Pics from last week!

10 Sep

I just got some amazing shots from the shoot we did with Allison Williams a couple weeks ago and I’m so excited to share them that my little heart is just pounding. Without further ado, the incredible gorgeousness of a perfect morning in Palmer Square with five brides and no groom. UPDATE: Allison posted an awesome recap on her blog with some of her favorites from the shoot. Hooray!
Read HERE!

The Anna dress on Lauren


Things that make it all worth it

10 Sep

I recently finished up a wave of gowns and am taking a little breather before fittings start again next week (and kicking myself for agreeing to not only fit and create an elaborate dress in one week, but also throw a photo shoot into the middle of it. I am clearly a masochist). I’ve been wondering what to do with myself since I don’t have any sewing deadlines, and frankly suffering a bit of wedding withdrawal! Imagine how nice it was to open my mailbox today and find a cd stuffed to the gills with pictures from Jessica and Tim’s June wedding in Boston, gorgeously shot by Breck Sargent. One look at these sweet shots and I was, as we say in my house, fuhklempt.

Buttoned up

Photos by Breck Sargent Photography. Bride’s gown and sash by Mignonette; groom and ringbearer’s ties by Erin Salez. Cuteness provided by Jessica and Tim.

Some more images from Sunday, and bloggy press!

31 Aug

Woot!  Thanks to Diem Angie Nguyen  for getting this video together:

and Sarah Azzouzi for these lovely blog posts:

And this one as well:

What a whirlwind of fun times! Can’t wait for more – I guess I had better get to sewing!

Cute, cute, cute, YIKES! Sewing all night is taking its toll.

The Angie Dress at the Model and Photographer Meetup - Repurposed vintage at its best!

Ten million things to do, not nearly enough time in which to do them

29 Aug

The Mignonette Bridal store is kicking into high gear this month, and that means a total rebranding, complete with decent photos, a logo that doesn’t change every five minutes, and maybe even more-frequent blog posts. Maybe.  Though I think I’m a pretty good designer when it comes to dresses, unfortunately my creative talents do not extend to graphics, layout, or basically anything that needs to be readable. I’ve been working with a web designer and a branding expert, plus a general life/business coach, to help me figure out what I want Mignonette to be when it grows up. This is all terribly exciting, and expensive, so I’m getting the most bang for my buck, and meeting tons of nice people along the way. One thing I will say for Chicago is that the kids here who are in the biz to be creative AND make money take their craft really seriously.

I’m so pleased to be surrounded by other people who want to run a handmade business (and, by extension, live a handmade life) in earnest and not just as a hobby.On Thursday of last week I set up a shoot with local favorite Allison Williams to get some images of recent dresses, and I enlisted a large group of the aforementioned serious artists to help me! Here are some super-quickie outtakes (and by outtakes I mean pics I took with my iphone, so don’t blame the photographer) from the shoot: the dreamy, outdoorsy images are from Logan Square, and were inspired by Mario Testino’s images of Kate Moss, and the Grace Coddington/Georges Brassai shoot featured in The September Issue. Very interesting to see how my work looks in different locations on different models! Huge thanks to the team: Flowers by Fleur, hats by Sarah Azzouzi, styling by Shanti Gomez, silver jewelry by Moira K. Lime, fancy headbands by My Lavaliere, Swarovski jewelry by DuSorelle, makeup by Angie Nguyen, and eventually there will be better, prettier photographs by Allison Williams.

Very excited for the days ahead!!!!!!!!

Thursdays in the park with Mignonette

To boost my craziness level even higher, I also had a second, flash mob-style shoot on Sunday with 7 models, 11 photographers, and 4 makeup artists, all organized by the lovely Ms. Nguyen as part of her monthly photographer’s meetup series. This shoot was incredibly different – very glamorous, with darker makeup and a group of very tall, very tiny Amazons. Each girl left the styling room bristling with pins and bulldog clips, but darn if they didn’t all look gorgeous from the front! The shoot was held at the fashionable and luxurious Envy Chicago in the heart of downtown – I watched the models work it on the rooftop terrace while enjoying the gloriously chic (and warm!) common room. SO fun to see my work on a completely different group of girls! Thanks, Angie!

Hah! A Mancave!

22 Jul

this is Glamour Mag's idea of the perfect mancave. Hmm....

Oh my gosh, I totally thought of this for the new Mignonette store!
I’m so glad that others think it’s a good idea:
Denim Habit Store Will Have A Mancave

Speaking of the store, tomorrow we go up to Michigan for the unassumingly-titled Michigan Antiques and Collectibles Fair, and 80-acre antique fair. 80 acres! My spidey senses are on alert for some plus-sized dress forms that I can actually afford, and some dirt-cheap armoires, wardrobes, sideboards, and wee little side tables with scrolly legs that I can paint white to hold inventory.
After meeting so many great vendors at Indie Wed yesterday I am pooped, but energized for getting the store together. As each day passes I get a little bit closer to my dream!

DONE- The Jessica

4 May

I flew out to Boston a few weeks ago to meet Jessica and do first fittings, and then to go fabric shopping with the bride and her mother, who is also a seamstress.  After spending a day scouting both Boston and Cambridge for fabric stores, we went to her parent’s hotel room for another fitting, which you can see below, complete with wrinkles and visible underpants.

Jessica is  basically a living dress form – tall, skinny skinny skinny, and with broad shoulders, just like a clothes hanger. The muslin that I created for her had to be taken in almost 7 inches, but the dress we designed turned out to be perfect for her athletic build.

Because I did all the final construction in one marathon burst of sewing, and because I tend to get both loopy and really creative when I am tired, I put a lot of little touches into Jessica’s dress – There is a tiny piece of my wedding dress sandwiched between layers of antique lace on the underslip (for something old, and for a happy marriage), and the seaming on the inside is finished in blue mattress ticking (for something blue, and because it was such a cool material).

Shantung sash, mattress ticking detail, and the silk underslip

A layer of ruffles was attached to the bottom of both layers of the slip so that she would have more movement and shape at the bottom of the dress, and then the entire slip was washed to get the starch out and hung very carefully to dry.  Around 2 am I found myself sandwiching two layers of silk and a little metal divot  into the button form and hammering the whole thing together while re-watching Lip Service online (a somehow more engrossing Scottish version of the L Word), which again makes me wonder why my downstairs neighbors never complain. Around 3 am, because I am insane, I thought it would be a great idea to re-watch the extended version of Lord of the Rings while starting on the sash.

Done, done, and done

6 weeks of hand-wringing later, we have a dress: reembroidered French lace with a cream silk charmeuse lining and underlining, a 5-panel skirt with godets at the sides and train, a border of appliquéd lace, 11 handmade buttons covering the sipper, and a blue silk shantung sash with bow. These aren’t the best pics, but they’re enough to show that I actually made it. It looks  better than the muslin, though I think the muslin has a kind of devil-may-care charm to it, don’t you? God, I hope it fits.

Update – During the last stop on our epic, three-week tour of the East Coast, the wife and I drove to Washington, DC to have a final fitting with Jessica, who found it hilarious that I watched Lord of the Rings while making her dress. When we arrived in DC I was reminded of why people (including J’s soon-to-be-husband) call it “the swamp” : imagine air so thick that you can almost see it, broken by occasional spells of monsoon-like rain, and you will have a pretty good idea of what DC is like, and why I don’t really miss it.

Check out this button/sash combo. Pretty good for 3 am, hmm?

Anyway, I got to the fitting to find the bride, who is a lovely and down-to-earth person, with her best friend and sister, who are also both lovely, incredibly tiny and pulled-together ladies. I felt my road griminess (three weeks in a car, sleeping on various couches, floors, and La Quinta Inns can really do a number on your looks) even more acutely at that moment, but on to the dress. Fabric has a terrifying tendency to shrink when you sew, and I had given myself maybe 1/4″ of wiggle room in case Jessica needed anything let out. I had also completely enclosed the bodice seam and lapped to zipper to within an inch of its life – in other words, if it didn’t fit, I would be paying for Jessica’s trip to David’s Bridal myself.
We had a very scary moment when the zipper wouldn’t go up, but a little butter and bacon grease (I kid, I kid) and it zipped. Near-perfect – only 4 inches too long and one strap was longer than the other. A simple fix. Now, Jessica, go get married!

Yes! It fits!!!!!!!

Fitting Woes

3 May

Though I’m hardly dealing with as many dress orders as Kleinfelds, I still have my fair share of ladies to make happy, and every single thing that I make is treated with as much love, care, and sometimes frustration as a parent feels for a much-loved and infuriating little child.

Every time I bring a client into my little workroom and we start talking about what she wants, I have to find the perfect balance between reality (strapless is pretty but you’ll be tugging on it

this is terrible pic, but you get the idea.

all day) and fantasy (you want to look like Kate Middleton on a $700 budget?  Sure, we can figure something out!).  Half the fun for me is getting to know each person who puts on one of my dresses – I want to find out what makes them tick, what they hate, what they are excited about, everything – and so when I can’t go through that process with a bride it presents an extra challenge.

An even bigger challenge is not being able to have multiple fittings. One thing that every designer simultaneously loves and dreads is the try-on. Anyone who sews can tell you how terrible the moment can be when you take something you’ve been toiling away on off of the dress form and actually put it on a real person. Suddenly you see that the straps are too long, the neck is too wide, the hem is wonky and the whole thing should just be set on fire. Since my ‘atelier’ has two cats, one wife, and no magic sewing bluebirds or mice, I take it extremely personally if they try something on and it doesn’t fit exactly right the first time. There are tears, cussing, foot-stamping, and things thrown at walls, and that’s just me.

A friend from college recently got married in Geneva, and since it isn’t in my budget to just jaunt to Switzerland, and also since I love a good wrap dress, we decided to make her a simple stretchy one with a colorful slip. We compared Pantone color swatches on Skype and looked at different styles from the Mignonette website. Anne and the lovely folks at Fishman’s Fabrics here in Chicago helped me choose between silk jersey and a miracle fabric called Hollywood Stretch, and then we grabbed some Tiffany-blue silk shantung and a more muted silk jersey in dark teal to make two different slips.

Therese, Oro, and Heidi Wrap Dresses from Mignonette

I eventually decided to combine elements from the Oro, Heidi, and Therese dresses to make a simple dress with a little bit of movement at the sides to make the dress a little more Euro – timeless but still fun, like my dear friend.

She went to Geneva to study polio at the WHO, met a lovely man, and three years later is not only a wife but also stepmother to an 11 year-old daughter. The couple wore matching outfits for the day (she wore the dress I made and he wore a bright turquoise shirt and white pants, very Swiss).  She has the biggest smile  – I can’t wait to get some really good photos to post here.

Update – some pics did arrive, and I won’t post too many of them here, but I couldn’t resist putting just a couple up – they are the cutest pair, even with their faces blacked out, don’t you think?

K and C at their Geneva Wedding

I can't believe the dress fit so well considering there were no fittings!