Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I was thrilled when an Etsy member contacted me recently about making her a really special fishtail skirt for her birthday, which just happens to fall right on Halloween! Given the happy coincidence of birthday and Halloween celebration, each year she goes all out when it comes to her special costume. This year my client decided to dress up as a mermaid, inspired by Kim Kardashian's 2012 Halloween costume, which is really lovely:

I designed both a calf-length and maxi-length fishtail skirt a few years ago which I sell in my etsy store, but I usually make it in ever-popular black woven fabric (with spandex for extra wiggle);  making it in bright emerald green foiled spandex was going to be fun! Never having sewn spandex costume fabric before, it was going to be a great learning experience as well.

 One thing - I didn't like the way the Kardashian skirt dips down in the front at the knee, as it looks a little awky; I was sure the indentations from knobbly knees would show through the spandex with that cut, plus, it would most likely impose a Morticia-like shuffle on Katelyn (my customer). So, we both agreed we'd stick to my original design which has a rise both centre front and centre back, as being generally more graceful and practical.

The next task was to track down some drapey chiffons in varying shades of green with which to make the fishtail fronds. Do you think I could find any green chiffon ANYWHERE??? No! Nothing, zip, nada - obviously green is out this year. It's times like these that I wish I lived in New York or somewhere, where there's an infinity of fabric choice! Eventually I found a great pleaty grass green georgette, which I decided to layer with dark green organza. I was less than happy with these replacement fabrics before I actually got the skirt mocked up, but once I saw the complete effect my worries were put to rest:

My client decided she wanted to get happy with a glue gun, clam shells and pearls and embellish her own mermaid bustier, so I've shown the skirt with a lovely dark green sheer lace top. Here's a side and back view, showing the lovely flow to the organza tail:

I ended up hand sewing (with pin-prick stitches) the top organza layers to the skirt, as machine zig-zag stitch produced a clunky ridge of stitching that sort of puckered and distorted the lovely flow and drape of the spandex. I found that out the hard way, having to unpick the entire thing, each zig by zag, as the thread would not pull through the grippy spandex. It turned out well in the end - I just love the frothy, floaty mermaid tail!

This was a really fun project - I can't wait to make more costume-style clothes now!

#mermaid skirt  #fishtail skirt#  #Kim Kardashian mermaid costume #Halloween costume

Monday, June 3, 2013

I love Mid-Century Swimsuits!

Mid 20th century swimsuits are such fun! I love the ingenuity of how designers and home-sewers got around working with non-stretch fabrics (usually pure woven cotton), and all the pretty details you find on old bathing suits. It wasn't unusual for a home-sewer to sew her own swimsuits; I remember my mother making bikinis for us both (I have fond memories of a yellow gingham bikini with broderie anglaise trim).

It seems to me that contemporary swimsuits are much less ingenious and interesting, design-wise, and less pretty, due to the laziness that comes with lycra, I suppose, and also with mass-production. I have to say, though, the larger manufacturers have finally got the hint that we really love VINTAGE and are now offering super cute, up-dated versions of vintage-style swimsuits (a gorgeous VELVET - yes, velvet! - swimsuit offered by modcloth is a case in point). They're making lycra versions with cute vintage detailing, like high waists, frills and bows, 'modesty' skirts, ruching, nautical inserts and wrap ties; however, I've yet to see any made from woven fabrics.

So, like a few other handmade garment sellers, I've decided to make a more serious foray into making woven cotton vintage-style swimsuits. They'll feature shirring and elastication (with swimsuit elastic), boning, longer leg lengths, bias cut bottoms for ease, sarong skirts, white cotton linings, zippers, buttons, and removable, button-on straps! Although not necessarily all on the one suit ;)

Here's the first, a Hawaiian Sarong Swimsuit faithfully made from a hard-to-find vintage 1950s swimsuit pattern:

It's made from vintage fabric (35" wide cotton) sporting the classic Hawaiian motifs of skiffs, palm trees, islands and waves in a restricted palette. It has a zip and hook and eye up the side and is fully lined in soft, white cotton, just like the originals.

It has really interesting darting at the centre bust of a kind I've never seen before and which produces almost a bullet-bra point (hard to see due to the busy print). A cute pleated sarong skirt covers the built-in bias-cut bloomers.

I'm really happy with this suit! My model loved it and really enjoyed wearing it for the photos. It's for a size 42" bust - go here to check it out in my store:

Next post: Vintage swimsuit No. 2!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Half and Half Dress

The Half and Half Dress is something I've been thinking of for a while. I came across the very well known and extremely coveted Advance pattern 6238 (from 1949, I believe) after I'd actually drafted my own version:

I made my first half and half dress from black moire taffeta (for the overdress) and bubblegum pink taffeta for the strapless underdress, which I made as a fitted sheath. I decided to put buttons all down the side of the black overdress; the plan was to cover the buttons in the contrasting pink moire - snazzy! I was on the home run with it when I slipped whilst slitting one of the buttonholes, creating a huge gash in an awkward spot on the overskirt and effectively ruining the whole thing :( 
I was so upset about it that I put off making another (yes, possibly a bit of an over-reaction)...until NOW. I came across this wonderful rose petal fabric and bingo! was inspired again:

I had some amazing pink coated fabric in my stash that I thought would be wonderful with it! It's a candy pink stretch woven cotton that has a pale pink pearlescent coating on it. It feels cold and strange and makes an interesting papery swishing! Here's the dress:

I'm so happy with it! And the great thing is the pink underdress, or perhaps foundation dress should I say, is lovely on its own as well.

I plan to do another very soon, possibly in black and white. I'll also perhaps do a combo of two different coloured halves and a sheath...the possibilities are endless!

Find it here: