THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

April 30, 2009

Vionnet’s Legacy Lives On

The latest news from The Center for Pattern Design landed in my inbox recently. Located in beautiful St. Helena in northern California, the Center is a repository of all things related to pattern. Patterns and tools are available thru the website, and older sewing and pattern design texts are being republished thru the Center’s Antiquity Press.

Cutting Cloth, the newsletter from Sandra Ericson’s Center for Pattern Design, was chock full of interesting tidbits. Not only is there a CPD conference slated for October this year at the Art Institute in San Francisco, there is news of a Vionnet exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, running until January 2010. The museum is the recipient of 750 of Madeleine Vionnet’s toiles and all her papers. Sandra says this show is the first time since 1939, when Vionnet’s house closed, that her work has been shown.
Sandra has been studying the work of ground-breaking French couturier Madeleine Vionnet for years. Vionnet is considered the inventor of draping on the bias, and used a half scale dress mannequin to work out her ideas. She was one of the first early 20th century designers to set up a series of ateliers and industrialize her designs
This past January, Diva Emerita MaryBeth from The Stitchery and I were fortunate to be in Palm Springs at back-to-back Claire Shaeffer workshops. We did a 5 day workshop with Sandra Ericson on Vionnet style draping, followed by a Couture Tailoring Techniques in the style of Yves St. Laurent. The draping class was so much fun; Ms. Ericson packed a lot in to each day. In the mornings we were treated to a teaching presentation of Vionnet’s methods and work, then a daily ‘show and tell’ with garments as examples of the day’s topic. Each afternoon we worked on half size dolls (aka My Size Barbies pressed into service as mannequins) draping our own styles using Vionnet’s approaches.


Chronicle Books’ oversize book Madeleine Vionnet, with diagrams and photos is the go-to reference on Vionnet today. For those who are interested in looking at the historical context of her work, there is a lot about her place in the Cubist movement in the book Cubism and Fashion, by Richard Martin, that came out at the time of the exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC in 1999.

Vionnet lives on, with many of today’s designers taking pages out of her book, sometimes quite literally.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to get to Paris before January 2010.

April 14, 2009

Pocket ( No sagging)

How to make double welt pockets is covered in most sewing books as well as via shared tutorials by other bloggers like by Paco see here and another way here

I will show you another way in another post.

Any slashed pocket like double welt, single welt or welt with flap pockets tend to sag if you actual use them to put something in it. 

 I always tell my husband to never use the outer pockets from his RTW suits except for a piece of paper because those pockets will sag.

But if you make your own suit jacket or coat you can prevent the sagging by using a tailors trick in sewing the pocket bag ( interior)

I learned this trick about 20 years ago during a tailoring course I took from a Dutch tailor, and I have no idea if this way of making a pocket is done by all tailors in Europe but I have never seen this technigue mentioned in tailoring books. So I thought  this trick could be of use for all of  you who are making a coat or jacket with horizontal slashed pockets .For angled pocket openings there are other ways to prevent sagging.

It does not take more than a few seconds, an iron and 2 inch/ 5 cm extra length of  fabric or pocketing for the pocket bag ( Pocketing is a sturdy cotton or  polyester rayon ( viscose)  fabric used for pocket bags)  but the difference in huge.

I made a sample double welt pocket and hung the fabric on a dress form to mimic a jacket or coat

here you can see the keys I used to put  in the pocket


 pocket sagging due to the weight of the keys,


The inside view of the bag with the keys inside



April 10, 2009

Jacket Watch

Filed under: Designing,Inspirations,Musings,Tailoring — georgene @ 8:50 pm

More coverage this week of what The Ladies Who Lead are wearing – there’s always lots of coverage over at the Huffington Post, in their Style section on the right side of the home page. Sometimes it’s more than just fluff pieces or photo essays. Michael Henry Adams has an interesting piece with some historical background with photos on Eleanor Roosevelt and perceptions of the First Lady. Readers of Cathy Horyn’s On The Runway blog over at the New York Times chimed in with 6 pages of comments so far on her latest post about the First Lady’s fashion choices. It’s a hot topic, and there are a lot of different opinions.

There is also a rather breathless piece with photo essay, with a headline that Hillary Clinton is ‘channeling’ Michelle Obama because she wore a silk flower and a wide belt under her jacket. dove-grey-jkt

I am not sure I would go so far as to suppose that HRC is taking fashion cues from the First Lady. A silk flower pin does not in any way remind me of the sparkling pins that Obama tends to wear. You may remember that Madeline Albright was known for her vast collection of brooches when she was Ambassador to the UN, and later as Secretary of State in the Clinton administration. the Museum of Art and Design in NYC will be showing an exhibit of Albright’s pins in Sept. of 2010: Read My Pins, The Brooches of Madeline Albright.

I love them too, and have been working on my collection for many years. A pin can make all the difference on an otherwise bland outfit. For a bolder statement you can put a bunch of them on, or pile on several silk flowers in related colors massed together as a bouquet.
Her dove grey jacket is really pretty – she was at an event with the Prime Minister of Australia this week.

Notice the center front zipper, the shawl construction turnback collar, and the center sleeve seaming. The smile pockets are a nice touch. I really like the fit on this jacket, softly shaped, none of the tightness in the sleeve from last week’s London jacket.


The monochrome pale grey palette is lovely, with the shades of grey reflected in the silk rose, the darker sweater underneath, and the belt we see peeking out from the jacket at the waist, not to mention the darker grey pearls.

Here’s how I imagine the technical sketch for this jacket. Its worth noting that the ¼” topstitch needed to make the zipper work is carried out at the cuff, hem, as well as down the center front and collar turnback. I am sure that there are nice big facings everywhere, but the ¼” topstitch gives it a nice unity.


April 7, 2009

“Not Couture” Jacket Diagnosis

Filed under: Fit/Pattern Alterations,sewing,Tailoring — georgene @ 11:02 am


Here’s what I imagine the technical sketch for Hillary’s jacket looks like.

It’s a bit like diagnosing a patient you’ve never seen in real life, but here are some possible approaches to fixing the problems we can see in the photos.


The armscye looks like it needs to be raised so the base of the armhole is not so low. Higher armholes can increase the movement range in a jacket sleeve, if there is enough ease in the sleeve as well as the body of the garment. One of my pet peeves in RTW is the plague of low armholes in larger sizes. Just because a person has more girth does not mean that the armhole has to get closer to the waist….in fact that has the opposite effect of causing the sleeve to tug and bar across the arm, as well as distort the side of the jacket when the arm is not at rest by the side of the body.

It’s hard to say whether Hillary is truly a petite fit in the upper torso, but certainly for this garment we could take some length out of the armscye. So let’s raise the armhole up a bit.

We could use some more length in the front as well, as the hem is hiking. It’s possible that an actual full bust adjustment is in order. Some length could be added and a small dart eased in at the side bust along that vertical dart that goes into the pocket.

The high hip and low hip (at 4” and 8” from the waist, respectively) could use a bit more ease. I would distribute that on all of the vertical seams, as well as adding a wee bit at the center back seam.

The sleeves are a bit more problematic, as we don’t want to add to length in the armscye, but we do need more girth at the bicep. I would fold out some length in the cap to account for the raising of the armhole.

This drawing shows how you might add to girth with a bit of slashing and spreading without adding to the circumference. You might have a bit of additional work easing in your elbow dart, but that can be managed.

April 2, 2009

Not Couture

Filed under: Fit/Pattern Alterations,Musings,sewing couture — georgene @ 6:36 am

BRITAIN-FINANCE-ECONOMY-G20 Hillary and Michelle are out there this week, highly visible on their charm tour of European capitals.

Hillary, as Secretary of State, has a different portfolio so to speak, for her presentation. Her first foray of the G20 stop in London was to 10 Downing St. A photo essay showed up the good and bad points of her ultramarine jacket choice.

Slightly longer than the jackets she usually wore on the campaign trail last year, it had an almost outerwear feel to it. The button placket was strange and bulging at the waist, and did her no favors. 85703157OS007_PRESIDENT_OBA

This was not (I hope) a custom fit piece. The sleeves were just awful, with the cap set too far toward the back. G20/

Mlle. Gogel, my draping teacher in Paris, insisted that one had to be able to put a suitcase in the overhead rack whilst wearing a coat or jacket. It’s obvious that Hillary will be having a hard time with that, as you can see here by the terrible drag lines. I suppose that she has someone to put the suitcase up there for her nowadays, but that has got to be uncomfortable. 85703157PM020_PRESIDENT_OBA

I did like the matching rib sweater under the jacket. We won’t discuss the jewelry. 85703243DK004_WORLD_LEADERS

The sleeve could benefit from a more relaxed fit in general, there is that sort of sausage casing effect in the upper arm that is not flattering. The Hillary in the sunshine photo shows the pouching just below the sleeve cap. There are so many things wrong with this sleeve, I don’t know where to begin. I just want to rip it out and start all oer again!

I suppose we shouldn’t be analyzing what the Secretary of State is wearing, we should be more concerned with what she is doing and saying. I saw a great quote from Madeline Albright’s daughter today. She said that the newspapers would try to figure out what was meant whether her mother wore a hat, or did not wear a hat – when all it meant was that it was a bad hair day!

I do think it is worthwhile to note what Madame Secretary choses to wear, or the First Lady, if we are interested in seeing what the choices of women of power are in today’s world.

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