Wednesday 27 May 2009

Practicing What I Preach

First up: The Goods

This is a blouse I recently made by recycling my friend Isi's old Zara shirt. I used the Liz pattern from Burdastyle, which required more fabric than I had, so I made the side panels in a contrast white fabric. This worked quite well as the white has a bit of stretch in it which makes the garment pretty comfy to wear. I was able to retain the original shirt's buttons and button holes which saved a heap of time and fannying about. I added the neck ruffle in an attempt to vaguely emulate a beautiful blouse I saw in a bcn boutique.

All in all, the blouse looks a bit more formal and fresh than my usual style, but I made this with half an eye on the summer school I'll be teaching at next month, so I'm sure this will get a fair amount of use.

Second up: The Theory

This is an article I wrote for Mixtape which should be getting published at an unspecified point in the future:

The Return of the Blouse

Looking in my dictionary under ‘blouse’, all you get is a rather uninspiring definition of ‘top worn by women’. Sadly, it’s also a word sometimes used with derision or negative ‘Mumsy’ connotations. However, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am here to make the case that it is time women reclaimed the blouse as the thoroughly versatile and downright desirable garment that it can be.
For many years, film, the catwalk and the street have seen women’s fashion reinterpreting men’s shirts with much success. Marlene Dietrich’s suited androgyny and Stella McCartney’s oversized shirtdress with its high street interpretations are notable examples. But how successful has such androgynous dressing ever really been in real life, on non ‘stick-thin-fourteen-year-old-model’ women? You want sexy? I would argue a strong answer can be found in a blouse!
Depending on fit, fabric and detail, and teamed with a skirt, trousers or jeans, the result of a blouse can range from cute as a button, to damn hot! If you’re a vintage girl, I’m very likely already preaching to the converted. From sexy, fitted, 1950’s, Rockabilly styles to the more romantic, bell-sleeved, wide-collared, Celia Birtwell/Biba tributes, the role of the blouse is well established.
Still need more?! Well, if you’re a crafty sewing gal, a blouse makes the perfect easy-to-intermediate project. The Burdastyle website, for example, has some fantastic blouse patterns available for download, the JJ and Liz styles being just two.
Also, a prime refashioning project (as advocated by the UK Government’s ‘Make Do and Mend’ campaign during the Second World War, BTW!) is making a woman’s blouse from a ‘decommissioned’ man’s shirt. Men’s shirts are often made from such great quality fabric, that a bit of re-cutting here, a couple of tucks or darts there, and you’ve got a great new garment for yourself. And perhaps if you’re super ingenious, you can also retain the original shirt’s button stand and/or collar, thus avoiding two of the universally accepted biggest sewing based pains in the arse! Hurrah for blouses!

Thursday 14 May 2009

Art and Fashion: A Barcelona Fusion

Here's another article I wrote, which may or may not be published, and susbsequently I may or may not get paid for. I really enjoy the process of researching and writing these type of things. I think it feels quite indulgent somehow. Anyway, here's the goods:

Maybe it was the Modernist architects and designers, who began to redesign the city around 1900, that first established an open attitude towards cross pollenisation between creative disciplines here in Barcelona. That movement, which went on to be epitomised in the city by Antoni Gaudi, fused Art with Design, and left the appearance of very few articles and affects of inhabitants lives unconsidered and un-beautified.

Like the Modernists that went before them, today’s Barcelonans are quick to disregard any perceived barriers between creative fields. In particular, contemporary art and fashion; a pair that is evidently thriving hand in hand.

Last week an intriguing display of this marriage occurred at La Otra, a Raval based boutique, which chose to celebrate the arrival of its new Women’s and Men’s collections with a ‘happening’ that included live physical theatre performed by artist Karla Flora. For the pieces she performed, Flora wore a dress and used accessories by Papisa Juana, a label designed by Ruben Ramirez, native Barcelonan and owner of La Otra. For Ramirez, the inclusion of performance was motivated by the desire to not only express an influence behind his designs, but also to create a platform for this alternative contemporary theatre.

Earlier this year, another new collection born in Barcelona was displayed in an art setting. On January 23rd, garments by MYBS (an acronym for Make Your Brain Sexier), a Barcelona based label which aims to create ‘Street Luxury’, were sported by models handing out canap├ęs at the opening of an exhibition of work created by LA artists. Curated by native Californian and former Barcelona resident Tina Ziegler, the art shown at the ‘Nobody Walks in LA’ exhibition may not have been created in Barcelona, but I think that it is testament to the open-minded and experimental attitude here that these, often curious, fusions are welcomed.

However, these fusions with fashion aren’t exclusive to the avant-garde or gallery based art worlds. Holala! Plaza, a large shop which offers an extensive range of vintage clothing, accessories and furniture, has been making links with internationally renowned graffiti artists. January 22nd saw members of the British based Scrawl Collective create a huge and impressive mural in the shop, with a complementary static exhibition of their work in an adjoining gallery space. This event, entitled ‘Case Closed’, happily coincided with the Bread & Butter trade show, and with many people spilling out from the trade show straight to Holala! Plaza, the fashion atmosphere couldn’t have been stronger. This proves that at the more urban end of the spectrum, art and fashion also inspire one another as interlinked elements of a collective, creative lifestyle.

But it is not just at random ‘happenings’ that this union can be witnessed in Barcelona. Montana Shop and Gallery has sold spray paints to graffiti enthusiasts and displayed graffiti inspired art work since 2004. As well as other related products like books and magazines, the presence of a wide range of both Men’s and Women’s streetwear brands, including Supreme Being and Volcom, gives evidence that these elements are complementary parts of the same style of living.

Iguapop Gallery is a contemporary art gallery that has a conjoined clothing store. The high end street wear brands, such as SealKay, Levi’s and Zoo York are displayed like works of art themselves in an impressive stripped down space.

People in general, and especially in Barcelona, don’t want to view clothing confined only to a shop or a catwalk, or art restricted to a gallery. They want to experience them in action, to interact with them. Whether it is a juxtaposition or complementary, they want to feel the energy that is emitted when art and fashion are allowed to meet.

Sunday 3 May 2009

It's curtains for me

Last weekend I made an epic and ultimately unrealistic attempt to create a new garment for myself and three bags which could potentially be sold, in just one day and a half. Well the bags were turning out to be shite, so that part of the mission was aborted, with a large 'Lesson Learnt' stamped onto the proceedings to salvage something positive from the wreckage.
Thankfully, the new-garment-for-me section worked out better:
A super basic A-line skirt using a pattern I developed myself. Red cotton/poly drill, with applied lace sections garnered from some net curtain scraps donated by my mum.
Oh, did I mention the contrast gingham facing?:
I think the table cloth effect facing, combined with the lacy curtain applications, overall give the skirt a cafe decor feel! Well, I'll just blend in better in my natural habitat.

Yay: I have finally created something that I would find it hard to walk away from if I saw it in a shop. Boo: the delicate lace bits have already started to rip after the first time I wore it yesterday, and I wasn't even drinking. Actually I was, but not much. I will make a note to self to be super careful when wearing it, maybe I best stick to locations with no snagable edges. Like cafes with moulded plastic seats. I like this skirt enough to do that.
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