Fashion Commentary

Lingerie Friday: Illustrative

About 10 years ago I flirted with the idea of doing a fashion design program. I didn’t need another degree nor career option but wanted that little push to take my love of sewing and clothes further. At the time, the interwebs obviously wasn’t the place it is now so one really had to hunt information. So I ended up enrolling in a few part-time semesters of art school which if anything fueled my passion for collecting illustration books. Perhaps it’s because I was first exposed to fashion through sewing pattern envelopes and late 70s/early 80s fashion magazines–which used to feature a lot more illustration in their ads and editorials–that I have a bit of a thing for fashion illustration. I love a good line.

So for my first Lingerie Friday, how about a glance at illustrators who’ve given life to underthings?

Antonio Lopez was a part of the Warhol crowd and a personality in the fashion scene of the 70s and 80s. His signature styles were glamorous, marker-saturated 80s illustrations, but I love his earlier more whimsical styles. What can I say, I like the 70s. W magazine recently published an article about Lopez in conjunction with an exhibition and beautiful new book of his work.

René Gruau. I love his ads for Dior.

Thea Kliros, from a lingerie editorial in Seventeen Magazine, October 1968. (More of these here.)

Erte-illustrated lingerie for the theater. (Lots more at the Met archives.)

Sandra Suy is one of my favorite contemporary illustrators. This isn’t the prettiest example of her work but it seems rare for an international brand to use illustration anymore.

Sometimes I get lost browsing portfolio sites like Behance. That’s how I found Kateryna Kyslitska. Edward Gorey underwear! Sort of how it usually looks all crumpled in the drawer, right?

Almost as if they read my mind, Sarah at Pattern Vault has just shared about the illustrator behind the Vogue ‘Practical Dressmaking’ book and Sallie shared some sneaky peaks from her fashion-y sketchbooks. Don’t miss!

Do you have any favorite illustrators?

{Bra illustration at top: fashion illustrator Coco for Galliano.}

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A Year of Sewing Burda

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Even to those abroad who don’t celebrate… it really is a lovely holiday. No pressure. Just sitting around eating and drinking with friends and family. I normally go mad cooking and baking but this year I’m only on pumpkin pie duty. I get to sloth around in PJs until late afternoon, so spent some of my free time organizing patterns.

Our lovely postman brought me the new Burda yesterday. A good mail day! It’s the only magazine to which I subscribe–the rest of the mailbox is just junk (well, bills). The last few issues have really caught my eye; I’ve been inspired by the way they’ve been on top of all the urban leather and faux fur trends lately.

My fave has to be this persian lamb cocoon-like coat.

(My late grandmother had a groovy couch upholstered in this stuff so I’m partial to it.)

A great leather top à la Isabel Marant:

Leather shorts and chiffon blouse, yum:

I still love Burda mostly for its design point of view–or just that it risks having one from time to time. The great thing about sewing, of course, is the ability and freedom to shift a pattern’s style to your own, regardless of a pattern company’s aesthetic or demographic. But I still like to be inspired by design rather than having to re-imagine it.

Still, getting a new Burda gave me some pause. The magazine alone adds exponentially to my pattern list! And I’m probably at the point, as I’m sure many sewers get to, where I feel a bit overwhelmed by the project wish list (and my pattern collection). So I decided to weed stuff out this week. It might be Ebay time.

So I went through a year’s worth of Burdas and made a big Evernote catalogue of all the patterns I liked. I weeded out those that felt like repeats, and some of the statement pieces. I always get drawn to the crazy cover styles, but I think I need fewer fantasy garments on my sewing list. I kept all the ones I’ve already traced. That still left about 15!

I’ve only been sewing from these magazines for just a little over a year. Looking back, there was the Number Six Dress:

Which, by the way, gets the most search referrals to the site. No, not sewing. Battlestar. (Hello, Cylons!)

The silk shorts (sadly I traced and made the wrong size! but they were beautiful to look at!):

The drapey white shirt:

My silk tank was a recent Burda make, and I’ve nearly finished two other garments (just waiting for my serger to come back from repairs!).

Two years ago I’d never even heard of Burda. All I had known back in my first sewing life were the mainstream pattern companies. Since then I’ve been a rabid collector of patterns far and wide. Over the past year I dove into Marfy, Colette, Sewaholic, Hotpatterns, and several other little off-the-beaten-path pattern makers. I mean, I have Sewing Pattern ADD.

Every pattern company fits so differently, and I’d really love to focus on understanding fit more in the next season of my sewing, rather than acquire new patterns. I’d like to keep sewing from Burda especially, mostly for their designs, but need to work out their sleeve shaping and bust fit. The Burda sleeve caps and armscyes are quite high and narrow compared to other patterns, which sometimes looks odd on more casual shirts.

Truth be told, I love the idea of having on hand my own blocks (tnts, what have you) to work out my own designs, and have already worked from a Burda t-shirt to design several top styles. Maybe that will be what the next season of sewing is all about for me!

And before I leave this post, I’ll add that I’m very very thankful for the amazing and colorful man next to me. I’m glad we found each other. He’s almost as much of a fashion nut than I am. He’s a theatrical character and makes everything brighter around him. (He screeches Bob Dylan and Broadway tunes at the top of his lungs every morning to wake up.) Someday I’ll introduce him, but in the spirit of Tasia’s recent post, I am thankful that he supports my crazy sewing habits.

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Warming up to Missoni

After awhile, certain patterns become so ubiquitous that I don’t even think about them being in my textiles anymore. Ikat, Celtic spirals, Hudson blanket stripes, what have you. For some reason it’s taken me forever to really warm up to Missoni stripes.

I loved this fall’s Missoni collection, like crazy.

This and an almost diametrically opposed collection by Jaeger were my two favorite fall collections.

Where one is reserved and so obviously autumn the other insanely extravagant and spring-like. I think I loved the Missoni because it lacked anxiety–which seems to be everywhere. (Here’s more of Missoni’s fall collection.)

But I also loved it because it wasn’t so obviously ziggy zaggy. While shopping for some new house things last week, I saw an imitative and economically-sound stripey Missoni blanket that had to come home with me, just to test it out on the couch and see if those ziggy zaggy’s wouldn’t drive me nuts. And of course there’s the Missoni for Target collection that had what seemed like a viral campaign around it for months on end.

While at Britex Fabrics a month ago, they piled their front door table with a fresh-from-the-recent-collection stack (and I mean huge stack) of Missoni knits. They are lovely to touch, soft mohairs and angoras. (They just listed some of these in their online store. Emma One Sock also has a few. Just in case you have an urge to drop $50 a yard. Hey, for some this might be a genuine investment.)

What’s your take on the Missoni stripe? Love or hate or indifferent? And if you got ahold of some of that insanely expensive yardage, what in the yeehaw would you do with it?

[Oh, and if you're a subscriber here, please excuse the hiccup of yesterday's post. Darn thing somehow got published and went into Google Reader purgatory, but it wasn't edited or really ready for publishing. But I promise, a re-post and Lonsdale pictures are coming!]

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All Kinds of Insanity

Way back in the 90s, you used to be able to find deadstock 70s clothes for next to nothing–denim, leather, all kinds of craziness. My friends and I frequented this big dingy warehouse of vintage gold in downtown Cincinnati. (Can’t remember the name, but I suspect it has been run off by the new art district gentrication since then.) We’d bring out-of-towners to witness the platforms: rows and rows of the clowniest patchwork 6-inch-high things, still with the tags on.

Sort of like these Jeffrey Campbell boots.

I confess to thinking at first, what total shoe insanity.

Dorothy finds her way home insanity.

Renaissance fair insanity.

My Pretty Pony insanity.

Let’s not leave out Colorado fashion insanity.

They come in at least 50 flavors. It was only after seeing them in person at Nordstrom today that I kinda fell for the insanity. Jeffrey Campbell shoes always looked a bit cheap to me, but the varieties I saw were lovely melty-soft suede.

And yet this little shoe crush bought up an issue I’ve been mulling as of late. Apparently they seem to be marketed as something of a “cult item”–have them in every color! sort of thing. I have a knee-jerk reaction to cult fashion. I know too well the insanity of women pushing each other to get at a particular sale item with Where The Wild Things Are googly eyes. Just today in Zara, a woman in this zombified state pushed me over a pair of rather boring olive rayon pants, and I almost pulled a “Detroit” on her. Just ask my husband what that means.

The one site that seems to sell the most of these boots even includes in their description of the shoe, “Get ready to fight it out, girls. It’s gonna get ugly in here!” I don’t like businesses that encourage manic-woman trampling, physical or virtual.

When it comes to something faddish, no matter how expensive or cheap, I often ask myself: did you like it before you found out how popular it was? (In this case, yes.) Nothing wrong with the influence of others, but hype is another thing–it tends to trample true desire. Then I ask myself an economical question: if these were $10, would you like them more or less? If they were $500 would you like them more or less? Both sides of the coin–perceived economy or luxury–are tricky values.

Still, I’m not yet over the lace-up platform bootie thing. I fell for it last year and bought two pairs of black lace-ups with the full intention of returning the pair I liked least. A highly unrecommended shopping practice if you are a shoe fanatic.

[Credit: patchwork, dorothy, renaissance, pretty pony, Colorado, colorblock)

oh and p.s. I know I’ve been lax in sewing posts. I made quite a bit of headway on my multi-pattern project before our much-needed holiday. I promise, I have some garments to show soon!

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Black and White and Patti Smith

For a very, very short while, I was in a band. Well, actually I was in two, but the second never made it out of the garage (or, in this case, the attic). The first one, fronted by a fabulous piano-playing bombshell friend of mine, needed a backup singer. They asked me if I played anything. Um, flute? “Okay, maybe we can use that. How about tambourine?”

“Sure.” So I became a tambourine-playing backup singing girl for about six months. This band had the bizarrest mixture of influences, from George Clinton to Blue Oyster Cult to Tori Amos to Bauhaus. (This is what happens to classically-trained rocker aspirants. Many of us become armchair musicologists. Or tour with Peter Gabriel.) I was somewhat of an innocent bystander in it all, but there was one thing I loved performing–and passionately–Patti Smith’s “Frederick”.

It was her love song to her beau Fred Sonic Smith and something of a farewell to rock–for the time being–as she went off to start a family in Detroit.

I got to thinking about her recently after browsing through this month’s Elle, a wonderful issue showcasing some surprisingly understated choices of women in music. Of course, I got stuck on the mesmerizing portrait of Feist, in a (wouldn’t you guess, it taunts me) white Stella McCartney blazer and an unmistakeable nod to Patti Smith. So angular and striking, with that punk deshabille cool.

{Photo credit: Elle}

I love Feist. I love Patti Smith. I never would’ve put them in the same place in my head but now that I’m thinking about it–why not.

I’ve been reading, on and off for the last year, Patti’s memoir about her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, as both of them were emerging as young explorers and artists, and up to the time of his death. I’ve always thought of Patti as a performance artist above all–more than a musician or writer–but this book really changed my mind. It’s a writerly story, full of great characters and graceful emotion. And she has told the story that was in her to tell, I think.

I loved how she approached her own youth with a kind of tender mercy and not an overhwhelming sentimentality or nostalgia that I often feel in memoirs. Mapplethorpe comes out as being neither a god nor a tragic hero. There are no icons, just people. I could even go so far as to say reading it helped me forgive and love my younger self–neither idolizing or chastising it.

I’ve always loved Mapplethorpe’s photos of Patti Smith. He had a way of capturing her grace:

This photo is from a recent Time essay in which Patti writes on her life in front of cameras. Must see…Patti Smith: Photographer’s Muse.

{Edited: my original post included an image inspired by Patti Smith but not in fact her! I kept looking at it going, it *looks* like the photo I was looking for, but this woman looks remarkably like Alexa Chung. Turns out the photo was from a New York Times Magazine fashion article inspired by Ms. Smith. Most people re-posting it are mistakenly crediting it, me included. Lesson learned on the woes of fair use.}

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Homage to McQueen

I am probably the last person in blogland to comment on the Royal Wedding festivities, but seeing the bride in chez Alexander McQueen made me sigh. A sigh both beautiful and sad, because I really feel the loss of his light. I confess that McQueen was my favorite designer of the last decade.

He made me proud. McQueen seemed like the first major fashion designer of my generation to use fashion as high art. He had commercial and design intelligence but artistic ambition. Many have commented on his whimsy and fantasy but I think he often tapped into something very deep and spiritual.

[from his final collection in 2010}

People who love fashion often feel guilty for saying so. I overheard a conversation recently in which someone was saying “yeah I know it’s silly but I really, really like fashion!” Again, I was reminded of this after watching The September Issue. From the first scene there is a bit of “yes, I know my family thinks this isn’t a serious career but I’m smart, dammit, and I think it’s really important” kind of discussion–i.e., concern about being some kind of Zoolander caricature. Personally, I don’t even understand how people could dismiss fashion in the first place. We human beings have all manner of expression available to us, but fashion and body expression, cultural dress, jewelry, cosmetics–are ON us. We are wearing what we think about ourselves. It doesn’t get any closer than that.

McQueen was a refreshing conversation free of the guilt. And when I say he tapped into something spiritual, he reminded us of our warrior selves, our regal selves, our religious or mystical selves.

Sometimes I didn’t get it. And sometimes I disagreed with his fantasies of woman. The feminist in me reacted to a few things. But the fact that I would at times vehemently disagree with his art made me admire him even more.

Sooo… this whole meditation started with Kate Middleton’s dress. I love that Sarah Burton is carrying on his legacy with grace and femininity, architecture and romance. (And personally hope she doesn’t get carried off to another designer, because the McQueen house is important in its own right.) It is fitting that she designed undoubtedly the most famous bridal gown of our time. I loved its simplicity and timelessness.

And since I’m all black and white lately, I can’t help but include one of my favorite looks of his, from spring 2007. Love, love the bowler hat:

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