A Tale of Gujarat

Every August I observe in spirit with India celebrating its Independence on the 15th.  I use the clothing that I make for the day reflect my understanding, respect, and wish to be united with them in pondering on their past, commemorating 1947, and hopeful for their future.  My first Indian influenced garment for August 15th was this dress I made back in 2017.  I unfortunately had to skip repeating that last year, so I am making up for it by sewing a handful more vintage-influenced Indian fashion this year!

The first one I’d like to present this August is a different kind of garment – a Rajput inspired Sherwani-style summer coat – to honor the traditions of India that I know through some close friends. 

One of the reasons why India is my favorite culture not expressly my own is on account of some “adopted family”, long-time friends of my husband that are as close as blood relatives.  Their primary tradition hails from the Gujarat territory of India, with family from and still in Kutch.

The Gujarat region history is intertwined with that of the Rajput dynasty.  The last Hindu ruler of Gujarat was in 1297!  “For the best part of two centuries (at the end of the 14th century until the 16th century) the independent Rajupt, Sultanate of Gujarat, was the center of attention to its neighbors on account of its wealth and prosperity, which had long made the Gujarati merchant a familiar figure in the ports of the Indian ocean.”  Why was it important that the Gujarat trader was proficient at spreading their wares, and what did they have to offer? Among other things, it was mostly textiles…and this is what peaks my interest.  As our adopted family has showed me, they have mind-blowingly beautiful, region-specific ways of dying silk sarees, but they had an empire in cotton and are still India’s largest producer of the fiber.

According to Dr. Ruth Barnes (“Indian Cotton for Cairo”, 2017), fragments of printed cotton made in Gujarat, India were discovered in Egypt, which provides evidence for medieval trade in the western Indian Ocean. These fragments represent the Indian cotton traded to Egypt during the Fatimid, Ayyubid, and Mamluk periods from the tenth to the sixteenth centuries.  Similar types of Gujarati cotton was traded as far East as Indonesia.  Their local art has been in high demand over the centuries, and all you have to do is see the real thing (watch out for modern imposters or look-alikes from other regions!) to understand why.

I must confess though – the block printed border print cotton I used is hand-stamped from a company in Mumbai (old Bombay).  Gujarat was under the authority of the Bombay Presidency since the 1800s and later, after India’s Independence in ’47, the Bombay State was enlarged to include Kutch.  The mother of our adopted family knows how to speak the official language of Mumbai.  It wasn’t until May of 1960 that there was a split in the Bombay State along the Gujarat-speaking north.  So my fabric is a sort of a hybrid, a close relative by association.  It was the closest thing I could find in both colors and print pattern to my original inspiration as well as something that would set the occasion for this coat.  More on this further down!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  all-cotton, with the print from “Fibers to Fabric” on Etsy and the lining a bleached muslin

PATTERN:  a Mail Order pattern A526, designed by Dalani, with its envelope stamped with the date of January 1976.

NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed on hand – lots of thread, heavy canvas sew-in interfacing, and true vintage wooden toggles from the stash of Hubby’s Grandmother’s notions box.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This jacket was whipped up in the matter of two afternoons just before a trip to visit our Indian friends out of town.  It was finished on June 17, 2019, in about 10 to 15 hours.

THE INSIDES:  What inside edges? This coat is fully lined.

TOTAL COST:  I ordered 4 yards of the Indian cotton (you need to always be on the generous side with a border print) at a sale price of $5 a yard – so $20.  The plain cotton lining was from JoAnn on sale at about $1.50 a yard. As everything else was on hand my total cost is just under $30.

A Sherwani is a knee-length coat buttoning at the neck worn by primarily men of the Indian subcontinent, for the shortest and most basic definition.  “Originally associated with Muslim aristocracy during the period of British rule, it is worn over a kurta (tunic)” and several other combinations of clothing (from Wikipedia).  There are other coats and jackets in the Indian tradition, such as the Achkan or Nehru, and both are related to the Sherwani in style details and history.  However, the qualities of a Sherwani are a flared shape from the waist down (where it opens up to reveal the layers underneath), a straight cut (not as fitted), a longer length, stiffer (heavier weight), more formal in special fabrics, and fully lined.  Yup – I’ve got all those boxes checked off!

Thus, even though I am using a vintage pattern as my starting point, I hope that my coat has a timeless, cultural aura about it.  Nevertheless, let’s not ignore I am wearing here a customary men’s garment!  Together with the fact this Sherwani is asymmetric, this is a much updated type of twist on a custom yet still reflecting the modern India of today without losing its past traditions.  In modern India, women are wearing Sherwanis and there is more variety of expression in materials and decorations used.  (For more info and visual candy on this subject, see this page here.)  My husband has tried my coat on, and with a man’s propensity to stronger shoulders and lack of hip curves, this coat actually looks better on a guy than on myself, in my opinion.  It is a truly unisex garment here the way either of us can wear this in a culturally sensitive manner and also fit in its forgiving cut.  What a rare bird my Sherwani is in so many ways among all the sewing I have done.  A summer coat in the strongest Indian tradition I have channeled yet that can be worn by men or women alike?  Yes, please.  I’m more than happy to welcome it into my wardrobe.

My preliminary inspiration was this 1970 woman’s wedding coat from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  It was designed by Richard Cawley under Bellville Sassoon, hand-painted by Andrew Whittle and named “Rajputana” for the marriage of an Englishwoman (see her full outfit here).  The “Rajputana” coat even had its own feature in the November 1970 issue of Vogue magazine! Wedding garments in India are normally inclusive of gold and red, but as the Rajput princes followed the religion of Mohammed, they did not necessarily follow the region’s traditions.  White and lighter colored garments to the rest of India (especially saris) are reserved for formal wear, ritual occasion, and upper castes, and even for mourning in the Hindu religion.  The Jain sect of Gujarat wear more white than elsewhere in India, as far as I can tell.  Thus, my coat further reflects Gujarat, Rajput and the thriving textile trade the region was excelled at.  My interpretation also stays true to the 70’s, coming only six years later than my inspiration.  The top I wore under my jacket was a past 70s make of mine as well (see it here) and rather than trousers to match (which I don’t have) I went for a basic A-line rust linen skirt.

The original pattern shows this as a wrap dress, and sadly I have not been able to find anything about its designer, “Dalani”.  Besides finding a few more mail order patterns (from the 70’s and 80’s) and a few dresses credited to a “Dalani II”, I feel like digging into the source for this design is a sad dead end.  Danani’s trend seems to be for loose and simple cut dresses and wrap-on robes.  Yet to me, there was no way such an overwhelming amount of fabric was going to look good as anything other than a coat, in my opinion.  It was so easy to adapt this to becoming a Sherwani.

Wooden buttons are traditional to India, and the fabric company generously sent a baker’s dozen along with my fabric, but a Sherwani only closes at the neck.  So, to avoid disrupting the lovely border with buttonholes, I used two wooden toggles on the asymmetric flap and orange loops on the left shoulder.  This method closes the jacket yet leaves it loose to flare open below the waist like a proper Sherwani.  Following grainlines, I laid the jacket out so that the border just ran along the bottom hem.  A separately cut border strip had to be mitered, redirected around the bottom corner and up the front, for it to be as you see it.  I blended my adaptation so seamlessly you’d think it was printed like that, right!?  Happily I found the exact color thread to match the orange along the border and I hid my tiny top-stitching in the stripes.   My sleeve hems also had a pared down version of the border applied in the same manner.  This border print was only on one selvedge edge and luckily I only had literally 5 inches to spare by time I was done…my ‘overbuying’ of 4 yards was apparently just enough to squeeze by

As I mentioned in “The Facts” above, actual construction was easy and the main body of the jacket came together in only two afternoons.  The sleeves are cut on with the main body so there were only 3 pattern pieces here.  One gi-normous back piece is laid on the fold and ends up looking like the capitol T, and two front pieces like an upside down L – a properly squared off body for a Sherwani except for the flared sleeve cuffs which give it a subtle nod to its 1970s origin.  It was all the attention to detail that took at least half of the total time spent to finish.

The highlight of the details to me is the most understated one – the quilted border to the lining.  This is what makes this all-cotton coat closer to a real Sherwani.  Such soft cottons could make this feel like a housecoat without some body.  Neither did I want to entirely stiffen the silhouette – it is boxy enough!  Thus, one layer of lightweight cotton canvas sew-in interfacing is “quilted”, in rows ½ inch parallel, to the muslin lining’s underside.  The quilted interfacing was stitched before sewing the lining inside.  It is as wide as the border is on both sides of the asymmetric front edges and also was cut to form a stable “collar” that extends out from the neck to the shoulder.  This way the main body of the jacket is loose enough but it still keeps its shape and feels so much more substantial, besides having an understated detail that I have come to expect of Indian clothing.

I have seen similar interfaced line stitching on Anarkali dresses but, goodness, it is a lot harder to do than it looks.  My machine heated up enough from the rows of long stitching that I needed to turn it off and give it a break halfway though.  It was one of the most exhausting things I have done in a while.  But can I remotely find a way to have my effort show up well in a picture?  No – it’s white stitching on white cloth.  Oh well, art is sometimes made for the sake of art…and this Gujarati tribute was worth it when I saw our adopted family appreciate the details I included in this Sherwani.

India has such a beautiful richness of culture and tradition.  There is so much, in so many varying facets, to learn about.  The way what people wear in that country speaks for their state and caste in life, their region of the land, the occasion of the moment, their religion…is something so admirable, besides being any fashion historian’s dream.  Quality that we expect out of couture garments is a normal part of Indian fashion and their strong ethnic pride is what I admire the more I get to know of the country and its citizens, both ones who live in my country now and those who still live there.  The trip to see our ‘adopted family’ included a stay at their home and my first visit to see her parents, so my coat was appropriate for an important few days of meeting people for the first time and catching up with others.  It was also quite comfy in the southern heat outside and absolutely perfect for cold indoor air conditioned inside!  My sewing feels so worthwhile when I can use it as a means of respect to our friends and their culture.  Look for more India inspired fashion to come here on my blog!

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Warning! Sharp Angles Ahead…

When I don me-made modern wear, I really prefer it to be every bit as interesting with the details and design as the vintage pieces I normally choose.  Even though my vintage outfits can be styled in a very appealingly modern way, I do find that my current designs do come in handy within professional spheres such as University conferences and research visits, for nights out with hubby at the ‘hip’ spots in town, or just to stay in touch with the sewing world of today.  This post is presenting what might be one of my favorite pieces of modern sewing – a Melissa Watson wrap-on dress tweaked with my own custom-drafted sleeves added, contrast hemline fronts, and a cool, contrast, full body lining.

This dress is for the outgoing personality in me, the side that is not at all afraid to stand out.  It is bright enough to stop traffic and classy yet smoldering all in one awesome, easy-on dress.  I do not really mind the bit of leg flash this dress displays, even though it was unexpected coming into the pattern!  Now, I know wrap dresses are generally asymmetric by nature – and I do positively love asymmetric styles – but this is even more so due to the one curved and one angled front arching hemline.  Combining those gradients with the geometric print and the 90-degree points on my sleeves and I am in a seamstresses’ mathematical, creative heaven!  I hope that by pairing it with some black boots and a cardigan, I can enjoy this dress for more than one season.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a polyester peach-skin print lined in a poly-cotton broadcloth

PATTERN:  McCall’s #7246, a Melissa Watson design from 2015

NOTIONS:  just some thread and a little interfacing

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was made in about 10 hours and was finished on May 2, 2019

THE INSIDES:  What inside raw edges?  They are completely covered by the lining.

TOTAL COST:  The geometric poly has been in my stash for about 7 years now. It was bought from Fashion Fabrics Club along with a bunch of other fabrics when I started to get back into sewing after my son was born in 2012.  I had 3 yards of this, bought for about $7 a yard, I believe.  The broadcloth was a few dollars cheaper a yard, so my total cost was about $35, spread out over many years!

For being a general quick-sew and de-stashing project, this turned out fantastic.  I kind of suddenly jumped into this project idea at the last minute before a Kentucky Derby Day watch party and wasn’t sure what to expect of the finished look.  That day, I received so many compliments and curious questions as to where I got my dress.  Sadly, too many ladies only bemoaned the fact they don’t sew or – for the funnier reaction – they were surprised my dress wasn’t actually a vintage design!  Using this Melissa Watson pattern has been on my “must-sew” projects backburner since it came out, and I am so glad the perfect fabric combo for it finally struck me.

Melissa Watson is the daughter of the renowned fit expert Pati Palmer, so of course there are very thorough and exhaustive fitting guides in with the instructions to the pattern.  This is all well and good, and a nice change versus the normal McCall’s issues.  However, all clumped together on one or two sheets and printed busily over every pattern piece seemed just overwhelming and confusing for me (and not to brag, but I feel like I know more about fitting adjustments than any average home sewer).  I think all the info just made it hard to figure out what actually needed to be done for a good fitting finished dress, and just made the ‘work’ of it seem harder than it really is to do.  How does a beginner really know exactly which fitting tweak to enact with all the info laid out on how to do them?  ‘Reading’ the signs of a bad fit is a difficult and not instantly acquired talent that no ‘quick cheat sheet’ can teach.  As the dress turned out for me, I wish it had slightly better reach room in the back and lower half of the armscye (sleeve).  I was literally too exhausted by the complications added to the generally simple design to remember to check that spot before cutting.  So – the bad drawback from a great pattern is actually too much good information.  Trying too hard does not necessarily make anything better.

That off my chest, I liked (and kept) the slight blousiness of the tucked darts to the waist of the bodice, but I couldn’t just make your normal, classic plain-Jane sleeves here.  There were too many angles going on and not enough playing with them!  Specialty sleeves are so unrated.  With all the over-information on fitting in the pattern itself, I would like to say that sleeves – in my opinion – are an excellent place to start with tweaking, experimenting, and understanding patterns.  They elevate a garment to the next level when they are outside the norm, and drafting unusual sleeves is such a relatively simple, low-risk, and easy-to-understand tweak.

I merely started by finding an inspiration picture on Instagram together with a simple deconstruction layout.  I thought backwards from there to fill in the blanks of how to do that myself.  You have to think in 3D, and reverse engineer that into a flat lay or simply start from the basic paper pattern and slash and spread where you will be adding new folds and fabric depth.  I’m equating my new drafts to being a version of an upside-down, folded petal-style sleeves.  They call them “envelope sleeves”.  I personally love the 90 degree angles it creates and the lovely sleeve cap it forms.  It made for a very thick hem that needed lots of clipping and hand stitching to look nice and turn out smoothly.

Talk about having things turn out smoothly, I just freaking love full body lining, especially when the inside is made visible by the design!  The pattern does not call for lining, but mullet or hi-low hems (like on this past make of mine) make the underside of the fabric particularly visible, even more so when it is a wrap dress like the one here.  Why not go for the fully fashionable play with the opportunity?!  Not only does lining the underside in a contrast look so pretty and make the garment pop, but the added wrap dress factor is just screaming for the opportunity to make the entire insides so very nice.  No way was I going to make a tiny hem all the continuous way around the wrap’s edges, anyway…enclosing it and all the raw seams inside the lining puts my mind at ease knowing I can beautifully cover-up any messiness.

Sure, it was like making two dresses, after all.  Yet, there is nothing equal to a personal happiness that comes from lovely insides meant for only you to see as you get dressed in your handmade clothes.  I, however, did have further ulterior motives for the full body lining.  I hate the feeling of polyester on my skin and the pretty print was far too lightweight and unsubstantial on its own to be a dress.  So – all these many reasons, it absolutely needed lining here.  I chose a solid cool mint green/aqua underneath to tame down the bright colors on the dress’ outside.

Beside the new sleeves and the added lining, the front hem is something subtle I changed, too, as mentioned at the posts beginning.  The right side has the angled hem while the left slides under along the 115 degree point with its curved hem.  It is subtle, which I wanted, but it adds to the whole play on the geometrics here and makes this so much more of an individual creation for me.  I sort of feel a silly guilt when I go line-for-line or fabric-imitation copy of a pattern with no personal changes.  Look – I even tie the ties around my waist like a belt to end in a cute little bow in front rather than a traditional wrap dress back knot or bow with streamers.  Oh my goodness, do I dare tell you I used my fabric pens to color in the top stitching along the edges so it blended in with print and becomes invisible?!  Yes, I do love to spare no detail to satisfy the perfectionist in me sometimes.

A big reason for my sewing is of course the creative outlet of it but also the opportunity to personalize my wardrobe and do that in better quality than can be found in most RTW.  Making sure to think about what is really coming from my creativity versus just going with what I see isn’t always easy but makes me own what I sew and feel more like me in the handmade wardrobe I wear.  That is the key to home sewing patterns and patterns available for the public to buy – they are tools that can be built upon to make your wildest clothing dreams come true.  This dress pattern might not have been the best tool – it was rather confusing in an unexpected way – but it helped me make a modern dress that even my vintage inspired heart loves!

Modern Asymmetric Peplum Blouse

I told you a handful of posts ago, in the write-up on my second Easter outfit, that I have been weaning myself off of an obsession with peplums.  Of course, I am biased towards thinking that vintage fashion offers the best peplums, but I just couldn’t resist testing out a new Burda Style one that caught my eye.  Can never have enough of something good, I figured, but this peplum is not a fantastic as I had hoped yet it’s still an awesome casual me-made to reach for over the next several months.  Happily this multi-season (spring, summer, and fall) creation that is loose, comfy, and one of those wardrobe staples which is seeing more wear already than I’ve expected.

Burda really has been offering the best asymmetric patterns over the last several years, and I love such styles.  I enjoy the creativity of asymmetric styles, and generally find them complimentary, yet they are not a commonly seen ready-to-wear design.  Many sewists like me seem to muse that high production manufacturing and the cheap labor such companies employ (so, so sad) does not lend itself to asymmetric styles on account of the single cuts that are necessary and the extra thoughtfulness and care needed to make them.  This is where the benefits of personal sewing come in – you can make things you can’t buy (and make them better)!  Asymmetric styles still take more thought no matter where or how they are made but at least they can be made just the way you like them in your hands!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% rayon challis

PATTERNS:  This top’s design is divided out into two almost identical patterns from March 2019 – Burda Style “Flounce Sleeve Blouse” #111, which has shorter sleeves and a longer hem, while Burda Style “Gathered Paneled Blouse” #112, which has quarter length sleeves and a shorter hem.

NOTIONS:  I used everything I had on hand – black thread, some interfacing scraps, elastic, a hook-n-eye, and one vintage button from hubby’s Grandma’s stash of notions

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This took me only 6 hours to make and was finished on May 9, 2019

TOTAL COST:  As this was half of the fabric ($30 in total cut), my top was only $15

Even though you’d never guess upon appearances, this is really a happy scrap busting project because it is also part two of a really fancy Burda dress I made last year – the Andrew Gn mermaid gown.  Half of the width was the butterfly print I used on the back of that dress…the other half of the width is this blouse now!  It was weird to have fabric leftover in this 29 inch width, and have 3 yards long of it, and the cute and predictable floral print was something rather “meh” for me, so I was excited to use it up on something interesting and experimental sooner than later.  I rather wanted to try a border print for this design like they show on #111, but my border fabrics are too precious to me for trying on something (like this post’s blouse) which I’m not positive from the outset that I’ll like.  There was a slight “border” to the fabric I used, after all – a bright green stripe was the printed division line where the butterfly print and the floral were separated.  I used that stripe as some sort of waist definition.

Ever since the Schiaparelli inspired summer set I made back in 2017, butterfly prints keep catching my eye and popping up in my sewing projects, but the previously posted Burda outfit was made back in 2015 so maybe my fascination with the delicate creature began earlier than I have been thinking.  Anyway, as one small segment of the other half to the fabric was still around, I couldn’t help but incorporate it in some small way!  The right side back that is all one piece (no separate waist seam) has a large butterfly over my booty.  Luckily the waistline was marked on the pattern, otherwise I would not have been able to line up the green stripe in the fabric to make such placement work!

More or less, if I had made this blouse exactly as the pattern directs, it would have been an overwhelming, uncontrolled tent of a top.  I’m not against loose and flowing styles, but I like some distinction to such a top with a whole lotta fabric and the busy floral hid the design lines all too well.  At least I had that green stripe where the peplum meets the waist.  The stripe ends where the peplum panel extends all the way up to the shoulder and gathers asymmetrically into the bodice.  The blouse’s print, as it turns out, goes with my pastel skinny jeans and a few pencil skirts so it’s a win, after all, especially as it pairs perfectly with my grandma’s necklace and earrings, too!

I couldn’t stand just leaving the top as it was, but I didn’t want a permanent solution.  So I had an elastic ‘string’ loop come out from being threaded through the right side seam.  It can bring the asymmetric peplum panel in to a controlled but stretchable and optional fitted look when I take the end of the elastic loop to close it on the matching, indistinguishable button at the end of the front stripe.  Poof!  One little add-on and suddenly I am so much happier with the top, its styling, and fit.  Yet, I can still wear it as it was intended.  No commitment tweaks to fix a ‘problem’ are awesome.  Hubby liked the top as it was, I wanted to change it – so I found a compromise and a great use for a random spare button!  It’s so nice to have to not install a zipper every now and then.

Otherwise than the tweaking the overwhelming peplum, the rest of the top had some slight fitting problems.  The sleeves, that I made basic short style, are slightly restrictive with reach room.  Even the shoulder line is a tad further in than it should be.  The neckline was chokingly close so I opened up by about an inch.  As I said, this was a quick, experimental make that is like a wearable muslin so I’m fine with such little deficiencies that I would never deal with in my regular sewing projects.  Just be warned if you want to try this for yourself to check it out on yourself carefully before cutting.

I did expose the back neckline opening more than directed to counteract the high, fully covered bodice.  The slit opening goes down about 8 ½ inches on my tops back, with a simple hook-n-eye to close the top edge.  I like a little oh-la-la view from the back, even if it’s just a little peek!

This might not be the best peplum I have made but I’m glad to have tried it.  Just when I think my peplum craze is satisfied…nope, something else catches my eye.  It will have to be a really good design to tempt me next…but my defenses for a peplum are still weak apparently, as well as for any asymmetric style.  At least I will have the best peplum collection ever if I keep this up!  I will be posting more of my peplums both here and on Instagram over the next few months.

Concert Night – a Burda Asymmetric Buckle Blouse

I don’t necessarily have much fashion that I consider perfect for a very-well attended, full-fledged pop-rock concert.  Yet, something new, different, modern, trendy, yet comfy for a long night of dancing and milling with several thousand people was just what I needed recently to see the long trending group Maroon 5 perform in town.  You see, my life’s bucket list is long and varied, and I have been fulfilling on that list some of the musical performances I have been wanting to be at for way too long.  Maroon 5 has been a favorite of mine since their first big release in 2002, and so going to this concert has been long in coming.  I enjoyed every second of that night and felt great in the outfit I wore, too.  A six year old Burda Style pattern was updated and tweaked so I could be on trend with the asymmetric garments popular for this 2018.

This is my September submission for the “Burda Challenge 2018” for which I pledged a garment a month from them.  My blouse is worn here with a skirt that I refashioned last year, which you can see in this post.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a printed 100% rayon challis

PATTERN:  Burda Style #118 “Asymmetric Blouse“ from September 2012

NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed surprisingly – the buckle straps, thread, and interfacing

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The final touches were put on the blouse the day of the concert – September 13, 2008 – after about 20 hours to make.

THE INSIDES:  The hem is bias bound, but otherwise all seams are lovely and invisible as French.

TOTAL COST:  This was a recent buy from my local JoAnn’s.  A 2 ½ yard cut was about $25.  This beats the $500 or higher price tags on a designer asymmetric shirt!!!

Asymmetric features keep popping up in the summer and fall 2018 seasons on the designer runways.  It is incorporated quietly mostly into the hemlines of skirts, but also seen in dresses, peplums, jackets, and as part of both men’s (such as this shirt or this blazer or this jacket from Comme Des Garcons) and women’s shirts.  I love the asymmetric trend luckily and I had the perfect pattern to put my own spin on it.  However, it was actually much harder to find a way to like the trend on myself than I expected.  For a blouse, if it’s asymmetric and a button down, it seems to look like either a spin on an ethnic garment or some sort of fancy chef uniform, especially in a solid.  It seems that an asymmetric blouse has to be obviously haphazard or have interesting closure details to look otherwise, and I liked this striped version by Ji Oh in the 2018 Resort collection the best, as does Vogue.  After all, Ji Oh is supposed to be the specialist in shirts.  However, I went for a multi-season and slightly more feminine version with the white, rust orange, lime, and turquoise colored directional vine print.  I purposefully trimmed the hem of my blouse fronts crooked (adapting the Burda pattern) and cut the two fronts on differing diagonals, much like this striped shirt from another brand that excels in asymmetric tops, Anouki.  I must say that I had the idea for most of these details before I saw many of the inspiration pieces mentioned, but they gave me the guts to go ahead with my crazy thoughts.

Perhaps the craziest standout detail which sets my asymmetric blouse apart from any designer inspiration is my original and unique way of closing – faux leather buckle straps.  Yes, they are fully workable and not just for display!  Yes, it seemed kinda weird to me at first that this was the only way of closing that brought my top to another level of interesting and edgy.  But I already had both of them on hand, and I love the crossover between jacket and blouse that it adds, so I tolerated the miserable amount of hand-stitching that sewing them down required.  A small snap closes the wrap front on the inside opposite the buckles.  I guess I’m stuck to only hand laundering this blouse because it only occurred to me after they were on that the buckle and straps are meant for purses and might not survive a soaking in the machine wash.  I don’t really care too much.  High fashion and my dedication to an idea rules over convenience in the case of this blouse.  I truly love the result.

Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was cut out from a downloaded PDF assembled together after being printed out onto paper, but it can also be traced, using a roll of thin, see-through medical paper, from the inserts in the appropriate magazine issue (although the older issues are harder to find).  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size.  Some people add in your choice of seam allowance width directly to the pattern while some do this as they are cutting out the fabric pieces.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

I must stress that this pattern seems to run very large.  I chose my “normal” Burda size for this and it is quite roomy.  I actually don’t mind, though.  I don’t really think the wrap front look would have worked as well with a more form fitting blouse, and most of the designer asymmetric designs are loose and comfy in aesthetic anyway.  It’s not that there isn’t any shaping, thank goodness.  There are two fish-eye darts in the back, and angled half-French darts in the front panels.

There are large shoulder pads I added in the blouse and, as they blend right in (you’d never guess they were there, would you), I think the generous fit is all the better.  Shoulder pads that are not obvious are when they are just what a garment needs.  They add such a subtle definition to the shape here, squaring off the blouse strongly, besides picking up all the excess fabric I had drooping across my chest without them.  Even if you are not a fan of shoulder pads and you make this blouse, please add them and you’ll thank me later.

Continuing the oversized fit, the sleeves were also very long.  I was disappointed at first, but as I wear it more, the top the sleeves actually look good all bloused out at the wrist.  That is how all the long sleeved asymmetric blouses are anyway – too long in the arms.  It gives me full reach room as well!  Yes – I know I should have checked sleeve length first – but Burda blouses have never before come out like this for me, and besides I was finishing my blouse just the day before the event I needed it for.  I was definitely NOT going to undo the perfect tiny cuffs that were so hard to get right in order to change the sleeve length.

I swear, Burda must have been on crack when they came up with the measurements for the wristband-cuff piece because there is no way it works being that skinny small.  I was in misery (cueing off of Maroon 5’s “Misery” song of 2010) literally just making mine work in conjunction with gathering the sleeve end in, too, not to mention no room whatsoever left for buttonholes.  I merely did a thread chain loop and a metal hook to close the tiny cuffs.  If you want to blow your brains out trying, follow their cuff instructions like me…otherwise add an extra inch in width and save yourself some grief.  The delicate cuffs do look amazing, though, when I see them!

However, I do not want the sleeves always that long, and the rayon challis is so soft and silky that even rolling up the sleeves does not keep them up out of the way.  This is why I added sleeve straps 6 inches down from the shoulder line.  This is not something that is a part of the pattern and is a self-drafted piece which was entirely an idea of mine.  Most shirts which do have such a strap for holding ones rolled up sleeves are cotton or more casual in my experience, but I like the extra interest it adds besides that fact I needed such a detail.  To again break the trend, most mid-sleeve straps are button closed, but mine is fancier than that – a small fabric covered snaps do the job here.

The collar leaves me in awe, though.  This design is first rate if only for the collar.  As tricky and confusing as it was to assemble, it did turn out amazing.  Everything matched up, and is actually the best collar (especially one with a collar stand like this) that I have made to date.  The neckline pieces are so unusual and very steeply curved to accommodate the asymmetric front.  You therefore end up with this lovely bias that still makes a difference in the way the neckline lays so nicely even though it’s interfaced.  The right side collar that wraps around asymmetrically is actually wider than the other side and the bias starts right at the shoulder.  The left collar is smaller and not as pointed.  The neckline collar is rather oversized and almost overwhelming, reminding me of the 1970s, but hey – when it’s this special, you might as well flaunt it and make it noticeable, right!?

Not that anybody realistically noticed or cared what I had on probably with that many people there, but I am so happy to have matched with what Adam Levine, the lead and vocalist for Maroon 5, was wearing!  Not to brag, but we had really good seats and for a good part of the performance we were within a few yards of him.  It was go all out or nothing.  Do you hear the excited squeals right about now through the screen?  So amazing, sigh.  Anyway, I did my research on the amazing designer track pants that he was wearing at the concert that night (they were really neat with full embroidery down the sides) and found out that they are Marcelo Burlon County of Milan x Kappa brand Logo Tech-Jersey Track pants, sold online here through Barneys of New York.  “Their innovative aesthetic of streetwear with accents of intense color completes the label’s statement-making urban appeal” as described in Farfetched.

Oddly enough, the colors in Marcelo Burlon’s secretly feminine logo is pretty much the same colors in my print.  We both were channeling New York shown designer style.  Even if I was the only one to know (which I’m not anymore after writing this post) I would be happy.  I couldn’t have planned it any better, but it wasn’t planned.  I was just making something that seemed right.  I guess it was just what I was supposed to make for the moment.

Casual Toffee and Wine

This sounds great for a nice evening, doesn’t it?!  I do like a good dark vintage…unless it’s on the dry side.  Then I reach for the paler tones.  I also seem to prefer a nice burgundy to over a bold red.  Oh wait – I am distracted.  Is this post about a good dessert and what vino I like to sip?  Or about what colors I prefer to wear in different seasons?  Well, both kind of – but I’ll pick the latter and make this about a wonderful wearable garment version of toffee and wine which I have made.

Sometimes I tire of wearing all the bright whites and pretty pastel colors during summer.  It feels good to mellow out for a change with a combo of muted earth and rich jewel tones such as this outfit.  Maybe I’m just trying to jump start myself into fall (when I usually wear such darker colors), or maybe I’m just being contrary.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that everything about this outfit feels good to me – from the cooling colors, to the texture and soft touch of the fabrics I used (rayon knits), to the easy relaxed fit, which actually makes me think I’m wearing Saturday sweats but looks like a nice weekday ‘going out’ set!  These two pieces are up there as my favorite Burda makes, and I think will be among my most versatile.

To make this set even more appealing and enjoyable, it came together in a ridiculously small amount of time.  Do you have a few hours on hand and a few small cuts of fabric?  In that amount of time I whipped up this set so I can spend many hours to come enjoying the newest separates that I have made for my wardrobe from some random but lovely fabric I bought with no clear project in mind.  Yes, you can have fashionable trousers that don’t require a zipper fly and need less than two yards of material.  Yes, you can have a top that only has two major seams, and with only one yard of fabric look like a million.  I’m sorry to advertise for these two patterns so much but I am really sold here.  I’m so won over that in fact I’m tempted to whip up a few more pants and tops from these patterns, trying out new material and color choices.  After all, these won’t take up that much time or fabric!  I will definitely be on default reaching to wear these more often than not.

THE FACTS:

FABRICS:  A striped rayon knit for the top, and a rayon/polyester blend Ponte Roma knit for the pants.  A scrap of burgundy colored cling-free polyester lining was used for the inner pants pockets and top neckline facing.

PATTERNS:  the “Shirt with Bat Sleeves” pattern #123A from April 2015 (also listed as “Boxy Top” #123B, also from April 2015) and the “Flounce Bottom Pants” pattern #117 from February 2018

NOTIONS:  Nothing special was needed – just matching threads, a bit of interfacing, and a handful of snaps and a waistband hook-and-eye

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The top was made in two hours and the pants were made in about 4 hours.  Both were finished in the middle of June 2018.

THE INSIDES:  The fabrics for both pieces do not have edges that ravel, so they are left loose and raw inside so they can stretch better anyway.

TOTAL COST:  Both fabrics were bought very recently from “Stylish Fabrics” on Etsy (the Ponte Roma can be bought here, while the striped rayon knit is here) so the whole outfit cost me just under $20.

Perhaps you can see since I used the line drawing from the magazine instructions, but the top has the sleeves ‘built into’ the front so that the raglan seam in front is the only stitching line besides the side seams (and small bust darts).  The back wraps over to the front.  I was certainly glad for minimal seams with such a delicate fabric as rayon knit is, especially a ribbed version!  ‘Chic’, to me, is effortless, amazing details that are low key but there to notice all the while.  That is this top!  Yet, it feels like a Saturday tee shirt to wear.

At first, the pants were something that I wasn’t sure if they would even work for me, as I have heard that shorter people don’t tend to work well with cropped hems if you want a silhouette that doesn’t take visual inches off your height.  I just kept coming back to considering them, however, being intrigued by them, and I think the wide hem with its interesting detailing saves them for me.  These should work for year-round wearing, as the shorter length should show off my boots that have interesting ankle decoration!  I mostly love the fact that the “fly” front is different, interesting, and especially zipperless, as I had mentioned.  I can deal with sewing on a few hooks and snaps, instead…no problem!  The left side has a ‘normal’ centered front placket, but then the right side has a folded over section which extends over to the pleat on the other side of the waist.  I might come back and put a snap in the asymmetric front fly just for complete confidence, but it really doesn’t open up so I’ve taken the easy road so far and just have closures on the waistband.

Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My patterns were traced from the inserts in the magazine issue, but they are also available online as a downloaded PDF that needs to be printed out and assembled together.  What works best for me is to use a roll of thin, see-through medical paper to trace your pieces out.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size.  Some people add in your choice of seam allowance width directly to the pattern while some as they are cutting out the fabric pieces.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

Both patterns are rather straightforward and not too challenging to understand once you get into making them.  However, the wide pattern pieces are a bit deceiving.  The pants were an amazing fabric space-saver because they are divided up (with the wide cuffs) and cropped a shorter length than full pants.  They were also almost entirely laid out on the straight grain.  I only used 1 5/8 yards to have make these, leaving me with another 1 ½ yards leftover to make something else yet – yay!  Of course I did shorten them because the sizing chart is designed for a woman 2 inches taller than me, so I took that much out of the body (leg) of the pants pattern.  With the blouse it was a bit trickier to lay out on the fabric and adapt the design.  In order to have the stripes miter into the seam I had to cut the front body with the fabric folded selvedge to selvedge, then open up and refold.  The back/sleeve piece was long and unusual.  It was cut with the fabric opened up and folded oppositely from the front to have the long, whole 60 inch width be the perfect, exact length for the hem end to front sleeve seam for my chosen size 34.  Of course this layout was only really possible because on the pattern I shortened the top’s hem by a few inches and turned the sleeves into a short length.  Any other size bigger or longer length sleeve would need about 1 ½ or maybe even 2 yards of fabric, then.

Sizing was really predictable and good for both patterns, too.  With these pants, I cut in between sizes 36 and 40 to play it safe.  For my black divided jumpsuit I sized down and they felt slightly snug while my navy Marlene trousers were kind of big going a size up.  Going in between might be a bit unorthodox to many sewists but is perfect for me – apparently the sizing chart doesn’t lie.  For the top, I wanted a closer fit and saw how roomy it appeared to run.  It kind of has to be boxy and oversized when making it with a woven, because there is no closure of any kind – this is a pop-over top.  However, as I wanted a closer fit and I was using a stretchy knit, I went a size down.  Even still, I had to take the top in about 2 more inches on each side seam to get the still comfortably loose fit you see on my top.

The shirt’s facing is still non-stretchy (interfaced polyester lining) because something needs to support and keep the wonderful neckline shape in place!  The neckline of my top turned out like a slanted-in square just like how I see the line drawing showing.  However, the model’s garment in the picture looks to be more of a true square neckline.  I like my top’s shaping better.  I did cut off the self-facing to the center front panel and tape it in place to the curving facing for the rest of the neck so I ended up with one single piece.  The facing does end up with a center front seam, but this way I knew I was getting the right shape for my super shifty fabric, and no extra seam in the corners made things simpler.  I’m all about the K.I.S.S. principle (keep it simple, stupid!).

Talking about making things simple, I did leave the pants cuffs unhemmed and raw, so they end up a bit longer than planned, but it makes things easier for me and helps the pants looks better.  I had managed to have no visible stitching on the rest of the pants, doing hand-picked stitching all along the waistband.  I didn’t want to have to do more of that.  Besides, I sense that a hem to the cuff flares would give them undue stiffness, and not have them hang so softly as they do for my version.  Not too many fabrics can hold up to leaving a raw edge on a trouser hem like Ponte Roma can, though!

I only have a few caveats to these two patterns, and don’t take them to heart.  I’ll warn you that these really have to do with my harsh pickiness with achieving the impossible – perfection – with what I make as well as my fabric choices.  First, with the pants, I feel like the loose and poufy asymmetric front doesn’t do the best illusionary complimenting for my tummy.  I self-consciously think I look fatter in these.  I need the “Whatever!” attitude that my hubby has to that thought of mine.  Also, the Ponte Roma makes sure that any panty line and any hem of whatever top I tuck in to my pants shows through from behind over the booty.  Oh well!  For the top, the neckline just makes it over my head.  It’s rather funny because it gets caught on my nose.  Most of the time this is a bother because I often fix my hair before I get dressed.  Making the neckline more open even just ½ inch wider all around would I think help this little hang-up without changing the look very much.  Next time!

Somehow, I was discreetly riding off of some vintage inspiration (no big surprise) for how I styled my outfit, but mostly for how to change up the air of the boxy top into something relaxed and shapely.  You see, there is an old sewing pattern from the year 1935 for an easy one-yard striped top, and I could swear is the same as this Burda Style pattern.  The back is again one piece with the sleeves, which similarly wrap around to the front for a raglan seam.  Again, they use stripes which miter into the raglan seam.  Who would have guessed?!  I only found this cover image due to some random vintage sewing pattern searching and my weirdly sharp photographic memory.  It’s amazing to see how a whole new setting can change the way we see a garment design.  This might explain why I felt confident in softening the “Boxy Top” pattern so something very opposite of its name, and why I went and shortened the sleeves. Thus, my goal was to aim for a slightly modern 30’s influence, with the wide legged trousers which I made, the long necklace, the faux bobbed hair, an old 1960s era Biba Art Deco scarf at the waist, and vintage influenced Re-Mix brand sandals.

Even for my most modern outfits, vintage accessories or at least past inspiration can be found imbedded in there somewhere.  I don’t think that the same situation is that far off for many couture and designer offerings today, as well.  Personal interpretation of past fashion is the glory of what we have today, especially for those of us who sew.  Individual expression in what we wear will be the saving grace from the enslavement of boring, unfitted fast fashions.

So – if my normal fall season colors sound good in the middle of summer…I’m doing it.  If I can’t make a modern outfit without looking for where it originated, all the better.  Knowledge is power.  The desire for self-expression is strong and the world of today offers many avenues for that, but the silent yet deafening message of fashion is still so underrated today, in my opinion.  This outfit only needed a few hours of my time and few yards of fabric to send my newest message of current inspiration and personal tastes.  I’ll go mellow out to some wine now.  Anyone up for dessert?