Notes on Camp – Distaff Edition (and Apologies to Susan Sontag)

Camp. Hard to define, but like pornography, you know it when you see it.

How you do define “camp?”

A) It’s so bad, it’s good.

B) Failed seriousness.

C) A sincere effort at artistic expression that falls flat on its face.

D) You’re not making fun of it, you’re making fun out of it.

E) All of the above.

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CAMP – BITCHES!

Camp was the theme of the Met Gala this year. Some guests, such as Katy Perry (above) delivered. What makes this campy? Ultimately, it’s not the idea or the execution – it’s the fact that it both the idea and execution almost fell apart on the Red Carpet that gives her outfit the tang of Camp.

Here’s another example – Tiffany Haddish doing pimp drag:

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Again – it’s not the style or the execution. What you can’t see makes this camp – in her clutch she’s carrying a Ziploc bag full of chicken that she said she cooked herself and brought to the Met Gala because “there’s never enough food at these things.”

Which brings me to me. I am attending a sewing retreat at a YMCA camp this fall. We’re having a fashion show, “Camp at Camp, ” in homage to the Met Gala. People are encouraged to bring or make a campy outfit for the party. This idea has mystified some retreat attendees. They don’t get it, or they don’t want to get it (I don’t know which). But I get it. And I get why I get it. That’s because to years ago I sewed an outfit that could slide into camp easily.:

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CAMP … almost

This dress, made from New Look 6498, was a sincere effort at creativity that, for the most part, fails.

It has its sincere moments. I made this out of a sari I bought In Hyderabad, India.

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Washed sari drying in the sun

I saw many beautiful saris, but I chose this one because it’s the kind of sari made for selling to tourists. Few Indian women would wear such a thing, I was told by my Indian colleagues who helped me pick it out. For one thing, adult Indian women don’t go in for depictions of Indian motifs such as peacocks or elephants in such a juvenile cartoony way, I was told. (Of course, tasteful motifs are always in.) Also, the mixed motifs – peacocks, paisleys, the overall color scheme, were all “a bit much.” The sari itself was a bit campy.

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Campy sari?

I was told, as a western woman, if I wanted to cut it up to make something out of it, or to use as home dec or something, have at it. (I am expressing the opinions of some trusted colleagues and friends. I am sorry if you disagree.)

If you want to read about how I adapted this sari to make the dress, see my old blogs: Refashioning a Sari and Sari Refashion Completed!

I wore this dress once – when I was at a fancy dinner on vacation in Costa Rica. People stared at me. I realized that I looked ridiculous. So I never wore it again. It wasn’t campy, exactly, but it wasn’t “right” either.

To slide into camp, I needed two things. One – real peacock feathers, arrived from eBay this week:

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Actual peacock feathers… can you smell the camp yet?

I intend to make these into a headdress. I think I sense some quality time with Pinterest in my future.

Also, I need some campy-ass shoes. I was thinking gold platform heels. I need to find some. I guess a trawl of Zappos couldn’t hurt?

 

Peek-a-Boo Pleats

My “sew edgy” looks include high-contrast color schemes, so I have been itching to try a project using both sides of this lightweight denim:

I love the idea of these Thom Browne skirts with the contrast in the pleats (but not the preppy AF textiles). Could I do something similar?

Thom Browne skirts

Thanks for the advice on the McCall’s shirtdress. I decided the skirts were not for me, but you gave me a great idea to mash up the top with another skirt that wasn’t so full or so fitted. I found this vintage Butterick in my pattern stash – and I think it will work!

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Butterick pleated skirts, vintage pattern from 1991

The pattern is copyrighted 1991. What do you suppose the models are saying to each other?

View A: In this sexy mid-calf red skirt, I will audition for a role on Murphy Brown!

View B: Forget it, View A, you slut! A black pleated skirt is what Murphy likes!

View C: If I swap out this pendant for a crucifix and put on some rubber bracelets, I could wear my skirt to a Madonna concert!

You get the idea…

Anyway… I think I will try View D because it has fewer pleats and I think the center-front panel will flatter my bod better than pleats all around. The skirt has two pattern pieces and a waistband. The weird-looking giant notches are for sewing down the pleats. The front and back are cut on the fold, and then there’s a side panel to give the skirt some shape.

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Two pieces, plus a waistband. Easy!

I will need to cut the pattern pieces on the foldlines of the pleats and add seam allowances. I pleated the tissue pattern and marked the different sections.

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Skirt tissue mock-up

This seems easy, but the issue, of course, is the grainline. The pleats don’t follow the grainline, but they’re close. See the grainline on the left and follow the pleats – you can see through the tissue to the grid cutting mat.

I marked each colored section as black or white and marked the grainline for each. Some of the pieces will be cut a little bit on the bias. That will be a fun challenge. I assume I need to follow the grainline of the original layout, right? If anyone knows better, please speak up!

Anyway, I am going to make a muslin to see if this is even worthwhile. My mother-in-law gave me this ugly lovely duvet and sheet set several years ago – the contrast will make the perfect muslin material.

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Muslin worthy duvet set, ready for the scissors!

Assuming this all works, I will need to figure out how to attach the skirt to the top of the dress from McCall’s 6696. First things first…

 

Which View to Choose?

I’m trying to make a big decision about my next sewing project, McCall’s 6696 – a very popular shirt dress pattern:

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Here’s the line drawing:

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Do you think I should do the full skirt or the straight skirt?

Here’s the thing. I have two RTW shirtdresses in the closet. Both are favorite garments. They both have full skirts, but the fullness is achieved with gores – they are not pleated. Because of my small waist to full hip, thigh and rear ratio, the silhouette happens naturally and probably doesn’t need pleats to help it along. The whole effect could veer a bit girly on me. I could, of course, reduce or eliminate some pleats.

The shape of View C and D seems sophisticated and sleek. I could wear this to work. But does it really suit me? I have no dresses like this, because anything sheath-like tends to make me look more pear-shaped. Of course, since I am making this to measure, I can do whatever I want! I would make the 3/4 sleeves of View D to help balance things out.

I have picked out some gorgeous lightweight denim for this dress. I am thinking about using the light “wrong side” creatively on the placket or something.

Finally, I have a dozen cool metal buttons to continue the “sew edgy” look.

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Suggestions and opinions welcome! Thanks!

I Hate to Put a Label on It, But…

I finally did. Behold:

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Style Arc Jasmine trousers – with my label.

It wasn’t easy.

This is my second pair of Style Arc Jasmine trousers, with custom-made labels I got at The Dutch Label Shop. I bought 100 of these labels back in December 2017. The cost was  $33.70, including shipping. (I bought them during a 30% off Black Friday sale. The normal price would have been $46 with shipping.)

I chose red – my favorite color – the Distaff name and my city, New Haven, Connecticut (USA). You can also choose a logo, and I decided after some hemming and hawing to put the astrological symbol for Venus on the labels too, just to drive home the whole “female” point.

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Custom-made labels – ready for projects!

I put the labels in a drawer in my notions and threads organizer. I looked forward to using them. And then I didn’t. I even used a label the Islay Woollen Mill gave me when I bought fabric there to hide my labels, so I wouldn’t have to think about them.

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Lonely labels

I can’t say WHY I didn’t use them. Sometimes I think it’s a bit of an affectation to put your own label on something. Sometimes I am not proud enough of a garment to label it. Sometimes I just don’t want to do the tiny bit of hand sewing necessary – lame excuse, I know.

This week I finally said the hell with it and promptly sewed a label onto three items. Besides the Jasmine pants, I sewed one onto this top from Vogue 9246.

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Label matching – oooh!

And the Osaka skirt from Seamwork Magazine:

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Labeled, bitches!

I am going to label everything from now on. Promise. Three labels down, 97 to go!

Sew Edgy Trousers

I am continuing to work on my “Sew Edgy” look for the office. Check out these trousers in black wool stretch twill:

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Not your everyday work trousers

(Sorry about the backdrop – our shittily stained fence is as close to “edgy” as my home looks.)

The trousers are a deep black, so it’s hard to see the detail, but trust me when I tell you the fit is just about PERFECT.

The pattern is Style Arc’s Jasmine trousers. This is my second pair. The first ones were pretty good, but I still needed to work out some fit issues. I also wanted to try different fabric, because the first pair, in a wool gabardine with 3% elastane are a little too stretchy. This time I used a black wool twill that I got at B&J Fabrics in New York. Gorgeous stuff! The fabric has 1% elastane for just a little stretch recovery.

I started again with the size 16 because the fit was perfect at the hips, and I took in the rest of the pants a bit from there:

  • 1 1/4 inches at the waistline
  • 1 1/2 inches at the waistband
  • Tapered the sides in 1/2 inch starting 1″ above the bottom of the pocket bags and ending at the knee. (The first pair tend to fit a bit like jodhpurs on me, given my waist-hip-thigh ratios.)
  • Sewed the entire side seams at 5/8 inch instead of 3/8 inch
  • Scooped out the back crotch 1/2 cm and extended the back crotch the same amount
  • Added 1 cm to the top of the center back of the yoke, tapering to nothing at the side seam, so the pants would not dip down a bit in the back.

I sewed a blind hem, hemming at the length the pattern comes in because I wanted to wear with patent-leather loafers for a menswear look. It’s a fine length for me, at 5’6″. I think they might be a bit long – we’ll see.

Also, this time I stay-stitched the back yoke curves because the last time that bias curve stretched out a bit during construction. And I tacked the pocket bag seam allowances down to the insides of the pockets to keep them in place.

One big fail, however, was the button. The pattern calls for one button in the waistband. Last time, I opted for a hook-and-bar closure instead. This time I wanted to do a button because I had a special one in my stash – a heavy gold button with an enameled black band around the outside. I like metal trims for work clothes as part of my Sew Edgy workplace look.

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I sewed TWO practice buttonholes on mocked-up scraps identical to the pants – same fabric and interfacing. They both came out great. When it came to the actual pants, however, no dice. The buttonhole went in wonky and started sewing in place. I ripped it out but accidentally ripped up the fabric of the pants a bit in the process. So now I had a hole in my fabric and no buttonhole. I adjusted the buttonholer to sew less densely and fast, and tried again. Same problem. I ended up doing two hook and bars on the inside and sewed the button as a faux button to the outside to cover up the little hole (which I darned closed). GRR! Tell me the truth – does the button look stupid?

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These pants are a TNT for me for sure! I am delighted to find a pair that fit and wear well yet have all the details of RTW trousers, such as a real fly and pockets. If you’re shaped like me – a bit of a pear – you may also like the way these work for you.

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Obligatory back view  complete with photobombing dog

I want to try a pair with some denim next to see if I can get a jeans look out of them.

Workin’ on the Railroad

I feel all fancy when I can use an arcane textile term like “railroading” a fabric. What’s railroading? Allow me to demonstrate.

With printed fabrics. the print design typically goes from selvage to selvage. So, typically, you cut your pattern pieces on the straight of grain, meaning the grainline marks on the pattern pieces run parallel with the selvage.

Let’s say you have a one-yard cut of fabric like this 54-inch-wide cotton jacquard from the fashion design house Milly. The selvages are at the top and bottom of the picture:

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Milly cotton jacquard I bought at Banksville Designer Fabrics in Norwalk, CT

That’s a pretty big print motif. It’s hard to work it with a simple skirt pattern, such as this one, the Osaka wrap skirt from Seamwork magazine:

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A straight of grain pattern layout won’t work.

There’s not enough room on the straight of grain to center the pattern motifs and squeeze in all three pieces – a right front, left front and back (upper right) which is cut on the fold.

Does it work better railroaded, where I lay out the pieces on the crossgrain?

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Railroaded fabric with a great pattern layout and room to spare.

Yes! With room to spare! Hooray!

Depending on your fabric, the railroaded cuts might behave just as they would have on the straight of grain, or maybe not. It depends on how drapey the fabric, whether it stretches at all, and how it’s woven. You can play around with the two grainlines to see if it works. For this fabric, it’s fine either way.

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Seamwork “Osaka” wrap skirt laid out flat.

Here’s the skirt all laid out – notice how I was able to match the motifs pretty well by railroading the fabric. The white sections and the coral sections line up, including that band of coral that runs down the middle. Keep in mind, I wasn’t trying to match up the motifs exactly, because that’s not happening without a lot more fabric – wasteful and not necessary, as you will see.

Looks pretty good on, too:

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I arranged the overlapping front pieces so that the motifs would scroll along at the hem and hip. Excuse the photobombing dog!
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Same in the back

This was a quick and easy make – Seamwork said it would take about 3 hours, and that was right, even with the modifications I made.

The original skirt includes a seam halfway down to color block or otherwise change up the design. It’s also reversible, so in theory you can have two different skirts using up to four fabrics. You’re meant to basically make two skirts, sew them together, turn out and topstitch. Here’s the technical drawing:

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Osaka line drawing from Seamwork magazine Issue #4

I just wanted to use the one fabric, and I didn’t want to line it or make it reversible because the fabric was a good weight as-is. I made these changes to the pattern:

  • Eliminated the colorblock seam by butting the top and bottom pieces together at the seamline.
  • Widened the back darts 1/4 inch each.
  • Made a bias facing for the waist that finishes at 1.5 inches wide (the skirt has no waistband).
  • Lengthened it 1.5 inches and did a narrowish hem.
  • Eliminated the snap closure inside because I don’t think I need it.
  • Added 1 inch to both ends of the skirt to allow for hems and as some added insurance against the wrap popping open.

Also, I mitered the hems, ’cause like I said, I am fancy like that.

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Mitered hems, bitches!

I got the button from a bargain bin at Len’s Mill in Ontario, Canada when I was at PatternReview Weekend last summer. To secure it, I made a slim rouleau loop and secured it between the skirt and facing.

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I got a big button and I cannot lie…

I wore this skirt Saturday night to dinner with friends. I was inspired to sew with this as part of The Sewcialists’ mini challenge to sew up something using one of the group’s logo colors. There’s a spinner to help you choose a color, and I got coral. I am glad the challenge gave me the little push I needed to find a solution for this bold, unusual fabric.

Ending Me Made May with a Whimper

So, it’s been cold here this May. I’d love to lay some of my summery me-made fashions on you this month, but I didn’t want to freeze my ass off. I ended up repeating a few things, so no point in taking pictures again. I did manage a me-made item every day, even though I had a couple of migraines (thank you – me-made PJs and T-shirts).

Here are a few unique looks. First, for the office:

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Head-to-toe Me Made – Style Arc Creative Cate top, Muse Jenna cardigan and Vogue 1312 skirt
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Style Arc Jasmine pants in stretch wool gabardine
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Simplicity 1202 top made from Nicole Miller fabric

For that last one, I was not having a good day at work – or a good hair day, either – sheesh! I was also wearing navy gabardine pants from McCalls’ 6901, but I couldn’t be bothered to get a full shot. Sorry, not sorry.

Here are some looks for home office and weekend wear:

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Kwik Sew 3452 sweatshirt. Yeah it was that cold!
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Breton tee from the GBSB book
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Tunic from Happy Homemade Sew Chic – I finally took off the black lace at the sleeves. Dog still will not pose for selfies.

My favorite look of the last week:

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Tunic from Happy Homemade Sew Chic

I was headed out to a hair appointment and then a baby shower. The skirt is RTW from the Boden catalog. This was the one nice day all week. I made the most of it!

And my “finish weak” look to finish May:

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Cardigan of shame

This cardigan is from Happy Homemade Sew Chic. It was the first knit item I’d sewn in ages, and it’s pretty… rough. For starters, the high-contrast geometric print is only on one side, so it’s not a great choice for anything where the pale and plain wrong side shows. Then there’s the error in factoring in how the pleats would work at the neckline with the fabric – not symmetrical at all. And finally I sewed on this silver clasp (the style of which has nothing to do with the style of the fabric, or the style of the garment) because I thought it would look better if it closed in front. Sure. Whatever.

I finish weak because I believe in showing the good, bad and ugly of my creations. I am not someone who photographs every garment and look to perfection. And I certainly don’t sew everything to perfection, either!