainboots!

I went to high school with Jessica Swift, a woman who has grown into an incredible artist. She works a lot in patterns (which has been featured on fabrics as well, for all you home sewers!), and all her work is infused with her spirit of love and inspiration. It is no secret how much I love rainboots (even though we only get rain a couple months out of the year here in LA), and I can honestly say that the designs Jessica is kicking around are fabulous! Probably the coolest I have ever seen!

Plus, there is a secret extra bonus! Each pair of boots is designed with a special loving, inspirational message printed inside to remind you how fabulous you are each time you put on those fabulous boots!

Right now, Jessica is using kickstarter.com to get this awesome project off the ground. For a donation of just $100, you'll be sent a pair of boots once they hit the production line! Contributions of any amount from $1 on up are greatly appreciated and are being rewarded with other awesome Jessica Swift art. Just think how amazing it would be to help Jessica's dream come true and land yourself a truly special pair of boots!

I can pretty much guarantee that no rainy day or mucky puddle will get you down if you were wearing these amazing boots!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Back in the saddle

I know I very much dropped the ball on the Royal Wedding Retrospective. I hope you enjoyed the posts I did manage to get up and also hope you enjoyed the nuptials of Kate and Wills as much as I did!

Part of what prevented me from putting the time into researching the RWR is that I am working on a new project, a wedding gown for a friend! The dress is unique (and colorful!) and it has been a real pleasure to be working on a custom project again. The wedding is June 11, pictures will follow soon after!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I recently stumbled upon this great blog featuring a post on estimating yardage, a really important but sometimes elusive skill to have when making your own patterns or buying on a whim.

Monday, March 14, 2011


This is an excellent article on learning how to sew on the bias, a sure-fire way to achieve a designer look.

Monday, March 7, 2011

RWR: Speculation on Fascinators

Here's a fun little video that features headpieces of past British Royal weddings, speculation on what head wear Kate will wear on her big day, and a collection of de-lic-ious hats!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What I love on Etsy right now: Mardi Gras Masks

With Mardi Gras just around the corner on March 8, I thought it would be fun to check out what Etsy has to offer in the way of masks for the holiday. Fat Tuesday is all about excess, so a simple gold and purple plastic half mask from Party City just won't do.

Here are some fun ones I tracked down:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar night

In my house, the Oscars are a big social occasion. I have a great time, but I don't actually get much of a chance to analyze the fashion. Also, today I happened to spend the first half of the day having a majorly awesome vintage shopping experience (more on Shareen Vintage in downtown LA later!) so I didn't catch most of the red carpet action.

A couple of trends I did notice:

Women are still shunning the necklace.
Sheath dresses, body conscious silhouettes.
Beads, metallics and sequins, oh my!

After scanning some of the fashion more closely online, I have to say that I think my favorite of the night was Helen Mirren in a classic and sophisticated Vivienne Westwood.

On the other end of the spectrum of loveliness was True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld in a dreamy Marchesa gown.

I also thought Natalie Portman pulled of maternity beautifully in her Swarovski studded Rodarte and I really loved her Tiffany & Co tassel earrings.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

right NOW

If you happen to be online right now, you can watch a live stream of the Fall 2011 Prada collection at Milan Fashion Week.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RWR: Bertie and Elizabeth

Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon were married on April 26, 1923.

After proposing to Lady Elizabeth three times, Prince Albert was finally accepted on January 13, 1923. Elizabeth did not refuse Bertie because she did not love him, but because she was reticent to enter a life of public service and celebrity.

The princess-to-be was given a sapphire and diamond engagement ring, sapphires were said to be her favorite stone.

Lady Elizabeth's gown, described by the London Times as "the simplest gown ever made for a royal wedding", was designed by Madame Handley Seymour, a former London court dressmaker. It was made of pearl embroidered ivory chiffon moiré dyed to match the veil perfectly. The veil itself was borrowed from Queen Mary and was secured with a wreath of myrtle, white roses and heather.

Lady Elizabeth had eight bridal attendants from the British aristocracy who were dressed in a similar fashion to the bride.

The wedding ceremony took place in London's Westminster Abbey. As the bride began her procession down the aisle with her father, she placed her bouqet of white roses on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in somber remembrance of the fallen soldiers of the recently ended First World War. The bride had lost her brother Fergus in the war and herself had spent the war caring for wounded soldiers.

It is important to remember that when one marries into royalty, they become not just a spouse, but a representative of an entire people. The Archbishop of York reminded the couple of this in no uncertain terms during the ceremony when he stated, "The warm and generous heart of this people takes you today unto itself. Will you not, in response, take that heart, with all its joys and sorrows, unto your own?" This seems to almost foreshadow the unprecedented manner in which Prince Albert was later to reluctantly become King George VI and the tumultuous times in which they would reign together, steadfast and courageous in their commitment to the United Kingdom through the horrors of World War II.

You can learn more about the lives of the Duke and Duchess of York and their controversial rise to the throne in the Oscar nominated film The King's Speech.

King George passed away in 1952, it is believed that the great stress of reigning through World War II contributed to his untimely death. In 2002, at the age of 103, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died. I was studying abroad in London at the time and I was able to attend her funeral procession. It was clear that she was much beloved by the people of England as well as her own family, I'm sure Prince William will be thinking of his dear great-grandmother on his wedding day this April, 88 years and 3 days after her marriage to Prince Albert.

And here is a sweet video of the wedding day. I can imagine how fun it would be to replicate this style of videography for a present day wedding.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review: Seamless

With the exception of the screeners that are delivered directly to our door, I don't get around to watching new movies very often. So even though this is not a new film, thanks to an afternoon with the house to myself, our internet TV and Netflix Watch Instantly, I was able to enjoy the 2005 documentary Seamless by Douglas Keeve (of Unzipped fame).

(Spoiler Alert! If you click on the links in this next paragraph, you may learn about the end results of the film, so if you want to be surprised and enjoy the dramatic tension of the film, don't click!)

The action centers around a contest sponsored by Vouge and the Council of Fashion Designers of America to discover, promote, mentor and assist an up-and-coming designer in the American fashion scene. The contest consists of ten contestants, and the documentary crew follows three of the hopefuls: Alexadre Plokhov of Cloak, Doo-Ri Chung of doo.ri, and Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCullough of Proenza Schouler. It is an eye-opening look into what the real world of fashion is like behind the glitz and glam of runway shows, posh boutiques, and glossy magazines... a world where young, talented, artistic designers struggle to make ends meet while pursuing their passion, a world where the majority of small designers who are seemingly successful due to lots of media hype run businesses that have not yet begun to be profitable (despite the enormous retail price tags of their pieces). The prize for which they are vying is $200,000 in award money as well as a mentorship with an established fashion industry executive. The judges panel includes fashion heavyweights such as Vogue's Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs CEO Robert Duffy, Narciso Rodriguez and others.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and think it is a worthwhile, educational watch for anyone who enjoys the world of fashion or has any curiosity about this multi-billion dollar American industry. It is definitely a must watch for anyone who aspires to become a fashion designer and wants to know the dedication, talent, sacrifice and perseverance it will take to become a success in the business. The film is shot in an artistic and aesthetically interesting manner, in many ways like a fashion magazine editorial spread brought to life. The film is also quite personal, giving intimate glimpses into the lives and personalities of the people who make up the glamorous fashion industry.

The filmmaker successfully builds dramatic tension that culminates in the presentation of the CFDA/Vouge Fashion Fund Award at a star-studded, red-carpet gala event and includes some information on what became of the designers following production of the film.

I gave the film four out of five stars on the Netflix rating system ("really liked it"). It is 75 minutes long and is available via Netflix, Netflix Watch Instantly, and for sale on Amazon for $24.95.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

RWR: From "Lisa" to "Light"

While marriages between commoners and Royals are not unheard of, the love match between American-born and educated Lisa Halaby to King Hussein of Jordan was certainly unusual.

Lisa Halaby was a 26 year old Princeton graduate working as a decorator for Pan-Am in Jordan when she met the thrice-married 42 year old King of Jordan at an airport ceremony in Amman. Halaby, the granddaughter of a Lebanese man who emigrated to the United States, reportedly felt very at home in the Middle East and was already acclimated to life in Jordan when she first encountered King Hussein. However, she took three days to accept the King's proposal which followed a six-week courtship that consisted of being dined every evening. Agreeing to become a Queen is not something to be taken lightly, but she did finally agree, out of love "for the man, not the king."

It is not the custom in Jordan for women to receive engagement rings.

The couple was married on June 15, 1978 at Raghdan Palace in Amman in what Halaby later described as "perhaps the one of the most modest Royal weddings of all time." The ceremony was a small, traditional Muslim affair, with no bridal attendants present, and reportedly was only four minutes long. Halaby looked like many other Western brides of the late 1970s. She wore a modest, simple Dior gown and very little jewelry with a traditional white tulle veil, carrying a cascade of white orchids.

Upon marrying the King, Lisa Halaby's name became "Noor al Hussein" or "Light of Hussein". The two had four children together and remained married until the death of the King in 1999. She remains Dowager Queen Noor to this day, devoting her time to charitable pursuits.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

RWR: V & A

The marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert was one that was essentially arranged for them by family, seen as a means to ensure friendly relations with great nations. However, it is also abundantly clear that the two had a true, genuine, and passionate love for one another (this is the subject of the 2009 film The Young Victoria)

Despite their implicit betrothal, it was essentially the Queen who proposed to Albert. Of course, her offer was accepted and the Prince gifted her with an unusual engagement ring fashioned to look like a snake which was symbolic of eternal love, encrusted with emeralds. It was the fashion at the time to give a woman an engagement ring that featured her birthstone. She loved the ring so much that it is believed she was buried wearing it.

The wedding took place nearly two years after her coronation on February 11, 1840 at the Royal Chapel of St. James' Palace. Despite the rain on Her Majesty's wedding day, crowds of subjects thronged the processional route from Buckingham Palace to St. James', eager to catch a glimpse of their Sovereign and her Consort in their finery. The ceremony was attended by 2100 guests.

Although Victoria was not the first Royal to wear white to her wedding, it was her doing so that set the de riguer trend that continues even to this day. In this way, she is perhaps the Royal who has had the greatest influence on bridal fashion.

She purportedly chose the color because she wished to use some fine lace that she particularly liked that she believed looked best with the rich white satin she selected for the gown. The lace, completely hand made, was four yards in length and three-quarters of a yard wide and reportedly took eight months to make. The pattern for the lace was destroyed after its completion so that it could never be replicated for another client.

In order to emphasize the solemnity of the occasion, Victoria chose to rely more on adornments of orange blossoms than on her Royal jewelry collection, although she did wear large diamond earrings and a diamond necklace. Her veil, which did not conceal her face, was of hand made Honiton lace and took six weeks to complete.

She had twelve bridesmaids, who all dressed in a similar fashion to the Queen, wearing primarily white with accents of light blue and many floral embellishments.

Victoria and Albert, by all accounts, enjoyed a rich married life, producing nine children in the twenty years that they were married. After his death in 1861, the Queen wore only black for the rest of her life to pay homage to the mourning she felt at his loss. She continued to reign dutifully over the largest empire the world has ever seen until her own death in 1901.

Monday, January 31, 2011

100 posts, 100 years

To celebrate reaching 100 posts on this blog, I have a little roundup of fashion images from the past 100 years. It certainly is not exhaustive, but gives a fun look at the way silhouettes have changed over the last 100 years, and what elements have been recycled over time.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading the blog!

McCall's, January 1911

Fashion Service Magazine, Spring/Summer 1921

Butterick, August 1931

Paris Winter Season, 1941

sewing pattern envelopes, 1951

McCall's pattern, 1961

Jaeger Fashion, London, 1971

René Gruau illustration for Vogue, 1981

Fashion Museum of Bath, 1991 costume chosen by Elizabeth Tilberis of Vogue

Trendsetting cast of Sex and the City at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards, 2001

And a look at some upcoming trends for 2011, via FashionStyleMe

And a question for my readers, which fashion decade of the last century do you most admire, identify with, or wish were still in style today?