Monday, October 31, 2011

Why Should You Snoop Shop?

Before I begin, I need to clarify that I don't sew or dress to look like I just walked out of WalMart, a sports store or Goodwill, so why would I want to sew or emulate what is sold there?    That may sound snooty to some, but I know my style and appreciate quality and taste, so I don't waste my time inspecting or sewing things that aren't unique and elegant.    As such,  the only snoop shopping I'm interested in is at high end stores, boutiques, or consignment shops. 

Every serious fashion sewer should snoop shop the high end stores from time to time to check out the fabrics, the styles, the details and the techniques used by the different designers and labels.   I notice that a lot of women have stereotypes about which fabrics to use for certain styles.   I hate stiff and heavy fabrics and they are rarely used in good ready to wear.   Don't use cheap poly home dec or cotton quilting fabrics  - leave them for people who sew pillows and quilts, and kids clothes.   Open your mind to be inspired by good fabrics and the details, if only how a button is used,  so you can incorporate them into your sewing.    I look at details but also look at overall trends, especially in lines that Neiman Marcus calls "Modern Mix" and designers who are minimalists.    This includes lines like Donna Karan, Elie Tahari, Theory, Vince, Lafayette 148 and others.  Many web sites allow one to zoom into details, but you can't touch, feel, look inside or try it on.   

The high end  store clearance stores are the best places to snoop shop, try on and explore what's new and interesting.  I've actually seen designer pieces from current collections in those centers marked down for some reason.   There you can try on the garments without feeling any pressure, and even afford to buy that great piece with details you love that probably costs a lot less than it would for you to sew plus where would you ever find the fabric?   Try on things you never thought you might wear - take chances.  Take your digital camera and take photos of details (turn the flash off) and of you in that mirror that doesn't lie.  Download and study them when you get home - you might be surprised.   If you are over 40, don't even think about shopping the junior department or make anything that girls who shop the junior department would wear.   Take a tape measure and a notebook to sketch and write down measurements and details or you'll forget the smorgasbord of ideas you found on that visit.

The hotel we stay when we go to Baltimore for my Johns Hopkins visits is near the airport and near the big Arundel Mills shopping center.   Before now I had neither the energy nor the ability to go there, but last week I felt good enough to be able to walk in and spend an hour or so looking around the Neiman Marcus Last Call.     So what did I see?

An elegant Lafayette 148 short swing jacket with wide, cut-on sleeves in a curly gray boucle.    It had a jewel neckline and big snap closures.  The jacket was unlined but the facings on the front and hems were lining fabric to minimize bulk.   Seams were bound with the same lining fabric.     This was a simple jacket that one could easily layer.

On the NM website,  I saw this current Lafayette jacket in a textured cotton/silk blend with a shape and sleeve similar to  Louise Cutting's new A Cute Angle jacket pattern.   Here are two photos of the Cameron Jacket on the Lafayette 148 website that gave me ideas of fabrics and how to style and wear this type of jacket.   Note that the lapels of this RTW jacket are finished like Louise's Of the Moment jacket and have the interesting large button closure.   I saw lots of big buttons and big snap closures in my snoop shopping.


A Cute Angle Jacket
Of the Moment Jacket in soft woven cashmere

I took notes about seeing lots of soft textured fabrics like matelasse.   One very high end designer dress was not lined but the fabric was completely fused with soft interfacing and then finished with satin stitch/serged roll edges at the interesting neckline and edges.

I examined a 3/4 length coat by Tahari with a cream/black/gray brushstroke design woven into a textured rayon/wool woven in gradations from less to more at the lower edge.    It also had a simple jewel neckline and closed with large snaps - no buttons.   That coat shape reminded me of Louise Cutting's Pure and Simple Coat pattern with the collar left off.   If you've gone to one of the recent Expos, a workshop or a trunk show, you probably saw the Pure & Simple coat where she overlapped the pattern pieces to eliminate the horizontal seams on the front and back, and left the collar off - same shape and look as the Tahari.    Make the coat the length that flatters you!   I know my style and am drawn to simple and elegant designs that show off fine fabrics and coordinate with simple shapes.   See how the jackets above work with slacks, a dress or the top and faux wrap silk/wool paisley skirt the model is wearing with great statement accessories. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

October in Asheville: Pretty leaves and sewing

This year's leaf season was short and lasted only about a week.    It wasn't until early last week that the leaves just began to turn.   Most of the trees on the hills at the lower elevations were still green with a little bit of color.   Then the colors changed dramatically within days, and a week later they had all turned.    The higher elevations had 20 degree nights and snow in early October and what's called Rime Ice.    Rime ice is what forms at low temperatures when the clouds and moisture envelope the mountains.     Here's a link to a series of photos of rime Ice taken on the Blue Ridge Parkway just yesterday published in the Asheville Citizen Times.    Rime ice freezes layer upon layer inside tunnels, closing that tunnel at Craggy Gardens, closing the parkway in several places until it melts in late spring.   A ranger told us that the ice becomes so thick it closes up the tunnels to vehicles.  The hole left in the tunnels is barely large enough for a park ranger to crawl through.    Rime ice also coats roads, decks and rails and structures at high elevations.    That's why the old timers never lived up there.    See how the people are dressed in the ACT photos.   Who wants to live hanging off the side of a mountain in the clouds and extreme temperatures?   The fools pay $millions for views and expensive homes but can't even see their decks most of the year because of the clouds and mist, and that's when it isn't raining or snowing.   

Many of the environmentally destructive high mountain developments around here are in foreclosure.    Across the valley from my house,  I can see the trees and vegetation quickly growing back on the north side of that mountain.   Soon they will cover the ugly road cuts that were blasted for the Tiger Woods golf course that I doubt will ever be built.   Unfortunately we still have to look at those ugly billboards that say it's coming soon -  LMAO.

Here in the lower elevations the temperatures are pleasant and the sun is shining as those clouds hang up on the mountains.   On my way to physical therapy Wed,  I took some photos of the leaves changing - low to high elevations, and you can see the clouds hanging over the mountains to the north and along the Tennessee border where the rime ice has already formed.   There are more photos of the pretty trees, leaves and mountains on this Fall 2011 Flickr Set.
Photo of mountains to the north of Asheville from Fairview Road
Wed, October 19
This dogwood has almost dropped all its leaves.
That's a corduroy dress from  OOP Vogue Miayke 1257
 October Sewing

Stella Top from the Sewing Workshop pattern
The Sewing Workshop Stella top
Today I wore the Stella Top that I sewed up yesterday from The Sewing Workshop's latest pattern in this soft sweater knit I bought from SewKeysE's booth at the Atlanta Expo.  The snakey print is a bit wild for me,  but the colors are perfect and I think it works for this style.  I used their fusible knit tape in black to stabilize the entire neckline and shoulder seams.     I sewed a size small with no other alterations except I cut off the 2" sleeve hem and made my sleeves bracelet length.     I also doubled the cowl by cutting it on the fold/crossgrain.  If you're using a knit you don't have to cut on the bias, but here's a photo of what the pattern looks like with the hemline on the bias fold of a woven fabric.   I sewed up the back seam and turned it wrong sides together then stitched it to the neckline as one piece and finished the seams.    This eliminates the cowl hem and I have done this for many inserted cowl necklines like the dress I wore last week made from an OOP Miyake Vogue pattern.    I used my Babylock coverstitch for the hems.    More photos on the Stella & Luna Flickr Set

A Cute Angle pattern by Cutting Line Designs

Earlier in the month I sewed up the latest pattern by Louise Cuttings,  that she calls "A Cute Angle".   I sewed two of the tops, one sleeveless with bias facings, and the jacket.       I'm thinking of using the gray pinstripe silk for a Stella Top.      More photos on this A Cute Angle Flickr Set.

Sleeveless ACA top with jacket work in progress

Oh, and here's a link to a fun video of how the French encourage exercise and burning calories -  Enjoy - the French ladies did!