Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Palazzo Pants - The Other Black Dress

Happy New Year!

Off to multiple parties. Invited at the last minute. No time to think about something new to wear. The predictable solution is that little black dress, but that is its problem. The little black dress is so damn predictable. If you are not wanting to hide in a sea of black dresses, my favorite last minute solution is palazzo pants. You'll never feel too dressy or too casual, and Palazzo pants give unexpected flair.
They are perfect for hopping between parties of different character.

I have 2 pairs of palazzo pants, and for and with a client, we are making a simple pair, that consists of 3 independent layers of different colors of chiffon. Our client's design was inspired by a selection from the collections of John Galliano. They are incredibly easy to make and will fit just about anyone. Will post their progress here later.

The pair of palazzo pants I am wearing New Years' Eve party hopping were made using Vogue 1290. Their outer layer was made using a silk chiffon, flocked with a golden plush velvet tree of life outer layer. They are not lined. Instead, I wear them over a pair of silk charmeuse fitted pants.

A series of chiffon, heavy georgette or plush velvet burnout palazzo pants, worn over fitted silk charmeuse or satin, with stretch fitted pants worn on their own or under the shear palazzo pants are a great trick for staying unique and fashionable for multiple parties. They are the perfect solution for what to wear when traveling to attend the inaugural bashes in Washington, Academy Awards parties, on a cruise, or on New Year's Eve. The look of the pants can change depending upon the layers worn.

The pair of plush patterned chiffon palazzo pants pictured here are fitted at the waist, so a closure is necessary. With fabrics that have a fine drape, like chiffon, I like to substitute small, clear nylon snaps for the zipper. A zipper can add bulk to the seam and interfere with its drape over the hip. I also used size 3 hooks and eyes to keep the waistband closure delicate and low profile.

Our New Year's Eve started at the estate home of Paula and Joe Campinelli,

moved onto a party hosted by Hillary Hauser, Founder and Executive Director of Heal the Ocean, where I was having so much fun I did not even notice that singer Jack Johnson, a big supporter of many environmental causes, including Heal the Ocean was sitting on the couch in front of this dance line up. Oh well, my husband got the opportunity to meet him and thank him for his music and work.

The transition to casual might be better made if I took off the coat and showed the pants with simple sleeveless sweater, but I was caught in the line up on my way out the door to end 2008 quietly at home, so both my designated driver husband and I could toast 2009 in together.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

When I was 17.......

At different stages of life, our body takes on different characteristics. No matter how healthy, muscular or thin one might be, at 50 our boobs are a bit lower. I am sure I was not wearing a bra in that circa 1974 photograph. I can't remember if I even owned one then...... Our waists are wider, and well,... we don't need to carry on this line of thought any further...... On the other side of the coin, I don't think that there is a one of us who does not visualize ourselves as we were at 17. Just like the music we listened to, the clothes we wore and how we looked at that very transitional age sticks with us throughout our lives. That can be frustrating since our mind sees our body and how the clothes we wear as they were or might have looked in that fertile, prenuptial stage of life. When we put on the garment and look in the mirror, it cannot look the same as our visualization. I say to hell with respectful attire, sometimes, it is a good idea to let your visualization survive. See yourself as you were at 17. If you feel that way, it is how you will look, and avoid looking at yourself in the windows as you skip down the street. If you don't see yourself other than in your mind's eye, you are 17 still.....

Friday, December 12, 2008

SWAP at Artisans' Square II - Sand and Sea

I had an interesting conversation with my son this morning. He leaves on a flight to Tasmania tonight. Tasmania is home of some of the World's finest wool merchants. Alex is not on a buying trip. He is there to embark on a month long cruise aboard the Research Vessel Thomas G. Thompson in the rough waters South of Tasmania. He does know how to sew and probably made the mesh collection bags into which they will place the specimens to be collected from the deep. Alex had a lot to do before he left, not the least of which was get in his post-doctoral applications. In his own words, he has made "progress on multiple fronts", but was not yet packed, nor did he have one of the applications completed. Who says men cannot multi-task.

I had to scrap my first wardrobe plan, since sold out of the key pieces - the African Linen and Batik. Without these, the plan did not have the zip to keep me motivated sewing through 11 pieces.

Plan 2 is called sand and sea: Like my first wardrobe plan, the Missoni fabric found a new home before I made my ensemble. I was able to save 1/2 yard that is at this time destined to be a collar for a jacket to be made from the open weave silk muggah or a sweater coat out of the oatmeal jersey. That may be more versatile than the totally Missoni fabric suit, I had originally envisioned making.

During the past few weeks, I've completed the Organic bamboo with lycra dress. It reminds me of a dress, I lived in during my Senior year at High School and Freshman Year at college. Very soft on the skin when suffering from too much sun! Will post pictures of a young, thin Ms. Fine Fabrics later.

I've cut out and constructed the vest from the last yard remaining at of an absolutely unbelievable piece of Solstiss Lace, embellished with leather, metal, mini-springs, and embroidered with copper metallic thread. The vest is loose fitting and minimally constructed. I used a sleeveless, button down the front shirt pattern by Adri for Vogue Patterns, No. 2279 for the muslin.

I eliminated the side seam, which is a good trick to follow when seams will interfere with pattern more than they are required for fit. There is a more detailed instruction on this technique in "
Smelling Silk and Roses".

I used the post-fitting muslin as my pattern. It is a good idea to lay the fabric over the pattern or muslin so that you can see how the embellishment will appear on the finished garment. Since there was only a 1 yard square of this lace in stock, I had to add a side front seam and be a little creative in placement of the pattern. It is always a good idea to sleep over a creative layout before cutting, since I was able the next day to piece it a bit differently, that gave me more length and enough of the scallop edge to use in finishing the center front edges. When working with lace it is sometimes desirable to hide seams by cutting around key design elements and embellishments, then over - and under - lapping the seam edge. To be able to optimally choose how the design elements lay over the seam, I marked the pattern seam with glass head pins, and left key design elements extending beyond the seam line so I could choose how to over- or under- lap them where the pieces were joined at the shoulder, which seam is pictured below,or along the side front seam pictured below. ecause of the metal pieces, I hand sewed the seams and the scallop edge to the center front edge using a running prick stitch. I hate to say that my stitches look nothing like those done by the embellishment sewers for Solstiss. On this piece of lace, they use a copper metallic thread, and each stitch adds to the design. It prompted me to take a closer look at the application of embellishment by other Solstiss pieces we have at, and the same is true with these. Make a note to think out how seam stitches can be worked into the design on next piece.

Left to do is the finishing of the armhole and neckline edges, and deciding upon whether I want to add some sort of optional center front closures. This leaves me hand work to do when sewing with students who are using the machines and tables.

I'm ready to cut out the Montana for Vogue Patterns pants to be sewn this weekend. And, with respect to the sand and sea halter and Montana Pants.....

People often ask me whether one should start from a pattern or the
fabric. It really is sort of a chicken or the egg sort of question. I am of the fabric school of thought. Having a store full of fabric from which to choose on any single day is not the only reason. You can always find or modify a pattern to do what you would like to do. It is not always as easy to find a fabric that is exactly what you envision. And, frankly, I think it limits your creative options to be too specific when shopping for any fabric.

That being said, planning an 11-piece coordinating wardrobe offers its own challenges. Not the least of which was making my chosen designs fit within the boundaries of the fabric I had available to use. After a week of pinning and unpinning I made a pair of pants and top for which the combined patterns required 3-3/4 yards fit into 2.

In the meantime, I've come up with a couple more wardrobe plans in Navy, red, ivory and gold, and another for a client in deep brown, black, white, light taupe and gold. We'll post on these later also.

Like my son, I'm happiest when there are more projects on the deck than can possibly be finished, then orchestrating them to a crescendo conclusion.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Why do prices at appear to be more than some other on-line fabric sources?

There are certain fabrics for which I am always on the lookout. They include cotton and silk voile, cotton velveteens and silk prints, with sophisticated adult patterns, designer fabric that is both contemporary and classic. Quite frequently, our fabrics are pre-season goods. is now accepting delivery of items from some of the worlds' finest mills' 2010 collections. Although some of our exclusive collection of Solstiss Lace is in-stock, many more pieces are custom made-to-order for our clients. (If you are sincerely interested in these, please contact me for permission to access

This year, I stumbled upon some cotton velveteens from one of my favorite vendors, whose Company has for the past 70 years represented a number of mills from Italy. The value of the Euro to the US Dollar on the day ordered required that I price these velveteens at $34.95. Not bad for their rich print and excellent fiber quality.

As I was anxiously waiting for their arrival from Italy, a vendor who sells remainder inventory to a discount on-line fabric source stopped by our Santa Barbara fabric store. Remainder inventory are fabrics that are left-over, or have not sold through other outlets. Sometimes you can find great classics at bargain prices from vendors that specialize in these goods, but you have to know what you are buying.

Our remainder inventory vendor pulled out of his suitcase swatches of some cotton velveteens that were pleasant in color, sophisticated in design, made in Italy....... They were even designer goods, "Made for Calvin Klein." I could feel my eyes get larger as I thought about the velveteens on the ship from Italy that I was going to have to sell for $34.95 per yard, and here were some "not bad" velveteens being offered to us at a whopping $2.00 per yard! Had I been had?

I composed myself and focused my eyes to discern the truth about these velveteens and their too good to be true price. These discount velveteens were not quite as exciting as those I was importing for They were a little dated in design and color.... and that was the key question I had to ask. "How old are these fabrics?" My vendor responds, "Oh, these are from the 1970's. We're cleaning out our warehouse and have some things here at a good price from all the way back to the '50's."

Vintage hounds may find this interesting, but if you have ever visited a fabric warehouse in New York, you know that the fabrics are not preservecd like your mother's vintage wedding dress. And, if you have ever tried to use cotton thread from your grandmother's sewing box, you know that cotton deteriorates. And the poor, unwary sewer that falls victim to purchasing these velveteens from one of the discount on-line sources, at the bargain price I see of between $5.00 and $11.00, will have no bargain when the cotton deteriorates, shreds and splits after putting their time and creativity into their garment.

I've sat next to chain store and on-line discount fabric buyers ordering before. I've heard them say, "We'll take everything you have in quantity that is under $1.97", while I am there handling and inspecting each piece we are considering to buy.

We're as excited about finding a real bargain as anyone, but our vendors and clients know that we accept only 1st quality goods that are worth your time and creativity.

And, that is what you pay for at We ask the questions for you.