Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Velvet Takes Center Stage

There are few fabrics that can match the elegant feel of velvet, and this fall it was all over the runway. Yay! I love velvet for many reasons. Obviously you can't match the soft hand, but what makes it such a fantastic textile to design with and to wear is its beautiful drape. When treated properly, velvet falls beautifully on the figure and gives an unmatchable fluidity. Of course the best effects are achieved by using silk velvet. A good rayon follows in close second.

        Nina Ricci, fall 2014, Vogue UK

Velvet is categorized as a pile fabric, meaning that it is woven with an extra set of yarns that are cut to create a 3-D effect. 
There are basically 3 types of 'velvets' used in apparel and their characteristic differences are primarily from the fiber content:

     Velvet - made from silk, rayon, or sometimes a blend, higher pile. This has a 'nap' which refers to the direction the yarns sit (think cat fur) and affects the way the light reflects. Crushed velvet is created from traditional velvet where the nap has been manipulated.  Crushed velvets may also be referred to as panne' velvets.
     Velveteen - made from an inclusion of cotton fibers. It has lower pile and less drape. This is the fabric often used in a tailored jacket.
     Stretch Velvet - this velvet is knitted, not woven, and of course, stretches. It can also be traditional in appearance or have the nap crushed. 

Many of the pieces this fall seem to pay homage to vintage designs from the glamorous 1930's, like this one from Hellesey - 

Hellessy RTW Fall 2014
                    Hellesey, fall 2014, photo Rodin Banica

Take a peek and compare these two historic pieces from 
Elsa Schiaparelli - 

    Elsa Schiaparelli, 1930's    

   Elsa Schiaparelli, 1930's  

More vintage inspiration from designers 
Elie Saab and Victor & Rolf - 

Elie Saab RTW Fall 2014

               Elie Saab, fall 2014, photo Giovanni Giannoni

Viktor & Rolf RTW Fall 2014
Viktor & Rolf, fall 2014, photo Giovanni Gionnoni


Don't forget the accessories. These pretty evening pumps by 
Christian Louboutin are made even more posh with the black velvet bows. 

So, get your glam on with a little (or a lot) of velvet this fall and enjoy one of the best textiles in history. 

- Janet


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tips on Purchasing a Wedding Gown

                                                                                                                           Photo credit, Christian Dior

I have been asked a lot lately for advice on wedding gown purchase and alterations so, I thought it might be helpful to post a bit on this topic. As a custom bridal gown designer for 30+ years, these are a few pointers that might be helpful:

1- Whether purchasing a ready-made, vintage, or a custom designed gown, set a budget! It is your money and your wedding. Decide ahead of time what you can comfortably spend. Do some internet research. Talk with your friends who may have recently married. There are many options and price ranges. 

2- Remember, quality is what you are looking for regardless of price. Quality in fabric, construction, details, fit. Ask someone who has experience with these issues to look at your options with you. Even paying someone knowledgeable to advise you can save you loads of frustration and money in the end.

3- When beginning the process of shopping for a wedding gown, try on as many as possible. I know many of the shops behave as if there is some obligation to buy after a session but remember, it is your decision which gown to buy and they are offering a service. Even with a scheduled appointment, there is no obligation to purchase from them. Be polite and let them know up front that you are in the beginning of your search and will be looking at many shops and gowns before making your choice.

4- Purchase a gown that fits the largest part of you best. It is always easier to take in than let out. Many dresses do not have enough seam allowance to let the seam out much. Also, many fabrics like satins and velvets will be left with permanent holes or marks from releasing the seam.

5- Be cautious about buying a gown that is more than one size too big. Altering past that can require an almost complete re-cut to hang properly and the cost may be more than your purchase price. 

6- If possible, have the alterationist look at the gown and assess any necessary alterations before you purchase it. Many brides purchase a used gown or sample thinking it is a fantastic bargain only to find the cost of alterations are more than the price of the dress. Don't go with the cheapest alteration, go with the person with the most experience. Get references.

7- A 'build-up', the taking of a sleeveless or strapless bustier gown and creating one with shoulders and sleeves, can be a complicated issue when it comes to fit. You cannot just add sleeves, for example, to most sleeveless dresses as the armhole is usually not out to the edge of the shoulder, causing the finished sleeve to lack enough ease to raise your arms. It must be done by someone with experience and skill. 

8- Bring all undergarments you will be wearing for your big day to the first fitting and every fitting afterward including your petticoat and shoes. A different bra can alter the bust fit by up to 1" or more and the shoe height is imperative to a good hem.

                                                                                                                         Vintage Dior Kitten Heels

9- Remember to calculate the cost of cleaning a sample or previously worn gown into the total cost of the wedding dress. 

10- Don't expect a quote over the phone. Not even the most experienced seamstress can see through the telephone. Make an appointment and get it seen before you even purchase it, if possible. You will then be able to make an informed decision.

Here are a few general costs you can expect to pay for gown alterations. They will vary depending on the type of fabric, complication of seaming, trim, etc. These are just for a ballpark estimate so you can be prepared:

   Hem - $50-$100 depending on layers and circumference
   Sleeve length - $40
   Bodice - from side seams, $30-50 -  from over bust seams, $60-$80
   Bustling up train - $25-$100 depending on how many points
   Build-up - $100-200
   Center back/zipper - $60-$100
   Cleaning - $100-$200

For tips on storing a wedding gown look at my post from last fall here .

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Great Spring Color Palette

Hermes Spring 2014, photo Peter Stigter        

pantone spring 2014 colors

Just thought I'd send a little Spring Color your way! I love this group because it is a little pastel but not in a childish way. Even the bolder ones like the Freesia, Radiant Orchid (the Pantone Color of the Year) and Celosia Orange are easier to wear than the straight hues because of their slightly grayed warmth.

A little fashion tip - Too many of these together as solids and your outfit may get a little circus-like. Color blocking can be a bit tricky but if balanced well, can work. Just avoid the 'court jester' look.

 Vogue photo, Yannis Vlamos
Here is a pretty use of color burst by Christian Dior

Vogue photo, Yannis Vlamos
2 neutrals with a pop of yellow at Hermes

I love the soft dove gray, Paloma. Try using this as the neutral for Spring instead of the black you've come to rely on in the colder months. It will pair nicely with any of the bolder colors as accents.

The bold hues are really great as a burst of solid color as well - think jeans, skirt or cardigan. 

If you're like me and not going to sport a pair of Orchid pants, try using one of these or a combo of hues in a scarf. 

Dazzling Blue - Think of it as a brighter navy and go from there.

Vogue photo, Yannis Vlamos
Jason Wu using Dazzling Blue with shimmer - pretty! 
(You may want to add a slip :)

There's really something for everyone in this palette.


Friday, February 14, 2014

A Little LOVE

Sharing a little love today on Valentine's Day 

I retired from the bridal gown arena a few years ago, but after working on this, well, what can I say? I'm addicted to weddings and really enjoyed creating this.

The bride brought me a cute knee length, cotton lace dress with a large exposed zipper down the back she had purchased from local Salt Lake shop, The Children's Hour.

From the little white dress to this elegant, simple gown via yards of silk chiffon...

Their beautiful wedding was a feature in the popular blog The Wedding Chicks and I thought it fun and appropriate for this day of LOVE.
photography: meredith carlson--

Guess I've officially fallen of the wagon. There's no rehab for me.
Current Bridal Project:  my beautiful niece, Anna's gown. Ivory silk 4-ply crepe with a gorgeous champagne lace overlay. Can't show you yet as it would be a spoiler for the big day. Photos to come.

Enjoy - 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

All Eights Are Not Created Equally

Ever go into the dressing room with several brands of the same size and have them all fit differently?
Did you think there was something 'wrong' with you? 
Well, there is certainly something wrong with the sizing of ready-to-wear clothing. There are standardized measurements for US clothing production but few companies use them. They are not mandated.
 Let me show you how crazy the US sizing for women's clothing is.
The chart below from the NY Times is really helpful in understanding the variance in measurements for a size '8'.

Just a few stats that stand out are a measurement for a Valentino garment with a waist of 29" to Delia's at a 27" - 2 inches difference. A waist measurement at H&M is 28.5" while at Chico's it is a 31. Really, that's a 2.5 inch difference! Now, I know H&M caters to a younger market than Chico's but a 2.5" difference is pretty substantial. It's enough to make you feel skinny at Chico's and fat at H&M all in the same shopping trip.

To make matters more complicated, many design houses have different sizes within the same company. Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic are all the same group but have very different sizing. A size 8 hip at Banana measures a size 2 at the Gap.  

Chalk this up to what the industry calls 'vanity sizing'. It stems out of our obsession to connect our size with our self esteem. Over the last 40 years or so, sizes have steadily become smaller as women have become larger. Yes, we are larger than we were in the 1950's.
The average woman in the US is now about 5'4" and weighs 155 lbs. We are about 20 pounds heavier than our 1950's counterparts. The average woman now, according to the ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials) size guidelines, should wear a size 16, but thanks to vanity sizing she is probably buying a size 10. 

I have been using vintage sewing patterns lately and have been astonished at the size differences between from the 50's and 60's to now. A bust size of 38 was then an 18, now a 38 bust is a ready to wear size 10. Patterns then were congruent with sizing in the stores. Pattens today do measure a larger size than retail clothing and are not in line with retail sizing. It can bring shock to the home sewer to see that she wears 2 sizes larger or so in a pattern than at the store.

Fashion sizes have been irregular for decades. A woman with a 32" bust would have worn a size 14 in 1937, by 1967 she would have worn a size 8 and currently, she would be a size 0. 

No wonder so many women are confused and feel stressed out by the number on the tag! 

The UK has a standardized measurement system. This type of sizing diagram is printed on the label . Approximately a 35.5" bust, 29" waist and 38.5" hip.

So, what's a girl to do? Until the US falls in line with the UK and starts mandating measurements on all tags we will have to take matters (measuring tapes) into our own hands.

Measure yourself before you head out and then take a measuring tape with you to shop. Measure the key areas of the garment (bust, waist, hip) BEFORE taking them into the fitting room. 
(See my past post, How to Measure Up for more help on identifying your body type.) 
Concentrate on how that number matches up with the garments you want to buy not the # on the tag!

The more prepared you are before you buy, the more satisfied you will be with your purchases. Remember, you are the consumer, you are the one with the POWER! (but, don't let it go to your head )


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Beauty of Pyrex

Beauty can take many forms. But today, I want to talk about the beauty of quality and practicality. I have been collecting Pyrex bowls lately. Not like a serious collector, but looking every time I go to the thrift store. My Mom received this set pictured above as a wedding gift in 1946 and I grew up using it. She still has and uses the large bowl. Really, how many daily use items are still around from 1946? These babies were made to last.  My collection started a few years ago with the little red one I found for a couple of dollars. I had seen sets for sale in antique stores and higher end consignment boutiques but didn't want to spend the collector price. Last month I finally snatched up a complete set for $15 at an estate sale and now I feel totally satisfied, well, at least until my next thrift store trip.

I've got several Pyrex pieces from different eras now and I love them all. Most of my other bowls have gone to the thrift store in favor of these gems. They are designed so well - the the best sizes and depths.

Woodland pattern bowl

Cinderella bowl in Butterfly Gold pattern

Spring Blossom 2 pattern small bowl

Snowflake pattern casserole dish

 One of my favorite new pieces is this casserole dish. I grew up using similar ones. So handy...oven to table to fridge!

There are many sites for the serious collector if you're interested in knowing the patterns and dates. One of the best is

I bought mine to use so I'm not too fussy with them but here are a few tips for caring for them:

 -hand wash - no dishwasher, it will dull the finish
 - if the finish is already a little dull, rub with a little vegetable oil 
 - use them! that's what they were made for

Enjoy -