Sunday, May 30, 2010

Summer Dress: from the vintage pattern collection

I have a fairly big vintage pattern collection. It tells a very clear story about my tastes in clothes, what I want them to accomplish for me, and what I think I might actually look good in. I would go on very specific hunts for vintage patterns such as bathing suits, because I loathe nearly all modern bathing suits. When on a hunt for a specific pattern I decided not to get any that weren't in my size* or at the very least in my size range. Vintage sizes are very different than the standard industry sizing today. Earliest sizing reflected bust size and I don't see any sense in having changed that system. Soon the sizing standards changed to representational sizes like 12 and 16 and 18 and 20.

A vintage size 12 is similar to a current size "0", which is a total joke and implies that women are so vain that they can't understand that numbers are just numbers that describe a physical plane and a woman can have the most gorgeous slender body and have a bust measurement that reads "40", which doesn't say she's fat, it says she's either got a broad back or a full bust or some perfect combination of the two. It's distressing to me that women seem to fall for the trickery of diminishing size numbers.

Most of the patterns I've collected are in the following sizes: 18, 20, 22, 38, 40, and 42.

(The first three sizes represent a bust size and corresponding hip size, the last three ARE the bust measurements.)

I got this dress pattern because an online friend was giving it away so I figured it was fine getting a size 12 which, even at my thinnest I would never have fit into a size 12 because my chest is too wide (bust measurement isn't simply how big your boobs are, it's a measurement you take across your boobs and around your back to figure out what your widest bodice measurement is).

I'm not a stellar pattern grader, in fact, I got a D in it in fashion design school. Grading a pattern is a mathematical art and closer to sizing architectural models than it is to pattern drafting. If you buy patterns in the wrong size and you want to change the size it won't come out right if you just increase all the lines by a half inch. This is why I have always bought patterns in the actual size I was or close enough that simple adjustments would result in a well fitting garment.

I couldn't resist this free pattern though. This is a style I can carry off when my figure is at its best. Although I do think fuller breasts work best with this style, I believe that smaller breasts can carry it off.

And look at that hat!

I mean to write a mini dissertation on why I think vintage patterns are a rich resource for modern designers and pattern drafters. There are few subjects that I get so excited about with a completely geeky absorption. In short, a vintage pattern isn't just cool because the paper is old and the printing is charming, it's cool because it's a true blueprint to the fashions of the past. There really is no more authentic way to suit yourself up in vintage style. It's better than buying and wearing vintage clothes from a thrift or an antique shop.

It's the only way you can have a brand new authentic vintage design.

(Provided you can lay your hands on an appropriate fabric.)

It's a blueprint to the past.

*Back when I started collecting vintage patterns I was generally a size 20 (a bust 38, waist 32, hips 40). I am now off the vintage sizing charts. My goal is to return to a vintage size 20.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dressing Cricket: the first sketch

It occurred to me that while I'm designing my fictional character Cricket, for Cricket and Grey, it would be helpful to dress her too. How a person dresses says a lot about who they are. Who they are has a tremendous influence on how they dress. What they do for a living, what environment they live in (climate is a big influence), and their attitudes about life will all determine what a person will wear and how they will wear them.

The first montage is a kind of overview of the feeling of Cricket's sense of style. Here's a corresponding brief sketch of her: She's 5'6" tall, has bright red straight hair worn in a straight bob with no bangs, she's freckled, light skinned tending towards flushes of pink, light lashes, doesn't wear makeup often, round face, thin but has small chest and curvy hips.

She's an herbalist by trade, forages as well as cultivates her own herbs, therefore spends lots of time getting dirty. She mostly rides a bicycle for transportation and walks a lot.

She's well read, intelligent, a meticulous worker, her skills at herbalism are like a fine cellist's work (delicate but strong, graceful and smooth, lyrical), her other skills are more utilitarian (cooking, would never bake a Madeline, for example, more likely to make pemmican). She is awkward with strangers, shy, quiet, watchful.

She is gutsy and can throw a punch, thanks to her father, as well as a professional pugilist, she's light on her feet, and uses weapons with surprising sangfroid and skill.

With people she knows really well she's at ease, more talkative, has a dry sense of humor, and is warm.

Cricket has few occasions to wear dresses but these two I thought were exactly the kind of thing she'd wear if she had to dress up. Particularly the brown dress. The other dress I kept putting back into my binder because of the elaborate detail on the bodice of the dress but the funny thing about designing fictional characters is that you start to develop a gut instinct about them. Which, them being fictional, is kind of strange. It would be just like Cricket to wear a linen dress with some good details but wear thick leather boots with it.

Important details of Cricket's dress: natural fibers only with emphasis on cotton and wool. Utilitarian with some fine but streamlined details. Clothes must all be durable. She favors neutrals with only occasional cautious splashes of color. Style is blend of early 20th century with with a streamlined futuristic treatment, taste for masculine clothes. Capes are favored, but nothing with ruffles or huge dramatic billows. Tailored, close, tidy. She would never wear heels. Ever. On no occasion. So that picture with the chinos paired with heels? Ridiculous.

I think as I get into writing the book more will become clear. I may need to design a few things myself because while these pictures begin to sketch out how she might dress, they're missing something I see in my mind.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Long Summer Dress Styles

My friend Skye saw a summery floor length dress she liked but wondered if it was a good idea on her figure which is thin with small chest and large butt. The dress had a bikini style treatment at the top and then about 5oo yards of gathers from directly under the bust to the floor. While I don't often agree with fashion critics about what figures should sport which styles, in this case I thought the style wasn't likely to be the most flattering.

I went through my binders, patterns, and scraps to come up with a few styles that I thought Skye's figure would be flattered by that would feel breezy and summery (she lives in Austin so the motivation is obvious). The first one is a Roberto Cavalli, a designer I have a very strong loathing for most of the time (for the sleaze factor), but I love this one. Just be careful not to take opium while wearing it or you might drown yourself just because your dress would look awfully pretty caught in an eddy.

Liz McClean's long dress styles would be flattering on most figures in my opinion. Especially the dark one. I have no idea what season this is from. I love her understated drapes and the kimono sleeve style. For Austin though, the dark color might make a person combust.

While it's true that I'm not a fan of Jennifer Lopez (or of any of her many many endeavors) when I saw this picture of her in one of her own designs I was smitten. She is the poster girl for the small boobed large derriered figure. She's thin yet curvy and unconventionally NOT busty. A sleeveless empire dress with a band for a bust is normally not a style I would recommend to those with this figure, yet look at her! She looks (in my opinion) stylish and cute as hell.

The other dress is a Derek Lam and I think it would be attractive on anyone who still has a waist (which doesn't, at the moment, include me) and would be a super comfortable style to wear during the hot months. The reason this would work on women with large butts and/or hips is that the fullness increases as the dress lengthens, but if you're thick in the middle, don't do this style.

I never did get around to making this one. Yet. Because I can't bear to sew it for myself and be disappointed. However, this style is a classic and I love it. Drew Barrymore wears a similar style in the movie "Music and Lyrics" and that's my favorite part of the movie aside from a couple of the songs that Hugh Grant sings(!).

This vintage dress is gorgeous. It has enough drape and ease to be a perfect choice for summer. It's a vintage dress so I don't know who made it. Pay attention to the placement of the drapes and how it gathers to a relatively small area at the high waist and is mirrored, though more modestly, in the bodice. This is another dress that would be flattering on large and flat butts alike. Big breasts and small alike can be flattered by this dress. All you need is a waist.