Friday, September 28, 2012

In Progress: Little Black Dress

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I was pretty proud and excited yesterday, because after four months, nine (ten?) muslins, and approximately a zillion fittings, the body of my black dress design is done.  I've become a cautionary tale at school - "Fitting can be really difficult - just look at Cory, she's on her eighth muslin!" - but the results are so, so worth it.  To say I love it would be an understatement: it fits absolutely perfectly in the bust and waist, the pockets are just what I envisioned, the neckline is beautiful... and it will just look better in real fabric.

We had to do a lot of fitting work in the underbust area since my ribcage is much smaller than my full bust measurement, but all of those little tweaks really paid off.  I'm also really happy with the pockets - I added some extra width to the body of the skirt near the side seam, then blended it back down into the original skirt shape to make the pockets stand out a bit more - and I think that the exaggerated shape at the hip helps to balance out the full bust and emphasizes the waist a bit, too.

 Now all I have to do is make some puffed sleeves, and the patternwork is done!  I'm also planning to make a little skirt version in some grey wool I have in my stash.  And this way I'll be able to jump into the black dress construction class next week too.  A very encouraging way to end the week!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Outfit: For a Fashion Show

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So tonight I'm covering an independent designer fashion show on the Eastside for The Glamour Wire, a  Seattle-based fashion blog that covers local designers, fashion events, trends, and more. You may remember that I wrote a guest article for the site back in March, and when Rachael contacted me about writing about Bellevue Fashion Week, I jumped at the chance!

Then I had to figure out what to wear!  I'm in a bit of a closet slump - or maybe I'm just having a spell of sartorial confusion? - but I still have a few pieces that I always reach for when the occasion calls for fancy.  I actually posted this dress not too long ago - with these shoes, even! - but it's such a great look that I wanted to duplicate it.  The dress and corduroy coat are both vintage, and the pumps have a vintage feel, so I left my hair down to update the look a bit.

I'm also wearing a necklace I got at Bumbershoot - it's made of a small brass whistle and two old coins on a long brass chain.  I am sort of a sucker for jewelry made of old things like keys and baubles.  And now that I think of it, I totally subconsciously stole this idea from Joan Holloway:


Fitted purple floral print dress: Vintage, from Doubletake Vintage in Issaquah
Black corduroy coat: Vintage, from Ratsy's in Oberlin
Blue pumps: Fluevog Brevas
Whistle necklace: Love Nail Tree

Monday, September 24, 2012

Repaired: Strappy Summer Dress

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So I actually finished this repair a while back, but it was one of those things that wasn't quite perfect enough when I first finished it, but upon revisiting the repair job, it was totally fine.  The initial pre-repair post is here, but in short, it had gapping in the armpit, a surplice top that wouldn't stay closed, and cheesy bra findings in the straps that kept on breaking.

The fabric is actually very pretty - a lightweight printed cotton - and the rest of the construction of the dress is excellent.  The bodice is fully lined in a complementary print, and the skirt is lined in a plain cotton.  It was frustrating that the dress had so many cool details, but it was made unwearable by a few little things.

So what did I actually do?


The first order of business was to remove the cheap plastic findings in the adjustable straps, shorten the straps to the appropriate length, and sew them down permanently.  I ended up doing two lines of stitching and then backstitching for reinforcement.


The next modification I made was probably the easiest of the three.  This dress has a surplice neckline, and originally the two sides of the upper bodice were simply crossed over and sewed onto the waistband.  I found that this gapped a lot in the bust, especially since most gathered bust cups like these tend to have too little coverage for me.  So I figured out how the fabric wanted to lay, pinned the two sides together, and sewed them down along the drawn-thread detail.  It still has the surplice look, but it fits much better now!


After I finished that, I wanted to tackle the gapping between my bust and my armpit.  I pinned out darts on both sides, took the dress off and measured the dart placements and lengths, and then averaged the two measurements, marked, and stitched them down.  This was actually the point that I got stuck at - I wasn't happy with a bit of bubbling that was happening at the end of the right bust dart, so I shoved the mostly repaired dress back in the closet without the threads clipped and figured I would revisit in a while.

Four months or so later, I pulled the dress out again, pressed the crap out of the darts and tried it on, and didn't notice any bubbling.  I secured and clipped the loose threads and called it done.

There is still one major thing I'd change if I wanted a better fit from this dress, but given the construction it's not really possible.  The cups on the upper bodice are still a bit shallow and high for my bust, so I would make them fuller and lower the waistband if I could.

Overall, though, the fit is so much better that I can't complain.  The cold weather has already started to hit Seattle, so I won't get to wear it until next year, but that's okay - I'm just glad it's out of my repair basket!

Friday, September 21, 2012

WIP: Flower Market, in Oberlin

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I cast off Spruce Forest the other day and needed a new project to take with me to Oberlin, so I cast on for a Flower Market Shawl in some Madelinetosh Prairie.  This colorway is called Byzantine, and the more I knit with it, the more I like it - it's technically red, but it also has brown, burgundy, and some deep purple in it.  The fabric is pretty crumply so far, but I can tell that it's going to be stunning when it's blocked.

My friend Ethan gifted me this pattern on Ravelry a while back, and I think it's very fitting that I'm knitting it in the shop where we spent so many hours hanging out together!

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So this is the first time that I've been back to Oberlin by myself since I left for Japan in summer of 2010.  Lumberjack lived with me during my last semester of school, and then we both visited in April.  This time, I'm staying with a good friend while Lumberjack is home working.  I miss him a lot, but it's also been nice to sort of reacquaint myself with the town, and to reflect on who I was during my time here and who I've become.  I don't recognize many of the students anymore, but I've been running into professors, bosses, and people who work in shops I used to frequent - and it really is like coming home in a lot of ways.  I'm glad that college is over, but Oberlin has become a lot more than just my college town - it's become part of my identity.

So this trip has been really good, mostly because of the people I've been spending time with, but also because yesterday I went thrifting with my friend Sparkle... and found my wedding dress.  I'll share that story later, but I will say that a lot of factors had to line up correctly for me to find it, and it seems sort of magic that they did.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Brooklyn Tweed Loft for Cropped Sweater

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On our recent adventure to Bainbridge Island, I bought enough Loft in the color Hayloft to make a little cropped cardigan.  In fact, the reason I wanted to go to Churchmouse was to get yarn for two hand-knit sweaters that will be part of my line in April!  They didn't have the other color I was hoping for - a dark grey called Soot - but I am really happy with this color.  The finished cardigan is going to be worn with a full cream skirt with a peach-colored eyelet overlay - a bit of an unusual color pairing, but I'm pretty excited about it.

So I'm doing two cardigans for my line, and they're both v-necks with lace and cable patterning; one is cropped, and the other is mid hip-length.  When I was starting to think about the fabrics and yarns that I'm going to use, Loft was at the top of my list - it's light and warm, and comes in an amazing range of colors.  I was really excited when I started looking at color cards and realized that all of my colors were represented.  I also really like the idea of juxtaposing a very wooly yarn with more refined fabrics like silk crepe and charmeuse.

Cropped cardigan
I have five full looks with technical drawings, descriptions, colors and pricing, which I'm hoping to start sharing as I finish planning and start creating them.  The line as a whole is very swishy and girly, with both rustic and refined touches.  I have a difficult body to fit in contemporary clothing, but I love vintage clothing from the '40s and '50s, so I decided to make my line very hourglass and pear-friendly by using inspiration and style lines from that era, and my colors and aesthetic concepts are very inspired by Japan and Indonesia.  I'm really excited to continue sharing my progress!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rat in a Drawer





We had a rather relaxed weekend, including a trip with knitting friends to Churchmouse Yarn & Tea, a fabulous yarn shop on Bainbridge Island that stocks Brooklyn Tweed yarns and patterns - and happened to have the Fall collection in as a trunk show.  Needless to say, we tried on a lot of woolies!

Sunday morning Lumberjack and I slept in and had Mackie out for a bit.  He managed to jump over to an open drawer, and he was just sleepy enough that I caught a few shots of him.

I've been doing a lot of knitting, and tomorrow I'm off to Oberlin for a short break before jumping straight back into school again!

Friday, September 14, 2012

WIP: Spruce Forest; Life

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I am not a neat person. I never really have been.  I have a lot of clothes, a lot of yarn, and a lot of ideas, and sometimes this translates into a messy apartment - and most of the time, that chaos doesn't end up on this blog.  I have mixed feelings about this, because nobody wants to see outright filth, but sometimes I wonder how honest it is.  Because the truth is, although I like to share what I'm working on with a perfectly neutral background, the clutter is both a reality and a big part of my working process.

So the exception is that I go on weird cleaning benders when I'm stressed out, which happened a lot in the first few months we lived here - but lately the apartment has stayed more cluttered than clean.  The reasons are complicated, but the short story is this: I've been struggling with fits and starts of depression for the last year or so, and two things have improved that situation greatly in the last few weeks.  First, is that I've been working really hard at school, and I am a much happier person when I'm busy.  Second is that I finally went to my doctor to get a medication changed, and after a bit of a rocky start, the results have been like... well, like I have a brand new shiny lease on life.  Yay.

So because I've been busy at school, I haven't been knitting as much.  But yesterday I went to my local yarn shop and sat and knit on Spruce Forest for a few hours, and it was glorious.

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I finished the body and started picking up stitches for the edging yesterday, so it's looking a little like a big knitted bag right now.  Nancy Bush's instructions are wonderfully detailed, so there's no guesswork when I just want to knit and not think about how to do a particular technique.  I'm going to be a little sad when the shawl is done, because it has been such a pleasure to knit - the yarn, pattern, and resulting fabric have combined to make a near-perfect experience that exists so rarely in a knitter's life.

Well okay, maybe I won't be too sad, because the only thing better than knitting a kickass shawl is wearing a kickass shawl!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Outfit: Zip Dress & Rocket Ship Heels

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Please excuse my hamming, hahah.  I went out to a ballgown presentation this last Saturday, and decided to wear this dress.  I bought it several months ago in Oberlin and I've worn it once before to a birthday party, but since I rarely get to dress up, I like to take advantage of every opportunity!  When I bought this dress, I had these exact shoes in mind - they're not the most comfortable heels I own, but they are pretty foxy.  I just love heels with ankle straps - they provide extra stability, but also look awesome.

The dress is Samuel Dong, an independent designer whose clothes I tend to love - I also have a blouse and a coat of his. All of them have some element of draping in them, and all of them use unusual fabrics.  I was drawn to this dress because of the zipper that goes all the way from the hem of the dress to the back of the neck, as well as the draped hip detail.  The fabric is a poly knit and has a really nice weight to it, so it's fun to wear!


Ever since I started reading Sea of Ghosts, I've been inspired by the minimalist styles and layered rings that Alicia wears, so I decided to wear all of my rings.  They don't all go together, but I almost think that makes them more interesting to look at.  On my pinky is a little flower-and-butterfly ring I bought at a temple flea market in Kyoto; on my ring finger, a spiral ring I bought for myself at the Juneteenth festival in Oberlin in 2009; and on my middle finger, a really cool ring made of three intertwined coils of silver that Lumberjack bought for me a few months before we got engaged.

This outfit held up to several hours of socializing and a bit of dancing on the sidewalk near the school, so I'd call that a success!

Black Zip Dress: Samuel Dong
Rocket Ship Heels: Heavy Machine Schizophrenic Crossovers
Earrings: Tasi
White Double-Wrapped Belt: Daisy boutique in Issaquah
Rings: Various street vendors and a boutique in Oberlin

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dressing For Body Shape, Sweaters Part II: Things That Work

So a couple of weeks ago, I posted Part I of this series on dressing for body shape and talked about things that don't work for my particular body shape.  First off, I wanted to thank you all for your positive response.  This is definitely a work in progress for me, and I really appreciate hearing your feedback!

You can also check out Ellen of A Pile of Sheep's super interesting response post here.  She had the excellent point that a garment can still work despite having certain unflattering elements, as long as the good points outweigh the bad.  I definitely agree, and there's even a few examples of that in this post!

Also, there's a sentiment that I've often seen expressed on body-image-oriented style blogs that I think is super important: if something doesn't make you look perfectly stereotypically attractive, but you love that garment and it makes you feel beautiful, or cool, or powerful, screw the rules.  The only person who dictates your sartorial choices is you.  I sometimes have a hard time applying this one to myself, but the more I think about the act of wearing, the more essential it seems.  In the end, comfort, safety, and self-care trump arbitrary rules of figure-flattery - even self-generated ones.  Period.

So for Part II, I went to my closet and found sweaters that I really, really like and that I find myself wearing a lot, and I broke down the elements that could explain why.

Part II: Does Work, and Why!

1.  Waist Emphasis

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Although this sweater has raglan shoulders, I actually love it and find it really flattering.  I think the reason it works is twofold: first, fabric choice - a lightweight cotton knit that reduces the potential for bulk in the upper arm - and second, the fact that eye is drawn to the torso rather than the shoulders through the use of cables in the body.  The cables both physically and visually draw the sweater in at the waist, and the 3/4 length of the sleeves similarly draws the eye to the waist area and away from the shoulders and hips.

You can really see my shape in this sweater from the side, which I appreciate - I have relatively small underbust and natural waist measurements, but they are often upstaged by my lower, full stomach.

The neckline is round, but wide and deep enough to show some collarbone.  I think that a v-neck would not be as effective with this particular design - it needs a bit of roundness to complement the verticalness of the cabled motif.

I have actually thought about trying to design my own take on this cable motif, as I think it could be very flattering on a variety of body types: gently curved cables would soften a rectangle figure and emphasize an hourglass or triangle's curvy shape and small waist.

2.  Neckline and Hip Detail

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This sweater surprised me with its wearability.  I bought it for about $5 when I lived in Ohio, thinking it could be a good layer if not a very attractive sweater, and I ended up wearing the crap out of it last winter - and enjoying how it looked to boot!

The style is definitely one of more ease than the last sweater.  This one serves a pretty different purpose, though - where the last sweater is more of a stand-alone top, this sweater is generally layered over other things.  I wear it over dresses or with jeans and a t-shirt in the winter to stave off the cold, so it needs to have a bit more ease to compensate.  And it is 100% wool, so it is fantastically warm despite being relatively lightweight.

One of my favorite things about it is the keyhole at the neckline.  It makes it more fun to look at than a standard crewneck, and the bow and little flash of skin has the same effect as the ruffled button placket on my pink mohair blouse - it balances the roundness of the crew neck and draws the eye to my face without overfly emphasizing the roundness of my chin.

Also, it's a set-in sleeve - although my shoulders look narrow (because they are!), they don't look disproportionate.  The eye is drawn to the shoulder point at the seam rather than to the upper arm.

It also has a little band of embroidery and beading around the hipline, and I have actually found this to be a nice detail - it's so light it could probably do without it, but it does keep the eye from getting lost in the large amount of material in the body.  It also balances the full bustline by drawing attention to the hip.

Although you can't see my waist, there's a bit of implied waist created by a gentle amount of waist shaping at the side of the sweater.  This doesn't have a very high impact on the side view of the sweater, which is not as flattering as it could be - I wonder if dart-like waist shaping, below the bust instead of simply in the side seams, would help this problem?

In any case, this is a lightweight and warm little sweater, and I love it.

3. Line and Drape

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This is an unusual cardigan, but it's been a staple in my wardrobe.  It's basically a long rectangle with two wide sleeves in it.  Although it looks grey, it's actually a black and white striped garter stitch, and it's really easy to throw over simple outfits or layer with other interesting draped garments to play with volume and proportion.

The sleeves look to be somewhere between 3/4 and bracelet length, and as with the sleeve on sweater #1, it draws attention to my waist.  And although this isn't quite a kimono sleeve, I do think it hangs very much like one - and there is something very graceful about the way they skim the body and then fall away.

Although the shoulders sometimes seem a bit too big and can sometimes lay funny on my frame - especially when I'm wearing particular garments - there's enough going on in the neck and bottom of the sweater to draw attention away from them.

I think the most effective thing about this sweater are its lines.  The neckline draws attention to the face first and then down the body, and the black cuffs and hemline ground the whole thing.  And I think the long, straight lines of the sweater are a good balance to my shorter, curvy ones.

4.  Fit and Decorative Detail

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I love this cardigan - it singlehandedly kicked off an obsession with beaded sweaters!  It's a rather cropped sweater, so it works best with high-waisted separates or dresses.  But actually, my favorite part of this sweater is the waist-length hemline - it's just enough sweater to be an accent without weighing down the rest of the look.

So, this one has a crewneck, which is usually elicits a big flaming "no" from me - but then the whole neckline is upstaged by the sprinkling of beads across the shoulders and chest.  This design detail was very popular in the '50s, and I love how it livens up what would otherwise be a pretty plain sweater.

The sleeves are a little weird, but I actually really like them - I had actually misremembered them as dolman sleeves, but the low armhole definitely could give that impression.  I like that the ease from the extra fabric near the armhole allows for a little more movement, and I think that overall it makes the silhouette of the sweater more interesting and less fussy - it softens what would otherwise be a very prim shape.

Although the shoulder of this sweater is slightly dropped, the seamline is high enough to be flattering - the shoulder is narrow, but it's not overpowered by an over-emphasized upper arm.

Overall, the detail around the neckline and the nicely defined waist balance the full bust and generally give a soft, romantic impression.  Yay for this sweater!

5.  Strong Shoulder 

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This was a vintage store find in Oberlin, and I fell in love with it the moment I put it on.

This is one of the very few sweaters in which every single element works perfectly together, in my opinion.  The strong shoulder and boatneck neckline balance my full chest and bring attention to my neck in a really lovely way; the body fits well but not too tightly; the lace yoke provides a subtle change in texture that keeps the upper body interesting.

The sweater is pretty fitted overall - there are several inches of negative ease in the hip, 0-1" of positive ease in the waist, and 4" of negative ease in the bust.  I always feel really comfortable wearing it - it shows my figure, but not too much, and has a vintage feel that always makes me feel just a little dressed up and special when I wear it.

Take-Home Message:

So here's a summary of stuff I've learned from these two posts.

Non-flattering elements:

Raglans, saddle shoulders, yoked sweaters, and some drop shoulders.  Heavy fabrics.  Lack of waist definition.  Crew necks.

Flattering elements:

Vertical elements near round necklines.  Waist shaping or emphasis.  Lightweight fabrics.  Neckline and/or hip details.  Long, straight lines.  Plenty of ease in arm.  Vintage detailing and style lines.  Detail at or near shoulder point.

As mentioned before, these are not hard-and-fast rules; they're more like guidelines that can help steer me in the direction of sweaters that will fit and flatter my body in a way that I enjoy.  I will always allow for the idea of a spectacular rule-breaker!

Stay tuned for Part III, in which I'll talk a little bit more about making less-flattering sweater styles work!

Friday, September 7, 2012

WIP: Storyboard, Technical Board, and Lookbook


Sorry for the recent silence!  My life as of late has been taken over by storyboard class - the last two days I've spent 7 hours a day at school working on my mood board (above, not quite finished!) and the flat sketches for my technical board, which will have garment descriptions and color swatches in addition to the flat sketches done on Illustrator.  After that, I need to put it together into a lookbook that summarizes all of the technical board information.  All of this is in preparation for a presentation of the plans for my collection this fall. I've actually been having a lot of fun with it, but it is a massive amount of work, and there's still way more to be done!

I've also decided that I'm going to try to do the fashion show this upcoming spring, which means I'm going to have a lot more long days at school and less time to post on the blog - so, I'm considering cutting posts down from five a week to two or three.  Keeping this blog is really important to me, and I want to make sure that I'm making quality posts, so that might mean they are slightly more sporadic in the future.

I'm hoping to get the second installment of the body shape series done this weekend, so stay tuned.  Hope everybody had a great week!