The Summer Mini-Capsule Project

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Well, by the time I had figured out every stage of my Winter Wardrobe Project, done all the diagrams and color studies, and bought all the patterns, it was summer! And while there’s nothing wrong with getting a head start on building a winter wardrobe in the summer, I’ve decided to spend the next few months making weather-appropriate garments, for a few reasons. The first one is it’s HOT OUT and I don’t want to touch or think about wool if I can help it (knitting with it is tolerable). The second reason is that I’ve learned when it comes to garment construction that it is a cumulative skill, and it’s best to start out slow and easy. Summer garments will be the best choice for re-learning the basics of sewing. By the time winter comes I’ll be ready to tackle the more demanding cold-weather projects. Note: this post only tackles sewing; I’ll have another post up about knitting soon.

The Books

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On the left is the book I’ll be using to re-acquaint myself with sewing (not pictured: a few books on pattern alteration and tailoring), on the right is the ultimate sourcebook for the decade that speaks the most to me.

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“The early Forties might have been years of make-do-and-mending and fashionable inventiveness, but the latter half of the decade saw an explosion of contemporary forward-looking fashions. 1940s Fashion: the Definitive Sourcebook is an extensive survey that brings together previously unpublished photography and beautifully drawn illustrations to provide a comprehensive overview of the period, from the austerity fashion of the war years to the introduction of Dior’s revolutionary “”New Look””, and the rise of Hollywood glamour.

From haute couture to ready-to-wear, this publication comprehensively documents the season-by-season fashions of the WWII era and the immediate postwar period. The images feature prominent stars of the decade such as Joan Bennett, Veronica Lake and Barbara Stanwyck, and designers including Dior, Lucien Lelong, Balmain, Nina Ricci, and Worth.

1940s Fashion: the Definitive Sourcebook covers every aspect of female fashions from the period, from lacy evening gowns, tailored skirt-suits and luxurious fur jackets to figure-sculpting undergarments, satin negligees and glamorous swimwear. The introduction outlines the different themes of the period and each chapter is given an introduction. Biographies of major designers of the time are included, for an in-depth look at who shaped the 1940s fashion world.”

The Patterns

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On the left is the simplest top pattern I own, and the one I’ll be starting with. It might seem unremarkable, but to me it’s the perfect basic summer top, and there are tons of possibilities there. We’ll see if the top adequately defines the bust area; I may experiment with darts. I might design my own fabric using Spoonflower to give it a completely personal feel, or after a few versions made on linen I might try to make a vintage version of this top. (At which point I will finally have an excuse to buy this book to learn the required embroidery techniques)

On the right is a pattern for Bermuda Shorts (view 4). Together with the simple top, these two garments perfectly express the summer silhouette I want.  At the moment, I have 2 or three pairs of storebought shorts, but none of them come up to my waist, and so do nothing for my figure. It’s also very hard for me to find shorts that cover my bottom without buying gross khaki mom-shorts 😦  These shorts show a lot of possibility; a scalloped hem or a heart shaped waistband will add interest to the design, and I’d like to make them in a wide range of neutrals along with a few bold colors.

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When I feel ready to move on, this darted short sleeved shirt will be the perfect addition. Solid colors will work best, I think. A pencil skirt in a summery fabric will be an important step (I can’t wear pin-up shorts everywhere, unfortunately) but I will probably shorten it to be above the knee; we’ll see how the muslin turns out. Plaids, neutrals, and a few bold colors are the best choices here.

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No summer would be summer, in my opinion, without an adorable play-suit like in view #1 above! The 40’s weren’t the best decade for summer dresses (they just look too hot, or at least I haven’t been able to find all that many that look breathable) but I love the 40s playsuit so much! Silky florals and breezy linens will be just right.

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When I’m feeling ready for a real challenge, I’ll tackle these Gibson Girl inspired blouses in a range of sheer fabrics. This is a new blog but let me just say here and now, this is as frou-frou as I get!

My sewing machine is in the shop for servicing, but in the mean time I’ll be spending my evenings and weekends tracing and cutting muslins.

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What This is All About

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Who am I?

My name is Celine Loup. I’m an illustrator and comics artist, living in Baltimore, MD.

How did I become interested in vintage fashion?

Fashion has been a part of my life from the start. My father is an opera singer, and so understanding the importance of costume was part of my upbringing. My mother has always had elegant taste, and sitting beside her after her shower at her vanity and watching her go through her beauty rituals is still a childhood memory that instantly makes me feel warm and safe.  My mother was an excellent mother and home-maker, as was her mother, who taught her how to sew and knit. My mother loves watching classic movies, and I think I absorbed her appreciation of the fashion in them slowly over the years. I took a few sewing classes as a child, and my mother helped me in high school and college to sew a few dresses as I cultivated my own sense of style, but I mostly wore storebought or thrifted clothes and had no interest in knitting.

Why start a blog?

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That all changed after series of particularly brutal winters, when I realized the cons of buying storebought clothes:

  • Subject to trends that don’t last; everything looks dated by the next year. A consumerist mentality that actually devalues the importance of fashion.
  • Inferior materials: H&M will charge $30 for a “winter sweater” that is made out of acrylic yarn, which provides very little insulation compared to natural wools.
  • Ill fitting: I am a size six, it’s very easy to find clothes that were made for my size. Even so, no mass produced garment can perfectly fit my measurements exactly, and it shows.
  • Poorly made: this almost goes without saying if you are shopping on a budget. I’ve paid $25 for a cardigan that had gaping holes in the armpits after a month of wear.
  • Unflattering: this isn’t necessarily true for many garments, but modern fashion’s overall silhouette, in my opinion, does not do me any favors.
  • Environmentally devastating garment industry practices, with a high cost in human life.

I was tired of freezing in the winter, I was tired of wearing a million sweaty thin layers because I didn’t realize that quantity is no substitute for quality, I was tired of watching all my clothes unravel in my hands. I was also tired of contributing to an unsustainable, exploitative off shore garment industry. I was tired of feeling like I had better taste than what I was wearing.  I had always meant to make more clothes, but now I realized it was the only way to go forward. I stopped buying new clothes, and instead sat down to my drafting table and, over several months, began asking myself some important questions:

  • What was important to me, in terms of building a wardrobe?
  • What lines flatter my figure best?
  • What decade features the best examples of the silhouette I wanted?
  • What specific garments were essential to my lifestyle?

I made many drawings, did a lot of research, and gained a better grasp of my practical as well as aesthetic needs. Out of this came The Winter Wardrobe Project, a plan for a hand-made capsule collection of vintage garments that serves my needs for function as well as form. I created this blog in order to document my progress through the project, as well as to document my general growth as a knitter and seamstress. I hope my process here will inspire others to re-examine their relationship to the clothes they wear, and the social, political, and ecological context in which they wear them. I live in America and am watching my country crawl its way out of a devastating recession, and believe that bringing back American textile mills and fiber industries would significantly boost our economy. I also think sewing and knitting is fun, and teaches one to really value the work that goes into doing something well.

– C