pants

Fabrics from India

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I had two days in India before my surgery to power shop for fabric. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting around too well at that point. We hired a car and driver to cut down on the walking, but it was a bit difficult to communicate with the driver. He took us to places he knew about and I found what I could, though I had hoped to find much more.

I’m an A#1 procrastinator. I freely admit this and I’m always vowing to change. I have gotten a little better as my kids have gotten older and I have more time to myself. E. is unbelievably the polar opposite–he thinks of something that needs doing and he does it. Boom, done, off of his mind.

Usually he leaves me to my demons and doesn’t comment too much about how long it takes me to do things. Packing for travel is another thing. He gets his suitcase out a week ahead of departure and throws things in it as he thinks of them. I’m always thinking about what to take, but fail to make a list or start packing early like he does. He doesn’t like this, I always assure him it’ll be okay.

When we went to Ireland on a cycling vacation, I was at Banana Republic the morning of the flight grabbing clothes to take. This was before we were married and I left my bedroom in a cyclone mess of clothes, shoving things in my suitcase to get to his house by the time the cab to the airport arrived. The outcome: I forgot to pack my cycling shorts. Anyone who rides a road bike knows, you gotta have padded shorts. So, on our first day in Ireland, we were searching for a place to buy cycling shorts instead of cycling. E. took this pretty well. (But, like I said, this was before we were married!)

Our next big vacation was to France for our honeymoon. This time I sewed most of the clothes I took and was pretty smart and packed them as I finished them. This didn’t stop me from running out the morning of the flight to buy an adapter and exchange some dollars for euros. The outcome: the cab was waiting and I couldn’t find the euros (the bedroom was kind of a mess), E. found them at the bottom of a pile of discarded scarves. The cabbie was perturbed because he had to wait while this played out, E. was a little edgy on the way to the airport, but by the time we were flying over the Atlantic Ocean, he was over it.

For India I was perfect! I started putting things in the suitcase a week before departure. I made arrangements for the kitties and the mail, I tied up all my loose ends at work and shut down my computer. I was ready for the cab early! Here’s the glitch, I had surfed the web for fabric stores in Chennai and made a list of names and addresses, which I forgot to print out and bring with me.

So, we were at the driver’s mercy; he was a very nice and patient man.

First he took us to a very fancy store where the merchant laid out his wares, one at a time. We have a large Indian community in Chicago and Devon street is an authentic Indian experience, without the cows mingling around. There are multiple shops that offer sari fabrics and some yard goods, mostly silks. This merchant in Chennai had more or less the same things. Less expensive, to be sure, but still pretty pricey and mostly silks. For example, he had some beautiful printed silk Crepe de Chines for about $16/meter. (Of which I purchased three pieces, pictured above.)

I was hoping to find cottons. The silks are beautiful, but my lifestyle calls for more casual clothes and I’m always disappointed with the cottons I find at the fabric stores here. I know there are cottons in Chennai, it was formerly known a Madras and we know what fabric carries that moniker. I was hoping to find cottons with Ikat prints and large florals and maybe some embellished cottons.

So, the first shop was lovely, and I did purchase the three pieces of silk print and a beautiful scarf for my daughter. But I had a feeling because it was such an elegant store that it might be overpriced, so (I’m still kicking myself for this one), I passed up beautiful pashmina shawls in every color of the rainbow that turned out to be a very fair price. (I never did pick-up any pashmina shawls.)

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We asked the driver to take us to a bazaar of street sellers, hoping for more cottons and better prices. I did find some beautiful cotton fabrics that are used to make the Salwar Kameez (pictured above). Some are very sheer, like a batiste, and have 4 yards or so of usable fabric with lots of border print. Some are lovely fine cotton, like a soft pima cotton, with a border print piece of about 2 yards and another plainer piece for pants that’s about 2 yards and a border print scarf. The sheer cottons will have plenty of yardage for dresses, the heavier cottons, probably only enough for a skirt (about 44″ wide). At $12-$20 for each bundle, they were a steal. At one shop I finally found some madras plaid by the meter and purchased 4 meters at a very reasonable price:

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For the madras, I have in mind a “farmer’s shirt” for E. (I copied a favorite summer shirt for him a few years ago in a yellow seersucker check and I’ve always teased him and said that all he needs is a pair of white pants and white patented leather shoes and he’d fit right into the farming community where he was raised.) And a pair of Bermuda shorts for me.

The Salwar Kameez fabrics will work themselves into my sewing endeavors. I’m seeing sheer tunics and sundresses and hippy-chic skirts.

As I was unpacking, Willy decided he’s the Maharajah! picture-012.jpg

The kicker is, as we were driving to the Fisherman’s Cove resort after my surgery, we passed a very modern looking two story store called The Cotton House. I drooled as I saw hundreds of rolls of fabric in the windows. I was on crutches and just a few days post surgery and so we couldn’t stop. Maybe on my next visit to India, let’s hope it’s not for another new hip!

Ta-ta for now!

Special Clothes

alexander-mcqueen-tunic.jpgI’m always on the lookout for pieces I can make that are at once extraordinary and classic. These are the kinds of garments that I keep for years, some of my special pieces have been in my wardrobe for 20 years. For these clothes, I don’t mind spending lots of time on construction and I purchase the best fabrics I can afford. They become my signature pieces and have a certain style that is my own.

I like to have separates instead of dresses for special occasions. Starting with a beautiful pair of black pants, a black skirt and maybe even a tuxedo in gorgeous fabrics you can mix and match infinite outfits.

I came accross this design by Alexander McQueen that has all of these elements. It’s dramatic, but wearable. It’s not really “in style” but will looks stylish for years. I wouldn’t copy this look verbatim, I’d use the fabric, the neckline and the belt and lose the quarterback shoulders and goth sleeves. At this time, I’ve no clue how I would recreate the pattern, but one of the things on my wish list is to learn to drape patterns and this might be my first project. I can see it in a beautiful silk peau de soie and I could spend months searching for the perfect belt. In fact, the best way to approach putting this together is to find the belt first and then choose the color of the fabric…

 Ta-ta for now!

Different tops for skirts and pants (from You Look Fab)

 The untucked shirt thing has been hard for me to wear. I guess I liked the 80’s when a shirt tucked into a skirt or pants with a great belt would really make a statement. But, as I’ve said before, as you get older I think its important to keep up with the major trends. And wearing a shirt tucked in with a great belt looks, well…so 80’s!  Untucked shirts can be a godsend to cover-up a tummy.

 Here’s some good advice from you-look-fab.jpg on how to choose the right length for an untucked top.

tops-for-skirts.jpgIf you’re going to go un-tucked, then tops that look good with skirts are not the same tops that look good with pants or jeans. Length is the key issue:

  • Skirts look best with tailored tops that are shorter in length. This is especially true of A-line skirts where it’s imperative to accentuate the waistline (volume on top of volume doesn’t work). Keep the hem of the top on or just above
  • Pants look best with tops that are 1 to 3 inches above crotch point

 

Read more…

Spring Wardrobe ’08 Part 5

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I love menswear–tailored jackets, slouchy pants, crisp cotton shirts. The current styles are about as far away as you can get from menswear. I want to stay true to my look, but I hate feeling like I look dated. I have a fear of looking like I’m wearing my mother’s clothes (or that I have my mother’s haircut)! So I weave a few pieces of what looks new this season in with the tailored clothes I really love.

It seems like cropped, full jackets are everywhere! There are but a few long, fitted jackets to be found. If I tone down the fullness, this is a look I can live with. I found this jacket from Piazza Sempione (a line that I love) that combines the “new” elements of a short jacket and bright color. I think the bracelet length sleeves are attractive and current looking. I’m going to put it on my list of things to make, sooner rather than later because it will be a good topper before it gets really warm.

I just purchased a bright orange silk and cotton fabric that has good body–it will be just right for this design. I went to Saks to see the details of this jacket, it has wide elastic at the cuff and a small rather pointed collar. It should be fairly easy to find a pattern that I can adapt to this style. I think it would look better with longer (ankle) tapered pants. I always prefer long and slim under short and full.

I’d better get sewing!

Ta-ta for now.

Spring Wardrobe ’08 Part 4

Okay, so now the weather seems to be changing and before long I’m going to freak-out because I have nothing to wear! So much for my plan of sewing ahead and having everything hanging in my closet ready to go.

Today’s fashions don’t suit me. I’m too short and too old to wear clothes that are loose fitting (I did that during 3 pregnancies and that’s enough!). In some ways, it’s easier because I see so little that I like, I’m not tempted to over-do. I’ve been scouring the web and the fashion magazines and have come up with a couple of really wearable looks:

erin-fetherston.jpgI love this outfit from Erin Fetherston…the peach and “greige” palette looks spring-y and the drapey silhouette is flattering. (I just purchased some gorgeous peach silk crepe de chine–it will be perfect for this. Crepe de chine seems to be making a comeback which I’m delighted to see. It’s got a beautiful drape and one of my high priority fabric qualities, it presses like a dream.) 

 phillip-lim-rtw.jpgThis Phillip Lim outfit is great looking–classic but with an updated look. I’m usually not into colored pants, but I’m going to make some and see if they’re comfortable to wear. Rolling the cuffs makes them look unfussy. I can see wearing these pieces over and over again.

 Ta-ta for now!

Spring Wardrobe ’08 Part 1

I’ve decided to do something a little different. Instead of planning my wardrobe a day or two before I’m in need of something and then sewing it with a pattern and fabric I have on hand (no time to shop) and finishing it an hour before I’m leaving (when I could be taking a leisurely shower and carefully doing my hair and make-up), this spring I’m going to sew a little in advance.

This has some advantages:

1)  I’ll feel organized because I’ll have what I need hanging in my closet, ready to go

2)  I’ll have time to find the perfect fabric (usually online), pattern, buttons, etc. to create exactly what I see in my mind’s eye

3)  I can poke around the stores for the perfect accessories and coordinites for my outfits (shopping at the beginning of the season when the selection is best)

4) Hopefully I can inspire you with plenty of time to create similar fashions for yourselves

and some disadvantages:

1)  I work best under pressure and when I have an event in mind it’s easy to plan exactly what I want to wear

2)  What if I finally lose that last 10 lbs.? My clothes will be too big! (ha, ha–I’ve been using that excuse for years)

3)  My stash will probably grow instead of shrink, after all, you have to grab it when you see it because great fabric is hard to find!

So, to start my experiment I will first look for inspiration. I’ll start by perusing the photos from the spring fashion shows on Style.com. In addition, I have files of pictures I’ve torn from magazines and although some are from previous seasons, sometimes the styles have caught on and feel more wearable than when they were brand new. And I have the current fashion magazines which will help me find the most wearable trends. When I’m out, I’ll stop by my favorite stores to see what’s new and pick up a piece or two to get me started.

So far, this is what I’ve found:

This is from the Brian Reyes’ 2006 collection. It would be good for early spring when the temperature is still cold, but you’re ready for lighter colors and fabrics.

 This jacket is from my archive of pictures, I don’t know whose designed it. A jacket like this is one of the first things I’ll make–it will be warm with a sweater in early spring and then a good rain jacket.

Another good season spanner, this jacket and pants can be made in light weight wool that will feel less wintery when it’s snowing in April. It’s from my picture archive from Spring ’07. It’s hard to see the details in the jacket, but what I like is the silhouette, pulled in at the waist which creates a peplum look. I can see it in wool crepe or something with some stretch, like heavy wool jersey or double knit.

This outfit looks so modern–it’s from the Badgley Mischka Spring ’08 RTW collection. I always feel like some bright color and pattern in the early spring when it’s usually bleak and cloudy.

I adore this skirt from Derek Lam’s Spring ’08 RTW collection–he shows it with this ikat top–I like that too for a casual outfit. But I can really see it in a shiny fabric (silk taffeta?) with a dressy blouse.

Finally, I have to put this green trench coat on my “to do” list as I’ve been craving it since last year. I don’t know the designer, but something about the color makes it wearable with anything from jeans to dresses in any season.

I’ll start looking for fabrics for these designs and in the meantime, I’m going to make the Nanette Lepore knock-off top to go with the black silk skirt I’m altering.

Ta-ta for now.