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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


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


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


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


The Fanny Pack Attends New York Fashion Week

"I'm not afraid of the fanny pack."
                           -Matthew McConaughey

Marc by Marc Jacobs Fall 2015
The belt bag, hip tote, waist pouch, hands-free satchel, or whatever hipsters want to call the purse that is strapped to their waist ... is still a fanny pack. I used to rock a hot pink one back in the day that was made out of a cheap canvasy-type material. It was perfect for stashing away my gum and lip gloss as an adolescent. Although the fanny pack has been the butt of many jokes, it has slowly been making a comeback the last few years.

Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, and Jared Leto are all fans of the functional bag. "I'm not afraid of the fanny pack," McConaughey said in 2014. "You gotta kinda put it on the side to make it look a little not as nerdy, but still, practicality wins out. I got so much gear in here that I don’t want in my pockets."

Isaac Mizrahi had it right when he said, "You either love them and make them part of your life or you fight them until the end." The designer has not sent one down the runway since the 1992. Only two years before that, an episode of Seinfeld aired where Jerry poked fun at George Costanza's fanny pack by telling him that it "looks like your belt is digesting a small animal."

Rag & Bone Fall 2015
Isaac may not be showcasing the belt bag anymore, but other designers are. At the fall 2015 Marc by Marc Jacobs show this week, the majority of the models walking down the runway were sporting fanny packs. Some were black and some were colorful, but they all had a boxy shape and a hip vibe to them with plenty of room for essentials. Other brands to proudly include the fanny pack in their fall 2015 collections are Rag & Bone and Moschino.

Compared to the neon pink fanny pack that my mom most likely picked up as a freebie at one of my dad's meetings back in the 90s, the new and improved "belt bags" come with a steeper price tag. currently has a calf hair and leather one by Newbark listed for $1,050. There is no doubt that the modern day fanny pack is much more sophisticated than its predecessors. If you're brave enough to make the switch from handbag to belt bag, your aching shoulders will thank you. Even if like Costanza, your friends never let you live it down.

In honor of fashion week, I made a mini collection comprised of three looks. I purchased a wool herringbone textile and used it to construct a dress and skirt. To make the fabric a bit edgier, I sewed down strips of thin black cord. The blue and white top with the zipper down the front is pieced together from fabric scraps I had lying around and is paired with a skirt I made several months ago. The white top is made out of a stretch denim. I added a closure at the neckline with three buttons and made half glove-cuffs to wear with it. It was fun to make and coordinate these three looks. I told my husband that next I would be making a fanny pack for myself. He looked at me like I was certifiably insane. I think the glove-cuffs had already done him in.

 Made in Colorado