Client Spotlight: Roxana’s Burgandy Bridesmaids Gown

It’s been too long since I’ve featured a client here, in fact I think Terra’s vintage YSL suit was the last post where I blogged about actually tailoring something.  This is so strange, because in actuality tailoring and alterations are what I do for a living. Sure sometimes I make pretty things like wallets, and sometimes I make stuff for myself, or custom made pieces for clients, but my everyday life consists of taking clothing apart and putting it back together.  And I love it. Really and truly I get such a rush from altering garments for people.

Roxana found me via Facebook and came to the Repair Revolution Pop-Up with this stunning burgundy dress for a wedding taking place this month.  The dress was too large for Roxana, and she was kind of enough to let me pin the entire dress up in the window of Owl N Wood, essentially becoming a live demonstration for fitting a dress.  This was definitely when I decided that Roxana was one of my favorite clients ever, because this was pretty cool.  After pinning the dress up in several different places I took it home that night and it was the first project I worked on post-pop-up.

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This dress was fun to take apart, and believe me, I ended up doing a lot of adjustments. I detached the lining from the straps and neckline, altered the shape in 4 seams, took up the straps, and reattached everything.  I could tell this bridesmaid’s dress came from a retailer that probably specializes in custom made generic bridesmaid’s dresses, because the inner seams were pretty simple, the lining made from acetate, and it was easy to take apart. Whoever made this dress was well-aware that someone would be altering it eventually, thus is the case with these types of dresses.

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The finished dress fit much better! And when Roxana came over to pick it up we scurried outside to take photos in the front garden.  Lovely dress, lovely person, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to work on this project.

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Vintage YSL Suit

Terra’s Vintage Yves Saint Laurent Suit

 

IMG_5306I love altering and restoring vintage, which is why it was such a delight to work on this vintage Yves Saint Laurent suit brought in by my friend Terra. When Terra first brought me this pants/vest combo we were unsure it could be altered to a point where it would ever really be a staple in hir wardrobe. While both pieces were in great condition, the pant legs were so wide that ze was swimming in them. We concluded that the suit must have been early YSL, and possibly tailored to fit a tall and lanky 14 year-old boy.

The way fashion changes intrigues me. It’s not as though extremely wide pant legs haven’t been in masculine fashion during my life time. Who could forget the baggy pants of the 90s? The structure of these particular pants, however, were stuck in time, unable to transcend the 1960s or 70s, which says a lot because masculine clothing styles haven’t exactly changed dramatically over the past 50 years. A suit is still a suit.

So, armed with my trusty sewing machine and a needle and thread, I went to work tailoring these trousers, hoping that when Terra tried them on the pants would look contemporary enough to wear them regularly.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the result! Not only do the pants look wearable, but Terra pulls off vintage dashingly.

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vintage yves saint laurent The vest also presented it’s own set of little conundrums. Mainly, it needed to be repaired and taken up in the shoulders. It was also a little tight on Terra and I wanted to see if there was enough seam allowance to give a little more room around the torso.  When I opened up the vest I was excited to see that it had in fact been tailored before! The tailor used black thread while the original threads were tan. Not only was I able to add more room to the torso, but also seeing alterations done by someone else always fascinates me. I learn a lot about technique by taking vintage clothing apart and seeing someone else’s handiwork.

vintage Yves Saint Laurent Suit

Vest repaired and altered and pants tapered, we were so excited about the results we had to do a photo shoot right then and there. Terra is the perfect model for this suit. The best thing about the alterations is that while we changed the cut of the pants to be more modern, the way ze wears the suit is so vintage. Ze really has the ability to look straight out of the 1950s at the drop of a hat, which is a very impressive talent if you ask me. Plus, the suit now moves between decades seamlessly, the perfect companion pieces to any button down and necktie combination.

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The only mystery that is yet to be solved is that the pants lack lining, which I find extremely strange as they’re constructed from a course, itchy wool. I’m surprised that Yves Saint Laurent ever designed a pair of pants with this incredibly inconvenient design flaw. I’m not an expert on the history of lining in men’s clothing, but I’d love to know what prompted the lack of lining in these pants. Perhaps the same tailor that altered the vest removed the lining for some unknown reason?

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Lining or no lining, I’m so glad that Terra went home with a suit that fits and that we got to take so many exciting pictures of hir looking dapper as heck. This photo shoot is totally inspiring me to do another photo shoot of a several people spread across a few different genders in an advertising board room redefining advertising to be more 3rd wave feminist, or maybe deconstructing it all together. Kinda like a spoof on Mad Men. Everyone would wear trim suits and ties and early 1960s fashion. There would definitely be a photo of someone drinking coffee out of a mug with a catchy yet dense quote by Judith Butler on it. I can dream.

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Tina’s Magical Deep Purple Knit Dress

wearing purple knit dress and looking fabulous, genderqueer, transgender

I’m SO excited to feature a dress today that was commissioned by one of my nearest and dearest friends: Tina. When Tina came to me wanting a dress I was thrilled. Not only do I enjoy collaborating with Tina on a variety of projects (we’ve had some adventures doing everything from dumpster diving to fixing car batteries in the rain, to many cooking adventures) , but I also love creating clothing for people that I know and spend a lot of time with. It’s a magical experience to see what they want come together and to reflect on them while creating.

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Tina is genderqueer and loves dresses, and I love to make dresses and deconstruct gender! It was only a matter of time that we entered into collaboration together. Tina enjoys feminine clothes, but I’ve never seen Tina restrict their personal style in any way, and this is one of my favorite things about how they get dressed. That said, they do have some favorites. We had a few meetings before I got to work and we explored garments in Tina’s closet that they liked. Winning items mostly included soft knit dresses in solid colors with some drape, bell sleeves, loose and comfortable, but still chic and sexy.  I really wanted to make a dress that reflected all of these concepts.

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I was heavily influenced by the My Dress Pattern by Debbie Brooks and use the pattern to create the darts in the bodice of the dress. From there, however, I went rogue. Because a lot of dress patterns are constructed with a particular body type in mind (protruding bust, wide hips, round tush, hourglass torso) I didn’t want to limit myself to a pattern that wasn’t in right for Tina’s body type.  The My Dress Pattern is great because the bodice doesn’t force the wearer to have a protruding bust because of how the darts are placed. I’m sure Debbie Brooks didn’t think about this when she designed the pattern, but she accomplished something pretty impressive. Unfortunately, I also decided part way through cutting the pieces of this pattern out that I didn’t actually like it the pattern itself.  To me personally, it was trying to accomplish too much: you can sew it with knits, you can sew it with wovens…but somehow I just wasn’t jiving with it. Maybe it was the zipper. I can understand adding a zipper to a dress made of ponte, but lightweight polyester rayon….uh no. So I abandoned the pattern and kept going.  In our first fitting I took a considerable amount of material away from the sides, and brought shoulders up by about 1.5 inches to bring the neckline up and cover Tina’s chest. I also drafted a skirt that I knew Tina would like: simple, nearly A-line, but still sleek.  I also drafted my own sleeves as I knew Tina would want something that flows.

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One of the best parts about this project was that Tina gave me complete creative control after we agreed on a style that would suit them. I didn’t veer too far away from our original vision, but I liked that Tina wasn’t concerned with some of the stylistic details beyond like or dislike, as it allowed me to really think about them and what they were looking for and take as many routes as I wanted to get there. Tina trusted me to create a dress that they liked, and I trusted Tina to be excited about my creative whims.

striking a pose in a purple eggplant knit dress against brick wall

I really like how this dress turned out and that Tina loves it as well. It fits great, is the perfect length, and I hope it’s something that they’ll be able to wear for many years to come.  I had to include the picture below of Tina being a tiger. It was too adorable not to.

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