THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

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.


  1. Fascinating. I love posts like this because each time I learn a little about construction. Thanks!

    Comment by cidell — April 2, 2009 @ 7:19 am

  2. I agree with Cidell. Personally I wouldn’t catch details like the ones you’ve mentioned. I can use them to help me. At the same time I am awed by how lovely she looks in that shade of blue. Her hair and makeup look so nice and appropriate too.

    Comment by Annette — April 2, 2009 @ 7:29 am

  3. This does look like outerwear and she must be hot as the hems of hell. Thanks for pointing out the sleeve issues. I learn so much this way.

    Comment by Bunny — April 2, 2009 @ 7:46 am

  4. I really like her hair color – she got rid of those harsh blond streaks and it looks like she has an all over blond color in 2-3 shades with lowlights.

    Comment by Phyllisc — April 2, 2009 @ 7:55 am

  5. I notice a lot of sleeve issues, more than any other fitting problem. I’m conscious of it in my own garments.

    Comment by Gwen — April 2, 2009 @ 8:33 am

  6. 🙂 The minute I read the following words: “Mlle. Gogel, my draping teacher in Paris, insisted that one” I went back up to see the signature. Oh Georgene, what a pleasure to read your comments. I miss your sewing. I still have such a great impression of your daughter’s dress. Génial cette robe et tout ce que vous créez en fait !

    Comment by Anne e le manine d'oro — April 2, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  7. It’s so interesting to hear all of this. Sleeves are my downfall. I’m wondering just what adjustments might be made to start fixing that sleeve? I get those same drag lines on many of my jackets and have no idea where to even begin to change that problem.

    Comment by Mandi — April 2, 2009 @ 10:11 am

  8. Madame Secretary probably did what a lot of us do. 1) settle for RTW because she liked the color and because she “didn’t have enough time” to have something tailor made; 2) bought the jacket to fit the bust and/or hips, which made the shoulders too wide; 4) didn’t buy a petite when she should have, creating the low armhole and unfortunate closure issue; 3) gained a little bit of weight, making the jacket pull at the closure.

    Face it, we’ve all done it. Fortunately, we’re not on the world stage having our clothing choices dissected. I guess it’s the price one pays.

    Comment by Nancy (nanflan) — April 2, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  9. Ughh, bad editing. I do know how to count.

    Comment by Nancy (nanflan) — April 2, 2009 @ 10:13 am

  10. Hey dear one Georgene. How I appreciate your insights and envy your powers of observation! What would you do to improve the fit of this jacket?

    Comment by Leslie in Austin — April 2, 2009 @ 10:41 am

  11. For all the fit issues with that jacket, it’s a great color on her.

    Comment by cheesepirate — April 2, 2009 @ 11:34 am

  12. Your insights into the drafting of this jacket are enlightening to say the least. I never like the length of her jackets. She’s just too short to wear such long jackets. I know that we rarely mention how men in power dress. But, women have so many more choices and chances to get it wrong and women in power are particularly vulnerable to this. It often seems that they are picked apart because they are powerful.
    That said, this topic is a tad different, since we all want to know the how it’s made of fashion.

    Comment by Nancy k — April 2, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

  13. Do you really thing she even touches her own luggage? Much less having to put it in an overhead compartment.

    Comment by Son — April 2, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

  14. I find this analysis very interesting. I always learn new things, including more about the problems I have had with sleeves in RTW and trying to figure out to make them fit correctly. I don’t think I have ever worn a jacket with a sleeve that fits in the way you allude to, but would love to manage that someday.

    Comment by Mardel — April 2, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

  15. Fascinating post. However, her hair colour, more fluid hair cut and sharp make-up make her look lively, intelligent and determined. And at least she isn’t seen constantly holding her husband’s hand.

    Comment by susan — April 2, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

  16. I agree this is fascinating. Are a lot of the wrinkles an issue of not making a petite adjustment in the armscye with corresponding adjustment in the sleeve? Does that also limit range of motion in this jacket? I’ve experienced those problems before and have at times remembered to make the petite adjustment–but not always. Seems like a huge key to fitting success.

    Thanks for the education!

    Comment by Judy Greenough — April 2, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

  17. “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. ”

    You think?

    Or at least be evenhanded and give the same scrutiny to what male leaders are wearing, while acknowledging that it’s a whole lot easier to get dress if you’re a guy.

    Criitques like this have their place, but they should not be directed at the few women leaders we have. You’re reinforcing a sexist system that keeps women in their place based on their appearance.

    I think she looks fine. She’s never pretended to be a fashion plate. She wants to get things done.

    Comment by Sewist — April 2, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

  18. easier to get DRESSED if you’re a guy.

    Comment by Sewist — April 2, 2009 @ 6:08 pm

  19. BTW, when did this kind of criticism of women leaders become, uh, fashionable? I don’t seem to remember reading about Golda Meir’s fashion taste, or that of Shirley Chisolm, or the New York politician who always the wore hat — her name escapes me. Oh, yes. Bella Abzug.

    They were not glamorous or young and conventionally attractive. Frankly, they were dowdy. They just tried to work at changing the world a bit.

    Comment by Sewist — April 2, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

  20. I really enjoyed reading this post. Your photos really provided good examples to go with your comments.

    Expat 21

    Comment by expat21 — April 2, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

  21. This post is not a put-down of HIllary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States of America. It is an analysis of the jacket she wore Wednesday morning. The jacket has unfortunate fitting flaws that I felt we, as sewing enthusiasts, could learn from. This is a blog about sewing. If you have a political agenda, there are other places you can post about that.

    My usual approach to fitting is to LET THE FABRIC TALK. I come with pins and start working on rectifying the sihouette of the garment. Reading drag lines, and identifying fit issues is not an exact science, but we do have some guidelines.

    Nanflan hits the nail on the head when she says that HRC should have probably bought a petite. The armholes are too low, and the front armscye cheats to the front on the cross chest. The concept of this jacket, the color, many many things are right, but there are fit issues that sandbag the whole thing.

    HIlary’s hair, her make-up, and most particularly her joie de vivre are all spot on. I have seen her in person, and she exudes a charisma that puts everyone else in the shade. She is VIVID. That is something that money can not buy.

    Comment by georgene — April 3, 2009 @ 12:10 am

  22. I have enjoyed this blog for over a year, learning new techniques here and there, admiring the expertise on display.

    But I’m taking it off my feed reader right now. You cannot possibly be so naive as to really believe that diminishing Ms. Clinton’s presence on the world stage to “Her jacket looks like crap!” is not a political statement of its own kind. Declaring that commenters must have a political agenda to find this post objectionable is perplexing, to say the least.


    Comment by Valerie — April 3, 2009 @ 1:00 am

  23. Valerie, I am perplexed that you would find this post objectionable. It’s hard to believe that looking at the jacket as a teachable moment in the sewing community diminishes her presence on the world stage. I have nothing but admiration for Sec’y Clinton. There is nothing here that says the jacket looks like crap. I do however, find it unfortunate that there are parts that are less than flattering, due to less than stellar fit.

    Most of Clinton’s jackets fit much better than this example, if one looks back at the photographic record of her ensembles of the past 12-18 months.

    Comment by georgene — April 3, 2009 @ 1:17 am

  24. I don’t have a “political agenda.” (Although what’s wrong with that?) I do have opinions. I’m a serious sewist and I respect women and pay attention to how they are discussed. I’ve read this post again and it is quite catty.

    You yourself acknowledged that perhaps people shouldn’t be focusing on Hillary Clinton’s clothes. We had an entire primary campaign in which every aspect of Clinton’s appearance was dissected and it is difficult to read this post as merely clothing construction criticism, a subject that does interest me.

    One of the reasons that women who sew have in the past been dismissed as “home sewers,” “seamstresses” and “little dressmakers” is because women as a group do not demand respect. This lack of respect extends to other areas and women frequently do not respect other women.

    And I don’t think Gordon Brown and Obama look too hot in that photo either.

    Comment by Sewist — April 3, 2009 @ 9:23 am

  25. Valerie:

    Thank you. I’m going to continue reading this blog for now, because it does present a lot of good information about sewing, but I’m happy that someone else sees that this was yet another gratuitous put-down of Clinton (or certainly could be read as such if that was not the intention), not a simple construction lesson.

    I’ve taken tailoring and haute couture sewing classes. I’m fascinated by these issues. But this is not how I care to see them raised.

    The world is politics.

    Comment by Sewist — April 3, 2009 @ 9:33 am

  26. No one ever criticized what Colin Powell wore, or what he looked like. Why is it then, that it’s open season on women who hold position of power? Albright, Rice, now Clinton, same thing, different female.

    Maybe her fashion sense is not nearly as important to her as her duties as Secretary of State. And to that I say Bless her abundantly! I want her doing her job not looking in the mirror.

    *mind boggling*

    Comment by CindyK — April 3, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  27. Men have a sort of built-in uniform that they can wear, and the eye sort of glides over it, as long it’s not outrageous, it’s acceptable.

    I am interested in what real women are wearing, as opposed to runway or magazine editorials. I am into outward manifestation. Garments are a principal interest of mine. The photographic record is multilayered and deep on public figures like Clinton. If she wanted no one to notice, she would not be wearing the bright colors she favors. Her image is carefully crafted, you may be sure that she spends time and money on it.

    Hillary’s fashion sense has evolved over the years. We are fortunate to have an extensive record of its evolution. Her transformation as a figure on the world stage has been accompanied by her evolution in her personal presentation. I believe that it is worthy of study, and not a frivolous, demeaning detail.

    From an anonymous reviewer at of the Prof. E.W. Barber’s book “Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with Special Reference to the Aegean”:

    “Clothing and body ornamentation were among the first means by which humans expressed their social identity. For this reason alone, the study of clothing is of primary importance for understanding the past….

    Because the last two centuries have seen such accelerated social change we often forget that people in the past held on to their traditions with the greatest tenacity. The arts practiced primarily by women such as weaving and basketry were among the most conservative…

    In Neolithic times, [weaving and textile] designs were transferred to pottery and widely diffused. What is familiar to us as geometric art…is really the residue of a system once used to depict genealogical relations via tattoos and clothing designs. “

    Comment by georgene — April 3, 2009 @ 11:59 am

  28. No comment about Gordon Brown’s gaping right lapel or collapse of his left sleeve just below the cap? The “break” in both Obama’s and Brown’s trousers is just a bit too long – enough to look awkward.

    Did people comment on Golda Meir’s hairdo or India Ghandi’s outfits? Albert Einstein usually looked a rumpled mess. Perhaps these people of note do not have their focus on fashion or couture because they are dealing with matters of substance, not style.

    It’s ok to critique the construction of the jacket, but it comes off superficial when you’re talking about world leaders.

    Sorry, Off my soapbox now. I love this website and have learned so much here. I just thought we settled these sexist issuees 30 years ago.

    Comment by Ann V — April 3, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

  29. Ann V. I agree with your take on Gordon Brown and Obama’s tailoring problems. There are reports that Obama’s suits are from Hart, Shafner and Marx, so we know that his suits are not custom made. Brown, from all visual evidence does not take advantage of fine British tailoring.

    Sleeve fitting issues for women are more perplexing because these days we don’t see the heavy shoulder pads that make those problems easier to solve.

    Men get away with heavy padding. There’s quite a few we see on the TV all the time, that wear suits that hide skinny arms and chests. The art of tailoring with all the hair canvas, wadding, and fleece can do wonders. Tailoring for women is so much more difficult.

    Women don’t have an universally acceptable uniform like men’s suits. Figure challenges are less likely to be hidden by the cut. Women leaders offer us an opportunity to see what may or may not work for us in our own lives.

    I am not seeing much that is appropriate for me in magazines, Hollywood, or on the runway. I am much more interested in HIllary Clinton, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, and Michelle Obama are wearing, to name just a few. These women do care about what they wear and how they present themselves, their ‘social identity’ as noted in the quote about Prof. Barber’s book above.

    Comment by georgene — April 4, 2009 @ 1:33 am

  30. I think everyone in the photo has fitting issues. Aren’t mens’ pants supposed to fit properly also? The hems look real RTW. And there are those wrinkles that we women work so hard to correct. I do like Mrs. Clinton’s colors..she doesn’t look so harsh. Guess she’s more interest in World problems and has let Mrs. O be concerned with the fashion statement.

    Comment by susan — April 4, 2009 @ 8:57 am

  31. Don’t forget that in the last US election, some participants were blasted by the press for spending exhorbitant amounts of money on well-fitting, dare I say, glamorous clothing during a time of global social unrest and at the beginnings of the economic melt-down. It’s no wonder that we’re seeing off the rack on everyone concerned. The image to project at this time is well-groomed but serious.

    Looks like they get flack either way they play it.

    Comment by Ann V — April 4, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

  32. Oh la la, this is rather an emotional topic. I agree that women should be solidary of one other. I agree that Hillary Clinton’s (and why can she use her own name ;-)) responsibilities are way, way, way, way more important then what she wears. Political women play an essential role in bringing an equilibrium into a very masculine world of power and dangerous quest for getting even more power. There is even a designer in France (Paule Ka) who once said the her clothes should not be worn by Segolene Royal (she was running for Presidency against Sarkozy)because she did not design clothes for women that age and or that type… call that mean and low ? Mrs Royal was an excellent podium for showing her clothes and she spit on it. No women solidarity there.

    On the other hand, clothes are often a key that open or close numerous doors when you are a public figure or if you simply work as a consultant or technical sales person, or as a lawyer or, or, or… I work in a University and my role is to improve student life on campus. I am sitting in the middle of a continuous cat fight. On a regular basis I negotiate with student’s union and with the Principal’s office. Do I need to tell you that I don’t wear the same clothes to go to either these meetings. Clothes are futile, yes I agree, they do not reflect my professional abilities, they simply allow me to be credible with both parties.

    At a time when Celine Dion was signing only in French and in her home province of Quevec, she had a reputation of being so badly dressed and stupidly she was not respected as a signer greatly because of her look. Now she has Annie Hort running the globe to get the best clothes for her… The same people who rejected her now thing that she is the greatest pop diva of all time. She became a trend maker. And may I say that those intellectual people who put her down are not very sharply dressed 😉

    In an idealistic world, we would judge and appreciated people for what they are inside only and we would all dress the same since clothes would no longer be a code to survive in the jungle. For that we have to educated 7 billion people and erase thousands of years of human history. Meanwhile, all of us, including politician, we will have to consciously or inconsciously chose they key to open or close doors. This is my humble opinion, and I am certain that you have all thought of that before.

    Being from another country, I did not take Georgene’s comment the same way. When you don’t care about a person, or think she or he has no value, you do not worry about the rightness of his or her clothes. My impression was that Georgene was concerned about Mrs Clinton’s clothes so that no one would concentrate on bad clothes and be kept focused on her positions and actions. But again, this is the humble, humble opinion of a French woman who knows how Parisian can be really catty with other women. Being rough on the jacket is not necessarily being rough on the woman.

    Again, as I said, many arguments brought in those exchanges are so true. Communication is a question of perception, and perceptions can make people kill each other.

    Many politician should hire a stylist it would be so much easier for their career.

    Please do not stop putting up messages similar to this one.

    Comment by Ann Mahler — April 5, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

  33. What a great new header, it fits perfectly with the site!

    Comment by carolina — April 6, 2009 @ 11:19 am

  34. Not to start a flame war here, but I for one, do notice the sartorial styling of the men too. One of my current beefs is with Michael Steele of the RNC. None of his suits fit. They are all too large through the shoulders and look terrible.

    As many have said, men have a uniform. Traditionally, the rules of suit dressing have been quite strict. Most men in the public eye have already had their apparel vetted by a tailor. My guess is most of these men have a whole closet of the same suits. Ugh, I hope I don’t ever have to do that.

    People have been noticing how other people dress for a long time. This isn’t something new, nor is it necessarily sexist.

    Comment by Nancy (nanflan) — April 7, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

  35. There are a lot of good reasons to love this blog but they way you break down technical details, like the problems with this jacket, and put them into plain English is a blessing.
    (I have nothing to say about the non-sewing comments.)

    Comment by lorrwill — May 3, 2009 @ 1:28 am

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