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6.02.2016

Spring into Summer with Flowers and Lace

"After women, flowers are the most divine creations."
                                                     - Christian Dior

Emilia Wickstead Spring/Summer 2016
Wildflowers of all different colors are in full bloom on the mountainsides of Colorado. It's quite fitting that this season's collections are adorned with flowers and lace.

Monique Lhuillier Spring/Summer 2016
Marchesa, known for their ultra feminine dresses, seems to include these two elements into each and every one of their collections and did not disappoint for spring/summer 2016. Burberry, Oscar de la Renta, Emanuel Ungaro, Emilia Wickstead, and Monique Lhuillier have all followed Marchesa's lead. Designers can't get enough of the flowery prints and have even sprinkled them throughout their latest collections for next fall.

Not only something pretty to look at, flowers have been incorporated into clothing from many different cultures around the world offering significant meaning and symbolism.

The peony is the national flower of China and represents wealth and honor.  It is often seen on Chinese paintings, national clothing, and decorations. Floral prints are also widely used in India and Japan (think of all the colorful flowers on a kimono). Do I even need to mention Hawaii?

Just like floral prints, lace has been around for centuries and was frequently used for both men and women's collars, shawls, and even to decorate door knobs. It was a popular clothing choice for Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century.

Quite a contrast from the buttoned-up and formal usage of the delicate fabric worn by the Queen, the Roaring Twenties transformed the textile into something entirely different. It was used to create a whole new look and controversial dress silhouette that encapsulated the free-spirit of the 1920s flapper girl.

This week I dug through my fabric archives and found an absolute gem that I had used ages ago for a summery dress. The new and improved design is made of the same black cotton lace. Using the flowers to my advantage, I carefully cut around their edges to accentuate the collar and hem. It isn't entirely symmetrical, but that's what makes it unique.

For my next look, I purchased a gorgeous floral silk cotton voile by Liberty of London from Mood Fabrics and made a dress with a dramatic collar and exposed shoulders. Every girl needs a pretty flowery dress she can wear to a summer garden party.

Made in Colorado

12.21.2015

Have Yourself a Merry Twenties Christmas

"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?" 

- Bob Hope

Actress Carole Lombard (1927)
The Roaring Twenties was a festive time and Christmas was no exception. Drop-waisted flapper dresses, jazz music, dancing, and lavishly decorated trees were all part of the 1920s Christmas experience. 

Much more round in shape than they are today, Christmas trees in the twenties resembled something that could've been extracted from the house of Herman and Lily Munster. The footloose and fancy-free flappers were not focused on decorations in early November. They were busy out dancing the night away and waited until Christmas Eve to set out their trees, which they garnished with cotton spun ornaments and strands of popcorn or beads.

In 1923, Calvin Coolidge was the first president to preside over the National Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Before him, the first actual tree in the White House was displayed in 1889 following the first Christmas party held in December of 1800 for the Adams's 4-year-old granddaughter.

The Fitzgeralds in Paris (1925)
Two of America's best known sweethearts from the twenties were F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. As did many budding artists of that decade, they spent a lot of their time in France. In 1925, they posed with their only daughter Frances Scott, commonly referred to as "Scottie," by a tree in Paris. In 1947, Zelda wrote a letter to Scottie about their past Christmases together:

"I remember the trees we had in Europe: one Christmas we spent drinking under the gold statue of Victor Emmanuel in Rome, lost in time and space & the majestic prettiness of that square before the cavernously echoing Piazza Cologna. The tree was covered with silver bells which rang hauntedly through the night by themselves…..and we had a tree in Paris covered with mushrooms & with snowy houses which was fun. There were myriad birds of paradise on the tree with spun glass tails. And Nanny kept busily admonishing us about the French customs: how they did not give gifts at Christmas but at New Years…..then we had a tree on the Avenue McMahon which Nanny & I decorated between sips of champagne until neither we nor the tree could hold any more of fantaisie or decor. We kept our decorations for years in painted toy boxes and when the last of the tails wilted & the last house grew lopsided, it was almost a bereavement."

Christmastime attire for a care-free girl in the twenties would have consisted of a classic flapper dress spruced up with lace, bows, and, of course, fringe. They would have completed the look by slipping on their finest fur-collared coat to keep them warm on a wintry, December night.

As I'm obsessed with all things from the 1920s, I chose lace and more lace for my two latest designs. It was widely used for dress overlays throughout the Jazz Age and has a soft femininity to it while being easy to work with while constructing a garment.

The first dress I sewed is made of black lace and mesh that I spotted at a local fabric shop. It has an exposed metal zipper running down the back. For the second look, I used a pretty blue lace for the top and an Italian woven for the skirt. It is fairly stiff, which worked well since I wanted to create some volume that would be perfect for a holiday party.

Merry Christmas!

Made in Colorado

10.07.2015

A Meadow of Wildflowers

"London is a riddle. Paris is an explanation."
                               - G.K. Chesterton

Longchamp Spring 2016
Paris in the fall. It's the place and season for fashionistas in the City of Light to get a firsthand view of what lies ahead for spring couture. Three collections unveiled this week that stood apart from the rest were Longchamp, Valentin Yudashkin, and Moncler Gamme Rouge.

Longchamp began in Paris in the 1940s and is known for their luxury luggage, handbags, and accessories. But at the Lonchamp show, Artistic Director Sophie Delafontaine asked, "And here are the handbags, in the back, if you’d like to see them, too?" Wanting to prove there is more to the brand than just their famous bags, a few models were sent down the runway empty-handed (gasp!). Luckily for Delafontaine, their women's ready-to-wear for spring 2016 was the real star of the show.

Moncler Gamme Rouge Spring 2016
Russian designer Valentin Yudashkin's new designs were eye-catching to say the least. He strayed from his usual monotone black and introduced many vibrant colors into his garments. The blend of neoprene and mesh combined with unique silhouettes resulted in intriguing clothing with a sophisticated edge. Yudashkin explained, "If you do it from the heart, the customers will follow."

And now the best for last. Moncler was founded in the 1950s and is mostly known for their practical, yet fashionable outerwear that is perfect for wearing in the crisp mountain air. In 2006, the now Italian-based brand created their first high-end women's collection and named it Gamme Rouge (followed by Gamme Bleu for men).

It's no surprise that I was immediately drawn to the latest Moncler Gamme Rouge collection. It was designed by Giambattista Valli, who masterfully crafts feminine dresses adorned with flowers and intricacies with ease. Moncler prides themselves on technological research to discover the best materials for their outerwear and the fabrics seen on the runway in Paris today were no exception. Ivory white was the color of choice. Light, yet crisp silk organza dresses complete with flowers and exposed metal zippers were the real showstoppers. Fittingly, models walked down a catwalk that was transformed into a green grassy meadow full of colorful wildflowers. It was the perfect setting to accentuate the beauty that Valli created once again.

Fall always puts me in the mood to drink a lot of coffee and sew. I made two dresses that are perfect for this time of year. For the first I chose a beautiful stretch cotton twill with a floral landscape print and sewed black floral lace onto the fabric for some asymmetry. I used a solid black twill with chiffon sleeves for the next dress. The chiffon is an exquisite Rag & Bone material acquired from Mood Fabrics.

Made in Colorado

8.06.2015

Celtic Couture

"I'm still astounded by some people's reaction to things I consider quite normal."
                                                                    -Jean Paul Gaultier

A foghorn booming in the distance, seagulls flying overhead, waves crashing, and bagpipes blaring all set the scene for Jean Paul Gaultier's fall couture runway show, where he transported the audience to Brittany, an idyllic seaside region in France. As models appeared wearing trench coats and velvet dresses, onlookers feasted on crepes that were passed around on trays.

Gaultier captured the area's rich history and Celtic heritage by incorporating stripes, large headpieces, and embroidery into the designs. He also introduced voluminous round skirts that Effie Trinket would like to get her hands on. They seemed to defy gravity and were a true work of art.

To end the show on a high note, a traditional pipe band appeared on the runway for the grand finale as Mr. Gaultier debuted the most extravagant gowns. They then proceeded to march off the catwalk following their flag.

After a busy summer with not a lot of sewing time, I placed a massive fabric order with Mood Fabrics. It's always like Christmas to receive a large box of brand new fabric. Two unique textiles that arrived with the shipment were a Rag & Bone black lace and a cotton material with an abstract black and white design.

I got to work draping and creating new patterns for a top, collar, and skirt. I used those new patterns that I had perfected for two dresses. The only difference is the gathered Rag & Bone black lace used as an overlay on the skirt portion of the olive green one. They will be great transition dresses as summer turns to fall.


Made in Colorado

4.30.2015

The Perfectly Imperfect Collection

"Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment."
                                                               -Alexander McQueen

The Spirit of the Rose. It sounds like a theme for a spring/summer line, but was actually the idea behind the latest Alexander McQueen 2015 fall/winter collection. The simple, yet powerful rose is one of England's national emblems. The British luxury fashion house described it best when saying the rose is "a symbol of strength and fragility, forever on the brink of dishevelment." This is the inspiration that creative director Sarah Burton based her latest creations on. She wanted to conceptualize "the frayed nature of reality and the beauty of imperfection" while deconstructing the female form to "discover the darkly romantic woman underneath."

The show was held at the Conciergerie on the banks of the River Seine in the heart of Paris last month. Once a prison and part of the former royal palace, the grandiose structure's interior architecture was the perfect backdrop for Burton's masterfully-crafted designs. Models entered the grand room to industrial-electronic music that wouldn't be out of a place in a sci-fi movie, and weaved their way through the stone pillars. They were styled with wildly tousled hair along with perfectly made-up faces that resembled doll-like features.

The extraordinary dresses displayed a color palette that included blush, bordeaux, and black. Tiered chiffon ruffles that mimicked the rose and deconstructed black lace that morphed into skeleton-like dresses beautifully captured Burton's story of romance and imperfection. Alexander McQueen, the fashion rebel himself, would've been proud of this magnificent collection. 

 The Alexander McQueen collection got me thinking about silhouettes that really flatter the female form. I decided to make two fit and flare dresses with cinched waists. I purchased a black stretch wool and a polka-dot brocade at Colorado Fabrics and designed two similarly cut dresses. They are both versatile and can be worn throughout the year for many different occasions. Plus, it's always great to have a few little black treasures hanging in the back of your closet.


Made in Colorado

3.10.2015

Flapper Fringe and Rocker Rage from New York to Paris

"People will stare. Make it worth their while."
                                          -Harry Winston

Marchesa Fall 2015
New York to London to Milan to Paris. With only a few designers left to debut their fall 2015 collections, fashion week is nearing an end. Some have pulled their inspiration from the 70s, while others were stirred by the Deco skyscrapers of Bryant Park. 

Saint Laurent Fall 2015
Known for their extraordinary dresses and precise attention to detail, Marchesa's Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig looked to F. Scott Fitzgerald for inspiration. Models wore dresses with dropped waists and were draped in beads, feathers, and tiers of fringe that wouldn't be out of place at a 1920s Gatsby party. 

Marchesa gowns are a staple on the red carpet, but Chapman insists that the "runway and red carpet are completely different things" to them. She said, "If someone contacts us and wants to wear one of these dresses on the red carpet, that’s wonderful, but the clothes today are really as ready to go to the Academy Awards this weekend as they are some party in New York." Either way, their dresses next fall will unleash every girl's inner Zelda.

The Saint Laurent show took place yesterday in Paris. Although tulle was present on both Marchesa and Saint Laurent's catwalks, the two collections couldn't have been more different. As a song by The Felines, a girl punk garage band out of Copenhagen, blasted from the speakers, models walked the runway. All of the looks were very rocker chic with ripped tights, biker jackets, and short skirts lined with tulle. Creative Director Hedi Slimane created something special that would make Debbie Harry swoon.

Last week I visited Colorado Fabrics and purchased a faux leather designer textile that came straight from New York. Using my dress form, I draped and cut a new pattern out of muslin. The fabric was a cinch to work with and already had a great backing to it. I added the white waistline with belt loops to break up the blue. It turned out to be a fun dress that can be worn in the spring or fall.

Made in Colorado