In the Navy

ImageJust as elegant but somehow more approachable, navy is the new black. I love how it pairs with both brown and tan (as in this Breton stripe top and classic trench).

I made this cotton voile circle skirt from the skirt portion of Butterick 4790 and added a wide waistband and lapped back zipper. The full silhouette is comfy, easy to layer with leggings for warmth and still looks ladylike with chunky boots.

Image

Best fashion accessory: My “I Voted” sticker. Hope you got one, too.

Yep, It’s Peplum (Vogue 8815)

Image In the three years since the peplum trend made its big comeback, two camps have emerged: You’re either for it or against it. ImageFor my part, I’ve never met a peplum I didn’t love — especially vintage 1940s peplum suits and retro-inspired numbers.

Vogue 8815 in polyester double knit, is a thoroughly modern — and fairly subtle — take on the waist-accentuating ruffle. How cute is it paired with a pair of skinnies and tall boots for a casual look? I shortened the above-peplum bodice length so that this would hit at a flattering spot on my hip (Hint: Not its widest point) and swapped in an invisible zipper in the back.

Very Berry (McCall’s 6162)

Image

Oxblood was the color of the season last fall. Even a year later, this broody berry (or moody maroon, if you please) is the perfect match for the changing colors of the leaves.

Image

This wine double knit has been awaiting the right time and pattern to make its debut. Enter McCall’s 6162. I love the lined bodice, the just-below-the-knee length (hello, attractive calves!) and of course those fashion-forward armhole bands. The original pattern called for a back zip, but I omitted it. The knit was stretchy enough for pullover ease.

I Sew Because…

I had a few reasons I started sewing. The most important — which I may or may not have already mentioned here — was out of love and longing for my seamstress great-grandmother. I got my sewing machine on the fifth anniversary of her death.

But there is another reason I sew: I freaking love clothes. And as a larger size woman, I felt as though I was being told that I wasn’t allowed to do so. Or at least I was not allowed to own anything I loved.

If you’re a plus-size woman, you’ve already heard the million reasons why it’s simply impossible to make clothes to fit you. Everything from “It costs more in more materials and time” to “Not all size 16s are built the same.”

What I’ve learned from sewing and sewing blogs is that neither are all size 6s. (I also learned it doesn’t really take that much more yardage to cover my enormous body.)

When I started sewing, it was like the whole world opened up. It was enlightening to fully own my measurements, which oddly enough, I didn’t even know before. I knew my weight, my BMI and ready-to-wear clothing size, but not my bust, waist, hips, inseam length or upper-arm width.

Here’s what’s terrific about knowing those things now: Being a size 14 was limiting. Having a 39-inch bust is liberating.  In my head, my clothing size was all the things I wasn’t or couldn’t do, including fit in most straight sizes or wear most plus sizes. Sewing, and thinking about my body in concrete, not subjective numbers (an inch is an inch is an inch) allows me to embrace dressing myself – and to know it’s the clothes that need adjusting to fit my body, not the other way around.

Spring/Summer Palette Challenge 2012

It seems that only one force is great enough to bring me back to my sewing machine after a too-long absence. The Colette Spring/Summer Palette Challenge.

To be fair, I actually have sewn quite a bit in the last few months…all blogging evidence to the contrary. It’s just that very little of it has been for my own wardrobe. First, I took a hand-sewing class at FIT, a local college, where I handmade a silk charmeuse half slip with lace trim. Then, I worked on a local theater production and hemmed pants and sewed buttons like a demon. But my own fall and winter wardrobe benefited very little from all this handiwork.

I think it’s time that changed, don’t you? It all started with an image. Before the announcement was made that the palette challenge would be back on, I found myself drooling and dreaming over this beautiful photograph:

Image

(Photo from Lena Hoschek catalog.)

Images of summer on the Isle of Capri filled my head. Wearing white eyelet sundresses while riding around on a bright orange Vespa (with a picnic basket full of bread and fresh olive tapenade, of course). Blue skies, puffy white clouds, tranquil turquoise waters and gorgeous, deep green foliage dotted by yellow, pink and red blooms. Ah, beautiful. Now I’ve never been to Capri — and I’m not sure that’s where this photograph was actually taken — but it’s how I imagine it would be.

And then I discovered that my daydreaming of Italia had already manifested itself in my small fabric stash. In fact, some of the very same colors that filled my fantasies were part of my Popsicle inspired 2011 Spring Palette Challenge. I guess these are just the colors that say summer to me.

Image

I’m actually glad that I’m feeling inspired by a similar set of colors as last year. It means that my modest collection of 2 pieces (a jacket, a blouse, and a skirt) will have some coordinating items this summer.

Now to figure out what those items will be.

Style Icons: Wallis Simpson

A recent post over on the Coletterie blog has me thinking extra-hard about style icons. These are the women who I hope to channel when I wiggle into  a pencil skirt, pair it with a frilly little blouse, clip a white silk flower into my hair, and top it all off with a gold salamander bracelet.

Mine is a somewhat diverse list, probably best tackled one at a time. Starting with:

Wallis Simpson

The late Duchess of Windsor and I have very little in common. For starters, I can hardly get a fella to spring for dinner and a movie, while this American divorcee had would-be king Edward willing to abdicate the British throne.  Not to mention the fact that only one of us has any real concerns about being either too rich or too thin.

But when it comes to fashion, I grok Wallis.  Bean-pole thin (by choice) without a hint of girlish curve, she admitted to not being the prettiest or even sexiest girl in most rooms. What she lacked in a comely bosom, though, she made up for in style. Something in the way she wore sensible 1940s skirt suits or supremely modest evening gowns in only the most luxurious — almost lickable — fabrics was both stark and strangely sensual. The way she never had so much as a windblown hair or smudged red lip spoke volumes about this dame’s approach to control. How could Edward possibly resist such whip appeal?

Wearing the Cartier Bird of Paradise pin

But my hands-down favorite thing about Wallis Simpson is her daring approach to accessorizing. She had the balls to mix her austere garb with layers of sumptuous furs and downright sinful jewels. Oh the jewels!  When her collection went up for auction last year, it included an onyx and diamond panther bracelet, a ruby, emerald, sapphire, and diamond bird of paradise pin, and a solid gold necessaire du soir (that’s evening clutch for us non-royals). All made by Cartier or Van Cleef and Arpels, natch.

She lived through nearly nine decades of fashion, always adapting her style. Slim skirt suits gave way to New Look, which gave way to caftans, and ultimately pastel colored pant suits. Still, she never lost her essential Wallis-ness.

Here she is wearing the panther bracelet.

I hear that Madonna is working on a biopic of the Duchess due out this year. I can’t wait to drool at the fashion. In the meanwhile, I’d love to sew something inspired by one of my favorite style icons. Feel free to weigh in on the comments if you know just the pattern. I would love something like this:

What comes first? An age-old debate

I have mentioned that I read a lot of different sewing blogs (see the links over there on the right for just a few). One common theme I notice among them is that many of my fellow sewists have sizable fabric stashes. Not this chica.

As much as I wish I could surround — even swaddle — myself in yard after yard of printed pretties, my cramped NYC digs just won’t allow for that. Yet somehow I have an enormous quantity of patterns. Don’t believe me? Check it out: Continue reading