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. 


  1. Thanks for the report on you recent "snoop shopping trip." Very interesting. I seldom make it to the Neiman Marcus stores in Dallas to get to touch and feel. before I retired, I worked downtown and could walk to the flagship store at lunch. That's one part of working I miss.

  2. Terri, I love your interpretation of these high-end garments using CLD patterns. I am particularly drawn to the use of a statement-button closure, simple lines, and gorgeous fabrics. This makes me want to run right upstairs and cut out my own version of ACA jacket. I love the simple, yet unique lines there. Your ACA has a similar vibe to the designer pictures, yet it is even better. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. You've made some really good points there. Thanks for sharing your snoop shopping POV.

  4. Thanks for the snoop shopping tips! I go to Arundel Mills shopping center fairly often - to restaurants for celebrations, not snoop shopping. That will change! Your sense of style and your ability to interpret high-end designs using CLD patterns is inspiring. Glad you are getting better. I look forward to your posts.