Archive | March, 2011

New Dresses!

16 Mar

The Gwen dress. Well, half of it, at least.

Now that I’ve gotten my studio semi-organized, at least to the point where I can see the floor,  I’ve been feverishly working on a pretty major dress for a bride in San Francisco.  It is major for me because it is requiring me to stretch out of my comfort zone, and work with materials I usually avoid, such as $500/yd beaded bridal lace.  I’m having a load of fun though, as you can probably tell from the muslins.  A muslin is part of the process for any custom dress, and in the draping stage involves making only half of the dress so that you can alter the pattern more easily.

Embroidered lace netting on the Gwen muslin. So pretty!

For early versions of the dress I tried working only with embroidered lace net over a base of plain net, which resulted in something that could best be described as “a frothy confection”.  I am the kind of girl who would see this dress on the hanger and run right over to it – despite the fact that I am a) short, b) hippy, and c) curvy, I persist in thinking of myself as the kind of girl who can wear empire-waist dresses and diaphanous  fabrics without looking like a cotton ball (i.e. small and round), so I always take the fluffiest things I can find into the dressing room. Secretly I think this comes from a deep-seated urge to wear a tutu all the time, but I digress.  My point is that I really liked my first attempt at the client’s dress, but she wanted something less my fairy tale and more hers. Version two involved a lot of straight seaming, a modified trumpet hemline, and a tiny little train. More importantly, it involved 5 yards of reembroidered alencon lace, which, by the time we are done, will also be hand-beaded, and crepe-back satin, because it’s strong, over a base of charmeuse,  because it’s pretty.  My bride, who is getting hitched in Massachusetts this summer, needs something breathable but still formal, so I think this dress is an excellent compromise.

The Jessica dress - princess seamed but not precious

I like this dress so much that I’m going to add it to the permanent collection as the “Jessica”, and the original, frothier iteration as the “Gwen” . I don’t know why but it just seems like something a Gwen would want to wear. Hopefully one day a real Gwen will order it.

The tiniest of trains on the Jessica muslin

In the meantime, I’m really pleased with how this is coming along, especially since it is such a scarily stiff fabric and will immediately add ten pounds, and not in an attractive way. Anne has been crucial to finding ways to reduce bulk in the seams while keeping shape  and tensile strength.  Being married to an architect who is also a fashion nerd has its benefits – we can argue about what the he@% happened to John Galliano’s brain, and then we can discuss the merits of a Louis Sullivan building (swirly!  romantic! but still holds its own!).


A Quickie Post- What I Made and Where I’ll Be

16 Mar

Off White- Sunday, March 20th 11-4

Off White Wedding Show

Sunday, March 20th is the Off White Wedding Show, the first indie wedding show in St. Louis! If you’re in St. Louis, or nearby, and want to see the best handmade wedding goodies the Midwest has to offer, swing by the Third Degree Glass Factory between 11-4 to see amazing handmade fashion and get a fabulous goody bag, including a Something Old Flower Pin Fascinator from Mignonette Designs! Don’t forget to attend the fashion show at 1 to see some amazing creations, including the brand-new Darcy Dress, the Jasper Dress, the Van Cleef,  and the reimagined Anne Dress in action. Plus, one lucky winner will receive a deluxe version of the Something Old Fascinator, made especially for Off White!

The Chicago Craft Social

Next Saturday (March 26th) I will be hosting a Grandma’s Button Box Fascinator workshop at the Craft Social at Catalyst Ranch with my friend Rebecca – if you’ve got the urge to get your craft on and make new friends, Craft Social promises to send you home with new skills and an armload of handmade goodies. Read organizer Amanda’s post about my project here!

Grandma's Button Box never looked so fabulous

The project entails dumping out the box of buttons and other broken treasures you inherited from your grandmother and never use, but refuse to throw out, and turning them into a gorgeous flower pin fascinator.  If you’re a quick learner you can even turn them into a bib necklace.  All supplies will be included with admission, so join us from 1-4 at the Ranch!

The Glass Slipper Project

For April I will be turning my attention to an organization that I’ve never worked on but have always wanting to get involved with – the Glass Slipper Project.  What’s this, you ask?  The Glass Slipper Project provides gorgeous prom and formal gowns, shoes, brand-new makeup, and jewelry,  to underprivileged girls so that they can look and feel gorgeous for their big night.  As someone who was often homeless in high school, I totally understand trying to keep up appearances in the high-pressure world of high school.  If there is no money for paying rent, you can bet there’s no money for a prom dress, a limo, or any of the other trappings of young adulthood.  I’m so excited that someone thought up this organization and I cannot WAIT to participate. I am volunteering as a personal shopper, so I’ll be helping girls pick out their outfits and advising them on fit and fun stuff like that.  I’m so psyched.

I’ve been a crafty  beaver (an actual store here!  I seem to be the only one who finds the name funny. Maybe I’m a 14 year-old boy) and have joined the Etsy Chicago Crafters street team and been going to meetings of the Chicago Craft Mafia (well,one meeting. When they have another, I will attend). I’ve been to industry events and fundraisers – last week, I even convinced Anne to volunteer at the Chicago Fashion Foundation scholarship event, and since my mother in-law is even more of a social butterfly than I am, we were even lucky enough to attend a fundraiser for opera in high schools. Between that and the large assortment of Targets, bbq stands, and pizza, I am enjoying it here.

Crafting in the White City

16 Mar

Current Mood:  Pleasantly Frazzled

Listening:  Animal Collective, “We Tigers”

We look great, but shouldn't we be getting some work done?

The last couple of months (literally!  happy two-month anniversary, Chicago!)  have seen both myself and my better half struggling to settle into our new life in Chicago.  By struggling I mean, of course, not just trying to make new friends and get all of our stuff unpacked, but also fighting with the constant urge to slack off that is a byproduct of working for yourself.  Living in a new apartment, in a new city, offers a wealth of ways to procrastinate:  Need to finish a blog post?  Paint the entire kitchen eggshell white, including the cabinets, and when you’re done with that, paint all of the bookshelves in your studio too!  Need to create a muslin to send to a wedding dress client?  Alphabetize your library of sewing books and old Vogues!  Need to work on the website?  Go on a hot dog tour of the city! The weight that you gain will mean you have to buy new clothes, which means finding out where the best thrift stores are (for the record, the Salvation Army on North Clybourne is tops),  will also keep you from getting any work done, and you can legitimize it in your mind by saying that you are just getting to know the new city!  Genius! Truly, moving is a boon to the easily-distracted personality, providing us with many legitimate excuses to start, and abandon, projects with, well, abandon.

Eventually, however, the need to actually pay our rent kicked in, and we’ve both found novel ways to screw around AND work (watching tv online – genius!  I am addicted to reruns of “The Tudors” lately; expect to see lots of corsetry and full skirts in my new collection).  After inspirational (and wildly contrasting) visits to IndieWed (a wedding show comprised entirely of small business! My people!) and the Luxury Wedding Show (eye-opening.  VERY eye-opening), I decided to focus on the Chicago wedding industry in earnest, subscribing to wedding mags, posing as a bride, and dragging my poor friends to events so that I learn as much as possible. Things have really changed in just the two years since I got hitched – who knew liposuction was so common for brides-to-be?  And spray tanning?  And Botox? It makes my chaotic ceremony look calm by comparison. But, to each their own.

The Something Old Fascinator Sweatshop

The Something Old Fascinator Sweatshop on our kitchen table

It has been an Off White kind of month, as in, the Off White Wedding Show in St. Louis on March 20th (yep!  Sunday!  My first trip to my ancestral homeland!). In order to meet the photo submission deadline for the event’s fashion show, I set up my studio and started draping like crazy, stopping every half-hour to do something unrelated.  Incredibly, in four days, and with only Joann Fabrics (a wonderful place that has already claimed more than half of my meager income, but not where I would normally go to buy high-end fabric),  I made two and a half wedding dresses (one of them, the Darcy Dress, has a removable skirt, hence the “half”).  Noting my  panic at not having a live model to photograph them on, Anne gamely agreed to model the dresses for me, in 4-inch heels, in my ice-cold studio.  I think she secretly enjoyed it, and it was fun to dress her in layers of fluffy tulle.  Well, fun for me at least.

I’ve come to terms with my craft-based ADD – as a small-biz owner, I have to be all over the place or I won’t get anything done. My goal is to make something every day, and to use my slacking to work on other aspects of the business, so if I’m not actually sewing something I have to use my time messing around online to look at runway stills from Fashion Week, or write a Twitter post.  Last week, while applying for the July Indie Wed (fingers crossed!  I would be so thrilled if I got in!),  I tried modifying a cookie recipe into a cake recipe (not recommended). On Sunday I interpreted this task a little broadly and made ice cream while assembling my giveaways for Off White  – a finished Something Old Flower Pin Fascinator and a tutorial so that you can go home and make one yourself.    After making 100 of the little guys, then formatting and printing the tutorial, and putting it all in a specially-designed envelope with my business card, and also making a more ornate one for the raffle, I can honestly say I’ve developed a phobia of pinbacks.

Oh, my pretty ring!

The Darcy Dress. Anne is such a good sport.

The Anne Dress, on Anne

The Anne Dress, on Anne