Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dressing for the 1920's

Prom is a big deal. For those of you who don't know about this, it's a tradition here in the US for high schools to hold a formal dance in the spring time just for the 11th and 12th graders, also known as the Juniors and Seniors. Though an underclassman can attend as a date, without this invitation, the dance is traditionally open only to the upperclassmen. The girls go all out, planning every step of what she and her guy will be wearing, and these days the two must match, at least in color, if not also in theme! It's like the Oscars for high school.

This week I got an email from a friend of a friend seeking a resource for a prom suitable 1920's sewing pattern. I gathered that the daughter was eager for the stereotypical dress style, as fringe was mentioned as part of the necessary details. It's true that a sheath dress with fringe is a great costumers quickie for conveying this time period, but is it really a major fashion detail? Opulence was in style for sure. Here's a photo of typical dresses from the 20's taken from a display at Indiana University.

So if you are looking at those dresses, or even one of those coats in the back and feel a tinge of envy, here's a great resource for true vintage patterns:  The Vintage Pattern Lending Library. These have been copied from the original source -  the instructions are also copied from the original. I have purchased patterns from this source, and the patterns are exactly as I expected them to be. The sizing is limited, but the styles are growing. I hope you'll take a moment to look around and find a great pattern to try. The next time you go out, you too can be dressing for the 1920's!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sewing and Stitchery Expo 2012 and GIVEAWAY

About 15 years ago, when Expos were a new thing and I was still in college, I went with an Aunt to the now famous Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington. At $2 a pop, we could take a class from any number of well known sewing educators. We left with notebooks full of information, agreeing not to return until we'd fully utilized the information we'd collected. That experience feels like a lifetime ago, and since then I've become an educator myself. It was time to make good on my commitment, so early this month Tricia and I took a drive up north to visit the show on Saturday where she and I were to participate in the ASG style show.

Because I would have a second change for the show, I decided to come ready for my first scene, wearing an embellished version of Southern Belle. Right away, Rhonda Pierce of Schmetz Needles introduced herself. I told her that my favorite needle is the Microtex, but I forgot to mention the double needle sewing on the yoke of this dress. Can you see it here?

 Then I stopped off at the WSU booth who introduced me to Rita Farro, who does the blogging, networking, and marketing for the show. She is a delightful person, and has a fabulous smile.

Soon it was time to line up for the fashion show. The runway prattle is made up from the questions I answered on the show application. My jaw dropped instantly when I heard "...and Laura has been sewing for 40 YEARS!" Everyone laughed. The MC added with a smile "I didn't write that!" I'm sure I look my age, but did they have to announce it? lol.

Being an avid Project Runway fan, I secretly hoped I'd get a chance to talk to Suede, whom we know from Season 5. He works for Simplicity now, and would be doing a stage presentation.You see, I would have liked to ask him what it was REALLY like to be on  Project Runway. I had applied to be on the show some years back, just about the same season he was there. It's just as well I wasn't accepted because the retro genre was not doing very well with the judges at that time. For a split second he looked at me and looked as if he would come my way, but thought better of it and turned away.  

Throughout the day I browsed the booths and stopped to talk with friends, acquaintances, complete strangers, giving away a few patterns of the Clara Bow Apron. It's incredibly easy to talk with people with a love for sewing in common. One really young girl, probably still in middle school, stopped me to say she liked my skirt. I gave her a sewing pattern. She looked at me in bewilderment. "But I only wanted to say I liked your skirt!"

1920's Clara Bow Apron
I have 5 Clara Bow Apron patterns that I'd like to give to you, my little dwindling group of followers here on blogger. (I suspect it's from severe neglect!) Hopefully this will make it up to you. This means that YOU have very good odds of getting a pattern. All you need do is:
1) be a follower
2) make a comment here about sewing topics you are interested in, OR the topic I've written about that you enjoyed most.
IF you want extra entry points, you can:
3) "like" on Facebook
4) sign up for the newsletter

Do it before April 4, 2012. I'll draw 5 names from a bucket on April 5th.
 Good Luck!

Post update: thank you for your entries, kind words, and suggestions. Best of all, Congratulations to the winners!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Design lines and an asymmetrical body

I managed to get myself into a discussion about center front seams and asymmetrical bodies. The question is: should you follow the center front of the body, stay vertically straight, or choose some other line? In severe cases of asymmetry, my argument is for the creation of a center front line that "appears" to be centered, but isn't really centered on the body, or to the floor. I would rather stay away from straight lines on the front myself, but they cannot always be avoided. Here is my crude drawing of a hypothetical figure:

This one shows the true vertical and horizontal in case your eye is fooled:

What is your opinion?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tutorial: switching from darts to elastic at the waist.

Several years ago I had a student in my fitting class that complained bitterly about a figure "flaw" she called a  "bubble butt." I thought it a pretty good description for the figure type that also belongs to me. Because clothing for the masses do not accommodate a generous back bumper, I knew first hand the difficulty she was experiencing. She asked me "How do YOU deal with this?"  My rule number 1: I do not ever wear elastic, or anything for that matter, that is not fitted with darts at the waist. The one exception is garments made from knits. A soft and drapey fabric won't pooch out like an umbrella, over, above, below my waist. But not everyone needs darts the way that I do, so who can get away with elastic? Kids!... And others who have a tubular figure, with waist and hips that are of similar shape and measurement, a flat rear, or are wider at the waist than at the hip.

I would venture to say that you will never see me designing a style with an elastic waist, just because everyone can wear some version of a dart, but not everyone should use elastic. If you are one of the lucky ones to be ambidextrous, or prefer to make and wear elastic, fear not: it's incredibly easy to turn darts into an elastic waist, but not so easy to do the opposite. In 5 easy steps, here's how: (click on the photo to see a larger view)

That's it! You can use this same procedure for almost any fitted garment. Questions about that? just ask!