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A Royal Christmas

“What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary."
                                                                        -George Bailey, It's A Wonderful Life

All eyes will be on Kate Middleton today as she joins Prince William's family and experiences her first Christmas with the Queen. Each year, the English royals spend the day at Sandringham, a private estate that has been owned by four generations of British monarchs since 1862, located in Norfolk. The Duchess of Cambridge, well-known for her impeccable taste in clothing and stunning Alexander McQueen selections, certainly did not pack light this Christmas. According to royal etiquette expert Jean Broke-Smith, “Kate will need a casual outfit for breakfast, a smart outfit and a hat for the morning church service, a dress for lunch, a cocktail dress for early evening drinks and a full-length dress for the evening meal.” No lounging around in pajamas for the newlyweds!

Queen Elizabeth loves keeping to tradition and this year will be no exception despite Prince Philip being in the hospital. Every year, the family exchanges gifts on Christmas Eve, attends a Christmas day service at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham Estate, and partakes in a pheasant shoot on Boxing Day (a holiday celebrated the day after Christmas). The Queen's annual Christmas speech will be broadcast to the Commonwealth this afternoon.

As we celebrate Christmas, one of my favorite Bible verses from the book of Acts comes to mind, “It is more blessed to give than to receive." My mom is the most giving person. She spends more time doing things for others than for herself, which has made for an outstanding role model. I wanted to do something special for her this Christmas, so I spent the last couple of weeks sewing two tops and a jacket to give to her today.

Merry Christmas!




Carousel in Paris

“I love to take things that are everyday and comforting and make them into the most luxurious things in the world."
                                                                       -Marc Jacobs

Louis Vuitton's Spring 2012 fashion show last October was magical. It took place in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Those fortunate enough to attend the event were seated around the runway wondering what was concealed behind the giant white curtain. The show began when the curtain rose and revealed a magnificent, customized merry-go-round with models perched side-saddle on white horses. First a cranking sound, and then music you'd expect to hear coming out of a Cinderella music box filled the air as the carousel sprung into action. The models gracefully dismounted their horses one-by-one and walked the runway. According to Marc Jacobs, creative director for Louis Vuitton, “There's a carousel in the Tuileries, and I'm a hopeless New York Francophile, and it's very Paris ... It's also a bit of a metaphor about this cycle of fashion and how it goes around and around, and regardless of what your references are, whatever you choose to look at, it's just cyclical."

The dresses were 60s-inspired and very feminine while featuring delicate intricacies that did not go unnoticed. Jacobs described his designs as “soft, soothing, gentle, light, tender, feminine, airy, loving." The pale colors complemented by white accents worked well with the laser cut fabrics. Kate Moss finished off the show looking stunning in a laser cut lace dress adorned with white feathers. Although Louis Vuitton's carousel show was not conventional, it will not be forgotten. The event can be seen in its entirety on YouTube.

Laser cutting and burnout are two similar applications that can be applied to textiles to give them a unique look. I purchased a cotton burnout jersey from Mood and used it for a top. The burned out parts of the fabric are sheer, so I lined it with a nude jersey. I made a gathered skirt to pair with the top and sewed black piping into the waistband. This wasn't the first time I've worked with a burnout textile. A top I posted a few months ago was a burnout knit.




A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous."
                                                 -Coco Chanel

Once referred to as Posh Spice, Victoria Beckham is now creating posh clothing. She and her family moved to Los Angeles several years ago, the ideal location to continue building her fashion empire. In 2008, the same year Victoria was the face of Marc Jacobs, her first fashion collection debuted at the Waldorf Astoria for New York Fashion Week and 400 dresses were produced. Clean lines and simple silhouettes keep her designs looking chic and sophisticated. Earlier this week, she won Designer Brand of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in London. Victoria once said, “If I set my mind to something I do it. My biggest wish for all of us is that we are happy, successful, and that we stay true to ourselves." In her book, That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything in Between, she wrote, “I've always been the girl next door who got lucky." No kidding!

I gathered up my fabric scraps from the dress I made last week and had just enough for a skirt. I wanted it to be structured and interesting, so I cut a unique waistband. I paired it with a black top I made several weeks ago. The collar is scalloped along the top and outlined by a pleated ribbon with a tulle border. I prefer the all black look, but for the purpose of this blog post, I also made a simple top using a light pink fabric to better accentuate the architectural lines of the skirt's waist. The striking contrast of pale pink and stark black are a perfect combination of hard and soft.



America's Queen

“One is never over-dressed or underdressed with a Little Black Dress."
                                                                -Karl Lagerfeld

Although some may still be indulging in turkey and pumpkin pie leftovers, the Christmas season is upon us. With Christmas parties just around the corner, it is time to search for that perfect LBCD (little black Christmas dress).

I just finished watching The Kennedys and was fascinated by Jacqueline Kennedy's (played by Katie Holmes) life as a wife, mother, and First Lady. She was a style icon and her popularity with the American public spiked after John F. Kennedy was sworn into office in 1961. Some referred to her as “America's Queen." Although the media sugarcoated her and JFK's life together, she experienced some hard times. Fashion designer Valentino once said, “Few women in history have captured the imagination the way she did, and it was Jackie’s courage and grace that have made her image an enduring one. She was an original, an icon.”

Jackie got into the Christmas spirit her first year in the White House by choosing a nutcracker theme for the tree located in the Blue Room. She was photographed by the tree wearing a stunning red dress alongside JFK. Little did Jackie know at the time that, still to this day, First Ladies would keep up with the tradition she started in 1961 by selecting an annual theme for the White House Christmas tree.

I was inspired by the A-line dresses and houndstooth prints Jackie wore in the 60s. I combined both of these elements into my dress design. Although Jackie usually wore colorful dresses, I chose a black fabric with a sheen to it. I sewed piping into the collar for added structure.

'Tis the season for a LBCD! 




“Style is primarily a matter of instinct."
                                             - Bill Blass

Bust out the bagpipes. Plaid, also referred to as tartan, was adopted as the symbolic national dress of Scotland in the 1700s. Although it is mostly associated with Scotland, it is a pattern staple in the fashion world and seen on everything from socks to wool coats. Burberry, a luxury British fashion house, has become famous for its timeless trench coats and signature plaid. Making its debut at fashion week, the beloved pattern will be a major trend for menswear in 2012. Marc Jacobs has embraced eye-catching plaids in his upcoming collection while Gucci has perfected the plaid suit for spring/summer 2012. Then there is David Hart, a tie master in New York City, who makes handcrafted plaid ties that are truly inspiring to look at.

I purchased a wool blend boucle fabric online without ordering a swatch first. When it arrived in the mail, the plaid was more striking in person than I could have imagined. I'm happy with the end result, but the process of making the skirt was challenging at times. The edges unraveled at a rapid speed and I almost sewed my finger off at one point! All that aside, I love the skirt and if I get tired of it, I can use it for a game of checkers.



Luxe Meets Practical

“Design is a constant challenge to balance comfort with luxe, the practical with the desirable."
                                                                           - Donna Karan

From dollar bin t-shirts to avant-garde fashion masterpieces, the clothing industry is full of extremes. Mass-produced clothes with little to no design elements exemplify the definition of shoddy workmanship and will most likely develop a hole after one or two wash cycles (you know what I'm referring to!). I once bought a sweater from a street vendor at Notting Hill's famous Portobello Market in West London. I wore it once and tossed it into the washing machine like the label told me to do. When I retrieved it, it had literally disintegrated into pieces. The lack of quality construction was appalling.

The other extremes are haute couture and avant-garde. Haute couture is clothing of the highest caliber. It is custom made for a specific customer using only the finest fabric and often has hand-sewn elements. In the fashion world, the term avant-garde means an innovative creation that pushes the boundaries and has never been done before. It is often a radical fashion statement with an over-the-top design. Think Lady Gaga. These garments are exquisitely made and mesmerizing to look at coming down the runway, but not sensible for everyday wear.

There is a middle ground where luxe can be practical without being boring. Many designers including Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, and Donna Karan have built their fashion empires by creating clothing that is comfortable and appealing. I ordered a stunning printed fabric and it just arrived in the mail this week. I thought it would be more versatile to make separates instead of a dress, yet still pass as a dress when worn together. I added a high collar to give the top an interesting and modern vibe.


The Perfect Textile

“The finest clothing made is a person's skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this."                  
                                                                             - Mark Twain

One of the most exciting parts of creating a new garment is finding the perfect textile and figuring out how to transform it into something spectacular. Textiles are made from fibres that range from organic and natural to synthetic. Local fabric shops are great for buying thread, zippers, or the occasional yard or two of fabric, but, at least in Kansas, their apparel textiles are sparse. I buy the majority of my fabric from Mood Designer Fabrics located in New York City's garment district. They have an amazing online selection and give customers the option to order swatches before making an “all sales final" purchase.

Jersey Blend Fabric
I bought this beautiful ruffled charcoal and black jersey from Mood. My initial thought was to run the ruffles horizontally, but then I had the idea to drape them vertically. It made a world of difference to simply rotate the fabric, which then gave the top a textured look. I paired it with a simple black skirt that I made this week.


Simply Lace

"Fashion comes from a dream, and the dream is an escape from reality."
                                                                -Christian Dior

Once used in the Catholic Church for religious ceremonies, lace is now seen on apparel, lingerie, and even shoes. There is a feeling of ultimate femininity when wearing a beautifully sewn lace dress. Its delicate features and intricacies keep designers interested and coming back for more. Dior, Chanel, Betsey Johnson, and Dolce and Gabbana, to name just a few, have all featured lace on the runway. 

I decided on a simple silhouette when making this dress because the lace speaks for itself. The lining is shorter than the bottom of the dress to give it an airy feel. Surprisingly, the lace was a delight to work with.



Little Black Dress

“Fashion has two purposes: comfort and love. Beauty comes when fashion succeeds.”

                                                         - Coco Chanel

In 1926, Coco Chanel transformed a color that was associated with mourning into a chic little dress. American Vogue called it “Chanel's Ford." It was sophisticated and timeless. There have been many adaptations to Chanel's charming black dress and they have become staples in every fashionista's wardrobe.

While watching Project Runway last week, I saw how one of the designers cut their fabric to create a circle skirt. I wanted to try out the technique, so I decided to create my own version of Chanel's little black dress.  I worked diligently for hours and was amazed with the end result. Never underestimate the little black dress.



Houndstooth has been used for apparel throughout many decades and made popular by fashion icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Jacqueline Kennedy. It originated in Scotland as did many other eye catching patterns. The most widely used houndstooth is black and white, but there are numerous color variations. I love houndstooth for apparel because it can look fun and edgy, but still classic. I made a top and skirt this week out of two very different textiles, but with the same houndstooth color scheme. I paired the skirt with a top I made this summer. 
Top: Ponteroma Knit with
Exaggerated Houndstooth  Print
Top: Striped Cotton Jersey
Skirt: Houndstooth Woven Wool


Summer and Fall Looks

I spent the majority of my free time this summer sewing. Here are a few of the pieces I designed.


Sewing Machine

Phil bought me a sewing machine several years ago and I finally managed to open the box last fall and put it to use. At first I couldn't sew a straight line if my life depended on it. I struggled to cut fabric into the right shapes, so I eventually bought a dress form and began draping, pinning, and sewing. I still don't know what I'm doing half the time, but the clothes I'm making are starting to fit better.

So far I've successfully made tops, skirts, and dresses. I haven't bought a form with legs yet and I don't want to succumb to buying a pattern, so I still haven't made a pair of pants that fit properly. I've started pants twice and both times they ended up in the trash. I had a funny sewing fiasco this summer when I attempted to make a shorts romper. My dress form has a shorter torso than I do, so the romper was pulling in unfortunate ways. I modeled it for Phil and we couldn't stop laughing.