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Velvet Underground

"I would drape myself in velvet if it were socially acceptable."
                                                                -George Costanza (Seinfeld, "The Label Maker" episode)

Saint Laurent Fall 2014
Hapless Seinfeld character George Costanza is a man of simple pleasures. All he wants out of life is a free meal, a private bathroom, and to be covered head to toe in the most unlikely of materials, velvet. It is not only the Costanzas of the world who favor the buttery soft fabric, but also royalty. Queen Elizabeth wore a 21 foot long violet, velvet train for her coronation in 1953. It took 12 embroiderers, 18 types of gold thread, and 3,500 hours to complete. It was truly fit for a queen. 

Saint Laurent's Velvet Cape (Fall 2014)
Designers are going gaga for velvet this season and using it in a chic and modern way. Emilio de la Morena paid homage to his Spanish roots and incorporated colorful shades of velvet combined with ruffles and ruching. It was a series of amazing cocktail dresses that any women would want. My absolute favorite velvet pieces this fall/winter came from Saint Laurent. All of the dresses and coats were impeccably done. Earlier this month, Angelina Jolie draped herself in Saint Laurent's black velvet cape. It could be hanging in your closet for the princely sum of $3,190.

The festive fabric is the perfect choice this Christmas as it conveys a sense of richness, royalty, and warmth. "Velvet has jewel-tone colors and a rich, luxe touch,” said Market Editor Chelsea Zalopany. “The luster of the material gives a touch of seasonal flair during the holidays, like the velvet bows at the recent Chanel pre-fall show." 

Following a recent trip to my local fabric shop in search of the perfect stretch velvet, I came home and began constructing a pair of pants. After finishing them, I had enough left over to make a top. Inspired by old diamond paned windows, I incorporated lace and created velvet strips for the panes. After thinking about how the modern jumpsuit is overtaking the LBD, I decided to turn my separates into a one piece. After painstakingly ripping out the zippers and shortening the top, the two pieces attached together with ease. 

I also made a top using an old go-to fabric. This time I positioned the stripes horizontally and sewed black strips down the front and on the sleeves to change the direction of the wool and give it a unique texture. 

These two looks will be perfect for sipping eggnog this Christmas and ringing in the new year!

Made in Colorado


Leather Up

"If I could dress anyone, I'd like to dress the Queen - she can handle anything. I'd put her in black - she never wears black - and add a little leather, maybe. A little rock n' roll."
                                                                      -Donatella Versace

Each fall and winter, leather hits the streets and every fashion magazine proclaims it to be THE trend of the season. It's no surprise that this "trend" never fades.

Made famous by rebel rousers James Dean, Marlon Brando, and The Fonz, leather jackets gained popularity in the 40s and 50s as actors wore them on the big screen. Although they didn't outfit the masses until the later-half of the 20th century, leather jackets were worn by aviators and military men in the early and mid 1900s. They strategically chose leather for the "bomber jacket" to protect pilots from extreme weather conditions while cruising at high altitudes and often incorporated fleece for added warmth.

Gucci Fall 2014
On November 26, 1967, The Observer published an article that began with, "Leather and suede used to be thought of as typical point-to-point gear for middle-aged, middle-class women." Describing current leather as "smarter, younger and cheaper" than in previous years, it went on to say, "This year's leather look is brisk battledress, sinister SS, or early aviator: coats are worn with high leather boots and gauntlet gloves."

A few years later, Debbie Harry casually posed on the beach wearing a leather vest. Then in 1974, Punk magazine founder Legs McNeil reacted to The Ramones' dress choice, "They were all wearing these black leather jackets…They looked so striking. These guys were not hippies. This was something completely new.”

Just like in years past, leather is abundant. From Paris to New York, everyone from Kate Moss to Gwyneth Paltrow is roaming the streets in leather leggings, jackets, tops, skirts, and dresses.  The edgy textile is not limited to black/brown or fall/winter these days. It is seen in all colors of the rainbow and even on spring dresses. A little something for everyone.

Apart from a pair of pants or a jacket here and there, my leather purchases have mostly consisted of shoes, handbags, and belts. A fabric shop that I recently discovered nearby sells hides. I purchased a black one for the bargain price of $30 and had enough to incorporate it into three designs: a dress, a skirt, and a top.

This week, I paired the leather with a novelty wool to make a skirt. The way I patterned the piece makes it wearable two ways: either with the zip in the back or on the side. I also made a blue top and added leather at the neckline with three buttons. For a price like that, you can't go wrong.

Made in Colorado


A Haute Halloween

"No matter how many modern parts I do, people still refer to me as Mrs. Costume Drama."
                                                                    -Helena Bonham Carter

Commes des Garçons Spring 2015
Halloween is lurking around the corner and couture costume ideas are aplenty. From Marie Antoinette to a twenties flapper to Marilyn Monroe, there are numerous options for the fashion-conscious. Heidi Klum is the master of creative costumes. Over the years, she has transformed herself into Cleopatra, Lady Godiva, a crow, and a plethora of other extravagant characters. When it comes to Halloween festivities, she spares no expense.

The New York Times posted an article this week on their fashion and style page about Halloween costumes inspired by high fashion. My favorite look shown on their Pinterest board is an extraordinary red hooded cape that graced the runways at the recent Comme des Garçons spring 2015 show. Little Red Riding Hood, eat your heart out.

If you prefer an understated Halloween ensemble, there are many ways to pull together a chic look while avoiding an actual costume. I was recently perusing online retailers and found some great pieces that embrace the spirit of Halloween without being too literal. One of them is Alexander McQueen's black hooded cape sold on It is a great statement piece that can be worn past October 31st without looking gimmicky (if I had a spare $2,695 lying around, I would snap it up).

Another combination for the costume-shy is Michael Kors' black stretch-wool and silk-georgette gown paired with Bottega Veneta suede pumps. It screams dark and mysterious and wouldn't be out of place on Mrs. Count Dracula. My favorite Haloween-esque couture design is a skirt by Oscar de la Renta. I can just imagine Lily Munster wearing it while at a gala with Herman by her side.

Over the past few days, I have been on a sewing binge and designed a dress, a striped top, and a cape. I used a polka-dot wool boucle and added a bit of leather to make a dress. It was the first time I have ever bought a real leather hide and I could easily become obsessed. It was easy to work with, blended well with the wool fabric, and does not fray.

I also used the polka-dot fabric and combined it with a black camel's wool to create a cape. Then I layered it over the striped top and paired it with some pants that I made last year. The best part about these separates is that they are all interchangeable for mixing and matching. You won't see me dressed as a vampire this Halloween, but I will be donning a cape.

Made in Colorado


From Pinball Games to Woodstock: Inspiration for Spring 2015 Collections

"I want to empower women. I want people to be afraid of the women I dress."
                                                    -Alexander McQueen

Marchesa Spring 2015 RTW
Givenchy Spring 2015 RTW
At London fashion week, the design duo for Marchesa, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, celebrated the label's ten year anniversary at their spring 2015 ready-to-wear show. Chapman and Craig wanted to honor British icons. Fittingly, Georgia May Jagger, daughter of The Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, was the first to grace the catwalk. “She really embodies the spirit of the new collection,” said Chapman. “It’s a little bit gypsy, a little bit Woodstock and a little bit rock ’n’ roll.” Marchesa is known for their feminine chiffon dresses adorned with flowers and ruffles. Although inspired by the late sixties, this collection was still full of romanticism that Marchesa is known for.

In contrast, the late Alexander McQueen liked to explore the dark side when designing clothing and had a theatrical flare. Creative director Sarah Burton looked to McQueen's love of kimonos for her inspiration this season. She incorporated exaggerated chrysanthemum prints on pretty dresses and paired them with gladiator sandals. Apart from the disturbing face masks, this collection was astonishing from start to finish.

In Paris this week, Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy turned out a truly amazing spring collection. The styling was nothing less than perfect with black over-the-knee boots and free-flowing, boho-esque locks. When asked what his inspiration for the collection was, Tisci replied, “Flipper—the old computer pinball game—the black-and-white graphics.” How can you go wrong with lace, leather, riding coats, and pinball?

This week I wanted to make a complete look that would be fitting for the ever-changing day-to-day autumn weather. Using a Rag & Bone cotton woven fabric, I sewed a dress with a playful silhouette and included cap sleeves. Then looking to the Seargent Pepper suits worn by The Beatles as inspiration, I designed a lined coat using a Marc Jacobs wool blend tweed. Beatles biographer Jonathan Gould wrote that the Sgt. Pepper costumes "spoofed the vogue in Britain for military fashions." My coat is not as military-inspired or outlandish as the ones worn by John, Paul, Ringo, and George, but it is brightly colored, knee-length, has an exaggerated mandarin collar, and is fitted with a slight flare at the bottom. Puts me in the mood for "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

Made in Colorado


Jumpsuit Fever

"Anyone can get dressed up and glamorous, but it is how people dress in their days off that are the most intriguing."
                                                 -Alexander Wang

Jumpsuits have made a comeback the past few years and are still going strong in the land of high fashion. The adult onesie has been around for the past century and embraced by luminaries such as Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Audrey Hepburn for its style and comfort. Even Winston Churchill was famous for his "siren suit" that noted London tailors Turnbull & Asser custom made for him in blue, red, and green velvet. The one-piece-wonder is not only fashionable, but is also worn for its practicality by skydivers, race car drivers, and stage performers.

Yigal Azrouël Spring 2015 RTW
Along with other online luxury fashion retailers, has a great selection of jumpsuits for fall 2014 including designs by Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, and Rag & Bone. One of my favorites is a Saint Laurent wool-gabardine tuxedo jumpsuit listed for $3,291 that is currently sold out. "The great thing about the jumpsuit is you can embrace the high-low method of dressing – wear them with brogues or heels," says's buying manager, Suzanne Pendlebury. "They make an outfit in one, which makes life easy."

Others think the jumpsuit is giving the LBD a run for its money. It is versatile and easily transitions from day to evening. It is even being seen as a replacement for gowns on the red carpet at award shows. There is something utilitarian about the one piece look that acts somewhat as a uniform and feels empowering to wear.

With New York and London fashion weeks behind us and the beginning of fashion week in Milan, we have already seen a multitude of jumpsuits walk down the runways for spring 2015. Marc Jacobs showed loose fitting one piece militaristic pantsuits in shades of green while Yigal Azrouël opted for a more feminine lace version.

This week I designed my first pants jumpsuit. I've made one piece shorts playsuits before, but never attempted pants. As I just tweaked the pattern I recently made for a black and white top, it was quick and easy to construct the top portion of the jumpsuit. I added some blue piping and included four blue buttons down the sides of the cuffs for a pop of color.

Constructing this garment was all about measurements and getting the proportions just right for the perfect fit. It is a great transition piece for fall and will lessen the time I have to spend picking out separates in the closet (although more time spent zipping back up in the ladies' room).

Made in Colorado


High Fashion Dolls and Mannequins Unite

“The woman is the most perfect doll that I have dressed with delight and admiration.”
                                                            -Karl Lagerfeld

Behind every great collection is an enticing marketing campaign. My husband and I are what you would call magazine junkies. We look forward to the days when the latest issue of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, InStyle, etc. (in his case, Outside and Men's Journal) arrive in the mail. There is something thrilling about opening a hot-off-the-press magazine and excitedly flipping through its glossy pages. Not only do I enjoy perusing the articles, but also poring over the ads.

Season after season, many fashion houses repeat the same old campaigns with little room for surprise - such as Calvin Klein's go-to black and white, Prada's vibrant colors with an artistic flare, and Dolce and Gabbana's luxury party scenes in the Italian countryside or by the sea. Rarely does an ad have the startling power to halt my incessant page flipping and cause me to take a second look. That's exactly what happened the first time I saw Alexander McQueen's 2014 spring/summer designs come to life in print.

The photo shoot starred Kate Moss - her first time to grace an Alexander McQueen ad -  and was captured by photographer Steven Klein on the streets of East London. Inspired by the sixties thriller "Peeping Tom" by Michael Powell, the adverts had an overall dark and foreboding vibe. Maybe this had to do with the disturbing miniature Kate Moss doll clone with shockingly yellow hair that was wearing high fashion McQueen designs? Whatever it was, it was a marketing act of genius.

Although more than a little creepy, the Kate Moss figurine had nothing on the enormous Blythe dolls used in the display windows at Bottega Veneta stores worldwide to model their 2014 spring/summer collection. Creative Director Tomas Maier said, "The collection is about freshness and Blythe is known for her uniqueness as well as her sense of style, wears it effortlessly and with confidence. The result is surreal, reflecting a dynamic combination of elegance and modernity." 

The dolls were created in the seventies and later bought by Hasbro. They are wildly popular in Japan and have freakishly large heads and eyes. It's not surprising that they drew a lot of attention for the Italian luxury goods house. 

Quite a contrast to Alexander McQueen and Bottega Veneta's marketing strategies, Marc Jacobs chose minimalism for his 2014 fall campaign. At first glance, it looks as though mannequins are wearing his designs in the photographs. But in fact, models are strategically posed to mimic the lifelessness of  mannequins. Although the Marc Jacobs print ads don't have the same impact as the peculiar dolls, they are still memorable, nonetheless.

In the last few weeks, I made a loose fitting dress out of a stunning rayon and silk jersey. I also crafted a top using a textured fabric that I have used time and time again. It is durable, washable, and feels like superhero suit fabric, not to mention that it's made in Italy. Using my dress form, I created a new pattern to give the top contrasting diagonal lines with the same fabric in white. Then I added an exposed white parka zipper down the back and paired it with high-waisted pants that I made with a subtle houndstooth pattern. Using the leftover fabric, I fashioned a matching cuff-like accessory to go with each look.

Made in Colorado


From the Battlefield to the Bride

"When I decided to get married at 40, I couldn't find a dress with the modernity or sophistication I wanted. That's when I saw the opportunity for a wedding gown business."
                                                 -Vera Wang

Parachute Wedding Dress Worn 
by Mrs. Hensinger in 1947
We are nearing the summit of peak wedding season. The average amount spent on a wedding dress is well over a grand and a Marchesa gown retails for close to $6,000 on Quite a contrast from today's standards, brides-to-be in the 1940s had bigger concerns weighing on their minds than what type of cake they would eat or who would photograph their wedding. Many just hoped their fiancé would return home safely from the war.

War rations directly impacted fashion in the 1940s. Wool and cotton were commandeered for uniforms and other military supplies while silk and nylon were needed for parachutes. Hemlines rose and swimsuit necklines plunged as designers consciously stuck to war limitations, which led to saving fifteen million yards of fabric. Vogue reported this figure in May 1943 while giving its approval of "The Narrow Look."

Those engaged to be married didn't have the luxury of popping by a shop and choosing a wedding dress consisting of silk, lace, and tulle. If they were lucky, a parachute might blow their way . . .

Mr. Reynolds with Mrs. Reynolds Wearing
Her Parachute Silk Wedding Dress in 1946
In 1944, Major Claude Hensinger, was returning with his crew from a bombing raid over Yowata, Japan, when his engine caught fire. Major Hensinger clung to the parachute that saved his life and later gave it to his girlfriend Ruth to use for her wedding gown when he proposed. Ruth wanted her dress to resemble Vivien Leigh's in Gone with the Wind. She hired a seamstress to complete the look and became Mrs. Hensinger on July 19, 1947. Ruth signed over her dress to the Smithsonian in the 1990s.

Joyce Adney and Adrien Reynolds's story was not much different than the Hensingers'. According to the National WWII Museum of New Orleans, Mr. Reynolds and his fellow Marines stumbled upon several unused Japanese parachutes while clearing out some caves in 1944. He sent one of the parachutes back to his bride-to-be Joyce for safekeeping.

Just as many other brides did at the time, Joyce also had her wedding dress constructed out of parachute silk. Her mother, a seamstress who lived in another state, had Joyce measure her bust and waist using strings. She then mailed the strings to her mother to use as guides in sewing the dress for her big day. Although Joyce didn't have the opportunity to try on a multitude of Vera Wang and Marchesa dresses, the future Mrs. Reynolds would have quite a story to tell.

I didn't make a wedding dress, but I did incorporate two white parachute buckles into my latest design. The jacket and shorts are made out of a blue organic twill from Mood Fabrics. I included square cap sleeves and two belts (made out of the same twill fabric) and attached the parachute buckles. I also made a pair of matching high-waisted shorts to complete the look. This summer shorts suit may not have a romantic war-related backstory, but I'm just happy I didn't have to wait for a parachute to fall from the sky to make it with.

Made in Colorado


Coco's Little Black Dress

"A black so deep, so noble that once seen, it stays in the memory forever."
                                                - Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel once said, "Dress women in black or white at a ball. They will catch the eye." And she did just that. Chanel designed a little something special in 1926 that would last for generations to come . . . a little black dress. Yes, there were other black dresses at the time, but not fashionable ones worn outside of a funeral or the servants' quarters of a stately home.

In the 1920s, Chanel spent an evening at the opera and was sickened by all the flashy colors worn. She then decided to dress all those high society women in black. In November 1926, Vogue dubbed Coco's new little wonder the "Ford dress" in honor of Henry Ford's monchromatic Model T. Like the pioneering American vehicle, It was simple and it was fabulous.

Chanel said, "Before me, no one would have dared to dress in black." After the famous dress was unveiled, it soon became known as "the modern woman's uniform" and everyone was eager to replicate Chanel's style.

Karl Lagerfeld replicated the dress close to its original form for Chanel's  1999 fall collection. Its modern and chic design made it as relevant then as it was in the twenties.

After purchasing matching black and white Italian textured fabrics, I worked on getting the bottom of my dress just right. My aim was to perfectly drape it in front while angling it down in the back so that the contrasting white would show through.

Although I had never designed a dress silhouette like it before, it really worked out well and I was happy with the end result. It is simple, yet timeless as Coco Chanel's original little black dress was. Just as Coco said, "A well-tailored dress suits everyone."

Made in Kansas.


Coco's Tweeds

"A lot of serious work goes into successful frivolity."
                                            Coco Chanel

Once upon a time Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel said, "We seem to forget that couture is a craft." Unlike today, when a celebrity's name is attached to a fashion line to merely increase sales, Coco Chanel took pride in her craft of design and was a master tailor who understood a woman's body. She was such a perfectionist that she would spend countless hours fitting a sleeve and not stop until the fit was flawless. "The day before the show, I am capable of changing everything if a detail bothers me, or if I have the impression that everything is already out of date!" she said in 1959.

Chanel Spring 2014 Collection
Coco was always looking to the future of fashion and what would make a woman feel elegant and comfortable. Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel's creative director, has said, "Yes, the old Coco would have been shocked by a lot of things I did, but I had to do it, to keep the label in time with the times." It's a contradiction because Coco was nothing if not a modern woman. She suntanned and cut her hair short before either was popular and designed clothing that set trends for decades to come.

Another obsession of Coco's was tweed. She fell in love with the versatile fabric in the 1920s because of its suppleness and how the mix of woven colors matched the skies and landscapes of England. Lagerfeld has incorporated tweed into many collections, including the one for spring 2014. Although he claimed that he's "not interested in history," Lagerfeld still includes many of the design details that Coco made famous, such as the camellia flower, suits, and decorative buttons.

We often think of tweed as the fabric of choice for fall and winter coats, skirts, and suits, but Chanel's new springtime tweeds are a refreshing blend of colors and design. When describing the new collection Lagerfeld said, “This is for daily life. I wanted color, and a fraîcheur. It’s a very happy mood.”

I purchased a plaid wool boucle with pops of color that would typically be used for a coat. Instead, I used it to make a dress that works perfectly for spring. I'd like to think Coco would approve.



Billowing Bonfires Inspire and New Collections Light up the Runways

"You're only as good as your last collection, which is an enormous pressure."
                                                             -John Galliano

Marchesa Fall 2014
Fashion month is nearing an end as press and style enthusiasts make a mad dash to see the last few remaining shows in Paris this week. Each collection -- from New York to Milan -- has exhibited its own individual charm, but there are a few elements that have been seen over and over again on the runways for fall 2014: furs, texture, knits, and shades of green.

Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig for Marchesa are master designers when it comes to capturing femininity and their latest collection was no exception. Inspired by "billowing bonfires" and the Scottish Highlands, the dresses were full of romanticism, while adorned with lace and feathers and paired with pointed-toe flats.

Balenciaga Fall 2014
The two friends, who met at Chelsea College of Art and Design, also combined lace and fur in a genius way to create a soft and feminine sweater. They described their muse as "our Scottish woman who's a little bit more disheveled in winter, with this static hair like she's running through the fields in the Highlands." 

Creative Director Bill Gaytten for John Galliano created a collection inspired by Marc Newson's furniture designs. Printed velvet with a retro design, high-waisted pleated pants, and fur all came into play. The next time a passerby tells you that your dress reminds them of their grandmother's couch . . . well, you can thank Gaytten for that.

After revealing his collection in Brooklyn, Alexander Wang headed to Paris for the Balenciaga show. "I go back to pieces that feel familiar—it's a sweater, it's a wrap dress, it's a raincoat—and ask myself, 'How do I make it feel special?'" he said. An expert when it comes to knits, Wang incorporated them into the collection and manipulated the fabric in a unique way, which led to inventive shapes and silhouettes. He also strategically placed eye-catching zippers on tops, coats, pants, and dresses and accessorized the models with luxurious carrier bags. "I love the idea that something as simple as a shopping bag can come in croc!” Wang explained.

This week I experimented with creating a new sleeve pattern with a little extra volume. After I had perfected the sleeve, I incorporated it into a lined jacket made out of an Italian brocade. I paired it with high-waisted shorts that I made a few summers ago because I love the idea of shorts with a jacket for the transitional seasons.

I also made a simple, yet custom-fitted, dress using an organic cotton twill in a military green that will perfectly coincide with the color for next fall. After this harsh winter, springtime and all the refreshing dresses that go with it cannot come soon enough!