New York Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week has passed, but the impressions live on and another season of the latest trends are about to hit the red carpet and the stores.  I did not attend as my invitation was undoubtedly misplaced or eaten by someone’s dog.  So I did what the rest of us do, I read the NY Times and went on-line to see what all the buzz was about.

I’m by no means a fashion expert.  I sew and I love fashion, but I just react to what I see just like everyone else.  I respect all designers and what they do.  They make women look and feel fabulous.  Well, most of the time.  I just can’t help but poke fun at some of their creations.  I understand that many are just for artistic expression and are made strictly for the runway show, or at least they should be.  So here are my thoughts about some of the collections and looks from Fashion Week.

First, there was the dragon-head dress from The Blonds, complete with three dimensional horns, spiny scales, and razor-sharp teeth.  The round orange eyes and open mouth had you believing that you would be its next victim.  Wouldn’t the dragon-head dress be interesting to wear to a children’s birthday party?

Then there’s Jeremy Scott’s pink sweater with the magnificent sleeves.  But alas, there was something amiss about the rest of that sweater.  Yes, I can imagine wearing that sweater with the pretty pink puffy sleeves and oh so airy fishnet bodice.  My droopy boobs would be poking out and engaging in jumping jacks exercises as I walked down the street.  And since the trajectory of that event would be considered something totally out of my control, I’d have to warn people to stand back to avoid getting hurt!  My husband’s reaction was, “Why would you want to buy a sweater if it ain’t gonna keep you warm?”  I’m sure it was designed for ladies with hot flashes or for those times when the only part of your body that gets cold are your arms.  It happens, right?

Closer examination of Isaac Mizrahi’s yellow dress revealed a simple boxy dress sewn from two rectangles (in a hurry, Isaac?)  Without the accessories, this would just be another boxy dress.  So just add a gorgeous bulky necklace, a poodle dressed in a matching yellow coat, and a hat shaped like the rounded ball of fur found on the tip of the poodle’s tail and you have a masterpiece.  I wonder, will they include the poodle with the dress?  And would they use little carriers and place them on the dress hanger?  Or would they use one of those tag guns to attach the dog to the dress?  I don’t think the logistics have been worked out yet.

Could someone please inform Frank Tell that his sweater must have been involved in a terrible accident, an explosion, perhaps?  Several yarns appear to be oozing out.  Or is that Spanish moss growing on the sweater?  I could be wrong, but it is quite possible that this was one of those altered clothing experiments gone wrong.  Take your husband’s (or boyfriend’s) sweater, throw it into the washing machine with a bunch of zippers and let the snagging begin!  Voila, you have a new chic sweater!

Then there was Rad Hourani’s black something.  I’m not sure how to categorize it because it appears to be some sort of new hybrid.  Is it a dress or a skirt and top or something in-between?  It was black, that’s all I can tell you.  Strapped to it is what looked like the suit (also black) from a tandem skydiving jump where you’re strapped to the expert and the only thing that you’re required to do is scream.  Only in this case the model looks like she lost her diver on the way down because the tandem suit was empty.  Oops!!

Rachel Roy’s multi-colored flowery pants are wa-a-a-y too flowery and wa-a-a-y too wide in the hips and then they taper down to skin tight at the calf.   It’s paired with a raspberry-colored hooded sweatshirt and an orange coat.  A nice color combination, but the pants look like one of my rejects from the 1960’s.  And who wants to walk around with flowers on their butt?  And why didn’t I think about that back in the 60’s???

I’m fanatic about colors so it was refreshing to see that the designers are combining some colors that you don’t normally see paired together often.  A pink skirt and jacket paired with a red blouse and a blue/black/maroon skirt paired with a red belt and an orange jacket was unexpected and looked amazing.   Now those are some details that I will definitely file away for future projects.  So thank you, designers, for another dose of inspiration, motivation, and entertainment.  And if any of you happen to see poodles attached to dresses in the stores this spring, all I can say is… please be careful where you step!!

My Bucket List

A wintry mix of snow and rain forced me to cancel our monthly fashion sewing group meeting recently.  In doing so, I imagined that some people would take advantage of this found time and put the pedal to the metal to whip up something on their sewing machine.

I had all good intentions of doing the same, but as usual my old friend Ms. Procrastination showed up at my house.  Ah yes, Ms. Procrastination and I go way back.  As far back as I can remember, Ms. P (as I sometimes fondly call her) was always there for me whether I needed her or not.  No sooner had I made up my mind that I was going to sew the pants I had been meaning to get to for the past 3 months, there was that old familiar knock at my door.  Should I answer the door or let her freeze out in the cold?

Before I could decide, Ms. P’s persistent style showed that she was not about to be ignored.  The gaps between her knocks grew shorter and more frantic until I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I had to let her in, I thought.  Otherwise, she would just drive me crazy.  So I relented and opened the door.  Ms. P settled in and made it clear that she was far too comfortable to leave anytime soon.   I had forgotten all about those pants.

I have to admit though that Ms. Procrastination can be nice to have around sometimes.  For example, we pulled out “The Bucket List” I had rented, popped it in the DVD player, and snuggled under the blankets to watch the movie.  In case you’re not familiar with the movie or what a bucket list is, this movie is about two terminal-cancer patients who become friends, create a list of things they want to do before they kick the bucket, and then take off on a road trip together with the intent to fulfill their wish list before they die.

It got me thinking about creating my own bucket list.  I guess I sort of always had ideas of things I wanted to do before I leave this earth, but never actually put any of it down on paper.  So here is my official list:

  • See the world
  • Learn to ski (I’ve been trying for almost 40 years)
  • Write a book
  • Finish my pants

When Ms. Procrastination fell asleep after the movie, I tiptoed over to the computer to begin planning my bucket list to-dos.  Suddenly, there was another knock at my door.  I thought who could that be?  I opened the door, but the snow and wind made it difficult to see the figure at my doorstep and an overwhelming bad feeling swept over me.

A deep voice bellowed out, “Hello! Remember me?” I swallowed hard and then unable to fight the inevitable, extended my arm to shake hands with Mr. Financially Challenged.   I noticed the many pieces of luggage and several trunks beside him.  Agh! This was going to be a long visit!  With both Ms. Procrastination and Mr. Financially Challenged under my roof, things have gotten awfully crowded and somewhat dismal, but I’m optimistic that the mood will change soon.  I just put in an emergency call to my distant twin cousins, Do-It Now and Git-R Done, known to many as the consummate party crashers, but they always know how to get things done.

Ah, those two….If only they knew how to sew.

Ladies Get Plastered Creating a Custom Dress Form

For most folks, a typical Saturday usually involves working around the house, enjoying a hobby, or just kicking back. The equipment of choice is often a rake, a broom, a vacuum cleaner, or even a fishing pole or bowling ball.

But on one particular Saturday, five ladies from a neighborhood sewing group got together for an afternoon of getting plastered. Were we sipping Margaritas or perhaps tipping a few glasses of wine? Uh…Not exactly. Did we find our way to one of Jersey’s hot spots for a few cosmopolitans and a little dancing on the tables? No-o-o….. Not quite.

No, this particular Saturday was all about cloning ourselves. Only this cloning did not involve DNA and our getting plastered did not involve a single DWI. Our equipment of choice?….Plastic bags, plaster bandages, polyurethane, insulation foam, rulers, scissors, and friends. On this Saturday, we ditched our usual rituals for making the perfect custom dress form. The “getting plastered” involved making a cast mold of our bodies and then filling it with a concoction of the polyurethane and the foam.

We got to work cutting out the various sizes of the bandages. Then each of us took on the role of either the “plasterer” or the “plastered”. We couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves and at the extent women sometimes go to just to look good. As any person who sews will attest to, to look good, you need your clothes to fit properly. So for us, the best tool in the sewing process starts with the dress form. To be honest, it’s a little scary to see your body as other people see it, but necessary, nonetheless.

Getting Plastered

Watching each one stand there to be wrapped in this curious suit of plastic and dripping wet plaster with the ever so fashionable shower cap and plastic covering their shoes, I wondered, is this what Justin Timberlake meant by “bringing sexy back”?

When all the forms were done, we hung them up to dry overnight, took a step back and simultaneously giggled and marveled at our work. There was still more work to be done, but we got past the hard part and felt a sense of accomplishment.

Best of all, we were a step closer to making some great garments. A Saturday afternoon of getting plastered turned out to be an amazing “bonding” experience and hopefully one of many yet to come. By the way, did you know that “A Saturday Afternoon” is also the name of a cocktail? Interesting… Cheers!

Ugly Fabric

Nope, I’m not worried. I’m sure to be picked today. I can just feel it. I hear there’s a big sale going on so I know I stand a good chance. Yep, here comes someone now. She’s getting closer… closer….oh-h-h .. passed up again. (Sigh) Why won’t anyone ever take a second look at me? I know I’m not the handsomest one around, but I’ve got personality.

Wait! Here she comes again! Pick me! Pick me! Gees, her hands are cold! But at least she’s looking me over. It’s touchy-feely time….O-o-o that tickles! Oh-oh, I’m getting the look. I hate when they get that look. The nose crinkles. The eyes grow cold. The lip curls. Uh, what’s happening? What is she doing? Oh, no… I’m being shoved back into my
slot. Just great! Now I’m wrinkled! How rude! You know, I’ve been cooped up here on this stand for months now and not a single bite!

I’ve watched my neighbors come and go. Sure, everyone wants the pretty ones. Can’t anyone see that I can look pretty good too if they’d just give me a chance? I’m not so bad, really. Okay, so my warps and wefts are a little crooked. My colors are uh… a little faded. And I guess I’m a little sticky too after that kid stuck his lollipop on me. My design is well…shall we say… unusual. It makes people cross their eyes kinda funny. But that shouldn’t stop ‘em. Doesn’t anybody use their imagination anymore? Did they pass a law that says you can only sew things EXACTLY as the pattern tells you or one that says you can only use the most beautiful fabrics you can possibly find?

Here comes someone. Whoa….hey take it easy, lady. Ouch! Hey, what’s the big idea slamming me into this cart? Yikes, watch out! Well, all right…I’ve got company. Hi, Barbie! Long time, no see, Batman! Hmm, that cowgirl over there is pretty cute! Gees, this lady must be in a hurry. She’s wheeling this cart like she can’t wait to get us home. I wonder what the speed limit is around here. Hey, lady, you just passed up the cutting counter. Where are you going? Oh, I get it now. It’s off to the (gulp) discount shelf. How humiliating! Yep, I’m doomed. Look at me. I’m stuck in between this bright orange plaid here and a herd of pink flamingoes. Someone get me some sunglasses! (Sigh) Who’s
going to want me now?

(Cough, cough!) Don’t they dust around here? I’m tired of being neglected. No one’s looked at me for weeks. What’s this? Someone’s browsing the discount fabrics. Let me straighten up here. If I could just stick myself out a little, maybe she’ll notice me. Pick me, take me home, oh, please……. Yes! She’s lookin’ me over. Bet you she puts me back. What’s this? Where am I? What happened? Huh? I- I- I’m on the cutting counter! So this is what it’s like. Whoa! All this twirling is making me dizzy! The room is spinning round and round. But I’m not complaining. No, not me. Ugly fabric…what? Okay, let’s not get insulting. She just told this other lady that I’m ugly. Hey, I’ve got feelings you know!

I wonder what will become of me? Will I be a handbag, cuffs and collars, doll clothes, or maybe part of a quilt or a chic jacket? In the right hands I can do chic. Hey, maybe kids clothes too! That’ll mean more lollipops for me. Hope they make it cherry…I like cherry.

Anyway, I made it…I’ve been bought, stitched, and ooh’d and aah’d over. Here comes someone with a camera! Okay, I’m ready…..C-h-e-e-s-e! Ugh… I see spots! I can’t help but wonder about my friends that are still waiting for someone to rescue them. (Sigh)…..Hmm, I wonder what ever happened to that cute cowgirl. I should’ve gotten her number.

Sisterhood of the Muslin Pants

Our fitting group had its first fitting session to make a basic muslin pant shell.  The room was a mass of muslin and pins as our group had grown slightly in size.  It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm but I knew it was going to be a long night.

The homework was to have each person cut out and baste their pant sloper for their first fitting.  I gave them the instructions, but I think I should have studied them before passing them on.

I have to say that the instructions were a little misleading because it assumed that you used one of the Silhouette patterns which lists its sizes according to the body measurement plus wearing ease, and not just the body measurement as all other pattern companies do.  The instructions asked you to measure your hip while you were in a sitting position so you could get the measurement as you (and the tape measure) spread out.  Then you were to purchase the pattern according to the spread out measurement.  So some individuals bought other commercial patterns according to this instruction and showed up with a much larger sloper than they needed.  Guess I’ll have to make a little footnote on the instruction sheet.

We also had people that didn’t quite follow the instructions (myself included).  So it made fitting a little more complex than it needed to be.

Our fitting expert did a fantastic job in reading all the wrinkles and folds to determine what changes needed to be made.  It was interesting to see how these muslin forms could be manipulated to fit our bodies.  She asked that if there were many changes to make another muslin shell and we would fine-tune it at our next meeting.

Hmmm…taking the time to cut out a muslin shell, fit it, and then make another muslin is very time consuming.  But this is our first attempt at making a fitting sloper using the Peggy Sager method.  We have much to learn as our expert did all the work.  We need to be able to do the same thing for each other.  Otherwise, we will have one person who will be worn out and will never have time to have her own fittings tended to.

Once we grasp the concepts of fitting and understand why something doesn’t hang right or has funny wrinkles or folds, then our fittings will go much smoother (maybe).  We also need to try a few other techniques so we will have a basis of comparison to determine which is more accurate and gives the best fit.

If the Peggy Sager method works best, then all the time and effort will be worth it.  If other methods give the same or better results, but are less time consuming then we will have to side with the ones that take less time, right?   But I am in no position to decide for someone else.  Deciding which is best probably depends on the individual and their specific needs and how the individual perceives the experience.

Next month we do some final tweaking, but will we actually be at the point where we can make some pants?  Only time will tell!

The Journey to Good Fit Begins

Someone once said that, “Time is a cruel thief to rob us of our former selves.”  When I use to sew my own clothes I was tall and slender so all I needed to do was to lengthen the pattern an inch or so and off I could go sewing to my heart’s content.  Not anymore.  Fast-forward 40+ years.  I now have my grandmother’s figure, which is not so slender and has lots of jiggly parts.  The pattern sizes are now nowhere near my measurements and the thought of performing the tedious task of fitting and all those adjustments was just too overwhelming.  I no longer felt excited to sew for me.  I felt robbed of my former self.  And that is just wrong!

I was determined to change all that and found myself on a quest to learn the art of fitting.  Altering a flat pattern to fit a body with all its various curves, lumps, and bumps was not going to be easy.  Slashing and spreading, balancing darts, lowering darts, finding a new place on the pattern to place the apex, finding my waistline…. Whew!  Wouldn’t it be easier to have plastic surgery to match the pattern then to do all that work?

I realized that our bodies change probably from month to month due to elements both within and out of our control so there are always new fitting issues that seem to appear out of nowhere.  And without any warning whatsoever I might add.  I knew that other people must have this same problem and stopped sewing their own clothes for the same reason.  Having a group of people get together to help each other with their fitting difficulties just made perfect sense, right?

When I announced the formation of a new fitting group, ladies from my sewing guild began contacting me eager to join.  Some lived an hour or more away which tells me that this is a much larger problem than I had originally thought.  Suddenly, I felt like Moses leading the people to the Promised Land.  They had that look of hope in their eyes.

I decided to document our trials and tribulations in hot pursuit of good fitting clothes (that we sew ourselves!) and to share our discoveries.  Our homework for our first project was to make a pant sloper out of muslin and we would do all the adjustments at our meeting.  My friend and I decided to get together before our meeting to work on the sloper.

So what did I do?  I didn’t read my own directions and in my delusional state of mind, I ran out and purchased a fitting shell pattern not in my actual size, but in the size I wanted to be.  What was I thinking?  I wasted about 4 hours just figuring out how much to add here and there to increase the pattern to the correct size, then marked and cut out the muslin.  Later that night I pin basted the sloper and tried it on.  Good thing, because it was so tight that I looked like a sausage bursting out of its skin.

After spending more hours tweaking my sloper I finally gave up.  I’m sorry to say I couldn’t “make it work” as Tim Gunn always says.   I sent my friend an email telling her of my dilemma hoping she would have all the answers to fix my problem.  Instead, she did something that was totally unexpected.  She told me the truth.  She said that I should have started with the right size pattern, not a Vikki sized one.  (Vikki is her daughter who probably wears a size 0).  So I swallowed my pride and neatly tucked my little Vikki pattern back into it’s Vikki envelope and stored it in my Vikki file for when I get back to my Vikki-sized self (not quite, but I’m determined to lose 15 lbs).  And since all my other patterns are Vikki patterns I had to trot myself back to JoAnn Fabrics to buy a larger sized pattern to start over from square one.

Lessons learned:  Read directions, start with the right pattern size, and have a friend handy in case you need an intervention.   To be continued…….

Unique Works of Art

For some, art is to be displayed on the wall to appreciate and to enhance one’s décor. For others, art can be found most everywhere. It is truly amazing to witness the artist who can find the most mundane object and create something beautiful. They have the creative vision to turn everyday or unusual objects or things found in nature and translate or manipulate the shapes and colors into something to wear or function in a different way.

Aviva Stanoff, a textile designer, is such as artist. She takes the simple beauty of a leaf or blossom and etches them into velvet fabrics then applies dyes to accentuate the shapes. The embellished fabrics are then fabricated into decorative pillows and bedding. Her glassware is a celebration of rich colors, textures, and dimension. Vases and candleholders are handmade using a three-day process, which includes silk-screening, metallic leafing, and hand-painting. Whatever the project or process, the result is magnificent and each piece out of her studio is unique, as no two are exactly alike.

Years ago Dori Csengeri was a textile designer living in Paris when she started creating jewelry and accessories using a needlework technique. Today, Dori Csengeri fashion jewelry is a unique blend of stones, beads, silk cords, metals, and other materials and is handcrafted from her studio in Israel. Her striking creations are often featured on the front of top fashion magazines and are often sought out by devoted fans all over the world.

Aviva Stanoff and Dori Csengeri are talented and successful artists whose work can be found on