THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

July 9, 2009

The Joy of Sewing: Part 2

Filed under: Georgene,Inspirations,Musings,Professional Friends — georgene @ 11:16 am

matisse blouse
Part 2 of my conversation with Elaine Lipson about Slow Cloth: the development of ethical fashion –

Ethical Fashion
In England, the sustainable movement in clothing is referred to as ethical fashion and textiles.

Greenwashing,”or efforts to get on the ecological bandwagon, doesn’t necessarily benefit the sustainable, ethical movement. Clothing or fabrics are marketed as sustainable, with no standards to support that labeling.

Certification and labeling?
Foods labeled as ‘organic’ have some sort of certification process – that is required by law in Oregon – and all organic products in the US that intend to be sold in Oregon submit to this standard. Are eco-friendly fabrics better when there is no attention to dyeing, finishing, or fair labor practice?

Lainie has a short rant: “Too many trendy tops, made out of bamboo softened by heavy doses of chemicals, marketed as ‘eco-chic.’ And if we’re going to make “repurposed” old clothes, we need a strong aesthetic – I see too many that look like a vision for a post-apocalypse novel. That’s potentially brilliant on the screen or the stage or the runway, but in real life it can be a bleak vision.”

She loathes some junior fashion producers’ “institutionalized objectification of young women in their ads and in their stores, and calling it sustainable fashion. All these things contribute to the green-speak fatigue that we’re already seeing.”

Education and Community

G: How can we engage people in expressing their creativity or culture? Is there a community model?

E: “Every community should embrace its creative class and invest in it…The movement toward creativity and craft is happening everywhere. Building live-work and studio-gallery spaces is a fantastic idea for any community with empty buildings. You also need local businesses that supply artists.

While we can buy a lot of things online, everyday creativity often depends on the materials readily available to you. If you don’t have a great fabric store with inspiring classes and workshops and a convenient place to get thread and elastic and zippers, you’re going to have a hard time learning to sew. The advent of knitting groups and public sewing studios is terrific. But we need to look at how to make these businesses viable, because so often they’re prohibitively expensive to run, and they’re based more on idealistic dreams than business sense. We need both.”

What people are doing now
Lainie mentions what Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin is doing with locally produced fabric and fashion.

E: Chanin’s philosophy is linked to organic food and sustainable agriculture “in a very graceful way. Her model is to create high-end, inspirational and aspirational handmade clothing, but also write books that show you how to make it yourself. She has a lovely, elegant yet raw, very authentic aesthetic that people are clamoring for. And it truly seems to come from the heart, her love of handmade and her commitment to her roots and community.”

Here’s Lainie’s recommendation for further reading on subject of ethical fashion:

E: Charty Durrant has written “The Tyranny of Trends,” a terrific article for Resurgence magazine on the need for rethinking fashion. This is a powerful statement from a former fashion insider. She mentions some multinational brands, and notes that it is important to acknowledge the small independent and local companies that are being very conscious and innovative.”

Elaine Lipson is a writer, editor, textile artist and craftsperson. She is the author of The Organic Foods Sourcebook (Contemporary Books, 2001) and The International Market for Sustainable and Green Apparel, a comprehensive market research report published by Packaged Facts (2008). She blogs about textile art, craft, culture and sustainability at Red Thread Studio . Her work with the organic food industry and the Slow Food movement has led her to translate some of her thoughts to the fiber arts and publish her manifesto Elaine’s 10 Qualities of Slow Cloth at her blog.

July 4, 2009

The Joy of Sewing

Filed under: Georgene,Inspirations,Musings,Professional Friends — georgene @ 11:29 am

Mary Beth recently sent me a link to Red Thread Studio, where Elaine Lipson blogs about ‘textile art, craft, culture and sustainability’. Lainie, as she is known, is the author of The Organic Foods Sourcebook, and The International Market for Sustainable and Green Apparel. Her work with the organic food industry and the Slow Food movement has led her to translate some of those ideas to fiber. I love this distillation of her thoughts that I found over on her blog ~

Elaine’s 10 Qualities of Slow Cloth

* Joy Slow Cloth has the possibility of joy in the process. The journey matters as much as the destination.

* Contemplation Slow Cloth can be contemplative, offering a space for meditation or contemplation in the work.

* Skill Slow Cloth involves skill that can develop over time, and with intention, has the possibility of mastery.

* Diversity Slow Cloth acknowledges the rich diversity and multicultural history of textile art.

* Teaching Slow Cloth honors its teachers and lineage even in its most contemporary expressions.

* Materials Slow Cloth is thoughtful in its use of materials and respects their source.

* Quality Slow Cloth artists, designers, crafters and artisans want to make things that last and are well-made.

* Beauty It’s in the eye of the beholder, yes, but it’s in our nature to reach for beauty and create it where we can.

* Community Slow Cloth supports community by sharing knowledge and respecting relationships.

* Expression Slow Cloth is expressive of individuals and/or cultures. The human creative force is reflected and evident in the work.

The joy of slowly sewing a wedding gown.

I recently caught up with her and asked her a few questions about her concept of Slow Cloth.

G: Has your work in the organic food industry had an impact on your thinking in the area of textile crafts?

E: Food and fiber are closely related. Cultivating plants and animals for food and clothing is the touchstone of culture and civilization. In both cases, our human instinct is to take nature’s raw materials and be creative with them to satisfy our senses, our desire for nourishment and beauty. And in both cases, we’ve industrialized and commodified production in ways that are rightfully up for serious review. Just as we learned to be aware of where our food came from and how it was produced, it’s time to take the same approach to fiber.

The idea of going back to the source, preserving and protecting regional and indigenous traditions, supporting contemporary interpretations, and taking time to celebrate the personal and communal rewards of making. That’s what inspired me to develop a set of principles for what I call Slow Cloth, but they work for all kinds of textile art and craft, and certainly for fashion as well.

G: What steps can we take to bring consciousness to the public about textile arts and crafts, similar to the Fair Trade movement for coffee and other agricultural products?

E: We’ve outsourced clothing and textile production so completely that those who make the things we buy are completely anonymous to us, and the environmental issues are invisible. I think a change is underway. The craft renaissance is allowing people to experience what it takes to make something. After you’ve made a pair of pants, you start to ask how Old Navy can sell a pair for $9.99 and make a profit, and then you begin to connect the dots. You might still buy those $9.99 pants, but at least you’re aware that it’s a choice that might not completely line up with your values.

G: There is a lot of interest is creating sustainable, green models for textile and clothing manufacturing. Where do you see the most activity currently?

E: Good certification programs are just the beginning; we also need consumer information and education that help people realize the need for sustainable production and sane consumption. ..It’s hard to look at a beautiful, silky dress or a well-loved cotton shirt and see it as a problem, so we have to identify production issues and still acknowledge that people want beautiful and comfortable garments.

….Sometimes the clothing being marketed as “sustainable” has nothing to qualify it as such. Or sometimes it’s a fabric we perceive as better, but there’s no attention to dyes and finishing or ethical labor practices.

…. In England, this movement is much more frequently referred to as ethical fashion and textiles, rather than sustainable… an ethical model–one that is responsible to all stakeholders from producer to wearer–is really what we need to create.

Slow sewing for a pieced lace applique

Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Lainie and The Joy of Sewing next week.

pewter twinset
The joy of working in fine cloth

June 13, 2009

Fashion Watch: Princess Sheath Dress

Filed under: Designer Inspirations,Georgene,Musings — georgene @ 1:30 pm

letizia sarkozy front view

I was interested to see the photo story on Princess Letizia, the wife of Spanish Prince Felipe, on the Huffington Post’s Style page.

back view
The photo story included one of my recent favorites: Letizia photographed this past April in Madrid with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. The 2 women revealed a trend of note, the return of the knee length sheath dress.

Though both are married to notable statesmen, they are women of power in their own right.

Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano earned a degree in information sciences and a master’s in audiovisual journalism. She worked for Bloomberg Financial TV, CNN Plus, then as newscaster and correspondent with Television Espanola (TVE) where she covered the 2000 presidential election in the U.S., 9/11, and the war in Iraq, broadcasting stories directly from Iraq. She met the prince in 2002, and they eventually married.

Carla Bruni’s story of her career in modeling, as well as her debut as a popular singer in France has been covered quite a bit since she married Nicolas Sarkozy.

Both women are noted style icons, so it was interesting to see them show up at an event looking like they had phoned each other in the morning to color coordinate their outfits.

If you are wondering how you might look in a sheath with a less than stick-thin model’s figure, have a look at Madeline Albright.
She is often seen in a sheath, with a jacket and brooch as her signature look. Her dress appears to be less fitted, but still trim looking, particularly with a matching jacket, rather than contrast fabric. I love this photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders at the New York Times:
I had to laugh when I found this photo of Albright seated, showing off her great legs. Do consider the camera angles when allowing the photographer to take that shot, ladies….

Let us know if you have a tried and true sheath dress pattern. Princess lines do help in fitting, but appropriate darts or novelty seaming work also. I have a vintage 1950’s pattern I am working on, and will post my progress on that one soon.

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 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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