Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time

A Few New Designs I’m Going to Steal – well parts of them anyway

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I know stealing is bad. But that’s stealing STUFF. Taking apart current couture fashion and using bits of it in design – everybody does this.

Case in point – I’ve noticed that a lot of pattern designers, not to name names, take elements from other designers’ previous patterns and incorporate them in their pattern. Sometimes the pattern is so similar I have to ask myself if there’s anything new at all.

All of those waisted dresses with the little skirts look alike to me. If you have one pattern, you have them all. And some of the “new” shirt patterns look right out of Issey Miyake‘s vintage patterns. Elements are there that are just directly derived from his work.

I’ve also noticed the trend with the god-awful asymmetrical knit shirts and woven shirts. These are not new and I’m really sick of them. Along with waterfall or cascading jackets. Nice for a couple of years ago – now boring.

Once you have a basic pattern for a top that fits you and that you feel comfortable wearing, you can add layers, embellishments, cut the sleeves or one sleeve out of another fabric, slice up the pattern to incorporate different fabrics, paint, silkscreen —— just keep churning out original tops that flatter you.

My training in batik, hand dyeing, art quilting (hate the term – now bunny quilts are “art” quilts – another rant for another time) and color makes clothing construction intensely exciting. Instead of looking like everyone else, I am not trapped in sameness. As long as I have the guts to wear something “out there” the world is my inspiration.

I was born with an interest in clothes. I played with dressing up my kitten. Not a good idea – all sorts of scratches resulted. I made paper dolls and they were  my favorite Christmas present. Remember Colorforms? Sticky plastic things in bright colors with a board to put them on – hours of creative fun.

When I was 13 I had an amazing experience in art class. I’m so sorry most schools have dumped these classes in favor of remedial reading, writing and arithmetic. Making art develops the imagination like no other learning experience. In my class I learned art history and hands-on art. I was able to do an independent study in batik with the noble assistance of my teacher, Mrs. Pond. She was eccentric and we all loved her. The class was a basis for everything I’ve done since then.

I read Glamour magazine back then – as well at Seventeen – and saw ads for Patricia Stevens Schools in New York. I wanted so badly to go to New York and study fashion design. My dad was a carpenter and my mom was a stay-at-home mother who felt her whole life that she could have done something out in the world. She wasn’t ever happy. At the age of 65 she announced that she was living for herself from now on out. She died at the age of 66. Guess she should have lived for herself earlier.

Neither of my parents thought art was a good idea for me. Odd since they had encouraged my sibling to take a correspondence course in commercial art. I was the “brain” with straight As and a bright future in something that would make me independent and financially secure. No art for me. I was encouraged to study teaching – also because I received a teaching scholarship and because it was thought to be “safe” and I would find a job after graduation. I didn’t have the motivation for this and ended up dropping out after 3 years. The grind was mind-numbing. I skipped a lot of classes. I was in disfavor at the house. Big disfavor. I was depressed – and it was viewed as weakness, not as something real.

So my art languished until 1987 when I picked out some fabric and started dyeing again. And I made over 100 quilts. I was published in quilting books and magazines from the US to Japan. I showed my work at exhibitions and I sold. I wrapped myself in little teensy bits of fabric and put them back together. I hand sewed and quilted everything. Every evening I would sit with a piece on my lap and stitch it. I taught myself traditional quilting and the Amish rocker quilting method. And then I branched out into geometric wall hangings of my own design. It was an exciting time.

I didn’t quilt at all or hardly at all while I lived in Canada. I couldn’t get the fabrics we have access to here in the states. The fabric was expensive in Canada – $13 a yard instead of $7 or $8. Being retired, this wasn’t possible to purchase.

I couldn’t mail order a lot of stuff from the US as the import taxes were high. I also concentrated on my antique quilt and used and out of print book business.

After moving to Maine I made 4 quilts in rapid succession. I got a Bernina with the stitch regulator and machine-quilted. I didn’t like the machine quilting and I can only do squiggles, not the intricate patterns I did by hand.

I found myself needing clothes. Badly. I decided I would make them and found an awesome tee shirt pattern by La Fred, who sadly is no longer with us, and started on this journey I am now on. I love sewing. It is the high point of my life right now. It gets me away from the contemplation of what to do for an ill spouse and keeps me steady.

And I get to take elements from every design I see and plan how I will use these in my clothing. Since I work from July to February, I have plenty of time to do this. If only I had room! My sewing ahem studio is 9 x 12 with a large table, three large plastic shelving units, an ironing board and crap all over the floor. My shelves are groaning with fabric. I keep notions, trims and patterns in pink plastic baskets. Sometimes it takes me forever to find something. This room is going to get a major overhaul real soon.

I spin fiber too. Ah like when I can – I don’t do this as much as I want. I need a better wheel. I need it to spin smoothly and easily. I’m going to sell it I think and get one that’s really good. It will be so worth it. I will be able to feed my yarn addiction to. Now instead of quilting at night, I knit. I’m almost done with an oversized dusty pink alpaca sweater that I love and I have one on the back burner that was supposed to be a test knit and I guess still is but I was too slow …………..

Inspiration is everywhere. I even look at sweater patterns and think how I can make this in knitted fabric with the sewing machine. I look at some clothing like skirts and dresses and think how I could adapt them for my wardrobe. I wear casual clothes most of the time. I can wear jeans and a tee shirt to work – but just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to! Wearing unique well-made clothes is my finest ambition – and helps keep me here now –

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Author: Jennifer

I came from a family who made things. My father was a carpenter with a passion for making furniture. My mother sewed, crocheted, cooked and made a home on a shoestring. My grandmothers both quilted. As a teenager, I found batik through a wonderful art teacher who allowed me the freedom to batik yards of fabric. I then cut them up into a pattern and wore the item I made. I was ecstatic. I painted in my teens and twenties and my parents gracefully supplied me with oil paints and turpentine. When I needed an easel, my father took me to the shop where he worked and made me one. When he found unused and unwanted canvas, he brought it home and stretched it for me with wood from his shop at home. I was indulged at every step of the way. I wasn't ever told that I could not do something or that I should not do something. I was given freedom to chose my path in life. A blessed life I have lived, for sure.

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