Tuesday 28 July 2009

Pants. Essential Indulgences.

Time for a quick inventory. Mass manufactured things to wear bought in 2009 so far: one three-pack of pants. Not bad, eh? (But I can't promise hand-on-heart that I won't own some more shoes before the year is out.) And I wouldn't have bought those if my fashion-papping work hadn't of taken me into the underwear shop Oysho, leading to my exposure to their irresistably cute pants selection.

I have been attempting to avoid mass-manufactured clothing, and doing pretty well at it, for almost two and a half years now. Throughout this period, my motivations for doing so have multiplied, developed and evolved. No, I don't think what I am doing is going to make any direct impact on mass-manufacturings' socially and environmentally unsound practises, I'm not a dumb-ass! I doubt Primark, Topshop, Bershka and the rest, or more specifically the huge conglomerates which own them, are quaking in fear as the news of my (in)actions reaches them (which it inevitably will!).

But I do believe that an effect has been, and will continue to be, created by what I'm (not) doing. Talking and writing about my choices and role in this live experiment is hopefully, in some immeasurable way, pushing towards change. I try to back up this debate by on-and-off producing handmade alternatives to mass-manufactured garments and accessories and, ultimately, living in a way that I can justify to myself. But let me clarify, the changes I feel are required must occur both in mass-manufacturings' methods and impact, as well as society's relationships towards consumption, ownership and waste. Which is a circuitous route to get back to talking about pants.

I must confess that I bought those pants not because I needed some new pants, but because they were pretty (little hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades on them, my inner 'casino imagery' junkie was aroused). I feel guilty enough to not let that happen again for some time, but it is unlikely that I won't NEED new pants at some point in the future. What to do? Etsy had an awswer:
Handmade pants! The beauties above (by seller 'Five is for Riches') are so up my street, the postman keeps accidentally delivering me their post.

Or what about something a little more burlesque?!:However, we all know that give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he'll eat forever. So in addition to the Swallow pants, another etsy purchase I'm seriously considering is this:

A knicker making kit/pattern, which was used to create the brown pants from a recycled T-shirt. I'm definately drawn to this whole scenerio, not least because the kits contains these:

Alternatively, one could download the Cheeky Panties pattern from Burdastyle, as created and uploaded by EmilyKate, to create winners like these: Now my homegirls Hazza and Michelle have been on the homemade pant-making tip for some time. Maybe it's time to put my money where my, um, mouth is (!).

Friday 24 July 2009

From Triumphs to Children's Scissors

Hang on! Before you get all 'I thought from now on we were going to see all new creations in action?!' and go and check out someone elses blog, give me the chance to explain. I'll admit, it looks hot on the mannequin, but despite appearences, this recent bane of my sewing life is unwearble, at least at the moment.

It began life as a fortuitous find. On the way to (evil) Ikea, we perchanced upon one of the rare-as-a-unicorn charity shops here in bcn, and what-do-you-know? They were having a sale: everything one euro! (I apologise if you are able to read Catalan and you feel I've just insulted your linguistic skils). The shop must have scooped up some surplus stock from somewhere, resulting in an abundance of totally unused 1970's mens clothing. Now this got my heart racing as, although most was of limited appeal, you NEVER see fresh vintage in charity shops in the UK these days. The shop assistants and the public are just too clued up and know they can make more cash selling it elsewhere, or too stupid and it ends up in the bin (don't even think about it, it'll give you nightmares).

So anyway, I picked up this tasty box-fresh shirt, and rocked up to Ikea (I know I know, I was only there for the herring) and found some complimentary blue cotton for €2 a metre. A plan was hatched, and the application of the Burdastyle 'Coffee Date Dress' pattern ensued.

Agh!!!!!!! Now, I don't really want to speak ill of this pattern, as a very generous member of Burdastyle drafted it herself and took the time to grade it and upload for other members. As usual, my impatience prevented me from making a toile first, so when the flaws in fit began to reveal themselves like an unrolling carpet, I ended up pretty much restitching every seam at least once.
Now, it could be argued that it's my body's fault for not being the correct shape, but despite it's various flaws, my figure does have pretty standard proportions. I'll give it that. The Coffee Date Dress pattern was initially designed for petite sizes, but due to popular demand the designer graded it to 'normal' sizes. I may be alone in saying this but however I think many of the issues of proportion that such an endeavour raises were not properly addressed. All I'm sayin. For example, the bust point ended up way too high, and the waistline (which my fabric combo really emphasised) was neither waisted nor empire line, resulting in my fashioning an extra waist band, which in turn threw the garment's balance off entirely. Then I noticed the back neck gapped in a bizarre way, which I corrected with darts which then effected the facings etc, etc, etc, blah, blah...

Well, the beauty of the fabric combo forced me to persevere, until I finshed the damn thing and took it on holiday with me to Sevilla for it's debut. Well, to add insult to injury, I struggled into the (admittedly) slightly too tight dress, ready to go out to dinner (that'll help!) and asked my boyfriend to zip me in. Which is when the zip broke. And noone had any scissors so we had to go to the hotel reception and borrow, what looked to be, childrens craft scissors in order to facilitate my release!

Well, I was unable to even look at the stupid thing for over a month, but eventually purchased and fitted a new zip, making it complete again. Now however, I've decided when I put it on it looks like I've stolen a small child's party dress. Which as a concept I'm not entire against. But it ain't going to happen, at least until my (stressful and intense month of work so I can have the rest of the summer off's) belly has diminished.
There's probably some lessons to learn in amongst all this, but with only a week left of the summer school, right now learning is something I want to put towards the back of my mind for a while!

Friday 10 July 2009

Out in the Field

Perhaps I have been too hasty. Maybe I have been approaching the reviews of my home-made garments incorrectly. Previously, not always but often, I have tended to finish the hem, pop the garm on me or the mannequin and get some paps done, followed by a (witty and informative) blog post when I get round to it a few days later.

Well, it has come to my attention that very possibly my evaluations of my creations would be much more authentic and insightful after having worn it several times whilst getting thoroughly, eye-wateringly wrecked on cocktails/cava/wine/nan-juice. Thus, I should glean a far greater empathy for the garment, and be more fully aware of it's strengths and failings as a piece from the wardrobe of a modern woman, going about her business:

For this post I can assure that the new criteria was definately met. This cheeky little top was crafted from a beautiful piece of vintage fabric I picked up for $1.99 in a thrift store in the Mission district of San Francisco a couple of years ago. It had been hanging around teasing me with it's potential until I declared 'Enough!' and fashioned a simple top based on this awesome 1968 Simplicity dress pattern I swiped off of eBay. Because of the level of beauty, and limited dimensions of the fabric, I did what I rarely do when it comes to the early stages of garment creation: I took my time and applied patience.

Using patterned fabric, I think, requires a bit of a balancing act. You want to give the print a chance to bask in it's full glory, unencumbered by an overly complex style. But on the flipside, you don't want to be a walking canvas with a dull shaped garment (with the notable exception of basic A-line skirts). I attempted to balance the tightrope by drafting a Peter Pan collar (using a tutorial somewhere to be found on Wiksten Made).

A happy coincidence, it looks rockin with the PLAIN navy skirt I made, previously featured here.

So the field test revealed that, generally it is a success. A couple of minor flaws: the zip could have been a bit longer for ease of getting it on and off, the shoulder line stops a bit short which exposes unnecessary bra-strappage, and (for reasons that are beyond me) one side of the collar likes to flap up whilst walking outside (best worn sitting down inside then).

I hope the pictorial evidence and reported experience gives a more thorough review. In future I will endeavour to continue in this vein. I have corrected my behaviour and moved away from such errors. It won't happen again. Sorry.
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