Category Archives: Inspirations

Make it: Kate Middleton’s drawstring dress

Truth be told, I sometimes peruse the celeb weeklies online, and this morning I happened on a People story about how Prince Charles pays for his daughter in law’s wardrobe.

(Yes, I am rather embarrassed that I know much more about such things than about, say, the Turkey/Syrian conflict.)

That aside, I’ve always felt indifferent about the royals to somewhat annoyed with the press that they receive, particularly around W&K’s marriage, and the Diamond Jubilee.

Fans of the royals tend to be fans of Will and Kate, I think, in part because they seem so darn respectable. I have to say, I tend to like my royals scandalous (though not necessarily in the Harry-in-Nazi-costume way). If they’re going to be needlessly prominent, at least let them be amusing. I have high hopes for Fergie’s children, based on headwear alone.

I will finally admit, though, I am in many ways a fan of Kate’s clothing (minus the wedding dress. unpopular opinion, I know). And in the above-mentioned People article, I couldn’t help but notice that the drawstring dress she’s wearing is very much like a couple of sewing patterns I’ve looked at lately, Burdastyle’s Anda Dress, and Salme Patterns’ Kimono Dress.

Of course, K.Mid’s has a different arm treatment – you can see that it is gently scalloped, not unlike the Colette Macaron’s sleeve.

I had never thought much of the Burdastyle Anda dress before making the connection to K.Mid’s drawstring dream. Perhaps the difference is in the fabric. Quite rarely for Burdastyle’s own creations (which typically make their patterns look incredibly chic), the copper dress they use for Anda looks quite home ec. I’m guessing that K.Mid’s dress is a knit – likely a silk jersey – although I think it could also be a gorgeous drapey silk crepe.

A word about Salme Patterns… there are a lot of small independent pattern companies popping up and while I want to love their clothes, I often, well, don’t. I’m just not that into vintage 50s style (the wasp waist/full skirt) that I understand to be a major indie inspiration. Out of the independents, Style Arc is a major exception, and Salme, out of London (UK, not Ontario!) is too. ‘Cept Salme is soooo unsung, as far as I can tell.

What I love about Salme – they don’t look  homesewn, vintage-ey, or even close to costumey. They just look like beautiful, simple garments in exquisite fabrics – they look like the garments I covet at Aritzia and don’t want to pay for – and I’m stoked to order some patterns, grab some beautiful silks, and sew them up.




Sewing and the 80/20 rule – life lessons from the sewing machine

Two completely different blog posts arrived in my google reader today – one having to do Halston and almost-Halston sewing patterns from the 70s, and the other having to do with the 80/20 rule that motivational and self-help types like to talk about. I think it was Woody Allen who said that 80% of success is just showing up (20% effort)? The way I understand the 80/20 rule is that 80% of your efforts are your solid bedrock, and 20% are the flourish that give you your creative and competitive edge. I’ve also read a variation that 80% of your returns come from that 20% of your efforts.  Kind of like a cake… you can have a delicious cake base (the 80%) but it’s the frosting (20%) that’s the make or break between a sale or not, or how much people anticipate and enjoy it. So, the 20% is an intensely valuable little zone.

Anyway, the juxtaposition of these two posts, side by side in my reader, was interesting to me. Peter of Male Pattern Boldness was asking, just what is the difference between a Halston pattern from the 70s, and a nearly identical pattern from the same period? I’m a regular in the high end department store in town (not like I buy there… ha! I’m pawing clothes for inspiration!), and I sometimes ask myself, what exactly is the difference between a $600 dress here, and a $120 dress elsewhere?

I know that some… well, many… cynically disparage high-end fashion as being ‘just a label.’  A top is a top is a top.  I wonder how many of them have really paid attention to the elements of garment production. Probably very few; I’ve known a number of people who confess to being intimidated by high end fashion. Which I kind of get – my SO was suit shopping a few weeks ago, and doesn’t have a lot of options outside of Big and Tall stores, which he really doesn’t like for good reason. Their stuff tends towards the horribly unfashionable. I agreed to scout out some places for him to see what they have in his size, and when I came up to the super high end menswear shop in Vancouver (Harry Rosen), I paused. I didn’t go in. I was intimidated.

While a top is a top, and a jacket is a jacket, I’m starting to appreciate that it is the 20% that makes so much of the difference. So much of it is about the subtleties in cut, never mind the flattering placement of prints, and plaids that match. I once saw a D&G shirt with narrow pinstripes – which formed perfect chevrons at the darts. That kind of precision sewing is the difference maker. It’s the chains used in jacket hems, and the petersham ribbon used to cover a zipper. It’s the use of decent lining – not acetate – and knits that recover their stretch.

I now think maybe it’s that 20% that makes people what to throw up their hands while shopping. We can see the effects of the 20% in the different ways that jeans fit, but I think the frustration is that we generally don’t understand why there’s such difference. (sheesh, who outside of pants makers understands the subtleties of crotch curves and rises!?) Why does one dress look so much better on than another that, on the rack, would seem to be its twin?

All of this is useful to keep in mind as I’m marketing myself… I’m on the job hunt. Good times. 80% of us have roughly the same qualifications. We can all plan projects, use excel, be nice. I’ll have to pay attention to that 20%, and keep asking myself – what does my 20% say about me?


Can I Make it Better?: Thakoon Assymetrical Yellow Silk Dress

(source: Net -a-Porter)

This morning, I went up to the Bay’s “The Room” – upscale RTW – department to do a little snoop shopping, and to get a little inspiration. There’s some good stuff, and not as intimidating as Holt’s. I was drawn to this yellow silk Thakoon dress, with this nice seaming detail across the front.

However, if you’re wondering if that’s puckering, it totally is. The one I was looking at wasn’t really puckered – the seams were just *really* loose. Surprisingly so. On both dresses (at Net-a-Porter and at the Bay), there is some fierce puckering around the hem. It’s shocking, frankly.

In a lot of ways, this Thakoon dress reminds me of Vogue 1208:

1208 hasn’t got the seaming – which looks to be pretty hard for *Thakoon’s* sewers… nevermind me with my entry-level Janome. But 1180 (also Tom and Linda Platt) does…

Neither of the patterns have the Thakoon dress’ draping, but could the patterns be altered to include a bit?

In short, I love yellow, and I’m wondering… Can I take the Thakoon inspiration… and make it better?

Playing Fashion Editrix: Inspirations from the Spring 2012 RTW collections

As a sewist, I love to go through the fashion magazines – primarily Vogue – for inspiration, and this year, I’ve turned my attention to really working through the Spring collections. Using pinterest, I’ve been pulling together the garments that I particularly like, and it’s incredibly interesting to see the themes that have emerged. It’s like being a fashion editor! But I make no claims that these are ‘the’ trends – they’re just trends I happen to be drawn to, that I think will work for me (for instance, all of the high jewel necklines plus my fairly busty figure = a world of No), and hope to integrate into my sewing – for now, for spring, for sometime 🙂 I’ve also only gone through a handful of the collections that interest me – some based on name, some based on’s review. A sewist only has so much time on her hands, and some designers just don’t really appeal (p.s. J Crew + Fashion week = !?).

New York Fashion Week is done,  London Fashion Week is starting to heat up, and today, Milan is underway. Already, I’m noticing how little I know about British fashion – beyond Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, and whomever the Middletons currently favour. It’s a bit sad, really. I’m sure I’ll have so many more pins by the time the presentation of these collections is done and dusted!

Contrast trim

Marc by Marc Jacobs; Stephen Burrows; Pringle of Scotland

I don’t think I ever before realized just how much I love a contrast trim! Stephen Burrows’ red hem facing is fantastic, and  Pringle of Scotland’s dress = nouveau mod perfection.


Clockwise from L: Marc Jacobs x 2, Burberry x 2, Sass and Bide

It’s funny – as a buyer of clothes, I try to get away with as few pieces of outerwear as possible (and wear the hell out of them…), and yet I’m finding myself so very much drawn to beautiful jackets and coats.

Love Jacobs’ jackets!

  • The gingham is pretty and  fun, and I would not have thought of it on my own.
  • I chose the 2nd one for it’s short length, and also for that beautiful contrast trim.
  • Burberry’s coatdress was, for me, one of the standout pieces of that collection – and I’ve paired the image with the Sass and Bide on the bottom because clearly I’m loving that black-or-midnight-blue plus butter colour play.
  • I chose the other burberry mainly for that gorgeous wine colour – though I do love its fluidity as well. The skirt though?  That skirt must have gone down the runway a dozen times, and I think that if you have any lower abdominal fat, it’ll go very matron, very fast.

Navy plus Poppy

From left: Milly; Stephen Burrows; Milly; Sass and Bide

I am *loving* this colour palette, seen at Milly, Stephen Burrows, Sass and Bide – and surely elsewhere. After all, that’s one eclectic group of designers!

From left to right…

  • Milly’s prints are some of my absolute favourites, and I wish I had access to such extraordinary fabrics!
  • Love the red sleeve and assymetrical neck – plus the neck red binding @ Stephen Burrows.
  • This silhouette at Milly is so beautiful, and I love that contrast trim on the sleeves (and, of course, the assymetrical skirt).
  • Sass and Bide I chose, once again, for the colours. I’m happy to leave the bright pants for those who didn’t live through the early 90s. (P.s. I admit feeling a slight vindication that the early 90s retro trends are all about things like the colour block and not about the grunge. I just hope that the sheer black sleeves don’t make a comeback…)


From left: Z Spoke by Zac Posen, Vivienne Westwood Red Label, Pringle of Scotland

I flat out love assymetry – well, except in haircuts. And the left and right pieces – by Zac Posen and Pringle of Scotland (the top) – have what I think of as architectural elements that, at least visually, if not sewingly, i quite enjoy. I’m noticing my penchant for sharp edges and corners. Again – love them visually, but sewingly? I need to practice turning points and corners…

Westwood’s piece – it’s the top i love – shows a different kind of assymetry – a draping one – that I love equally if not more.


Left to Right: Christopher Kane; Milly

Or inverted pleats, no matter. I’m always searching for the perfect pattern…

Black Shine

Left to Right: Marc by Marc Jacobs; Vivienne Westwood Red Label; Pringle of Scotland

It’s wonderful when you surprise yourself by what you select. As a wearer – and launderer –  I’ve shied away from shiny clothing, ever since a pair of black sateen pants that, well, completely lost their lustre after wash 1. As a sewist, I’m developing a major – and healthy – allergy to cheap satins. And yet here I am, returning again and again to the shine…

  • The Marc by Marc Jacobs I pulled out mainly for the silhouette and colour contrast (blocking that works?). However, I do like the skirt, I love the heavy fabric, and am thinking that a black sateen mini is *perfect* for fall/winter.
  • Shirtdresses! Again, Always seaching for the perfect pattern, which I’ve not yet found. I had been thinking black eyelet, but maybe a sateen?
  • Had not expected to love Pringle of Scotland, but their looks this season are trim, but never prim. I particularly love the subtle light accents on the coat, and keep wondering whether it’s a little bit of white accent put in there, or all done by light. Nevertheless, I’m now thinking of a strategic white piping on a black coat.


Clockwise from left: Erdem, Oscar de la Renta, Erdem, KMid in Erdem, Nanette Lepore

Speaking of surprising oneself… I’m generally quite averse to lace, florals, and other things that move too easily from feminine to girlish. But there’s no denying that lace is absolutely everywhere – and not going away anytime soon. Clockwise from left:

  • first two: I’m really enjoying these lace/eyelet straight and pencil skirts. I’m not super keen on the Oscar de la Renta (on the right), but include it for comparison. That being said, the idea of a trim lace jacket is appealing… in the right lace, of course.
  • next two: Both Erdem, and very nearly identical. Admittedly, I only know of Erdem through KMid, and I do adore this Erdem dress she wore on the Canadian tour. I even admit to wanting to knock it off – only hesitating because I don’t really want to be recognized as wearing a KMid knockoff. I’m disappointed that Erdem showed very nearly the same dress this season. The colour is obviously a change, and it seems the sleeves are a little looser. Maybe the KMid is a stretch lace, while on the newer dress, you can see how the lace doesn’t cling to the model’s sleeves in the same way.
  • It’s not that I love this Nanette Lepore look, but I find it compelling…


All images from

coming soon – burdastyle peglegs. De rigueur, or de regret?

In April, I found myself on an impromptu, just get in the car and go trip to Victoria. And not a go upstairs and grab a few things then get in the car and go trip. I was at school, and we decided to take off. I had nothing but my laptop, my debit card, and a big bag of grading.

Which meant clothes shopping in Victoria. Which was kinda tough. Victoria is one of the towns that is so sleepy and dull on its surface that I’m convinced it must have a fantastic creative underbelly… if only you know where to find it. It surfaces sometimes… Smoking Lily, Rebar modern food, Swan’s brewery (oh the nights with the 50+ dance set showing off their dance moves. good times). But I’m still looking for it. At least for the clothing – or remotely affordable clothing – equivalent. I couldn’t even find an H&M, Zara or Old Navy. (I did find “Northern Reflections”!) I considered Jacob, but remembered my last pants-shopping experience there, and walked out. After two nights – the third day – I gave up and made a beeline for Aritzia.

Aritzia’s a funny old place. They have some affordable stuff, but no jeans under 200. And *the pants* they used to make for 70… they no longer do. I got a stunning jersey dress for $80. But not before I tried on… the pegleg pants.

The salesgirl suggested I try them, and I thought, honey. You see I have hips, right? But given her protests that they look good on many figures, combined with that tendency I have to do anything (legal) once out of morbid curiosity, I packed a silk crepe pair, along with a boat necked striped sailor top, into the fitting room.

And I kinda loved them. With the top. (It wasn’t the nautical nightmare it sounds like…) Not $125 or so kind of loved them, but kind of loved them. They were, as promised, kind of flattering. Still, there was no chance in hell I was going to pay nearly $200 for a change of clothes on my impromptu trip. I’d search up a pattern (never found one). I facebooked that night: pegleg pants. de rigueur, or de regret? Still wondering…

Fast forward to last night; work has been insane. Teaching means a contract always ends with a manic bang rather than a gentle tying of loose ends. When the fellow went into the magazine shop on our way home, I followed him in. Out with me came the Burda style magazine, July issue. A girl needs a treat.

It’s my first issue; I resisted buying the magazine for ever thinking, oh they post the patterns on anyway. Learned the hard way they only post some of them. And there are a lot that look pretty good in the July issue. And I hate taping the pattern pages. (We’ll see how I feel about tracing!)

I bought the magazine for a couple of tops, but it seems they’re also featuring… pegleg pants. And pegleg pants they rate as very easy. Pegleg pants they recommend in silk crepe.

The issue overall has inspired me to let go of ambitious sewing projects for the rest of the summer – after which time, I need to get started on a dress for a wedding. I want to make the kinds of clothes I often buy RTW – things with few seams. Uncomplicated things. Easy things.

Like burda’s pegleg pants, which sadly they haven’t put on the website. In a silk crepe. Which I’ve sourced for $10/metre. or is it 14? no matter. I’m making some peglegs. On my new serger (happy dance). Maybe they’ll be as disastrous as that night at the Roxy – the last time I let morbid curiosity guide my decisions. Colour me stoked.

Fall Vogues!

There are few things I’ve come to loving more in the sewing world than the buzz around each season’s new Vogue patterns!

I admit to being not particularly thrilled with this season’s offerings, and partly because it’s so very knit heavy. I think the first six dresses they show us are knits. I do love knits; my pre-sewing wardrobe is full of them – and not just in ‘basic’ t-shirts. But with this crop… I can already see the visible panty lines popping out of nowhere. How is one to get a sleek back view with Vena Cava’s 1258, for instance…

…without full body spanx? I love the front, particularly the lower half, though I’d be tempted to cut those ties in half (if not by two thirds). I’m also no fan of the peculiar shoulder strips.  My favourite out of the bunch is probably the rather similar DKNY 1257

though with the suggested fabrics of rayon/spandex and cotton/spandex – I’d probably do it in a bamboo knit myself – I’m worried about those lines again. It looks to be a good size too big for the model in the photo, and I’d want to chop those arms to 3/4 length.

I think I want to love 1261 by Alice  + Olivia more than I do:

all of that volume freaks me out a little. But what really struck me with this selection were what i think of as the linebacker dresses. The shoulders on Rebecca Taylor’s 1251 are looking mighty big

but even more so on the line drawing!

The model wearing its doppelganger, 8744

looks like an Olympic swimmer!  The swimmer silhouette is even more pronounced on the line drawings, while the the top of the skirt portion look so much like panties to me.

Ugh. And if two weren’t enough, here’s the dress from 8758…

Fitting into I want to love column is the Vogue basic shirt design, which I’ve seen a couple of people loving. I want to… I just can’t get down with the bust gathering. It isn’t even that I don’t like to emphasise my bustline, but the gathering just seems like such an obvious way to go about it. I’ll take a sleek fit and flattering neckline over that any day.