As I continue to work on my couture studies, it’s getting clear to me why the women in my family who sewed their own wardrobes had such a small selection of clothing to choose from. Not that they sewed with couture techniques, but I’m sure their patterns were technically challenging to work with (therefore time consuming slow-work as well), especially when you think of the detailed fashion for women from the 1930’s – ’50s. The onset of ready to wear and polyester fabrics made things easier in the sixties for my mother’s generation, but still, producing your own wardrobe is a slow process!
However slow, I am determined to own a wardrobe that is designed and produced by me, and as I love fine couture and the process of producing such work, I don’t even mind that it takes a great deal of time to create these pieces. The work I have done to this point have required fitting toile drafts to my body’s measurements – a challenging process to do by yourself, nonetheless, I’ve grown to see my measuring tape as a valuable assistant in this process. ………By the way, there is a scene in the film The Phantom Thread that shows the designer measuring his muse’s body, and his sister writing down these measurement figures on a page with each value corresponding to an area on the body. It seemed to me that they were charting new territory, like explorers on foreign land. I suddenly felt that I could read the muse’s form on paper just by looking at the measurements charted. This intricate process of measuring so many aspects of the body really intrigued me and made me determined to teach myself to depend on and trust the measurements I need to take to have success in my own work. It’s a process…but I’ll get there.
Another aspect I love about the couture process is the planning stage, such as fabric selection and the reason(s) why I might choose one fabric over another. Then there is the aspect of imposing my true self within the work, where I don’t have to be forced to follow trends I’m not interested in. I also see how a designer can impose a “story” to their pieces, as there can be a real narrative/poetic element to a garment. For example, I have recently acquired a MacQueen tartan ordered directly from Locharron, Scotland; it’s a gorgeous fabric, and it was costly, so I’m being careful about working with it.
I’m making a skirt with this gorgeous tartan, and I’ve changed the skirt pattern to include a bias piece at centre front and incorporated a unique waist treatment that I formed from the toile. I hadn’t planned on such a design intially, but once I put that tartan up to my body it seemed to “write” it’s own narrative, so I went with it. Here is a pre-view of the toile version of this skirt:
As I came to see that this piece would have some intricate details to contend with, I decided to make up another skirt with some of the fabric I have left over from my Black Watch tartan sheath so as to “warm-up” to working on the MacQueen challenge. However(!), here another opportunity shaped itself and this other skirt begs to speak on its own terms as well! It’s going from basic design to having a pleat insert at the back with a daring juxtoposition of tartan line work. Without getting into too much technical detail, here are two photos showing the line previews within thread tracing:
I have so far this year completed a Black Watch tartan sheath set in princess seams, and a linen skirt (photo below). I have several underlinings prepared for future skirts with the same pattern to be made with varied fabrics. And then there is an ongoing piece I’m working with to complement my linen skirt, which is also based on the basic line design of the skirt pattern I am currently working with. This complementary piece has been worked out in toile form and is a top from a vintage 60’s pattern to be made in the same linen fabric as the completed skirt. Here my idea was to create a sheath-like look but to form this silhouette in separates so as to be able to have more varied use of these garments by having the luxury of breaking up my “dress” to wear with other pieces such as trousers (for the top) and sweaters (for the skirt). Again, creative license…thinking outside the box… I am currently at the stage with this top where I’ve basted the underlining to the fashion fabric. Below are photos of the toile version with amended hemline treatment which I shaped on the mannequin (the original hemline is straight across the body – I felt this look cut my body in half, so worked out this version instead!).
By the way, this is the fabulous skirt pattern I’ve been working from:
So…time consuming? Oh yes. Slow-going? For sure!! But I don’t mind, and I so love the process of working on these pieces. I recently read about the young architect Frida Escobedo in the Winter 2018 issue of Porter Magazine (p.65) where she was asked about her working wisdom:
“Name one thing you would change about your profession.
The rush. I wish I could have more time to design things. People are now very focused on fast results, and I think for architecture that’s a contradition; it needs to take its time.”
So there you have it: the results and inspirations thus far of my slow work. I refuse to bend to the rush of things, especially in succumbing to fast fashion. Beautiful, planned garments are like wearable works of architecture, and building a garment (and even one’s wardrobe) takes time – it’s slow-going, and I don’t mind this factor at all. And so I continue to plan, and build, and form, and imagine, and let myself get carried away with this wonderful process called couture!
PS: The featured image of this post is a compilation of scenes from Jacqueline’s couture headquarters!