Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time

1 Comment

Sewing to Wear – Two New Tops!

These are a couple of tops I made to wear to work. I can wear them anywhere, but work will do.

The first is made from a wool gauze from Emma One Sock (where else) and this gauze is fantastic. It’s not just a winter fabric at all, but light enough to wear year round. The print is lavender, periwinkle blue and orange, orange being one of my favorite colors.

The pattern I used is this one


which I shortened to make a top. I love the lines of this dress and I would wear this with leggings. As soon as I make the leggings ……………..

Here’s the top

I had to line this because the wool gauze is sheer. It was super easy. I just made the shirt back and front out of an orange jersey and sewed them together at the neck. The right side of the lining is toward my skin – which is how I always do it. The sleeves are unlined.

The second top is my all-time favorite. The fabric is a polyester sheer knit. It is hard to explain but there are stripes through it and the abstract print is printed over the sheer fabric. Makes no sense so I’ve taken a close-up.

The pattern for this was seriously mutated by me. I used Marcy Tilton’s


Vogue 8582. I don’t see this on the site any more. I’d look for it, seriously, it is one of the best and most functional shirt patterns I’ve ever used.

To this pattern I added a ruffle at the bottom of 4″ in depth. The ruffle is split at the sides to allow me to sit without pulling it. I just shortened the top enough so that it would be the right length for me with the ruffle. This too had to be lined because the knit is sheer. I just made the front and back but this time I used a neckband to put them together. A great way to calculate a neckband is a ratio of 75%. Whatever the measurement of my neckline is, I use a strip of fabric for the neck binding that is 75% of that. I used normal construction methods on this shirt. By that I mean I did an overcast of the seam allowance before I put the top together and I put clear elastic in the shoulder seam to keep it from stretching out. I used 3/4 sleeves on this top. I love it.

Both of these will be fun to wear – with jeans!


Leave a comment

Now That You Have Skinny Pants – Guess What?

It should come as no surprise to those of us who love fashion that fashion changes. Like Heidi Klum says “One day you’re in. Next day you’re out.” Sometimes it doesn’t even take a day.

There are many unflattering clothing styles in fashion these days. Like those way below your waist pants that look ludicrous even on skinny tiny people. I don’t think showing everything from your pelvis up is pretty. Some of those stomachs look frightening! Seriously.

And skinny pants. Leggings. You know things that cling to your calves. Worn with baggy tops or not baggy tops. Whatever. Here’s my shape problem. I am overweight. No question about this, and I have been most of my life. I have large breasts, a large stomach and smaller hips. My shoulders wouldn’t look so wide if I was thinner. I am trying to get thinner. I ate tomatoes and cucumbers in a salad for lunch. My legs? They come from my grandmother. Grandma Hattie to be exact. My legs look almost atrophied, a fact which my doctor in PEI took great amusement in telling me.

I did not laugh. My thighs aren’t even large. My calves are small and my ankles are so small that when I buy ankle strap shoes, we have to punch a hole somewhere about 3 inches from the last hole so I can keep them on. I just bought a pair of ankle straps I had to return because they had velcro closings on the ankle strap and there wasn’t any velcro where I needed to close them.

This all means that walking around in skinny pants and a billowing top just accentuates my weird shape. If I were geometry, I would be a triangle. For the last few years, skinny pants and jeans have become the norm. I cannot wear them. I do have a pair of jean leggings. I wear these in the house. I do not wear them in public. I will not wear them in public.

I’m sure a lot of you have gone out and added skinny pants to your wardrobes. Wear them quickly. They are, like every fad, on their way out. Since most women are a size 14 or greater, these skinny pants do not flatter them. Luckily there are enough of us who will not bend to fashion fads and so we don’t have them wasting away in our closets. If you do, guess what the next trend is? How about wide legged pants? Here’s an assortment from fashion magazines, InStyle to be exact and a runway show or two.

The two examples on the bottom are Vogue patterns. The Chado Ralph Rucci is a new pattern from this spring’s collection. The Donna Karan pattern has been around a while.

These “new” wide legged pants are going to require different top treatments. They won’t look balanced with an oversized top and will probably require layering for me. I can see wearing these with a v-neck tee and a cardigan. The cardigan can be just a light jersey, something to balance out the pants.

I must say I’m much happier that wide legged pants are making a comeback. Maybe I’ll get out of my jeans . . . or find some wide legged ones!


1 Comment

Revamp of Vogue 1247 Complete

I loved the look of the top on the Vogue 1247 pattern by Rachel Comey. The shirt has such a casual yet stylish feel about it. The only difficulty is that the pattern only goes up to size 18. This is common in patterns from some designers. It’s very frustrating because there are those of us who can wear that style that are not small. I decided not to let the size bother me and bought it anyway – on sale, of course.

Here’s the technical drawing of the shirt and its components


If you look closely, you’ll see the bottom half of the front has four triangular pieces. The top portion has two pieces joined at center front. There are pleats from the shoulder and the line under the v-neck is really  two darts, one on each side.

Being somewhat mathematically challenged, I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what the garment would measure in a size 18 when finished. Unlike most normal patterns, Vogue did not put this table in this pattern. Instead they marked the width of the finished garment on the pattern piece. Which was way odd because they had one width on the back and one on the front and there’s no way you could add them together and get a top out of it – it would be around 100″ around. So I measured each piece.

I figured the shirt would end up being 52.5″ when complete in a size 18. This is okay in a knit, but this will be out of a woven and that’s way too small. It also allows for around 12″ of ease in the design. So I commenced to adding 12″ to the pattern for ease to fit me.

You’d think that I would know there are two pieces to the front. Duh. Well I didn’t pay attention and I added 12 inches to one side. The next morning it dawned on me that if I did add that much to each side, I would effectively add 24 inches to the shirt. No way I need the shirt to be 76″ around!

Back to the slicing board, I cut out two of the 4″ pieces I had added to my pattern material. I then left only one 4″ piece which will add 8″ to the finished garment, making it 60″ around and giving me 10″ of ease in the garment.

I then had to add to the other pieces the same amount so they would fit when sewed and also add to the back pattern piece. I will make a muslin of this and see if everything fits. For those of you who have read this far and don’t sew – a muslin is just a trial garment which you do to fit yourself. You don’t have to finish it once you get it to the point where you like how it will fit. For this, I highly recommend a dress form because taking it on and off gets boring and you still can’t really see it. You need to look at it as others will look at it and this is best done on a dress form.

I may have to add more to the back piece. I’m not sure yet and I don’t want the back to be super baggy but I want the pieces to fit together. Since I did the enlargement of the whole front of the pattern, I don’t need to do an FBAfull bust adjustment – on the pattern.

Yesterday my latest and last big fabric purchase arrived. I have been maniacally buying fabric. I am now not allowed to go to the fabric website where I always shop. I must contain myself as I have plans in the fall I want to keep and I will need all the money I can get.

I was knocked flat by the absolute perfection of my order. Some of the fabrics looked not at all like I expected. Particularly the french cotton dots which I purchased in red/white and black/white. These will be the shirt that I made in the dark teal gauze. The dots were much smaller than I thought and I love it all the more for that.

I had been hankering after this Burning Torch embroidered cotton for months. Knowing that it wouldn’t be there forever, I finally got it. It is not inexpensive and I needed at least 3 yards. Here’s the fabric – which is even better in real life.


Also in the box were these two faux leather fabrics. These are so malleable and fine. The copper I had planned for a bag but I may make a vest instead or a jacket.

The white gold is destined to be a jacket.

I also received these fabrics

The navy print lacy fabric is fantastic with a tiny floral and a nice sheer but not too sheer look. I purchased 4 yards of this because of the width but also because I am unsure which shirt pattern I’m going to use with this.

After my fabric arrived yesterday I spent a great deal of time jumping up and down screaming whoopee! I love the fabric from Emma One Sock. I’ve never been disappointed in anything I’ve ordered. That I cannot say about every online purchase of fabric I’ve made. Although I am certainly not made of money, I do follow the concept that in fabric, you get what you pay for. There is nothing worse than doing an excellent job on a garment using cheap fabric. It will look cheap no matter how great you sew. If you like disposable clothes then it’s not an issue. I want stuff to last. I had my fill of disposable clothes buying RTW.

Today I will be back in the sewing room working on the muslin for the shirt. As fast as I can because I can’t wait to get to the main event!

Leave a comment

Working on a Top


This is not my shirt! It is, however, my fabric. I fell in love with this fabric from Elliott Berman Textiles in New York late last winter. I fussed about what to make from it. Being financially embarrassed at the time, I only bought two yards of this.

In my last post I explained a tee-shirt for which I’ve been looking. It was oversized, boatneck and with dolman-type long sleeves. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’d seen it on Zulily (check them out they are fantastic). I decided to make my own and figured it can’t be too hard. It isn’t.

I first decided how to orient the fabric. I went with the print going sideways even though it is a bit of a stripe effect. It is so loose and flowing a print that it doesn’t make me look wider. Heaven forbid.

I then marked off what I though would be wide enough. I went with the width of the fabric, 60″. I then calculated length and went with approximately 27″. I cut two rectangles. I found the center of both and marked 8″ on either side for the neck opening. I overstitched the edges of each rectangle and then sewed the “shoulders” together up to the neck opening on both sides. Trying this on my dress form, I found the neck opening too large so I sewed a further 4″ in on each side. This makes the neck opening a comfortable 12″. I then pressed the overstitched edges of the boatneck about 5/8″ and sewed them 3/8″. This gives me a nice finish to the neckline.

My next step is sleeves. I calculated how long I want them. I want them LONG. I like the scrunchy look of super long sleeves. I then calculated width. I decided on 24″ at the top and I want to taper this to 10″ at the wrist.

I will sew the sleeve, which is dropped from the shoulder quite a bit, before I sew the side seams. Really if you do this, putting in sleeves is a snap. I hate setting in sleeves. Just like I hate zippers.

The final step will be the hem – I will probably just overstitch this and leave it. I don’t like bulky hems in a knit fabric.

This is the shirt I was looking for all those hours on Google. I made it myself! I will put up finished pictures as soon as I have them.



I Need Help Finding Something and Here’s How to Get Good Clothes Cheap

A few weeks ago I saw a really cute boxy boatneck top on It was a colorblock and it was pink over gray. It was super-oversized and had long sleeves. I want that tee. Of course, once the sale is over, it is no longer on Zulily. I have done so many google searches I’m ready to try bing.

If anyone out there has seen this or knows what brand it is – let me know. Whimper.

Thanks to a WP post I found Free People! I went to their site and yes, they are geared to skinny women, but a lot of their tops would work for any size as they too are oversized and awesome. They are kind of pricey so I will probably be doing the theft thing with a pair of scissors and my sewing machine. I love thieving styles!

Here’s how I do it. I look at the top I want to copy. I figure out what the main pattern piece elements are. I get out my trusty pattern material which costs $2.15 a yard at and I start drawing out the shapes – aided by my straight edge and a flexible french curve. I approximate the shape and fit it to my size.

Most RTW is pretty simple. You can see the shape in the top easily. I would have more trouble with pants, but I have so many pants patterns that I love I just use those and tart them up a bit.

I get inspiration from the embellishments of RTW too. There may be two or more fabrics used. As long as they’re the same weight and will hang the same, they’re good to use together. You wouldn’t mix a woven and a knit because they act different when on and one would drag the other down. I prefer fabrics with some drape and give. I find I use knits a lot for casual clothes (and dressy for jackets and pants) and woven fabrics for more classic styles. My last project, the Origami blouse, I used a crinkle cotton with a lot of give and the pattern was also oversized. This shirt is comfortable and I wore it yesterday. It’s very cool too in hot humid weather as it doesn’t cling anywhere.

Shortly I’m going to get a scanner so I can show you some of my concept drawings for clothes. I was going to use a tablet but I’m not an early adopter of new technology! Ha! Actually DS talked himself out of a $2500 tablet for digital illustration and has decided to keep his current tablet. Thankfully.

Dresses and skirts are also easy to copy from RTW. I highly recommend a draping class from Paul Gallo which is on On Craftsy you can find hundreds of garment construction classes to broaden your toolbox. The Tilton sisters have one on making tee shirts – they do a lot of surface design work and are a fun couple of people to watch. Their creative juices flow out of the computer.

If you’re like me, you have sewing patterns. In each of these patterns are components of a style that you can take and mix with another pattern to get the look you want. Don’t be afraid to mix and match! I have various patterns for tops that I change the neckline on, make longer, change the drape, add sleeves and embellishments. You can do anything to your pattern to make it yours – but I would highly recommend you trace it off onto pattern material. You never know when you might want to make another style from that pattern and you will need the original pattern intact as it was in the beginning.

All you need to make clothing from RTW inspiration is your eyes, your tools and a sewing machine. I find a dress form to be helpful too and there’s a good one that is adjustable to your measurements. I think it was $165. It has simplified my life no end. I can see what something looks like on my double and I know it will look fine on me.

Hey – if you find that shirt I’m talking about – let me know – I’m going to steal it too.


1 Comment

Couture Fashion and Wardrobe Building

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 ……………..




Washing Buttons


I recently purchased this pile of buttons and buckles from a nice lady on Ebay. There are some real treasures here and I am pleased. They all felt just a teensy dirty though. Kind of like they’d been in the garage or attic for years.

I put them all in a dishtowel this morning and tied the dishtowel. I am soaking them in dish soap and hot water and I will get them out and let them air dry once they are clean.

Before I stuck them in the towel, I separated out the fabric-covered buttons and anything I thought wouldn’t survive the swimming trip. Most of them are not fabric-covered so I will be able to get them clean and fresh.

I’ve been doing quite a lot of drawing using this book as a reference

fashion illustration


and I am going to take pictures of my work for you all to see. I hope to post those pictures later today. I still have the problem of the Nikon D50 residing upstairs in my sewing room while my Mac is downstairs ………… I think I need two computers and two cameras. Or I need not to be so lazy.

I am cutting out a new shirt today. I haven’t decided yet if it will be this



or if it will be this



For the first shirt, I am using this fabric

Whew this is cute


and I have several for the second – here’s a few of them

Alas I have more ……………… my fabric buying in April and May got a bit out of hand …………… I think I’m stocked up for a LONG time – especially since I still have the entire order of fabric from way back in 2011 AND fabrics I bought longer ago than that. I have marvelous fabric ………………

Update with pictures of the drawings and pretty purple shirt later!