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J'Adore Dior

"Everything I know, see or hear, every part of my life is transformed into dresses. They are my daydreams, but they have passed from dreamland into the world of everyday items to wear."
                                                                  -Christian Dior

Christian Dior Spring 2018 Couture 
In my early twenties I worked at Saks Fifth Avenue in Kansas City and purchased a little sleeveless top by Christian Dior that read, "J'Adore Dior." And to this day, it's still one of my favorites. The design house has seen many creative directors come and go since Mr. Dior stunned the world with his debut collection in 1947. Carmel Snow, editor of Harper's Bazaar at the time, fell in love with Dior's silhouettes that had so much volume, yet minuscule waistlines. She said, "It's quite a revolution, dear Christian! Your dresses have such a new look!"

Dior's current artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri is adamant that the company needs to be about female empowerment as she demonstrated throughout the spring 2018 couture show. The black and white checkerboard runway set the scene and looked like it was snatched right out of a Tim Burton film. Dresses mirrored the two-toned floor in eye-catching prints for a dramatic effect and the result was much edgier than previous collections.

Springtime always puts me in the mood to sew. I haven't done much sewing since last spring, but I got inspired the last few weeks and started to make a dent in my ever-growing pile of fabric. I made some new patterns out of muslin while draping on my dress form and got to work.

The first three looks I created are light, airy, and full of color. I experimented with different necklines and hemlines. For the top of my fourth look, I sewed a two-way zipper into the top fabric that can be unzipped to expose the black fabric underneath. And then I continued sewing with my go-to black and white palette while throwing in a little dark blue for good measure. I saved the sparkliest fabric for last, which made me think of Art Deco. I was initially going to make a twenties flapper-style dress with it, but decided on a cinched waist with a fuller skirt that will be perfect for a night out.

Made in Colorado


Versace's Couture Metamorphosis

"I think glamour all the time. I wake up in the morning and I'm already thinking glamour."
                                                            -Donatella Versace

Versace Spring 2017 Couture
The first haute couture house in Paris was established in 1958 by Englishman Charles Frederick Worth. Rather than being simply a dressmaker, he was an artist. There have been many more to follow Mr. Worth, including the rocker-glam leader of the fashion world, Versace. 

Gianni Versace started his clothing line in the late 70s and debuted his first couture collection in 1989 while always keeping his family working closely alongside him. From the very beginning, Versace used innovative materials in his designs, such as metal mesh and a unique blend of rubber and leather. 

Gianni's sister, Donatella, has kept Versace going strong through the years and did not disappoint with the latest couture designs based on the theme metamorphosis. There were short dresses paired with gladiator sandals and long gowns showing off hourglass silhouettes that were the epitome of glamour. Using fresh construction techniques involving knots, pleats, metal, and organic elements, each piece was loaded with texture. Just as the theme suggested, Versace's couture collection was inspired by the beauty of transformation. 

I dusted off my sewing machines and started creating again. I designed everything from one-piece rompers and dresses to pants and graphic tops. Using matching white and black fabrics, I even created some of my own prints by making a checkerboard-like pattern and sewing stripes onto fabric. The end result was a mini capsule collection. 

Made in Colorado


Fit for a Mad Tea Party

"You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are."
                                                                     -Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and, of course, Alice. Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is full of memorable characters. The mastermind who helped bring them to life in Tim Burton's film adaption and its recent sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, was designer Colleen Atwood. She deservedly won an Oscar for making Alice in Wonderland's costumes ever bit as extraordinary as the cast.

One of the biggest challenges for Atwood while coming up with design ideas was Alice's continuously shifting shape. "We made a decision that as Alice shrunk and grew, her dress would not," says Atwood. "Alice had around eight looks, and multiples of most of them, so there were around 20 hand-made costumes. The script and idea of Alice as an exploring spirit really inspired me." 

In one scene, Alice shows up to the Red Queen's court, eats a bit too much cake given to her by the White Rabbit, and completely outgrows her blue dress. The Red Queen (played by Helena Bonham Carter) spots her hiding behind the bushes and orders, "Someone find her some clothes, use the curtains if you must, but clothe this enormous girl!" Alice is then given the very Burton-esque, asymmetrical black, white, and red dress.

The Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp, is a bizarre character that has literally gone mad. When coming up with a vision for the character, Depp found that hatters would actually go a little nutty from the glue they used because of its high mercury content. He then made a watercolor painting of how he envisioned the Mad Hatter's appearance. At the same time across the globe, Burton came up with a sketch that was very similar to Depp's. When designing the Hatter's costume, Atwood spared no detail and even incorporated all the tools of his trade into the designs, such as scissors, thimbles and a pin cushion ring. 

Atwood and Burton have been working on projects together since Edward Scissorhands. May their whimsical masterpieces continue for many years to come. 

My friends are throwing a mad tea party this week inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (costumes, teacup breaking, and all). Since I love Tim Burton films, I chose to make the dress Alice is given when seeing the Red Queen. And that is when I fell down a rabbit hole . . .

The black and white striped fabric used for the original costume is beautiful and it was difficult to find something similar. I ended up buying a striped chiffon from Etsy along with a lot of tulle, taffeta, cotton twill, cording, and ribbon. The total amount of fabric came close to 20 yards. 

I only had photos from a Google search to use as a guide to create this costume. Due to the limited number of hours I had to make the dress, it was lucky for me that the original design by Colleen Atwood was made to look like it had just been thrown together on a whim. It was perfectly undone. By the end of it, I was cutting fabric pieces haphazardly without even measuring them and randomly tucking in bits of the skirt in the back just as Alice's dress is in the movie when she shrinks once again.

Fittingly, constructing this dress made me go a little mad. 

Made in Colorado


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


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


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