Friday, 25 March 2016

The $100 handmade Oscars dress: Is is glamorous to sew your own wardrobe?

It is glamorous to sew your own clothes?
Recently I stumbled across this fabulous image, chronicling the dresses worn by actresses awarded Best Actress at the Oscars for the best part of the last 90 years. It also looks so cute, see:

I was interested to see how many dresses were made by unknown designers, but then yet more excited to see what happened at the 1958 Oscars; Joanne Woodward made her own dress! I immediately hit google images and was thrilled by the incredible turquoise satin frock I found. Of course there were not many colour photographs of the dress but it was so classically 50s and what I read that she had said about her dress was, as a home sewist myself, ever more satisfying:  “I’m almost as proud of that dress as I am of my Oscar.” 

However, no matter how proud Joanne was of her incredible creation not everyone agreed with her less is more approach to Oscars dressing. It would appear that even back in the 50s Oscars dressing was still a spectacle and standards had to be upheld. Joanne proudly admitted that "I spent one hundred dollars on the material, designed the dress, and worked on it for two weeks” . But this kind of frugality (however fancy) was not to everyone's taste and Joan Crawford is said to have complained that "Joanne Woodward is setting the cause of Hollywood glamour back by making her own clothes." Which got me to thinking; is it so terribly unglamorous to sew ones own clothes now, in the 21st century in same way is was considered by  some back in the 50s? Today dressmaking is for many, myself included, not a necessity but a joy, an indulgence, to be enjoyed at ones leisure completely separate from necessity. Back in the 50s off the rack clothes were more expensive than now and it was commonplace for people to make their own clothing in a way that has now become so completely removed from our own experience of cheap high street clothing at shops like H&M. I wonder which would cause more of a stir at the 2016 Oscars: turning up in a dress made yourself or a dress from Primark? I know which would look better for sure! Additionally, I feel there is a glamour, a specialness, to not wearing something off the rack designed for the masses but instead wearing something this is tailored, fitted and designed especially for you, and for most this is a luxury only afforded to those able to do it themselves.

Your decision on whether you consider dressmaking a glamorous pastime I think relies heavily on your perception of the old fashioned because it is still, in many ways by many people, considered to be an old fashioned thing to do. And it is this which defines many peoples attitudes toward sewing- do you see the past as a glamorous treasure trove of ideas to be borrowed, or simply something old to be moved on from and quickly overtaken by new technologies. I do not think it is a coincidence that many modern sewists and sewing patterns include 'vintage' style designs in their sewing repertoire; these are people who appreciate a vintage aesthetic and sewing your own clothes is closely linked to this. 

If anything, I know that in my own limited experience people are usually so incredibly impressed if you can stitch your own outfit because the skills of dressmaking have been lost to many over recent decades, which actually makes me sad. I feel sad to think of women (and men for that matter) never experiencing my joy at finally completing a challenging  project I've been working on for weeks, or the satisfaction of noticing your skills improving over time. To create with your hands is a unique kind of therapy which keeps me sane when work is hard and life is difficult. 

So, what do you think? Do you feel dressmaking in the 21st century is a joyously indulgent, therapeutic and (dare I say it?!) glamorous pastime? Or old fashioned but not in a good way? I would love to know what you think!

That's all for today, thanks for reading and happy sewing x o x o

How dressmaking makes me feel: 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Knitting and Stitching Show 2016


Hello! I am writing in high spirits having had a wonderful day at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Olympia. 
Having gotten over the initial dizzying thrill of arriving in a venue so enormous and full of sewing supplies I began investigating the enormous range of stalls that filled the two halls which made up the show. I love talking to the other sewists and stall holders as I don't have many fellow stitching friends, other than my wonderful mum, with whom to share my fabric and pattern thrills with. So this was indeed a treat.

I discovered many gems, my favourite stalls were probably the Tilly and the Buttons stall which was gorgeously stylish, the Sew Over It stall where I finally got my hands on the ultimate trouser pattern (yay!) and some lovely stretch cotton to make them a reality, Hannah Bass's divine map tapestries and a fabric stall called Simply Fabrics where I found there beautiful fabrics at incredible prices.

Some snaps from the day:

Sew La Di Da Vintage http://sewladidavintage

I set myself a budget of £100 and actually managed to stick to it hoorah! This may sound like a lot of money but it is my birthday in two weeks and I decided this would be my present to myself. Also, this sort of even happens so rarely and it is such a joy to see so many new and exciting things while supporting small businesses. As always at these shows there are so many things which take your fancy it can be difficult to narrow it down but thanks to the Wardrobe Architect Project I now have a much clearer picture of what I like, what I actually wear and what I look good in and this really helped me to choose wisely.

Firstly, this lovely Bettine dress pattern from Tilly and the Buttons (who was so lovely to talk to!) It was hard to narrow it down to one pattern on this stall but this just looks so comfy and wearable I am excited to give it a go.

I also got a cute tote bag from Tilly which may well become my handbag come summer.

Next I finally got the Ultimate Trousers pattern from Sew Over It and I am so excited to have a go with this one and perhaps finally get a pair of trousers which fit me well. I'm going to take their advice on lengthening the waist to make a cool high waisted pair and may even add on a waistband, time will tell!

From the Sew Over It stall I also picked up this thick stretch cotton to make my ultimate trousers in, exciting! I think it was £12 which is quite a lot but form trousers I feel you need a high quality fabric that will stand up to being stretched repeatedly.  

Next three fabrics from Simply Fabrics, two embroidered cotton blends and one super soft linen. The enbroidered fabrics were £6 per meter and the printed linen was £8.

This yellow fabric I found at a stall whose name I couldn't see. It was on the floor for a bargain £4.90 per meter, so I picked it up for my bettine dress as I thought it would look rather cute for summer. 

The McCalls pattern company were also there and I picked up these two patterns for £4.50 each which I thought was a real bargain. I think they are out of print?

I also bought four spools of thread, woah nelly!

Lastly, it wouldn't be a trip to a stitching show without buying a bag of 3 magazines for £3! Again I like this canvas bag and may well be cracking it out in the warm weather.

 That's all for today, I've had such a lovely day meeting people and browsing beautiful things, I will be going to the next Knitting and Stitching show in the autumn with my lovely mum and can't wait! Did you visit the show this weekend? If so what did you make of it? And what do you think I should make with my beautiful fabrics!? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy sewing x o x o