Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time

Couture Fashion and Wardrobe Building

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What is “in” these days and what someone will actually wear are two different things. The above pictures show clothing that  I, given a size 0 body, would wear. There are some fashions here that I would wear even at my size.

I find that I tend to choose fashion that is simple with lots of straight lines. I go nuts with the fabrics and chose my favorites that are either textured, highly patterned or geometric in nature.

I like bright colors and black and white. I usually wear jeans to work – so it isn’t as if I need seven silk shirts to wear with them – but I love silk shirts and hey they look great with a stunning pair of jeans and sandals with a 2″ or greater heel.

These are my go to sandals this year:


BOC Rae Floral Wedge

BOC Rae Floral Wedge

born salima


I already have the top two and am working on the bottom two joining their friends in my closet soon. The sandal at top and bottom is by Born. These are incredibly comfortable and sturdy. I don’t feel like I’m going to fall off my shoes – which I have done many times. These feel like walking on air or in a favorite pair of Birkenstocks. I have finally had it with most of my Birkenstocks. I have one pair from the 90s that was called Ibiza and has an ankle strap. They are a denim blue leather and those I still love. I have the Salina in brown and those are good for around the house everyday type shoes.

Couture clothing means one thing to me and one thing only. It is handmade. The clothes you see on the runway are not machine sewn but rather there are as many as 200 or more seamstresses hand-sewing everything. Each seamstress has her or his own speciality and it has been honed over years of work. This isn’t a field that you can get into without a lot of education and experience.

One seamstress may be very talented in hemming, the other in applying beads or sequins, another in inserting a zipper, another in hand-attaching lace and trim, another – cutting the design. Hand sewing is fascinating work. I have made entire king-size quilts totally by hand only using the machine to attach the bias binding on one side only and then hand-sewing that down. Every block or appliqué was stitched by hand by me and then the quilt “put down” with the backing and batting. Then I would hand quilt it sometimes in a pattern I had marked before making the quilt sandwich and sometimes with a random quilting pattern. I have never quilted anything by hand less than 1/2″ apart. I like the look of texture that close quilting adds.

I have yet to branch into making clothing entirely by hand. I doubt that I will,  except for  the finishing touches or to apply trimming or hem or embroider.  Sturdy is how I want the clothing I make. I also want it well-finished though – so that if by some accident I end up in the ER and the nurse takes off my clothes – I don’t want her screaming “Euwww these are made by a home sewer. Euwww.”

I want the inside of my clothing to be just as beautiful as the outside. I will take the time to either do a Hong Kong seam on a woven or a french seam on a sheer or silk fabric – or one that ravels easily. I will finish knit seams with my new serger. And I will make sure nothing glares at you from inside the garment.

Second only to clothing that does not fit well is clothing that looks homemade in the great scheme of “I won’t wear that.” I did a lot of “fast” sewing when I was a teen. And it looked like it. I was impatient to get something done – thinking that I would wear what I created. I would not. I am a lover of fine clothing and have been known to spend copious amounts of money on designer clothing. I once bought a three-piece outfit from the designer department of Jacobson’s in Grosse Pointe Village. The sales clerk was totally shocked that I, in jeans and a tee-shirt, would want to try on a $350 outfit (marked down from $1100). It had the most wonderful black silk pleated skirt in pleats of 1″. There was a blouson shirt – didn’t like that – in ivory with black trim and a polka-dot ivory on black scarf. The jacket was ivory/black in a geometric pattern and totally lined in black. Everything was silk. It was also a size 10! At that time I wore a size 14 so getting into a 10 was WOW awesome!

I wore that outfit to death. I found a silk sweater with a draped asymmetrical collar that I wore with the skirt and jacket. I would wear the shirt but not outside the skirt as intended. Instead I would tuck it in and wear the awesome scarf tied under the collar of the shirt. This outfit screamed quality and one day I wore this to work at a law firm. The older partner remarked on my outfit and said that his wife, now deceased, had worn lovely clothes like this. He had donated them to a museum in Detroit. I thought that was a marvelous idea because I’ll just bet her clothes cost a lot more than what I was wearing – but he noticed the quality.

Now you can hardly get a pair of jeans and a shirt for $350. Not if you’re buying quality. If you want you can find inexpensive clothing all over the place – but will it last long enough? Usually, no. Most inexpensive clothing will be worn out or look tacky within 6 months to a year. You can save some of this wear and tear by not putting things in the dryer. It sounds old-fashioned but dry your kids’ and husband’s clothes and hang yours. They will last longer. I do this with what I make no matter what the fiber content. I don’t need my knits exposed to heat for a long period of time and the wovens always shrink just a tiny bit each time they are dried. So I don’t do it.

If you work in a professional setting – you are going to need a wardrobe specifically for work. A suite seems to be everyone’s first idea of what to buy. I would suggest getting a suit not in black or dark blue but another neutral that suits your coloring. I love gray and wear it a lot. I must say I do not like suits. I’m not sure why everyone thinks that to beat men in the marketplace we have to dress like them? I would suggest a jacket and skirt that aren’t the same fabric and texture. A good jacket that can be worn with slacks and skirts in many different neutral colors and skirts that go along with the jacket.

I would start with a skirt shape that flatters the waist, hips and legs. A pencil skirt if you have the figure for it or a nice pleated skirt like the one mentioned above. Mine grazed my ankles. After many years of wearing 17″ mini skirts – I am so glad this is behind me now. Knee-length skirts are great if you are going to wear heels and if your legs from the knee down are shapely and not big. Has anyone seen Hillary Clinton’s legs? There is a reason she wears slacks.

Add to this a few shirts in solids and prints that make you feel pretty. For goodness sake take someone along if you’re store shopping so they can tell you if the color makes you look sick. I am sallow in complexion with big dark shadows until  I wear makeup and so I cannot cannot cannot wear yellow, green or even lavender. Nothing that’s going to make me look like a nice washed out dead fish.

Spend some time thinking about what colors make you feel good. Red is great for days when you know you may have a contentious time at work. Believe it or not they won’t be fighting with you. You have already told them with your clothes that you are not in the mood for arguments but if they want one you will be glad to fight – to the death.

Pinks will let your colleagues know  you are amenable and that you are in a very good mood. They will be more apt to agree with what you say – not a bad thing!

Orange is a bit adventurous for work unless it’s an accent in a shell or scarf. Orange makes people think you are not serious? Don’t know why.

Yellow isn’t a color most people look good wearing – but if you’re a platinum blond with a stunning figure and pale skin – you can pull it off.

Blues are fantastic work colors. People trust people who wear blue.

Greens come in so many different shades – I don’t look bad in kelly green – although I don’t like it – but look awful in olive, lime and kiwi or neon green. These colors are popular but they are not flattering.

Purple is also a work choice if it is dark and somewhat muted. The new orchid color that’s all the rage is gorgeous in itself but a little strong unless in small doses.

Black and white and gray are my go to colors. Even if they are not necessarily color. I can do a lot with patterns in black and white or black and ivory. Gray is fantastic for comfort for me. I guess I equate gray with sweatshirts or something because I feel at home in it. I mix it with black or navy and I can feel well-dressed in these.

And don’t forget to get a few dresses – ones you can wear with a neutral jacket or on their own. They look smashing!

I think you can dress yourself for work for about $1,000 if you’re buying RTW and for about $500 if you’re sewing the wardrobe. So you can have twice the wardrobe if you make it! That’s why I sew ……………..




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.

One thought on “Couture Fashion and Wardrobe Building

  1. I am retired now so my work days are over but your advice is excellent.

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